Sunday, January 31, 2010

Giorno della memoria 2010 - Remembrance Day

(Venice, Italy) Massimo Cacciari was the mayor when I first arrived in Venice back in 1998. In fact, I met him shortly after my arrival, although I didn't know who he was. I had been invited to the Palazzo Ducale for a ceremony for Il Gonfalone di San Marco, that blue book you see below, and he was one of the speakers. At that time, I didn't understand a word of Italian, but I could tell by his energy that Cacciari was a great speaker.

Afterwards, I went up to Cacciari and asked if he knew Franco Filippi, the publisher of the book, to whom I was supposed to introduce myself. He sort of smiled and said that Filippi had been there, but appeared to have left. I didn't realize I had just spoken to the Mayor of Venice!

Cacciari became the mayor again five years ago; in two months he will finish his second term, so it is sort of like Daddy is leaving. I don't always agree with his policies, but I do respect his heart, especially after having been immersed in the goings-on around this town. (Cacciari is a philosopher; you can see him around the city; he rides the vaporetto just like everyone else.) Venice is so small, and there is so much power concentrated in a tiny area, it is a wonder that he can still manage to weave a kind of magic fabric over the Venetians to try to keep them safe.

This morning, Massimo Cacciari, together with Vittorio Levis, president of the Jewish Community of Venice, spoke about the Holocaust, and why it was important to remember it. Cacciari spoke very strongly, and said several things that struck me -- made me weep, to be honest. He said that what we must accept and understand is that the Holocaust was a rational design. That it was a rational, thought-out, political project, years in the planning. That the complicity of France, Italy and England allowed it to happen. He said that the concept of "Ama il prossimo tuo" or "Love Thy Neighbor" had been taken and completely inverted. 

The Holocaust can seem far away, as part of another era, another century, long, long ago, especially to those who were not born. In reality, there are many people who are still alive who can remember the Holocaust because it happened only 70 years ago! Think: just a short time ago, the Nazis were exterminating an entire segment of the population right in front of everyone's eyes and nobody did anything to stop it! 

After the speeches, we watched a performance of Salonicco43. It was the second time I had seen this piece performed. I wrote about it before near the end of A Sea of Angels back on December 8, 2008. 

Click to read it:

Thessaloniki, also called the ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans’ or the “mother of Israel, counted a population of 100,000 in 1939, 50,000 Jews, many of Italian origin and nationality, present in all the different social classes and perfectly integrated with the Greek population. Historian Albertos Nar remembers it as “the largest and most prosperous Sephardite Jewish community in Europe, and one of the most important in the world”. Of the 32 synagogues in the city, fourteen of which were built by people from Sicily, Calabria, Puglia, all that remains are faded old photographs…

During the terrible months of 1943, the Italian consul in Thessaloniki was Guelfo Zamboni, a Fascist functionary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who, in the face of the inhumanity of the Holocaust, began a personal, heroic battle to try and save as many lives as possible by providing forged Italian identity cards that would allow their possessors to reach Athens and save their lives.

His tenaciousness, his courage, his perseverance saved more than 500 Jews from Nazi barbarity, men, women, children who became the protagonists of our cultural project, and who transformed our Zamboni into a new Italian Schindler. In 1992 he was given the title of “righteous among the nations”.

Cold, hard statistics from Wikipedia:

Jewish Population of Thessaloniki[23]
Year Total Population Jewish Population Jewish Percentage Source
1842 70,000 36,000 51% Jakob Philipp Fallmerayer
1870 90,000 50,000 56% Greek schoolbook (G.K. Moraitopoulos, 1882)
1882/84 85,000 48,000 56% Ottoman government census
1902 126,000 62,000 49% Ottoman government census
1913 157,889 61,439 39% Greek government census
1917 271,157 52,000 19% J. Nehama, Histoire des Israélites de Salonique, t. VI-VII, Thessalonique 1978, p. 765 (via Greek Wikipedia): the population was inflated because of refugees from the First World War

2000 363,987[22] 1,000 0.27% (post-Holocaust)

I apologize for the brevity of this blog, but unfortunately the Querini Stampali has changed its rules about Internet access, and have installed a two-hour limit.

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cat Bauer FIRED as Cinderella in Venice British Panto 2010! Panto Venezia

(Venice, Italy) That image you see is of me performing the part of Fairy Bow Bells in the Pantalon Players British Panto, Dick Whittington, back in January, 2008.

