Morning walks on the boardwalks of the Jersey Shore—something I experienced often in my youth—were always weird. The amusements and food concessions were meant to be experienced at night, or at the very least at dusk. Mornings on the boardwalk were akin to waking up on the on the living room couch on the morning after a party. Stale odors and bits of refuse mixed with the ambience of the misty, salt air. The rising sun revealed stragglers who seemed just a little lost. The fun was over. Morning’s clarity brought new light to the hangover of too much fun and spent adrenaline. Yes, morning walks on the New Jersey’s boardwalks were strange—but I loved them anyway.
Three weeks in Venice is hardly a long time. But, at the start it felt that way. I fooled myself with the illusion was that I'd be there forever—that I was there for good. But, three days later I found myself counting. I was secretly counting the days until the arrival of my sad departure. I shook this diabolical countdown off with a shudder. But, it didn't work. The little clock continued ticking away in my brain and then chimed in again the very next morning.
It takes a week for the adrenaline to wear off. It takes longer than that for sting of jet lag to mellow. It takes time for one's ear warm to other languages. One's brain must sharpen to the constant calculation of currency exchange rates. But, once the body, mind, and soul convert to Italian it all changes. Life settles into the sweet cadence of life in Venice.
Venice is an enormous and endless treasure hunt. Obsessions are welcome here—whatever suits your fancy. I have friends who search the city for ancient graffiti, inscriptions, shrines to the Madonna, mysterious symbols and even ancient splash guards that discourage public urination. I was inspired by these efforts. So, on one day in early January, while looking up at the Lion of St. Mark, in Piazzetta San Marco, I decided to collect lions.
"It's their last day tomorrow! Christmas Eve will be it for them."
I could hardly believe my ears. Our friend was pointing at the vegetable barge of Campo San Barnaba. The boat had had the best produce in the city and was a landmark of old Venice. The two brothers who ran the barge for many years were, alas, retiring. No other Venetians wanted to buy the business and their children had no interest in selling vegetables from a canal. So, this would be it. One more day and another piece of Venice would crumble away with time.
Venice is a place of shifting perspective. Nothing is fixed about the place, nothing is permanent. It changes and transforms with the crossing of every bridge and the winding of every alley. Crystalline sunshine turns to pearly fog in a moment. Shadows sneak along, tides flow in and then out. Low water becomes high and then low and then high again. Deserted streets jam up with crowds then become deserted once again. Tensions build and then relax. Pay attention in Venice! Things will surely change within moments.
A return to Venice is like the reoccurrence of a familiar dream. This should be no surprise as Venice is often more dreamlike than real. If it were not for its sturdy stones we would barely be able to grasp and hold on to much of Venice at all. Perhaps the real Venice lies in its shimmering and amorphous reflections. Looking down into the lagoon and its tributary canals often reveals a truer Venice than the one carved out of Istrian limestone. So the true return to Venice must be by water where one can behold both city against the sky and its wavy and moving mirror image that lies within the sea. That way both dream and reality mingle in the misty light of La Serenissima.
Today will be the day. I lifted my heavy legs off the bed and swung them around to the wooden floor. Making certain that they were firmly rooted I rose carefully, only to be greeted by a wave-like sensation. Was the floor swaying or was it just me? I quickly realized the obvious. Jet lag! No, today would not be the day. Nor would it be the next day. There would be no blogging. None. It would have to wait until the dense fog of travel had lifted. I would need to be patient.
Usually, the newspaper has a perfunctory little story on the longest day of the year. It usually starts out with, "Today is the longest day of the year," or other such witty prose. Newspapers have a habit of repeating things incessantly like little children who have just learned a new word. Another repeated annoyance is the proclamation at the start of California's fire season. "This year is predicted to be the worst fire season on record." Every year is predicted to be the worst fire season on record.