How a bear bar helped one visitor give SF another chance

San Francisco can be a tough city to navigate, especially if you’re a visitor who is already having a hard time. In today’s San Francisco Diaries podcast episode, storyteller Baruch Porras-Hernandez shares an exchange that he had with a visitor while working at one of the longest-running gay sex clubs in San Francisco. Upon realizing that the visitor was having some internal struggles, Baruch gives him a list of place of where to find like-minded people in the city. But after Baruch leaves work, the visitor returns to the club and gets some alarming information.

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Baruch is a writer, performer, host, storyteller, and regular KQED community events host based in San Francisco. He is a Lambda Literary Fellow in Poetry and regularly organizes poetry shows in the Bay Area. Follow Baruch on Instagram (@baruchporrashernandez) to get the latest show updates.

Trigger warning: Please note that this story has themes about suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals: 1-800-273-8255.

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—or, our email inbox is always open!
Photo by Thomas Hawk

The secret in the basement at Borderlands Books

Borderlands Books is a gem in the city: a bookstore and cafe that specializes in new and used science fiction, fantasy, and horror. If you’ve been around these parts 10 or more years, you might remember their sphinx kitties roaming the store, and a sign that told everyone when the cats were in.

Though there are plenty of spooky books on the shelves at Borderlands, the staff actually discovered something quite unsettling in real life, in the newly excavated basement of the bookstore. Some of you might remember that the Borderlands Cafe was a later addition to the shop, and during construction, co-founder Alan Beatts found something in the basement that sent the crew running.

Hear what happened in this week’s San Francisco Diaries episode (scroll down for transcript):
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Alan sends us this bonus photo of the basement. See the tree trunk on the right? It’s not going anywhere!

The bookstore also serves as an inspiration of a successful grassroots business: the beloved bookstore faced a likely closure a few years ago. Amazingly, and in true San Francisco fashion, they raised $2M via a grassroots campaign to buy a building on Haight Street, where they will relocate as soon as construction there is complete. Borderlands also has an ongoing sponsorship program that keeps their doors open.

This is definitely the preferred ending to You’ve Got Mail I’d been looking for.

Want to hear more great stories like these live on stage? Muni Diaries Live is back on Saturday, Nov. 3 at the Elbo Room. Help us give the Elbo Room a proper send-off! Tickets are on sale now.

Episode Transcript

Thanks to reader Chris L. for transcribing this episode!
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San Francisco Diaries: How two BFF.FM radio hosts brought Herb Caen to Market Street

Muni made you late for work, you step in shit on your way home, and your local bodega has just turned into yet another artisanal lip balm boutique? If you’re grumpy about San Francisco’s many changes, today’s story about an art project on Market Street might be just the right antidote.

We met storytellers Luke and Chris a few weeks ago — you might know them as Sequoia and The Early Bird on BFF.FM cheery morning radio show, Rollover Easy. Rollover Easy is a morning radio show that has a “healthy dose of positive news, banter, and interviews with interesting San Francisco locals.” Luke and Chris are up every Thursday morning at 8 a.m. to report on and chat with locals over coffee.

They are realists about San Francisco’s changes, but they remain endlessly positive about things that make this city special. You’d think they’d be busy enough with a weekly morning radio show, but these two took it upon themselves to build an art project to celebrate our city. In today’s San Francisco Diaries episode, Luke and Chris share how their mutual love for Herb Caen led to an installation on Market Street. With little construction experience, these two San Franciscans were determined to make Herb Caen come alive to fellow pedestrians.

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Here’s Luke at the Herb Caen typewriter installation:

We will be at the Roll Over Easy studio next Thursday, October 25, with Luke and Chris in real life! Tune in and tweet to @rollovereasy and @munidiaries to tell us about your morning.

Got a San Francisco diary you’d like to share? Email us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com to submit your own! 

