San Francisco Diaries: How I met the pigeon version of me

Being an adult isn’t easy, especially when you live in San Francisco where “everyone is perpetually in their late-20s to mid-30s.” So when you end up in San Francisco alone when you’re 22, you do what anyone would do: Go wild and make age-22 type of mistakes.

“Looking back now, it’s a miracle I didn’t die. I got in a lot of shady situations. I lost my beloved leather jacket. I left my Blackberry in a cab. In recovery, they say you have to hit rock bottom before you can get better. But my rock bottom just kept getting lower and lower. I drunkenly ran through the surf on Ocean Beach at 1 a.m. and almost got swept out to sea. I hooked up with a Santa Con Santa on the back patio of Mad Dog in the Fog. I was 22 and alone and nobody was around to stop me so I kept going and kept pushing the limits of what I could get away with and still live.”

Today’s story is from Vivian Ho, who you may remember was the criminal justice reporter at The San Francisco Chronicle from 2011 through 2017. She’s reported on the Mario Woods shooting, the San Francisco Police Department, wildfires, and she recently published an incredible investigative piece called “A Life on the Line.”

She’s seen a lot of San Francisco, from the incredibly serious and life-and-death moments to the more quirky and offbeat happenings around town. This story falls under the more quirky side of the spectrum—and we’ve never felt more spiritually connected to the cooing pigeons on our fire escapes.

Listen to her story here:

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Special thanks to Vivian for sending over the first photo she’s ever taken with Drew, before the pigeons came into their lives.

You, too, can add an entry to our collective journal. San Francisco Diaries is looking for your personal stories about what it means to live here, and what makes our city “so San Francisco.” Tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Our email inbox is always open!

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Steve Pepple sounds off on the BMW experience in San Francisco

Many of us didn’t give city transit a passing thought before we actually had a stake in the game as real-life commuters/fans/foes. In this episode, Steve Pepple reminds us that a passion for the shared experience of public transportation can start even in the most unlikely places.

Sharp-eared listeners may also remember him from a previous episode of this podcast, in which he regaled us with a tale of the time he accidentally wandered into a secret furry party while looking for the bathroom at a cafe. But he’s got all kinds of other stuff going on: Steve is on the board of San Francisco Transit Riders, a rider-supported group for world-class transit in San Francisco. And he’s a designer at OpenGov, where he works toward making cities more livable, whether he’s working on a budget or a bus.

Listen to Steve’s entire story in today’s podcast:
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Is your own story burning a hole in your brain? Want to share an unexpected conversation with a stranger that stuck with you? We are all ears at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com.

Pic by Right Angle Images

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

Why talking to a stranger on Muni isn’t always a bad idea

Always terrible with his sense of direction, comedian Tirumari Jothi takes the K instead of the M, and suddenly finds himself at Balboa Park station at 1 a.m. A conversation with a stranger helps him find his way back home to Park Merced, but not before the chat involved topics he never thought he’d hear.

Tirumari has been performing comedy for six years, with stand-up as his first love, but he also loves improv and sketch acting . You can find him either performing with the geeky comedy group he co-founded, Komedio Comedy, or acting on stage with Killing My Lobster (find him at Sketchfest 2018). You can find him on Twitter @tirumari.

Listen to Tirumari’s story here:
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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!

Photo by Right Angle Images

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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Photo by Tara Ramroop
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