In fact, I wrote a blog about the peculiar tradition called "British Pantomime Theatre" exactly a year ago to this day, last January 10, 2009.

Click to read that blog: British Pantomime in Venice

Okay. Did you click over to read what I wrote about British Panto? You did? Good. Then you will know a bit about this tradition, where men dress up as women, and women dress up as men, and that I played the title role of Aladdin in the very first production, way back in 2002, in the company that eventually began calling themselves The Pantalon Players.

In 2007, I was the poor but kind-hearted woodcutter, Robin Goodsort in Mother Goose. In that production, the Evil Count, Sir Jasper Grasper, was played by John-Henry Bowden, the former Priest-in-Charge of the St. George’s Venice Chaplaincy from 2004 to 2009 -- and, yes -- the very person who assaulted me before the Sunday service at St. George's Anglican Church this past July 19, 2009! (I found that photo of John-Henry Bowden on the British Consul's page:


Almost immediately after writing that blog, I received two bizarre emails. One email I will discuss in the future (May 29, 2011 - see below). The other was from Laurie Graham, the director and writer of Cinderella, the Pantalon Players' 2010 production in which I was to play the title role. The email basically said that I was fired.

Subject: pantomime
> Date: Sunday, 26 July, 2009, 9:10 AM

> Dear Cat

> I just read your latest blog.
> Pantomime is an ensemble piece and good relations within
> the company are paramount, so when I cast you as Cinderella for 2010 I
> did so with some reservations. There were several occasions during the
> 2008 production when you were at best difficult and at worst abusive.
> Nevertheless I wished to keep you in the company and trusted your
> behaviour would have improved.
> Now, having so publicly vilified John-Henry, you have crossed a line
> I cannot ignore. The role of Cinderella will now be filled by an
> understudy.
> I wish you the very best through your present troubles.


I received that email during my lowest point when Cleopatra, my cat, and I were literally starving and out on the street as the locks had been changed on the front door of my apartment building and at St. George's Anglican Church where I had been staying. (That image is not me, but it gives you the idea of how Cleo and I looked when we slept in Campo San Vio the night that John-Henry Bowden refused to open St. George's Church -- we literally "slept" on the ground. Or, to be more accurate, I slept on the ground while Cleo crawled into a long cement tube -- I had to plead with her for about an hour to come out). On the night I read the email, Cleo and I were sleeping in a youth hostel. Access to the internet was difficult if not impossible, my cell phone had been blocked, and no one could call me from the United States. I wrote that blog about John-Henry Bowden because I had no other method of communicating with the outside world and I was terrified.

To me, normal behavior on the part of a normal human being would be to email and ask if I was okay, and was there anything she could do to help -- not to do what Laurie Graham did and send me a note firing me as Cinderella, accusing me of alleged "difficult" and "abusive" behavior! What sense does that make?  What about the behavior of an Anglican Priest-in-Charge who smashes a woman in a door right before church service, hollering "you must have the devil inside" at the top of his lungs? In fact, at the time I received the email, I was so preoccupied with surviving that I filed it in the basement of my mind. Looking back, I remember exactly where I was when I read it -- at the youth hostel, using the computer of one of the students to quickly scan my email. Reading it now, to me, it seems like part of a strategy -- a preemptive strike, accusing me of the very behavior that John-Henry Bowden was guilty of. Making unsubstantiated accusations in an email, as Laurie Graham did, is nothing concrete. On the other hand, I have witnesses,  medical reports from the hospital due to the bruises he left, and a police report. (I have since been told by the wife of a British diplomat that they feel they do not have to compensate me for anything.)

Prior to that email, the last time I had seen Laurie was at a luncheon on Saturday, May 30, 2009, which she had given to thank her friends for their support during the difficult period she had during the brain surgery of her husband, Howard Fitzpatrick. He was supposed to go in for a quick surgery for a cyst, and ended up in critical condition in intensive care. Even though I was having my own problems at that time (they originally tried to evict me on May 20th), I kept in contact with Laurie as much as I could, and was ready to go up to the hospital in Treviso if she needed me there. In fact, during the luncheon, Laurie had put her arms around me and hugged me. Another cast member had gotten something stuck in his throat, and was choking, gasping for breath, and I helped get it out. I remember Laurie said to him, "I will leave you with Nurse Bauer." To go from that tender moment, to a nasty email... I still cannot make the leap. Something else must have happened in between, even though Laurie claims it did not.

