Dateline April 2008—
(This was written before we got President Barack Obama.)
It’s a lazy, cloudy, rainy Tuesday here in Venice. A black skiff painted with the faces of Disney’s Seven Dwarves just sped along the Rio San Barnaba canal below our apartment windows. It sets a person wondering—what is that about? J. left in search of a bungee cord so we can affix our Gimi shopping trolley (purchased at the Billa supermercato on the Zattere, on sale, cheap!) to the front or back of one of our suitcases and thus be ensured admittance onto the vaporetto when we head to Piazzale Roma and the world of cars on Saturday morning. You’re only allowed one piece of luggage apiece, backpacks not included. I stayed behind to read a few more cantos of the Divine Comedy, tidy the kitchen, and set the table for lunch as I listen to WQXR FM from New York City play Vivaldi, one of Venice’s native sons, and a Telemann viola concerto after the announcer tells me that it’s 52 degrees in Central Park and the Cleveland Indians lost to the New York Yankees last night.
In many ways, this life here has begun to seem not much different from the one I lead back in Portland, Oregon. Wasn’t that the desired purpose when we first planned this adventure? To see what it would be like to live in this gorgeous spot on the earth for a bit, to immerse ourselves in the daily and sample just a bit beyond the view a tourist would generally get?
And just like my life in the United States, there are quiet days, lazy days, do-nothing, down days, hole-up-at-home and veg out days. I feel I’m fighting the undertow of the American on-the-go no-matter-what culture when I wake up and decide I’d rather sit than venture out into the streets with my umbrella and the inevitable slow-strolling, photo-taking crowds. Because this scene is definitely anti- that constant be somewhere, do something, achieve, achieve, achieve urgency that seems to have infected the United States—well, at least the more prosperous and educated parts—like a virus. Slow continues to be my theme for this trip, I guess. Actually my life in Portland is slow, too, now that I think about it. I’m sure someone has already written a book about the subject. Seems everything these days gets captured, studied, summarized, turned into a trend or a commodity and sold somehow to some marketplace. It is enough to make one want to join the prisoners making their way to their cells across the Bridge of Sighs and sigh.
The rain is largely over in New York, I just learned, and the announcer got “schpritzed” coming into work but it wasn’t unpleasant. Spritz is the orange aperitif you see the multitudes sipping in late afternoon, early evening at any number of Venice outdoor cafes; Prosecco, Aperol, a wedge of orange, and a green olive on a skewer are the classic ingredients. Back to Dante. Soon the bells will be ringing noon.
Photo at the top of this post is an undated painting by Félix-François-Georges-Philibert Ziem.