Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Perfect Venetian Day

When the day includes a marriage between two young, beautiful Venetians, the world is all right. Today, I had the great honor to attend a Venetian marriage ceremony at 12:30pm. I was weeping by the end.

Everyone agrees these two Venetians should be together. They are both tango instructors (among other things), and when you see them dance together... it is obvious they were made for one another.

I love to go to weddings in Venice because all I have to do is walk downstairs, hop onto the traghetto (which is like a mass-transit gondola, holding up to 12 people) zip across the canal, and I am there within five minutes. The marriage took place inside the 16th-century building you see there up above, Palazzo Cavalli, where all the civil weddings take place in Venice. Palazzo Cavalli is a wonderful spot to get married, with a Renaissance-style interior. It's on the Grand Canal, as you can see, and the wedding is orchestrated inside the Sala del Consiglio.

The ceremony was performed by a friend of the young couple. He started his comments by saying what a deeply emotional moment it was for him to be able to join these two people in marriage, and what an honor and privilege it was. I thought: how fantastic is that! Thanking the wedding couple for the privilege and the honor of performing the marriage ceremony!

After the wedding, I walked outside and saw about 20 or 30 people sitting on the platforms for the aqua alta (high water), eating sandwiches. It was so jarring to come out of a wedding and see what seemed to be the worst kind of tourists. I said, "Excuse me! You are bringing sandwiches into Venice! This kind of behavior is what is hurting Venice! What are you adding? What are you contributing? You are sitting there eating sandwiches brought from the outside. You come for the day, make a mess, and then you leave."

I walked away, then turned and looked back. They were laughing. This made me even more angry. I returned to the group. I said, "It is not a joke! If you continue with this behavior, there will be no Venice for you to visit." They continued to laugh. One man came up to me and said, "We are Venetians."

I was stunned. I said, "Oh, I am so sorry. Please forgive me. I just came from a Venetian wedding. I am American; I live in this area, and the tourists have made me insane." The man said, "It's okay." He took me in his arms, and started to waltz with me. He made me laugh. He said, "Stai tranquilla, stai tranquilla." (Be calm, be tranquil.) Now I was smiling. I said again, "I am so sorry." I bowed to the group, and then I left.

I went over to see my friend Sergio Boldrin, who is a Venetian mask maker, and one of my very best friends on the planet. I told him the story. He thought for a moment, and then said, "We used to always eat those sandwiches. You make them at home. They are called tartine, and they look like this." He drew a circle. I looked at the circle. I said, "Yes. Some were eating square sandwiches, but some were eating also round ones." I was searching for the great difference, but then it dawned on me that Venetians do not normally prepare sandwiches at home and eat them outside sitting on the aqua alta platforms. What is perfectly normal everyday sandwich behavior in America and the UK, for example, is completely strange in Venice. Sergio continued, "Sometimes we put inside tuna, or sometimes meat, whatever." Sergio was describing a perfectly ordinary sandwich, but an ordinary sandwich is not part of Venetian culture. Of course you can eat a form of a "sandwich" at a bar, but a typical, ordinary sandwich... to sit outside and munch on one -- this is why I was so shocked that they were Venetians. I have never seen a group of Venetians behave like that before. (I have tried to introduce peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but after ten years, they have not gone over so well.)

Then I went to pay for some wine I had bought a few days ago, but had forgotten my wallet. The man who works inside the shop teaches me Venetian dialect and witty sayings. Here is one of the best:

Tre volte buona,
sei una mona.

Which translates literally to: Three times good, you are a vagina.

I learned that phrase after I complained to him that I was always helping other people, and always getting screwed. Venetians use the word "mona" or "vagina" to mean many things, and one of them is stupid, or foolish. Just substitute the English word "pussy," and you will come close. Inside the shop was an ancient Venetian woman who made me laugh. She must have been about 85 years old, and we were chatting about the prowess of the Venetian male organ.

Then I went to buy some rolling tobacco. My usual tobacco shop was out of my blend, so I went to the next shop. Inside was a very large Venetian man who bought me some magazines because they were free with his newspaper, and he didn't want them. We chatted, and I found out he was retired, but he used to be a photographer. I asked, "Do you know La Gondola Circolo Fotographico?" He said, "Buoh!" Which means, "Of-course-I-do-are-you-kidding?" I said, "Well, I was just with them out there on Giudecca last night!" I will write more about this group in the future, but for all you photographers, here is their website to give you a start:

Later in the afternoon, I took the vaporetto over to Sacco Fissola, where the wedding reception was being held. I chatted with one of the waiters downstairs before I left. He said, "Tell them marriage is hard work! They must tango every single day for the rest of their lives. They are happy today; it is their wedding day, but in two years that will be gone. Ten years from now, they must still do the tango!"

On the boat, a big foreign man was disciplining his little daughter, who was about 2 1/2. He sliced the air sharply, and struck her repeatedly on her hands with fingertips like knives. She burst into tears. You could feel how much it must have hurt. Everyone watched, and no one said a word. I wanted to say something... finally, an elderly Venetian woman said, "You must not hurt your child like that." The big foreigner said, "Oh, it's nothing." The old Venetian woman insisted: "It is wrong. She will not learn anything that way." On my way out, I decided to back her up. I said, "She is correct." The man stood there, a little dazed, but maybe next time he will think before he hurts his little daughter. Elderly Venetian woman are like seers, and command the utmost respect. And, to me, Venetian children are the most well-behaved children I have ever met. (It made me miss my grandmother! A good grandmother is a precious jewel! There is nothing better than having some elderly Venetian women on your side!)

So, today was a perfect blend of tourists with Venetians. The weather warmed up. The sun came out. Now there is a new Venetian couple, and, hopefully, they will make more Venetian babies, and the world will carry on!

Ciao from Venice,

1 comment:

  1. A few years ago, I discovered La Gondola Circolo Fotographico on the internet and I loved their photographs--they are such artists with a long and glorious history. I contacted them and they welcomed me at one of their meeting to show my photos (imagine, showing Venetians photos of my visions of their beautiful city). When the day got close, I was petrified. but they were very kind (especially with my limited Italian)and constructive and I try to apply some of their advice whenever I come back to Venice and take photos. On my recent trip, I visited them again and always take away a piece of constructive advice--they are wonderful artists. Marisa