Thirty-one affectionate (and perforce pre-earthquake) vignettes of life in the city that has been the author's home for the past three decades. Written with Gold's usual brio (as in Dreaming, 1988; A Girl of Forty, 1986; etc.), the pieces form a collage that includes paeans to the pleasures of early-morning coffee, portraits of strippers and gay activists, and short fictional pieces that explore human relationships with delicacy and, sometimes, power. Gold's essays are studded with memorable images. Take, for instance, his description of bananas in a small Russian Hill grocery that were ""so mature, freckled, and brown that they showed signs of wanting to. . .complain about the changes in the neighborhood."" Then there's the revolutionary poet, one of whose verses exclaims ""we follow you. . .Like Pavlova's dog!"" When Gold inquires whether she means Pavlova the dancer, the poet replies, ""Yes,"" and adds, ""a little-known fact is she was a great psychologist, too."" Gold escorts his reader through the now-quiet and well-integrated Haight-Ashbury district, once the scene of hippiedom's most exotic flowering. He introduces such Market Street characters as ""Arnie Moss,"" a con man with a surefire betting system who, although he doesn't smoke himself, sits in the ""Smoking"" section of the Cafâ€š de Flore when he wants to avoid ""people who do nothing but just waste my time."" Gold also takes his reader along on a sweep through the Tenderloin with a band of ""Guardian Angels."" He makes a splendid tour guide, knowledgeable and witty, with a keen eye for the bizarre and beautiful. An idiosyncratic but altogether delightful Baedeker to ""Baghdad on the Bay.