Archive for carabinieri

Happily, via Garibaldi absorbs an amazing amount of foolishness. This is what looks like normal here, as banal and predictable as anything.

This is a glimpse of what passes for normal here, as banal and predictable as anything. Yet even here, folly is germinating, flowering, and being harvested every day.

In the simplest terms, Situation Normal translates as “deranged.” Sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small, but normalcy here will never resemble normalcy in Normal, Illinois.

I suppose the town we’re most closely related to would be Eek, Alaska.

Starting with the disappearing snail who traversed Lino’s wool sweater, which was spread to dry yesterday on the portable scaffolding which serves as clothesline.  I washed the sweater, I put it outside, I brought it inside when the rain started, I left it on the scaffolding in the living room/library/office/parlor/game room/music room/mud room/orangery all night.  I took it outside this morning, and saw the gleaming little strands of the snail’s wake festooning the navy-blue surface.

What impelled it to work its way up the metal tube of the frame?  (I can imagine what impelled it to work its way down: There was absolutely nothing to do on the laundry after the fun of streaking slime across the clothes had worn off).  And where was the scaffolding when the creature began its epic adventure?  Which means: Did he come in from the rain along with the underwear and dishtowels?  If not, where did he join my textiles?  And where did he go when he left?  Or is he still here?

What drew him to the dripping garment?  (Well, maybe it wasn’t still dripping at that point.) Do I now have to add “snail repellent” to the fatal products aimed at mosquitoes, ants and flies?

I pondered all those things as I washed the sweater again, put it out on a higher level than before, and left it to go through the dripping stage yet again.  I’m not so annoyed about the snail himself, but he made me lose 18 hours of precious drying time. This is unpardonable.

Speaking of drying, we are living a period of extreme and widespread humidity.  We’ve had fog, rain, and mist, plus indeterminate watery vectors for weeks and weeks.  Even when the sun is shining, the air is humid.  We have to do hand-to-hand combat with the front door to open and close it, the wood is so swollen with damp. But I refuse to turn on the heat until driven to do so; the gas company sucks out what little blood and lymph are left in our bank account with a voracity even a vampire can’t match.  Vampires are thirsty only at night, while the gas company is slurping away night and day, even when all the gas is turned off.

I’m finished with that now.

This curious creature looks just as home here as all the rest of the other odd bipeds. I like the two dragontails, and the oak-leaf underwing is a nice touch, but I'm concerned about his feet. Somebody couldn't decide if he should have claws or the dactyls of a hippopotamus.

This curious creature looks just as home here as all the rest of the other odd bipeds. I like the two dragontails, and the oak leaves are a nice touch, but I’m concerned about his feet. Somebody couldn’t decide if he should have claws or the dactyls of a hippopotamus.

Let’s talk about other craziness.  Today’s newspaper contains an article about the discovery of a barber in the town of Rovigo who has been working for 23 years without a license, and without paying any taxes.  No license?  No problem!  No taxes?  Big, multifarious, expensive problems!  But it’s just another example of Zwingle’s Eighth Law, which states “Everything is fine until it’s not.”  He had a fantastic run, after all.  Five days a week times 52 weeks (I’m not giving him a vacation) times 23 years comes to 5,980 tax-free days.  He must have been known as the Smiling Barber.

But that’s also a lot of days for no Finance Police-person, or local police-person, or firefighter or exterminator or anyone in any kind of uniform to EVER have asked, even once, to see his books or his diploma.  That’s more disturbing than the thought of an unlicensed person wielding razor and shears, even though we know that there are plenty of licensed people who aren’t very handy with sharp objects either.

Unlicensed practitioners, even tax-paying ones, keep turning up.  Every so often there’s a story about a gynecologist or dentist or surgeon (not made up) who is discovered to have been working peacefully and lucratively for years thanks to innate genius, sheer luck, or whatever he could pick up via some YouTube video clips.

So far, these stories have concerned only men.  I’m not being sexist, I’m just reporting. Women are usually too busy being beaten, abused, and killed by their so-called loved ones to have any time left over to cheat on their taxes.

