Archive for clams
Next Sunday Venetians will go to the polls to vote in a runoff election for the new mayor. Yes, a year has passed since the Good Ship Venice ran aground and was put under a temporary administrator who managed to get her off the rocks and pump the bilge, but who had no power to plot the new course.
Whichever of the two candidates wins will then proceed to dive — a graceful swan? armstand back 3 somersault 2 1/2 twist tuck? — into a mar di lacrime, or “sea of tears,” as they put it here. To continue the liquidy metaphor, our brains have been soaked in campaign promises, which, now that I think of it, would be a good way to learn some basic Italian. The phrases are so simple, and so repetitive.
Washing one’s brain has one good thing about it — it might remove the mental stains splattered by the politicians in the course of what they consider a typical day. An example: Giancarlo Galan, former governor of the Veneto Region, has spent much of the past year on house arrest for taking bribes and other forms of corruption, jail time served in his luxurious villa on the mainland. Does he feel remorse? Certainly he would feel it if he thought he’d done anything wrong. But as he doesn’t, he’s ready to return to Parliament as soon as his stint is finished. Yes: Convicted felons get to go back to work for the government.
My only defense is to run away. I flee to the lagoon and I make no apology. Technically, the season is still spring, but the sun wants to get going on summer right away and has made an excellent start. Temperatures in the low nineties (F) or low thirties (C). Hot, by any scale. Breeze. No clouds. Dream weather for going to the beach or — my personal favorite, as everyone knows — drying laundry.
It’s also ideal weather for fleeing. Here are some things I’ve noticed over the past week or so.
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.
I’ve never been keen on New Year’s, nor have I ever felt an urge to celebrate it. My instinct is to hide under the bed until after midnight. But that’s just me.
I can’t do one of those end-of-year reviews, it would wear me out. Living it once was enough. But bits of detritus are still flying off the stern of the Good Ship World as we speed toward the next 12 months, at least as seen from over here. Before they sink (and may it be soon), here are a few:
Mrs. Ex-Berlusconi’s alimony. Veronica Lario is certainly ending the year on a high note. It’s been determined that she will get 36 million euros ($48,000,000) a year in alimony. Or $4 million a month. Berlusconi is trying desperately to get himself re-elected premier of Italy, but I think a settlement of these dimensions makes it hard to take him seriously as a person who has the well-being of his country in his hands. But I think she would make a fantastic prime minister! Secretary of the Treasury! Chief Comptroller! If she ever wants to run for anything, she’s got my vote.
Don Piero Corsi and his opinions on “femminicidio.” The parish priest of the church of San Terenzo in Lerici published a broadside last week concerning the endless series of murders of women in Italy, awkwardly termed “femminicidio.” First of all, I learned that more women meet a violent death in Italy than in any other European country. But he went at the subject from another angle, urging women to take a good long look at themselves to see how far they might be “provoking” such a crime.
I’m not going to translate it for you, but you can imagine the mushroom cloud of outrage that’s bloomed from all sides. He hasn’t published a retraction, but the bishop has put him on what might be termed “administrative leave.” (Spiritual retreat? Re-education camp?). I was following all this with some form of calm until a perfervid feminist wrote a letter to the Gazzettino objecting to the ugliness of the word “femminicidio.” Let me go on record as saying that compared to the act it represents, the word is as the “Hallelujah Chorus” sung by seraphim. Let’s not waste time niggling about terminology — at least he got people talking about something that obviously needs to be talked about.
Divorced fathers sleeping in cars. This isn’t a funny line, it’s another view of the economic crisis as lived over here in the so-called Belpaese where, according to a cliche’ I sometimes hear, “people really know how to live.” There is a disturbing number of men in Padua whose alimony payments have eviscerated their budgets (is one of them Silvio Berlusconi?). By the time they’ve paid the monthly support, they have almost nothing left over. So they are sleeping in their cars under an overpass, banded together for protection. They wash at work and eat at the Mission with the destitute immigrants and alcoholic street people. I feel sorry for everyone, but these fathers have punched a hole in my heart.
