Ringside on the 19-Polk

Photo by Jeff Rizzo

It didn’t take new Muni rider Mari long to experience the underbelly of San Francisco transit.

I’ve lived in SF for not even three months and I already have a few horror stories. Probably the most egregious and surprising event occurred on the 19-Polk headed toward the Mission.

At about 7th Street and Mission Street at 5:45 PM on a weekday, the bus driver stopped to pick up a few passengers. Everyone’s attention turned to the back door where a middle-aged gentleman was grasping with all his might to get on the bus. Behind him is another middle-aged gentleman in a wheelchair grabbing on to the other man’s jacket while yelling, “Oh, no you don’t, you are not running away from me!” and other expletives while punching and pulling the man trying to get on the bus.

The bus driver says nothing, of course. We are stopped and us passengers look back and forth at each other just wanting to get to our destinations. A teenage boy starts to cheer them on: “kick his a**, old man!” while blocking the back door.

Finally, the bus driver says, “Move away from back door,” but the teenager continues to taunt and cheer on the old men who are punching each other on the sidewalk now. Passersby yell, “Stop, stop!” to the stronger man doing most of the punching.

Finally, my patience has dwindled and I say in a very loud voice to the teenager, “Move out of the way! We need to go!” The teenager rolls his eyes at me and slowly walks off the bus. Finally, we are able to drive away.

Just another day on Muni…

At least the teenager got off the bus, right?

What’s your Muni story? Share it on Muni Diaries.

The 19-Polk is your stage

I couldn't Decide...
Photo by Allio

Rider JC said that one of the unspoken rules of Muni is that the bus is your stage, and the riders, a captive audience. Read on.

Once, a few months ago, I was on the 19 pretty late on a weeknight and there was a group of folks congregating on the back. They had a microphone stand and were doing a stand-up comedy show while facing the back. I don’t really remember anyone’s routine as being particularly memorable, but the whole event was definitely out of the ordinary. I even captured the tail end of one guy’s routine on video, seen in the YouTube video above.

A week or so ago I was again riding the 19 through Civic Center and sitting in the back row of five seats. (Probably my least favorite seat location.) It was mid-day and was one of those days where few of us were working, so the bus was really light on office types and heavy on everyone else. One woman was in front of me and willing to engage anyone who wanted to listen on any topic whatsoever. Most riders picked up on this and kept the discussions to a minimum. One goth type guy, however, was all too happy to be engaged for reasons which (to me) quickly became clear.

After he commented that he was considering asking a butcher friend for some blood he could use to spread on the bus floor to “make people scatter and free up some seats” (all together: “ewwwww”) he engaged talkative lady. The two of them quickly worked up a conversation about Anton LeVey and the church of Satan. (Apparently Sammy Davis Jr. and Ann Margaret were big fans and the stupid public who appreciated their art would never have appreciated their fandom of LaVey. Also, LaVey was just trying to “push the envelope in the name of art to see what people would do.”)

Which is all well and good. Who can’t use some really loud colloquy on the 19 about the church of Satan? And, hey, this is what the iPod was made for. But what really got me was an aside from the goth guy, something about how “the singer in my band agrees with me” about something. Not “a buddy of mine” or “a friend of mine” but the “singer in my band.” Yes, this guy was dying to be asked about his band. And once talkative lady picked up on the band and asked, well, we were off to the races.

We were all treated to the details of “the band” even though they apparently haven’t recorded anything or ever performed publicly. They do know the bouncer at some club though (I forget which). Because otherwise the talkative lady was prepared to make an introduction.

Maybe we can get them a gig on the 19.

Muni Missed Connections: Cupcake Edition

Strawberry Macaroon Cupcakes
Photo by Flickr user Aaron Landry

We begin this latest round of Muni Missed Connections with a tale of cupcake kindness on the 19, of all routes:

u gave me a cupcake b4 u got off at 24th or 25th, thought that was really sweetie, would b nice if every1 on the 19 was sweetie like u, prob wont c u again since I’m not on the 19everyday(thank the lord) so its a good thing CL has this section4u2find me, very sweet

Next, this 30-something might have found his cougar siren, reading The Leopard, no less, on the mysterious 39L:

You’re probably a good 20 years older than me (and likely far too classy for the likes of a tattooed ne’er do well like myself), but every time I see you waiting at our bus stop, my heart starts racing…we almost always sit across from each other, if not very close, and every time I can’t keep my eyes off of you. You’re elegant, sexy, and I imagine what it’s like to be with you every time I see you… Thanks for making me feel alive! (and if you’re ever feeling daring…well, you get the idea)

Read more

Photographer Kristen Holden: Love Stories on Muni

Photographer, poet, and model Kristen Holden‘s pictures of Muni riders have caught our eye for a while. We found her on Flickr as “SFLoveStory” and tracked her down to find out what makes Muni such a great subject. Holden grew up in Chicago and has lived in San Francisco for almost seven years. She lives in Russian Hill with her musician boyfriend and their “talentless dog.”

What is it about Muni that inspires you to take photos there?

This simple answer is: I ride a lot and I shoot my surroundings more than I do anything else. But what makes Muni rife for photographic capture is that the exterior environment is always changing around the same structure or, like, bones of the scene. There are endless characters to make up stories about.

What’s it like taking pictures on Muni?

I think people generally assume I’m a tourist. Once in a while someone will ask me about my camera and why I shoot film (I’m currently shooting with a second-hand Canon EOS Elan II SLR with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens.)

Got a favorite Muni line?

I ride the 45 and 30 to get from Russian Hill, where I live, to downtown and vice versa. I take the 47 and 49 quite a bit. Oh, and I’m one of those weird people who actually rides the 19…it gets the closest to the film-processing center I go to in SoMa. I love the cable cars and streetcars too. The mint-green colored streetcar from Brooklyn (Car 1059?) is my favorite.

You can see more of Holden’s photographs on her website, Kristen-Holden.com.

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