Archive for Events

Mar
31

What news on the Rialto?

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Thwarted terrorist attack, that’s the news.

I suppose it was only a matter of time.  Three men and a minor from Kosovo, who have been in Italy for two years with regular “green cards,” had been organizing a suicide mission on or near the Rialto Bridge and — the radio reported today — possibly the Piazza San Marco and/or even the basilica of San Marco.

The Veneto, one learns, is on a sort of corridor connecting the Balkans to Europe.  Other potential events and/or connections along this axis have been monitored for months.  Last November, according to “La Nuova Venezia,” the government received a warning that ISIS had sent some Balkan terrorists to strike a blow in Italy.  The choices of place and time are many, of course, but the fact that Venice would be brimming with tourists for the Easter holiday offered many positive aspects to the here and now.

As one of the four said in an intercepted phone conversation, “With Venice you’ll immediately win paradise because there are so many nonbelievers here, put a bomb at Rialto.”  One reader may be thinking of a world-class monument, another may be thinking of how many people would have been on the bridge.

In any case, the newspapers are full of interesting details which I totally do not feel like repeating.  I only wrote this post because it seemed important to report this development.  It’s certainly more important than most of the other things you’re likely to read — or not — about Venice these days.  Acqua alta?  I’ll take all you’ve got.

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Feb
28

The Carnival spirit

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As I may or may not have ever mentioned, Carnival has lost most of what little appeal it ever had for me.  That is why I have made very few photos of this event this year.  Or last year.  However, my not being interested in Carnival as she is practiced here doesn’t mean I don’t know how madcap it could be for the thousands who come to enjoy madcappery for a few days.  The knell rings at midnight tonight, as you know, so tote those frittelle and haul those masks.

Here are just a few images from the past few days, things that made me smile.  That’s my version of Carnival.

A few mornings ago, I cast an affectionate eye on our little boat across the canal. It has been sprinkled with confetti from time to time, which has made it look cheerful.  I may not dress up, but I’m all for the boat looking giddy. But there was something on the plastic cover…

It’s something all dressed up as a dead rat. How original! And repulsive!

I may be the last person to have discovered this little trove of hats, most of them of the gondolier variety, arranged on a wall at the squero of San Trovaso. Venice, city of a million hats and behind each one a story….

In the center we see the two hats of Janus, in straw: “Dopo” (after) and “Prima” (before).  Perhaps we’re meant to read from right to left.  Or maybe time is running backward.  It sometimes feels like that.

This succinct note, on a closed newsstand in Udine last Sunday: “‘Dear’ petty thieves, on the third time you’ve come here you still haven’t understood that there isn’t any money here to steal.”  It’s not a joke but it still makes me laugh — not at the owner, but at the thieves.

Don’t even imagining laughing here. Her strategic position in Campo Santa Maria Formosa, on the trajectories from San Marco, Rialto, the Fondamente Nuove, Oslo, Cape Town and Zagreb, have stretched her to the limit. I don’t think this is a Carnival joke. Just buy the newspaper and move on.

If I had stayed up all night trying to compose a picture (in my mind, on canvas, with crayons, whatever) that said “Carnival is over,” I couldn’t have come up with this. Sorry it’s so perfect because now you’re all feeling sad.  Never mind, it’ll be Easter soon.  The chocolate eggs are beginning to appear and Lent hasn’t even started yet.  Gad!

 

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Jan
19

Let me try to explain…

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Being by yourself can be lovely, when the sun is shining and there isn't too much wind.

Being by yourself can be great, if the sun is shining and there isn’t too much wind.

Several readers have written their reactions to my post about Ricky.  And in answering them, I have sifted through my brain and realize that I neglected stressing some important points in my account of the hideous homicide, the main point being why I wrote about it at all.

I let myself get somewhat carried away by the grisly details (like every reporter currently working in Venice, evidently — the newspapers have surrendered entire pages to this epic). That was wrong.

The reason I did this was because (A) like almost everybody, I’m fascinated in a repulsive way by stories like this, but (B) more to the point, I reacted to him as somebody I sort of know.

Venice is a village, as I often point out, and you get caught up in dramatic stories involving people you know, or (more often) to people known by people you know.  Ricky is only ten years younger than Lino, and his family home was a few doors down from where Lino lived. They’d see each other here and there, and while he was obviously somewhat unbalanced even when young, Ricky was just part — obviously a somewhat unusual part — of the neighborhood.

