"Don't come over here to see me," my father's voice boomed out from my telephone answering machine. "The roads are horrible and getting worse. Stay where you are. Don't risk it." I did what he bade, and stayed in my neck of the woods on this slushy-sleety Saturday, temperature at that tricky freeze/no-freeze point.
My niece's friend Scott (a grad student in history at St. Louis University) welcomed me to Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, as I attended my first mass in maybe 40 years...the last being in Cologne, Germany. The mosaics and architechure inside the cathedral are equal to any in Europe. Scott translated the Latin phrases on the mosaics in the Dome ceiling and they are glorious.
The Basilica is my neighbor, and my visit to this spiritual center of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis lifted my sagging winter spirit. Catholics are brilliant transportation engineers of the soul in the environment of the architecture and worship. I particularly enjoyed the sense of world community on the high holy day, surrounded by Catholics from the Balkans, Asia, and Mexico...if language can be any guide. The mosaics provide a glittering scrapbook of Catholic history and liturgy and mythic stories. The music and chanting soars within the Cathedral...no longer earthbound, we recall heaven.
We went on to brunch at Cafe Balaban..a Central West End eatery since 1972 at 405 North Euclid Avenue...that I see everytime I go to Left Bank Books across the street. I've long wanted to eat there, but only in good company like Scott's. The curved glass outside reminds me not only of a greenhouse, but also of the tourist boats drifting down the Seine. Inside, it continues to feel Parisian and with the wood on the ceiling we become shipboard of a floating yacht with great chefs. Excellent food. Mine was omellette Rockefeller with spinach and crunchy oysters inside. They managed to serve a good pot of hot tea as well (an unusual feat in the United States) with the new-style pyramid tea bag and very hot water.
An afternoon in the Central West End could not be more complete without a visit to my homeroom, Left Bank Books, the only full-service, full-line, independently-owned bookstore in St. Louis. They should just pull up a chair there for me. What fun to discover that as I walked in one of my friends there was reading the book I'd given them---the anthology "Hot Flashes 2: more sexy little poems and stories" that has my piece "Women of the World" inside. I've bought 15 copies to give for Christmas presents.
Pulitzer prize-winning poet Mary Oliver's appearance at Christ Church Cathedral for Art & Soul Cafe topped off the day. You can read more about her reading in a later post.
Coming back home on the Metrolink I chatted with security guard Bill Jones, sort of like a grown-up crossing guard who made me feel quite cozy in the chill, damp night as I waited for my train to arrive.