Speaking of love, a man in Cavarzere, a small town just over there, had been ignoring the restraining order imposed on him for his persistent persecution of his wife; she moved out and even changed towns, but he followed her, and the other night he swerved in front of her car and stopped, but she fled into a bar and called the carabinieri.  When they went to his house, they discovered a homemade casket sitting there, all ready for her.

No point feeling sorry for the little mullet when he's already cooked.  But I do.

No point feeling sorry for the little mullet when he’s already cooked. But I do. He’s the ichthyological version of “The Scream.”

Since today’s cadenza is in the key of Crazy, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned the vaporettos. The moment has arrived.

We know that there aren’t enough of them and that most of the year has passed to the soundtrack of the suffering groans of infinite numbers of people trying to get from here to there on a vehicle that is approximately 1/2,948th of the space needed.

But the right hook-left uppercut which the ACTV dealt to the traveling public in the past four days has finally inspired enraged calls for Ugo Bergamo, the Assessore (City Council-member) for Mobility, to resign and go far away to somewhere in South Asia and cultivate ylang-ylang.  (Made up.)  (The rage isn’t made up, though.)

First it was the long holiday weekend (Nov. 1-4) which gave untold thousands the great idea to come to Venice and spend the day looking at bridges and canals. According to what I could hear just listening to the people shuffling past on the Strada Nuova, many were Italians who probably didn’t have far to travel and were going home that night. But there was a honking great lot of them.

Yet even more people weren’t shuffling; they were trying to take the waterbus. When the terrifyingly overloaded vehicles arrived and tied up at certain stops for the exchange of prisoners, hundreds of exasperated people were still trying to get aboard even when there was no space left even for a hiccup.When they were left on the dock, at least at the Rialto stop, they began pushing and yelling and coming to blows.

Mr. Bergamo acknowledged the drama, but said that nobody, including himself, had ever imagined there would be that many people coming to Venice. If I were a judge, I’d make that defense qualify as contempt of court. You’re living in one of the major tourist cities of the globe, but you can’t imagine that untold thousands of people will come on a holiday weekend? Can he imagine water running downhill?  Can he imagine beans giving him gas?

Second, on Monday it was the students and commuters who took the hit. On November 3, the transport schedule changes. Except that this year, all the distress about there being too much traffic in the Grand Canal (think: August 17) has led to the cutting of some runs.  Good idea, except that cutting to solve one problem has created another.

Because the ACTVmade a major cut in the slice of time with the heaviest traffic.  If you wanted to go to school or work last Monday (unlikely that you wanted to go, I know), you were inevitably traveling between 7:00 and 9:00 AM. But the new schedule for that time period suddenly didn’t offer 11 vaporettos.  There were five.

Mr. Bergamo says that’s going to be fixed. I guess he suddenly imagined that there weren’t enough vaporettos between 7:00 and 9:00.

I don’t understand fixing problems you could have avoided creating.  Zwingle is going to have to formulate a Law that covers that.

This is what I think normal ought to look like.

This is what I think normal ought to look like.

 

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I appreciate that Venice (well, San Giorgio, in this case) is seductive and irresistible and beautiful and everything. But it wouldn't have been less beautiful the next day. It's been here for 1,500 years -- presumably it can wait for a family to have dinner and sleep.

I appreciate that Venice (well, San Giorgio, in this case) is seductive and irresistible and beautiful and everything. But it wouldn’t have been less beautiful the next day. The city has been here for 1,500 years — presumably it can wait for a family to have dinner and sleep.

After I began to think about it more clearly (that is to say, after I thought about it in the mountains, where we just went for four days, breathing air that was cool and dry enough to resuscitate my mental processes), I realized that I made a small miscalculation in the payday for the police.

I’m referring to the extra paydays they gave themselves by forging permits and whatever else they were doing to help eager immigrants make it through the bureaucracy.

Yes, each of the accused maintainers of public order did indeed receive 300 euros for finagling the permit, which seemed to my super-saturated brain to be pitifully small.

But now I realize what sharp readers have long since understood: It was 300 euros multiplied by God knows how many times they orbited the cash register each day.  Each week.  Each month.

