Archive for afa


Afa will make you do anything

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The last two weeks of August here contain some of the most predictable events ever found on earth, right up there on the list next to sunrise and the last Saturday at WalMart before school starts.

Our predictable events in this period are the preparations for the Venice Film Festival (this year August 31 to September 10), which involve what always look like amazingly late and chaotic preparations of the main theatre known as the Palacinema and its environs, plus truckloads of complaints and accusations of waste and inefficiency from everybody except the organizers.  There are also preparations for the Regata Storica, whose five days of eliminations conclude tomorrow, which proceed in a more organized way.  This may be because they are, in fact, better organized, or only because they entail fewer people and matter less to the world at large, by which I mean there’s less money involved.

But these are events which you can ignore if you’re not particularly interested. What nobody can ignore is the afa.

If you can make out any land at all on the horizon, that would be the rest of the world. Or maybe it's a mirage.

The afa currently sucking the life out of the lagoon and its denizens also qualifies as an annual event  and you don’t even have to go to it.  It comes to you.  “The afa came down like a wolf on the fold,” as Lord Byron didn’t say, and its cohorts, if it had any, are definitely not gleaming in purple and gold. They’re not gleaming at all, theyre practically naked and most of them are neck deep in the exhausted tepid water of the Adriatic.

In fact, a morning view of either the sea or the lagoon gives the impression that these bodies of water are not made of water at all, but of glycerine, heavy and smooth, a colorless liquid that barely has the strength to form even the tiniest wave.

I know how it feels.  When the alarm sounds in the shapeless sodden dawn, the term “primordial ooze” comes to mind, by which I don’t mean the world, I mean me. It isn’t a good feeling to be either primordial or oozy and to be both is depressing even if I  know that evolution will eventually bring me the opposable thumb and the sextant and the sonnets of Shakespeare.

Looking toward Venice, the most beautiful city in the world, if you can make it out.

A Saharan front is pressing down on the Veneto region and also much of the rest of the old Belpaese, and it’s the longest and hottest heatwave around here for the last 20 years.  Good for beach tourism, I suppose, though not good for other activities like farming.

One Bosnian truckdriver was completely unimpressed by all this.  He stopped in a supermarket parking lot at Crocetta del Montello near Treviso yesterday, and all that sunshine immediately made him think of catching some of those rays.

This may not have been precisely the form of the truck in question, but it still doesn't say "beach" to me.

So he climbed up onto the roof of his cab, I suppose on some kind of towel to avoid completely crisping, with a supply of drinks at hand.  Voila!  His own little beach!

Then he took off all his clothes and stretched out.  Evidently Bosnian truckers hate those bathing-suit lines as much as anybody.

A cashier in the supermarket saw the naked man tanning himself  up there and called the Carabinieri.  End of tan.

I don’t know if Venice has ever experienced a monsoon, but I can tell you we’re all waiting for one.

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Afa: get to know it

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I was going to write about something else but it’s just too hot.   Every summer we get a heatwave around about now, but I’m not sure I remember one quite this heavy.   Or long-lasting.  

We’ve been having temperatures up around 100 degrees F. (39 degrees C) during the day, slightly less at night, for at least a week.   Yesterday the weather report indicated that it was hotter here than in New York.   I can tell you without consulting anybody but myself that it’s hotter than the hinges of hell.

Looking toward Murano at 8:30 this morning.

Looking toward Murano at 8:30 this morning.

In addition to simple heat, there is the element called “afa,” which means sweltering, sultry, breathless heat, the kind of mugginess that makes you feel like an old sponge that has been left in a dark damp corner next to things that smell.

There are only two places I can think of where this weather would be even more intolerable. One would be anywhere along the Po River plain, where the fields  stretch for  long, desperate distances with no shade.   Where there is shade, among the poplar plantations lining the river, there is no oxygen.   Whatever is taking the place of oxygen does not move, because the world has stopped.

Looking toward the Lido at the lagoon inlet of San Nicolo'.  The heron is happy, but herons don't sweat.

Looking toward the Lido at the lagoon inlet of San Nicolo'. The egret is happy, but egrets don't sweat.

The other place where the heat is torment is the mountains.   Mountains are  made to be cool, at least at night.   If I had to endure this kind of heat at  4,000 feet, I’d have to think long and carefully about my revenge.

Clamming takes your mind off the fact that you're suffocating.

Clamming takes your mind off the fact that you're suffocating.

We’ve gotten through it so far by going out in the lagoon in a small mascareta, to a place where there is virtually always a breeze.   And enough water to immerse myself for ten hours or so.   Other people go to the beach on the Lido.   Other people go shopping at the small supermarket off Campo Ruga, where the air-conditioning is set to cryogenic depths.   We go clamming.   More fun, for us.   Probably not so much for the clams.

I’m off to bed now, planning to dream of the freezers at the Tyson chicken-processing plant.   Do not wake me.

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