Aug
07

Brain flutterings

By
There is a brief period in later summer when the wetlands are carpeted with a form of heather commonly called "erica" (Calluna vulgaris). It should not be picked. But if for some reason it were to be picked, it stays beautiful as a dried flower for almost forever. I've been told. This photo was made a week ago, but I know the blooms are gone by now.

There is a brief period in later summer when the wetlands are carpeted with a form of heather known as “sea lavender,” or Limonium vulgare.  (I haven’t yet found a local name for this.) It should not be picked. But if for some reason it were to be picked, it stays beautiful as a dried flower for almost forever. I’ve been told. This photo was made a week ago, but I know the blooms have faded, or fallen, by now.  This picture is here only to set a mood of some sort — it has nothing to do with what follows.

Some of you might have watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Rio last Friday.  I liked it a lot, for many reasons, but that’s not the point.  If you didn’t like it, we can still be friends.

But I think we can agree that it had more than five moving parts, which is the maximum (I’ve just decided) that I can keep track of, much less control.  So may I give a huge shout-out to the director and executive producer, Marco Balich?  I’d have done it anyway, but guess what? He’s Venetian.

I suppose I shouldn’t be all that impressed; I discover that he directed the opening and closing of the Winter Olympics in Torino (2006) and the closing of the London Olympics (2012).  Also aspects of the Olympics in Beijing and Sochi.  He spent, all told, three years working on this five-hour extravaganza — two years designing, and one year living in Rio. But he was also, I now dimly recall, the director of Carnival in 2008.

And here’s what he had to say: “Designing the opening of the Games was simpler than the Carnival of Venice.”  He said he was joking.

“An event like the Olympics requires a complex preparatory phase, of negotiations, bureaucracy, long stretches of time and also the unforeseeable.  But I have to say that in Rio we found better conditions than anyone could imagine.”

The journalist interviewing him mentioned the “completely Brazilian placid resignation that perhaps greatly resembles the Venetian.”  I don’t remember having noticed any particularly PLACID resignation.  Though if we had the samba maybe nobody would care.

From a man accustomed to working with millions — I refer to money, as well as humans — that’s a very nice thing to hear.  So if he wants to joke about how hard it is to organize in Venice, never mind, because everyone knows that working on your home turf is not only hard, but usually an Olympic-level exercise in ingratitude.

And speaking of money, the Gazzettino of today reports that in one year, the Guardia di Finanza at the airport has recovered 15 million euros in cash which were outward bound, by means of a thousand assorted passengers.  The article says the cash was hidden in “the most unusual places — the heels of shoes, and in bras.”  Not ever having had more than the allowed 10,000 euros in cash to carry from point A to B, I’m probably not an expert on the subject. But I still would have considered shoes and bras to be the very first place to look, even if I didn’t have a beagle backing me up.  I guess I must be smarter than the people who got caught.

A few small cultivators on the Vignole sell their daily harvest at the Trattoria alla Vignole. Looking at the bins, a question formed in my brain. What's the point of writing "cipolle"? Or "pomodoro"? Or "patate"? If I were illiterate, or literate only in some distant language such as Tamil, this label would serve no purpose at all. All I really need to see is the price per kilo, as noted. I think anybody looking at the object would know what it was, call it what you will.

A few small cultivators on the Vignole sell their daily harvest at the Trattoria alla Vignole.  As I looked at the bins, a question formed in my brain. What’s the point of writing “cipolle”? Or “pomodoro”? Or “patate”? If I were illiterate, or literate only in some distant language such as Tamil, this label would serve no purpose at all. All I really need to see is the price per kilo, as noted. I think anybody looking at the object would know what it was, call it what you will.

It just strikes me as -- perhaps not odd -- but surprisingly superfluous. Unless they were put there for vocabulary drill by some enterprising (and hungry, and thrifty) teacher.

It just strikes me as — perhaps not odd — but surprisingly superfluous. Unless they were put there for vocabulary drill by some enterprising (and hungry, and thrifty) teacher.

And while I'm on the subject of unnecessary and inexplicable things, there is this phenomenon, which is not as rare as it should be (by which I mean: non-existent). A German couple happily deposits themselves in the outside seats on the vaporetto, and help themselves to a seat for their luggage. The most polite question I would have asked, if I'd felt like bracing myself for the reply, would have been: "Did you buy a ticket for those bags? Because there are plenty of people standing behind you who would almost certainly like to be sitting there." I know the space is tiny to non-existent, no one needs to tell me that. I merely ask why that entitles someone to use more for themselves just because they got there first.

