Bongiorno Venezia

The book and movie “Death in Venice” came into my mind today as I thought I might actually die here. Less dramatically, there was a moment today when I thought I would at least spend the rest of my life surrounded by tourists, unable to escape. Smelly, dirty tourists, most of whom smoked. (Italy doesn’t seem to have received the memo about smoking yet.) Vague, sluggish tourists who walked at a snail’s pace. Tourists who thought it would be a great idea to bring their babies in hummer-like prams down crowded medieval streets. I don’t really need to go on, do I? I think you get the scene.

So I took a moment out to go back to my hotel room, to enjoy the air-conditioning and to try to regroup on my sense of what I wanted from visiting Venice. Of course I wanted to visit and see the gondolas and the waterways. I also wanted to see some of the amazing art that would be part of the Venice Bienale. Thankfully I’ve been able to do that in the six or so hours I’ve been here by taking the sideroad. You avoid the crowds and you get to see a little more, I think.

I chatted briefly to another guy doing the same. We were at the end of a darkish lane, both looking at the boats, the narrow waterway, and the buildings that were presumably hundreds of years old.

By taking the sideroad I also got see some amazing art as part of the Venice Bienale. I visited Montenegro (which I didn’t really understand), Cyprus (a terrific installation piece) and my favorite (so far), the pavilion from Estonia. The work there called, NSFW, is most definitely NSFW. A series of videos and photographs tells the story of a former Communist Party Chairman who led a double life as a married man and as a closeted gay man who would pick up men in public toilets. After being intimately physically examined, he was charged with a sex crime. Later, he was killed by a Russian solider who doubled as a prostitute. Sadly this was as recently as 1990, so it’s an incredibly sad and touching work.

Without a real plan for the evening, I’ve wandered down to the waterfront where I’ve secured a terrific table for the sunset and am enjoying a couple of local beers. I may not come back.

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