Tuesday, May 18, 2004

A Final Note

Tuesday, May 18th, 2004

I still have one more day to write about, but that will have to wait. It's the last few minutes in Venezia before I rush for the train station. Thought I'd create links to un-linked images before I leave town.

If you've not worked with my Blogs before' you need to use the navigation list on the right to reach the earliest Blog (the one on the bottom) and traverses them all in chronolgoical order. See you all soon.

Wednesday May 19th, 2004
I guess I should be going to sleep, tomorrow being my checkout morning from Italy and all. But what the hay, it’s not 11:00 PM yet.

I had a second meal at café Nabucco (http://www.nabucco.it). Tonight was there stuffed pumpkin flowers, followed by raviolis, and a third dish that’s all tortellini.

You know what, this is really weird to say, but I think I’m all talked out. My mind is on tomorrow.

Got to go.

(For some reason there is a big gap below this line - please scroll to see the linked images....)

Monday, May 17, 2004

Rudder Control

Monday, May 17, 2004
What a calming day this has been.

I washed my clothes, meandered the alleys of Venice, prepped vacation images and HTML for posting (I hope), and sat along the Grand Canal waiting to see what happens.

As I sat on the river bank of the Grand Canal I was very aware of how cooling the spot was. The marble embankment was in shade and hadn’t yet been exposed to the day’s sun. The large white bricks were cold. Finally something to counteract my hot ass. I decided to try long pants today. When I was out late yesterday I got a slight chill from how cold it became after nightfall. I guess that wasn’t the reason to wear pants early in the day. The real thing that happened was I was accosted by a gay guy staffing an AIDS awareness/donation table. I was in shorts with my shirt arms rolled up as high as they would stay. He put his hands on my exposed lower bicep and elbow, then quickly pulled away. I thought that he was concerned about violating my space, but his words were, “you are not cold?”. You could take that either way I guess, but I at least took it to mean he was shocked by whatever he felt by touching me.
So I sat there on the embankment watching as boat after boat went by. The Grand Canal has so many vaporetto (public transit) boats running its length there were frequent jam-ups. The boat drivers seemed exceptionally skilled, but I have to remind myself that they weren’t slicing trough air at 75MPH so stopping is much easier. I also saw a number of cell phone talkers and in every case of a near accident, someone was on a cell phone. (Although I forget that yesterday an absent minded old man was allowing his boat to drift backwards into other stationary boats that had to row out of his way and barely escape collision.)

Venice is boy town, and boats and boys seem to go together well. So many of the boats were 2-manned, typically one reclined-partially tanning, and at his feet the other driving. The boys just go places with each other all throughout Venezia and all over the surrounding lagoon. Even when working this one laying in the sun, the other driving was very common. One time today I noticed the two occupants weren’t participating in tradition and they looked like they weren’t pleased to be in the same boat with each other at all.

There were a variety of ways to drive as well, but even here there were playful images at work. Some rudder controls were meter long chrome tubes, just the right diameter to fit into ones hand. This rudder control extends forward from the back of the boat where you’d expect a motor boat engine to be. Everybody had their own style of working the rudder control, but almost all of them stood rather than sat. One of the best pilots I saw was steering his huge barge by thrusting the rudder control overboard to achieve a reverse effect, the rudder out of his hands and out of reach for long periods of time. That was something you’d have to see for yourself. Some people drove with a vertical lazy bar attachment so that they could handle the control from other positions - sitting. Others used one or the other butt cheek to drive with, and at least one happy pilot was riding the rudder control, the smooth chrome tip disappearing into the crevas of his butt cheeks. But the guy I really liked the most was working the rudder control with his hand - twisting and sliding and twisting some more. I wish I could have read his mind.

on Risotto and Gondola

Sunday, May 16, 2004
With any luck, when you see these pages you’ll see text with image, but it’s possible that you will not.

The process of getting my notes from desktop to internet is much more complicated than it was in Edinburgh. I’ve tried to have my notebook connected to the café network, copy files to PCMCIA card,a dn will now try burning CD’s. It’s not adding to the relaxing atmosphere I want to maintain, even if this nerdly activity is intriguing on some level. It’s all so many steps that I’m thinking that the Blog will end today, especially since I’ll be in Milano in 24 hours anyway.

This trip has gone very well - even when you include the hotel debacles.

There go the noisy foreigners again. OK, I admit, the American’s in this hallway were also noisy, perhaps making the loudest noise of all. The Americans started out by being very excited about the absence of amenities here at the Al Sole. It was one of those neurotic moments when the woman of the traveling pair chased down the bellman complaining that there was no bathroom in her room. The bellman thought she meant the room only had a shower and that she wanted at tub, so he was off to go get her a room with a bath tub. (Not only is there a bathroom in her room, it also has a tub.)