I didn't see Laurie again until this October. When I saw in my agenda that the Cinderella panto rehearsal was scheduled for October 24, 2009, I called Laurie on the phone. She was antagonistic, the same way that so many people have been antagonistic towards me for absolutely no reason. She said I was most definitely fired. I said it make no sense, and asked who she had spoken to. She said no one. She said that John-Henry Bowden was someone that she "deeply respected" and that he was coming back to Venice specifically to perform in the panto, and that there was no way I could be on the stage with him after what I wrote.

I then called her back and said, "I want to be very clear. You are firing me from being Cinderella because of something I wrote on the Internet?" Laurie said, "Yes." I said, "You are a writer! That's censorship!" Laurie said, "Oh, please," and that she was busy and got off the phone.

After I recently, finally got back into my apartment, I realized it was as if a pack of hyenas had gained up on me. I slowly got back my strength, and started organizing my thoughts. On December 9, 2009, I finally sent off this email to Laurie Graham in response to the email she had sent me:

Dear Laurie Graham,

This is to confirm our two telephone conversations on October 23, 2009, in which you stated that the reason you "fired" me from being Cinderella was because of a blog I had written on July 24, 2009, regarding the physical assault upon my person by the Anglican Chaplain, John-Henry Bowden, an excerpt of which follows:

"Cleopatra and I were sleeping in the Anglican Church of St. George until those locks, too, were changed without notifying me. Cleo and I slept in the Campo of San Vio in front of St. George's Church on the night of July 18th, morning of July 19th. When I called the Chaplain, John-Henry Bowden at 2:00AM on Sunday and begged him to let us in, he said, "Have a good night." The next morning, John-Henry Bowden physically slammed the side church door on my right arm and leg in front of several witnesses right before church service. After going to the hospital and being physically examined, I went to the police and denounced Bowden, and the entire Chaplaincy Council, as I was informed by Hilary Wild, the Secretary of the Council, that the Council itself decided to change the locks without informing me with my possessions locked inside."

I sorted through my email and found the email you had written dated July 26, 2009 after reading my blog, which is below. Due to the continuing attempts to defame and undermine my character, I request that you list, in writing, the instances where I was "abusive" during the 2008 production, together with dates and witnesses.

Also, during our telephone conversation, you said I used "foul language" in front of the children. Again, please state, in writing, the alleged "foul language"I am accused of using, and to which child and/or children this alleged "foul language" was directed.

As my editor will inform you, I am extremely cautious about using "foul language" in the books I write for young people, and take these allegations very seriously.

Yours truly,

Catherine "Cat" Bauer

Cat Bauer
San Polo 622
30125 Venice, Italy

As of today, January 10, 2010, I have had no reply to that email. 

To try to understand the reason behind their behavior, I recently read the blogs of Laurie Graham, and her husband, Howard Fitzpatrick, owner of Venice Art Tours. First, I was surprised to discover their strong political views. I was also surprised to discover they had lost the regular theatre in Campo Santa Margherita because the price had quadrupuled. I was even more surprised to discover that this past October they had rented Villa Saracena, a Palladian villa in Vicenza for an overnight rehearsal and a black tie dinner. See Howard Fitzpatrick's blog: A Dark Day

In Howard Fitzpatrick's words: 

Anyway, this past weekend our budget permitted us to rent a Palladian Villa, called Villa Saracena, near Vicenza for us to practice some dancing and rehearse a few scenes and also get to know each other better.

The villa has hundreds of rooms and lovely dining and living rooms, all in Palladian style.  Frescos abounding. It's available for holidays - contact the National Trust which has dozens of similar grand properties available. We practiced our dance numbers in the ballroom seen below.

I also read Laurie Graham's blog, in which she complained about the bureaucrats at Ca' Foscari University after they raised the rent of the theatre:

When you're a nine-to-fiver, shuffling papers and bearing no personal responsibility for delays or errors, raising an obstacle is about as creative as you can get. I know because I was once a bureaucrat myself. And I'll confess that it used to bring a little pleasure to my dreary day to throw a form back at a solicitor's clerk and say, 'Take it away, you illiterate chancer, and try again.' Maybe this is payback time.

I have never been a bureaucrat, and I had no idea as to their level of creativity -- I would not even use the term "creative" to describe such behavior! To me, raising an obstacle is not the least bit creative. It is destructive; there is nothing noble about it, and that Laurie publicly confesses her "pleasure" at doing such a thing is a shocking character flaw I did not know she had. More from Laurie:

And as for those Ca Foscari bureaucrats, who mugged us and left us for dead... well, recovery may be the best revenge, but I'm not done with them yet. I think I feel a press conference coming on. 

