Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Google Schools You in New MUNI Tools

Dearest Fellow Adventure-ers,

I promise I will post my L Taraval findings soon. I'm aiming for Thursday.

In other transit-related news, Google has rolled out GoogleTransit* in the Bay Area, which although by no means perfect, seems much more comprehensive than the jenky Transit.511 Trip Planner.

Of course, you could always rely on my favorite method and look at a map. The best part is you can print it out, glue it in your notebook and never be lost again!

Until next time, happy travels friends!

*Thanks SFCitizen for the heads up!

Monday, April 14, 2008

More Questions, More Answers

My co-worker Terry is interested to know how I pick which lines to go on first and "do [I] rate them from shitty to fun?"

To answer the first question, I'm not picking lines arbitrarily. I'm going by the same order that SFMTA and NextMuni follow. Looking at the SFMTA list, I just realized that the cable cars are coming up soon. I cannot wait!

In terms of rating, that obviously does not play a part in the order I'm following but I have thought about creating some sort of best/worst list. However, in order to accurately determine which line has the best sights, for example, I'm going to need to get farther into the project. Maybe at the halfway point I'll do something like that. Wait and see!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

KT – Ingleside/Third Street

Line: KT – Ingleside/Third, Inbound
Date: March 29, 2008
Weather Conditions: Cool & Overcast

Time: 12:19 p.m.
First Stop: Green Division Yard

I rush out of the BART tunnel. Ah, Green Division Yard, you are familiar this time so I know where to stand. The K starts moving, I run as not to miss it. The driver stops the train and starts talking to someone. Phew. I will make it.

Everybody on!

I pull myself together. I don’t really notice the other people waiting, but I do see that the bitchin’ trash can moved. The doors open. I debate which car to sit in but end up sitting in the first car, seat by the door like last time. I thrive on consistency.

We start moving along and turning. The train moves forward slowly and squeaks; the rails need some oil.

Time: 12:23 p.m.
Stop: City College Pedestrian Bridge

We pass City College quickly, but from what I can see the campus is pretty large. It reminds me that I should look at the summer schedule and see if they have any good non-credit classes. They’re free!

Time: 12:25 p.m.
Stop: Ocean Avenue & Lee Street

Twin Peaks. Remember this, it will come up later.

There is a strange smell on the train. Sort of a cross between weed and potstickers. Appetizing. The train is beeping a lot. Maybe because there have been so many accidents.

Time: 12:27 p.m.
Stop: Ocean Avenue & Miramar Avenue

A mystery! High school love spelled out in bricks? Marriage proposal?

Oh. My. God. A woman channeling Cher circa 1980-something gets on! She is wearing leather pants and a leather jacket. Her hair is huge, long and amazing. I cannot stop staring. Cher has a friend, but I don’t really notice. Most people pale in comparison to Cher, wouldn’t you agree? I’m pulled out of my jaw-dropped amazement when I hear the man across from me yell, “This is the third time I’ve been transferred and I’m really getting upset right now!”

He takes a deep breath and says calmly, “My name is Tyrone.” Tyrone is probably in his thirties and he also has exciting hair. It is tightly curled and magenta.

He continues yelling, “Give me my respect as a customer!" There’s a short pause, before Tyrone erupts again, “EXCUSE ME! I’m going to work right now. Now. Just like you’re at work and I have no time for this!”

Time: 12:31 p.m.

I like this anchor. It looks like it would make a nice bench.

We pass through a nice area of houses, getting into West Portal. Compared to most places in the city they look like mansions with front yards, long driveways, and big windows.

“I’m serious! I don’t have time for this shit! If I did I wouldn’t be talking to you!” Zing! I accidentally laugh out loud at Tyrone’s last sentence. He’s put on hold and shakes his head. He tells me that pre-paid phone companies are ridiculous. I shake my head and say, “It sounds like it.”

Time: 12:34 p.m.
Stop: Junipero Serra Boulevard & Ocean Avenue

The pre-paid phone company person comes back and Tyrone says, “You are very rude and I do not appreciate it.”

