What could go wrong on your first Muni ride?

So you decide to take a visiting friend on her first Muni ride, promising that nothing will go wrong. And Muni is basically like…”LOL.”

In this week’s podcast, storyteller and reigning Muni Haiku champion Baruch Porras-Hernandez shares his story of what happened after his innocent promise to a friend. You can see him at Muni Diaries Live this Saturday, Nov. 4 at the Elbo Room. Tickets are at munidiarieslive18.eventbrite.com.

Listen to his story here:
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If you like what you’ve heard on the Muni Diaries podcast, please share and rate it on iTunes so other people can find it, too. And we hope to see you this Saturday at the Elbo Room to watch Baruch go head-to-head with new challenger, Alexandria Love!

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

An inspiring video profile of a BART station agent

Five thousand people took an exam to become a BART station agent. Of those people, 100 were chosen to be interviewed. Of those, BART hired 30. One of those 30 is William Cromartie.

Every day, Cromartie encounters 4,000 people, many of whom he greets by handshake or fist bump, as he believes in stepping outside of the station agent booth. “I stay outside. That’s where the people are,” he says.

Local filmmaker Ivan Cash was so inspired by him that he made a short documentary about the station agent. From the filmmaker:

After meeting William on my commute to/from Oakland and witnessing his warmth and friendliness firsthand, I knew I had to make a film about him. I hope his story inspires more people to open up their hearts to strangers. Thank you, William, for inspiring me and countless others!

We know that the people working at our BART and Muni stations have a tough job—some of them have been kind to share their stories onstage at our live shows. BART operator Kelly Beardsley regaled the crowd with drama over the BART intercom, as well as a visceral story about a poop artist on the train. And Muni operator Driver Doug gave us the ultimate skinny with his behind-the-scenes stories. If you have a favorite driver or station agent, write us and give them a shoutout! Our inbox is always open for your stories.

Thanks to @k_e_e_n_a_n on Instagram for the tip.

<em>Want to hear more of these stories live on stage? Muni Diaries Live returns Saturday, Nov. 4 at the Elbo Room. Get your tickets here.</em>

Coveting thy neighbor’s Walkman on Muni

We don’t usually know how close we came to getting jacked on the bus. One rider, Curtis Richard Tom does. He recalls a unique o/h on Muni conversation that provided oddly, unsettlingly intimate insight into a would-be theft. Here’s Curtis:

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This happened back when cassettes were the main mechanism in personal music devices. I was using a recordable Walkman, with manual/auto level record, pitch/speed control.

I had some blank space at the end of a tape. I hadn’t had a chance to flip the cassette yet, so I still had my headphones on. Through the foam ear pads, I could hear the couple in front of me having a quiet argument.

“Yeah, it’s a nice one, but no,” said the girl.

“Why not?” Asked the guy.

“You see how tight it’s strapped up under his armpit?” My Walkman was webstrapped pretty close.

“Yeah, so?” he countered.

“You’re not getting it from him unless you knock him out. Subduing him might be possible, but it wouldn’t be trivial. Forget it.”

He looked me in the eye once. “Yeah, fine.”

I was done listening to the silent hissing of my blank spot of tape and finally flipped it like I hadn’t heard them.

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More overheard convos:
A misinterpretation of your “meaning”

Photo by @zacharyzito

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.

“Life in the Bay Area stood still”: A reporter’s recollection of the ’89 earthquake

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. As we look back over the 28 years since the temblor, Bay Area native Diana Gapuz walks San Francisco Diaries past the Battle of the Bay World Series, the ill-fated Cypress Structure, and a surreal commute in the aftermath to the KCBS newsroom in this firsthand account. We’ve all been supporting friends and family impacted by the fires in Northern California, and it’s reassuring to know that San Franciscans have always supported one another when disaster strikes. Here’s Diana:

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We were rushing to get out the door, to watch Game 3 of the A’s-Giants World Series with friends. Several sharp jolts stopped us in our tracks. My husband, Marc, picked up our 17-month old daughter Emma, and we stood in a door frame.

The ground stopped moving. After years in news radio, hyperconscious of time, I nailed the length of the quake — 15 seconds. I called into my station, KCBS, first on the air to describe what I felt on rock-solid Albany Hill. Maybe spoke for 15 seconds. Then the anchor moved on to a reporter in the field.

Time to get on the road. Emma and I were heading to Berkeley to hang out with my morning co-editor, Christina. Marc was meeting friends in Oakland. By the time we reached Christina’s house, we were slowly realizing this wasn’t your usual tremor. Reporters from across the Bay were describing frightening scenes and frightened people. Read more

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