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13 April 2022

One of the first techniques you learn on the long road to becoming a photographer is to hold the camera sideways. For a traditional camera, that's portrait orientation instead of landscape. But for a phone, it's just the opposite (especially if you are shooting movies).

Grace Cathedral. Nikon D300 with 18-200mm Nikkor at 52mm (78mm equivalent), f8, 1/1000 second and ISO 200. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw.

But the next lesson you learn is that looking straight ahead is like wearing blinders. Turn around and you get a completely different view of your surroundings. Look down or look up. It's a 360 degree world, after all.

So when we were wandering around Nob Hill last week, we looked up and saw this spire of Grace Cathedral poking a hole in the blue sky dipinto di blu (painted blue, as Volare has it).

It didn't hurt that the spire itself was a dark (one might say "menacing") copper color.

A very nice lady at a little counter just inside asked us the purpose of our visit.

After we took a few other shots of the exterior of the impressive building, we climbed the wide front steps and peeked inside.

A very nice lady at a little counter just inside asked us the purpose of our visit. Oh, just a peek, we said. She graciously noted that they are charging admission these days for peeks. Something like $12 for adults or $10 for those even nearer death.

Never let it be said that Mike Pasini paid to enter a church.

We told her we'd make it a quick peek and, staying behind the velvet ropes, we did just that, craning our neck to see the darkened interior whose large stained glass windows inspire you to look up at them rather than examine the unfurnished interior of the place.

But we left our camera in the bag.

When we were younger, we spent our crumbled bank notes on a subscription to the American Conservatory Theater year after year. It was something like a church for us, which we attended every few weeks to see the classics, modern and ancient, and the would-be classics of our time.

It is remarkable how, so many decades later, we can still recall those performances.

There is Peter Donat, in a strained voice that carried to the balcony, telling a young woman, "The price, Hilda!" in Ibsen's Master Builder. It was a play by an aging playwright about an aging architect.

He was talking about the price he had to pay to be who he had become. And the price those close to him had to pay, like his wife Aline who did not build "houses and towers and spires" as he did but had a talent for building, all the same.

For building up the souls of children, Hilda. Building those souls up to stand on their own, poised, in beautiful noble forms -- till they'd grown into the upgright human spirit.

We don't think of children when we look at Grace Cathedral's spire. But perhaps we should.

A spire plays a central role in Master Builder but we won't spill the beans here. We'll just point out (as graciously as we can) that if you aspire to find out what happened, you can get into Ibsen for less than $12.

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