Before long, it won’t be only God who knows what the total came to.  I presume a phalanx of lawyers and judges is already pounding its calculators.

Not me.  I don’t care anymore.  I’m on to other things.   I’m more interested now in the German couple who drove their camper  1,026 km/637 miles from Dresden to Cavallino-Treporti the other day.  Even though the trip probably took them ten hours, and most likely more, when they got there the first thing they wanted to do was to get on the motonave and go to Venice.  How romantic, how beautiful.  And how inconvenient that their ten-year-old daughter dug in her heels at yet another trek before the day could finally be over.

Nothing daunted, her parents locked her inside the camper.  Then they went off on their own, feeling fine about her being fine, except she wasn’t.

She got out of the camper, couldn’t get back in, became distraught, and was collected by a sympathetic passerby who took her to everyone’s favorite caretakers, the Carabinieri.  Who were waiting for her parents at midnight when they got off the boat from Venice.  To present them with the formal accusation of abandonment of a minor.

Mann kann nicht alles unter einen Hut bringen, as they say in the Vaterland.  You can’t put everything under one hat.  Neither can you have everything you want, including a child-free jaunt to Venice whenever you feel like it, no matter where you might be inclined to put it.

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Aug
07

Summer glimpses

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I don't know why he's looking so lugubrious. At least they get to lie on ice.

I don’t know why he has to look so hangdog. At least he gets to lie on ice.

Laboring under the phenomenal force of the combined heat and humidity which have been oppressing us (Italy as a whole, but I take all this personally), I have slowed my blogging efforts, as has probably already become evident.  We have had two successive heat waves — ours come from Algeria, if that tells you anything — and the names are indicative: “Charon” and “Styx.”  You know those animals that only move once every few months when they have to eat something?  That would be us.

Having now pled the “Smothering Heat Wave” defense, I will proceed.

On a normal day, I would now be catching you up on a lot of stuff that’s been going on in and around the old most-beautiful-city-in-the-world.  None of which resembles much of what you could call beautiful.  Anybody who hasn’t managed to get to the beach or the mountains appears to be taking it out on the rest of the world.

Anyway, since my energy has to be dedicated to maintaining my life-sustaining physical functions — nothing left over for such frivolity as scorn and umbrage — I will give only a smattering of headlines from today’s Gazzettino.  I will then try to cool us all off with some views that show that there are still plenty of glimpses around here that make me smile.

National news:

Kashetu "Cecile" Kyenge is not only Minister for Integration, but also a doctor.  I think everybody in the Northern League should be forced to go to her for their myopia.  And possibly cataract operations.

Kashetu “Cecile” Kyenge is not only Minister for Integration, but also a doctor specializing in ophthalmology. I think everybody in the Northern League should be forced to go to her for their myopia. And possibly cataract operations. Too bad she’s not a brain surgeon. (Photo: Provincia di Modena)

Cecile Kyenge, a Congolese-born doctor and only months-long Minister for Integration, and Italy’s first African-Italian minister, has been working out on a sort of political and human Parkour course composed of a seemingly endless series of racist insults from assorted members of the extreme right-wing Northern League.

The process goes like this: The politician says something repulsive (such as comparing her to an orangutan), other politicians indignantly reprimand him, he offers a sort of non-apology along the lines of “I regret if I said anything that might have been construed as offensive” (or “misunderstood,” or “taken out of context,” or “a private communication that was somehow made public,” etc.).  At least five Leaguers at various levels have contributed to the stringing of this uncharm-bracelet of abuse regarding her color or her religion.  Some have been expelled from the party, but more just keep coming up.  It’s like some Whack-a-Mole from Hades.

“Drug dealer dies in the barracks; “Violent asphyxia.” (Riva Ligure) A Tunisian suspect was being held since June 6 in a barracks, awaiting his turn in the legal process.  That’s no longer necessary, due to a “powerful pressure exerted on his thorax,” as the coroner put it.  The three Carabinieri who arrested him and had him in custody have now been arrested.

