Archive for Te Deum

Jan
02

Uncrating 2014

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The essential components of New Year's Eve as seen on New Year's Morning: A bottle of spumante, some expendable element of a firecracker, and tourists.  I was surprised how many tourists were already homeward bound at 9:00 AM.  I realize they have trains and planes to catch, and a strong desire not to pay for another night in a hotel, and that they probably also have to get back to work the next day.  But after all the excitement of the night before, these little groups of people dragging their luggage struck me as

The essential components of New Year’s Eve: A bottle of spumante, some expendable element of a firecracker, and tourists. On New Year’s Morning the bottle is empty, the firecracker spent, and the tourists are heading for the exits. I was surprised to see how many tourists were already homeward bound at 9:00 AM. I realize they have trains and planes to catch, and a strong desire not to pay for another night in a hotel, and that they probably also have to get back to work the next day. But after all the excitement of the night before, these little clusters of departing people dragging their luggage seemed so unfriendly, like leaving a party without even telling the hostess what a nice time they had.

Oh look — there’s a big box containing a whole new year sitting out there on our doorstep. Batteries not included — we have to provide our own. Some assembly required — all the tools are around here somewhere.  User’s manual — the same as every year. The instructions are few but really easy to understand: Don’t do bad things.  Think about somebody else at least once a day, not just about your own blessed self all the blessed time.  Work more.  Work less. Smile.  Be thankful.

And in whatever time is left over, get the attic/garage/basement under control. And of course, start the famous diet.  If I never see another panettone in my life, it will be too soon.

I happen to hate New Year’s Eve, and always have.  It fills me with foreboding.  Celebrating the old year doesn’t usually strike me as appropriate, and celebrating a year about which we know nothing seems like just asking for trouble.  But as soon as midnight strikes, all the shiny possibilities of the new year, latest model, dazzle me, and I feel good.

The diet will be easy to start (all diets are), because at this point the holiday glut has transformed me, my brain, my world, into a shapeless mass of inert material.  So at least the next few weeks will be devoted to erting up as much of  the material as I can.

But let’s go back to New Year’s Eve for a moment.  The day before it, we celebrated our third or fourth New Year’s Plumbing Crisis.  The water system in our little hovel seems to want to be part of the festivities, like lentils and cotechino. We had been battling a blockage in the kitchen sink drain, using progressively heavier chemical artillery, till said artillery conquered the pipe leading into the wall, allowing the accumulated substances, including sulfuric acid, to spill onto the floor. We’re fine, the floor is sort of fine, but the blockage was found to be further inside the wall and was removed by Lino somehow and a new pipe installed.  Fun.

Most people who come to Venice for New Year’s Eve (about 70,000, if the reports are to be believed), have a simpler idea of entertainment than that: They think that celebrating it here is the most fun thing imaginable.  Piazza San Marco.  Fireworks.  Bottles of spumante.

We don’t go to the Piazza, as you might imagine, though we do open a bottle of prosecco at home when the clock strikes twelve.  And we do usually walk down do the edge of the Bacino of San Marco to watch the fireworks.  While it’s true that any firework is better than none, especially over a reflecting expanse of water where it can illuminate the facades of the most beautiful city in the world, etc., this year’s display was unusually dull.  I had the impression that the city had looked over the fireworks offered and picked what amounted to the classic tourist menu.  It was the visual equivalent of spaghetti with tomato sauce, breaded veal cutlet, French fries, and a half-liter bottle of water. The pleasure you derive from it isn’t in the eating, but in the having eaten. Main value: It didn’t cost us much.  Not very festive.

However, two essential elements of New Year’s Eve in Venice, and I daresay in Italy, don’t show up anywhere on the tourist’s program of the evening’s entertainment.

The first is mass at 6:30 PM in many parish churches, the end-of-year acknowledgement to the Almighty.  The liturgy is basically the same as every other day, but at the conclusion the “Te Deum” is recited, chanted, or sung. We don’t go to the basilica of San Marco anymore because the notion of going to that part of the city on New Year’s Eve, even at dusk, is unthinkable. They sing the Te Deum in Latin, which makes it even more solemn, but whatever the language, pausing to basically say “I’m still here, and You’re still God, so thank You” is one of the best things you can do.

The second is the President’s Address to the country at 8:30 PM, byTV, radio, or computer.  In England this takes the form of the Queen’s Christmas Message, and in the US we have the State of the Union address (on a wandering date unattached to any events significant to the world at large).  As you can imagine, ever since the world economy vaporized in 2008, this speech has not been especially cheerful, and has tended to be rivetted together with words such as “hope,” “trust,” “courage,” and “sacrifice.”

On New Year’s Day itself there is the annual concert from La Fenice, broadcast live on TV at 11:00 AM or so; it’s now also viewable via streaming on the RAI, the national TV company, website. You can also watch its big brother, the New Year’s concert from Vienna, in the afternoon.  Those should be sufficiently soothing, and give you the impression that you’re doing something when you’re actually not.  Unless you’re already out there, dragging your suitcase, heading home.

Wherever you are, I hope 2014 is your very best year ever.  I mean, why not?

It was a glorious, gleaming morning, but as you see, all it took was one boat passing somewhere nearby to disturb the water's celestial calm.  But while perfectly still water causes perfect reflections, I actually prefer the squiggly shapes, at least until they're so squiggly you can't tell what they are. It's kind of a metaphor.

It was a glorious, gleaming morning, but as you see, all it took was one boat passing somewhere nearby to disturb the water’s celestial calm. But while perfectly still water causes perfect reflections, I actually prefer the squiggly shapes, at least until they’re so squiggly you can’t tell what they are. It’s kind of a metaphor.

 

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Dec
31

Detritus of 2012

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This would be an appropriate expression for anybody, whether looking forward or looking back. But maybe things will get better.

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.

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