Artist tips his cap to Muni, a refuge for 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

Camp Folsom: ‘You were chosen, and they had your back no matter what’

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.

Here’s his story:

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 muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, 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.

Toeing the thin red-blue line on the 49

Storyteller Kathleen Auterio is a longtime Mission resident who got along famously with rival groups staking their claims in the neighborhood—an affable quality that came in handy when she and fellow passengers on the 49 got caught in the crosshairs of a potential firefight.

Everyone drops to the ground with their faces against the Muni floor (ew!), and the typically unflappable Mission expert describes how she handled the tough situation alongside her neighbors.

Here’s Kathleen’s story, told originally at Muni Diaries Live in April 2019:

If you liked this episode, please rate us on iTunes and help us spread the word about the city’s original, rider-powered online journal!

What did you see on your commute today? Submit your own tale on the bus by emailing us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, or tag us on TwitterInstagram, or Facebook @munidiaries.

Photo credit: Right Angle Images

San Francisco artist chronicles life on Muni

Growing up in New York, the subway served as training grounds for people watching for artist George McCalman. When he moved to San Francisco, Muni naturally became his first inspiration of observing life in the city. In today’s podcast episode, George shares why he founds Muni riders so fascinating, and how this resulted in his Observed column in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Listen to his story:

George sent us the drawing of the stylish grandmother he spotted on the bus, and you can see many more of his drawings on and off the bus by following him on Instagram @mccalmanco.

Sketching life on Muni seems to be a favorite past time of many riders and submissions (including this fun time-lapsed video of a portrait on Muni). Perhaps the same fashionable lady was the Muni fashion muse from rider Meli? One can only hope.

Muni Diaries is made of your stories, whether it’s in drawing, prose, or poetry form. Submit your own tale on the bus by emailing us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, or tag us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook @munidiaries.

Transcript of this podcast episode:

I moved to Brooklyn in 1980 with my mother. We moved up to the island of Granada in the West Indies and I was overwhelmed with the sights and the senses and the aesthetics of New York City. I remember going into the subway, and looking around and realizing that I could settle my eyes on the people who were sitting around me.

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A surprising reunion at the Castro Safeway

Growing up nerdy is not easy anywhere, especially in Birmingham, Alabama. Storyteller Dhaya Lakshminarayanan thought she’d left those teenage memories behind when she moved to San Francisco. But one day, she unexpectedly reunites with one of her long lost friends who shares those high school memories.

Upon finding each other at the Castro Safeway, Dhaya and her friends embark on a new friendship that involves an urban rodeo and other very San Francisco experiences.

Listen to her story:

This story was recorded at the Betabrand Store on Valencia Street in San Francisco, as the inaugural Betabrand Podcast Theater. She’ll be there this Thursday, April 4, with Muni Diaries Live alum Kristee Ono for “Get Present Immediately: two meditating comedians.

Want more live storytelling on and off the bus? Muni Diaries Live is back this Saturday, April 6! Come on down to Rickshaw Stop to commiserate and celebrate with your fellow riders. Tickets are on sale now.

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