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.