Archive for October, 2013
Following the death of German tourist Dr. Joachim Reinhard Vogel, the city went into a more-than-usually-intense spasm of introspection and finger-pointing, which I suppose could be called “extrospection.”
The urgent need to release the bottleneck at the Rialto Bridge is agreed upon by everyone.
The urgent need for everyone other than whoever is speaking to change is also universally agreed-upon.
So far, the mayor is re-examining the many and varied boat-parking permissions granted over time, the boats concerned having hardened up the narrowest part of the Grand Canal like plaque on arteries. And we all know what plaque does, and how very good it is for you and your general well-being, otherwise known as survival. It’s the same with the narrowing of the already narrow space at the bridge.
I admit that I have not been tracking every little blip on this issue. I know that the Vaporetto dell’Arte is slated for removal (in November — no rush). And the garbage-collection company, Veritas, has submitted a radical plan for removing its barges from the area. I don’t know many there were; perhaps it means they’ve removed three. In any case, the right spirit is at work.
Except it’s not working hard enough. I hope it will not be thought churlish of me to note that a few days ago, a vaporetto backing up (same spot as the tragic accident) ran into a taxi which was standing still, at the same spot where the fatal gondola had also paused, for the same reason: To wait for the traffic to abate in order to avoid an accident. There were no injuries except to the taxi.
A recent article in the Gazzettino reported this (translated by me):
“The latest confirmation of how, a month after the tragedy, nothing has changed comes from a video made by Manuel Vecchina and put on YouTube and the site of the Gazzettino.
A good 3,062 photographs, shot Monday, Sept. 2 near the Rialto Bridge between 8:47 and 18:44, and then put into a film of 4 minutes and 24 seconds, synthesize these ten hours of hellish traffic, with 1,615 boats in various movements, among which are 700 taxis, 219 vaporettos, 216 transport barges, 209 gondolas, 168 private boats, 39 airport launches, 18 “Vaporetto dell’Arte,” 13 ambulances, 17 police boats, and 2 of the firemen.”
I think we can agree that 2 fire-department boats and 13 ambulances can get a pass.
Otherwise, full steam ahead.
A few readers have asked how the Venetian boats travel to and from these foreign locations I keep jaunting off to.
In three words: Trucks, cranes, and Olindo.
In my first expedition with a traveling gondola, however, which we had taken to the lake of Bolsena for a big festival, we had the truck and Olindo, but no crane. I don’t remember how we got the boat into the water, but a whole bunch of us had to turn to in order to get the gondola back up into the truck by hand. When I saw what we were about to do (it was early in my shipping life), I thought it was impossible. When I think back on it, it still seems impossible. And yet, we did it.
I should mention that there were about ten of us per side. Maybe more. And at least two people — Olindo and Lino — understood the geometry and physics of the operation, so we weren’t relying solely on brute strength.
Obviously, picking boats up and pushing them around by hand is not ideal — for the boat, I mean, the heck with us. There are always plenty of XY-chromosome people hovering nearby, eager to show how strong they are. But we had no choice.
So the plan is simple. You row or tow your boat to Punta San Giuliano, on the edge of the lagoon where the bridge touches land.
Because there are three boat clubs there, there are also three cranes, of which I have only ever used the biggest. And the trucks will arrive, often driven by foreign nationals, often from somewhere in the Balkans. These drivers communicate by means of international truck-language, which is based on an assortment of gestures and shouts.
And there will be Olindo. He is the magus of boat transport, the scion of Chiarentin Trasporti, founded by his father in 1922 when boats still FAR outnumbered motorized vehicles. And because his father’s blood was condensed and consumed by hauling boats up the Brenta river by means of his own arms (until he could afford a horse), Olindo has inherited a mystic capacity of knowing exactly how to handle any sort of boat — positioned, braced, lashed, counterpoised, and otherwise settled for a long truck ride in such a way as to come out looking better than when it left. Or certainly not worse.
Some people understand animals, some people even claim to understand women. Olindo understands boats. The boat has yet to be born so big, delicate, or valuable that can ruffle him in any way. Usually it’s the amateurs who are trying to HELP that drive him over his recommended personal rpm’s.
So sending the boats to Orleans was pretty routine. The only thing that was different from other trips was the size of the crane brought in by the city to pluck many of the boats from the Loire and send them home. Its hydraulic arm could have been measured in football-field-lengths, and it could lift a maximum of 25 tons. I thought the Diesona was big; the crane thought it was a splinter.
The only living thing I know that could match that crane for strength, inch for pound for atmospheres, would be Olindo, actually. If they ever made him hydraulic, we wouldn’t need Archimedes’ proverbial fulcrum and level — he could move the world by himself.
Too bad there wouldn’t be a truck big enough to hold it. Though the shouts and gestures would probably be the same.