Steve sent us this dispatch from the M at midnight, when many of San Francisco’s creatures have gone to sleep—but not all of them.
Midnight. The platform at Powell Street is deserted except for a few derelicts and drunks. I jump on a M train outbound and take a seat near the front of the empty first car. At the next stop, Van Ness, an enormous man with a linebacker’s build and a shaved head boards. The sleeves of his grey sweatshirt are cut off to accommodate the rippling muscles of his arms that clutch plastic bags stuffed with water bottles, old clothes, newspapers and blankets. His eyes scan the rows of empty seats. Without a word, he sits beside me, his bags press against my face.The train rocks into motion, he pulls out a yellow plastic walkie-talkie, the kind sold years ago in toy stores. Into the mouthpiece, he grunts, squeals, snorts and shouts gibberish. I lean forward and peer around the overflowing bags into eyes that are dark and intense. I raise my hand slowly in an effort to catch his attention. He shifts his gaze in my direction, but does not acknowledge me.At Civic Center, I rise, push past the bags and exit the car. I walk quickly down the platform, step into the second car as the trains exits the station. Relieved to have escaped, I sink into a vacant seat.‘Begone, Satan!’I turn and see the car’s only other passenger in the next seat. He’s shriveled, hunched over with wild neon eyes, a mass of tangled hair and a wizened, tattooed face. He forms a cross with his forefingers, thrusts it at me and snarls, ‘I curse you, Spawn of Evil.’I jump up, run down the aisle and, returning to the first car, retake my seat beside the big man, He holds the walk-talkie to his lips and rambles on in his secret language. There is much to report from Planet San Francisco.
Sometimes, taking a seat next to the guy with all the bags and the toy-store walkie-talkie is the right choice after all.
Is your own so-San Francisco story burning a hole in your pocket? Share your tale with the world by tagging us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Or, our email inbox, email@example.com, is always open!
Photo by cbcastro on Flickr
Dana Grae Kane, 72, is a self-described scarred veteran of the L-Taraval, having spent 29 years on that Metro line commuting between the Sunset and FiDi. Now retired and recovering on the Oregon coast, (pass the Pinot Noir!) she graciously took the time to send us a story, via snail mail y’all, from her Muni-riding past.
One morning in the 1990s, a young heterosexual couple sat across from me, each engrossed in reading a book.
He was about 6’4″ and 250 lbs. of muscle, dressed in a T-shit and Gorilla work jeans, arms showing serious tough-guy tattoos, wearing a hard hat and massive steel-toed boots.
Diametrically opposed, she appeared to be an archetypically fluffy delicate flower—frail, pale, and fragile—probably often suffering categorization among “dumb blondes.”
I could hardly contain my surprise and delight when I realized what each was reading. She was engrossed in something that resembled Annals of Physics published by the Max Planck Society, while he was riveted in a romance novel of lurid cover, something that could easily be called Passion Under the Plum Trees by an author named Euphorbia Spindrift.
Thus, we may, after all, be able to judge books by their covers, but not so Muni riders.
As true today as it was 20 years ago, San Franciscans rarely fit into Column A or Column B—more often than not, you’ll find that we sample a little bit of both, and then some.
Extra thanks to Matt from the Elbo Room, where we hold our live storytelling shows twice a year. Ms. Kane addressed her typed and printed story, with impeccable cursive on the envelope, to Muni Diaries Live, and Matt was kind enough to forward it on:
Is your own so-San Francisco story burning a hole in your pocket? Share your tale with the world by tagging us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Or, our email inbox, firstname.lastname@example.org, is always open! And, for the record, so is our P.O. Box:
P.O. Box 640084
San Francisco, CA 94164
Top photo: juicyrai on Flickr
San Francisco-raised Nato Green is a comedian, union organizer, dad, and, per The East Bay Express, a “political sparkplug.” He’s also a Muni Diaries Live alum, where he threaded the needle with a comic spin on a BART strike.
Nato is on the podcast today with a story that takes us back to the early-1990s in San Francisco, when the city was still hitting its progressive stride. As the city celebrates Pride month, Nato recalls some way-early childhood memories at what was then called the Gay Freedom Day parade, as well as his experience in the fight against homophobia at San Francisco’s Lick-Wilmerding High School.
Listen and/or download here:
If you liked what you heard today, please support Muni Diaries on Patreon to help us keep telling stories from everyday San Franciscans.
Photo by RightAngleImages: Nato in 2013, performing at Muni Diaries Live at the Elbo Room.
No one’s can-do spirit (and tolerance for municipal mishaps) is stronger than that of tenacious journalists. Enter San Francisco Chronicle reporters Heather Knight and Peter Hartlaub with a not-so-simple goal: riding all of the Muni lines in one day.
They called it, appropriately, #TotalMuni2018. In today’s podcast episode, the intrepid pair walks us through the who, what, why, and how of this very ambitious goal. You’ll hear all the important Muni codes they learned (the most important one being the bathroom break code!), and how they plotted this day.
Listen to their story:
Peter and Heather said that #TotalMuni2018 was actually one of the most incredible days they have had in San Francisco, where riding the bus actually was a “reminder of how amazing San Francisco and San Franciscans are.” That’s exactly what we think too.
You might also remember that Peter is no stranger to the Muni Diaries universe. You can hear his first Muni Diaries Live story here, when he took the last Muni ride to Candlestick Park.
If you liked what you heard on our podcast, subscribe on iTunes and Google Play so you don’t miss an episode. You can now support our endeavor on the Muni Diaries Patreon page, where the lowest membership level is cheaper than a Muni ride!
Photo by Right Angle Images
It’s hard not to peek at someone else’s phone on Muni, even though we know should keep our eyes in our lane. When storyteller Senait Hailemariam glanced over at her commute neighbor, she found a touching departure from the normal social scrolling. Here’s her story:
I was reading my book when I heard the woman sitting next to me on the bus make a loving sound, half a chuckle and half an ‘aww’. I glanced out the corner of my eye to see her kiss the tip of her finger and lightly touch her phone screen.
Stealing glances at her phone I realized she was watching security footage from a camera perched above a liquor store or bodega of some kind and the object of her affection was a young boy in a striped shirt who made an appearance in the frame.
Continuing my prying, I noticed the time stamp was set for an hour ahead. I assumed she was watching her family, who lived somewhere other than California, as they worked into the night.
I couldn’t help but cry watching this woman quietly warming her heart on the commute home.
Maybe I’m just emotional, but I thank the universe for this beautiful example of love.
Senait was also a recent storyteller at Muni Diaries Live, and you can hear her story on the Muni Diaries podcast.
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!
Photo by @yellow_line_art
I’ve been happy, sad, scared, and angry on the bus—much to my dismay, it didn’t always stay tucked behind sunglasses, and I wasn’t always able to pretend I was just scratching my eye.
Today’s podcast episode features Senait (pronounced suh-NITE, like “tonight”) Hailemariam’s experience Emoting on Muni while on the phone to her number-one confidante: her mom. This is for anyone who has ever felt the feels during their commute—especially if you were young and real life was closing in fast. And for all the moms (Happy almost Mother’s Day!) lending a much-needed ear and support.
Photo by Right Angle Images