Artist tips his cap to Muni, a refuge in tougher times

As he carted his belongings to the bus stop, Kurt Schwartzmann knew that he relied on the kindness of the Muni driver, lest he face another cold night on the streets of San Francisco. When the bus door opened on one particular night, he was relieved to see the familiar face.

This was a lifetime ago, before Schwartzmann conquered his struggle with drug addiction, found his way as an artist, and met his now-husband. While he was homeless, Muni had become the refuge for Schwartzmann.

Schwartzmann, who has lost sight in one eye due to complications to AIDS, dedicated his art series, “Yellow Line,” to the Muni drivers whose empathy helped him survive those difficult times. His art has been exhibited at the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and at City College of San Francisco.

We first met Schwartzmann on Instagram when he posted about his art series, and we were thrilled that he told his story at Muni Diaries Live in April at Rickshaw Stop.

Growing up in Fresno as a young gay man, Schwartzmann said that San Francisco had always been a symbol for “freedom of expression and refuge from intolerance.”  In honor of Pride weekend, we are sharing his story in today’s podcast episode. Take a listen:

If you have your own Pride story to share, email us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, or tag us on TwitterInstagram, or Facebook @munidiaries.

Photo credit: RightAngleImages.

How a Muni ride went from piss to bliss

Muni is probably our longest love-hate relationship, a widespread phenomenon that became the focus of one bus rider’s one-woman play. That woman, Ady Lady, is a writer and performer. She’s written and performed two solo shows: Sara Jane Tried to Shoot the President and From Piss to Bliss, the latter of which was about her desperate attempt to lead with love while riding Muni.

Update: She’s still working on it.

Ady Lady told her story at Muni Diaries Live at Rickshaw Stop earlier this spring. For everyone who missed it (or can’t wait for the encore), here’s her story:

If you have your own Muni story to pitch to our podcast, email us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com. And remember to rate us on iTunes if you like what you hear.

Photo by Right Angle Images

Muni Diaries Live: We do it for the surprise tears

Our pre-show rehearsal is a necessary part of the live storytelling game—but it’s also a nice reminder of why we’re still collecting your stories about San Francisco commute life and, since 2017, of life all over this city we call home. We call the phenomenon surprise tears, where something universally true or poignant hits us all and then the eyes get stingy and we’re rooting around in our purse for tissue.

You’re in for a treat come Saturday. Get tickets today:

Muni Diaries Live (<- tix on Eventbrite)
Sat., April 6
Doors: 5:30 pm
Show: 6:30-8:30 pm

The Rickshaw Stop
155 Fell St (between Van Ness and Franklin)

Also! Today, April 3, is our 11th birthday: Thanks for coming along on the ride, however unpredictable and kooky it may have been, for all these years. We’d love to celebrate with you in our new home.

Pic by Right Angle Images

An anonymous letter about the no good very bad year (and A+ Muni story)

You might remember storyteller Nuala Sawyer, News Editor at SF Weekly and haver of what most of us would agree was a pretty shit year back in 2013. She told the story on stage at Muni Diaries Live in November 2018, and it gave us not-so-surprise tears again when we added it to our podcast lineup recently.

The podcast episode ended up having an impact on an anonymous podcast listener, too. That person sent Nuala this handwritten letter to SF Weekly and, just when you think you’re out of Muni-related surprise tears…

“Thank you for telling it. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for placing yourself in a vulnerable position with the man and with the audience of Muni Diaries. As you impressively seem to know, honesty and vulnerability change [sic] people—us as well as those around us,” the listener wrote. We couldn’t agree more, Listener. Thanks, Nuala, for sharing—in more ways than one.

Listen to Nuala’s podcast episode here.

Top photo by Right Angle Images; letter image courtesy Nuala Sawyer

See Muni Diaries at the Betabrand Podcast Theater on March 7!

We’re coming out of our humble podcast studio, rosé in hand, to record our first live episode at the Betabrand Podcast Theater! On March 7, we’ll bring our podcast live to you at the Betabrand store on Valencia Street, where you’ll hear hilarious and true stories from on and off the rails, and watch us chat live with some of San Francisco’s most seasoned commuters.

You’ll hear tales from storyteller Dhaya Lakshiminarayanan and The San Francisco Chronicle’s Heather Knight and Peter Hartlaub. And just for the Betabrand Podcast Theater, we’ll bring you a new segment called “Ask Driver Doug” featuring longtime Muni operator Doug Meriwether.

Tickets are only $5 for our first live podcast event, so get ’em while they last!

Betabrand Podcast Theater presents: Muni Diaries

Tickets: $5

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Doors: 6:30 p.m., Show 7 p.m.

Betabrand

780 Valencia Street (between 18th and 19th Streets)

San Francisco, CA 94110

Take Muni there: 12, 14, 22, 33, 47, 49. Or take BART: 16th Street Station.

What was your worst year in San Francisco?

Storyteller Nuala Sawyer was having a terrible year in San Francisco: an accident that broke her arm, being laid off from her job, and a terrible breakup on top of it all. It was one of those times in your life when you think things couldn’t get any worse. Then, a man on Muni shared a vulnerable moment with her that changed her perspective.

Nuala is the News Editor at SF Weekly. She writes about a little bit of everything: City Hall, the courts, homelessness, immigration, housing, crime and of course, transportation.

Listen to Nuala’s story:

You can follow Nuala on Twitter at @TheBestNuala, or hear her on Rollover Easy Thursday mornings at bff.fm.

If you have a story to share, whether it happened on or off the bus, we want to know! Submit your own diary entry to the Muni Diaries podcast by emailing us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, or tag us @munidiaries on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook

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