Sunday, January 23, 2011

Venice Here, Venice There

That city on the Adriatic is a great place but they need to do something about those streets.

Our Venice has to do something about its waterways. We could do with more of them. Old postcards show gondoliers in striped shirts taxiing parasoled women and men in straw hats.

Italy's fabled city is sinking by inches and not just from the weight of tourists who come to listen to its sighs on the bridge in an endless deathbed scene. The sea has been reclaiming it for the past four hundred years.

Our beloved town nestled between ritzy Santa Monica and ritzier Marina del Rey has become a destination for hippies, yuppies, bag people, artists, poets, skaters, and bicyclists. And then there is Muscle Beach and a boardwalk full of musicians, palmists, psychics, assorted vendors and people-watchers. I once asked someone for the time and he gave me a dime. It must be a great place to pick up easy change.

Old Venice is a living theme park with its skin peeling, bells kneeling and groaning under the load of pillaged goods as it slouches toward Byzantium. It has been largely abandoned by Venetians to hawkers, pilgrims and pigeons. But the sky is still the one Turner saw spiked by ninety churches. And a mirror brings Tintoretto's ceiling close.

Venice, here. is a $15 parking place for Sunday brunch to slum with real people down on their luck who live above barber shops or in the back of tattoo parlors. It could be worse; it could be Pismo, the end of civilization where Jesus made a comeback and is homeless on the off-ramp, where Allah is stuck on an oil slick, Buddha's on his motorcycle chanting his repair kit, Yahweh is yesterday since all my friends are atheists and Noah lives with Joan of Arc over in the trailer park.

Venice, there, is an unsinkable ship. Call off the dirge. The patient is critical but not serious. It drank Hemingway under the table. Now it is buoyed by its own obits and the chronicle in its grime. There's a wry smile in the prow of the gondola. The wash hanging from palazzos is doubled in the corrugated canal like a ship's bunting.

Each Venice is a rescued swamp at land's end, one with an over-wound clock, the other still ticking. Ours has also produced some world-class artists like Robert Graham and many literary figures along with our beloved funk. For decades Beyond Baroque has been a major poetry venue for some hard-edged words issuing from that jagged right-hand margin. It is the mix of class and cultures which keeps the blood moving and the air charged

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