Friday, December 24, 2010

Venetian Cat - ALWAYS on Santa's Team!

Muran Glass Christmas Tree
by Simone Cenedese
(Venice, Italy) I don't know who wrote this little Christmas story -- not me -- it was sent to me by an old school chum from Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. If anyone knows who the author is, please tell me so I can give credit where it is due, but apparently it's been floating around cyber space for years. 


I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus?" she snorted...."Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second World-famous cinnamon bun. 
"Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything.  As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. "Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church. 

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class.  Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he didn't have a good coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement.

I would buy Bobby Decker a coat! I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that. "Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. "Yes, ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby." The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it. Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. 

Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going." I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby. 

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were, ridiculous.  Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.

May you always have LOVE to share, HEALTH to spare and FRIENDS that care. And may you always believe in the magic of Santa Claus!

Merry Christmas! Buon Natale! Happy Holidays to All!

Ciao from Venice,
Cat -- ALWAYS on Santa's team!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Romeo & Juliet at the Teatro Goldoni in Venice

(Venice, Italy) William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet has been making audiences weep for more than four hundred years, and still humanity does not learn this lesson. When the play opens, two warring families, the Capulets and the Montagues, have already been fighting for centuries.

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

Photo by Marta Ferranti
It is not a private battle; they are both important families and their hatred spills into the streets, disturbing the peace of Verona. The citizens are tired of the constant fighting and step in themselves, shouting "Clubs, bills, and partisans! Strike! Beat them down! Down with the Capulets! Down with the Montagues!"

Prince Escalus himself appears on the scene and commands the warring families to stop. Since we all know the ending, the only thing that causes the two patriarchs to finally shake hands and declare peace is the agonizing death of their own children, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, whose passionate love culminates with them dying in each other's arms. Perhaps they are together in Paradise.

I caught yesterday's matinee at the Goldoni Theater where Romeo e Giulietta is playing from December 16 through 19, with excellent performances by Lucas Waldem Zanforlini and Eleonora Tata in the starring roles. Giuseppe Marini directed a condensed version.

In this production the Ladies Montague and Capulet were nowhere in sight, making it truly a war between patriarchs. The theater was almost sold-out, the boxes overflowing with young people all the way up to the ceiling, both male and female, who really seemed to enjoy the show. That is what is great about Romeo & Juliet; I remember studying it myself when I was about fourteen-years-old; in fact, I stuck it in Harley, Like a Person.

Photo by Marta Ferranti
The vibrant costumes by Mariano Tufano were a delight for the eyes — a mixture of Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland, and The Importance of Being Earnest meets A Clockwork Orange — top hats and checkered pants mixed with rich royal velvets. Nicolò Scarparo was a stand-out as Friar Lorenzo (Laurence), floating seamlessly across the stage an inch above the ground. The set was sparse, but effective.

Romeo and Juliet has been produced an infinite amount of times, in zillions of languages, in ancient and contemporary interpretations. It has been filmed and made into operas, ballets and Broadway musicals. Switch-blades have replaced swords; hypodermic needles have replaced poison. According to Wikipedia:

The play is sometimes given a historical setting, enabling audiences to reflect on the underlying conflicts. For example, adaptations have been set in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,[124] in the apartheid era in South Africa,[125] and in the aftermath of the Pueblo Revolt.[126] Similarly, Peter Ustinov's 1956 comic adaptation, Romanoff and Juliet, is set in a fictional mid-European country in the depths of the Cold War.[127] 

At the end of the play, Prince Escalus laments after too many good people have died for no good reason:

Where be these enemies? Capulet! Montague!
See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.
And I for winking at your discords too
Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish'd.

Photo by Marta Ferranti
Dec 16 & 19 at 4:00pm
Dec 15, 17 & 18 at 8:30pm

Teatro Goldoni
San Marco 4650/b

Ciao from Venice,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Madonna of the Sun - Venetian Cat - December 8 Anniversary Blog

Here's the traditional Madonna of the Sun blog for Wednesday, December 8, 2010 
Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Madonna of the Sun


(from 8 dicembre 2006)

Today, December 8th, is the birthday of my protagonist, Harley Columba. It is also the day that John Lennon was assassinated. When I was creating Harley, I wanted her to have a deep connection to John Lennon, so she was born in the same hospital where John Lennon died.

December 8th is also a holiday here in Italy, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is the day Mary, the mother of Jesus, was conceived.

One wonders how that came about... since most Christian holidays turn out to have more ancient meanings.

It turns out that December 8th is also Bodhi Day, the day the Buddha became enlightened.

It is the Festival of Neith, the Egyptian goddess who gave birth to Ra, the Sun god; it is celebrated by the Feast of Lamps. Neith, in turn, transforms into Isis, the "woman clothed with the sun," wife and sister of Osiris and mother of Horus.

It is the day that Amaterasu, the Japanese Goddess of the Sun, was born.

On December 8, 1941, the United States declared war on Japan. The Japanese royal family is descended from the Sun Goddess.

On December 8, 2009, Cat Bauer woke up inside her apartment on the Grand Canal.  

On December 8, 2010, Cat Bauer woke up outside her apartment on the Grand Canal, from which she was forcibly and violently evicted again on June 11, 2010. This year, however, the gas and electricity are in my name. To read the Madonna of the Sun blog from last year, 2009, complete with comments, please click HERE.

Ciao from Venice,

Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog