Posted by: jeanne | March 4, 2017

nothing behind your masks

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the tourists are gone.  imagine the commute (to your megalopolis, usa) on a monday morning – 40 years ago.  no crowds, no traffic, no 2-hour commutes.  like suddenly you’re on the set of walking dead without any extras lurching around.  in venice it’s a reprieve.  you can saunter down the calle – little pedestrian streets we would call crawlspaces back home – walking in the middle of the street, stopping at interesting shop windows (italian fashion, not trinkets made in china), looking up at the buildings if you like because there’s no necessity to watch out for traffic holes to duck into.  all the tourists in the universe suddenly disappeared on ash wednesday.  that’s why everybody goes to church on ash wednesday – not to beg for forgiveness for their sins, but to celebrate the descent into hell of all those damned tourists.

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but for the moment, it’s heaven to be in venice

on march the first, the day after carnival was over, we woke up to a sunny day, with no hint of wind. jim and marie had an appointment at ca’ macana to decorate their own masks, but that didn’t interest me.

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i wanted to go down to san marco and take in the ash wednesday mass (i’m not religious, just in case you wondered – i was raised lapsed catholic).  but first i discovered that our vaporetto passes had expired for the month, so connor and i had to go up to piazzale roma and get them renewed.

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i should have known.  everybody who isn’t able to recharge their passes on the internet has to go down to an outlet and get them done by a live person.  so there was an enormous line, and of course the take-a-ticket machine was broken (i love italy, where it’s impossible to be in a hurry).  so we stood in line.  actually, i stood in line, and connor interacted with all and sundry.  and finally we got our passes and boated down to san marco, where we had just missed the last mass.  oh well, no ashes on my forehead, no chance to ask forgiveness from dog and the universe for all my transgressions (i’ve got a lot to be sorry for).  oh well.

so we met jim and marie at the mask shop and went home for pizza.  it’s the cheapo frozen pizza, doctored with fresh mozzarella, ham and salami, some extra tomato sauce, etc.  for some reason, tho there’s nothing bad in the pizza, i get knocked out every time i eat one, so i led off a round of naps for everyone but connor, who is too big and too proud to take naps.   hah.

and after we got up, marie and i left the boys at home and went out to go shopping, because marie needed to see julia sharma’s shop on the fundamenta orseolo (next to the art supply shop.  she doesn’t do internet so you’ll have to go there.  she takes plastic.  these are exquisite scarves designed in venice and hand woven in india).

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on the way to the vaporetto, we passed a staging area, where all the rented carnival costumes are prepared for storage for next year.  these things rent starting at 60 euro a day for something that looks just okay, to 300 a day and up for something that passes for real period dress.  none of the websites i’ve checked show prices, so that’s bad for your budget.

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connor and i passed this bulldozer installing poles in the water when we went down to san marco that morning.

by the time marie and i passed the same spot, they’d dropped about a dozen poles and this guy was just standing on one or a couple, helping to guide the next ones.

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we got off at the giglio stop and wound our way past the fenice, trying to avoid the odious calle larga 22 march, but alas we ended up on it anyway.  fortunately, we had come across the restaurant where we ate last time we were all here, and had a glass of geodoro wine that we can only find there.  an american couple were in the restaurant, and we talked.  they were only here for a couple of days, so we gave them a short list and encouraged their idea to just wander and get lost.

suitably fortified, we continued toward the back of san marco, but first we passed an open door where they were busy renovating the inside from the bottom up.

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this is the kind of stuff they sell around the corner from calle largo, overpriced, gaudy, and nonfunctional.

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we bought a few too many scarves (but when will we ever get the chance again, and they were still on sale), and then stopped in a chinese venetian leather shop and marie bought herself two bags, and i got a belt as a present for someone back home.  and we wandered toward rialto bridge, because it was getting on dinnertime, and the boys were waiting.

but first, we stopped at the venice street food place on the way.  the smell is heavenly every time we pass it, and even i who abhor paying for restaurant food wanted some.  marie developed an addiction to it second only to our shared addiction to frittelle.

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this is what she got.  food porn.  shrimp and calamari over a bed of polenta.  to die for.

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the next morning was jim’s and marie’s chance to go up in the campanile, the belltower of san marco, to see venice from above.  jim took the long lens, which we didn’t have last time we were here.  of course, he didn’t do a blanket panorama the way i would have, but he got some stupendous shots anyway.

