1x1.trans The little bedsheet party, and a new crusade

The stage is ready, all we need are the people.

1x1.trans The little bedsheet party, and a new crusade

Voila’ — people.  Jammed into the refreshment corner, but they did listen to the speeches first.

The votes are in, but they’re still being counted.  So far, though, the number of ballots on the spelling of the nizioleti has exceeded 1,500.  And they are unanimous in favor of bringing back the old spelling, the old words, the old way, period.

This information was imparted by Tiziano Graziottin, from the Gazzettino, to a happy gathering last Sunday on a cold, rainy morning in the Fish Market at the Rialto.  I was interested to see maybe 50-70 people show up — perhaps more might have come if the weather had cooperated — and I was even more interested to see that only two people from the boating world (besides Lino and me) were there.

Why is this interesting?  First, because I hardly ever see people in groups who are not of the boating ilk. Second, because for the past several years, the president of the Coordinating Committee of the Rowing Clubs, a certain Giovanni Giusto, has made it his own highly emotional, high-volume mantra that Venetian rowing is one of the last holdouts –perhaps the last holdout — of true venezianita‘, or Venetian-ness.

If that’s the case, I would have assumed (Zwingle’s Fifth Law: Never Assume) that boating people would have showed up in a solid, even if small, block of solidarity.  But no.  Let’s say that the weather prevented coming by oar — which it did — people who cared could have come by foot, just like us.

But the boating world was not to be seen.  That particular piece of Venetian culture and heritage is apparently floating around sealed inside its own bubble, and the other piece of V.C. and H., i.e., the nizioleti, is doing likewise.  In a city this small, it seems bizarre that there should be no contact between these two tracks carrying the same train.

As I looked around, I tried to guess from which quadrant these people emerged.  The universities?  The art world?  The music world? The world of linguistics?  The world of free snacks? I could only be sure about the last.

1x1.trans The little bedsheet party, and a new crusade

The new group is a fusion of two Facebook groups dedicated to the above-named elements of Venice’s corporeal being. Joining forces seems like a great thing. Next, I think they should make enough shirts so anybody who joins (me, for example) could get one. Or at least have the chance to buy one. So far, these are only for the staff. So fine: Make me staff!

1x1.trans The little bedsheet party, and a new crusade

The general sentiment of the occasion — of the project, mission, crusade — was expressed in Venetian on the sign shown above.  Translation by me:

How many centuries of history are in this nizioleto,

Names of streets, written in dialect,

Squares, little squares, parishes and streets,

From the Bridge of the Beret-Makers to the Bridge of the Breasts,

But these names weren’t given by chance,

But according to strict criteria.

Each street we walk along reminds us of some fact (deed),

And, why not, even an ugly crime,

The Riva of Biasio, the Rio Tera’ of the Assassins,

As reported by the great Tassini …

To say nothing of the ancient trades,

Like the milk-seller or the barrel-maker,

Walk around the city with your head held high,

Every nizioleto is a truth.

And beware anybody who touches them

Or writes them in Italian,

Because we’ll bite their hand.

Poor nizioleti, old and worn,

And to fix them, there’s never any money.

The purpose of the festa wasn’t only to report on the voting, but also to promote (in a very soft way), the new organization known as “Masegni e Nizioleti.”  (The masegni are the old trachyte paving stones, which have been endangered for the past several years by replacement by blocks of some other substance.  I think it’s a kind of stone, but once it’s on the ground, it looks to the street the same way Italianized words look on the nizioleti: Strange, out of place, and uninvited). The sheets and the stones groups decided to join forces and it appears, at least in the honeymoon stage, to be a happy marriage.

I pulled out 10 euros and signed on as a member of Masegni and Nizioleti. I have no idea how far the group is going to get, but I do know that on May 25, squads will be organized to clean graffiti off the walls.  I will take a break from whinging, put on my rubber gloves, pick up my bucket and brush, or sponge, or broom, and get to work, EVEN THOUGH I know that a week later graffiti will reappear.

More about the masegni themselves in my next; they are a story in themselves (as are we all).  But this is enough for one day.  Steady the Buffs!  Tote that bedsheet! All hands to the pumps, and see you on the barricades.  Bring refreshments.

1x1.trans The little bedsheet party, and a new crusade

And there are a good number of nizioleti whose primary problem isn’t spelling — it’s having letters at all.  Gad.


Categories : Problems, Venetian-ness
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Springing ahead

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Although we certainly can’t complain about the winter we haven’t had — all the cold and snow were re-routed to other parts of the world — spring is still exerting the old rousing-the-bear-from-hibernation force around the neighborhood.

So I festivate the equinox with a string of springy pictures, in no particular order, because I have the sensation that everything is happening pretty much in unison, like the Rockettes.  This wonderful, too-brief phase comes down to essentially two things: Fish and flowers.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

The past few days have seen the slaughter of the seppie — anybody with a boat and some free time seems have gone out to snag as much as they can of what the tide was bringing in. Our neighbor came home one day with 25 kilos (55 pounds) of the little monsters. He gave us some, which were better than anything we could have bought.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

But you don’t have to have a boat in order to do major damage to the incoming horde of tentacled delicacies. There’s quite a detachment of fishermen strung along the fondamenta.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

In the past few days, the seppie in the fish market have rarely been anything less than top-notch. Or as this vendor’s sign expressed it: “Marvelous.” With a marvelous low price to match. If you see seppie like this, it’s a venial sin not to buy them. If they don’t look like this, you should skip them and buy something else. Note the lack of black ink smeared all over them.  The makeup is applied when the seppie aren’t as beautiful — I mean fresh — as this.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

