Scenes, and So It Seems, from Venezia
Learning Italian on the fly…the caretaker
at the 17th century villa at which we are staying, speaks
no English… blissful is life on the Brenta…a canal
where the tour boats stop off to check out “our”
place en route… to Pisani Villa where Mussolini and
Hitler met in ’39…oh to have been a fly on that
wall…a groom walking a few steps ahead of his bride,
on his cell phone, steps into their nuptial gondola unsmiling…
a marriage already doomed… photo ops and Kodak moments
at every turn…every canal and passageway… cameras
click incessantly at this old world that never gets old…
step out the door and into two options: boat…water….
…their dogs and Doges —
the Venetians love them so… cigarette machines are alive
and still kicking…as is smoking at outside tables…a
hotel from another life pops up out of nowhere…hand-in-hand,
a “do-over,” while walking past…San Marco
Piazza flooded for no apparent reason… people sit sipping
at cafes unfazed…the lunacy by day of the pigeon obsession…song
requests delivered with a nod then a smile: Malafemmena
at the Caffe Florian… La Mer the next day at
Terrazza Danieli…where three canals collide…
…a walk at midnight in the closed museum
where you live…statues, frescos, roped off centuries-old
furniture… chairs on which you mischievously sit as
if your butt can connect with history…send in the ghosts!…alas
…Sunday!…an a capella choir on
Ponte San Polo singing everything… Amazing Grace
to ABBA’s Dancing Queen…Somebody
To Love by Queen in between …another group of twenty-four
strong… Scarborough Fair and Sounds of
Silence sung simultaneously…to the strains of a
single guitar…no hat gets passed…they do it for
love …Campo Santa Maria Margherita… alive with
locals... kids kicking soccer balls…an eight year old
tries to get his kite aloft…baby strollers … dog-walkers
stopping to chat…their dogs wandering about off the
leash…sniffing in Italian?... throngs on the Rialto
Bridge, followed by la strada the size of your hips…the
last bus out of piazzale di Roma packed with locals going
home to small towns on the Venato… work and play in
Venice, but who can afford to live there?...
such thing as a bad glass of wine… the corner grocer’s
cabernet at €3.25 a bottle is divine… Harry’s
Bar: Hemingway drank there… he drank everywhere!...
Harry and Ernest, in earnest…both overrated…the
Fabulous Farming Finocchiaro Family From Florida…a saluté
over a glass of Limoncello… Four Seasons by
Vivaldi— a local boy who made good— played by
a septet in a venue near where he composed… enough to
make this grown man cry…vaporettis, water taxis,
gondolas, ferries, cabin cruisers, cruise ships… yet
sail boats are few and far between…as if in these waters,
one cannot trust the wind…€80 for 40 minutes…a
gondola ride rocking you gently through silent “streets”…past
where a cellist plays nightly before a church…“touristy?”
yes, yet…surprisingly priceless!...a perfect full moon
does a strip tease doffing her clouds…
…the lion…a symbol
of Venice when winged…a Leo…a mask…a purchase…Carnivale
the thousands suggest infinite debauchery on Martedì
…better than this year’s Fat Tuesday in New Orleans?
…busy Byzantine buildings abound … a tale of two
masses caught in mid-stream: one in English at Basilica
San Marco…the other in Italian at Basilica
di Santa Maria della Salute…communion at both …
why Catholics are Catholics… home cooked meals of pasta
from the Italian-country styled kitchen on nights threatening
rain… breaks from the ristorante indulgences
of three hours and more…The Unbearable Lightness
of Being in Italian on TV…likewise Duck Soup…sex
always translates, but shtick?....
…a dishful of carpaccio, the beef…a
roomful of Carpaccio, the painter…Vittore… a glassful
of Bellini, the drink…a roomful of Bellini, the painter…Giovanni…it’s
the Betrothed Couple, 1495 Vittore Carpaccio
Madonna and Child
with Two Saints, 1490 Giovanni Bellini
…DaVinci’s inventions in wooden
reproductions are “museumed” … the sublime
to the ridiculous…oh Leo, so ahead of your time…
so out of your mind…behind her museum/ house, Peggy
Guggenheim debunks a posit from my poem “Out Back”…
When like the cat/ they cart us away /too big /to bury
/out back... she indeed lies buried out back… eschewing
cats…along with her dogs… her “Beloved Babies”…Cellida
died the same year as she…
…a train to Verona…one gentleman
helps we who got off too soon…my kingdom for a cab!...the
Arena, the best preserved of the Roman kind in the world…one
feels as if in a chess game at Castelvecchio…a national
holiday: the Italian army in uniforms of wars gone by…
…the sham that is the Giulietta House
complete with balcony from which she never proclaimed her
love for Romeo…fiction from Shakespeare’s quill,
but…"if you build it they will come”…and
come they do as if in a frenzy…"Lord, what
fools these mortals be”…
Grand Hotel waxes operatic in an in-room book of amenities…a
virtual libretto on the creation of their mattresses and pillows…each
a masterpiece…the likes of which the human body has
never known they boast…but it is the key that I want
to take home… a real key weighted down by an anchor
of metal that lies heavily in the pocket…a time gone
…then back to Venezia for a last hurrah…
where to quote the guide book….
the Goths, who were systematically looting and burning their
way southwards to Rome, the people of the Veneto sought refuge
among the wild and uninhibited islands of their marshy coast.
