Thursday, May 29, 2014

Opera on the Water

This, too, is boat ownership: getting a tow for repairs
One of the big local stories a couple of days ago was that a restaurant owner in the vicinity of the church of Santi Apostoli had been rewarded with punches and kicks for being a good citizen. Specifically, the business owner had reprimanded a couple of youths for going too fast down a narrow canal in their boat and they'd responded, first, by slowing down probably more than he'd even hoped they would--coming all the way to a complete stop--then, by getting out and assaulting him.

The paper pointed out that the two ruffians were foreign-born, and not from Chioggia, as I saw one commenter suggest (predictably enough) on Facebook just after the first incomplete account appeared. I say "predictably enough" as the residents of Chioggia still seem to play the same role for present-day Venetians as they did back in Goldoni's day, as the butt of most jokes and the alleged perpetrators of no end of knavery.

The local papers here, like newspapers everywhere now it seems, specialize in tabloid headlines, aiming to inspire visceral reactions--indignation, revulsion, lust--with simplified oppositions of good and evil, virtue and ignominy, but the account of the incident I got yesterday from someone who knows all three of the players suggested something more in the way of old Commedia dell'arte. The restaurant owner, that pillar of the local business community, is, according to my source (who actually likes him) an aggressive fellow, prone to be a little too free with both insults and foul language. The youths may not have liked being told to slow down, but it was the way they were told that really set them off.

In any case, the little incident was still having ripple effects a day later. Inspired, apparently, by the example of the restaurant owner, local law enforcement was spurred (or shamed) to do its own part in monitoring excessive speed in that very same canal near Santi Apostoli (which, after all, is its job). The result was that my source had just received a ticket for going too fast in his boat as he passed through that area on his way to pick up his son from school. Barely a little too fast, he emphasized.

That youths--even angelic native Venetians--tend to go too fast around the lagoon is not news to anyone here, of course. The sight of a boat--usually a cofano (a low-slung 5 meter boat, usually fiberglass and usually piloted from the stern) pounding over the water always inspires the same disapproving exclamation from Sandro: "Teenagers!" Even if the boat is too far away to allow one to guess at the age of the driver and passengers.

Sandro has already promised, with no prodding (really!), that he'll never drive his boat that way when he's older.

But, then, until very recently he'd also agreed with me that there was really no need to have a stereo in a boat that you drive around the lagoon, like those absurdly thumping systems favored mostly by teens in their cofani.

The sound of the boat over the water, the rush of wind past one's ears, the smell of the air, the feel of the spray, the sights all around--what in the world could recorded music add to the experience, and who would have any attention to give to it anyway?!
No stereo system in any boat of ours! Sandro and I proclaimed, taking a firm stand, even if neither of us actually had a boat in which to put our feet. Jen wasn't so sure--she liked the idea of a bit of music. But we, my son and I, could not and would not be swayed.

At least not for a while... I haven't wavered, but Sandro announced last week that he likes the idea of big speakers in any boat we or he (eventually) might get. I could only raise my eyebrows at this. And hope that it would pass.

Instead, as is the case with most of his plans, it has only been further elaborated. Last night he admitted to me that, indeed, he looked forward to blasting loud rock and roll as he cruised about in his own cofano some day. But only in the open lagoon, he quickly added.

While wending through the narrow waterways of the city center, he assured me, he'd play only opera.

I can't figure out whether this reveals the influence of Italian culture (that bit of Otello we watched together on RAI 3, for example), or tourist culture (those singing gondoliers), or is just another example of his gift for crafting arguments especially suited to his listener that has periodically inspired me to call him "l'avvocato" (the lawyer) since he was 4. Whatever is behind it, though, I'm not so sure I believe him. 


  1. That son of yours ... he's quite the lad!

  2. Sandro is such a character!

    Years back a young man was killed near Sant'Elena when his too fast boat hit a bridge, because it was tilted up by the speed, and capsized, he was killed by the engine if I remember correctly. Ask any "older" resident of the island and they will remember.

    Even if the guy might have been a little rude, he didn't deserve to be attacked. He was probably fed up for the lack of speed limit respect.

    1. I'll see if anyone recalls that accident, Laura. I suspect I know exactly the bridge you mean and I was already dismayed to see how fast some youths approach the entrance of that canal even before you told me of the accident there. Some of them like to shoot right under it at high speed, which I guess is exactly what the unfortunate guy you refer to was planning on doing. In any case, I'm sure older folks will remember, but the young ones don't appear to know anything about it, or are unfazed by the knowledge.