Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Super Deluxe"

photos by Chris Clarke
 Before automakers and other manufacturers started coming up with all sorts of terms to add value to their top-tier editions of everything from cars to boats to toaster ovens, there was one word:

"Deluxe" meant that it had all the extras.
The "deluxe edition" of something wasn't entry level,
it wasn't middle-of-the-field, it was the best you could get.

Everyone was using this golden word.
As sure as there's ice in Antarctica, the term got over-used and our automakers, boat builders, and toaster manufacturers upped the ante by making their top-of-the-line offerings "Super Deluxe"
(and hopefully adding a few extra features too).

I'm choosing to ignore all the adjectives that came next, each one designed to set their product apart and make it sound even more deluxe.
For the duration of this post, I'm declaring that "Super Deluxe" signifies the absolute zenith of quality.
And while there are only a handful of gondolas in Venice that match such a description, the one above sure looks like one to me.

Here is a close-up of the bow of our "Super Deluxe" gondola:
 Beyond just a fully carved deck, this wedding gondola has raised relief characters that stand well above the rest of the carvings. 
Her ferro has custom engraving. Even her canon has been replaced by a gold plated statue that bears a flag.

 Looking at the tail section, we see more carvings,
a luxury forcola with gold leaf accents, and a striped remo.

Now here's where I think this gondola went from "Deluxe" to "Super Deluxe".
A salon like no other out there:
 The deck carvings don't stop at the bow and stern;
they cover all rails as well.
The arm pieces have impressive carvings to match.
brass seahorses? No! Gold statues? Yes!
The cavalli here catch one's attention all by themselves.
Even the scimier sitting atop the seat is striking.
But it's the seats that bring this boat from ten to eleven -
diamond-pleated upholstery in a way that looks (and probably is) expensive.
Luxury cars and carriages of a bygone era had such seating.
It's arguably not "authentic" when placed alongside Venice's other gondolas, but very few can compare either.
Resting against the back of the seat is a parasol for the lady.
This gondola has everything.

And then there's the gondolier:
Hat? Check!
Striped shirt? Of course.
Crisp white marinera? Yup, brass buttons and all.
Black pants? Black shoes? Check and check!
Hat ribbon that matches the boat? Well of course.

And there he stands, looking the part and encouraging folks to climb aboard. Like so many other gondoliers, I'm sure he claims to have the nicest gondola around.
Like so many of his colleagues, I'm sure he believes it.
Unlike many of them though, he's probably right.

I'm guessing he doesn't use the words "Super Deluxe" to describe his boat...but I think he should.


Chris said...

When I took the photo I just thought 'that looks a bit fancy'. Thanks for bringing it to life with some much better informed narrative!

Tamás said...

Although that gondola is indeed de luxe, the gondolier does not appear to subscribe to the currently popular, almost universal "spare oar onboard" approach.

I had thought that kind of redundancy was paranoid a bit, but this weekend here at Szeged the german canoe sprint favourite Sebastian Brendel broke his oar after just four strokes and so his hopes for world championship gold and olympic qualification were gone.

Had he put a spare oar in his shell, he would have time to catch up, since it was an 1km race. For a gondolier it is just 100 euros at stake, but maybe they do not want to be humiliated by rivals after ending up dead in the water?

Maybe the owner of this luxury gondola has a lot of self-confidence.