Sweet goodbye letter from Red Door Cafe

When Red Door Cafe first took over another coffee shop in my neighborhood, I hadn’t realized the owner had changed. One day I walked in and saw that the soup of the day was called, “Egyptian Viagra.” I asked the guy behind the counter what it was. He said, with a wink, “Me!”

It turned out his name is Ahmed and he was the new owner. Over the next few months I realized he was going to make our block magical. Soon people would line up out the door for his breakfast plates (which almost always featured a paper umbrella).

While you waited in line, instead of numbers, he handed you dilapidated doll parts and broken teddy bears so every weekend morning I’d see a line of hungry people holding broken dolls, kind of like a zombie apocalypse.

I’d see him with a different outfit everyday: one day he’s wearing a tutu (he has better legs than anyone I know), another day he’s wearing bright green terry cloth hot shorts. He was always bantering with the line of people waiting on the sidewalk, while playing disco and dance music all morning long.

He would post all kinds of sassy signs at the door: “No egg white yuppies.” “Don’t wear sunglasses or drink Starbucks coffee while you wait in line for my food. I want to see your eyes and I sell coffee.” Every day when I passed by Red Door Cafe I’d always look in the window to see what new missive might have been posted this week.

Today I saw this letter in his window and it just made me smile.

To all my lovely customers and friends: after nearly a decade of incredible laughs and good times with all of you at this magical cafe, I decided to sell the business opportunity to the talented and good hearted new owners. By doing so I can recharge and reinvent myself and my humble vegetarian and vegan cooking.

This has been the BEST chapter of my life. I met you, I fed you, and I fell in love with you. Watching you all moan as you ate my food made my heart dance. Seeing the whole cafe roar in loud laughter at all my silly jokes and good banter made me love life and smile like a new born baby. Read more

B is for Burning Man: How Stuart learned his SF ABCs


Who gave you your first “San Francisco education”? Broke-Ass Stuart tells us that his city primer came at the age of 23, when he was living on Golden Gate Avenue, in a house full of artists, thinkers, and some of Burning Man’s original participants.

The house on Golden Gate was a short-lived experience for Stuart, because six months into living there, the housemates were evicted. Never a group to go out with a whisper, they put on a “rent party,” where throngs of people showed, three bands played, and, at some point, an art car rolled by.

As short-lived as it was, Stuart says that this house was extremely important to him—and to our whole San Francisco community:

It was the spiritual home for so many people. Living that house prepped me for San Francisco because that place embodied all the things I love about being here. It was weird, it was a collection of all different ages, queer and straight…it was art for art’s sake and that’s the thing I love about San Francisco. It was weird for weird’s sake.

I’ve always been attracted to the other…all of a sudden I was in a house of people who lived that way. Their religion was, “Why Not?”

It was a primer for me into learning what San Francisco meant as an idea, a concept, a feeling.

Listen to Stuart’s entire story in today’s podcast:
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Stuart’s housemate P Segal ended up writing a series, The City That Was, about this period in their lives and the budding Cacophony Society. Read more

The Shard, The Tissue, An Affair

When a poet lands in San Francisco, even our romantic Victorian city may not be enough to make a love affair last. Today’s podcast is from Vietnamese-American author Andrew Lam, who was also the web editor of New America Media for many years.

In 2005, he published his first book, Perfume Dreams. He is also the author of the book Birds of Paradise, about the Vietnamese immigrant community in the Bay Area. He is working on a fourth book tentatively titled Stories From the Edge of the Sea, a collection of stories about love and loss. Many of the stories are based in San Francisco and Vietnam, both places in which the seaside plays a prominent role: geographically, thematically, and metaphorically.

Today’s story is a more literary departure from our regular storytelling approach, but we think all San Franciscans listening may find a bit of themselves within this piece.

You can find this piece excerpted in Andrew’s new collection of stories. You can also find a transcript of “The Shard, The Tissue, an Affair” below. To submit your own story, please email us your pitch at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com.

Listen to Andrew’s story here:
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If you like what you’ve heard on the Muni Diaries podcast, please share our podcast and rate it on iTunes so other people can find it too!

Photo by Tara Ramroop
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When fellow women are your first line of defense on Muni

In these #MeToo times, it’s inspiring to see women speaking up for themselves and standing up, sometimes literally, for one another. Here’s Muni rider Teresa with a disturbing but empowering commuter tale from the 1-California.

I take the 1 home from work every day around 6 p.m.

I’m usually pretty aware of my surroundings, but I had a particularly rough day at work, so I had my headphones in and I was seriously zoning out.

As I’m almost falling asleep, I hear this particularly loud voice above my music, and it starts to wake me up. I take off my headphones to find the source of the angry voice.

I looked toward the front of the bus and quickly realized that a man was yelling something at a woman. I listened a little harder, and I start hearing what he’s saying to her. I’m not going to repeat it, but it was some horrible stuff.

I’m no stranger to catcalling or street harassment, but this was on another level.

This is something that I can’t stand for. Any time I see some asshole intimidating a woman on the street or on Muni, I have to step in. It’s gotten me into a lot trouble, but I cannot just walk away. Most of the time, I’m the only one. I’ve never been helped when some dude is harassing me, and there are very few times when I’ve seen another person step in.

