Fun on the Morning Muni

Muni This is your average San Francisco Muni train.  Doesn’t it look nice and normal?  Yeah, I think so too.  But you never know what you’re going to get when you board one of the trains or buses on your daily commute.  Sometimes you get a seat and have a quiet commute, your fellow passengers all minding their own business as people read, chat quietly, stare into space, or sometimes sleep (yes, there is occasional drool on the window).

Other times, however, you’ll board at a stop well into the route and end up squashed like a very unlucky sardine against your fellow passengers, backpacks shoved against your back, shoulder or chest (why do people who wear backpacks always seem to forget they’re wearing them and therefore taking up more footage than normal?), or the victim of a variety of crimes against hygiene. or an overdose of perfume and/or cologne that would be better used as bug spray. And let’s not forget the people who play their iPods at a level that makes earbuds irrelevant.

And then there are the crazies and/or the drunks.  The ones that smell like Miller Time or worse don’t always just come out in the late afternoon or evening. I’ve been stuck next to people who smell like the floor of a brewery first thing in the morning.  Before I’ve had coffee.  This is wrong on many levels.

We have Tourette’s Guy as a regular on the L-Taravel line (the line that runs two blocks from our house) and he not only has Tourette’s, but likes to use it as a weapon against whoever happens to catch his eye on the train.  He eavesdrops on conversations and works snippets of them into his rants, liberally peppered with obscenities.  He likes to pick on women. He’s yet to choose me as a target, which shows some amount of survival instinct.

There’s  one man who likes to sing.  Loudly.  Non-stop. Unfortunately he’s also tone-deaf. Luckily he also likes to share the joy of song with everyone on the train, which means he’ll move from car to car.  He makes me reconsider my own lack of interest in owning an iPod. 

This morning we were joined by a fellow with a definite lack of personal hygiene and a love of communicating with his fellow passengers.   First words out of his mouth when he bounded up the stairs were,  “Brrrrrr!  It’s cold out there!…I once had a really fat girlfriend …  375 pounds …  Her name was Loony.  She kept me warm all night long, I tell ya.  Best lay I ever had, that’s for damn sure!”   He punctuated this with a merry cackle “Heheheheheheheheeee!”  He asked a little gal with a violin case if she really played violin or “you got a weapon in there?  An AK-37? Rifle? Pistol?  Heheheheheheheee!”  Then he asked if anyone knew Tip Toe Through the Tulips and proceeded to sing it for us.  He was actually pitch perfect.

Ah, Muni.  You are many things, but never boring… 


Passion’s Purple Prose or Bookish Factoid #5

It’s Thursday morning and I’m riding the L Muni car into work.  Sitting about five rows in front of me is a teenage boy with headphones on, the volume on his music pumped so high I can hear it from where I’m sitting.  I am fighting a nearly unbearable urge to go up to him, lift one side of the headset and yell, “CAN YOU HEAR ME? BECAUSE YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO IN A FEW YEARS, YOU IDIOT!”  But that would involve getting out of my seat and having to stand the rest of the long, crowded ride to Embarcadero Station, so I’ll continue to resist the urge.  But jeez Louise, isn’t the point of headsets, iPods and Mp3s so you can enjoy whatever you’re listening to without inflicting it on other people?  And wait a sec…nope, teenage boy with headset, I impugned you falsely.  It’s actually a pre-teen girl with an iPod, her earplugs dangling off her shoulders so she can share her music with her friend.  And the rest of us.  Now I’m thinking more along the lines of earplugs as garrote.  Does this make me a bad person?  No, just the antithesis of a morning person who resents having to listen to crappy music before I’ve had my first cup of coffee. It takes my nerve endings a while to crawl back into their sheathes in the mornings.  I don’t wake up bright and chipper when I’m forced to leave my bed at the command of an alarm clock.  And while I’m not what I’d consider homicidal as a rule, infringing on my personal space (and yes, this includes auditory assault) makes me think bad things.  The voices tell me it’s a GOOD thing.

And boy, am I off track for my post today!  Yes, it’s Bookish Factoid #5 time!

When thinking of ideas for stories and books for Ravenous Romance, I went through a suitcase full of my old writing.  We’re talking stories and partial novels from grade school (including my epic one paragraph short story THE END OF THE SUN) through my ’20, back when everything was either handwritten or typed on my handy IBM Selectric.  I used to stay after work at the IRS (yes, I worked at the IRS back in the day) and type up our Murder for Hire scripts, short stories, and whatever else Maureen and I were trying to sell/produce, including two spec Moonlighting scripts.  As a side note, we didn’t sell the Moonlighting scripts, but we did get invited to the wrap party.  We had good food and drink and were treated to the sight of a young, drunk Bruce Willis boogying on the dance floor and periodically pumping his fist in the air, shouting “Fuckin’ A!”

Maureen and I also had a bunch of outlines for original TV series, movies of the week, and other projects. I have all of them, including a completed script for a romantic comedy heavily influenced by Romancing the Stone and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  We originally wrote this for an independent producer in San Diego who wanted to make an erotic romance with a decent script.  Not quite porn, but certainly not the light headed fluff we turned out.  He wasn’t interested in the script, so Maureen and I came up with the bright idea of filming it ourselves. One video camera, no lights, and a group of gung-ho actors later, we actually filmed a decent portion of the script, filling up three 6-hour videotapes. We even went on location, spending a day at the Strawberry Creek Inn (thank you, Jim and Diane!), which was owned by my ex parents-in-law.

I don’t remember why we stopped filming, but it’s probably just as well.  The results were about as amateurish as you’d expect given our ‘let’s put on a show’ mentality.  I have a camera!  We can use your barn…’

But as embarrassing as it is to watch some of this (I cringe whenever I’m on screen), I’m still proud of the moxy it took to fill those three tapes and the fact we had actors willing to give us their time because they liked our script and enjoyed (I hope) working with us.  Plus we fed them lots of home baked chocolate chip cookies.

I still have these tapes and I still have the script.  And when I got an email from Ravenous saying they were looking for serialized novels, I pulled out the script, scanned and sent them the first 25 pages with explanation, and received a positive response. So it looks like it’s going to finally fulfill its original purpose as a more adult romantic comedy.  And I’ll have a chance to take out some of the truly sophomoric jokes originally we originally put in that now make us wince, especially when we think of how funny we thought they were at the time.

Another Day, Another Muni Ride, Another Tag


One of my favorite things in the world is stepping off the down escalator at the Muni station and seeing an L train pull up to greet me. Yes, in my Danacentric world the L train is there just for me and the serendipitous timing occurs to make my day a happier one.  It always makes me smile, no matter how crabby I am.  Cheers me right up.  So my Monday workday has ended on a good note ’cause I just strolled onto my train (yes, MY train) and got my favorite seat without waiting or jockeying for position. If you think little old ladies in grocery stores are scary, wait till you’ve experienced a gaggle of Cantonese grandmas, all determined to board ahead of you even if you were the first in line. I’ll give up my seat to someone who needs it, but don’t shove me in line, fer crissake!

So. Monday so far is a good day. Several irritating financial issues have been resolved favorably. I made it through work on the first day of a detox program without attacking a co-worker for their food or snapping at anyone.  I’m going home to exercise, make a yummy detox approved dinner (tilapia, roasted potatoes and green beans) and then work on CHAMPAGNE.  What’s not to be happy about?

Tomorrow I start answering six writer/book related things about myself you might not know about.  Oh heck, I’ll give you one right now:

The first book I remember making an impression on me and started me on my path as an avid reader is THE SILVER CHAIR by C.S. Lewis.  I hadn’t a clue about the Christian subtext, btw.  I liked it ’cause it had the doorway to another world thing going for it and giants who wanted to eat the hero and heroine.  Evil witches, enchanted princes, and a giant lion.  I was totally into it.

I read the rest of the series in short order and then discovered Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series (The Black Cauldron, for example), E. Nesbit’s works (5 Children and It and the Enchanted Castle, for example), the Oz books…the Point Loma public library was my favorite place in the world.

I was tagged, btw, by that Devil Woman Morgan Mandel!  I’m holding off tagging till tomorrow.  I am officially stymied on who to tag who won’t kill me.

Muni Pages – Day 29 (which means yesterday’s post was the 28th!)

I was doing my morning pages on the Muni this morning.  Have any of you ever used this tool?  Morning pages, not Muni.  If you’re familiar with The Artist’s Way, you’ve heard of the practice of writing three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness first thing when you wake up.  It acts as a mental (and sometimes emotional) garbage dump, the theory being it clears out your mind of extraneous crap so it’s free and clear to focus on creative endeavors. It works too, at least for me.  I don’t always do it first thing in the morning – I have a habit of rolling out of bed with just enough time to get ready for work and catch my streetcar (or, if I give myself an extra 10 minutes, I walk 45 minutes to West Portal and catch the train there).  I like my sleep and love to dream and will stretch my ‘just five more minutes’ far past its 300-second allotment.  Plus, have you ever tried writing in bed with a pen and a curious feline (or 5) in attendance?  The pen is the best toy in the world and they KNOW you’re wiggling it around JUST for them.  10 minutes of morning pages becomes 20 minutes of entertaining the kids.  Fun, but not what the author of Artist’s Way intended. These days I do them first thing on the Muni or when I’m waiting for it to arrive.  I can’t read what I write, but that’s not the point of them.

