What would make you take off your headphones on the bus to talk to a stranger? In this episode, storyteller Alex Randall shares how he started talking to his fellow riders, and how these “Muni chats” changed the way he looks at our city. This episode was recorded at Muni Diaries Live at Rickshaw Stop in November, 2022.
By day, Alex manages a support team at Atlassian, and by evening and weekend, he serves on the board at Z Space, leads walking tours of his favorite San Francisco neighborhoods. He says he takes the 38 Geary often and likes all things San Francisco: history, sports, art, politics, and of course, public transit. You can find him at @ArtrepreneurSF on both Instagram and Twitter.
Storyteller ilyse iris magy has hella Muni bonafides: she was the first paid “staff member” of San Francisco Transit Riders, where she helped pressure city officials to actually ride the bus. She celebrated her 24th birthday by riding the 24 bus with her friends. Name a Muni line and she can tell you the route. But one Halloween evening, when ilyse found herself evangelizing the value of public transit, the Muni gods had other plans.
You can follow ilyse and her non-transit related art on Substack and Instagram at @arainbowsquared. Meanwhile, we are gearing up for the first ever Muni Diaries Art Market this Saturday, Dec. 3 at 80 Albion! We’ll be there from noon to 4pm, along with our group of great vendors who will be selling their transit and SF-themed goodies. See you there!
One of the most sobering moments for me at the beginning of the pandemic was walking by Le Central on Bush and seeing the bistro window covered with plywood. Once the popular lunch spot for Willie Brown (who’d play dice with his pals at the table by the window), the bistro’s board-up was the first time I really sensed the fear and emptiness that would soon permeate downtown.
As plywood boards sprung up all over every neighborhood, though, a couple of San Franciscans created a project that truly made lemonade out of all the lemons that 2020 has thrown at us. Within weeks, pedestrians started seeing beautiful murals on plywood boards that covered closed shops and restaurants, starting in Hayes Valley and extending all over town. The project is called Paint the Void, which matches mural artists with shuttered storefronts. Since April, Paint the Void has matched artists who beautified over 84 shops and restaurants, making walking around in San Francisco a joy again.
In today’s podcast episode, we invite Lisa Vortman, the Co-Founder, Director of Photography, Media and Storytelling of Paint the Void, to share the story of the first mural she photographed for the project. All the photos in this post are also from Lisa and Paint the Void.
The beautiful flower mural in Lisa’s story is by Nora Bruhn (@konorebi on Instagram), which covered Chez Maman in Hayes Valley. The restaurant has since re-opened for outdoor dining, but you can scroll down to see photos of the mural and Brunh working on-site this spring.
Seeing these murals on my daily walks has been one of those things that makes me say, “This is why I live here.” You can even make a day of it—follow this map to more murals via the Paint the Void website, where you can also contribute to the nonprofit’s excellent work.
If you know someone who’s doing something great to help San Franciscans get through this terrible year, we want to know! Our submissions inbox is always open: email us at email@example.com or tag us @munidiaries on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
Living in the city in which “Muni humper” incidents polluted our transit experiences not once (the first we were tipped off was in 2009), not twice (2017), but three times (2017 the sequel), I’m more than a little wary of crotch-to-shoulder distance. I’m also more than a little wary, full stop.
Japan, Mexico, and Brazil, among other nations, recognized this pervasive (and disgusting) problem and did something about it with women-only trains. In Osaka recently with girlfriends, I finally got to experience one of these myself—and it’s as good as I thought it would be.
In addition to beholding the wonder of trains running like clockwork, amid a culture that demonstrated an amazing level of public politeness and modesty, I appreciate the acknowledgement that the female experience on public transit —or at work, or in our home lives, or, or, or…—can be different in a bad way. Also them seats were heated and Hello Kitty is on the train car wrapper.
Comedian Dominique Gelin has given every sign on public transit to say, “Go Away.” She’s sat in the most strategic seat to avoid strangers, avoided eye contact, and yet, it doesn’t always work.
In today’s story, Dom walks us through how one crucial mistake led to her meeting a smug pickup artist on Muni. You can listen to her story by downloading the epidoes below, or just search for Muni Diaries on any of your favorite podcast apps:
Speaking of pickup lines, maybe what Dom needed was a burrito as a prop, as another Muni rider so aptly illustrated in an earlier story? Follow Dom on Twitter at @heydomgelin.
And for podcast listeners, today’s episode has a special discount code for Muni Diaries Live tickets! Our 10th anniversary show is just two weeks away, so be sure to get a ticket here. We want to celebrate with you!