This is the point at which the ice and the pavement take opposing views of the situation.
Snow is so simple — it’s what people do with it that makes you wonder about all sorts of things.
The night of the heretofore chronicled snowfall, people walked on the snow; the snow stopped before long, the people went home, and the snow turned to crusty ice where their feet had trod.
While I was debating which was, in fact, more slippery — smooth ice or crimpled-up ice — the merchants of Upper Via Garibaldi had gotten to work on it with shovels and salt. They opened up a wide bare space in the center, and a narrow bare space stretched along their front doors. Logical, no? There was a stretch of ice, however, that remained between the wide space and the narrow space, which I quickly discovered somewhat obviated the benefit of the bare spots.
I’ll translate that. You could walk safely along the middle of the street, but if you needed to enter a shop, you had to take your life in your hands and cross a treacherous stretch of ice all the same.
But the best part is this: The newsstand two-thirds of the way down the street seems to be at a point I never noticed before, what in the lagoon is called a “spartiacque,” or place where the water divides, or rather, where two contrary currents meet. There is a spartiacque in the Grand Canal, among many other places, a shifting little frontier where the incoming tide from the inlet at Malamocco meets the incoming tide from the inlet at San Nicolo’. That doesn’t matter to anybody in a motorboat, but if you’re rowing, you notice that you were rowing with the tide, and suddenly you’re rowing against it.
Anyway, the upstream part of via Garibaldi, so to speak, is nothing but shops, so the shopowners obviously made the effort to help their customers to get to them. The downstream part, as you see, had nobody to care about it. The few shops there seem to have owners who either have made enough money already this month, so don’t care about business, or decided to take the natural-selection approach to the situation.
I’m attributing all of this activity to the merchants because the trash collectors and salt-sowers have no reason I can imagine to liberate only half of the main street.
But, as I often ask myself, what do I know?
Looking that way, the road is clear.
The other way, it’s just a few steps to the Bering Sea.
We’ve had polar cold for at least a week, but today whoever is in charge of weather decided that that was becoming boring.
This morning, it was a soupcon of acqua alta.
And now: Snow!
For all my readers who may have been shoveling white fluffy water since Michaelmas, excuse me for doing that annoying “It’s so pretty!!” thing. I grew up in upstate New York, so I grew up being unimpressed. But now I feel differently. Sorry. That could be largely because I don’t have to drive in it.
The important thing now is that it doesn’t melt and then freeze. I draw the line at that. Ice turns bridges into stone skateboards from which people can fly with amazing speed and pain. So I’m fine with it melting, but no freezing. That’s the rule that I just made up.
As we strolled along the Strada Nuova a few mornings ago toward the station, we came upon a curious addition to the urban fabric: A very fancy sign at a very tricky spot warning people not to slip on the steps in four languages. First, the steps:
As you see, with each descending step the risk increases. You wouldn’t think a sign would be necessary to draw attention to that, but signs are always in short supply, and nearby merchants often volunteer to provide that missing piece. It’s not so much civic spirit as a desire to do something more with one’s day in the shop than answering the same lost-tourist questions over and over again.
A sterling example of the sort of done-it-myself sign at a crucial intersection; it reminds me of those signs you see depicted at military bases overseas that give the distance from there to everywhere. It does not give the direction to your home town, though, or to your hotel. Life is short, paper is even shorter. But the spirit was spot-on. In order from top: To San Marco, To Rialto, To Campo (indecipherable here), To Strada Nuova, To Campo Santa Maria Formosa, and blah blah. I can’t read the photo, I’ll have to go past there someday to review the contents. I’m sure this effort has broken at least 15 decrees and ordinances, but that’s nothing considering how many the Superintendency of Fine Arts, etc. overrides every day.
Back to the sign on the Strada Nuova. You can see that someone has gone to considerable trouble and expense on this one. It almost looks official.
Reminds me of those yellow plastic sandwich-board signs they put out when they’re mopping the airport floor. I wonder if anybody pays any attention to them?
This morning, Sunday, at about 10:00 AM, we walked by here again. There was no sign. I conclude that either it keeps hours that correspond to the sign-maker’s work schedule (they’d have to take it inside overnight, that much is obvious. So you’re free to slip to a spectacular fall in the evening.) Or the Superintendency was annoyed by it and sent a culture-policeman to remove it. If I wanted to pursue this any further, I’d have to go back and check on the fate of the taped-up sign, as well. But I don’t care that much.
Water you wouldn’t enjoy falling into this morning: Ice. Not covering all the canal surface, and it’s that fine, filmy sort that remains somewhat flexible. I’m sure the next passing motorboat busted it to bits. But it’s been below freezing here for three days, and is expected to continue for a while longer. This is, by the way, exactly the blast of frigid weather that brings the seppie to the surface and back into our lives (if the southwest wind is blowing, I must note). I have no idea why, but I’ll be watching for their appearance. Maybe they’ve heard that we’ve got hot chocolate at home.
One of the great truths is that it’s the small things in life that count, and Venice is one of the biggest places made of small things I’ve ever seen.
“Oh look,” I thought, “what interesting reflections.” Reflections are my favorite thing, and the sun was shining just right to make these look like a glittering series of little mirrors on the ground. So pretty. But wait…..It hasn’t rained in weeks, nor has there been any acqua alta.
I had just notified Lino that I was far behind following him down the street because of these wonderful reflections. To which he said… well, it’s obvious what he said, as I realized when I looked again at the marks that weren’t reflecting.
Yep — somebody had just fallen into the canal, and the walk home was long and thankfully solitary. I’m already well acquainted with the canal that attacked him (check background of first photo) because one memorable day I slipped on the slimy green step as I got out of a boat just at the moment when I, the Big Venice Expert, was telling everybody in the boat not to step on the green slime. In that case only one foot got wet, but my butt was now slimy and I was drenched in feeling stupid. In this case, however, we’re looking at full immersion. That canal is nursing a grudge against somebody and will just keep attacking people until its chosen victim finally succumbs.
And while we’re on the subject of “Water, Avoidance Of,” spare a glance at this tie-rod. Many Venetian houses depend on them in order to stay foursquare on their feet.
But the tying-together hasn’t been working out too well for the house facing our exemplar, as we realized glancing up one day at a curious appendage on the wall.
The hapless homeowner not only has had to repair the tie-rod (rather, the cement around it), but insecurity about the long-term stability of either the rod, or the plaster, or both, has made this intervention necessary. I hope it makes him or her feel better, because I can offer no certainty that the results desired will be obtained. But I can’t offer certainty about many things.
A gondola and its -lier made of Lego pieces. I wonder if it floats? Or sings? Or shouts “Oy!” when it gets to the corner of the table?