Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Yes, Venice is My Muse

photo by Andrew McHardy

I am a huge fan of Kathleen Gonzalez.
Her book "Free Gondola Ride" has been in my carry-on bag for more flights than I can count - it's such a great book to read and re-read.
I've given it as a Christmas gift to a lot of my gondola friends as well. 

Kathleen has done a fair amount of writing beyond that one book, and she also hosts a great blog about Venice and Casanova (one of her greatest areas of interest).

Each month Kathleen interviews someone with a set of questions about Venice and how they see, feel, visit, and are inspired by her.

This month, for better or worse, I'm the one who she interviewed.

Check out the post at:…/venice-my-muse-gre…/

There are great photos by
Tamás Fehér,
Simon Atkins,
and Andrew McHardy.
as well as mention of Saverio Pastor,
Gilberto Penzo, Alberto Bozzo and his Emilio Ceccato store, Roberto Tramontin's great grandfather,
Row Venice,
and of course, Giuliana Longo.

Big thanks to Kathleen for the honor of being this month's interviewee.
It was a lot of fun. I wish I could do it again.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Jonah and Paul

photo by Tony Storti

After finishing their heat in the two-man distance race, 
Jonah Bonner (in front) and Paul Imler (on the stern) shared a look, 
a conversation, and from that point on...a great memory.

This was their first year competing at the US Gondola Nationals, 
and I could not have been more proud of them.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Last-Minute Launch

photos by Tony Storti, Patrice Greenberg, and Greg Mohr

On the morning of the first day of Nationals this year, everything was in place, but one boat still needed to be launched.
Bepi rolled in with his sandolo on trailer, and we all jumped into action.

Here's a photographic play-by-play:
 First contact.

 "Here's what we're gonna do..."

 The lift.

 The carry.

Tipping her towards the water.
 Parker with a quick smile.

Tony had a great angle from on the water.
 Reaching the beach.

 "How do I do this without getting my shoes wet?"

...aaaand touchdown!

Monday, December 4, 2017

GCON Four at the Buoy

photo by Steve Atkins

At the midpoint of the four-man race route, there's a buoy to turn at.
I watched the GCON four as they clocked in their winning time.
This buoy turn was a perfect example of their skills.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Power of Pasta!

photo by Patrice Goldberg

When Bepi of Sunset Gondola was preparing to host the US Gondola Nationals this year, I called him up and asked if he would like to support Caterina's Club once again.  
We had adopted the charity when we hosted Nationals in Newport two years earlier, they are a great and worthy cause, and Bepi agreed.

 photo by Steve Atkins

When we race gondolas, we aren't in a position to raise money. 
In fact most of our guys are students, 
who scrape together tip money in order to make it to Nationals.

We don't have money to give, but we do have something else: visibility.
Put a sign on a gondola, and people will see it.
Get that gondola in a once-a-year race, and people will photograph it.

photo by Steve Atkins

Caterina's Club is dedicated to feeding children in need.
Chef Bruno Serato, who owns the Anaheim White House restaurant, 
has served over two million meals through the program.
I have a huge amount of respect for the man.
When he wrote a book about it, called "The Power of Pasta" I wanted to support that as well...and then I realized how perfect it would be to have those words posted on the bow of an Italian boat, being rowed by men and women who are often truly "powered by pasta".

photo by Steve Atkins 

 Special thanks to Alberto Bozzo at Emilio Ceccato 
for making us look good as we were powered by pasta.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Separate Ceremony

 photos by Ella Mahoney and Micheal Olsen

What do you do when you have two teams who won medals in an event, 
and there aren't medals available at the ceremony?
You plan another ceremony, of course.

This year the two teams from Newport Beach 
took gold and silver in the 4-man distance event.

Tonight we gathered at the Rusty Pelican Restaurant overlooking Newport Harbor, had great food and refreshments, enjoyed some conversation, 
and then had an official medal ceremony for those who had gone so long without the hardware to show for all their training and racing efforts.

Special thanks to Eddie Rivera for coordinating this gathering.
Each guy showed up in his best Emilio Ceccato stripes.

First, of course, the customary social portion of our event
(that's when guys in striped shirts try to out-do each other 

with stories and exaggerations).

 Hunter talks about surfing, or maybe playing the harp.

 Eddie tells about his recent lifesaving adventure
(yes, I know that it looks like he's talking about how "the fish was this big")

 Paul humors me as I exaggerate something inane.

 The women tolerate us with beauty and grace.

Next, my team stepped up to receive our medals.

 Silver medalists from left to right:
Kalev Pallares, Simon Atkins, Hunter Mitchell, Greg Mohr.

 Ella and Elisa presenting the medals.

 Awarded and happy.

The winners this year were four guys who'd spent a lot of time 
training and working hard in order to achieve a gold medal time.
They rowed like a well-oiled machine,
won the gold,
and earned everyone's respect.

At the last minute, Matt Raus was unable to make it, 
but his three team mates were there.

 Gold medalists from left to right:
Michael Angelo Ruffino, Eddie Rivera, Parker Harrison.

 Ella draping the first medal.

 The second and third...

 And a hug for good measure.

 With medals and smiles, all involved went home happy.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Left Side, Right Side, Ay-yay-yay!

photo by Patrice Goldberg

Valesana - an unusual rowing style (even by Venetian standards) 
where the rower uses two oars, which are crossed, 
and operates them in an almost scissor-like fashion.

This is much more challenging than standard single oar rowing.
First of all, you've got twice as many oars to deal with.

Secondly, you've got to row each of them with a single hand.

Third, they've got to be operated in unison, 
but without bonking them into each other.

Fourth, if one pops out of the forcola, 
you've got to figure out how to get it back into place 
(while not losing control of the other oar...or the boat, for that matter).

Fifth, you've got to do all those things in such a way that the boat actually goes where you want it to.  Throw in the fact that the boat is very light and there are winds and currents, and you've got a recipe for frustration.

Oh, and number six:
You can't itch your nose!
(Seriously, this was one of my biggest frustrations during the Valesana race this year)

I came away from this year's Valesana saying several things:
- that it was an exercise in frustration,

- that it was remarkably humbling,
- that the GoPro footage was NOT to be posted online.

I went into the event with a rather cavalier attitude.
(first mistake)
I hadn't practiced, (second mistake) but I'd done this type of rowing years before in Venice.

I'd had a good warm-up row, but early on in my run, 
the oar off the right side of the boat started popping out of the forcola.  
The clock was ticking. 
I tried several adjustments, but eventually I resorted to
the odd tactic of knocking it back into place with my right knee.
Not really what my old Venetian rowing coach would approve of, 

but sometimes you find yourself in a tough spot and you improvise.
Fueled by frustration, determination, 
and a desire to not come in an hour later, I plowed on.

If you start thinking about it, Valesana can get your mind in a pretzel twist.
"If the oar off the right operated by my left hand...but the left side of the body is supposed to be controlled by the right hemisphere of my brain...AAAHHH!!!! It makes both sides of my brain hurt!"

 Two years ago we had this event, and I came in fourth.
This year I took second (all the while thankful that the second and third place guys from 2015 weren't competing this year).

The next time we have a Valesana event, I'm planning on practicing.
I'm also planning on figuring out how to keep that oar from popping out
(still probably won't want you to see the video).
Special thanks to Alberto Bozzo of Emilio Ceccato,
and Chef Bruno Serato of Caterina's Club and The Power of Pasta.