A lot of older Asian people are getting on the train. There are also three or four younger Asian kids carrying instrument bags. I noticed a few young Asian kids with instruments on the J, too. I wonder if they’re headed to individual music lessons or they’re all part of a band. My thoughts are interrupted by, “I AM SO UPSET RIGHT NOW, I CAN’T EVEN THINK! I am calm.” Such a bipolar conversation. Half of his sentences are screaming and the other half sound calm and rational. “Excuse me? Do I sound like I have attitude?” Pause. “Well, I DON’T. I want to be transferred to your manager. Thank you very much.”

He rolls his eyes and shakes his head at me again. I shake my head back.

Time: 12:36 p.m.
Stop: Saint Francis Circle

Tyrone gets off the train. I’m incredibly disappointed. We roll along West Portal Avenue. It’s a cutesy area. There are breakfast places, coffee shops, an old movie theater and random little trinket stores. The driver announces, “Fourteenth Avenue!” I see a store called Alexander Collections. There is a mannequin wearing a pink tutu in the window. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve seen on this street.

So very stylish.

A young girl with a music bag sits where Tyrone was sitting. I can’t figure out what sort of instrument she has. A guitar?

It still smells like potstickers and weed. I feel nauseous. On my left I see some Greenpeace people. They are everywhere.

To my right I see the movie theater. I was there once to see “The Science of Sleep.” I don’t remember much about the theater except that there were lots of couples and the theater was small.

Time: 12:41 p.m.
Stop: West Portal Station

We ease into the station. Cher and friend get up and move towards the back door. I fumble to get my camera. They see me taking a picture and they start laughing. Cher motions towards her friend and asks me, “Doesn’t she look sexy?” I have no idea what her friend is supposed to be. She has a red velvety cape, a Budweiser bodysuit and devil horns. Beer is the devil? “Oh yeah, looking good,” I say. “Here! We’ll pose for you,” says Cher. Snap. Beer girl says, “This will be in places on day!” Ha. We both wish. They get off.

Cher, the beer-devil and the oranges guy. Enjoy fame.

The train starts to move and I notice the route sign change from “K-Ingleside” to “T-Third.” We are racing underground.

Time: 12:43 p.m.
Stop: Forest Hill Station

I look at the older man across from me. He is reading a paperback with a Borders sticker still attached. I can’t see what it is but I’m guessing some sort of guide book. He has a bag of oranges at his feet. I hope they don’t go rolling. That would be terrible.

Would you trust this bag?

There aren’t many people on the train and for the most part it is very quiet.

Time: 12:47 p.m.
Stop: Castro Station

We pull into the station and I notice lots of ads, namely the ones for the Sarah Marshall movie and for meth addiction. In the Sarah Marshall ad, someone replaced the “T” with a “B” causing it to read “You do look faB in those jeans Sarah Marshall.” I thought it was funny. That movie has the most ridiculous amount of advertising around the city. I feel personally attacked by the visual pollution that is the Judd Apatow Empire. Regarding the meth ads, the one ad I keep seeing has a guy who looks sort of like Ryan Gosling. I am curious about their effectiveness, but I guess they’re probably better than this.

Lots of people get on but the person that catches my eye is a man wearing head to toe black and red workout gear. He is wearing red Puma's and sits down next to the oranges guy.

The puma might jump off the shoe. Imagine if that happened. Chaos!

Time: 12:49 p.m.
Stop: Church Street Station

A boy who looks like a lumberjack gets on and stands in the doorway. After 40 minutes of having my own seat, a 50-something man with a few grocery bags gets on and sits next to me. I’m kind of annoyed.

Time: 12:51 p.m.
Stop: Van Ness Station

Lots of people get on at Van Ness, including an older man in a wheel chair. He gets into the train rolling backwards, which seems difficult because no one is moving from their spot. I start looking around and wondering where the wheelchair seats are. I guess there aren’t any, but that seems like a major hassle to the wheelchair-bound. (Note: I checked MUNI’s website and it does not make reference to special wheelchair areas on the trains. The only mention is in regards to boarding and exiting.)

On the back of the wheelchair, he has a lime green tote bag advertising a Baptist church.

I wonder what's inside.

The train continues on. Even though the train is full, it is still pretty quiet. At Civic Center, a father and son get on. The son, probably about 10 years old, has a very bloody lip. At Powell the red-shoed workout guy gets out.

