My friend Emilia, publisher of the blog "Venezia" ws lucky enough to climb aboard a gondola in Venice a few days ago with her friends Viktoria and Rayna, and she sent me some great point-of-view photos of the adventure.
They climbed aboard at the San Tomà traghetto, and got the royal treatment from gondolier Alessandro.
Emilia checks her hair.
Alessandro points something out.
When riding in a gondola, people take your picture.
I swear, these boats are like "camera magnets".
Even the locals step out to take a look.
Alessandro earned his keep on the back of the boat, talking, singing, and using all the different techniques necessary to navigate the tight canals.
Clearly, everyone had a great time on the water.
I think Alessandro had more fun than his passengers.
Like most famous cities, Venice has her icons. We could all name our top five, and I'm sure everyone's list would include the Rialto and gondolas. Chris Clarke caught one of my favorite photos of the two together. If this photo reminds you of another you've seen here, check out "Twenty Tails on the Grand Canal", which was posted a few years back. I like Clarke's photo more.
In the "Now for something...completely different" department, Here's a music video that I was involved with a while back.My brother directed it, and Avion Blackman is his wife - an incredibly talented musician. I'm the guy with the hat and glasses, and I can honestly say, that I do all my own stunts. :o)
Venice has many famous hotels, but none are as iconic, as world-renowned, as the Danieli. Here's a view from the water of a gondolier rowing in to moor in front of the famous hotel. Not a bad place to work.
Walking around downtown Hollywood today, I notice this corner of a wrought-iron fence that was really causing problems for some people, so I did what needed to be done, and bent it back a little. Some people were surprised to see such a display of strength, but you know how it is...gondoliers are good at solving problems.
I love September and October in Southern California. Things start to cool down, people start to calm down (especially the party people that are unavoidable when you're near the beach), and the world seems to be more colorful. The trees start to show their various hues ranging from crimson to canary. And crunchy leaves fall to the ground - just begging to be stepped on.
Tonight's sunset on the water was glorious, but the colors that followed were out-of-this-world. The above photo was shot four hours ago (from the time of this post), and it has not been altered. What you see is what we saw.
As we were cruising along - looking at this sky that defied description, I reached for my camera and one of my passengers said: "I'll bet you never get tired of this, do you?" "It never gets old"I said, and then I snapped this picture.
Author of Italy to Los Angeles and Back, Marie Ohanesian Nardin is celebrating her birthday today. As the wife of a working gondolier in Venice, Marie has an enviable view of things there. Read about her recent vacation to Sicily and be jealous.
Jealousy, envy, dare I say coveting.Jealousy may not be a virtuous thing, but we all experience it now and then. If you've spent enough time here on the Gondola Blog, you'll recognize it as one of the ways I like to pay someone a compliment. Instead of saying"I like your sandolo",the statement"I'm jealous of your sandolo"gives more meaning, as if to say"I wish I had your sandolo". If delivered correctly, the message could even convey "I might just steal your sandolo - that's how much I like it".
So in this post, I'm going to take time to pay some compliments through jelousy...
Coronado - Sean, I'm jealous of your gondolino (might just try and tip-toe away with her on my back), the best passenger caorlina I've ever seen, and any gondola operator worth his salt ought to be jealous of the solid group of gondoliers at The Gondola Company.
Providence - I'm jealous of your workshop,. I've never seen it, but from what I've heard (about a whole ground floor dedicated to workspace, with the residence on the second floor), I'm already envious of the squero-like arrangement. This isn't the first time I've been jealous of somethiing in Providence - Years ago I visited the operation of La Gondola and saw with my own eyes, the finest finish I've ever seen on a gondola.
New Orleans - I must say that I have great admiration for Robert Dula, and his unyielding dedication. I don't envy him for the challenges he's faced. It's his resolve. If you haven't read the post "Oblivion" which was written by Robert, take a few minutes and do so. The gondolier at Nola Gondola has tenacity in spades.
Sunset - Tim and his Sunset Gondola staff have one of the coolest kiosk offices, the largest Venetian Republic flag I've seen in the US, and an all-Venetian fleet, But it's the pupparin that I covet at Sunset Gondola.
Minneapolis - Northern operators like John Kerschbaum at Gondola Romantica don't do cruises year-round, so they haul their boats out of the water and store them for the winter months. I'm not jealous of that, but I sure do wish I had the kind of property that John has, where he can just roll boats around his yard, sand, grind, and make all kinds of noise without a "Van Halen birthday party" response from the local authorities.
New York - Andres Garcia Pena gets to row in Central Park. I'd take that job in a heartbeat.
The list could go on, and I could make another one for european gondoliers. And then there's Venice.
In some cases this kind of jealousy can be good - it can inspire me to do better. I'd love to be able to paint like Marco in Providence. On the other hand, Sean, if you see me trying to creep away with that gondolino, well then you'll know that I eventually gave in to the dark side of jelousy.
At the end of the day though, I realize how blessed I am that I get to row the boats I have, in the places I do. Life is good.
Tamás snapped this photo during his visit to Giudecca for some great regata viewing. You see all kinds of boats at these gatherings. let's take a closer look at this one: Beautiful white hull - check. Varnished wood decks and rails - check (and I'm jealous). Bright blue painted interior - check. Red carpet for poppa gondolier - yep, check. Matching burgundy velour track suits for all aboard - oh my gosh, CHECK!
For those of you wondering where the heck I've been, My wife and I went to Washington DC for a few days for the awards banquet in the American Airlines "Flights. Camera. Action" contest. We'd made it to the top five and went out to find out if we were the winners. Unfortunately, we did not win. Fortunately, the company who did win, will be putting the grand prize to good use to make the world a better place. Hope Force International ended up winning, and I can honestly say that they are terrific people, who are worthy of the honor.
I cannot say enough about the staff at American Airlines. They blew us away with their hospitality. We didn't win, but they made us feel like we had. We learned a lot about American Airlines; one thing we realized was that the company has a new focus on earning the loyalty of small and midsized businesses. Great to see such a thing when it's usually the Fortune 500 companies getting all the perks.
Most of the time, when I travel, I try to keep the daily posts coming, but this time I pretty much took a vacation from everything, including my kids, my ridiculous exercise schedule, and the blog. I'm home now, ready to resume my life, and am thankful for the experience.
A while ago a gondolier friend told me about this great TV program on the BBC. He said the camerawork was amazing. I jotted it down on a scrap of paper: "Francesco's Venice".
Time went by and I finally came across that piece of paper and looked it up and watched the program. Wow. Brilliant camerawork. Stirring images. Aerial views that draw you in. And the guy: Franceso da Mosto is engaging and gives a great tour through Venice's geography, and history. He's also got some pretty good access to places we might never get to see in person. When you get the chance, sit down and watch "Francesco's Venice". Here are some links to get you there, along with my favorite quotes:
segment 1 favorite quotes: "We were one of the first families to come to the lagoon. My ancestors have been everything: from merchants, to prostitutes, to explorers. The city is in my blood"
segment 6 WARNING: some graphic language - skip 1:40-2:40 if you want to avoid it. favorite quote: "The island is now home to no one, but a pack of stray dogs; wild - like the souls of the dead." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRZxH0m5JJo&NR=1
On August 30th this video was posted, and started making the rounds among gondoliers.
Naturally, it was the topic of some lively discussions in the traghetti and among gondoliers in Venice.
But because it showed up on Facebook, and because most gondoliers outside Venice have Facebook friends in Venice, it made the rounds in other places too.
I'd like to tell you that I managed to to get the clip posted here on the blog, but sometimes it's not that easy with videos on certain social media sites.
So until I can outsmart Facebook (which is highly unlikely), take a look at it here. http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=2186503394761 And if you don't have a Facebook account (insert wisecrack here). Seriously, if you don't have an account, chances are someone you know does, and would get a kick out of showing you the video.
I've talked to a few people about the clip, and what went on that day, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts.
So share your comments below. Chances are good that many of you have felt the urge to do what the guy did in the video. Was it right? Should he have done it? Would YOU have done it?
Transit Tragedy - "Hotbox in the desert" First, an explanation of logistics. When you move a boat professionally, and you need to go a long distance, often times you'll have two choices: truck or rail.
"Truck" means putting the boat in a moving van. This is the 18-wheeler you might hire if you were going to transport all your worldly possessions somewhere. In most cases though, your gondola isn't travelling with a bunch of couches and such - she's all alone, secured either to a cradle, trailer, or on the floor if you weren't thinking ahead. This is my preferred method because it's a direct route from point A to point B with little delay. I also prefer the "Truck" option because you can shake hands with the driver when you load the boat in, look him in the eye and say "I'll see you in (wherever the boat is going)", and know that there won't be anyone else in the mix. If something goes wrong, you know who to blame, and he knows that you know.
"Rail" generally refers to putting your gondola in a shipping container and having her transported using the railroads. I sometimes call this "truck, train, truck", because that's really what it is. A truck, driven by a nice man, shows up at the pick-up location, you (and whoever you've hired, coerced or manipulated), load the gondola into a shipping container which is on the back of the truck. Once the vessel is secure, the container is sealed and the driver brings it to the rail yard. When the gondola in her container arrives at the rail yard, another nice man uses a special hoist to lift the container off of the back of the truck, and onto a train car.
The train makes it's way across the country, and when it reaches your intended destination, another one of those nice men, using another one of those special hoists, lifts the container off the train, and onto the back of a truck similar to the one that showed up at the beginning of all this.
You (or someone you've made arrangements with) meet the nice man driving that second truck, and unload the gondola. That's "rail", and as you can see, there are just too many "nice men" with their hoists and trucks and trains involved for me to feel comfortable.
It only takes one slip-up to cause major damage. And because there are many people handling your gondola, they each have the ability to blame the others if something bad happens. If, by now, you haven't connected the dots on this, see the section titled "Dropping the Box" in Bad Things Happen - Part 2.
Switching "But Greg," you say, "what about the HOTBOX part?" Remember all those "nice men" I mentioned? Well there's at least one more in the mix. This guy doesn't operate a truck, or a hoist, or even a train engine. He'll probably never even touch the container that houses your gondola. Chances are he carries a clipboard and uses a computer. He works at a place called the "switching yard" His job is to decide which rail car goes on what train.
Some containers go from point A to point B with no switching, others sit for a while, waiting for the right train. One of those places just happens to be in the Mojave Desert.
A wooden boat expert friend of mine was involved with the repair of a classic mahogony Chris Craft some years ago. The boat had been loaded into her container in pristine condition. Unfortunately this perfectly beautiful boat spent three summer days in that switching yard in the Mojave desert.
A metal box becomes an oven in the desert. According to my friend, "the boat blew apart". Most of the pieces were still attached, but they'd expanded to the point where planks and rails had all buckled and popped.
"All the kings horses, and all the king's men", did manage to put Humpty back together again... but things were never the same.
I just spent a little time on John Synco's blog. I always enjoy reading his stuff, but now that he's in another part of the country, reading the blog has reminded me of how much I'll miss hanging out with him at Sunset Gondola get-togethers, not to mention ambushing him while he rowed in Alamitos Bay. Gondoliers are interesting. I've made that statement numerous times, and John is a perfect example. He's creative, fun, very capable, and the kind of friend people want to have.
Now that I've said a bunch of very nice things about John Synco, it's time to poke some fun. While I'm certain that many of you will read this statement wrong, while looking over photos of past events, I've noticed that John has a sort of "drinking problem". Oh, it's not the kind you get fired over, or even the kind that affects your ability to be a husband, father, or good employee. It's the kind of drinking problem that affects photography.
The "Synco pose", as I'm calling it, has a unique effect.
By exaggeratively drinking as the picture is taken, you succeed in both upstaging everyone else, and obscuring part of your face. I'm sure it's quite refreshng as well.
Really, now that I think about it, it's genius! I'm sure we'll all be doing it in the next group shot at Sunset Gondola. For your enjoyment, and in an effort to give credit where it is due, I've assembled a few more examples of the "Synco Pose" - as demonstrated by the expert himself.
The casual smile "Synco Pose".
crouched and surprised variation.
Hey, look at that bird!
"Synco Pose" in tandem.
and here's my favorite:
The "Synco Pose" in full effect.
eyes bugged out,
and body turned slightly to the side.
Really folks, it doesn't get any better than this.
Thank you all for voting for Gondola Adventures, Inc. in the American Airlines "Flights.Camera.Action" contest. In my post "Give me a Shove" I explained that my video submission had made it to the semi-finals, in a field of fifty competitors. The top five were chosen by on-line voting... and we made it!
In a few days Elisa and I will fly to D.C. (on American Airlines, of course) to attend the awards banquet. We share the field with four very worthy entries. Some of the competitors are making huge differences for great causes. It wouldn't be terrible if one of them won, and were able to change the world even more. Then again, if we win, I sure won't be complaining.
Some of you told me you were voting, while others did so without my knowledge. It was truly a case of "with a little help from my friends", and so I say it again: THANK YOU!
Thanks to you all for voting, and for reading the Gondola Blog.
Recreational rowing in the Veneto is alive and well. Rowing clubs are a great way to get out, make friends, enjoy some exercise together, and forget about life's troubles. Some people like to row together, others like to race. These are some shots Chris snapped along the Brenta river of what he calls an "informal race".
different directions, different modes of propulsion.
Spectators watch from the shore.