Photo by Luke Spray

San Francisco Diaries: Trapped under Civic Center with an active shooter overhead

In this episode of San Francisco Diaries, Louis Evans shares a story of one seemingly uneventful day when he was leaving the underground parking lot at Civic Center, only to learn there was an active shooter situation above ground.

In the confusion that ensued, Louis and his partner sat in their car for hours, turning over doomsday scenarios over in their heads—including their plan of attack if the shooter wandered into the garage. The story took an interesting turn after our heroes realized they weren’t the only people stuck in the garage.

Louis is the host of a new literary event, Cliterary Salon: a show featuring rowdy, original stories about female sexual pleasure, feminism, or really anything in that umbrella, bringing a spirit of fun and sexuality to a literary scene that tends to focus on the cis male experience.

Listen to his story here:

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You, too, can add an entry to our collective journal! San Francisco Diaries is our spinoff podcast series, which celebrated its first birthday this month. It’s all about personal stories about why you live here and what makes our city “so San Francisco.” Tag us with your tale on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Our email inbox is always open, too.

Photo by @omiB91

How we invaded Bernal Heights

You may remember Molly from a recent episode of the Muni Diaries podcast. She returns with a throwback story that recalls her eviction from the up-and-coming Castro neighborhood to her new home in the budding lesbian enclave of Bernal Heights.

This is part of our newest project, San Francisco Diaries, which features stories about our city at large that run the same gamut of good, bad weird, gross, great, and poignant. Here’s Molly.

We had been powerless tenants, evicted with no recourse, and then we became agents of displacement. There was no in between.

My collective household of four lesbians had found a place on Castro Street, one of those original Victorians with high ceilings and elaborate wood trim, an abandoned coal fireplace, and a parlor whose big sliding doors opened to double the size of the room. It was rumored that the apartment had come up for rent because the previous tenants had been busted for selling weed and were all in jail. We embellished the story to claim that the famous Brownie Mary had lived there. She may not have lived there, but she had certainly been there in spirit. It was the 1970s; the Castro was becoming a gay men’s mecca. During our time there, a housepainter contracted to paint our building ran a brothel, turning tricks in the building’s storage room. He painted that building for months.

We fondly remember political gabfests at shared dinners, Seders in which we sang all the way through, and inventive costumes at Halloween parties: in the year of Anita Bryant, I came as an ironic lesbian “recruiter” for her hateful cause. For a time, our costume du jour at home was simply a vest, a way to show off a billowing bush and legs as thickly furred as animal pelts (we were hairy and proud!). We danced and sang along to Stevie Wonder and Lavender Jane Loves Women. There was much laughing and also much crying. Passionate love affairs abounded. Creating a new culture calls for invention. We tried out non-monogamy and polyamory. We felt we were on the cutting edge of a cultural transformation.
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Thea Selby’s got nothing but ‘Love in the Lower Haight’

Muni Diaries Lower Haight mural

Thea Selby has lived in the Lower Haight (or “Hayes Valley” depending on who you talk to) since 1999. Thea is way busy, as a mom and member of the City College of San Francisco’s Board of Trustees. As you’ll learn in this new podcast episode about the Love in the Lower Haight neighborhood mural, she’s also a tireless advocate for the art and artists that has defined her neighborhood for decades.

This is as much a story about art as the constant regeneration that defines and redefines life in our city year after year. Ears up for mentions of artists Ursula Young, whose piece is pictured above, and Jeremy Fish, who recounted the unexpected drama behind his Silly Pink Bunny on an earlier episode of our podcast.

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This story is an installment of San Francisco Diaries, our spinoff series that just celebrated its first birthday! Thanks to your support on Patreon, we’ve been able to record lots of new stories in our podcast studio. If you like what you hear and can spare that coffee money for a day or two, we’d appreciate your help. Find us at Patreon.com/munidiaries.

And if you or someone you know has a great story about San Francisco, we are all ears. Pitch your piece at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com.

Photo by torbakhopper on Twitter

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