Working my way down the coast of California, I contacted my friends at Gondola Servizio in Oakland. We would be there in less than a week and I was eager to see them again. It had been a long time - a long time since I'd seen Angelino and April, and an even longer time since I'd been to their Lake Merritt location, where Angelino taught me so much about the art and techniques required to row a gondola. He had explained to me that there was more than just propulsion and steering involved - the Venetians had put great thought and effort into making it look as good as possible when done right. Italians have always put great emphasis on the way things look and Venetians are certaily no exception. "Bella figura" was the term Angelino had used, explaining that in the world where gondolas come from, appearance carries an importance that sometimes rivals effective boat operation.
As it turned out, Angelino, April, and their daughter were going to be in Southern California when I was in Oakland. We had a good laugh about the situation, and I was told that one of their gondoliers would be there on Easter Sunday to take cruises, and he would be happy to meet with me then.
Somewhere around breakfast time, the rain began to fall. I threw my family and our friends we'd been traveling with into the van and we headed out towards Lake Merritt. The rain continued to fall, growing in intensity, and by the time we were a few miles from the lake, I explained to everyone in the van that we had officially reached "snotty". In the vernacular of mariners, especially those who sail, there are vocabulary terms for the different weather conditions encountered at sea. "Snotty" doesn't really require much explaining - it's name says it all.
Arriving at the lake, I found Gondola Servizio's two gondolas safely wrapped and moored under their covered boat slip. I had hoped to do some rowing, chat with a gondolier, and get out on the lake I'd learned on, but it wasn't meant to be.
I did manage to snap a few photos which I will post in the future, and enjoyed visiting the lake once again - if only to reminisce. Some day I'm sure I'll get up there again and spend some time on the water, working to display my best "bella figura" as any good gondolier would do.
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