Why the Bay Area Flash Mob will inspire you

Mj_MedleyThe next in our series of tales from one ride share car deals with the inspiring story of the Bay Area Flash Mob. This past Saturday I picked up a group from the Embarcadero. With a cheerful demeanor, four folks of varying ages and backgrounds piled in my car. They were carrying a large case that went in the trunk. They were occupied with afternoon planning, but around what? I had questions. I was intrigued.

I had happened to have picked up a few of the founders of the Bay Area Flash Mob. Dictionary.com defines a flash mob as, a group of people mobilized by social media to meet in a public place for the purpose of doing an unusual or entertaining activity of short duration.

Bay Area Flash Mob, from five to 2500 people in no time!

The BAFM started in 2009, with five people, who danced Michael Jackson’s Thriller as a tribute to the King of Pop. 2009 was the same year MJ passed away and that his movie was released. Since then, the BAFM has grown from the five founding members to over 2500 people. Their events usually attract 100 performers, or more.

What good is a flash mob anyhow?BAFM

You may ask yourself, what do people get out of joining a flash mob? Work, family and other social engagements keep most of us more than busy, especially in urban areas where one has to prioritize how she or he spends time (because there is so much to do.) So, why do up to 2500 people, despite grueling hours of practicing choreography, prioritize being part of a flash mob?

bafm2 n me

 

 

A 2012 documentary done in partnership with San Francisco State University explores this question. For many of the members, this is their creative outlet. Some BAFMers feel their day-to-day lives at work are mundane. The Flash Mob gives them an opportunity to do something creative and to bond with others over a similar objective. Founder and passenger, Jacqui Magee said, “to click with a group so quickly and have the same goal was a phenomenal feeling for me.” I asked founder and passenger Julien Rey, why flash mobs? He replied simply, “we bring joy to people’s lives.” The BAFM puts smiles on the faces of sometimes hundreds of people at a time.

How are you impacting the lives of others?

It’s almost impossible to measure the ways in which we impact others in the short time we have on this Earth. We often get caught up in focusing on the things that we don’t have, competition with the Joneses and the relentless pursuit of material goods. All of this obscures what is really important. I’ve never witnessed a flash mob myself, but if it can turn around someone’s day, let alone the day of hundreds of people, then the hours of practice and dedication seems that much more worth it. These sorts of efforts have invisible reverberations we can’t really measure. Something to ponder.

Have you ever witnessed a flash mob? How did it affect you? Leave your stories in the comment section below. 

 

BAFM Girl Group Ferry Plaza Oct 11 2014 from BayArea Flashmob on Vimeo.

Ride share driving and cocaine, a love story

ride the white horseEarlier on in my driving days I picked up two women, around age 30, from the Marina on a Friday evening. They stumbled into my car and were almost immediately annoying. People don’t tend to “annoy” me, but there was something particularly off about these two. They continued to use my name very overly-frequently. “hey Erik!” “How is your evening, Erik?” “Which way from here, Erik?”, etc.

I did my best to entertain them and stay polite. As the ride progressed, conversation turned away from me and remained intimate between the two young ladies. Soon, I heard them saying, “What do you think Erik would think?” “Do you think Erik would be okay with that?” “How about Erik?” “I know! Let’s ask Erik!”

One girl leaned over from the back seat; her messy blonde hair flooded into the front of the car while obscuring half of her face. With a slightly slurred, yet excited tone she said, “Hey Erik, would you-a mind if we-ah whipped out a key and rode the ‘ol white pony here in your backseat?”

Before I responded, I had to first convince myself that this was real, and then needed to laugh. I’m customer service oriented, but not THAT customer service oriented. Heck, I’ve heard stories of passengers “gifting” drivers all sorts of goodies, but there was no way that was going to go on in my backseat. I clearly communicated this. No judgements though! I’m glad they asked.

My two lady friends had to put on their thinking caps. What were they to do now? How were they going to work on the logistics of doing cocaine, if not in my car as that was their initial plan, then where? They clearly needed a Plan B, and fast. The heat was on! That said, there was more riding on this white pony ride than one may anticipate.

Both girls were on their way to a party, and one was meeting her new Prince Charming. Although Prince Charming apparently rode his white pony to wipe her off her feet, there is apparently nothing in the story books about this princess riding her own white pony.

