Tuesday, March 14, 2017
March 14, 2017
O Mosquitos of Venice! Do you not see the smears of your sisters my thumb left on the wall? Why do you persist in coming through the window?
From my room I can hear somebody practicing clarinet in a neighboring house.
First clouds of my stay, a gray roof bringing cool. Maybe rain?
One comes to the point where the sight of Japanese tourists sucking up the sights is sickening– as the Americans and British must have been in their day. But there is a difference. The Brits and Yanks with their Baedekers were interested in the place, who painted that fresco, what anecdote is attached to that piazza, etc. It was intended to be educational, and to varying degrees it was. The Japanese are indifferent to place (which they typically do not actually see) but are interested instead in themselves in a series of famous places. They are here to take the photograph, preferably a “cute” one and move on. There is nothing but the photograph. The place has no value but as the setting for the photograph. I think of the Japanese girls wearing kitten masks and cavorting for one another’s camera phones in Hagia Sophia. I watch them enter San Marco, and without really looking at anything, line up the shot, take the shot, scurry on to have a shot of themselves under St Teodoro and his crocodile. The gondolas are completely full of Japanese, who are not looking at what’s around them, but taking selfies of themselves and their friends. Is this fun? It doesn’t look that way. It looks like duty. It’s a kind of frenzy I can’t understand unless I make reference to J. K. Rowling, and assume all those photos are a type of horcrux, little fetishes to contain a portion of human energy, to prove that the self was, and to allow it to continue once the flesh and blood are gone. Memory is not enough.
Each day my route has gotten a little longer and I’ve returned to the hotel a little less tired. Except that this matter of hemoglobin is becoming dire again. At times I’m racked with agonizing muscle spasms. I cannot climb the Rialto or the Accademia bridges without stopping at the top and fighting for consciousness. Venice is full of steep little hills, the bridges that carry one over four hundred canals. Early in the day I was falling on the steps because I did not have the energy to lift my feet high enough. Lunch and concentration help as the day goes on, but the day reduces my water level and despite the sincerity of my hydration, the cramps return. Slam down liquid until I begin to vomit it up in a fit of coughing. If it’s not one thing it’s another.
Crossed the Accademia and found a bookstore that made me long to read fluent Italian. There were translations of English texts one seldom sees in English. Sat long in the Campo de S Polo, which is immense as Venetian squares go. Three big trees, each a different kind. Drank and ate. Musicians played for us, and children harried the pigeons, which gladly complied. It looks like cruelty, but if i columbi weren’t enjoying it, I suppose they’d merely fly away. Arrived at the Scuolo Grande di San Rocco, completely decorated ceilings and walls by Tintoretto, with a few Giorgiones and Titians in the corners to add nuance. Never have seen the like of it. Gorgeousness raised to the level of priceless camp and then beyond that to the sublime. One wanted to linger, though lingering was like having too much cake. It was difficult for a person of my austere background to take it in. There must have been nothing like Venice in its day. Found myself (from the other side) in part of the town I visited yesterday, having cappuccino again at the café where I wrote the poem for my father. The woman recognized me and brought me exactly what I had the first time. We long so for tradition. Came to San Marco by yet another route. A homely bride was having her veil adjusted. The Japanese were marching across the pavement behind selfie sticks. Handsome soldiers stood on the steps, heavily armed. I was to shy to take a photograph.