Last Sunday, I saw Laurie Graham at a private social gathering. I said that what they had done was pure evil. I said, "You are threatening to hold a press conference? Well, I am going to come, and the first question I am going to ask is: 'Why are you complaining about the price of the theatre going up if you have enough money to rent a Palladian Villa for an overnight rehearsal -- with dinner -- for sixteen people? How much did that cost?'" Laurie made a zero sign with her index finger and thumb and said, "Nothing. We have friends." I said, "Really? I am happy to know that you have such important friends! Who are they?" Laurie replied, "None of your business."

Of course that response piqued my curiousity. Now, if we google "Villa Saracena Vicenza," we will arrive at a British charity called The Landmark Trust, the organization that owns the Palladian Villa where -- according to Howard Fitzpatrick -- the Pantalon Players, another charitable organization, had their black-tie dinner, dance lessons, and overnight get-to-know-ya session. Apparently The Landmark Trust was founded by the late British Conservative MP, Sir John Smith, and his wife, Lady Smith. Since October, 2009 is past, I discovered that the price for October, 2010 is 2,130 British pounds for three nights, or $3,420, or 2,370 euro. Hhhmmm....... Even if we divide that by three, how does one charitable organization give another charitable organization such a gift for free? And what did they have for dinner?

Even more alarming is that other members of the "Pantalon Players" have been antagonistic to me to this very day and I have no idea whatsoever why. Also last Sunday, one member told me it was not a conspiracy, and not political, and only paranoia. Strange words to say when I never said such a thing! Well, I have nothing at all to hide, so I have no problem in stating publicly what happened to me, and welcome all intelligent comments and responses. Again, I will state the usual:  sue me for slander or libel if it is not true.

I deeply resent being sucked down to such a low level of interaction, and I genuinely dislike my Venetian Cat - Venice Blog being hijacked by these type of characters. It is another example of Ex-Pats Behaving Badly, and, to me, if you don't like it here in Venice, then get out -- which, apparently, the Fitzpatricks have decided to do and trot off to Ireland. To get the full picture, I strongly suggest you read both Laurie Graham's and Howard Fitzpatrick's blogs, as they seem to have no qualms whatsoever about speaking their very strong political and social point of views.

In any event, I have created a new blog called VENETIAN CAT - THE INTERNATIONAL SCANDAL. Somehow I managed to record what was happening in my agenda while it was happening. It was like a super-Cat did it, not me; that a bigger-Cat knew that what was happening was scandalous and important on a very great level, that I had to write it down under any circumstances, and that these creatures needed to be stopped. Everyone can decide for themselves whether or not it is a conspiracy or whether or not it is political and whether or not it is only paranoia. It is going to be a work in progress because not only is there a staggering amount of information, every time I start writing it, and see the pattern that forms, I become overwhelmed by the memories. While it was happening, it was so outrageous and incredible, it did not feel real. Now I am slowly realizing that I was in extreme danger and  was operating on a fight-or-flight instinctive level. I have lived such a different life that I had no idea that such worlds existed, or that human beings could be so evil. I am hoping that soon I will understand the reason why.

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

LAST YEAR ABOUT THIS TIME:  Cat wins the Grand Prize: her very first bottle of Scotch --  Glenfiddich -- by drawing the number "9" at the New Years Day Pantalon Players fundraiser brunch, January 1, 2009.

Update: May 29, 2011: The second bizarre email, mentioned above was received from Sara Jane Boyers on July 24, 2009. Here it is, and my reply:

fromSara Jane Boyers
dateFri, Jul 24, 2009 at 11:19 PM
subjectVenetian Cat

hide details 7/24/09
Cat - I know you are in great distress these days .   I am sure that many things will resolve but as a friend, I have to tell you that I am worried that you just posted information about your circumstances on your Venetian Cat blog.

This blog has been such a source of information for the general public about Venice.  It is something you have been able to market because you are such a brilliant and inquisitive writer and have such a knack for telling the most fascinating information about the city.   Many tourists and Venetian afficianados love what you write.

Because of that and its continuing marketabililty for you, remember that it IS a professional "column " and the information there should remain professional and not personal, no matter what.