I go through phases of not doing morning pages.  Sometimes months, sometimes years go by.  During these periods I go through frustrations, creative blocks, depressions and self-doubt.   I’m not saying that NOT doing the morning pages brings on these symptoms.  But I know from repeat experience doing the morning pages alleviates the symptoms and helps me gain perspective, figure out what’s blocking me up or causing the near suicidal moods.  And yet stubbornly I won’t renew the practice when the moods first hit. OH no, that would be too easy and reasonable. For whatever perverse reason, I wait until the last possible minute when it’s either go to my doctor’s for antidepressants (something I’ve avoided so far) drive my loved ones crazy, and then something finally snaps and I start doing them again.

So very simple.  I have to wonder at the way my brain is hardwired. I play observer a lot when I’m deliberately avoiding something I know would help – I am a big one for proactive behavior and taking personality responsibility.  Yet in this one area, I am a stubborn kid who won’t eat her vegetables, even though she’s had them before and KNOWS she like the way they taste.  Go figure.

So I reached that point a few weeks back and started doing morning pages again. I took a three-day break when I couldn’t use my right hand (the Dreaded Cat Bite Incident of August ’08), but picked them back up again as soon as I could hold a pen without excruciating pain (yeah, I’m still a drama queen).   Sometimes I write down my dreams, like yesterday when I woke up with a piece of a dream stuck in my brain.  I wrote it down and suddenly had a whole chunk of outline for one of my novels. I think that’s pretty cool.

Sometimes I write about the people around me on the Muni (they can’t read my writing even if they are looking over my shoulder).  This morning was one of those days because my nerve endings hadn’t sheathed yet (I need at least two hours after waking up before I’m ready for any social interaction beyond my bed) and I was surrounded by chattering boys, teenage girls on cell phones (can you say VAPID?), and someone with a cold who was a firm believer in the snort and spit cure.  Ugh.

I write out my frustrations with my job, my fears about my relationships, financial worries. I also write affirmations, intentions and remind myself I don’t have to lose 10 pounds to be attractive.  I just want to ’cause I have such cool clothes that currently don’t quite fit. I make ‘to do’ lists so I won’t repeat them in a circular thought loop the entire trip to work.  It pops into my head, it goes onto the pages.

When I’m finished with my three pages, I close the notebook, put my pen away and relax. Really relax. They’re an internal pressure valve release, those pages, and if there’s a more invaluable creative tool for me personally, I can’t think of one.  I’ve written more in the past month than I have in three years if we count both blog posts and fiction. Three cheers and a tiger for me!

The blog challenge this month also has its part in motivating my output, but I’m not sure I could have stuck with it if I hadn’t been doing my morning pages.  Or you might have read some scary posts all month…

Dana in Muni-Land

So for those who followed my adventures yesterday with the bag lady shopping cart, the skanky pseudo professor who reeked of alcohol and injured my shin, and my general bad attitude, I am happy to write I had a better day today. It started out much like yesterday at work (as in, I must KILL someone or explode…), but slowly improved through a combination of yoga breathing exercises and my sense of humor. I think my night of relaxation and Dark Shadows movie helped too. Reading all the comments on the post certainly brightened up my day, as did reading everyone else’s (I’ve decided Marvin is quite happily one of the zaniest fellows I’ve ever ‘met’ and am delighted to have made his acquaintance via this blog challenge). So many good tips, interesting articles, great links and overall fun reading material!

By the time I left work, I was in good humor and looking forward to a game of Muni Roulette. Muni Roulette has very simple rules: whatever train comes along first is the one I take and I have to figure out a way to walk home from one of the stops along the route. Today my destination was actually West Portal where I was meeting Dave at 6pm for our Thursday wine tasting at Wine Styles. I wanted as hilly a route as possible (I’m feeling as plump as a force fed piglet these days). I didn’t have my bag lady shopping cart and I DID have my walking shoes (yes, I am one of THOSE women who will put on tennis shoes and socks with my work clothes. Today’s socks were black with the skeletal structure of the feet and shins on ’em) and a new paperback book to read as I walked. I had two hours to get to West Portal. The possibilities were, if not infinite, certainly varied.

