"Caengratulations" reads an editorial headline saluting 50 years and about 4.9 miles of columns about San Francisco's sights and characters by writer Herb Caen.

"For 50 years now, Herb Caen has painted word portraits of San Francisco," said state Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, in a short piece in the San Francisco Chronicle's Sunday Punch section."Caen's San Francisco may not always be the city we remember, but it is the city we want to remember," he said.

In its editorial in Sunday's editions, the Chronicle commended Caen for his "verve, panache, brilliance, incisiveness, humor, sympathy."

Caen expressed his continuing fascination with San Francisco.

"A marvelous city to write about," he said, "Like a snake it sheds its skins, changes its shape, wanders off in unexpected directions. A hard city for sentimentalists, which most writers are."