Archive for 'Venice'
NOTE: This blog is written in book form and best read from the first entry backward to the current date. Please continue to check in for upcoming chapters written in Italy and Croatia. I will post the remaining writing and photos over the next 2-3 weeks. Special Thanks to Joni Kabana for the photo on the top right corner of the blog! Kimberli - Portland, OR
Part 12 – Venice, Italy
He presses the length of his thigh tight against my shoulder and runs his fingertips down my bare arm as I sit. The checkered tablecloth is like all the others on the canal front restaurant. Little electric lanterns hang on slack lines between umbrellas poles. The night air still holds the heat of the day. Surely, this waiter did not just do that, I think. Do I wear a sign on my forehead saying, “Newly Divorced?” He smiles as I crank my head ninety degrees to order a half litter of prosecco for Carmen and I. He winks when he brings back the whole bottle. His gold rings flash from his fingers. Evidently we know one another better now as he practically slides into my lap. It occurs to me that this might work well as I’m at least a foot taller then he. Carmen and I exchange soundless laughter. He pops the cork and I flinch. “This is to start out with,” he says.
At the end of our expensive yet average meal, which includes an equally expensive bottle of processo and tip, we rise from the table intending to leave. The waiter rushes over and kisses my check. “Do you stay here tonight?” he asks in a sultry accent. Where else would I go, it’s an island? “Yes, goodnight,” I say and walk away toward the Rialto bridge, the lanterns shimmering off the canal water. I wonder how many times a night he practices this tourist routine. I wonder if he has a wife at home. I wonder if that would have occurred to me at an earlier point in my life. I wonder when I’ll be able to flirt again without being jaded. I remind myself that everyone says it takes time. How much, how long, how many? I wonder. A perfectly good Italian lover – squandered. Or perhaps I’m just getting better at spotting the creeps. I start humming a Lyle Lovett song as we walk into the night. “Look around and you will see. This world is full of creeps like me. You look surprised, you shouldn’t be. This world is full of creeps like me. I wear grandmother’s ring. On my finger, on my finger. She had a tooth of gold.”
Are you Gay or European?
It’s hard to say, especially in Italy where, unlike tonight, I can’t always read the signs. Carmen sings me a song by Legally Blonde – “Gay or European?” In a land where men kiss one another on the cheek in greeting, carry man-bags over their shoulders and wear short Capri pants, I have often wondered. Men buy nice shoes, wear pink shirts, sport stylish haircuts, hold cigarettes between index and middle finger not thumb, and dance in tight tops with arms flung wide. Thoroughly confusing. When men talk to one another here they stand close and often reach across and touch to literally make a connection and communicate. It’s not like in America, where men generally keep a certain amount of personal space, a Zone, around themselves and then punch one other to emphasize a point. American men hug if they are close friends, relatives or Democrats, but they still maintain their Zone. Italian men stand within inches of one another even when there’s no one else crowding them together. There’s another level of connection that would not be acceptable in America except in a gay bar. Italians are wildly expressive compared to Americans. I wonder if this makes the men more intimate partners. If Italian men can use touch as a way to connect with other men, then does that make them more sensitive with women? Do Italian women have the same complaints I often hear from American women, that men can’t just hold them without it leading to sex? Probably.
I’ve made several friends in Trieste and I asked one of them about this recently. “No idea,” he says. This is a very common answer here. “Okay, how do I know if a man is gay?” I think this friend is gay, but then again, I’m not sure. He tells me Trieste is a very ‘friendly’ city. I point out examples. “What if he kisses me on the dance floor.” “Gay,” he says without hesitation. I haven’t been dancing like I was last week in years. The 2AM kind of dancing where the music is too loud and you don’t care who’s watching. “What if he kisses me and then when I tear up because it’s my first post-marriage kiss he tells me he’s also divorced and understands completely.” “Still gay,” he affirms. “Really?” “I mean, really kisses me and wants to see me when I come back from Venice next week.” “Gay, gay, gay.” Then he adds, “We’re all gay.” I wonder if this is just wishful thinking on his part. I’m more confused than ever before, but looking forward to returning from Venice.
It’s now midnight and our last night in Venice. Carmen and I are among the few customers left at our second little outdoor café. I use the Italian words I’ve picked up over the past few weeks with my best fake accent to order sticky-sweet limoncello. It appears before us in small triangular glasses. It’s sugar, vodka and lemon rind, thick as maple syrup. Served ice cold and tart, it’s like drinking a summer night itself. I don’t want Carmen to leave for London tomorrow.
