Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture

When I first moved to SF, I loaded up my little red 5-speed Ford Festiva with all my earthly belongings and hit I-80 for the long drive west. Once I finally sailed through the salt flats and Tahoe and across the Bay Bridge, that little car chugged up and down the hills of my neighborhood in endless pursuit of free street parking. In a hot minute I learned how completely unnecessary that car would be here in the City (especially as I watched my friends rack up hundreds of dollars in parking tickets, which probably cost more than my little Festiva was worth to begin with).

By two weeks into my move, the car was gone and I was free and easy. And that's when the first Muni Fast Pass came into play. These fabulous little guys are good for endless trips on Muni - the all-encompassing name for SF public transport, including buses, the underground trains, the cable cars, and Bart within the City. For 35 bucks a month (at the time) I could get anywhere with my Fast Pass, my feet and a few extra minutes, and maybe even get some reading done in the process, or at least some people-watching, if nothing else.

For a child of the suburbs where sprawl was king and cars were mandatory, this public transport thing felt like a revelation. Not only could I completely ignore the escalating gas prices, but I wasn't shelling out hundreds of dollars a month for car insurance or paying for taxes and registration, and I felt like I was doing my bit to live simply and shrink my carbon footprint a little bit every day by not contributing to the hole in the ozone layer.

So I was standing at the bus stop around the corner from my place one day a few years back and I noticed this sign on a pole calling for old Muni Fast Passes to be used in some art project or another. These little guys are pretty, you see, always some combo of jewel tones separated by a silver streak down the middle, and I'd always harbored some bizarro inability to throw them away after their month was through, almost like that little piece of paper held a record of all the places I'd been and things I'd done and people I'd been with on my way to Ocean Beach or the deYoung or Golden Gate Park or what have you. Oddly sentimental, but true. So they cluttered up a corner of my desk drawer. I saw this poster and was immediately intrigued; here was an artist using what was essentially found art to create something reeking of history and community and travel and urbanity and public art, this very real day-to-day expression of color and light that also had its roots in the boringly pragmatic matter of getting from here to there.

The Chron had an article on Tuesday following up on this guy's (John Kuzich's) work, and it's charming and uplifting in an unexpected kind of way. An artistic melding of the fleeting realities shared by the thousands of Muni riders over the years, and a tangible collation of the memories and trips and rides and experiences sitting next to that homeless dude who spilled his recycled cans all over you or the goth teenager who puked on you in the back seat late at night or the Chinese grandma who elbowed you in the face on her way out the door.

The sociologist in me is fascinated with the momentary times we share with people on the bus; the random collection of folks sharing five minutes or an hour in the same car on the same subway train, the minutes we lose checking out each others' shoes or seeing what people are reading or wondering if that blond Marina chick prattling on about Prada bags will ever shut the fuck up and get the hell off her cell phone on this quiet bus at 7:30 in the morning.

Living in the City and sharing the often totally unsexy reality that is public transport, we come and go from one anothers' lives in a weirdly intimate kind of way, sharing seats or quick conversations or eye contact quickly averted across the aisle. I like the way that Kuzich's project takes the physical mementos of those experiences and makes them into something beautiful. That, to me, is what creating art is about: that melding of aesthetic beauty and the deep-down gritty realities of trucking around this planet on a day-to-day basis.

Artist Transforms Outdated Muni Passes (SF Chron)
What is the Muni Fast Pass project? www.kuzich.com/muni-art/


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