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Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco    by Gary Kamiya order for
Cool Gray City of Love
by Gary Kamiya
Order:  USA  Can
Bloomsbury, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

If you love San Francisco and want to know more about the city's fascinating history, its varied neighborhoods and rich culture, Gary Kamiya's Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco is a must read.

A Bay Area native, the author knows San Francisco intimately as perhaps only a former taxi driver and long time print journalist could. Kamiya not only lives in San Francisco but he has also walked, hiked and biked the city from one end to the other.

The short essays that make up this collection cover everything from the Spanish and Gold Rush periods, earthquakes, the beatnik-hippie eras, and the peninsula's geology to the Occupy San Francisco movement and the genesis of the Western Addition.

Among the places that you'll visit with Kamiya as your guide will be Chinatown, Hunters Point, the Castro and Mission Districts, Nob Hill, Japan Town, Baker Beach, the rejuvenated South of Market section of the city and Pacific Heights.

As a resident of the city, Kamiya has spent endless hours exploring some of the small parks, overlooked walkways and forgotten green areas that never find their way into traditional guidebooks. He'll share these locations with you, but you better have a good local map handy so that you can jot down how to find these places yourself.

You'll get an insider's look at the gritty Tenderloin in the chapter entitled Adventures in the Skin Trade and learn all about the city's geology in A Streetcar to Subduction.

What's nice about these short essays is that Kamiya jumps all over the place. It never gets boring because of this eclectic narrative approach. A section on the interesting but largely ignored area where San Francisco and San Mateo County meet is followed by a short piece on the site of Happy Valley (New Montgomery and Market Streets) where 49ers once camped out during Gold Rush days.

'For many of the men who lived there, that name must have felt like a cruel joke,' writes Kamiya. 'Disease, widespread throughout the instant city, plagued Happy Valley.'

If this book has a weakness, it is the lack of a really good map. The author does pinpoint the places he writes about but a map would really make it easier to visualize where some of the out-of-the-way places are.

But, other than this lack of an adequate map, this is an excellent, highly entertaining book that sheds new light on one of the most beguiling cities in the United States.

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