No one knows San Francisco the way Gary Kamiya does. He's the author of Cool, Gray City of Love (currently #1 on the Chronicle Bay Area bestseller list for nonfiction, and #1 on the Northern California Independent Booksellers bestseller list), the creator of the weekly "Portals of the Past" column in the Chronicle, and one of the founding editors of Salon.
And, most exciting for us, he's soon to become San Francisco magazine's new Executive Editor.
Since Gary's appearance at the Commonwealth Club tonight is sold out, you'll have to wait until October 14 at 7pm—when KALW 91.7 FM will re-broadcast his conversation with veteran journalist Mark Hertsgaard—to hear his gravelly orations. But in the meantime, here are six crucial things we'd like you to know about our newest colleague:
1. Though he received his B.A. and M.A. from UC Berkeley, he did "a stint at Yale so brief it may have been a hallucination."
2. He drove a San Francisco taxi cab for 7 years to support himself as a freelance writer, and was once robbed and left carless and walletless in Colma.
3. He doesn't care how you shorthand San Francisco. Back in the day, he founded a short lived city magazine titled "Frisko."
4. As an editor for a dozen years at Salon, he covered three Olympics, reported from the Middle East, and wrote about race, politics, art, sports, music, and books.
5. His first book, Shadow Knights: The Secret War Against Hitler, was a "pulp history" of secret agents who fought against the Nazis—complete with comic-book illustrations.
6. In Cool, Grey City of Love (which earned a rave New York Times review written by Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffery) mixes history and personal narrative to give a sweeping—and sometimes microscopic—view of the City's places and neighborhoods. But it isn't some tourist guidebook. He has this to say about the Tenderloin: "The ’Loin was ground zero for sex, the sub-basement of the lower chakras. Sex radiated out of its innumerable windows and filthy sidewalks, from Frenchy’s K&T Bookstore (the name “Frenchy” a subtle tipoff as to the types of books it carried) to the gaudy, teetering whores on Geary Street, from the bottom-of-the-barrel all-night Mini-Adult Theater on the lunar corner of Golden Gate and Jones (admission $2, no charge for an attempted blow job by the drunken homeless guy who just sat down next to you) to the scary Last Exit to Brooklyn drag queens on Larkin, from the gay male hustlers hanging outside the Peter Pan bar at Market and Mason (an intersection delicately known as “the Meat Rack”) to Jim and Artie Mitchell’s upscale flesh joint on O’Farrell Street." Good luck finding that in Fodor's!
We're so pleased to welcome Gary to the San Francisco family. We feel blessed to have him.