Venetian Lies

I

   Fantasy 

            Venice: winged lions stitched in fabric and carved out of stone. Carousels topped with murals of the city and galloping horses saddled to ride. Dark, mysterious canals of the Floating City where boats were anchored to striped posts. It was singing gondoliers in straw hats steering elegant gondolas. Abandoned movie theatres with decaying curtains from “The Thief Lord.” The City of Masks where festivals were lit by the flames of the fire dancers. Moonlight reflected on the Adriatic and sounds of distant music and laughter. It was adorning a mask and parading around, causing mischief with your fellow deviants. The stories of Casanova and love, deeper than Paris’. The City of Water, where boats replaced cars and the ancient cathedrals flooded. Street children living untamed; the city their playground. Beautiful hand-blown Venetian glass, which twisted and molded together in brilliant colors; ruby red and aquamarine. Gothic and Renaissance palaces making you feel small on the water below. Opera and the Teatro La Fenice’s grand chandelier.Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. It was St. Mark’s Basilica in St. Mark’s Square decorated with the treasures of the fallen Constantinople; calices, tapestries, and bronze horses. It was the Doge's Palace, domed and embellished with grand murals. The Bridge of Sighs, where lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss at sunset when the St. Mark’s bells toll. It was a place a million miles away within an arm’s reach.

 

 

II

   Reality

                        I gave up Ireland for the Queen of the Adriatic and now I walk in single file down piss-stained alleyways. The stink of the homeless and filthy water fills my nostrils. St. Mark’s square is crowded with pigeons and more pigeons. Tourists illegally feed them bread from their sandwiches. I slink along sinking buildings and cross over collapsing bridges, following the steps of the tour guide. We admire graffitied and vandalized palaces dilapidated with time and disrespect. Shops and stands and sellers reside in every nook and cranny of this twisting city. They scam and lie for money. “Yes, yes! REAL Venetian glass!” “Pretty masks for a pretty lady!” Though at a closer look the Venetian souvenirs are “MADE IN CHINA.” I buy a winged lion in a snow globe for my brother’s collection. The globe is hot glued to the base and if you don’t hold both pieces when you shake it, it falls apart. (I find out the hard way.) I cough up eighty Euros for a silent gondola ride. “You need to work out,” mumbles the Venetian helping my clumsy ass out of the swaying boat. I scoff at his tip hat. I wander with half of my group to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum where I find a garden. A plaque on the wall indicates that Peggy herself was buried there.  An adjacent plaque reads “HERE LIES MY BELOVED BABIES: Cappuccino, Peacock, Pegeen, Toro, Foglia, Madam Butterfly, Baby, Emily, White Angel, Sir Herbert, Sable, Gypsy, Hong Kong, and Cellida.” I realize they are pets, not oddly named dead children. Who would rather be buried next to their fourteen pets than their poet husband? We leave the museum and I wander the streets lost. I eventually find my group and am guilt-tripped into buying a minor cigarettes. The guide takes us to a five-minute glass blowing demonstration followed by a twenty-five-minute sales pitch. “Venetian glass is of the highest quality! The red is made with pure gold!” I buy a glass calligraphy pen that sits in my desk untouched and still wrapped eight months later. Tired and disappointed, I board our ferry back. I sit on the roofless top deck, wanting some clean air and a nice view, but as soon as the boat leaves the dock it starts to pour. I shove the wrapped pen into my bag.

 

Photo by: Harleigh McGowan