|A bench on Sant' Elena is a marvelous place from which to watch the sun set--but is it worth the risk?|
Many people say that such an idea, among its other faults, would turn Sant' Elena into little more than a zoo: at best, a wild life preserve for the last remaining Venetians. At worst, a prison.
But proponents of the plan ask: Do the bars of a zoo serve to keep the animals in, or the teeming masses of much more dangerous and destructive animals out?
People on all sides of the issue however marvel at the fact that the visitors keep coming, in spite of the alarming frequency of tourist disappearances that occur here.
Some locals, claiming to have inside knowledge of the disappearances, claim they are evidence that the CIA has extended its program of "extraordinary rendition" into Venice. But I have it on good authority that nothing in the background of most of the disappeared would even vaguely validate such claims.
Others suggest that the disappearances are actually kidnappings: money-making schemes carried out by the many gangs of criminals jockeying for power on Sant' Elena. However, another highly-placed source assures me that no ransom notes have ever been received.
A few of the more eccentric neighborhood characters even claim that Sant' Elena is the center of alien abductions in Italy--perhaps in all of Europe. According to these folks the island is a sacred vortex of some kind, and the mass of trees that were uprooted a couple of years ago in its park were torn out not by a cyclone, as reported in the local papers, but by the extraordinary force of a low-hovering alien spacecraft.
Whatever the source of the disapperances, city officials have managed, remarkably enough, to keep all news of them out of the papers. So the tourists, all unsuspecting, keep coming, lured by the promise of the city's only sizable park, and perhaps the opportunity to glimpse "authentic Venetian life."
Ah, that ultimate commercial pitch of every tourist trap, capable of penetrating the defenses of even the most jaded of travelers: in this pre-packaged world of mass tourism of ours a forbidden taste of "authenticity."
And so they come and--I shudder as I type this--meet their mysterious end.