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the last shot above shows the basilica of saints giovanni and paolo, which jim has drawn in silverpoint, and the cemetery island of san michele in the lagoon beyond, as well as the island of murano, where they make the glass.

connor and i attended mass, led by an ancient priest, in a tiny little chapel off the larger little chapel where we lit a candle, off the main part of the basilica.  it was in italian, which sounds a lot like the latin masses i liked to go to in my youth (because i couldn’t understand it, and therefore couldn’t get mad, plus there was plainchant and incense).  it was a 20-minute mass, which suits me fine.  i was weirded out when i went to a baptist service with a high school friend – two hours!

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when it was over, i had a text from marie and jim, who we found standing on the porch of the campanile.  so we all went into san marco, where they were really enforcing the ‘no foto’ rule.  last time, the signs all said the same thing, but nobody cared, and we got shots of guards staring into the camera.  go figure.

marie got a few pictures hiding behind jim, but whenever a guard saw a camera they came rushing over.  so i only got this one foto of guys repairing the floors with a template and a box of precut stones probably taken from some other area of the cathedral.

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then we went upstairs to the gallery and porch.  it cost us 5 euro.  going into san marco downstairs is free, tho.

the view from the porch is great.  the floor of the porch is marble, a raised and lowered rooftop on one side, flat on the other.  guess which side connor liked?  the only problem was that he could easily fit thru the holes in the bannister, so we were very strict with him, and made him stay well away from the edge.

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we loved the view.

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replica horses on the porch outside.  the real horses are inside where the weather can’t get to them.  there was a guard there, poor fellow, trying to guard all three areas from people taking photos.  marie first, and then i, made a game of seeing what photos we could get away with.  at one point he said ‘one foto ok, two foto no’.  but we kept taking them anyway.  as punishment, most of my photos came out blurry.

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from the gallery, where there were no guards to yell at us.  it shows the altar below, and those magnificent domes above.

then there was a further gallery, reached by some steps down, and then some steps up, and it had a bunch of tapestries that i didn’t find very interesting.  but it did have this ceiling, and i sneaked a picture while the guard was talking to connor.  thanks, kid.

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this door was specially made for connor.  wonder where it leads?  (it was locked or i might have found out)

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these vertiginous steps are uneven and incredibly steep, and there are dozens of them to get to or down from the porch.  even connor complained.

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to contrast, these steps were designed by carlo scarpa and built in 1958, rather than 1000-something.  standardization; not always a bad thing.

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and so we left the piazza and headed for the vaporetto to get some lunch (more pizza) and a nap.

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while i was down for the count, marie dressed to show off her new mask, and she and jim went out to our local pozzo to photograph her in it.  lovely.

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next morning, connor was up and saying ciao to the ladies who pick up the trash every morning.  they have come to love him, as has everyone else in venice.

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it was marie’s last day in venice, so we did whatever she wanted to do.  the first thing was to go to the art supply shop in campo santa margherita to see if she could get some of that gold paste she was using on her mask.  they didn’t have it, but jim bought a bunch of gold leaf kind of flakes, and connor ran around in the square.  he met an old guy who gave him a piece of chocolate for being a boy.

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while we were there, we went around to the art school to see if we couldn’t talk to the director.  nobody spoke the same language, so we did hand signals and pidgin, and eventually the secretary took connor by the hand, telling him she was going to keep him, and took him to the director’s office.  the director wasn’t in, but the cop on duty (idk) was, so they talked to him for a little while.

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eventually we found a teacher who spoke excellent english; we told him we were trying to arrange art trips to venice, and needed a place to hold studio hours.  he told us it was impossible, since it was a state institution, and referred us to the tourism trade school, another state institution.

so okay, never mind for now.  we’ll keep digging.

and then we wandered.  we were heading to the guggenheim, because everybody has told marie she’d be crazy if she didn’t go there (i liked the empire of light).  so we headed in that direction, but kind of got sidetracked along the way…

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and then we were on the zattere, starting to get hungry, very warm in the bright sunshine.  it was too bright.  so we ducked down a random alleyway back into the interior of the island.

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and found squero tramontin e figlie, an old boatyard where they (used to) make gondolas.  sadly, there aren’t very many gondolas still being made, but there are one or two yards still in operation (the one on the north side is owned now by an insurance company – feh).

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these guys were putting the final touches on a restoration, and we stood and watched and took pictures for over an hour.  we’d come at the perfect time, when the old guy was finishing his polishing, and they got ready to roll the boat on rollers into the water.  we caught that on camera, and then without consulting each other, decided to sit and wait.

a beggar came up and tried to engage jim in a lucrative conversation, but jim can be very annoyingly bright and chipper as he turns them down, so he turned his attention to connor, saying they were brothers and it was right for connor to give him money.  all very charming, if annoying.  we intervened when connor started following him off the bridge and down the street.

