May
26

What, me normal?

By

I’m giving my brain a small holiday — what the British traveling public knows so charmingly as an “away day” — and not trying to string thoughts together. Or even to have very many thoughts, frankly.  Once I start, I usually discover that my brakes are unreliable.

But looking around is always a treat, to one degree or another, and Lord knows we don’t lack for material here.

Benches -- not enough, but still usable -- line the viale Garibaldi, the perfect spot of summer shade where people can sprawl and eat or nap. Lino calls the area respectively the "refectory" or the "dormitory." We sit there too, sometimes, when we can find a bench, of which there should be more. But that's not the real subject. Here, Exhibit A: Deterioration.

Benches — not enough, but still usable — line the viale Garibaldi, the perfect spot of summer shade where people can sprawl and eat and nap. Lino calls the area the “refectory” or the “dormitory,” depending on what we see going on.  We sit there too, sometimes, when we can find a bench, of which there should be more. But that’s not the real subject. Here, Exhibit A: Deterioration.  All the benches are tormented by now, but this is reaching a dangerous extreme. (Note: I do not blame either eaters or nappers for this.  It’s The Elements, of which we have so many.)

But wait! Has the world gone mad?

But wait! Has the world gone mad?

In this case, madness is not at work, but one of a few men detailed to spruce up the place, like you do before company comes. "Company" in this case I surmise is the Biennale of Architecture, which is opening just a few steps away on Saturday,

In this case, madness is not at work, but men detailed to spruce up the place, like you do before company comes. “Company” in this case I surmise is the Biennale of Architecture, which is opening just a few steps away on Saturday, May 28. They’ve also cut the grass in the small areas behind the benches.  Where will it end?

And speaking of observing, did you ever notice the half-moon window over the water entrance of many palaces? That was a window of the gondolier's apartment. If you had a palce you also had a gondola (sometimes more than one), and at least one gondolier. He had to bunk somewhere, so closest to the boat was the perfect spot. Lest you think they all had to be abnormally short....

And speaking of observing, did you ever notice the half-moon window over the water entrance of many palaces?  That was the window of the gondolier’s apartment. If you had a palace you also had a gondola (sometimes more than one), and at least one gondolier. He had to bunk somewhere, so the space closest to the boat was the perfect spot. Lest you think they all had to be abnormally short, the floor of the apartment was sometimes below the level of the window –here you can see that the brown facing indicates how low the floor was.

This is how the apartment looks from the inside -- in this case, a palace which is being used as a nursery school. Most Venetians didn't have plastic castles blocking the entrance to the canal.

Different palace, but here we get a look at  how the apartment would look from the inside.  It happens that this palace is being used as a nursery school. Most Venetians didn’t have plastic castles blocking the entrance to the canal.

But enough being serious. Let's visit the fountain on the Zattere. I remember when it was built, something like 15 years ago. Its astonishing inefficiency was immediately obvious, but what's really astonishing is that it has been left that way ever since. Perhaps you can see the curving jets of water. If not, never mind. You can certainly see the water the jets are distributing far and wide. This is clearly because the flow has not been diminished to fall into the drains at the feet of the pedestal. Or, the drains haven't been moved. In any case, this is what you have: wet (and occasionally algae) in the summer, and sometimes ice in the winter. Bonus points for putting a grille instead of a basin -- occasionally a helpful soul will put a plastic bowl or old ice-cream container beneath the water so that dogs can drink too. Whenever we see anything that is somewhere between inefficient and wacko, we say it must have been designed by "the architect of the fountain at the Zattere." Should be funny, but isn't.

But back to the madness. Let’s visit the fountain on the Zattere. I remember when it was built, something like 15 years ago. Its astonishing inefficiency was immediately obvious, but what’s really astonishing is that it has been left that way ever since. Perhaps you can see the curving jets of water. If not, never mind. You can certainly see the water which the jets are flinging far and wide. Obviously the force of the flow has not been diminished in order to make the jets fall into the drains at the foot of the pedestal. Or, the drains haven’t been moved. In any case, this is what you have: Sloshy ground in the summer, and sometimes ice in the winter.  And waste. Bonus points to the designer for putting a drain instead of a basin — occasionally a helpful soul will put a plastic bowl or old ice-cream tub beneath the falling water so that dogs can drink too. Whenever we see anything that is somewhere between inadequate and wacko, we say it must have been designed by “the architect of the fountain at the Zattere.”  And people worry about acqua alta?

"What -- me worry?"

Oh, sorry — are we in your way?

This is almost impossible to top. Elephants in Venice! (And people worry about tourists?). This photo is in an unidentified window on Barbaria de le Tole. Sorry about the reflection, but some sleuthing reveals that the Circo Togni came to Venice in all its glory at some date in the Fifties.  I’m impressed by all the people who act like this is as normal as the Fourth of July parade in Wahoo, Nebraska. But maybe they’re thinking that Venice is as normal as Wahoo.

Here’s the link, in case the clip hasn’t come through:  https://youtu.be/6MEwe6XL_ck

My “away day” is over now, leaving room for “back-here day,” which will be tomorrow.

 

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Categories : Venetian-ness

Comments

  1. Mary Ann DeVlieg says:

    My goodness, I don’t think I’d trust that bridge with 5 elephants and the crowds of onlooker! Yikes. (Do you think they had doggie-clean-up baggies with them?)

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      But you know, I got to thinking — ten elephants, or 25 million tourists? Somehow the elephants are looking less hazardous for the city. Anyway, I’m sure they had the famous little old man following them, you know, the one somebody asked why he kept a job that required shoveling up elephant poop, and he replied “What? And give up show business?”

  2. A.Jonsson says:

    On the theme of mental vacations, I was a bit curious about hunchbacks in Venice, or perhaps in Italy in general, I don’t know? It just seems to me that just about every folk group from Veneto I come across has at least one song about hunchbacks. Not in a demeaning or pejorative ways, as far as I can understand, but still it seems to tickle the imagination in some way? Do you perhaps have some theories about this?
    All the best!

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      In Italy hunchbacks are regarded as bearers of good luck; a person might try to touch one. Lino says there are salt-shakers in the form of hunchbacks. I’ve heard several humorous songs about hunchbacks (not involving luck, just humorous).

      • A.Jonsson says:

        Thank you Erla for that explanation. The songs I’ve heard are also just humourous and not in any way mocking so I gathered there must be something special about them.
        It’s quite interesting how these things differ in different countries.

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