Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Booksmith Recollection IV: Peter Bogdanovitch

This was the view he would have had, Mr. Bogdanovitch, as he set up a scene and began shouting at the young woman at the other end of the block. He was standing with the Cathedral on his left, looking down toward that very small, very last building on the same side of the street. This tiny block was home to so much of what was central to my life, for a long time and through much change.

I worked at the wonderful Booksmith, as many of you know. I learned the fundamentals of small business there, where it was closely tied to the magic of matchmaking though admittedly the matching of books with people is less fraught with disastrous possibilities than matches with no books involved. Some of the friendships that would frame my whole adult life were born there. We gradually began the long process of mourning the demise of the small, independent bookseller, and we figured out how to keep our professional affinities alive in times of drastic change.

Just up the block was the Cathedral. I was born with a love of singing and perhaps some small talent, but it was at the Cathedral that my voice found its wings, coaxed and nurtured and enriched by Sister Patricia. More friendship came to me, or (in the case of Miss Jo) returned to me, and here again, the architecture on which I was building my life was made strong. Here I learned how to be a friend and how not to. Here I learned about love, and about having sisters, an ironic lesson for one whose family includes 3 half-sisters. Here I learned that people really can love you forever, no matter what, and that you can love people in the same way. The lessons I would need to be a married person, to be a mother, to be a friend: too many of them to count were learned on this tiny block. At the Cathedral end of that block, they were all learned against a backdrop of musical scores. Standing in front of that very large congregation, I found some reserve from which I could sing week in and week out without being crippled by stage fright. So well-integrated is that lesson that to this day I'm able to talk in front of people without more than a gentle nervousness. Sister used to say, "As you rehearse, so will you perform..." and she usually added some reference to not goofing off, or working harder. She was right in many ways, not the least of which was repetition helps improve performance, and training shows, often just when you need it most.

In large measure I grew into the person I am in the tiny neighborhood described by that block. And one morning, as I stepped outside the beautifully embossed brass door of the Booksmith to hang out the "Open" sign, the street was deserted except for a handful of people all focused on the same job of work, a man in big glasses standing in front of the Cathedral shouted down the street, "HEY! You there! Get off the street!!" And then I saw the camera, and realized what the job of work was: they were the movie crew we'd heard about, come to town to shoot a movie. The shouting man was the director, Peter Bogdanovitch. (Another of his movies had enjoyed a summer run during the time of my first high school job at St. Augustine's drive-in theater, but that, my loves, is a tale for another long winter's evening.)

Back into the store I stepped, away from my closest brush with moviemaking, to wait for Gamble Rogers to browse through a copy of Wooden Boat, to wait for Mr. Montagnaro to pick up a stack of erudition and art books and tell me about the blue collar working person passion for opera in Italy, to wait for you, maybe, and all you brought me in that tiny, dusty, beautiful library of books and sisters and learning, down the street from the heart of music, emerging spiritual thought, sisters and music. What a block that was you shouted down, Mr. Bogdanovitch. What a street. What a town.


  1. I too recall quite a movie frenzy in St. Aug for several months. We did our best to avoid the crowds, but towards the end we had a Rob Lowe siting near the Castillo. Pablo and I had high expectations for how our beautiful city would be portrayed by the director of The Last Picture Show. Alas, the movie turned out to be quite a letdown. One of the most memorable lines was uttered by the lead actress, leaning out of a house that is located on Cincinnati St. "What is going on here?" I knew how she felt. Several years later we had an opportunity to attend a talk by Peter Bogdanovich. While he was signing his book for my mother, we mentioned we were from St. Aug. "I was there once, lovely city. I made a movie there." Yes, we replied, Illegally Yours. "Yes, terrible movie. I was under contract for Dino DeLaurentis and he ended up with the last cut." That restored some of his credibility. One final turn along the circle - one day Hannah Jade came home from high school, very proud of what she had scored from her math teacher: a poster with Rob Lowe and 4 St. Aug HS girls standing on the gun deck at the Castillo. It was an anti-drug campaign, part of the community service he had to do after getting busted. One of the girls in the photo was Hannah's math teacher's daughter. Thanks for stirring up the memories.

  2. Jayne, thank you so much for YOUR recollection. After I posted it, I wondered whether anyone else in St. Augustine during that interesting time would recall it, and I also wondered this: are other places LIKE this? It feels to me like it's because, as I discuss in another blog thread, "St. Augustine is a pretty cool place...", though this in itself is either hopelessly banal, or a decided understatent...or both.
    Love, love. And thank you, again.

  3. Understatement! Maybe I should read my own comments before I post. ;)

  4. Your writings about that wonderful street, Cathedral Place, always make me happy. I remember well all the brou-haha surrounding the making of that movie and really enjoyed Jayne's recollection, which made me feel somewhat better about Peter B.! Great stories and I can't wait to hear about your stint at the drive-in movie!!!

  5. p.s. I totally believe that there is something amazingly special about our town. It could have something to do with the ley-lines that run through the downtown area. When I was managing the CoOp on Cordova Street we established a vortex of love in our building based on the spiritual beliefs of some of our members regarding those leylines ~ it's some pretty cool stuff that I don't really understand that well, but I can tell you that was one magical evening in the CoOp!

  6. I had so much fun writing this one, knowing that some of you would have your own recollections of that moment in St. Augustine.
    Lulu, we must talk more about this magic of which you speak. And speaking of a treasure trove of shared memories, we could dive into the Food Coop for some truly illuminating Ancient City tales... ;)
    Love, love!


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