An old woman pointed at the tiny fish, making a point of not smiling at all. The fishmonger picked up on the seriousness of the situation and stood up straight. Venetian women at the Rialto Market are not to be taken lightly and this particular one knew what she wanted.
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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.
The fog of the Veneto had smothered the entire Venetian Lagoon with a cottony wall of cold vapor. There was nothing to see on this vaporetto ride out to the Lido—nothing outside the windows that is. Inside the cramped boat’s cabin, I stared at the back of a fellow passenger. He, in turn, was staring at the back of the person in front of him. And on it went from back to front of the boat. Like several hundred anchovies in a tin can—the salted kind from Sicily—we were jammed into the steel confines of this listing vessel. It seemed like a one-way trip to Purgatory.
The wind is howling this morning. It howled last night and for the three nights before that. Wind signals change. Something is blowing out and is being replaced by whatever is blowing in. By the time whatever is on the way actually arrives the wind will have wreaked its havoc. Broken planting pots, fallen garbage cans, branches and leaves are everywhere. This wind leaves behind the debris of change as it blows in something new. And I suspect that something new is the summer season.
The city, San Francisco or most any city, is full of small, fleeting treasures. Riches are everywhere—little vignettes of joy, intrigue, and ephemeral pleasure that compel me to click the shutter of my camera. Many are haphazard collections of life’s serendipity. Most affirm my belief that the cosmic powers that run this universe of ours have a very good sense of humor.
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.