I love you and Happy Birthday.


with a copy to**
fromCat Bauer
toSara Jane Boyers
dateMon, Jul 27, 2009 at 1:58 PM
subjectRe: Venetian Cat

hide details 7/27/09
If I do not exist, then there is no Venetian Cat blog, now is there? I posted only facts. Let them sue me for slander if it is not true. I am EXHAUSTED, and I will WELCOME the opportunity to go to Court to defend myself.
Frankly, I find your email astonishing. You are concerned about the marketability of my BLOG when there was a piece of glass forced into my foot during a pedicure????? Cleo and I are sleeping in campos; I couldn't get enough to eat, and you are worried about the MARKETABILITY OF MY BLOG???? That is insane.
Today is my birthday. The next thing I am going to do is commit a crime and go to prison so I can get a lawyer, and then I will tell everyone why I committed the crime. THEN we can see about the marketability of my blog.
"Because of that and its continuing marketabililty for you, remember that it IS a professional "column " and the information there should remain professional and not personal, no matter what."
You are joking. You have got to be joking. I can't even access the internet because I have no money! Do you understand???? I have NO money, NO food, NO apartment, not even a bathtowel and you are worried about the MARKETABILITY OF MY BLOG???????????
I think it is REALLY interesting on a PROFESSIONAL LEVEL that the writer Cat Bauer has been illegally evicted from her apartment after ten years, and that there was a photo taken from her balcony in the brochure of the Rialto Hotel. I find that really INTERESTING, and I am sure my readers do, too.
I want to go in front of a Court. I want to tell what is happening. I have never been arrested in my life. I had perfect credit, not even a finance charge, until this insanity started. I have no record of drug or alcohol problems. I have not never been to psychiatrist except when I went for my ex-husband. I never even cheated on my ex-husband!
I WANT MY APARTMENT BACK, and I want it back NOW.
- Show quoted text -
Cat Bauer
Venice, Italy
39-347-7720453 cell

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Love 2010 in Venice - The New Year

(Venice, Italy) On New Year's Eve, I found myself on the lower level of the stage in the middle of Piazza San Marco surrounded by 35,000 people who were knee-deep in acqua alta. (That image you see is from last year's festival, but I could not find a photo from 2010.) At midnight, everyone hugged each other and kissed, and it was lovely.

Now, I have been in Piazza San Marco before on New Year's Eve, and was truly frightened by the crowd. This year, however, it felt like Love 2010.

We were immersed in the lagoon, up to our knees -- it is only possible to ring in the New Year like that in Venice, caressed by the gentle waves. 

I have always believed that Venice would defend herself against her enemies, and New Year's Eve proved my theory correct. The lapping water discouraged violence and rowdiness, wrapped us in her arms and kissed us! --  Yes! Venice (Venus) herself, together with her husband, the Sea (Neptune), made a special appearance in Piazza San Marco on New Year's Eve and everyone was happy! We kissed each other under the full moon and drank Bellinis from the Canella family. We waved old-fashioned sparklers and danced. It was magical, and I hope it is a sign that all the bad guys are finally getting washed out of Venice. Venice herself is washing them away!

Other magical things have happened this holiday season that makes me think the future might brighten: on December 23rd there was a stupendous, free concert at the Church of Santa Maria Formosa -- Handel's Messiah, with such an interesting list of sponsors that I will feature them here:  
Nell'ambito delle celebrazioni del duecentocinquantesimo anniversario della morte di Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759), l'Associazione Musicale Orologio e l'Associazione culturale Tiepolo in collaborazione con la Fondazione Ugo e Olga Levi, la Fondazione Teatro La Fenice, Chorus Associazione per le Chiese del Patriarcato di Venezia e l'Associazione culturale Cultura Venezia Futura hanno organizzato la prima esecuzione in Veneto dell'Oratorio Messiah nella sua versione originale, con strumenti antichi e cantanti internazionali

I was weeping throughout much of the performance, it was so beautiful... it was spiritual... the music melted my heart, which I feared had frozen solid from all the abuse it had suffered in 2008 and 2009. The cold water from my heart poured out through my eyes, hot and hopeful. Listening to those human voices used as musical instruments... it was as if God had sent the angels down to Venice from heaven.

On Christmas Eve, I went to Midnight Mass, and, again, we had very high water, the highest it had been for a long time. But the Basilica was warm and full with people; it was amazingly dry inside, and our Patriarch was in good form. Afterward the service I was fortunate enough to pray in front of the Pala D'Oro! If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know how much I love to do that!

Click here to read more: Mary-ascends-to-heaven-and-Pala-D'oro

Happy New Year and Ciao from Venice,

Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog