Venetian Ghosts #8 | Mark Lindsay

Old storefronts have always saddened me. I grew up in New Jersey at a time when its cities were in terrible decline. Being in Paterson or Newark in the '70s would sadden my soul. Empty windows, cracked glass, once-proud signs now askew and burnt out, everything faded except for the hastily posted proclamations: going out of business, everything must go, for rent, for sale, down on our luck, going home, depressed, need a vacation, moving to Florida.

The throngs are like ants to a crumb. Back then the crumb was the shopping mall. Everyone abandoned Mom-and-Pop and went to the mall. It was a miracle of hermetic sealing. All-in-one with plenty of parking. Take off your coat, it's warm inside. And the cities crumbled.

Venice, too, is a city in decline. Unlike the cities of New Jersey, it is picturesque in its decay. So, the visitors still come. They walk past the bordered buildings and crumbling walls, taking in the decay. Most of the visitors to Venice are day-trippers. They invade La Serenissima from the mainland or by humungous cruise ship. They come and have a gelato and then leave, having added Venice to the notches on their belt. A photo of them in Piazza San Marco, a bag of corn to feed the fat pigeons—the ritual is the same year-after-year. Venice sinks from the weight of the daily invasion.

It's on the quiet alleys where you'll find the shuttered, old facades. Venice is a city where the throngs are predictable. Their crumb is Piazza San Marco and not much else. It's hard to run a restaurant or a barber shop when no one lives in your neighborhood and the visitors just come for trinkets and photo-ops. And so the places tucked into Venice's corners slowly fade.

The residents will tell you that it gets harder every year to live there. Storefronts that were you could once get a shoe repaired morph into glass shops—more glass shops in a city of 10,000 such places. But, it keeps the facades from crumbling and keeps the lights on. And on it goes, the city continues its faustian deal with the tourists.

Today's image is from a quiet Venetian neighborhood across the Grand Canal from Piazza San Marco. I found it on Christmas Eve a few years back. Quiet, cold, deserted, the small alleyway turned and revealed this forlorn facade...and one fat pigeon. Evidently the pigeon didn't get the memo, the feeding frenzy was across the canal where all the tourists were.

Today's entry is the 100th post of La Macchina Fotografica. Thanks to all my loyal readers for your support!