But I was sure there was something up - my gut telling me that this person wasn’t satisfied with sleeping in a separate room from her traveling companion and that this was really the source of excitement. Low and behold 11:00 PM Friday the hotel management is traversing the hallway cursing. He’s trying his best to be a late night locksmith. “Why didn’t you tell me you had lost the key earlier?” Was one of his English language outbursts. Now mind you the key is attached to a big heavy piece of metal with 100 red tassels hanging off of it. You obviously don’t take it out the hotel. The American woman tried to speak quietly, but the manager was still so flustered with her he continued on in an unprofessional manner. How much do you want to bet that the woman was forcing her way into the companions hotel room?

Last night both the Germans and the French made multiple near mid-night arrivals. They all had the noise insensitivity volume of people who had been out drinking, but I have no evidence of this.


Food is expensive here - San Francisco dinning is very inexpensive in comparison. I’ve got to admit I have had some good meals though.

In the mornings I stop at the Brek cafeteria, and create a personalized yogurt bowl. The yogurt is a beautifully rich pure white think bumpy looking consistency pudding. I top the bowl of yogurt with chucks of freshly sliced kiwi and grapefruit. (The colors alone make the dish beautiful.) For lunch, on Saturday, I ate lunch in Piazza San Marco. The air was wonderful as the day was pleasingly breezy and sunny. A small restaurant band played music for the restaurant guests as we sat in the outdoors. Out in the plaza, the sky was alive with pigeons coming and going from the plaza, and the swallows looping around in the sky in their usual beautiful display. I noticed that a large number of pigeons were in pairs, one pigeon riding the air break of the pigeon before it, descending into the plaza by spiraling down from the heights, making for a very graceful scene indeed. (And I hate pigeons!)

Saturday dinner was consumed outdoors as well. I was stuffed on two servings of risotto (the minimum order), a head of grilled artichoke, and a platter of grilled eggplant slices. Topped off with a wonderful lemon tart-like thing that they swore was not lemoni, and kept referring to as “grandmother cake”. My waitress was a transplanted Albanian who was working days, and attending night school. I wanted to ask “isn’t this night right now?” but never got the chance to clarify exactly how many tasks she was juggling simultaneously. Oh to be young again.

Yesterday’s lunch was a brunch at Brek’s the usual enhanced with a lemon juice punctuated broccoli-carrot salad. I ate dinner at a Greek restaurant - they can’t say “Mediterranean” here as we already are in Mediterranean - that had many food options I was unfamiliar with. (I have to admit I’ll probably stick to our American favorites in the future, but it was fun trying something new.)

Breakfast today will be another late brunch meal at Breks as I try to limit expenses and calories. Tonight I dine at the Osteria La Zucca - by appointment only.

I finally broke down and had a chocolate gelato. Oh heaven! I went back and got another, and the woman gave me an extra scoop for free. I think she was thanking me for accidentally jabbing her unwanted suitor in the face on my previous visit. Honest it was an accident! (Thank god I outweighed him by 100 pounds.)

The photography has been exhilarating, as I hope you’ll agree.


I also went on a gondola ride yesterday. Venice is funny, there are all these sailor-like looking characters waiting on bridges trying entice people to take a ride in their gondola. After I crossed the Rialto bridge there were two of these gondoliers touting their wares in the plaza. One of them I was particularly interested in having give me a ride. (The photograph is NOT flattering.)

What a ride it was. He took over gondoliering from his retired grandfather 8 years ago. He said that most people we see working here in Venezia are not local inhabitant, but actually come from the mainland into town to work because work is good. For the last two weeks there has been a weird downturn in gondola riding that’s worse than winter season, so he was very happy for my fare (even though the question of my true motives were clearly in the air). So there I was in the gondola with his voice behind me telling me about the world, the oldest building this, the richest family that, the rules of the gondola traffic, blah blah blah. Sort of like having guide headphones on where the narrative voice has a thick Italian accent. Occasionally we’d pass by overpasses with loads of people gaping out at the scene of me riding solo with my gondolier friend. I say gaping, because I’ve been on those bridges - we’re all usually trying to take a picture. The people on the other hand were just looking. Hhehehehe.

Occasionally we’d also pass his fellow gondoliers doing their thing with boat-fulls of passengers. The banter between these men had the sound of the usual male chiding, but I couldn’t tell exactly what the chiding was about. I can say however that the chiding appeared to always be pointed at my gondolier - hehheh. Those boys had better be careful, I saw a few other gondoliers on that little gaunt that I’d take a ride from as well, so any one of them could be next!