She expressed serious concern because she did not want to come out of the bathroom, after doing cocaine, and look “cracked out” in front of her new man. Hmm, what to do, what to do?

There is no telling how these two young ladies solved this momentous problem, but I trust they all rode happily into the sunset.

Have drugs ever created awkward situations for you? If so, share your story in the comment section!

Eviction, Activism and Google – Pt 2

IMG_4944.JPGYou may have read our last story about Beatrice, the unlikely eviction activist who employs a creative and inclusive approach to solving the Bay Area’s housing and eviction problem.

Beatrice went to the local Google shuttle bus stops to hand out flyers inviting people to the October 4th March ran by Our Mission No Eviction. What is amazing about this is that there is a lot of tension between long time, working class, San Francisco residents and the tech industry. Google and Facebook are among the largest Bay Area tech companies.

Beatrice mentioned how she had to build up the courage to make this move. Luckily, her efforts were more or less well received. It would be interesting to learn if anyone from Google or any other major tech companies showed up in support.

What do you think? Is it tech companies’ responsibility to work with communities on housing and eviction issues? 

IMG_0861

Beatrice: The last thing that moved me? #WhatMovesMe

what moves new beatriceI was most recently moved when I came to the realization that I was “fuckable”. Sounds like such a demeaning way to put it but it’s been a sort of an inside joke between one of me and my best friends. For many years, we have been joking about how neither one of is fuckable because we are both overweight. And we kept making plans to reach “fuckability” because we both know we are very sexual beings!

At the beginning of this year, I became a regular meditator. The insight of meditation broke down and revealed all the pieces and parts to my hang ups about my body! It became very apparent to me that I was more than just a physical body.

This breakthrough led me to an internal change. I started meeting lots of guys who wanted me. It’s pretty crazy actually. All my friends are shocked and inspired. They had all kinds of funny names for my “dead time”. It was like I was under an evil spell.

And I was! Even as someone who completely rejects stereotypes, I was caught up in some societal-bullshit-assumption-crap. When I had this amazing realization, I shot out a super-charged email to my best friend and mom- The subject line was “Adios media muthafuckas! ” And then I blubbered on about how I was going to go stab Barbie for all the years she stripped me of my sexuality and confidence in having relationships with men.

I always liked to think I had complete control over my identity. I didn’t even grow up with a T.V. But the truth is, I had it STUCK in my head that dudes only pay attention to slim women. At times, I even thought other slim women didn’t truly like me because I was overweight. How superficial, right?

I remember an article in the NYer about a man who gets through all the stages of Scientology and when he gets to like the final level where ultimate truth is supposed to be revealed to him, somehow he has a breakthrough in that he realises that whole belief system is a farce! That is the level of intensity that I feel my break through is. I feel like broke through some brainwashing shit.

Good Karma, from the couch to the Rolling Stones

the stonesI picked up Cory from The Presidio district of San Francisco. This guy was basically a magnet for some insanely good luck. I couldn’t help but think that he must have been a saint in a former life to have this kind of karma.

Cory, age 39, moved here from Maryland. Like so many people I’ve spoken to he came to SF on a whim. He and a few friends were on a cross-country road trip, and he decided to stay. We spoke about the music festivals that he is attending and how he followed a few jam bands in the nineties. I shared that I was on Haight-Ashbury when Jerry Garcia died. I was with a bunch of homeless/traveling hippies and punks and the reaction was, “oh man, that sucks. Pass the bowl.” I should say that this was not in any way meant to disrespectful but embodied the saying “right on,” as in, “life goes on,” “don’t get hung up and attached to everything.” Very tell tale of the San Francisco culture that I love.

Fast forward to the summer of 2013. Cory and his wife were laying around on the couch watching bad reality TV. They were getting ready to tune into the Rolling Stones concert which was being aired from nearby, Oakland. Not all that busy, they wished they had tickets, but the seats were mega-expensive and they just didn’t plan for it. A few minutes later, ring…ring…ring, they picked up a call from a good friend who happened to have two extra tickets and decided to give them, for free, to Cory and his wife! What a sweet deal!

