Archive for Venetian-ness
Yesterday was the first day of spring (“Hold the One-Star!” an old newspaper friend of mine would yell here). But the weather yesterday didn’t seem very convinced.
Today, though, we had all the early warning signs of spring: clear skies, fresh breeze, warm sun, everything within sight looking as if it were taking a figurative luxurious deep breath and throwing open its windows. On a less poetic, but no less significant level, every woman in the neighborhood appeared to have washed every item of clothing in the house, down to the dog socks, because then she could hang it all out and literally watch it dry.
You all know my fixation on laundry. Maybe March 22 should be called the First Day of Laundry. Or better yet, we’ll reassign the feast day of St. Hunna of Alsace (“The Holy Washerwoman”) from April 15 to March 22. Just a thought.
But I had a feast day of sun and shadows, myself. This afternoon I had to walk to the end of via Garibaldi to pick up a shirt from Rosie, the young Moldovan seamstress with fingers of gold, who had finished turning its collar. I was happy to have the shirt, along with its additional two years of useful life, but I was even happier to see the sun going down. Because at 5:00 PM or so it had reached the perfect level to create a wilderness of shadows along the broad strip of pavement.
People, dogs, children, assorted objects from pigeons to dog poop, each came attached to its own dark silhouette clinging to whatever point was touching the ground. Roller skates, sneakers, skateboards, paws, flagpoles, old ladies, shopping bags, toddlers — everything had its own personal doppelganger.
Watching all this as I walked home was hugely entertaining. Some people were pulling their shadows along behind them, others were pushing them in front, but whether the shadows were being made to frolic or to stand stock still, or walk smartly along or stretch out into long exaggerated strips of black, or go all shapeless and run into other nearby shadows and disappear, they were all over the place.
Some people look at the sun; I was looking at where the sun was not.
As I have said (many times), riding the vaporetto, while frequently annoying, or crowded or cold or suffocatingly hot or drenching — being crushed into a mass of people riding outside in the rain is so invigorating — it is also prime territory to see people we know.
I like this. I’m so used to it, either seeing someone I know, or at least someone I can identify, that I wasn’t even aware of it until one day when I got home from a large circuit doing errands more or less around the city. As I walked over our bridge, it suddenly struck me. ”Weird!” I thought. ”I didn’t see even one person that I know.” That it occurred, and that I noticed it, were both clear signs that I had passed through another airlock into the depths of Venice.
Usually, though, we run into, or past, people Lino knows. Which means “has known.” Forever.
Last night we were trundling home on the faithful #1 vaporetto. Now that Carnival’s over, the ratio of locals to tourists has increased again, briefly, in favor of the former. So it didn’t start out as surprising when Lino recognized someone.
Then the saga began to unfold.
It went like this:
A matronly, moderately zaftig woman was the last to come inside. As she sailed majestically along the aisle, she left the doors behind her wide open. It’s fairly cold these days, so it always astonishes me that someone doesn’t connect the concepts of “warmth” and “closed doors.”
So even though we were several rows back, I got up to close them, and sat down again next to Lino making the little huffy sound that escapes me when I fulfill this task for someone too (fill in appropriate word here) to close them.
“And she’s a Venetian,” he remarked. This sometimes happens, which makes it even harder for me to understand. But that’s not the point here.
“You know her?” I offered the usual rhetorical question.
“Sure,” he said. ”She lived in my old neighborhood” (near campo San Vio). ”Her brother was a really close friend of Ricky.”
And Ricky was…..?
“He’s the one who killed the finanzier (member of the Guardia di Finanza) by dropping a stone from the Accademia Bridge.”
I stared at him.
“He was a very sketchy character,” Lino went on. ”He was all involved in drugs and smuggling and I don’t know what. So he really had it in for the Finanza.
“So one night he called the headquarters of the Finanza on the Giudecca, all worked up, saying ‘Somebody’s set fire to a boat in the canal! You’ve got to come quick!’”
So two agents on duty leaped into one of their fast launches and zoomed across the Giudecca Canal and up the Grand Canal.
“Meanwhile, Ricky had taken a loose piece of marble” (one of the rectangular slabs of Istrian stone which delineate each step on a stone bridge here). ”He carried it up to the top of the Accademia Bridge and waited for them to pass. At just the moment they started under the bridge, he let the stone fall. It killed one of the agents right there.”
Naturally he was found, tried, and put away. ”Sixteen years in the criminal insane asylum,” Lino said.
“I saw him around the neighborhood after he’d gotten out. He was walking along with a beer bottle in his hand. He started to cross the Accademia Bridge, and as he went up, he put his hand out over the rail and casually let the bottle drop.
“Sixteen years, and they hadn’t cured him of anything.
“Still, he had had an extenuating circumstance. Because once a long time before, he had jumped out his first-floor apartment window into the canal and saved somebody who was drowning.
“If he hadn’t have done that, they’d have given him life.”
There is no earthly reason to show these photos, except that they are glimpses of what I’ve been seeing lately on the old via Garibaldi. Winter is a very, very good time for slicing bits of beauty out of the city. Don’t worry, they grow right back.
I have lots more (and many show the eastward view, too — it’s not always sunset in ErlaWorld). But no time to start looking for them at the moment.
Prepare to be stunned. The big news in today’s Gazzettino comes as a thunderstrike from the blue, at least to me who doubted that I or my non-existent great-grandchildren would ever see the departure of the “Boy with a Frog” from the Punta della Dogana.
One might recall that we signed a petition on November 21, 2011 to remove the statue and replace it with the long-beloved and historically valid lamppost. There was also a Facebook group organized with the same purpose, and while the time has been long and toilsome, perhaps they both had some effect on this happy outcome.
Tourists flocked to take photos of his appendages, but many Venetians looked at him and saw only what wasn’t there anymore, and what they wanted to have back. Including Lino, and also me.
There were so many protests of various sorts, including occasional calls to arms to destroy it, that the museum owner, Francois Pinault, paid for a transparent protective box to cover it every night, and an armed guard around the clock. A guard who, a recent article recounted, was required to work a 12-hour shift without anywhere to sit, keep warm, eat, or go to the bathroom. You don’t get to be a billionaire by feeling sorry for people.
But perhaps the “vehement letter” from Franco Miracco, ex-councilor of the Ministry for Cultural Treasures (“beni“) was what was finally needed. He wrote, the story reports, asking the city and the local Superintendency for Artistic and Architectural Treasures “whatever happened to the authorization to leave (the statue) there.” As in: The jig is up.
So the news is that on March 18 the work will begin to remove the lad and replace the lamp.
The city is congratulating itself publicly for its concern to replace the old lamp with a perfect replica, made from the mold (1860′s vintage) at the foundry in Mantova which had made the original lamp. I too congratulate them. I also wonder whatever happened to the lamp that was there until 2009, but there must be a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” injunction on that question. Works of art and history get lost in warehouses all the time. Cut up, sold, melted down, and so on.
In case you might wonder how this feat is being accomplished by a municipality which has made a cult of having no money, it’s being paid for by a group of companies which supply public lighting.
So is this the last we’ll ever see of the eight-foot stripling? Maybe not. The city has only said that “Its future at the moment is uncertain. The sculpture could find a new space in Venice, but might also leave the city.”
I’m seriously considering planning a going-away party for the little guy. It would be like a baby shower — we could all give him clothes. Underpants. Shearling coats. Collegiate hoodies. Compression running tights. Mukluks.
If I ever hear of a reason why this decision was made, I’ll pass it along. Of course, you don’t get to be a billionaire by explaining why you do things.
For now, I’m filing it under “The Fullness of Time.”