Paving over the past to make way for the future is a story we know well in San Francisco. But few people I know have taken the time to understand what lies beneath the streets of San Francisco: who those people were, and the impact they had on the birth and growth of neighborhoods and infrastructure. Local author Beth Winegarner is the exception.
San Francisco’s Forgotten Cemeteries: A Buried History is Beth’s newest book, and it’s out now. Beth stopped by the Muni Diaries podcast to discuss how the city’s dead have impacted some of our most well-traveled roads and public transit, early NIMBY antics from our Victorian forebears, and our civic responsibility to residents who’ve passed on.
Beth is a journalist, author, essayist and pop-culture critic who has contributed to The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The San Francisco Examiner—where she first met me in the paper’s Peninsula bureau. She is the author of several books, including Sacred Sonoma, Beloved, The Columbine Effect: How Five Teen Pastimes Got Caught in the Crossfire and Why Teens are Taking Them Back, and Tenacity: Heavy Metal in the Middle East and Africa.
When we get together, the conversation often veers toward San Francisco politics and socioeconomics, and this more “official” talk wasn’t much different. Here’s Beth in conversation with … me!
Muni is San Francisco’s deep end: immediate and immersive exposure to strangers, testing our tolerance for other people’s music, aromas, food, volume, attitude, or public habits. Sometimes all of them at the same time.
This concept is what brought Muni Diaries to life. It’s also what makes Muni interesting and representative of the city it cuts through. We can still celebrate and rally around that idea thanks to folks like Meymey Lee.
Meymey is an organizer, artist, and outdoor educator, who joined us on stage at Muni Diaries Live. They touched on one of my favorite things about Muni: it can not only highlight our shared humanity, but inspire civic duty and a sense of community. We first connected with Meymey through their multimedia exhibit, Muni Raised Me, a showcase of San Francisco born-and-raised artists exploring what Muni means to the folks who grew up on it.
Say hi to your neighbors, San Francisco! It might just be Meymey. Listen to the podcast on all your favorite platforms:
We are proud to have had not just one, but two of the talented artists from Muni Raised Me at our spring show. Stay tuned for the lyrical stylings of Tanea Lunsford Lynx, an artist and educator, in an upcoming podcast episode. In the meantime, prepare to be impressed—Tanea brought their students to the exhibit to perform original poetry about life on the school bus (Muni, obvs), and we captured some of the audio in an earlier podcast ep.
Storyteller Adrianna Tan is an enthusiastic bus rider who has ridden buses in more than 30 countries worldwide. But when she finally moves to San Francisco five years ago, she quickly finds out that, in many ways, our very own Muni is not like all the rest.
Here at Muni Diaries we’ve taken an occasional peek at transit riding around the world (Tokyo subway etiquette, a passenger slide in Holland, just to name a few). So we especially appreciate Adrianna’s love for transit that extends beyond Muni. If you have your own personal history on transit to share, submit your story pitch to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Muni Diaries podcast so you don’t miss a minute of these great stories. You can find us on any of your podcast-listening apps.
In 2019, storyteller Kurt Schwartzmann told what is still one of my favorite Muni Diaries Live stories about being unhoused and reliant on the kindness of strangers, namely Muni drivers, for temporary warm shelter. In the thick of the pandemic, when we needed it most, he repaid the city with love. That is, he collaborated with artist Deirdre Weinberg on one of the famed Hearts of San Francisco. We had him back at Muni Diaries Live in April, as he is still looking for one Muni operator in particular. Maybe you can help him?
We’ve gotten our share of “teens on the bus” stories, but it is a special treat hearing from young folks themselves—thoughtful, civic-minded people who are inspired by public transit to participate and create.
Tanea Lunsford Lynx is Chair of the Spoken Arts Department at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts and one of the artists behind Muni Raised Me, a multimedia exhibition by San Francisco born-and-raised artists exploring a central question: What does Muni mean to the people who grow up riding it? Tanea brought their students to the Muni Raised Me exhibit to perform their own original poetry about Muni in a guerrilla-style spoken word show, and we had the privilege of sitting in to listen and record.
It warms our hearts to see the next generation keeping it transit-oriented. Muni Diaries Live alum Hayden Miller helped navigate a Muni bus in real-time (for real, listen to his story) and articulates his thoughts at SFMTA Board meetings on the state of transit—all while in high school. And we know a new crop of engaged Muni riders, like Tanea’s students, are coming up alongside him.
Lucky us: There was so much inspiring material, we curated it into a two-part series.
Part 1: Tanea shares her perspective on the exhibit and spoken-word event, plus some student performances
IYKYK: San Francisco doesn’t leave us that easily, even when we leave it. Katie Havercamp and LeBron James the cat (yep) learned it bigtime firsthand, and I’d bet that many people you know have strong feelings on the topic.
Sheila McElroy has spent her professional life studying, writing about, and talking about place: how our sense of it grounds us in history and provides context for how we see, move around, and make sense of the world. In this story, told at Muni Diaries Live in November 2022, Sheila takes us through her personal sense of place and the role it, especially San Francisco, plays in her journey.
If you didn’t even know we had a podcast until you saw this post, or until an obviously excellent friend with great taste sent it your way, don’t forget to subscribe to the Muni Diaries podcast so you don’t miss another minute of these real-life tales from on and around the bus. We’re on all your favorite podcast-listening apps.