They hopped in the car and headed to the East Bay (Oakland.) Traffic was horrific as if the entire West Coast filtered onto the highway to see the concert. On the way, listening to the radio, Cory decided to call in to enter into a contest to win free Trey Anastasio tickets. Sure enough, continuing his lucky streak, the dj answered his call. But, he answered with a question: “What year was Glenn Frey from the Eagles born?” Cory, in his head was like, “how the fuck do I know?” So, he guessed, 1948. And, drum roll please, he was correct!

Cory and his wife arrived at the Stadium, and the Stones were still nowhere near playing. The seats were nosebleeds, but they were so excited to be there. A few minutes in they noticed a few people trading tickets with an agent, so they went to investigate. They approached the agent who, for some reason I’m unsure of, was trading nosebleed seats with better seats. Before they knew it, Cory and his wife were on the floor a few yards away from the stage. It gets better! Once the Stones went on the stage moved, and they ended up about 15 feet from Mic Jagger the whole nights. So, they went from the couch wishing they had Stones tickets to being feet away from the band who defined rock and roll.

Think this is a fluke? This past summer when attending a free concert at Stern Grove Park, they received a phone call from another friend who was giving away a one-day pass to the Outside Lands Festival. Score!

Something about San Francisco inspires people to share. And, if you’re on either end of that the results can be pretty magical. Needless to say, Cory must have some good friends out there!

Ragia: The last thing that moved me? #WhatMovesMe

“I want to extend my hand, reach out and help him but I don’t know how to. It breaks my heart and that’s the most recent thing that’s moved me. I see this brilliant young man, with endless potential, the brains to move the world- wallowing in an atrocious situation. There he was; feeble, edgy and in dire need for more. This man was once one of the most absolutely brilliant people I have ever met. No wait a minute, he still is, it’s just that he’s eating away his spotless brain and it’s breaking my heart.”

Click here to read more on Ragia’s blog.

What moves Ragia

As ride share drivers, we have been asking our passengers, “What was the last thing that moved you?” #WhatMovesMe is a window into human experience and personal storytelling through the brief moment that driver and passenger share, together.

Share the last thing that moved you and use the #WhatMovesMe hashtag.

Eviction, creativity and a story of self discovery

IMG_0795Multimillionaires evicting seniors, families and the disabled for profit; The disappearance of art and music from San Francisco; the systematic vanishing of the Bay Area’s emblematic alternative thinking and values. These are a few things that motivated my passenger, Beatrice, to community organizing and activism against eviction. Beatrice’s approach to activism is a nontraditional one that is based around inclusion and creativity.

After riding with Beatrice earlier this month, I interviewed her, in person. We spoke about her perspective on the changes happening in San Francisco and, in a very open and honest discussion, the deep personal journey that these changes prompted.

Changes and exploration in San Francisco

Beatrice has lived in the Mission District for 14 of the 20 years she has lived in town. In that time, she has been very close to the arts and music scene. In the last few years, she began to intuitively sense an impending crisis. This was affirmed as she saw musicians being driven out of San Francisco, music and art venues closing and friends getting evicted. This prompted a deeper exploration of the issues which led to her attending her first community meeting.

At this meeting, Beatrice heard the stories of the people, largely Latino, who have been long time residents of this area. She witnessed men and women crying as they were forced out of their homes. One compelling story was of a resident who had many times risked his own life to suppress gang and drug related violence in the community.

2 compelling stories of eviction

1. Lisa Fong, an area millionaire and owner of San Francisco’s Punjab restaurant has been working to evict residents from one of the buildings she owns. The Latina/Latino American family in danger of eviction has been living in this space for years. This family operates a local day care which serves the Mission community. Eviction activists feel that the Fong family is exploiting a loophole to evict the residents by saying they want a member of their family to take over the space.

I called the Punjab restaurant and spoke to Lisa’s husband. He said, “nothing the Fong family is doing is illegal and that their 81-year-old mother wants to move back into the old property. She is tired of walking up 28 stairs every day. It is from that property that she conceived her children and built her empire.” He said this is the only tenant that they have a problem with. We spoke very briefly about their side of this issue as well as the bigger picture. He likened this to the movement against the rich in the sixties and the Rainbow Coalition. He said, “this is a capitalist society. When did it become illegal to make money in this country?” The gentleman I spoke to said that he knows Lisa’s family and they have worked hard to live the American dream.

