Cool Gray City of Love

coolgrayCool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco
Gary Kamiya
Bloomsbury USA, 400 pages
Kindle Edition  $9.50, Amazon Hardcover  $20.53

If you love San Francisco indulge yourself with this book.

While the subtitle 49 Views of San Francisco might suggest forty-nine contemporary views, that is not the case. Certainly there is an abundance of reflections on the City today, but there is a lot of history as well. And the history goes way back, all the way back to early geologic time, long before flora and fauna, let alone humans.

Kamiya talks about the early Native Americans, the Spanish explorers and later settlers (invaders) from Spain and Mexico. He discusses the 49ers (the original ones, not the football team) as well as Japanese and other immigrants. He covers the Beats, World War II, and the shameful treatment of the Japanese in that era. He describes the undeveloped places, such as Glen Canyon. It turns out that Golden Gate Park is just a small percentage of the undeveloped land in San Francisco.

Kamiya offers an unblinking description of the early days of the AIDS epidemic, a far cry from today when AIDS is a manageable chronic disease. He examines the pluses and minuses of gentrification.

The writing is delightful. He captures what Herb Caen meant to the city perfectly.

quoteHis daily column was the city’s agora, its Roman forum. The scoops, the sparkling one-liners, the praise and derision, and the endless dish he served up brought the city’s people together, if only for 10 minutes over a cup of joe.

And this about the Beats.

quoteThe Beat meteor shot through long ago, but late at night in North Beach you can sometimes still see its traces, like the taillights of a big car hurtling west.

And by the way, “cool gray city of love” refers to a poem written in 1920 by George Sterling. The reference is to the city’s namesake, St. Francis, and not to the 1967 Summer of Love.

In short, the book is a delight.

One Comment on “Cool Gray City of Love”

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