 “She tried to kill him, he applauds her.” (Castiglione delle Stiviere) That’s not quite what it sounds like, but it is somewhat thought-provoking.  Claudio del Monaco (son of the famous tenor Mario del Monaco) is married to Daniela Werner, a German former nursery-school teacher and aspiring soprano.  In December 2011 things went wrong and she tried to stab him to death.  She went to the psychiatric penitentiary and by applying herself to her singing, was able to perform a concert in public last July 2.  “I love my wife more than before and I want to forget the past,” said her husband.  Now she goes back to serve another three years. Maybe it’s neurotic, but in a strange way I find this admirable.  I suppose it’s because the “for better for worse” isn’t usually taken to this extreme, or illuminated by this bright a light.

“Few mosquitoes; layoffs at the insecticide company.”  (Trento)  Last spring was unusually cold and wet, and it went on far too long.  You’d think the resulting lack of mosquitoes would be a good thing, and for most of us, it is.  But not for the employees of the Zobele company, 70 of whom are going to be at home from September to November because sales are so slow.  It is, indeed, always something.

Venice news:

“Train Hell, few, late, and boiling.”  Riders on the national network in the Veneto — not just tourists, but loads of commuters — are once again taking the hit of the management’s inability to provide even minimal rail service.  To the many trains which have been canceled, and the super-many which are late, has been added the increasing percentage of trains in which passengers travel in torrid conditions because the air conditioning doesn’t work.  This story comes out every summer.  I mean, every summer.  Do the managers not have calendars? Or is nine months not long enough to make a plan and carry it out?  Women do it all the time.  Sorry, that just slipped out.

“Money for permits; Three policemen in handcuffs.”  Just over the lagoon in Jesolo, they discovered three of the Polizia di Stato’s finest taking cash for various special services, such as expediting applications for “permessi di soggiorno,” permits to stay in Italy for a specified length of time. What makes it worse — as if it had to be worse — is that a number of the immigrants they passed weren’t eligible for permits.  The charges: Conspiracy, corruption, counterfeiting documents, and illegal access to computer systems. What inspires the urge to smack one’s forehead isn’t that they took money, but that they took 1000 euros.  That is, about 300 euros per policeman.  I know.  If you’re going to risk blowing your career to smithereens, wouldn’t you make it just a little bit more?

I could go on, but my brain is too tired.  There will be more of these antics tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and on and on till we all disappear over the horizon.  Where they will continue, wherever we are.

A man setting out in the morning with a bag and a bouquet of hydrangeas.  It's going to be an excellent day for someone somewhere.

A man setting out in the morning with a bag and a bouquet of hydrangeas.  It looks good.

I was tempted to remove the empty detergent bottle, left out to await tomorrow recycling pickup, but realized that it's futile to try to engineer perfection. The fact that it says "Sole" (sun) gives it a special pass.

I was tempted to remove the empty detergent bottle, left out to await tomorrow’s recycling pickup, but I kind of like the fact that it says “Sole” (sun).

And while I'm on the subject of flowers, a woman waiting for the vaporetto was bearing this astonishing armload of peonies. I challenge anyone to tell me that there is anything more beautiful than this.

And while I’m on the subject of flowers, a woman waiting for the vaporetto was bearing this astonishing armload of peonies. I invite anyone to tell me that there is anything more beautiful than this.

This cat wouldn't deign to acknowledge a heat wave, but did graciously recognize the presence of a lower-order mammal nearby.

This cat wouldn’t deign to acknowledge a heat wave, but did graciously recognize the presence of a lower-order mammal nearby.

One of my all-time favorite repair jobs. What? There's something wrong with this?

One of my all-time favorite repair jobs. What? There’s something wrong with this?

Perhaps you were unaware that Venice was bombed 42 times by Austria in the First World War.  These plaques will help you remember.

Perhaps you were unaware that Venice was bombed 42 times by Austria in the First World War. These plaques will help you remember.

translation here

“Destroyed by an Austrian bomb February 27, 1918.  Reconstructed 1920.”

Sometimes our favorite late-afternoon cafe is overrun by women who are smoking, but sometimes it seems magically to turn into a sort of little kinder-haven.  Manuela, the owner, loves them all.