The two families have been locked in a legal battle for the last five years.

I was unable to get a statement from the Latina/Latino American family who is in danger of being evicted. If the family is evicted, they will not likely be able to afford the rising rents in San Francisco. Two bedroom apartments go for just under $4000 a month.

2. Jacqui Naylor is a jazz singer who has resided in a historic building in Hayes Valley for the last 20-plus years Jacqui, along with many other of the building’s residents, is in danger of getting evicted. When I first met Beatrice, she told me a little but about Jacqui’s story as she was coming from meeting with her. Jacqui, from her apartment, runs an open and free Buddhist chanting workshop five days a week. If Jacqui gets evicted, the members of that community will have lost more than a just a neighbor.

These are a few situations that motivated Beatrice to take action. However, she does not consider herself an activist. In fact, she “has always been turned off by activism.” Beatrice believes there is a lot of power in inclusion. Many people blame the tech industry for the changes in San Francisco. Beatrice said, “it is always tempting to point fingers, I do it in my head all the time. But, this is counterproductive in activism.” Some activists, she said, have challenges seeing it in this manner, but Beatrice feels an inclusive approach is more powerful.

In general, she sees activism as an art which provides her the opportunity to exercise her creativity and connect people around a common cause. In the past, she was struggling with tapping into her own creativity and was in search for a sense of community. She said, “I keep an idea book where I jot down thoughts about social change, music, film and more. I never thought I could do anything about it, but I found motivation in this struggle… Somethings just come together inside of you.”

“If it wasn’t for this eviction project, I may never have found true community,” Beatrice said. She pointed to the community formed among Latina/Latino Mission residence and the artists who more recently moved to the area.

She was fascinated in the ways in which people form deep relationships and community. Many of the Mexican American families in the Mission, she said, came here with nothing, some as refugees, and work hard. They feel that because they don’t have a lot of money that they are not allowed to be here.

Regarding the role of art in activism and community, she said, “art shows the bigger picture and brings people together.” She spoke with many lawyers, developers and CEOs who she felt did not have the same understanding of community. She said, “If you have a sense of community then your wouldn’t kick people out of their homes.”

Beatrice is working on a few projects. Of interest is her work with Erin McElroy who developed the Anti-Eviction mapping project, which maps evictions throughout San Francisco. Beatrice is in touch with the SFPD in efforts to have the maps projected at the October 4th Our Mission No Eviction March or at another date. Also, through her organizing of resources, there will be Buddhist chanting at the event which she felt helped with cultural integration and inclusiveness. Just after I interviewed Beatrice last week, she sent me this text message about her efforts and social change.

There are many moving parts to the housing struggle in the Bay Area. Beatrice’s message is one of inclusion. How do we include all sides and work together to solve bigger issues? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Christina: The last thing that moved me? #WhatMovesMe

I asked Christina, “What was the last thing that moved you?”

“Two years ago, I saw my dad cry for the first time in my life. And, it wasn’t because someone important to him died, it was because they came back.”

Christina is moved
As ride share drivers, we have been asking our passengers, “What was the last thing that moved you?” #WhatMovesMe is a window into human experience and personal storytelling through the brief moment that driver and passenger share, together.

Share the last thing that moved you and use the #WhatMovesMe hashtag.

Ride share ride turns into potential kidnap situation for one woman

vanI picked up Suzanne from the San Francisco Armory located in the Mission. The Armory is currently home to Kink.com, whose mission to “create the most authentic BDSM experiences that foster community and empower people to explore their sexuality.”

We had lively conversation, about Kink.com and more, on our twenty minute ride to the Sunset district. I had brought up an incident another passenger had recounted about almost getting robbed by her taxi driver. This opened up a can of worms. Suzanne’s cheerful demeanor had shifted. At first, I wondered if I had said something to offend her. She soon shared with me a troubling experience she had with another driver.

Something felt off about this ride

Early one morning, a few weeks prior, Suzanne was running late on her way to work in the Mission. She was picked up by a van around 8am. It’s worthwhile to note that ride share passengers usually get in the front seat of the vehicle, as she did with me, but in this case she sensed something was “off” about the driver. She got in the backseat of the vehicle and gave the driver her destination. As most drivers would do, he punched the address in the GPS and set out towards their destination.