The first train was a J. This was doable. I could take it to Noe Valley, wander up into the hills and do the hike up Clipper (at the foot of the hill is a sign warning trucks to use a low grade – steep hill ahead!) and down Portola. It was only a one car train, but without the cart and the crowds of yesterday, it shouldn’t be a problem. As I started to board the train, someone brushed me and boarded ahead of me.

Yes, folks, it was Skanky Professor Man, wearing the same clothes as he’d had on yesterday and still clutching a plastic bottle full of unidentified liquid. Gah!! I jumped back from the door and decided the gods of Muni Roulette would forgive me if I waited for the next train. I had no desire to have my good mood shattered by the sight, smell or sounds of another crazy Muni rat. Especially not one who’d already pissed me off enough to inspire violent daydreams. Not a good thing.

So I took an L train and jumped off at the Castro Street station on Market. I walked up 17th to Stanyan, down Stanyan to Parnassus, from there to 8th Street and then up into this amazing little hilly neighborhood with winding streets and houses that inspire the imagination. Very little of this route is flat and it took me an hour and a half to reach West Portal. During the walk I made friends with an Irish Setter named Maggie (a fine name for an Irish dog) who thought I was more interesting than her owner. I ended up going on a little detour up a hill to keep Maggie from running down into a trafficky area. I was glad I did; I stumbled on this little side street with a series of old stone staircases. One led down onto another curving street and another led up, lined by trees. If you stood at the bottom of this staircase, you could see an old weathered stone house covered with moss through the trees, like something out of a gothic novel. Shades of Dark Shadows and Collinswood! I plan on going back with a camera. I will be using the location in one of my books.  It’s the sort of place you just KNOW holds the magic wardrobe or portal to another time and place.

I love walking in this town. You see things you don’t see when you drive and discover little pockets of the past side by side with the present. I get ideas for my writing all the time…and have started using them instead of going ‘oh, yeah, that’s cool’ and forgetting about it.

Come visit me one of these days. I’d love to give you a walking tour of my favorite parts of San Francisco!

One of those days…

I had such plans for this evening. First I was going to do a vigorous hour of Tae-bo (the classic advanced tape for those of you who are familiar with Billy Blank and his Tae-bo-ing ways), followed by a light and healthful dinner. And then, invigorated, I would come up with some upbeat and witty post to do with writing and then work on my book. The TV would be ignored; I’d find appropriate music instead. Y’know, something upbeat and wit inspiring.

So far I’ve had a light and healthful dinner (chicken apple sausage and tomato sauteed in a little olive oil and herbs and one vegan chocolate chip cookie for dessert), but the rest of it went out the window after what had to be the worst ride on the Muni I’ve had in my three plus years as a San Franciscan. I’d already had a crappy day at work. No real reason, nothing major. Just a lot of little irritations coupled with low energy that made for an exceptionally cranky Dana. I tried the gratitude game (when you actively list what you’re grateful for, which, in my case, includes having a decent job that pays well, with co-workers who I don’t normally want to kill), but couldn’t get past ‘I’m grateful I haven’t killed anyone today.’

Fine. The work day is over and I know Dave will have moved the living room furniture to accommodate Tae-bo, the cat boxes will be cleaned and all I have to do is get home to unwind by punching the crap out of the air and kicking a few imaginary enemies while Billy calls out his enthusiastic encouragement. Even better, the copies of Murder for Hire have arrived from my publisher in time for next week’s library panel, so I’ve packed them into a handy dandy little ‘bag lady’ shopping cart for the Muni ride home. It seems like it should be so easy… just a 45 minute train ride between me and my evening.


When I got to the train platform, it was unusually crowded for 4:00. Not a good sign. When the L train showed, it was a single instead of a double train. Another very bad sign. By the time I manuevered my heavy shopping cart through the crowd and into the train, the seats were all taken, except for one next to the window. This seat was a: blocked by a skanky fellow who reeked of booze and looked like an eccentric college professor down on his luck and b: not one I could take anyway because of my cart.  I’d seen the guy before; he lived in our neighborhood. One of those not quite homeless, but not quite sane people who seem to populate the Muni. He saw me trying to keep my cart from rolling into fellow passengers while I held onto a seat with my other hand to avoid tumbling headlong into the aisle, but the thought of moving didn’t occur to him. Or rather, it did, but he didn’t care. My cart rolled into his foot and nudged it; he gave it and me a nasty look and took another swig from an unlabeled plastic bottle. Normally I’d have apologized, but as it was I had to restrain myself from rolling the cart into him on purpose. I was having serious Muni rage issues.