My seat partner starts talking to wheelchair man, presumably about his bag. “I remember Pastor Hughes!” The two talk about different church pastors for about a minute before wheelchair man says he needs to get off.

Time: 12:57 p.m.
Stop: Montgomery Station

Maneuvering the wheelchair is a problem. “Excuse me, excuse me.” Despite his repeated attempts to disembark, no one moves. Seriously? Finally he rolls out.

Time: 1:00 p.m.
Stop: Embarcadero Station Tunnel

It’s stop and go in the tunnel and I can hear the under-rails of the train squeaking and lurching. They need some oil. I turn my head around to see what’s going on in the second car and instead I make direct eye contact with the guy behind me. It was unexpected and kind of freaks me out. I look at the window instead. Someone scratched lines into the glass. So obnoxious.

We finally exit the tunnel and stop at Folsom Street. I look up and see the Bay Bridge looming above. It looks so big from underneath. I take a picture and my seat partner starts talking to me.

The picture that started the adventure...

“Are you writing down the camera settings in your notebook?”

I am completely caught off guard. “Oh, no. I have a blog where I write about MUNI adventures and the pictures are for that. I’m on an adventure right now.”

Seat partner starts laughing, “Oh! I thought I you were a photographer and you were writing down the settings!”

“Oh, yeah, no.”

“I’m a photographer myself. I take pictures on MUNI, too.” He pulls out some developed 4 x 6’s and shows them to me. It’s been so long since I’ve held an actual photo; it’s such a weird feeling. He has pictures he took on the streetcar. Seat partner points out his favorites, “I like this one because I like this guy’s expression.”

“Yeah, that’s a good one,” I say. In the picture, there’s an old Asian man standing on the platform looking determined. He’s in focus and everyone behind him is kind of blurry and rushing. He shows me another one he likes; it is of a baby making a silly face.

“Yeah, those are really nice. I like how you captured their expressions.” I look out the window. We’re passing Fourth and King. I haven’t written anything down since we started talking. I feel stressed about this interaction breaking up my normal routine.

“I take pictures for churches, too.”

I feel baffled for a second and then a million questions rush to mind. Wait, like you get paid to take pictures? Or you take them for church websites? Instead, I blurt out, “What…what does that mean?”

“I take pictures for churches,” he repeats matter-of-factly. I wonder if this is a simple concept and I’m just being slow.

He pulls out his camera and hands it to me. “Here, look.”

He explains how this morning he went to a church meeting and took pictures of the meeting and the people. I flip though images of prayers hung up on walls, children playing and adults talking. I hand him back his camera and say, “Oh, these are cool. What are you going to do with them?”

He intends to print them out and enlarge the ones of the prayers. Seat partner starts asking me questions about photography terms. Have I heard of ASA? Do I know what it is? My mind feels bombarded as I try to recall all the information I tried to understand from video and photo classes. I come clean and admit, “I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with shutter speed or exposure? I get kind of confused and overwhelmed with that stuff. I usually shoot on auto; it’s just easier that way.”

He admits that he, too, isn’t completely proficient in photo-speak, but bought his Konica to practice. He’s saving up for a Nikon. “Oh yeah! My dad has one, they’re really nice. They take great pictures.” I look out the window again; we’re going through the Dogpatch. They’re doing so much construction down here.

We reach a lull in the conversation. I mistakenly think I can continue documenting the exterior environment of the adventure when seat partner starts talking again. (Note: At the time, I thought our interaction was a disturbance to my routine of documentation. Now, as I write this, I am realizing that this conversation is just as, if not more, legitimate as looking at street signs and the world outside of the MUNI train.)

He tells me how black churches have dynasties of church leaders and how those leaders are now getting older, changing the dynamic of the church experience and the makeup of the congregations. He is passionate about recruiting younger church leaders. At one point, seat partner wonders about the dynamic in other religions and says, “I don’t know about white churches…” and then looks at me as if he’s said something wrong. “Oh, no, I understand,” I say. It struck me as funny. It was almost as if he seemed apologetic for not knowing the politics of other race’s churches.

