Our previous episode featured Smiley Poswolsky, a self-described Millennial workplace expert who quit his stuffy Washington, D.C. job to become a writer in San Francisco. His story about personal growth and change, with NOPA/Western Addition in a prominent guest-starring role, really got our listeners talking more broadly about the state of our city—a hot topic lately.
For this episode, we invited Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight from The San Francisco Chronicle, and Bernalwood blog founder Todd Lappin, to give us their take on San Francisco’s oft-discussed existential crisis, and to share their own experiences with this town we call home.
Smiley Poswolsky left his suit-wearing days behind in Washington, D.C. to start a new life as a writer in San Francisco. Today, he’s an expert on Millennials in the workplace and author of the book, The Quarter-Life Breakthrough. A few years in to his life here, he found himself realizing that some of the things he enjoyed about the city were also having a negative impact on his beloved new home. This prompts him to consider a timely question: Who has the right to define a city and what it is (or should be) all about?
This has been a hot topic as of late, even in national news. This prompted us to turn to our listeners: If you could give the city a cultural health score, what would it be and why?
Yesterday I crossed over. I became one of “those people,” the ones who fail to pretend not to hear the crazy shit that people say on public transportation.
“White people always pay their fare,” white dude sitting across from me said. Loudly, because I could hear it through the music I was listening to in the earbuds. He said it again. “White people always pay their fare.”
“That’s not true,” I said.
He looked shocked and surprised that someone had responded and that someone was me.
The conversation continued as you might expect: “What country are you from?”
“I was born here.”
“I wasn’t raised a racist. I’m not racist. I’m not prejudiced. Are you?”
I confessed that sometimes I did harbor some prejudices and that I thought most people did.
“Speak for yourself!” He said.
He had the gall to try to cozy up to me by talking up our shared historical cultural experiences (because railroad building apparently), trying to create an “us vs. them” connection, presumably “us vs. other black and brown people.”
And then when he figured out that I was a “bleeding heart,” he started accusing me of being someone who would hire a bunch of “illegals from China” if I could, [just] to undercut his wages.
“In America,” he said, “we don’t live like they do.”
“I’m tired of hearing you,” piped up a young white man from the back of the bus to this dude.
“This is America. This is my First Amendment right,” the dude said.
“Well, it’s my First Amendment right to tell you to shut up.”
Angry dude starts to get off the bus and young dude in the back of the bus said, “It’s also my right to do this!” and began sexily kissing his boyfriend sitting next to him.
Angry dude starts screaming, “F____t!” But the door of the bus has closed, and we’ve started moving.
Oh, that sweet, sweet bus revenge as the back door closed in on the angry dude—and on Pride weekend, too! Thank you to rider Shirley for submitting this tale. It’s good to know that your fellow riders have your back.
Our commutes are a mere microcosm of life in San Francisco, and we are always looking for your stories to round out the experience. Add your own diary to our collective online journal by tagging us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the Tales of the City show on Netflix and the Pride flags up on Market Street, we’ve got chosen family on the brain: the people you find by circumstance, often in pivotal times in your life, whom you end up keeping by choice.
On the podcast today, we have musician Colin Daly—incidentally among my own chosen family—who stopped by the studio to share a timely retelling and ode to his time at Camp Folsom: where a room in the Mission was only $300 and life lessons—about money, community, heartbreak, and learning to be a grownup—were included in the rent.
San Francisco Diaries, and our original project, Muni Diaries, are made of your stories and everyone’s experiences. Submit your own tale from the city by emailing us at email@example.com, or tag us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook @munidiaries.
Pic courtesy of Brandy, upper left. Colin is in the foreground, and Meghan is behind him.
Storyteller Kathleen Auterio is a longtime Mission resident who got along famously with rival groups staking their claims in the neighborhood—an affable quality that came in handy when she and fellow passengers on the 49 got caught in the crosshairs of a potential firefight.
Everyone drops to the ground with their faces against the Muni floor (ew!), and the typically unflappable Mission expert describes how she handled the tough situation alongside her neighbors.