Poetry in motion on Muni

Sometimes when you see something that really speaks to you—you gotta have it. Rider David G. sent us the story of how he came to own a piece of honest-to-goodness Muni poetry, and we’re convinced it was meant to be. Here’s his story:

In the ’90s, the group Streetfare Journal and bus-advertising company TDI placed literary placards on Muni buses, streetcars, and cable cars. When visiting a friend’s apartment, I saw one of the posters. It featured a poem about fascist leaders and was written by the Serbian poet Aleksandar Ristovic. The last three lines read: 

Time of fools is coming, 

time of the know-nothing teacher 

and the book that can’t be opened at either end. 

I loved it and asked where she found it. Were they selling them? 

She chuckled and described how she saw the poster while riding the 30-Stockton through the Marina. She was struck by the words and so she asked a random fellow rider to hold her coffee. Then she simply took it down — in a bus full of commuters no less. She said that people stared, but no one uttered a word. “If you’re nonchalant, no one will do anything,” she suggested. 

Being less adventurous, I didn’t follow her advice. Of course, one day all the placards were removed. 

I was living in a residence hotel and taking the California cable car to work. Months later on my morning commute, to my utter surprise I saw the Ristovic poster. They obviously missed this one. Unfortunately, there was no chance of stealing it: in the closed confines of a cable car, both Muni operators were nearby.  

I resolved to go to the cable car barn that evening and see if I could ask someone for it. I  believed it was my last chance. 

Not knowing what to expect, I walked into the barn and was met with strong welding fumes. I gingerly stepped between rows of vehicles sitting on tracks. A middle-aged mechanic was on duty and he emerged from under the tracks. Nervously, I explained the situation: I’m looking for poetry.

He seemed surprised but he told me to “look around and take whatever you need,” and returned to his tools. My footsteps echoed as I explored the empty carriages. I finally found the poster and tucked it under my arm.

On the way out, I noticed the mechanic in street clothes and cleaning his work area. We nodded to each other as I departed. Not only did I walk out with the Ristovic poem; I also found one with a verse excerpt from Muriel Rukeyser

Time comes into it. 

Say it. Say it. 

The universe is made of stories, 

not of atoms.

Thank you, David, for submitting this story, especially in the midst of missing Muni—and all semblances of normal life—lots. Fun fact: For Muni’s centennial in 2012, we partnered with SFMTA for a “100 Days, 100 Muni stories” competition, where the most quotable winner earned placement on a placard just like these.

Since the universe is made of stories, we know there are many untold ones in our corner of the world. Indulge us with that tale that’s been burning a hole in your pocket by emailing muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, or by connecting with us @munidiaries on all the socials.

Photo by Views from the Grip

See San Francisco’s cable cars get dressed up for the holidays


How did we get to December already? Our beloved cable cars got in the holiday spirit this weekend, getting all dressed up for the holidays. Muni rider Jeremy Whiteman sent over these wonderful photos of gripman Val Lupiz and his family decorate a cable car for the holidays, along with members of San Francisco Remembered.

We at Muni Diaries had the chance to partake in this very cool behind-the-scenes, super San Francisco activity a few years ago with Market Street Railway. It was definitely a treat to decorate cable cars and streetcars with lights, tinsel, ribbons, and boxes of trim.

San Francisco Remembered is a public Facebook group where you can see and share vintage photos of our city after 1907. Right now in the group, there are some wonderful photos of the City of Paris store and the ginormous Christmas tree under the dome (you know, that one that’s in today’s Westfield mall). It’s definitely worth checking out and getting to know your SF history.

Read more

Adorable 1960s Sign for a Retiring Cable Car Driver


Is there anything sweeter? We found this adorable old sign from @kjerahus on Instagram, whose great grandfather was a conductor on the California Street cable car:

Sign from my great grandfather’s retirement in 1964. He was a conductor on the California St cable cars for years and worked on trolleys and trains since 1917.

Here’s a few more nostalgic finds:
Muni’s first schedule
Streetcar No. 1
Muni rapid in 1966

Got any more old timey finds? Tag us on Instagram at #munidiaries.

Man with service dog allegedly booted from cable car


Last Saturday, a man riding a cable car in San Francisco with his service dog was asked to get off. When he refused, pointing out that his pit bull Rosie was a service animal and thus allowed to be aboard the cable car, SFPD were called in.

Attorney Gina Tomaselli, who is not representing the man, shot this Facebook video of the incident once the police officer arrived.

The SF Examiner has the story:

Tad Tadesse and his service dog Rosie, a pit bull, skyrocketed to local fame after a video purportedly showing a Muni supervisor and San Francisco Police Department officer trying to remove the pair from a cable car surfaced Sunday.

But Tadesse and Rosie have been ousted from Muni vehicles more than 20 times, the dog owner told the San Francisco Examiner on Monday.

Read the rest of the story on Examiner.com.

Image from video shot by Gina Tomaselli