Anyone who gets this message should send money, fast please.

The Squirming

Saturday, May 15, 2004

It was at that moment that I really saw my hand. The skin on the back of my hand was dry and chapped by the briny water I had used to wash it with. Of all my right-hand’s fingers, only the index finger could be seen as I was using it to point. The poorly clipped fingernail (darn my hasty Wednesday night preparations) was slightly dirty for reasons I’ll never understand. And my cuticle - one of many that have never seen a manicure.

At first as I looked at my finger I was surprised by how it looked. I thought the state of my hand made me look unkempt and dirty, but those thoughts were fleeting and hardly a reason for alarm. At this moment of realization those observations were not the issue of intense concern.

What I was concerned about was size - my hands looked really big and rough. At that particular moment, the extended index finger appeared to be larger than life and enhanced by some sort of finger-viagra. I wanted to pull my hand out of sight, but it was too late. All 6 eyes present were attentively observing the spot on the map of Venice I was pointing at. (At least that’s what I had hoped they were all paying attention to.)

The other two pairs of eyes belonged to two American women I was helping. They were both very pretty, but… Anyway when we all looked up from the map the one I was most concerned about quickly executed a smooth series of disorienting facial and body gestures, culminating in pulling the sunglasses from atop her head, and giving her head a little twist like some hair conditioner commercial. Her hair all fell into place in a very beautiful swirling-cascading motion that any nerd would have found breathtaking. “I think she’s doing the hair shake thing at me!” (Cassie had warned me of such things. Having now experienced this for myself I am surprised by the effectiveness of the move.) Thank the great maker for my at-home-training and natural defenses against such tactics! I broke the evil spell she had cast and sent them both on their way to San Marcos.

As I continued on my way all I could think was “size queen!”.


If any of you have ideas on how to deal with European accommodations and change rooms efficiently, send me a tell so I can post them here. I was sort of trapped yesterday. After all of that traveling I was very caught off guard when the room they gave me was, cover your ears mom, C R A P. I was caught in a quandary about saying as much - “what if this IS the best room left“?

Anyway, in the end, there was so much not right about the room that there was absolutely no fuss about giving me a better room - if anything only hesitation and concern about my reaction to seeing how much better the next room was.

Today’s room is wonderfully airy, with views to the north west of a nearby church and to the east, a cascade of terra cotta roof tops. Bright, fresh breeze and enough space to turn around in. this morning the swallows were flying around in the space within my view, and now a lizard basks on a nearby wall - all of the heat of the day is on the other side of the building.”.

You know how it is - hotels have a system - the bellman already has your luggage before you can say “I can do it myself“, before you even have the key. So you and the bellman go all the way to the room, and you‘re supposed to say at that moment “thisa rooma isa crapa!”? All I can think is that I have to step into the process actively before the hotel gets to pull their usual processes into play - even if the language barrier gets into the way. If the bellman approaches I need to be ready to say to both the bellman and the manager “I’d like to leave my bags here and inspect the room first”. Even if the bellman is nowhere in sight the request for room review has to be made before the room appears to be “mine”.

I remember when I got into yesterday’s room and being stunned. When the door closed behind me, I looked at the escape route map for the floor, and my room was NOT the smallest of the lot. That’s when my questions about what to do next got complicated. [Oh my god! I just remembered what he said to me. He told me the room next door I was asking to swap to was a “double” - but according to the escape map it wasn’t that much bigger than the room I wanted to get out of!]

Hmmm, as I think about this hotel procedure I‘m designing, I wonder if I should ask for two keys, the room they want to give me and “the key to the best available room in the hotel at that moment“. It at least says “I know rooms vary, and I’m not demanding the best room. The room you’re offering had better not look dramatically worse".
The way the hotel clerk was squirming to explain the differences between yesterday’s room and today’s felt like I had him by the balls - which leads me to another story…


Friday, May 14, 2004

The Longest Day

Part 2 3 and 4
"Part 1" should have been labelled "in the middle". The longest day started on Wednesday morning (SF time) and will continue on for a few more minutes, ending when I go to bed at 11:00 PM Friday night (Italy time). The real "Part 1" went very well. I managed to get some work done during the Summation day, but not as much as I had hoped. By 5 PM my mind was on getting home and preparing for this trip. After that I shopped Walgreens for trip supplies, created email lists, started Blogging, prepped the camera gear etc. Watered the plants inside and outside too. Right about then it was 3:00 AM and I realized I needed to think about the clothes at least a little before the taxi time came. So clothes got their 15 minutes due, and that was about it. The cab was called about 5:30 AM.

