Lessons from my first year in SF

If you’re not a San Francisco native, you’re, well, like a lot of people who currently call the city home. Though one of your Diaries editors entered this brave new world at the old Mount Zion Hospital on Divisadero, and the other has been here for two decades and counting, we are both constantly discovering gems — hidden, reimagined, or in plain view — of neighborhoods old and new. People and communities build a city, and we’re lucky to learn from each other, whether we’re standing shoulder to shoulder on Muni, in the protest line, or at the bar.

One thing is certain: we all learned tons during our first year in San Francisco. Take it from reader Andy W. and his wife, Katie, who moved here a year ago.

Being a new transplant these days can be controversial, but we think there’s no better time to explore what we want out of life in San Francisco, as well as what we can all bring back to it.

Today marks Katie and my one-year San Franciscoversary, and I like to think I’ve learned a few things about this complex but amazing city, beyond your basic “DON’T CALL IT SAN FRAN” citywide mandate.

1. People who live here mark the passage of time by commenting on all the restaurants that have closed, and the inferiority of what has replaced it.
2. Some parts of the city smell like pee. Some parts smell like flowers. Sometimes at the same time.
3. It only took me a year to compulsively carry a light jacket or hoodie with me where ever I go. No matter how hot it is. BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW.
4. If you wear a bright blue article of clothing, people assume you’re a huge Warriors fan and are suuuuper nice to you.
5. There are incredible breathtaking views at the end of so many streets.
6. Even for someone with as much privilege as I have, it takes an enormous amount of intention to live here. It takes a lot of energy to move around this tiny, 49 square-mile city among 850,000 of your neighbors.
7. It’s worth it. And I still have so much to learn.

Andy also runs a blog about pencils! You can find him at @woodclinched on Twitter.

So, what did you learn in your first years here? 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!

Sergio, a baguette, and a photographer walk into a Muni Metro Station

A post shared by Muni Diaries (@munidiaries) on

You might have seen this photo, by sharp shooter @kevinkelleherphotography, on our Insta feed last month. We were particularly taken with Sergio, the subject, with his winning smile, jaunty ‘fit, and morning-in-Paris-style baguette over the shoulder.

Kevin was kind enough to give us some surprising back story on his photo:

Please note that Sergio was out and about super casual like NBD at 12:50 a.m…the baguette threw me, as I literally thought I missed a few hours and it was first thing in the morning. He never mentioned where it came from but was out partying!

For serious? Because if I was in the Metro station at 12:50 a.m., I definitely wouldn’t be this photogenic. Or have such seeming command of my faculties. Or have gotten my hands on a baguette, though hypothetical me would probably love a baguette (which would definitely be eaten like a burrito) in this hypothetical situation.

Got other important news for your fellow San Franciscans? We’re expanding our scope to include stories that happen citywide: on or off the rails. So, spin that yarn, tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or feed our always-hungry inbox: muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com. 

Hanging out with Carlos Santana in Precita Park

Did you know Carlos Santana is from Bernal Heights? Good for you. Did you hang out with him at the park as a kid? We guess not. Bernal resident Orlando Galvez grew up in the neighborhood, and the famed musician was a regular part of Sunday afternoons in Precita Park. Orlando recalls that time fondly, when the entire park smelled like “cannabis and fried chicken,” and “spectacular, sparkling low riders” roam the streets.

Orlando recounts this San Francisco diary entry from the late 1960s to the good folks at Bernalwood:

I remember when I was a six year-old boy, watching Carlos Santana play his guitar. I thought he was the coolest kid in the Precita Park. When Santana was playing, I would even drift away from my beloved satellite spinner to get a better view.

Precita Park was a weekend mecca where hippies, Black Panthers, Symbianese Liberation Army radicals, and neighborhood Chicanos with their spectacular, sparkling lowriders would all gather around the playground right near where the satellite spinner still spins today.

“Oye Como Va” always got the party started.
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Meaningful conversation with a minion on Muni

Overheard conversations are even better when it’s between two unlikely new friends. Here’s one such moment, reported by Muni rider David Ngo (@design_0_0 on Instagram).

Can’t believe what I witnessed today on the SF muni. A weird but beautiful moment:
“Where are you from?”
“Kuwait”
“I’m Jewish but I grew up with all Muslim friends.”
“I’m Muslim. But what is this?”
“I’m a minion. My name is Stuart.”
“Oh I have seen this film. You can still be Muslim in your heart even if you are born Jewish.”
“Yes I believe we are all the same”
“Thank you. I like the way you think. Goodbye Minion”
“Goodbye. maʿ al-salāmah”

Got other important observations about only-in-SF moments? Tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Our email inbox muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com is always open!

Introducing: San Francisco Diaries

For the last 9 years, we’ve been collecting stories from over 4,000 people about life on Muni. We think of Muni as the collective living room of San Francisco, and in this living room, anything can happen. With your help, we’ve documented what it’s like to live in our foggy city for nearly a decade.

Often, Muni Diaries feels like a long love letter to San Francisco: from falling in love with a rider who returns your lost wallet to helping a young man with his tie, we’ve captured some very human moments in our city. Our public transit has been the lens through which we say: this is San Francisco.

Every day, you, our readers and diaries submitters, reenforce how much you care about living here. And we want to know the rest of your story. What else makes San Francisco the city we know and love?

Today we are introducing a new series: San Francisco Diaries. We’re expanding our lens of storytelling, and we want to hear your stories about how San Francisco has shaped you. Whether it’s a story about growing up in San Francisco, making your own mark on the map, or finding the moment when you know you’re really from here — San Francisco Diaries is your place to add your slice of life.

To kick off San Francisco Diaries, we have a special episode of our podcast from storyteller Jesse James. Jesse shares a story about how he unwittingly got a job at the Nob Hill Theater after a very brief interview. For those of you who have passed by the “Touch Our Junk” marquee on Bush, you definitely don’t want to miss this. Listen to the first episode of San Francisco Diaries on iTunes, Google Play, or download the episode.

You can continue to submit your stories about Muni (after all, what’s our city without it?), and stories about San Francisco by emailing us or tagging us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Photo by @yellow_line_art

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