Monday, October 29, 2007

Episode II: Memories

Silently mournful
the gondola glides along
bearing a coffin.

My memories of Venice begin the day I was searching the family bookshelf and I came upon an old school book full of short stories. As I read them I would often stop to ponder the picture on the cover of the book, The Basilica of San Marco in Venice.
After a year at college I lived a year abroad. I worked in London saving money for a month of European travel. I stopped in Venice during those travels arriving early in the morning. As I ambled about with my ancient backpack, my self-repaired top sider shoes and longish hair I must have been a sight. Wandering around until I came upon Piazza San Marco and the Basilica I found history beyond my comprehension based in a place that contends with the imagination in its current and oft dreamed of, past, incarnation.

Not long after my return to California I attended a white elephant party where a friend gifted me a small long hand drawn black and white scene from Venice knowing how much I was fascinated with the place. I hung it pride wherever I lived and would often try to guess where exactly in Venice the picture portrayed.

The next time I was in Venice was as part of a team of gondoliers participating in the Vogalonga a 22 mile regatta with 1500 boats and 5000 rowers. It had been 10 years since my first visit to Venice and every thing was similar and yet different. Different mainly because I had been a gondolier in the US for a year and over time had read up on the history of Venice and it made it a pleasure to really understand what it was I was seeing. When I saw a gondolier rowing I realized that despite my training I really did not know how to row and that moment of realization is the moment when I became a gondolier

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Episode I: Living the Gondola Dream

In Venzia did the goods

of the pious theft

get stored in better quarters.

stolen by exiles of his kind

from a land that was the home.

When I consider the confluence of historical events that culminated in my becoming a gondolier I am overwhelmed and am forced to consider that that same could be so for everyone on earth; each in their own unique condition. Yet still I am compelled to admit that I feel a certain sence of superiority in that my occupation is shared by so few, as a percentage of the world population. I also see that beyond death and taxes there is love and love will alway be.

Each evening as I row, be it in wind, rain, or shine there is a satifaction that comes with competantly manuvering a 37 foot, one ton vessel with a single oar. It is a skill aquired over time and I often remark that it took me a year to figure out that I didn't know what I was doing. The oar stroke is simple yet I could write a book about what happens in that forward and back motion. Most of the passengers little note the style but experienced boaters are dumfounded at the ease with which we manuever and the fact that there is no motor.

When I travel to my Mecca, Venice, I am dumfounded by the scale of influence this tiny city exerted in the mediteranian. I am humbled by the artifice of those who lived in such uncertain and less secure times. I am instucted by the statues of men with a book in one hand and a sword in the other, the "Warrior philosophers", forebearers of our "scholar athletes".

There are some moonless nights when the wind dies and you can see the stars reflected in the still lagoon and the gigantic homes are mirrored in the slowly rolling waters. Late at night the stillness urges the couples to talk in low whispers lest they break the magic of the silence. More later. Beppe