And while I’m on the subject of unnecessary and inexplicable things, there is this phenomenon, which is not as rare as it should be (by which I mean: non-existent). A German couple happily deposits themselves in the outside seats on the vaporetto, and help themselves to a seat for their luggage. The most polite question I would have asked, if I’d felt like bracing myself for the reply, would have been: “Did you buy a ticket for those bags? Because there are plenty of people standing behind you who would almost certainly like to be sitting there.” I know that space is tiny to non-existent, no one needs to tell me that. I merely ask why that entitles someone to use more for themselves just because they got there first.

I conclude as I began: This picture is here just because I like it. I do not romantized these ladies -- their not-so-distant forebears (and perhaps they too) were notorious for family-destroying gossip. But I'm going to forget that for the moment.

I conclude as I began: This picture is here just because I like it. I do not romanticize these ladies — their not-so-distant forebears (and perhaps they too) were notorious for family-destroying gossip. But I’m going to forget that for the moment.  There are just too few of them left for me to cavil.

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Categories : Venetian-ness

Comments

  1. Jon says:

    Just say “would you rather remove your stuff from my seat or recover it from the canal?”
    I hate people who don’t think others!

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      That’s pretty clever, but perhaps slightly more aggressive than I’d like to be in most situations. I’m more for the passive-aggressive approach. I’ve had so many and varied encounters with weird tourists that I tread as noiselessly as possible because they can end up making me angrier than I was before, and that’s really bad for my skin, not to mention nerves.

  2. Juliette Levinton says:

    On the streets of New York City vendors rarely have price signs naming the product being sold. Just as well. I remember many years ago one vendor’s sign advertised “gireppes.”

  3. Steve Rauworth says:

    Nice musings, and photos. And good on you for calling attention to the vaporetto hogs. This is a prevalent and growing aspect of public life everywhere, and to my mind this tone is set at the top, by the egotistical, selfish, criminal behavior of the rich and powerful, who have left the rest of us to fight over the scraps of their rapacity, more and more of us similarly antisocial in jaded hopelessness.

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      If you want to attack the rich and powerful, there are innumerable reasons to do so. But I don’t see the point of blaming them for someone else’s becoming “antisocial in jaded hopelessness.” People make their own decisions about how to behave, it isn’t forced on them. There are millions of hopeless people in the world who behave handsomely, even heroically — I’ve met an amazing number of them. “Blame” is a very squishy and repulsive substance to handle, unless you’re talking about a specific situation and specific individuals. Just about everybody on earth wishes their life were better in some way, but that’s not a free pass either to blaming rich people or to doing whatever the hell you want. Why should I, an innocent bystander, have to take the brunt of somebody’s ire that has nothing to do with me? The world will be better for everybody, rich and poor, if we all pull up our socks and start behaving like decent people. Be antisocial all you want to, but at home, on your own time.

  4. Mary Ann DeVlieg says:

    Thanks Erla! Summer is a great time to let your thoughts drift…it’s well appreciated to see where yours go!

    re: Vaporetti – we are really bummed that the number 13’s boats with the seats in front (“OUR boats, they were ALWAYS OURS before a few years ago”, she whines…) are now used by those other horrible, greedy routes. However, I always say politely and with my most charming smile, to people who put their bags on these oh-so-precious seats, “Scuze me, may I sit there?”. Usually does the trick without recourse to bruising. (Although it must be said the the pic you took was of people who obviously had: a) a lot of stuff and b) were terrified to leave it where someone might nick it. Which is, after all, understandable. But that doesn’t mean they had to sit THERE.)

    And thank you for pointing out that its not allowed to pick the – what I call limonium. (Erg. Oops.)

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      I have no scruples about asking to sit where someone has placed his or her luggage/pets/shopping bags. In the situation I photographed, it would obviously have been weird for me to get up and ask to sit there, since I was already sitting. But I’m ready for the next one….

      Moving on: You win a gold star and two free throws for eruditing me (as Italian puts it) on the name of the plant. Some feverish research, which included a squishy stop on a barena for a really close look, reveals that you are right. It is limonium. I will be correcting my caption forthwith and thank you so much for letting me know. Facts! Usually better than opinions, or even suppositions!

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      Thanks for the heads-up. I did some more research and discovered you were right. It is limonium. I’ve corrected the caption.