San Francisco Diaries: Meet a local historian who is anything but jaded

What can history teach us about this pivotal moment as we drop most COVID-related restrictions in San Francisco? Between mask-ne treatments and socializing awkwardly, we chatted with Chris Carlsson, the director of Shaping San Francisco about his experience and his perspective on our reawakening city.

Chris is a writer, San Francisco historian, tour guide, and writer. He recently published a new book, Hidden San Francisco: A Guide to Lost Landscapes, Unsung Heroes and Radical Histories. Chris has seen a few cycles of San Francisco history since the 1970s. He was involved in many activist groups in the city, including a group that modified billboards about Muni fare in the 1980s. Who knew we would still be arguing about Muni fares today.

You might think he has seen it all, but in our conversation about his new book, we found out that this historian is anything but jaded about the future of San Francisco. “The more you understand history, the more you realize there are constant moments of possibility,” he told us—and I’m inclined to believe it’s true.

Listen to his conversation with Muni Diaries here:

We are looking forward to hearing your tales about returning to life, work, and other ways that living in San Francisco means to you now. Submit your own story or photo by tagging us @munidiaries on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Photo by FoundSF.

Welcome back, Muni streetcars!

I commuted on the streetcar from downtown to Fisherman’s Wharf for seven years with a dense hodgepodge of locals, tourists, 30-child field trips, and the occasional iguana named Skippy. The experience didn’t often match the old-world charm and good intentions, so complaining incessantly about the F-Market/Wharves became my theme. As a newly minted San Franciscan, it was my duty to find a bug for my bonnet and take to the internet with that rage.

But lots of strained relationships improve with time. I can hear the distinctive “whrrrrrrrrrrr honk honk” from my apartment as streetcars fly along the tracks, and can even tell the difference between the PCCs and the wooden, Milanese ones that kick like bucking broncos. I went public with my change of heart, calling it my favorite line during the TotalSF installment of Betabrand Podcast theater.

So let me acknowledge again that I’ve gotten over my attitude problem and am thrilled that the streetcars are back in commission after a long, covid-prompted hibernation. Check out these recent photos from our enthusiastic transit community, and tag us in your own happy snaps of normalcy @munidiaries on Facebook, Insta, or Twitter.

The story behind @boattramsf AKA Boat Boi, as relayed by Chris Arvin, remains a Muni Diaries Live crowd favorite. Listen for it soon on the Muni Diaries Podcast!

Featured photo by @vickys_photo and @panobug

Support these SF AAPI orgs and stop telling the Muni ‘chicken story’

San Francisco is approximately 37% AAPI*, and here at Muni Diaries, we are 2/3 Asian women, the first-generation American children of immigrants, and proud of our heritage. We’ve spent more than a decade documenting life in San Francisco because we love our city. But that love letter can be harder to write in the shadow of violent crimes against Asians in San Francisco and a mass shooting targeting Asian women in Atlanta.

Like all people of color, we were hardly surprised—this is the reality of being non-white in the United States. But we were horrified for the victims, current and future. As Asian women, public transit enthusiasts, and longtime urban adventurers, we wonder how easily it could have been one of us.

Even in our tiny universe of collecting your stories on Muni, race has been a constant. We started the conversation about race on Muni Diaries in 2009 after an audience member made fun of a Chinese stereotype at our live show (henceforth named the Muni Chicken Story Incident). And we continue having these conversations with one another and within our community today.

Early in the pandemic, our Asian-American readers asked, “Do you feel that people are glaring at you on Muni?” We were almost relieved because we were experiencing the same.

The issue of race remains one of our most frequent editorial judgements in story submissions; ethnicity is often included as a descriptor when relaying a tale, even if it doesn’t add anything to the story. It usually seems unintentional, but from our perspective behind the scenes, it highlights how descriptors of “others” are noteworthy, whereas descriptors of the perceived default—white—are not.

Every incident reminds us that we can’t only be philosophically against AAPI hate, we actually have to do something about it every single day. We will continue to make Muni Diaries a fair and inclusive place to talk about our city, and we encourage you to support these San Francisco-based Asian-American organizations who are on the front lines of advocacy.

If you have other organizations to add, and other actions to share, our comments section and inbox are always open to your point of view.

Photo by Right Angle Images.

San Francisco Diaries: When true love leaves you in stitches

Storyteller Kathleen Auterio moved to San Francisco from Massachusetts to do new things, just like in the Bee Gees song. It was the year 2000, and everything seemed to be on track: she had an apartment, a roommate, and a job at SF Weekly managing the adult ads in the back of the paper—a job that accepted her as a proud metalhead. After meeting a new guy at the paper, though, they would soon come face to face with a relationship trust exercise involving a field hospital surgery.

(We can’t wait for you to listen to the episode so you can fully get all the puns we stuffed into this post. Our mouths are still agape.)

Kathleen is also one of our esteemed Muni Diaries Live alum. You can hear her story about an eventful Muni ride on Episode 81 of the podcast. 

Listen to Kathleen’s story:

We want to hear your story about how San Francisco changed you—or vice versa! If you have a story to share or know someone who does, pitch us your story idea by emailing us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of these true tales from the city.

Transcript

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A new mom’s gratitude for Muni drivers

Muni is the lifeline that powers our city, and its importance in everyday life stands out especially in a time of crisis. We recently got a letter underscoring this fact from new mom Cole Brennan, whose newborn was in the ICU for two weeks. Sharing her letter with us via Instagram, she says:

Dear Muni Operators,
When I yell “Thank You!” to you, through my double masks from the back door at the stop at 3rd & 20th, please know it is the most sincere thanks I’ve ever given a stranger.


It’s true that I’m the sort of person who always thanks the bus driver. And it’s true that after many months of not riding the bus I was likely to feel an extra surge of gratitude once I finally started riding again. But the gratitude I’ve felt for you this month goes well beyond my usual thankfulness.


For two weeks you helped me get to the Children’s Hospital so I could visit my newborn in the Intensive Care Nursery.

You, Muni operator, are part of a small galaxy of helpers that held my little family be together during the longest weeks of my life.

Thank you.

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Limp Bizkit, Live 105, and Muni walk into a time machine…

@pfungcollects shared a relic from when we partied like it was 1999 with Limp Bizkit and Live 105 at the Family Values Tour—founded by nu-metal sensation Korn—and a grumpy Muni bus headed to the Cow Palace.

Yikes. I challenge anyone to come up with a more “Bay Area in the late-’90s” sentence than that. ^^

I can’t say I’m surprised to see Muni sneaking into the mix; from “My Neighbor Totoro” Catbus t-shirts to a cameo in Sister Act 2, Muni has always found a way into the spotlight.

Speaking of the ’90s, it was also preserved and well in my family home in South City. Yes, that’s a pristine collection of KMEL and Wild 107 stickers hoarded carefully in a drawer for two decades.

Shout out to the Bay Area kids who remember pre-Wild 94.9, all the way on the far side of the radio dial.

From transit ephemera to relics of Bay Area gone by, we want to see it, hear it, and know about it. Tag us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter. Our email inbox is always open, too.

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