So, I put my phone in my backpack and zip it up thinking “OK, here we go again.” And my brain starts running through all the possible scenarios: “What if he attacks me? Does he have a weapon? What if he goes after someone else?”

As I’m about to get up and confront him, another woman pushes past me, walks directly up to the woman being harassed, and simply says “Do you feel safe?”

At this point, the woman at the front of the bus is shaking so hard she can’t even speak. So the other woman put her hand on the lady’s shoulder and said “Come to the back of the bus with me, we can sit together.”

As the two women are walking to the back of the bus, that guy gets up and tries to follow them, yelling vile comments the whole time. But as he’s trying to get to them, a few other women stand up, and they block his path. Then, I got up and stood with them. And before I knew it there were six or seven women creating this barrier.

That man looked at us, yelled one last shitty thing, and got off at the next stop. Because he realized there was no way he could win against all of us.

Immediately after he leaves, the woman he was harassing bursts into tears. He had been following her for 10 blocks. She didn’t know what to do, so she got on the bus. She was five months pregnant. We all just listened to her and after she stopped crying, she thanked us. The woman who came to her rescue sat down next to me. My stop was the next one. As I left, the only thing I could do was look at her and say thank you. After I got off the bus, I started crying. I was sad because we have to deal with situations like this ALL the time, but I was crying happy tears because, for once, I felt like I wasn’t alone, and I felt how powerful we are when we stand together.

Props to these women for being the first and only line of defense during this scary encounter.

Got other important news for your fellow riders? Tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Our email inbox, muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, is always open!

Pic by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

How extra-SF are you getting with your Halloween costume?

A friend grew up in the Castro, in the ’80s. Adorably, she thought trick-or-treating was something kids only did on TV.

Celebrating Halloween in the Castro was more than just fucking around in the city. The party raged for decades, and many touted it the best Halloween celebration in the country. When I worked at The Examiner in 2006, the party turned deadly, and its status as a city-sanctioned event was canceled from then on. In 2007, additional evening reporters were planned to cover a night of adjacent festivities that, fingers crossed, didn’t turn into calls to the local police stations.

But celebrating Halloween in the city was exactly that: celebrating. And by god, we love celebrating in costume. What’s the most extra-SF Halloween costume you can think of this year? Wrap yourself in gray chiffon as Karl the Fog? Or go all out as the Golden Gate Bridge?

Photo by @Best San Francisco

Or, pull a really punny costume about Muni that only you can enjoy. Via @mcsheffrey

Let’s keep San Francisco’s Halloween a damn good party where everyone also makes it out in one piece. Don’t forget to send us your San Francisco Halloween pics, whether you’re walking your costumed kids around their elementary school or crushing a box of Franzia on Muni Metro. Tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Our email inbox muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com is always open!

Pic by Ken Banks on Flickr

Like walking on a terrible Tilt-a-Whirl: Loma Prieta at age 8

A friend, then a KCBS Radio reporter, recently shared how “life in the Bay Area stood still for days” in the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake, which shook Northern California 28 years ago today.

On Oct. 17, 2017, fires ravage our northern neighbors and ash dusts our windowsills and sneaks into our lungs. Thousands are impacted by the literal loss of life and property as a sense of loss and anxiety hovers over the region—just as it did nearly three decades ago. But as one disaster seems to follow another in 2017, I’m thinking today of our ability to come together when shit gets really, really bad.

I turned eight two days before Oct. 17, 1989, in time for my first and, so far, only experience in a massive quake. At 5:04 p.m., I was sitting on my couch in South San Francisco, flipping between reruns of Silver Spoons and the Giants-A’s World Series pregame. Everyone at my elementary school wanted the Giants to win, so, of course, I did, too.

My dad had just come home from work and the little girl my mom babysat was eating a snack. The metal windows in our ’70s condo started rattling slightly, and the sounds of vibrating porcelain knick knacks quickly followed suit.

Instead of a shudder that rippled through the house and then stopped, the rattling sounds combined audibly and sickeningly with a rumble I imagined was like thunder—I hadn’t really experienced that, either.

It was like walking on a terrible Tilt-a-Whirl, being unable to get myself in a straight line from the couch to where my dad was losing balance in a doorway.

After everything stopped moving, we spilled into my street in the Westborough neighborhood of town, along with all of our neighbors. Every single person backed into the middle of the street, facing our houses, expecting them to fall down right in front of us.

I was terrified to cross the eastbound span of the Bay Bridge for months, which we did pretty regularly—kid logic concluded that being on the upper deck meant we had a greater chance of living if we fell into the lower one vs. into the Bay. Oddly enough, I was driving on the lower deck of the Bay Bridge during the next-largest earthquake to hit the Bay Area nearly two decades later.

I and many others I knew were lucky. As Diana’s story reminded me, 42 people lost their lives in the Cypress Structure alone. Had I been a digital-era adult when this happened, I wonder if I’d have had a heightened capacity to understand and collectively grieve those losses, while also feeling the impact of communities coming together in the time of need. My world was much smaller then; I think it was smaller for all of us, whether we were one or 100 in 1989. As I scroll through my news sources and friend feeds on the tiny computer in my pocket, I am glad to see plenty of evidence that the Bay Area is still in it together.

Pic by sanbeiji on Flickr.

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