Sometimes our favorite late-afternoon cafe is overrun by women who smoke and babble, but sometimes it seems magically to turn into a sort of little kinder-haven. Manuela, the owner (seated), loves them all.

If there is even the tiniest supposition of a waft of air, a little swirl of breeze will always form right exactly there.

If there is any breeze at all in Venice, a little swirl of air will always form right exactly there and make a scuffed-up patch of water.  It makes me smile.

 

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May
02

Back to blogging

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IMG_0313 blog

I must go down to the blog again, to the lonely blog and the sky…..

More time has passed than I intended between my last post and this, though as usual many of the reasons had to do with putting down slave revolts in the technological departments of my life.  (Apologies to anyone offended by the word “slave.”)  My computer seized up.  The espresso machine has had a nervous breakdown.  Transferring my cell phone number from one company to another was an adventure within an adventure. My cloud backup service has gone into a semi-permanent stall.  My photos stopped uploading to Flickr. We’re still waiting for the boiler-repair company to come repair the repair of April 16.  The kitchen clock died.

But all this is no more preposterous or tiresome than what’s been going on all around the most-beautiful-booby-hatch in the world.  The past two weeks have seen the return of many well-worn themes.  If they were music, they would be familiar tunes — perhaps transposed into another key, or performed by different instruments, or converted from pieces usually played on a lone kazoo into swelling symphonic creations. But the same tunes, nevertheless.  They practically qualify as folk songs.

The ACTV is always prime territory for the absurd.

An annoying number of the turnstiles keep breaking at the docks on the Lido, causing commuters to miss their boats to work.  Sebastiano Costalonga, a city councilor who has made squaring away the ACTV part of his mission on earth, has pointed out that there are seven turnstiles at a typical London Underground stop, through which millions of people pass each day, while on the Lido there are 48 turnstiles, through which, on a really big day, perhaps 20,000 people will pass.

The ferryboats connecting the Lido to the rest of the world continue to fall apart and be taken out of service for repairs (one boat has been in the shop for nearly a year.  Are they plating it with rhodium?).

The personnel of the ticket booths went on strike for two days, April 30 and May 1, when storm surges of tourists were naturally expected to overwhelm the city, which meant that tickets were sold only by the individual on each vaporetto who ties up the boat at each stop.  You can imagine how many he/she managed to sell.  Or even tried to sell.

The company is 17 million euros in the red, but the ACTV drivers are the highest-paid in the entire Veneto region.  The ACTV is like the Energizer Bunny — it just keeps going.

IMG_0404 blog

IMG_0406 blog

On April 25, National Liberation Day, the city places laurel wreaths at important civic monuments. Here the wreath got as far as the plaque recalling the “Seven Martyrs,” but whoever was wrangling the wreath didn’t realize it was supposed to be right-side up.

Then there are the Illegal Vendors:  Whatever they’re selling, they’re everywhere, and there are more of them every day.

First (and still) were the West Africans, who sell counterfeit designer handbags from bedsheets spread on the pavement.  While this squad continues to proliferate, it has been joined by Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan vendors of gimcracks such as fluorescent darts which gleam when flung skyward and balls of gelatinous rubber which flatten when hurled to the ground, then re-form themselves before your eyes.

A sub-division of these ethnic entities has taken over the wandering sale of long-stemmed red roses, which used to be offered mainly from table to table in restaurants, but which are now available all day long in the Piazza San Marco, and environs. Illegal corn for the pigeons: After years of struggle, the city finally convinced the vendors with their little trolleys in the Piazza to switch from grain to gewgaws — this being the only effective way to limit, or even reduce, the plague of feathered rats which had passed the 100,000 mark and was still growing.  So now corn is being sold surreptitiously by the handful from the pockets of the red-rose vendors. Still, on April 25, a blitz by the police in the Piazza San Marco netted plenty of swag abandoned by the fleeing vendors, leading off with 1,408 roses. The day before that, the police got hold of 22 kilos (48 pounds) of illegal corn.