There they formed villages...
… where people now come to make love
not war…”And in the end/ The love you take/
Is equal to the love you make”… but Abbey
Road is for another day…grazie…prego…ciao.
This Is What They Mean
Pulling up anchor one sets out
on a sailing ship once called Fate.
Now renamed The Whatever.
The trip has been long in the making
through a sea of metaphors making waves.
Yet what is one to do? Spill one's guts
on the deck of a vessel bound
to be pirated by conundrums?
"Why don't poets just come right out
and say what they mean?"—
often the lament of a mindset bent
on clear cut conflict: lions and Christians,
the fall of idols and trumped up apprentices.
Tennyson’s poem Ulysses proclaims:
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world—
the grist for the mill of every poet’s
And the fear of not finding it in the allotted time
lies awake in between the lines.
This is what they mean, whether blank verse or rhyme.
Oh Yeah, the Olympics
On the 27th of this month,
the Opening Ceremonies will kick off the Olympic Games in
London. It’s not as if I had forgotten this was an Olympics
year— I’ve already trashed the logo and taken
a cheap shot at synchronized swimming (JANUARY,
2012 Muse-letter)— but then I look up and suddenly
it’s only a few weeks away. Is it four years already
since Michael Phelps owned the pool? And what kind of sport
A piece in The New Yorker recently,
in its opening paragraph summed it up so well:
are about to enter that period, which occurs every four
years, when Americans become passionate about athletes we
have never heard of participating in games we do not follow
trying to please judges we cannot see according to rules
we do not know. The fullness of our ignorance never diminishes
the pitch of our Olympic enthusiasm.”
It goes on to say that unlike other countries
which limit the number of sports they follow (in France for
example, TV coverage is focused on fencing and bicycle racing—two
sports they excel in), “we seem to root for our kind
in every sport we see.”
Maybe because we’re hoping to catch the next Michael
Phelps, Mary Lou Retton, Carl Lewis, Mark Spitz, Bruce Jenner?
A breakout performance out of nowhere?
Or maybe it’s because we love those underdog stories
like this year’s Julie Zetlin, who is trying to come
back from a serious knee injury and surgery, and win a medal
in rhythmic gymnastics?
Or just maybe, it’s because we often come out top dog,
winning on average about 100 medals? A whopping 174 at the
games in Los Angeles in 1984 which the USSR boycotted in retaliation
for our having boycotted the 1980 games in Moscow. And while
we have won the last four summer Olympiads, many think that
China will take first place in the medal count this time around.
So maybe that’s it. We flat out like to win. America
loves winners. And to that sarcastic rhetorical question often
posed, “So want do you want a medal?” the answer
is yes, as a matter of fact.
Do you think that the people of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and
Mauritius—winners of one non-gold medal each in 2008—
are going to be interested in these games or their outcome?
A search determines that it is an island nation off the southeast
coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean
about 540 miles east of Madagascar. That sounds about as far
away as you can be, and still be in the world. I’m going.
As the Olympics now have my attention, and if they are about
winning, it piques my curiosity as to how often “we”
actually have won. And how much?.
You might want to skip the following chart,
if “too much information” tends to cause an allergic
reaction. I have concocted it out of an obsession that would
be difficult to explain without therapy. And it most certainly
is not suitable viewing for children, who have a tendency
to play without keeping score, bless their little hearts.
But for those of us who do like to keep score….
And there you have it: The thrill of victory,
the agony of defeat to coin a phrase. And with the big
bad wolf of the Soviet Union now long gone, China is about
ready to assume that role. Yes, the games are about to begin.
Let’s kick some butt.
Quote of the Month
Madison Square Garden May 26, 2012 ; photo by Ron Vazzano©
The Search for Amelia Earhart
An expedition by The International Group
for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) will set out
on July 2nd in search of artifacts that could have belonged
to Amelia Earhart’s plane. It was on that date 75 years
ago, that the last radio calls were received from her.
One hopes that this high-tech venture, will have better luck
than the countless and fruitless searches that took place
when she (and navigator Fred Noonan) first disappeared. It
will air as a documentary on the Discovery Channel at a date
To be frank, Amelia Earhart is best known today (if she is
known at all by younger generations) for being missing. And
that’s a shame. She was a rather remarkable woman in
a time when women still had to prove that they could in fact
This could not be better illustrated, than by these excerpts
taken directly from a New York Times editorial on
July 27, 1937. Though even when in praise, it is patronizing.
Not to mention its coded assurance regarding Ms. Earhart’s
sexual orientation. And written in an effusive and flowery
prose that would seem better served in a soap opera, it seems
laughable in today’s texting world. Still it offers
great insight as to how she was regarded in her day.
In addition to the aforementioned expedition
and documentary, she will be the subject of a yearlong exhibit
at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. Maybe through
efforts like these, Amelia Earhart will finally be found.