Part 11- Venice, Italy
In the harsh light of midday, the Venetian canal water is the non-color of my interior designer sister’s bedroom. It’s a brown-gray-green if you have to name it, but truly, it’s a non-color. The kind that sets off what’s around it like the red, green and white of the Italian flag or crimson-winged lion flag of Venice. Both flap in the wind as I pass through the canal. My sister likes this color. I prefer not to eat anything that comes from it. No fresh fish for me here. Catch of the day? No thanks. The canals form the dark passages I could paint and are the roads that connect the towns’ walking streets. No cars, only boats and water and whatever the boats leave behind in the water. Imagine hauling everything you need or no longer need, in and out of your city by boat. The ornate black gondolas with their customary blue and white striped sailor shirts and top hats with ribbons do none of this real work. They sing to splurging tourists and remind me of the kindergarten convicts on the bus in Trieste. Perhaps this is really what they were in training for. I only mistook them for baby felons; they were really miniature gondola drivers.
Venice forces me to think more about photography and the lengths I would go to for a good photo. In a place so beautiful, yet so insanely crowded, it’s actually quite difficult to get a great picture. Try as I might, I just can’t get myself out of bed at 5:30AM before everyone else. I want to erase the groups of Germans and Swedes that clutter my shots. I selfishly want to be the only tourist here. I don’t want to be the one who clutters other photographers’ shots. I know they are here because I see them with their long lenses and impatient toe tapping. They’re waiting for me to move out of their photos as I wait for them to move out of mine.
I’ve been here before and always imagined romantic adventures. I’ve pictured gondola rides wrapped in the arms of some handsome Italian. He in his dazzling white linen shirt and brown skin. Me in my spray-on fake tan and skinny jeans that in reality don’t fit. Now my fantasy involves mowing down the throngs of loud tourist with a rapid-fire machine gun. Perhaps that sounds harsh. A simple BB gun carelessly pumped in the general direction of the crowd would surely mean someone would lose an eye in the fun and games. The tourists would scurry off like the sugar ants and cyclists in Asolo, and I would have lovely uncluttered photos. I wonder if I should worry about the underlying violence I seem to harbor as of late. The way I use my butter knife, with it’s short dull edge, to painfully cut in half a six-inch salami sausage. The way I smashed a bottle of South African wine after reading the label without even tasting it. Yes, perhaps I should worry. But I have no therapist in Europe and will just have to mind my primal instincts the best I can. For today, the tourists, and others, are safe. This must be the beginning of my angry stage.
Carmen and I try to lose ourselves in the narrow side streets and alleyways where, on occasion, we enjoy the luxury of being the only ones around. It’s hot, the kind of hot you might expect in Venice during the summer. The kind where you wilt like a flower and absolutely must stop for gelato – twice – in one afternoon. I am gleeful to discover that fruit gelato, which might otherwise be called sorbet, but is somehow much smoother and creamier, does not have dairy. I eat cantaloupe and strawberry, one scoop of each, in a cup. My tiny spoon digs away at the melting mound with the enthusiasm of the energizer bunny. I narrowly escape a brain-freeze. Relief, we can walk at least another ten feet now until we can find a stand-up espresso.
We meet two women who are here on business for two weeks. They tell us of each and every gallery they’ve seen. So much energy for this heat. They have interesting careers that apparently take them to fabulous places and make them money. I have no idea what’s next in my own career. So many huge issues to face. COBRA or health insurance for the self-employed with a pre-existing condition. Now there’s an oxymoron. A new mortgage payment, studio overhead, enough concentration to market to new commercial clients … I’ve been avoiding thinking of this topic and want to delay it further.
They tell us of a month-long art show that is all the rage. “Iceland,” as the show is called is only a short walk from the church steps where we rested with the women-of-perfect-lives. We enter a building that sits facing the Grand Canal. The water laps in through the barred doors and threatens the windows. This is prime real estate in Venice. Just be aware of the floods that cover the ground floor of the city 100 times per year. The artist sits with his paintbrushes and pallet at the back of the room. The model sits in his underwear on an old tattered couch and smokes. Both of them are writing in journals and seem to be in their own worlds. There are empty beer bottles and blank canvasses scattered around the huge space. There are several painted canvasses depicting the nearly naked model smoking what seems to be the same cigarette in various positions. Sometime he drinks a beer or plays a guitar. The artist will do one painting per day all month while the model apparently gets lung cancer and perpetually drunk.
Perhaps this is my next career.