But these are temporary events. Stashes of illegal pigeon-corn have been found hidden in the garbage around San Marco.  Intermittent reports of these discoveries and confiscations, whether of goods or of people, imply progress, but they would be the intermittent reports of emptying the ocean with a teaspoon. Uncollected fines have reached some three million euros; one illegal rose seller was reported to have laughed and shown some employees of a shop near Rialto his collection of tickets — five so far, one of them for 5,000 euros.  “Stupid police,” he said, “I don’t have anything and I’m not paying anything.”

The complaints of exasperated merchants and citizens have finally caused the city to increase surveillance by putting officers on patrol, from police in plainclothes to carabinieri in full battle gear.  But only on the weekend!  Still, there was plenty to do: Twenty-eight illegal vendors spread across the Bridge of the Scalzi were nabbed with their bags and sunglasses and camera mini-tripods! (I know from personal examination that the bridge is 40 steps on each side, so that comes to one vendor every 3 steps. But somehow it must be hard to see, because citizen outcry was needed in order to focus the city fathers’ eyes on it.)

Sometimes there are violent altercations between vendors, based on subtleties of territory and rights thereto — though the concept of someone claiming the right to something illegal is kind of special. Many are often without papers, so they’re already in tricky territory where the concept of rights is concerned.  One recent nabbee, from Senegal, was discovered to already have been sentenced to five months in prison, by the court of Florence.

The city council dusted off a year-old  proposal to issue residence permits (permesso di soggiorno) with points, like a driver’s license. It didn’t pass, for various reasons, some of which verged on silly: “What are supposed to do,” asked one councilor — “expel the women caretakers because they get a fine for illegal parking?”  But another summed up what everybody has long since recognized: “Even the police can’t manage to do much if there isn’t collaboration from the local politicians. The message which has been sent out is that here there isn’t the kind of determination there might be in other cities because of a misunderstood sense of solidarity.”  (Translation: We feel sorry for the poor foreigners.)

Speaking of illegal vendors, the mendicants from Rome who dress up as Roman centurions and pose for pictures near the Colosseum attempted to set themselves up here. Some of you might wonder at the congruence of fake Roman soldiers with fake swords and breastplates in Venice, but the tourist-guide association didn’t need to wonder.  It managed to drive them decisively out of the city in a matter of a few days.  Instead of police and carabinieri, why don’t we just pay the tourist-guide association something extra to clear out the illegal vendors of everything?  Or better yet, send them roses?

As Roberto Gervaso noted in his satirical column in the Gazzettino not long ago, “Our generals manage to lose even the wars they’re not fighting.”

The only antidote I know to all this is to go places and do things which only give pleasure.  And there are plenty of them, in spite of all the weirdity. All you have to do is pull the plug on that part of your brain that concerns other human beings. Here are some views of what we’ve done or seen that have made the past few days more than usually pleasant.

Lino isn’t looking for clams, he’s looking for scallops (canestrelli, or Chlamys opercularis), and it was a great morning to do it.

And he did surprisingly well.  These little critters reached their apotheosis that evening, fried.

And he did surprisingly well. These little critters reached their apotheosis that evening, fried.

My activity of choice is often to sit in the boat and look over the side.  It's pretty busy down there, what with crabs and snails and so on.  These two were moving right along.

My activity of choice is often to sit in the boat and look over the side. It’s pretty busy down there, what with crabs and snails and so on. These two were moving right along.

This is the first time I've ever seen this creature in the fish market.  The label here calls it "pesce sciabola," or saberfish, but I see that it is known in English as scabbardfish (Lepidopus caudatus).  It was brilliantly silver and shiny, just the kind of saber I'd rather not confront.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen this creature in the fish market. The label here calls it “pesce sciabola,” or saberfish, but I see that it is known in English as scabbardfish (Lepidopus caudatus). It was brilliantly silver and shiny, just the kind of saber I’d rather not confront.
And despite all the rain in March, the wisteria has come out right on time.  Along with the laundry, and the trash.

And despite all the rain in March, the wisteria has come out right on time. Along with the laundry, and the trash.

Lilac is here so briefly that I took a mass of pictures.  Bonus: Lilac-shadow.

Lilac is here so briefly that I took a mass of pictures. Bonus: Lilac-shadow.

 

 

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