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a woman rower came by, and the capo and she exchanged greetings.  connor by this time was happily decorating the railings of our bridge with a piece of brick he’d found.  he said ciao to the men several times, but they studiously ignored him.  they must hate us.

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and finally they finished outfitting the gondola, and the maestro and his helper (probably a figlio) got in and drove on down the canal to deliver the boat to whomever owns it.

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so we continued on to find the guggenheim, and amazingly, right around the corner was another working squero, san trovaso, with even more picturesque fittings.  so we took a generous round of photographs of that.

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and then we were definitely hungry, so we stopped at the first place with cicchetti in the window.  marie wasn’t hard to persuade.  jim insisted he didn’t want anything until i offered him a caffe latte, and pointed out a bit of cheese, and a bit of salami.  then he reluctantly agreed.

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cantine del vino gia schiave.  family run (we must have met most of them).  i don’t usually post food porn, but we stood around the bar with our ombre and cicchetti, and grandpa’s caffe latte.  connor wanted some water, so we asked the guy behind the bar, who got a bottle of water, not from the tap as i would have liked, and hopped connor up on top of the bar to give him a drink.

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they liked each other from the start.  connor got some water, and then the guy gave him a sandwich of salami, and then he gave him a glass of fanta, and then he told connor he could work there, and gave him a handful of pennies.  and then he took connor by the hand, told us they were going to visit the turtles in his back yard, and marched him off to meet his mama, saying they’d be back in five minutes.

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so we ordered another round of food.  wonderful stuff.  egg and truffles with mushroom on bread, brie and anchovy on bread, something something something on bread.  and another round of ombre, please.

in a few minutes they were back, and connor was more than happy to work for his food and money, so he grabbed a broom and swept up everywhere.

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at that point mama showed up and took over.  i had asked the guy if he was the boss, and he looked surprised – no no, he said.  mama.  and sure enough, she has the run of the place, and the boys do whatever she says.  proper order.

i got myself a bottle of menta fernet.  you can find fernet branca everywhere; it’s an herbal liqueur that is so highly medicinal that it stops intestinal stuff in its tracks.  but i hadn’t seen the mint version, so i bought it.  now how to get it home (inside one of our water boots, probably).

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we had decided between the first and second glasses of wine to never mind the guggenheim, and just wander back home, so we all said goodbye to the family.  we got a postcard with their email address, and when i complete a painting of the inside of the bar, i will send it to them, because they have quite the collection in the middle room.  we loved the place.

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connor found a dog, of course.  in gaelic, connor means lover of dogs.  and they love him back.

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still thirsty after water and fanta?

we rounded off our morning out with a little bit of shopping.  first marie and i got a scarf for ourselves – the cheap 5 euro ones.  and then as i was taking photos in campo san barnaba, i looked around and didn’t see connor, so called for him, and he popped his head around the corner of another shop, where marie was buying more scarves.  she has a little bit of an addiction to scarves, especially after two glasses of wine.

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your present is in this bag, mommy

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random wall decoration with textured wall below

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my hero

then we happened upon this cheerful place where the door was open and the woman was making glass beads at a mini forge.  these things are really cool, with a torch, a bar for rolling glass, some racks where glass can sit in the fire to soften, a tub of ash where the freshly done glass anneals for 24 hours before being taken to murano and dumped into an acid bath to dissolve the copper stick it’s on, revealing the stringing hole.   she gave connor a bead, of course.

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after a short nap for me, and a final pack for marie, we all went down to piazzale roma on the vaporetto to install her in the airport bus.  bye marie!

and then decided to find the institute we were told about.  after one false find, where a mean guard chased us off (the building with a pozzo we had seen when it was closed and really wanted a picture of), and another false turn, which ended up with a public park behind it, we found the place, only to discover nobody who spoke english.  by that time i’d found the website, so i can take it from there.  connor had a blast chasing one kid around and around, and playing on each piece of equipment like a mad thing.  but when it was time to go, he came.

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then we walked to the vaporetto off strada nova.  this is what it looks like when carnival is over.  quite a change.  almost a joy to walk down.

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and i had meant to get a picture of this on the way up the river, so i got it going home.

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on the vaporetto, connor played with a kid in a chair and his mom.  she was really game, and they played and played until our stop.  thanks, mom.

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and so we saw our friend marie off, and all the tourists, and from now until the time we leave – less than a week – it’s just us.  i’ll cover that as it happens, sort of.

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