Aruna Lee is the founder of San Francisco-based Volcano Kimchi, whose organic kimchi and sauces are made in her “Fermentation Lab” in the Dogpatch. Aruna grew up in a Buddhist monastery in Korea, where every meal included an assortment of kimchi.
When she arrived in San Francisco in 2001, doing anything related to food was the furthest thing from her mind as she settled into her new chapter. In this episode, Aruna shares the story of how she eventually came back to food, building her small business in a tough town with her childhood memories as inspiration.
Proving that San Francisco is still a place that celebrates grassroots efforts, locals Erica Messner and Amanda Legge have launched a new magazine about our city, The San Franciscan. Launching a magazine (a print one, at that) is no small feat, especially as the pandemic pushed us farther from each other. In this episode of the podcast, Erica and Amanda call us back around the campfire to share how they made their dream into reality, despite a little legal hiccup from their other favorite urban mag.
After shuttering for more than a year since the start of the pandemic, San Francisco venues finally opened their doors to indoor events last week. We talk to Dan Strachota, the talent buyer and managing partner at Rickshaw Stop to hear about their first indoor show about a week ago. Rickshaw Stop is also the home of Muni Diaries Live, so we were especially relieved to know that the venue is back in business.
Dan shares the behind-the-scenes details of their first show (featuring local bands Zola and Zelma Stone), and all the unexpected things that happen after 16 months in hibernation.
Dan has been the managing partner at Rickshaw Stop for nearly a decade, and the talent buyer for 17 years and counting. He has been an outspoken advocate for independent venues in San Francisco.
We’re always looking for stories from people who love and care about San Francisco. If you have a story to share, or want to nominate someone to be on the podcast, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And keep up with your Muni musing with us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
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.
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.
Here at Muni Diaries HQ, we usually end the year with a fun and lighthearted “Top Most WTF Moments of the Year” type of countdown. But in 2020…where do we even start?
As shelter-in-place became a more permanent fixture of our lives, documenting life in San Francisco, especially via commute tales, took on a different meaning. We saw the uphill battle faced by so many small businesses and venues (like our beloved Rickshaw Stop), and the struggles of essential workers, particularly Muni operators and first responders—many of whom relied on Muni to get around. We’re grateful that we could help share those stories.
So here are some highly memorable moments from your commuter tales, in this Dumpster fire of a year.