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Spirits of San Francisco: Voyages through the Unknown City    by Gary Kamiya order for
Spirits of San Francisco
by Gary Kamiya
Order:  USA  Can
Bloomsbury, 2020 (2020)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Carrol Wolverton

Unique Mystique of San Francisco ...

In this volume written during the Covid-19 pandemic, spirits invoke ghosts of the past of San Francisco, and there are many. Author Gary Kamiya carries the city's history all the way back to the native Indians and feels spirits and stories everywhere. All places have a back story, and San Francisco is chock full of them.

Chinatown is among the most colorful areas with its history of prostitution and slavery of young girls. The docks brought their own variety of thugs from all over the world who contributed to the savagery and depravity. Along with these are wonderful, colorful people and tales.

San Franciscans are unique. The 870,000 residents quarantined for seven weeks during the pandemic with no problem. The author doesn't see any other place as ever doing this. He also notes it is home to the oldest bell in America dating to 1874. Its storied past has been around a while among chopped up hills.

He covers the history of Joyce Street and Easy Street as time capsules. Sam Spade haunts Joyce Street with its 'delicious pedestrian slinkways.' He also notes rents were high, even in the 1850's. It is now a land of the tech industry and 'Botoxed wrinkles.' The city owns a permanent six in the morning feel or ambiance throughout.

Kamiya calls the first three decades of the 1900's hobohemia and unique. The 1906 earthquake totally destroyed San Francisco. Chinatown rebuilt as a facade of its former self. Nob Hill is 'aggressive Luxury.' The band shell (Temple of Music) is the height of opulence reflecting a once golden age, contrasting to the docks and roughneck society nearby. Another earthquake in 1989 reclaimed filled in wetlands once again. What will be next?

So, San Francisco, stability is not thy name. History, colorful characters, a storied past, and fantastic views make this one wonderful place well described by this very literate, eloquent writer. The outlined black and white photos and drawings (by Paul MaDonna) are well done, also, and only add to the unique mystique.

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