These are go’, a type of goby that makes a fantastic risotto. Actually, we may be among the few people left who use them for that purpose; they’re never on any menu that I’m acquainted with. “Quando la rosa mete spin’, xe bon el go’ e el passarin.” When the rose begins to bloom (i.e., put out its thorns — just go with it), the go’ and the passarini are good. Lino has taken more passarini, or European flounder (Platichthys flesus), out of the lagoon than you could ever count, but they’re hardly ever in the fish market anymore. People like things like sole and salmon from exotic faraway places.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

Let’s talk clams. You can certainly go clamming in the depth of winter, but your fingers freeze so you can’t even feel the clams anymore. But on a day like this the sun, the water, the world all seem to conspire to make a few hours clamming during the falling, then rising, tide, just the perfect thing to do.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

Note Lino’s net bag — the perfect tool for rinsing the muddy little bivalves. He puts them in a bucket full of lagoon water later to make them finish expelling their internal grit.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

Lino takes them the old-fashioned way — one at a time.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

There were a few people out who had the same idea. Good thing they kept their distance. Clammers are like any other fishermen — they hate to have other fishermen climbing over them.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

The plant life was looking fine, too. These trees have leaves that are practically singing.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

The vegetable-boat people planted a tiny peach tree in a pot on their prow, and it has begun to put forth tiny peach blossoms. If they ever harvest tiny peaches, I’ll let you know — otherwise, the memory of these little blooms will be enough for me.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

Forsythia, in some hardy gardener’s hardy garden.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

A plum tree, slightly behind some of the others I’ve seen, probably because the sun doesn’t shine very much on this part of the street.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

Wisteria getting ready to burst.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

Cabbages also have to flower.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

I don’t know what they are, but that’s not stopping them.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

Leaves that are this green are no less lovely than the flowers. In fact, I’m not sure these leaves know they’re not flowers.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

Toward 5:00 PM the light begins to warm up in a particularly spring-like way. If there’s any moment lovelier than the dawn, it would be this interlude on the verge of sunset.


Categories : Nature
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Rewriting the bedsheets

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1x1.trans Rewriting the bedsheets

A case in point. “Ole” in Venetian are (or were) terracotta containers for cooking food. I think “terracotta containers for cooking food” would sound just as awkward in Italian as it does in English. And “tajine,” “chatti,” “shaguo,” “donabe,” “palayok,” or “Romertopf” wouldn’t be much of a step in the right direction, either. This would definitely be one nizioleto to leave alone.

The bedsheets, as you recall, are known as nizioleti here, and are the characteristic street signs with their often-exotic names in the Venetian language.

But hidden within them was a problem which nobody had ever noticed — nobody except Tiziana Agostini, the Assessore (person officially responsible) for Place Names.

The nizioleti are in Venetian, but she thought they should be in Italian. Time to move on, leave that quaint little old past behind, step up the game. Was she ever surprised last December when she discovered that the Venetians were massively opposed to this cultural non-improvement. A citizens’ group quickly formed to stop the madness and promote the repairing and repainting of the good old names that were already in place and doing just fine as they were, thanks so much.

Citizens’ groups here can’t count on accomplishing much beyond letting their dudgeon be known, but in this case the response came from everywhere, it seemed, and it was unanimous: We want the old names back.  Don’t fix the names.  Leave the names the hell alone.

And the outcry seems to have worked.

Ms. Agostini came out from under her desk when the bombardment stopped, and has been meeting with the core citizens’ group with the intention of reviewing and correcting the situation. Fancy way of saying “Put the words back where they belong.”

Meanwhile, the Gazzettino has undertaken a poll of its readers. Every day for about a week (the last day will be March 16), the same list of names is published in the paper, and the reader can indicate his/her preference by ticking the appropriate box.  Then one merely has to cut out the little survey form, and take it to one of the drop-off stations.  Happily, one of them is right here in via Garibaldi, though I would have gone all the way to the train station if that were my only option.

Naturally I’ve been ticking all the boxes on the right every day, and will keep on doing so till the end.

Then we’ll see if it ever made any difference.

1x1.trans Rewriting the bedsheets

This is the survey form, correctly filled out.  The left column lists the words in Italian — on the right, their Venetian equivalents. I’m not, in fact, in favor of their adopting “San Zanipolo,” as everyone knows, but I voted for it on principle.

1x1.trans Rewriting the bedsheets

Brief, to the point, and in perfect Venetian. Note the lack of double consonants, which is your first clue. You could make “salizada” (paved) more Italianesque by writing “salizzata,” I suppose, but the correct Italian term would have to be “selciato,” which isn’t progress. “Streta” means “narrow” (in Italian, stretta).  Anyway, it’s fine like it is already.

1x1.trans Rewriting the bedsheets

The Street of the Little Fig Tree. In Italian, it would be “del piccolo fico.” Fine, but this is so much more appealing. The tree itself seems somehow smaller in Venetian.




Categories : Venetian-ness
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The missing YouTube clip

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Yet again, my blog as it arrives via e-mail omitted the YouTube clip  of the obstacle course which I worked so hard to find.

At some point I will inquire as to how to avoid this glitch.

Meanwhile, here is the link:

Apologies to all.

1x1.trans The missing YouTube clip
Categories : Uncategorized
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