Archive for Venetian-ness
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?
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.
Just when I had concluded that there was nothing different or interesting to say about Venice, just when I thought life here was going to continue to grind deeper and deeper into its rut (same old problems, same old remarks, same old endless cycle of birth and rebirth), comes a blast of rage from person or persons yet to be identified.
Whoever they were, they trashed 7 of the gondolinos belonging to the city, discovered just today on the last day of the gondolino eliminations for the Regata Storica. The “Storica,” as you know, is the ultimate race, and it is conducted aboard the gondolinos. There is a total of 9, plus the reserve boat. Three boats, which were in another place and therefore escaped the axe murderer(s), weren’t much to work with for the eliminations today, but the nine two-man crews were divided into three sets of three, and extra time was eaten up with the removing and re-installing of the forcolas of each rower at each change. The mayor has tweeted that the boats will be repaired in time for the race on Sept. 4. Five boatyards have thrown themselves into the work.
Who would do such a thing? Plenty of police are working to find out. But who would WANT to do it? Who indeed? It might be disaffected office-seekers, or environmentalists protesting deforestation, or people who want Jodie Foster to fall in love with them, or anything.
There has been tension in the rowing world recently, it’s true. But until all the dust has settled, and been left there as long as I usually leave it anywhere, and then finally Pledged away, I’m not going to start theorizing.
I can mention, however, that a sense of anarchy stretching beyond the world of rowing seems to be threatening what ought to be well-earned somnolence in the city. Tourists keep trying to swim in the Grand Canal. A New Zealander, one of the crew of a yacht in port, got drunk a few nights ago, jumped off the Rialto Bridge, and landed right on the windshield of a water taxi passing below. The mariner is in the hospital in very bad condition, and the taxi is also in the shop.
Here is a recent video from Roberta Chiarotto, on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/roberta.chiarotto/videos/10209231322756467/
We see some young people in their bathing suits in Campo San Vio, heading for a refreshing dip. The voice of the Venetian woman reprimanding them, in English and German, basically says “This isn’t Disneyland, it’s a city. You can’t do this.” For those (like Lino) who remember swimming in the canals as little tykes — naked, learning to swim tied to their mother’s washboard — may I say that there was less dangerous traffic then, and by the way, they were merely little tykes. Healthy full-grown hominids who are not in their own back yards should be aware, if only dimly, of the appropriateness of some behavior. If in doubt, I’d suggest “Don’t.”
What amazes me is how tranquilly these visitors receive this unwelcome news, and how unconvinced they look. And they’re not an isolated case; a few weeks ago, five young French tourists took the plunge in the Grand Canal in front of City Hall, no less. I won’t continue this list, because however many times I might mention it, I still can’t believe it. And it seems to have no effect.
Once again driven to distraction, some exasperated resident recently snapped, posting a sign near Campo San Martin:
On a more serious but equally anarchic note, two nights ago there was a nearly fatal collision in the lagoon (that’s good news, considering that at least once a summer there is a completely fatal collision to report). A motorboat being driven at high speed — that’s redundant, pretty much all motorboats are driven at high speed in the lagoon — ran right straight into a passing water taxi. The motorboat sank, the ambulance came, the two young men are in the hospital and the girl escaped unharmed. The high-spirited young folks had been zooming along with no lights on their boat, lights which are not only required by law but which common sense reveals would have at least given the taxi driver some hint as to their imminent arrival.
My point is that a great deal of anarchy can be tolerated, for many reasons, as long as nothing happens, which is what everybody is counting on. And then something happens. Like ramming a taxi.
Consequences can be so unpleasant. And they follow deeds with such annoying persistence.
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.