I glance outside again. I think we’re past the Dogpatch and getting into the tip of Bayview. (Note: Upon further inspection, it seems that this area has gone unnamed. It’s below the Dogpatch, but to side of Potrero Hill and above Bayview. Maybe it’s just called Third Street.)

Seat partner starts explaining that it is important for young men to get involved with their church and their family and not run away. He tells me that he works on two websites: one deals with offering support to husbands and fathers, and the other, still in the conception stages, will be an encouraging site for everyone, offering inspirational pictures, quotes and the like.

He blames TV shows for providing a poor model for youth and fathers. “With shows like The Simpsons, the husband is always portrayed as an idiot! There need to be smarter shows. The father needs to act as the backbone of the family.” Seat partner is also unimpressed by George Lopez and the Belushi brothers as role models.

It seems that he left when his kids were growing up but has since realized that as a mistake and is trying to make restitution now.

Time: 1:23 p.m.
Stop: Third Street & Hudson/Innes Avenue

Seat partner gathers his things and gets up. He introduces himself, "I'm Brother Mitchell, it was good talking to you." We shake. "I'm Kathleen. Good talking to you too."

He exits. I look out the window. The neighborhood is broken down. There are quite a few storefronts, most of which don't seem to be open anymore. There aren't too many people left on the train. I notice that there are a lot of people, mostly men, standing in front of the inoperative stores watching the train pass.

Time: 1:25 p.m.
Stop: Third Street & Kirkwood/La Salle

I see a store with a sign that says "SF Cobras." Standing outside are about five or six older men. I make eye contact with one of them and the whole group waves to me. I can't help but laugh.

And me.

From this point forward, I stop taking detailed notes. Instead, I think about how this area was the site of the government's biggest facility for nuclear research during World War II. Though not used as such anymore, or used anymore, period, there are still quite a few radioactive zones. I think about my earth science class in college, and how we toured the facility. I think about how this area has the highest number of deaths from cancer and heart disease, which most people blame on a combination of poor diet and exposure to toxic waste.

I think about how within only the last two or three years an actual vegetable market opened amidst the plethora of liquor stores and fast food joints. I think about how this area has the highest homicide rate in the city, mostly due to gang violence and drug trade. How it has the highest number of children in the whole city, but the fewest resources for them. I think about the art studios. I wonder what will happen when the new homes are built. From what I've read, it seems like a large number of the older community members have cashed out and moved to the East Bay to live in more affordable housing. How will that change the makeup of the community? I wonder where BAYCAT is located. I wonder how the new train I'm riding has affected the area. With every stop we pass, SFMTA ads remind me that I could be experiencing one of the historical gems of the area.

I would like to see this organ.

These thoughts make me sad. It makes me question the strange dichotomy that is San Francisco, with its insane wealth and insane poverty, both existing in the same seven-mile spread. Do you remember the picture of Twin Peaks from the beginning of the post?

Twin Peaks, as seen from Hunter's Point.

Do you too find it strange, looking at the same structure from two completely different areas?

I apologize for the depressing, albeit realistic, tone in the last few paragraphs. I just think as a citizen, as a person, it's important to remember that the town we live in does not just consist of the 40 minute, less if you're lucky, stretch in between our homes and work. There are other people, other lives, other experiences, outside of our own singular lens. Despite many differences, it seems like we might all be seeing the same radio tower. Interesting, no?

Towards the end of the ride I saw some things I thought were noteworthy. The first is an ad:

Any guesses on what it says beneath towing?

I noticed quite a few Baptist churches and a Catholic church on Third Street. At Revere and Shafter I noticed Your Community Restaurant, which reminded me of the now-defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland. Outside of the restaurant was the Turkey flag, making me curious about the Muslim population in Hunter's Point. I saw the flag again when I was on the way back to downtown via the T. It was hanging inside an office building in SOMA.


About the only time I've seen palm trees in San Francisco.

Time: 1:47 p.m.
Stop: Bayshore Boulevard & Sunnydale Avenue

I get out of the train, take a quick stretch break and hop back in to see what I missed the first time.

End of the line, folks.

Total Time: 88 minutes/1 hour & 28 minutes (approx.)
How I got there: 5 to Civic Center BART, off at Balboa Park Station
Where can you see more? HERE