San Francisco artist chronicles life on Muni

Growing up in New York, the subway served as training grounds for people watching for artist George McCalman. When he moved to San Francisco, Muni naturally became his first inspiration of observing life in the city. In today’s podcast episode, George shares why he founds Muni riders so fascinating, and how this resulted in his Observed column in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Listen to his story:

George sent us the drawing of the stylish grandmother he spotted on the bus, and you can see many more of his drawings on and off the bus by following him on Instagram @mccalmanco.

Sketching life on Muni seems to be a favorite past time of many riders and submissions (including this fun time-lapsed video of a portrait on Muni). Perhaps the same fashionable lady was the Muni fashion muse from rider Meli? One can only hope.

Muni Diaries is made of your stories, whether it’s in drawing, prose, or poetry form. Submit your own tale on the bus by emailing us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, or tag us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook @munidiaries.

Transcript of this podcast episode:

I moved to Brooklyn in 1980 with my mother. We moved up to the island of Granada in the West Indies and I was overwhelmed with the sights and the senses and the aesthetics of New York City. I remember going into the subway, and looking around and realizing that I could settle my eyes on the people who were sitting around me.

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Visiting couple make lasting connection with Muni driver Tammy

Meet Letizia and Nathan, a couple traveling the world and Instagramming their adventures along the way. A recent leg of their trip brought them to SF, and it sounds like they experienced some of our most striking dualities. The Mission, they observed, was “where families fight to retain their homes, history, community, livelihoods threatened by increased property prices. Soon signs saying established in 1961 will be taken down and replaced by vegan burger bars frequented by lumberjacks who are yet to fell a tree.”

They wrote us on Facebook because they were lucky enough to meet Muni driver Tammy, hands-down one of the best people we’ve met through Muni Diaries. From their IG post:

On the way home, we connect with the bus driver
She had so many questions about why we would travel the world and what prompted us to do this trip.
Between stops she told us her story is one of loss, courage, and strength. Losing her son to a drunk driver, she set up a project to help family’s [sic] facing similar pain. 
Sharing tears and hugs at the end of our ride. What a beautiful, inspiring ‘random’ connection to make!

A beloved driver who threw a party for her passengers on the 33, Tammy took a leave of absence after losing her son, Deante, in a car accident. As she told us in 2011, she didn’t want to put her passengers in danger as she coped with Deante’s death. Quick with a smile, she always leaves an impression on her riders.

We get occasional dispatches about Tammy sightings—always positive—and we’re glad to see she’s still connecting with riders from all over the world.

Pic courtesy postcardsfromourtravels

Riding Muni all day leads to falling in love with San Francisco again

Remember when we told you about the two Chronicle reporter who rode every Muni line for an entire day? Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight gave us a sneak peek of their plans last year, and in today’s podcast episode, they came back to the Betabrand Podcast Theater to tell us how it all went.

There are 84 Muni routes covering our 7×7, and the duo had meticulously planned their one-day adventure. But as we all know, just when you have a plan to be on time somewhere, Muni has other ideas! Heather and Peter told us that in the middle of their journey, a fellow rider reminded them that the 2-Clement (also my line!) doesn’t run late and that they might miss their goal if they don’t catch one soon. Already exhausted from waking up before dawn, Heather and Peter thought they might not make it, but this rider revamped their plans so that they can catch all the routes they need.

They also told us how they found an adorable lost dog (who they lovingly named Felton, after finding him on the 54-Felton) during their Muni journey. In the end, surprisingly, riding Muni all day made these two seasoned journalists fall in love with our city again. Who would have known?

Listen to the interview here:

Loved what you heard on the podcast? Our live show is coming up where you can hear stories in real life at Rickshaw Stop! Get your Muni Diaries Live tickets right here.

Photo by Jessica Christian

Cookies, kudos for great drivers of the 8-Bayshore

Muni rider Azucena wants to send a shout out to what she calls “two great and respectful Muni drivers” on the 8. We are always down for some driver thanks. The submission has been edited lightly for clarity.

One day picking up my daughter from school, I saw she had a small bag of fruits and cookies she was trying to give them away. I told her we should always appreciate bus drivers who take you where you have to go. So she gave the bag to one of the drivers, who appreciated the gesture and thanked her. The next day, she did the same for a second driver. She felt so happy to be able to give something rather than have it go to waste.

Ever since then, my daughter has known how to share her appreciation for people who take her where she has to go. She is only about four years old.

Walter is one of the drivers, who we see when we catch the bus at Silver and San Bruno going inbound. William, the second driver, we catch sometimes at Bayshore and Leland or Munich and Geneva. I will always say that the Lord is with them wherever they go.

Though Muni is having a tough time in recent years, thanks to these drivers for their effort at providing great service. We’ve certainly heard of many wonderful drivers like this friendly operator who doled out funny life advice, someone who surprised a rider with fresh cherries, and another who played some Jedi mind tricks on a commuter on a day when some humor was needed.

If you have a story about your favorite driver, we want to know! Submit your own diary at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com.

Photo by Robert J. Pierce on Flickr

A most Muni Black Friday sale: Show your SF pride!

Nothing boosts your SF cred (or at least sparks conversation with a n00b) like an ode to the dearly departed Muni Fast Pass. Fellow San Franciscans, no matter the cut of your jib, head on over to our Black Friday sale in the Muni Diaries Etsy shop, where everything is 20% off!

You’ll find tote bags, tees, baby onesies, and Muni Diaries 10th anniversary posters designed by local graphic designer Craig Fowler.

Aren’t the posters sweet?

Thanks, as always, for supporting our project. Here’s what we’re most thankful for this year at Muni Diaries HQ.

The San Francisco we’re thankful for


This year we celebrated 10 years of telling your Muni tales, and one whole year of sharing more San Francisco stories that happen off the bus. Your stories have a way of reminding everyone why San Francisco is still alright after all.

Because of you, our listeners, readers, and supporters, we hosted two of our local bookstore heroes in studio: Alan Beatts of Borderlands Books and Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books (look out for his episode in the coming weeks!) And we got Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight in front of a live audience to preview their epic, around-the-world-in-one-day-style trip on Muni.

Because more than 4,000 of you submitted stories to us every day for the last 10 years, we were able to celebrate our 10th birthday exactly how we wanted: with a packed room filled with friendly faces—shouts out to our artist and photographer friends who, until then, we had never met in real life but came bearing birthday presents of Muni art and photos. We even learned from the door staff at Elbo Room that some of you insisted on paying for your ticket even as someone donated their extra. These kindnesses are not lost on us even in the busy shuffle of show night.

This year, we’re so, so thankful for those of you that took out your wallets and supported us on Patreon: we know it’s expensive to live here, and your willingness to help us keep the lights on (and replace those microphone cables that the cats chewed up) is appreciated.

We were able to have one more evening at the Elbo Room, where Nuala Sawyer shared a story of one small moment that made a big difference—encapsulating why we do what we do.

And let’s not kid ourselves: because of you, all of our Muni rides are a little better, or at least a little funnier. Without this comMUNIty, we wouldn’t know that the trending hashtag for the N is #NJudas, and the correct way to haul your new cat tree is on an LRV, with a kitten on a leash eating out of a little bowl perched on said cat tree (true story).

So, from the Muni Diaries headquarters, thank you for sharing, riding, listening, reading, and contributing in your own way to life in the best city in the world.

Photo by @gurpreetz

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