Lino says Ricky had a generous streak (the Mestre neighbors keep repeating how he always tried to do things for people).  Lino remembers one day he was slaving away in his boat, trying to get the outboard motor to start.  Ricky stops and says “Hey, I’ve got a motor inside.  Come get it, you can borrow it.  You can have it.”  Lino didn’t take the motor, but he remembers the offer.

The story continues to unfold, producing more terrifying details, but I’m not going to repeat them because what it is is sad sad sad.  I didn’t make that clear.  He was born crazy, and he has spent his life either struggling against his craziness or sometimes giving in.  This is not an excuse, but everyone quoted in these endless articles talks about what a solitary person he was. He was “tremendously alone,” as one person put it; he didn’t have anybody watching out for him. Whether or not you’re taking your meds, loneliness is a killer.

No more about Ricky from me, unless it’s something we all need to know.  Of course I feel bad for the woman and her family, but I also feel bad for uno dei nostri — one of ours.

IMG_1004.JPG alone

 

 

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Jan
17

Ricky again, or still

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I’m sorry to start the year this way, but not nearly as sorry as the people who are involved.

Riccardo Torta — “Ricky” — if you’ll cast your minds back, spent 16 years in prison and a psychiatric hospital after killing an agent of the Finance Police on May 31, 1973.  They had confiscated his boat because of his trafficking in illegal cigarettes, so he was angry.  He spent the next two decades telling people he never meant to do it, he didn’t know why he did it, it was just a joke.

Now it’s 2016.  He’s been living in Mestre for 20 years in an apartment by himself, and by all accounts not keeping up with his meds.

He has become very, very big, tall, heavy, which could make him scary, except that the neighbors know him mainly as a sort of strange person but who’s usually keen to lend a hand — you know, the gentle giant.  He sometimes does the shopping for Nelly Pagnussat, 78 years old, a little old lady on the second floor of his building.  She also lives alone, although she has married children.  She sometimes fixes him something to eat.  Just setting the scene.

Friday evening around 8:00 PM he rings her doorbell.  She lets him in — after all, they’re friends.  He even calls her “aunt.”

He kills her with a hammerblow to the head.  Then he takes a chainsaw and dismembers her body.  He puts the pieces in four big black plastic garbage bags.

Here are some sea otters.

Here are some sea otters, if this helps.

Meanwhile, Nelly’s daughter is concerned because her mother hasn’t answered the phone for two hours, so she and her husband go over.  They, and a neighbor (an 83-year-old lady.  Nice!) enter the apartment and find Ricky standing there, with the bags and the dripping chainsaw.

The daughter’s husband says, “Where is my mother-in-law?”  Ricky replies, “She wasn’t feeling well.”  Then he runs out and barricades himself in his fourth-floor apartment.

Every person in uniform in Mestre descends on the block, which is cordoned off; the tenants of the building are requested to leave, and the gas in the building is turned off, just in case he might have discovered some matches meanwhile. SWAT teams in heavy assault gear climb the stairs and position themselves outside his front door.  A psychiatric specialist begins to negotiate with him,

After three hours of talking through the door, he gives himself up and they take him away. He’s in prison on suicide watch.  The newspapers are like pots boiling over.

Three days ago, Ricky went to the hospital for his therapy (I presume pharmacological). He had been under increased observation during the past year, but recently had seemed no longer to suffer from hallucinations. True, the neighbors knew he was more than a bubble off plumb — he would sometimes wander around his apartment terrace nude, or occasionally throw a bucket of urine off the balcony. Also, really loud music at night.

The hospitals for the criminally insane have been closed by law for several years, the plan being to house mentally ill prisoners in small “communities.”  But the Veneto Region is way behind in opening these facilities; a few weeks ago, Emilia-Romagna, the region next door, registered a complaint because former inmates from the Veneto were being sent to the facilities there.  But in Ricky’s case, what is there to be said?  He’d served his sentence and he was out, like anybody would be.

Forty-two years of good behavior have been noted, but wherever he goes next, I’m assuming he won’t be coming out again.

Good-bye to his for Ricky.

Good-bye to all this for Ricky.  Or whatever morning looks like in Mestre.

 

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