The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


We filled two memory cards with digital pictures of our recent trip to Venice and Umbria. I'm not going to bore you with them; if you want to see pictures of Venice, a few seconds with Google will give you all you want. Still, consider this token post that acknowledges our trip: We went, we had a great time, hope to go back.

Venice's famous "Bridge of Sighs" connects the courts of the Doges' Palace with the prison just across a narrow canal. A Venetian prisoner being led to his sentence (and possible doom) in the prison would have had his last glimpse of the outside world and possibly his beloved here, hence the name.

Today crowds throng the opposite bridge to snap the requisite picture of the Bridge of Sighs, but if you take the "Secret Itineraries" tour of the palace and prison--which in our case was led by the most unpleasant tour guide I've ever met-- you can get a shot from the inside looking out.

I was worried about Venice: worried that it would be a mobbed tourist-trap hellhole, a Disneyland freakshow simulacrum. While it was certainly crowded and pretty expensive (but not terribly so; hell, I live in France--I know expensive), the city's considerable charms far outweigh the annoyances of the packs of tourists and the t-shirt vendors, especially once you get away from Piazza San Marco, and even more so at night once the day-trippers leave.

[This picture is of Boog in Carnival regalia at Tragicomica, by reputation the city's finest mask shop, purveyors of hand-made masks ranging from simple commedia dell'arte models to ornate, intricately-painted feathered get-ups (V bought one similar to the red-feathered number just above Boog's hat).]

Still, there is a pervading sense that Venice's days are numbered: not only is it dying as an honest-to-gosh city as fewer and fewer actual residents can afford to live there--as an indicator, the entire city has only two grocery stores, each smaller than your typical Food Lion--the infrastructure is crumbling as the sea levels rise. It's almost as if the weight of tourists is forcing the seawater to bubble up through the sewer grates...

Perhaps emblematic: the t-shirt vendor in Piazza San Marco hawking t-shirts that read "Venice: See It Before It Sinks" while standing on plywood duckboards.

It's good advice, though.


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