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.