At the airport (SFO) I ran into my neighbor Al, and the monk he lives with. I haven't yet gotten an understanding of whether they are "room mates" or what. I hope Al starts acting like we're friendly neighbors. The Continental plane to Newark was jam packed with bodies. I and the woman next to me were in constant hip contact. That's about as mouch female intimacy as I was meant to endure. The Continental flight from Newark to Milano was much more reasonable. Sue, the woman I was seated with, and I got along so well she almost made me cry as we discussed George W.

Waiting for Italian customs in the Milan airport ("Malpensa") a conversation began with the person ahead of me in line. When he asked where I was from and I responded, he went quiet, and our conversation ended, even though I tried to keep it going by asking where he was from. "What is going on in that Kansas City boy's head" I wondered.

I guess I was thinking about that a lot, because I was all unprepared when I stepped up to the Italian Customs agent. I fumbled around and handed him my passport opened to a random page (not my photo). The customs agent took the book, stamped it and sent me through - never noticing where in the book the entry had gone, never looking me in the eye for shiftiness, never looking to see if I matched the image in the passport. I guess we ALL had something on our minds right about then.

Part 1

So I've made it! Not all the way to Venice yet, but I am in Italy (in Milan).

I have a 3 hour lay-over then onto an express EuroStar train to the City In the Bay.

It's not raining here! I hope the weather predictions for rain remain wrong for the remainder of this trip.

The natives are laughing at me for being in shorts. It's a good 5 - 10 degrees warmer here than back home, so I'll let them laugh (for now). No reason to put on pants that are too tight and too warm just to satisfy them.

I forget that everyone smokes here too. The bathroom was just choked full of smoke from the last occupant. It's still interesting to me that bathroom stalls in the US allow those outside to see the feet of what ever is going on inside the stall, while in Italy it can be a downright cozy cave of privacy. (Except for those awkward moments when the bathroom is unisex and a woman is in the stall right next door and we can hear all the sounds from eachother. That's just too icky.)

Part 3 and 4

The air here is think with tree pollen. Well not pollen, that stuff that looks like dandilion fluff that comes blowing off of trees in the spring. I don't mean a small amount either. I mean a lot. As the train departed Milan Centrale for Venezia Santa Lucia, the air around the train, for as far as I could see, shifted like the portal view of a star field from within a ship accelerating to warp speed. Lots of that tree pollen around!

I almost forgot - the really important things!

When I was waiting for the train I sat outside in the open plaza in front of the station. That was so pleasant - just saving time to BE, instead DO. I said to myself "you should tell everybodùy to leave the house right now and sit down outside somewhere and just BE."

Another thing that's been rattling around in my mind is the idea of "missing" people. When I came back from Scotland I had told Cassie and Max that I didn't miss people while I was away, but now I think I misunderstood what "missing" really means. My day job is so much about communication - the more people are trying to coommunicate with me the more it means I have more work to do. When I'm out here away from home (and away from all the DOING) is when I actually start to feel like I have the energy to communicate. To initiate contact on my own. Lots of energy to communicate. What is "missing someone" other than wanting to share the moment with them?

I'm trying to get the hotel to let me to change rooms tomorrow. The room next door has a door to a deck in an open small plaza-like space. I want to sit around and BE somemore.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Why? Why? Why?

Oh! Why do I let myself be misguided by my dreams? Italy is 15 hours away, yet I've let a dream convince me that there's something important for me at the end of that long commute.

Ok. I shouldn't say "misguided". So far every excursion to Italy has been exactly what I needed, and this trip will probably be as helpful as all the others. It's just that I can't find the right word to use to describe this sensation. "Overly optimistic"?

I'm just feeling like Jake Cisco. The Prophets give him guidance, he follows the visions of the oracle, and what he expects to have happen doesn't. Instead a different interpretation of the events he foresaw occurs.

Worse than Jake's experience, I'm going to Italy because of a dream/vision, and at this point I can't even remember what I saw in the dream that was so important. Just some vague memory of intervening in a discussion between Jim and Jon over the meaning of some SearchResults report. In the dream Jim made me recite the words in Jon's SearchResult report, and interpret the meaning of those results for all of us to hear aloud.

When I awoke it was like I too had been visited by a vision from the tears of the prophets. I HAD to follow the course the vision had set me on. And now, only a week later, I'm off on a journey to the other side of the globe to see what I will encounter.