Passengers, especially those that have lived in the city for a long time, often have preferred routes. Suzanne had a route that she asked the driver to take. The driver insisted that GPS was more efficient. Suzanne was not comfortable with the GPS route, explained why, and asked him to please take her suggested direction. The driver aggressively said, “no!”

When a ride goes terribly wrong

The conversation between driver and passenger escalated to the point where Suzanne became extremely uncomfortable. She asked him to pull over immediately so she could get out of the vehicle. With an eery calm, the driver refused her request. He locked the doors of the van and proceeded in the opposite direction of her destination.

Needless to say, Suzanne became panicked and somewhat frantic. How could this happen? Where was he planning to take her? She started protesting, screaming, crying and punching the back of his seat, but to no avail. He refused to respond to her requests and with quiet determination, continued to drive.

The best of two evils

As they approached one of the busiest intersections in the city, while the van was moving, Suzanne managed to unlock the doors and escape. This in itself is a risk, but the danger of jumping out of a moving vehicle was eclipsed by the fear of how this situation could develop. As Suzanne was jumping out of the vehicle, in her peripheral vision she saw the driver scrambling to lock the doors to prevent her departure.

Safety?

Suzanne shared with me some of the experiences that her coworkers, many of which are actresses on Kink.com movie shots, have recounted for her. After exhausting days, these women catch cabs or order cars home and experience harassment by drivers. Unfortunately, this is a reoccurring theme. Studies have been conducted echoing these concerns and other concerns of women taking public transportation. Many women have shared stories about their experiences of getting inappropriately touched on buses or having to deal with cab or ride share drivers, who are taking them home, making unwelcome advances. This creates major issues since the drivers know where these women live.

Companies, such as Lyft, are attempting to address the concerns of female passengers and create a more welcoming environment. For example, INC reports that, “The bright pink color was…to make their branding less masculine than competitors, and nod to their very welcome view toward female passengers and drivers, as well as emphasis on safety for women.”

Suzanne told me that she reported this incident to the ride share company. She had said that she was very scared and still cries about it. What haunts her the most about the situation, is how calm the driver remained, regardless of her protests.

Have you ever had an unwelcome or harassing experience on public transportation?

What can transit and ride share companies do to create safer places for women and all passengers?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Start Up CEO vs Burning Man Hash Cake

adamHave you ever unknowingly ingested drugs? This can be pretty scary and is exactly what happened to Adam Braus, the CEO of Coride.co. I recently had the pleasure of riding with Adam where he told me about this experience and about his new company, Coride. Coride is a rideshare startup that focuses on long distance rides. It’s great if you’re taking a road trip, going to a music festival, etc. (Check them out on Twitter.)

Adam is moving to the Bay Area from the midwest and was in town for business and the always daunting San Francisco housing hunt.

Our other passenger was on her way to the local healthcare facility run by Kaiser Permanente. Her destination spurred conversation about Adam’s trip to the emergency room earlier that week.

Adam was staying with a few friends in a suite in the San Francisco Embassy Hotelcoride. They had an “open food” policy which invites all roomies to share and share alike. So, when coming home from a long day of meetings and house hunting, Adam could not resist the inviting piece of decadent chocolate cake prominently displayed in the refrigerator.

Now, keep in mind, this is all taking place a few days after Burning Man. I don’t think I need to tell you what kind of cake that was. If your guess is just chocolate, guess again. The cake was made, with care, with enough hash to get a herd of elephants stoned off their asses. Unbeknownst to Adam, he devoured the entire slice.

According to WebMD, the effects of marijuana may include euphoria, calmness, anxiety, magical or “random” thinking, short-term memory loss or paranoia. Getting high can be an adventure but consuming THC, or any other drug, without knowing it can be scary! Adam thought he was potentially having a stroke or internal bleeding. Adam rushed to the ER and ended up spending the night.

In speaking with Adam about this in retrospect, he said, “no hard feelings” and that he “actually enjoyed it after he found out that it was only drugs.”

How would you feel about this? Would you be angry, easy going?