Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Home at last, with so much I want to paint. But I'll start by updating this blog, one city a day.

Ten random things I like about Venice
1. Hearing church bells strike the hours.
2. Getting very very very lost, but always able to find my way at last. Getting lost meaning finding things you otherwise would miss. I got lost, ended up near a church, turned left, and walked into a gallery filled with original Tiepolo drawings.
3. Drawing lions, because stone lions, especially winged ones, are everywhere.
4. Having an espresso in the campo San Barnabos, then riding the vaporetto down the Grand Canal to the Rialto, where a fish market has been in continuous business for 1000 years.
5. Eating luscious figs and jam croissant for breakfast.
6. Sitting on a bench in San Polo, and drawing the church façade (badly) for three happy hours.
7. Watching the crowds of tourists come through, wave after wave, like fish in shoals.
8. Having risi & bisi for lunch and then taking a three hour nap.
9. The city smells like an aquarium - not bad exactly, but pungent. The tourists smell worse - lots of hot people sweating perfume.
10. The masks Venice is famous for comes from a day when the city spent six months of the year in revelry under the cover of masks, doing things that they otherwise might not. I thought how the internet offers a similar veil of anonymity today.

Two stories

Nephew William took me for a boat ride. The boat he uses is a loaner and an old wallowing clunker, kind of like rowing our old black Volvo station wagon, if you can imagine. The oar looks like a Yule log. Gondolas are like Ferraris. If you collide or scrape one, the fine is 60,000 euros, so the objective is to never never touch a gondola. Drowning is preferable. William manned the oar, and his fiancée Elsa and I sat perched on the boat’s right side so it would go straight. William assures me it’s all physics. He moves the oar with a motion like stirring turtle soup, or folding in egg whites. We went down canals so narrow we could touch both sides. We pulled over when any other sort of boat came by. We yelled ’oy’ at all the canal intersections, kind of like golfers yell ‘fore’. Gondoliers had no problem maneuvering past us without touching, their dexterity is amazing.. We even went down a stretch of the Grand Canal which seems as big as the Mississippi when you see it from the vantage point of a small boat.

Walked into the famous San Giovanni & Paulo church. Noticed about halfway down the aisle that organ music was playing – ah, I thought, a concert, how lucky. A little farther on I saw a seated group in the pews, and a priest wiping the rim of a chalice. Oh, I thought, a mass. I slipped into a side chapel out of respect. More music, lots of incense and a violin solo of Ave Maria later and the congregation stood. That’s when they rolled the carnation-covered coffin down the aisle and I realized I had crashed a funeral. All the time other tourists in cargo shorts and backpacks and maps had wandered around. It must have been someone important to rate a funeral in the second grandest church in the city, but not powerful enough to stem the tide of tourism.

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