Now I don’t like getting this angry. I have a definite streak of temper that has been known to go into berserker rage with the right (or wrong) provocation. Getting jostled by the increasing crowds at each stop didn’t help the irrational anger. Neither did the stink of bologna wafting over from a man next to me. The muscles in my legs, back and arms were trembling with the effort of keeping the cart from going on a rampage and myself in one spot. My head started aching and all the irritations of the day coalesced into a hard little knot in the center of my chest. I wanted to kill.

The train finally cleared out enough for me to sit for the last five minutes of my ride. Skanky Professor Booze Man got out two exits before me and gave my cart a hard, deliberate kick when he stood up, driving it into my shin. I have never had to stomp down on a urge to maim someone as hard as I did today, folks. The red is still slowly eking out of my vision and this is after a foot rub, dinner and four cats purring on or around my lap.

By the time I dragged myself and my book laden cart up the slight hill to the house, I was wiped out. Tae-bo? Hah. My legs weren’t having it. Dave greeted me and all I could do was whimper, ‘I had a bad day. I don’t feel good!’ and start bawling like a five year old. The foot rub followed shortly after that; the man has finely honed survival instincts along with a generous nature.

Now I’m sprawled out on the couch, sipping a glass of Chilean carmenere, enjoying another cheesy movie (Night of Dark Shadows starring a VERY young Kate Jackson).

I’ve given myself permission to take the night off of everything but the blog challenge. I’m hoping my mood, attitude and temper improve for tomorrow…although if I see the Nutty Professor on the Muni, I’m not making any promises.

Muni Woes

Lately I’ve been doing a lot thinking and writing on the Muni (using my handy dandy Alphasmart!).  I do my Artist’s Way endorsed morning pages, work on outlines, posts, notes…whatever needs doing.  I usually read on the Muni, but given the two deadlines I have (200 page novel due 1/1/09 and non-fiction co-written book on female sexuality due 2/1/08), I’ve been really upping the writing discipline.  My brain is wearing thigh high black leather boots and a corset, cracking a whip whenever I open a book (unless I’m in the bathroom or walking.  Can’t write while walking), telling me to get with the program.  Or else.  CRACK!!  And Muni time is a good 40 minutes there and 40 minutes home.

Oops…wait a sec…I have a kitten chewing on my chin and purring…

Okay, he’s finished now.

On a good day, the Muni is a wonderful place to work.  On a bad day, not so much.  A good day is:

1.  when the person who sits next to me is relatively slender and aware they’re not alone.  My rear is generous enough to take up exactly one Muni seat, no less, no more.  I don’t enjoy sharing my half of the seat with someone else’s butt, elbows or any other body part.  It’s even more fun when my seat mate falls asleep on me.  And yes, it’s happened more than once.

2. The person next to me is not a male who can’t sit without spreading his legs as wide as possible.  See above re: sharing my space.  Keep your legs together, guys.  Or does your package really need that much fresh air?

3. The person next to me practices good hygiene.  This also goes for anyone standing in my immediate vicinity.  Wash, people!  Use deodorant!  And leave the heavy perfumes at home; think before poisoning your fellow passengers with a noxious cloud of cloying scent.

4.  The person next to or near me doesn’t have an iPod or MP3 player turned up enough to where I’m forced to share their musical tastes without being able to actually hear it clearly.  It’s irritating white noise and I can only think the person connected to the headphones is going to be deaf in a very short time and then turn their damn music up even louder.

5.  The person next to me has good cell-phone etiquette and keeps the volume down and the conversation short.

6.  The person next to me or near me is not a crazy CHUD.

A bad Muni day is when any combination of the above occurs.  It makes writing a challenge.  Sometimes I overcome the irritation and forge ahead; other times I have to restrain myself from beating someone over the head with my Alpha.

Today started out as a bad day on the ride home.  A group of half dozen teens trooped on board and sat two rows in front of me.  Loud, hyper teens.  They weren’t mean, they didn’t swear, but oh, they were loud.  I tried to write for a few more minutes, but finally gave up and pulled out a book.  I had a bit more success focusing on reading, but not a lot.  I was working up to a really fine irritation when one of the kids stood up to let an older woman sit down.  The train lurched and she fell heavily into the seat.  Immediately all the kids asked if she was okay, sincerely concerned.  My irritation melted away and I smiled.  Five minutes later they began a rousing rendition of LION SLEEPS TONIGHT.  My smile wavered, but lasted through all the choruses of ‘Weemawep aweemawep’ and beyond.  I did not, however, get any writing done.