Another pair make their way down the river.
I have no idea if these guys won anything, but they felt the urge to celebrate, and who am I to argue.
I was able to include some photos and a number of links to previous posts. But of course some of the greatest "epic fails" are the boats we'll never see pictures or video of, either because nobody took a photo, or because the owners suceeded in keeping anyone from seeing them.
Whether it's the quick drop of a crane, or a "trailer failure", here are some more of the many ways a boat can meet an untimely end.
I don't have a lot of photos for this next section, although some of you might, and you're welcome to send them in (as long as they're not pictures of my boats).
Dropping the boat When a guy who has just bought his first forklift, offers eagerly to help you lift your boat, RUN!
Don't do it, even if he offers free beer.
When the shipyard owner says "our crane operator doesn't get in til tomorrow, but Jimmy here knows how the thing works"...wait til tomorrow.
For a more in depth analysis on the discipline of avoiding your own personal "Humpty Dumpty", take a look at my post "Not Dropping the Boat".
Dropping the Box Of course just because a gondola is in her shipping container, doesn't mean she can't be dropped. A few years ago some friends of mine went through heartbreak and hassle dealing with the aftermath of a dropped container.
Drop an egg on your kitchen floor - and it will break.
Put the egg in a metal box and drop it, guess what - it will still break.
In fact the likelihood of the boat getting dropped might actually increase if you put her in a box. Lift operators might not know what's in the box. They might have spent the last two days moving containers full of rice, or plywood, or scrap metal. Drop a big metal box full of scrap metal and it's no big deal. Drop a big metal box full of gondola...
Ask my friends, it's a big deal.
Transit Tragedy - the "Freeway Flip" For short distances on land, nothing beats a good trailer. You can tow your gondola with your own vehicle (if you have something big enough), and it won't cost you more than fuel and time. You can bring a cup of coffee and your favorite snacks. You may also want to bring a friend or fellow gondolier along for those "just in case" situations. Usually there are no problems, but sometimes things can go terribly wrong, especially if carelessness is in the mix.
About twenty years ago, an operator here in Newport had some work done on his gondola, and the folks who did the work hauled the gondola to their shop as part of the contract. After the work was done, the gondola was strapped down to her trailer (it's always important to make sure your boat is secured), and they started the trip back to the launch ramp. That short trip involved a few miles on the freeway. My guess is that someone was in a hurry, and someone hadn't given much thought to the aerodynamics involved. Someone wasn't monitoring their rear-view mirrors well enough either. Based on the title above, you already know what happened next. For the sake of accuracy in reporting, I should really call it the "Freeway Flip...and Drag".
This gondola had a canopy frame, which according to some witnesses, produced incredible sparks as it dragged along the freeway. By the time it was all over, major damage had been done, to both boat and canopy, a lot of people had seen something amazing happen on the freeway, and things had to be "sorted out" between the boat owner and the company (who ended up doing a heck of a lot more work on the gondola than they'd planned on). Mark my words: Someone probably still wishes they'd been a little more careful, and watched their rear-view mirrors...even to this day. It wasn't me, but I can certainly empathize.
I am a "gondola fanatic". Emphasis on the "fanatic" part. Many of you who read this are "gondola fanatics" as well, and I enjoy your company quite a bit. After all, my fellow fanatics are the only ones who really understand me.
Football fans have their Superbowl. Formula One lovers have the Indy 500. We've got Regata Storica.
When my family and I moved to a new home about seven years ago I chose Dish Network instead of cable because they're the only US company who carries RAI (the Italian network). We had an extra dish installed to capture the signal. Yep - fanatic.
And every few months my wife says something like: "Honey, are you sure you want to keep paying extra money for that Italian channel?" and I always say yes. Often I'll watch news and other shows on RAI to try and keep fresh on my Italian, but it's really all about one day - today.
The "Historic Regata" is today.
Over the years I've posted plenty about this event, and to avoid repeating myself, I'll simply say that if you want to learn more about it, search "Regata Storica" here on the Gondola Blog.
I've set the DVR to record the whole thing, and it will get watched to death for the next few months.
I would be remiss if I didn't also publicly thank both Nereo Zane and Tamás Fehér for sending me recordings over the years, of the famous Regata Storica. The recorded versions I've received from them have usually been better and more complete than the RAI feed we get here. Sometimes my RAI feed doesn't show Regata Storica, so those recordings from friends have been so appreciated.
Today's the day, the one day. I'll be snacking on my couch, in my favorite rowing club jersey, sipping a glass of vino rosso, and wishing I was there.