Wednesday, June 23, 2021

As Tourists Return to Venice, We Prepare to Leave It

Duck lips have returned to Venice

As the swallows famously return to San Capistrano in California, so duck lips (rather then ducks themselves) have returned to Venice with the return of tourists to Venice.

This particular and now nearly universal set of the face, a particular aesthetic of beauty created by the technology of our digital and disembodied age (an effect and even a type of technology predicted nearly 100 years ago by Paul Valéry in his remarkable essay "The Conquest of Ubiquity"), and held only so long as required to snap a selfie, is one of the things whose absence during the long touristic lull of the pandemic can only fully be appreciated with its reappearance afterwards.

But while tourists return to Venice we, after living here full-time for more than a decade, are planning to move to Toronto, with a departure from Venice in mid-July.

This is a move that's been long in the works, but one that I haven't wanted to mention in the blog as, not least of all, it's not something I've wanted (or want) to write much about. Writing, no matter how one tries (with varying degrees of success) to disguise it, inevitably brings with it certain demands of form and, at least, if only to a limited degree, of coherence (achieved or attempted). 

"To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up," a character remarks in Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband, and when it comes to this move I've had no interest in writing about it in either a "natural" (ie, casual) way, nor a more formal one. Both of which would, like all forms of writing, begin to shape my thoughts in ways having more to do with the demands of the medium than I'd prefer.

For now I can only say that having watched our son grow from a not-quite-yet-three-old American child upon our arrival on November 1, 2010, to a bi-lingual, bi-cultural, but very Venetian 13 year old, it seemed time return to North America for at least a few years. To be closer to family again, and to the culture in which both my wife and I are at home, as we will never be in Venice. 

Despite the international festivals it hosts (the Biennales of Art, Architecture, Film, Dance, etc) the subject when one is in Venice can only inevitably be Venice itself. 

It is a city long defined by its own self-regard, in which visitors willingly (even rapturously) join, as they almost can't help but do in such a beautiful, storied place--and in which the city's economy has long relied upon them doing. 

But I find it increasingly difficult to form any clear opinions on Venice. For myself at least, any worthwhile attempts at reflection seem possible only outside the hall of mirrors that the city is, and has long been. 

The only way to think about a subject, I suspect, is at least for a time not to think about it at all. Not to think, that is, in the conscious sense of the city as an unceasing object of interest or focus or investigation.

As I've written this blog over the last decade I've found myself putting more space between the subject matter of the blog and my actual lived experience. More and more of what I post has been images I've snapped in the course of going about my daily life, the incidental and brief rather than the extended subject of thought (such as, for example, an earlier post about Ruskin inspired by something seen on the way to bringing my son to kindergarten). 

In any case, I'm presently so swamped by the complicated logistics of our move that I have no idea at all about what I am doing or will do with this blog. I have a lot of recent photos I've been remiss in not posting. I have ideas about re-posting certain older posts, or posting for the first time photos taken a few years back but never posted. 

I think I'll keep the blog going until I get to a place--namely Toronto--where I can perhaps have the time to properly bring it to some kind of close. I can't see that being anytime before the fall.

In the meantime, I'll post current photos and identify them as such, or older photos with the date they were taken. I don't think I'll have much or any time to add any or much text. But beyond this at the moment I find it impossible to say....


  1. I'm so sorry that you're leaving Venice, but I can quite see why. Oddly enough my grandparents lived for years in the Toronto area of Canada - I hope that you are as happy there as they were.
    I'm certain I'll not be the only one of your following who will miss you and your comments and brilliant images of a city we have known and loved, even when it somehow only shows its worst side.
    My best wishes for your future, and my thanks for the pleasures and insights that you have granted me, and so many others, too, I am certain.

  2. An interesting insight into this strange and unsightly face pulling. I spent 10 days in Venice(2017)and it was quite confusing, from seeing no beauty to fully converted.. And now I think of her all the time, which is one reason I follow your blog. I think the distance will be helpful too. All the best for your move; keep posting the pictures, after all, why not!

  3. Wow -- that will be quite a change! I will miss your posts, your pictures, and your thoughts on our beloved citta', but I wish you all the best in Toronto...a city that still offers much, but perhaps demands a bit less. (I'm long overdue for a visit to friends there, so I think of it fondly -- in summer, at least.)

    If you get to tour south of the border with your book (which is getting very nice reviews!), and if that tour brings you to St. Petersburg, FL, I'll come say hi!

  4. Steven grazie per le belle immagini che ci hai regalato e pubblicherai prossimamente.
    Per me sei stato una "voce" oggettiva, indipendente, su Venezia.
    Ti auguro ogni bene.
    Porta Venezia sempre nel tuo cuore.
    Buona fortuna.

  5. I have one request for you when you settle in the country of my birth. Will you please become fans of the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey team? They need all the support they can muster.

    The very best to you and your family. It will be interesting to see what your new life brings you. Finallly, congratulations on choosing a darn good country in which to live.

    It was fun to meet you folks. <3

  6. It is so sad to hear that, Steven. Not only because I'll miss your view of Venice from inside it, but mostly because it shows that actually living in Venice has become a nightmare. Nothing learned in this year and a half.
    Good luck and many thanks for your posts over the years. Looking forward to reading your thoughts from Toronto.

  7. I too will miss your posts, pictures and the insights into how children are brought up in Venice. They seem to have a lot of freedom. You posted a photo of about 20 - 30 little scooters parked outside a kindergarten, presumably they rode them. Here in our nanny state this activity would require the canals to be lined with safety fences.
    Thank you for sharing your time in Venice and best wishes.

  8. Steven the very best of luck in your move to Toronto. I have relations there and the city has brought them joy and prosperity. I've been reading your blog since 2013 and consider it one of the most insightful on the web. I'll miss it but all good things come to an end. Best wishes.

    1. Very belated thanks, Joe, for your very kind comment. I'm not quite done with the Venice blog yet, but I'm thinking about an Instagram account for images of Toronto (as blogs are now quite passé it seems and I'd be better off writing other things).

  9. Thank you for all your pics, posts and comments. I’ll miss your blog. All the best for you and your family in Toronto! Best wishes.