Most dangerous items on New Year’s Eve: Homemade fireworks and clams. Tons of bivalves from Tunisia were checked at the port of Salerno and found to be harboring so many contaminants that, to protect the environment as well as people, the clams are being incinerated. The importer has to pay the incineration fee: 10,000 euros. And a fine. Nice. But there are undoubtely plenty of other clams out there waiting for their big moment. Eat beans. Make your own explosives.
Last non-news of 2012 and probably first non-news of 2013: The Calatrava Bridge still has problems. The ACTV continues its extraordinary managerial contortions. I can’t remember the rest, but the list is long.
Now to something beautiful. I do love one thing about New Year’s Eve here, and that is going to the last mass of the year at San Marco, and hearing them chant the Te Deum in Latin — the only time in the year that this occurs. I love it, not because I think it’s a spectacle, but because in spite of everything, we’re supposed to thank God for all His blessings, even the ones we don’t know about, and especially the ones we thought weren’t. The Te Deum does all that.
See you on the other side.
While the rest of you were lolling amid the wreckage of flightless birds and tangled NFL teams last Thursday, we went for the mollusks. I suppose we could have gone fishing, but considering that the tide was going to be unusually low at a convenient time of day, plus the fact that a few calm, cool, golden days of St. Martin’s Summer had briefly wandered back to the lagoon, probably by mistake, it seemed to fly in the face of Providence not to take a boat and go clamming.
I refer to “we,” in the sense that an anesthetist might refer to “our” brain operation. Lino does the hunting and gathering of the submerged morsels, and I help him by rowing there and back and keeping quiet. I have dug clams in my life, so I know it’s possible. I also know that I do not have the (A) knack (B) patience (C) desire (D) interest in this endeavor. Perhaps if I were to actually find a clam occasionally, all of the above would increase, even if only a little.
He jams his finger into the sediment where there are NO SIGNS of bivalve habitation, and comes up with one after another. I jam my finger into the sediment where there are NUMEROUS signs, and come up with nothing or — worse — a little castanet full of mud where the clam used to be. This is the clam’s way of wreaking revenge, even though he wasn’t eaten by us but by some passing marine creature such as a sea snail. But if you can be fooled by the shut clamshell, you will happily claim it and throw it into the skillet with the others, where it will duly open up and distribute sandy mud all over its companions. Not a lot of sand. Just enough. So not wishing to risk being the agent of this unpleasant eventuality, I tend to sit in the boat and watch and breathe and listen. And take pictures, or read. Sometimes I even think, if there’s any time left over.
Rowing out in the lagoon when the weather is chilly (or cold, or very cold), but calm and sunny, is almost the best thing ever. The traffic has been slashed to the bone, the light is delicate yet rich, with shifting nuances that overlap in alluring combinations that set themselves on fire in celestial sunsets.
Watching the tide drop is also a beautiful and mysterious thing. Of course you can’t see it drop any more than you can see a leaf changing color, but you can notice it in phases and it’s a pleasant reminder of things that are bigger and even more important than you — I mean me.
Reverence for truth compels me to add, though, that the soundtrack isn’t nearly as seductive as the scene itself. I said there was less traffic — I didn’t say there was no traffic, because since the advent of the motor (or at least since the advent of me), I can tell you that there is no day or night, no season or location, in which you will find silence in the lagoon. There is always — I need to repeat that — always the sound of a motor coming from somewhere.
Trying to imagine the lagoon without the sound of motors — and believe me, I do try to imagine it, on a regular basis — is like trying to imagine the Garden of Eden, or being Angelina Jolie, or even inventing some stupid little app that makes you five million dollars in six months. That is, your brain can’t do it. Because no matter how divine may be the velvety midnight sky, how nacreous the dawn, how resplendent the vault of heaven seared by the flaming rays of sunset, there will always be motor noise. Small, but steady and grinding, like a dentist’s drill, or deep and ponderous, or silly and busy and self-important. It’s the aural equivalent of the vandalage inflicted by The Society for Putting Broken Bedsteads into Ponds identified by Flanders and Swann. Only not so funny.
Back to clams. Lino was happy, I was happy, the clams — well, I try not to think about their mood. They were put in the lagoon to be consumed, not to write bi-lingual dictionaries or form a sacred harp choir. Apologies to any Catholic vegetarian readers, but I have to say that clams make a beautiful death. And broth.