photo by Elisa MohrSteve: "So, what do we do?"
Me: "Smile, hold the oar, sing a song, and let people take pictures with you - it's kinda like being a monkey at the zoo."
Last night, my right-hand-man Steve Elkins and I spent a few hours standing in front of a gondola at an afterparty for the Newport Beach Film Festival. An Italian film had just screened and so the organizers of the festival brought in a bunch of vendors who fit the theme.
In between photos, I told Steve about how I'd heard that gondoliers in Venice often feel like animals at the zoo - always being observed in their natural habitat.
As gondoliers, we are almost always "on display" as we do our job,
but this sort of thing is very different.
It's about being "on", fully engaged, smiling bigger, singing louder,
laughing harder, and pretty much trying to keep pace with everyone who expects such energy.
A series of photos were taken with young attractive couples and groups. One local attorney did have us laughing for some time, and I was delighted to run into my old friend Alberto Sbrizzi - my Italian professor who had the good fortune to be born and raised in Venezia.
Ah, but it wasn't all pretty and perfect.
One guy dragged us kicking and screaming into an inaccurate rendition of "O Sole Mio", undoubtably certain that he was about to be discovered at the film festival and star in his own film soon.
We posed with more people than I can count,
many of whom were drunk,
some of them appeared to be insane,
and a few tried to grope me.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the gropers were not the kind of people you'd want to take pictures with, much less be groped by.
For the most part it was a fun and classy affair,
but the exceptions always seem to stick with you in your memory.
The boat we used was the "Lucia" (a.k.a. the "Curci Gondola") which has made more than a few appearances here on the Gondola Blog.
We had the boat out for scheduled maintenance and were able to pull her out of her facelift between proceedures to do this event.
The choice of the "Lucia" was perfect, as she is one of the most well-known and historic gondolas in Newport, and as luck would have it, a few friends of the Curci family stopped by to admire the boat and chat with us.
My wife and daughters were also on hand in their striped shirts, handing out brochures, answering questions, and eating gelato while Steve and I did our "monkeys at the zoo" thing. I sang a duet several times with my daughter Cassandra (probably my favorite part of the night).
At one point, a guy came by, cracked a series of jokes that were clearly hilarious (to him), and Steve and I laughed at each and every one of them.
After he took a photo with us, tried to grope me, and left, I said to Steve: "oh, and we also laugh at pretty much anything that sounds like it's supposed to be funny" and he replied "yeah, I kinda got that".