You might not have realized it, but January is "Meat Month".To read more about moose, escargot, and yes, "misto cavallo", take a look at my recent guest post on Tim Joseph's Daily Food Holiday blog: "Guest Post - National Meat Month", and then swing by my house for a barbecue.
Sean Jamieson of The Gondola Company in Coronado, California is celebrating his birthday today, and if his gondoliers are doing their job right, they've already put him through one kindergarten-spank-line (and then begged to get their jobs back).
I am a big believer in "enjoying every station of life". Having spent enough time with grandparents and seniors, I'm told that while the aches and pains of age really stink, seeing your grandchildren running around makes it all well worth it.
Recently I was introduced to one of those new adventures that only comes with age: I got my first crown. No, it wasn't a king's crown, but parts of the procedure did come with some king-sized pain. I got this crown in the dentist's chair.
As I found myself taking in new experiences (like gaining a clear understanding of what it would be like if someone tried to shove a buick in my mouth using the jaws-of-life), I drew upon recent memory to "find my happy place".
In my house, you can't use the term "happy place" without one of my kids loudly mimicking the frantic starfish in Finding Nemo as she hollers "Find a happy place" repeatedly, as a kid beats against the other side of the glass of the fishtank.
I'm not a real pop-psychology buff, but sometimes it does help to try and detach yourself a bit from the immediate chaos you're in, and pretend you are somewhere else. I helped a couple realize their "happy place" back in November: it's mentioned in my post "Another Perfect Moment".
In the summer of 2000, on our way to Europe, my wife and I were lucky enough to get moved up to first-class on Lufthansa. That was my "happy place" for the longest time. Any first-class is great, Lufthansa's version: even better. But since I only did it once, the Lufthansa first-class memory hasn't had much staying power, and the more I use it, the more it fades off. My first-class "happy place" has been increasingly losing it's power to chase away bad times.
So the other day, as I was having terrible things done to my mouth, and starting to feel agitated and sweaty, I fell back into another state of mind.
It wasn't flying to Europe this time. My wife, who was in the room sensed it when I became more relaxed (despite the mayhem in my mouth), and she asked me where I was. I can't type exactly what it sounded like, but she understood my response to be "rowing".
I was out there, rowing at twilight, in perfect conditions, on a canal in Newport where in 1993 I proposed to my wife. My "perfect moment". My "serenity". My "happy place".
I've lived that dream thousands of times now, no matter how many times I draw from it, that one will never get old.
This morning, the folks in Newport Harbor learned a few valuable lesons: 1. If you drive your Mercedes Benz onto the small car ferry, put it in park, and leave it in park. 2. If for some reason you don't observe lesson number one, be aware that your vehicle does indeed possess enough power to shove another vehicle right off the end of the car ferry and into the water. 3. If you happen to be sitting at the front of the car ferry in, say, a minivan, you might consider carrying life jackets because... 4. well, see lesson number two, and watch your rear-view mirror. 5. Minivans don't float (at least not for very long). 6. Welcoming people from out of town to Newport by forcing spontaneous baptism upon them is, well, not very welcoming (even if you do it with an impressive black Mercedes). 7. If you happen to be hanging around an area where a minivan has been shoved into fifteen feet of water, get your butt in the water to help. 8. You don't have to know someone to save lives with them.
This week I spent some time musing over my many adventures eating pizza, (after all, it IS "National Pizza Week"). When Tim over at "Daily Food Holiday" asked me to write something, I couldn't stop thiinking about the best pizza I ever tasted. You can read about it in the post: "Chicago or New York?".
Our older gondola "Firenze" here in Boston is 18 years old this season.
As you know this boat was aquired through Danielle Bonaldo's Squero. Our original intention was to have just the one gondola built "Maria" by Thom Price back in 2000/2001
As our gondola progressed with all the carvings and great detail,
a local friend of Danielle, also a gondolier with a few bucks attempted to purchase our new gondola. This situation was stressful and disappointing to say the least. After considerable negotiation and frustration, Thom Price stepped up for us and brokered us a great deal that ulimatley got us Firenze and Maria.
Danielle's friend was willing to wait considering the squero was going to replicate our gondola for him. Also knowing now he had a buyer for his gondola which was built in 1994.
My initial reaction to all of this was full of four letter words, but in the end we really got a great deal and on top of that we actually developed a friendship with this Venetian gondolier and his family. They actually attended the Vardo ceremony at the squero before the gondolas were shipped here to Boston Win-Win!!
The real prize was in the end, they sent their Cavalli off with us to Boston. They were not included in the deal (a gift to us) but we think they got some nostalgic vibe by having their gondola and Cavalli gracing the water here in the USA.
This pair of Cavali has adorned several gondolas and stayed with this family for many years. My recollection was that the previous gondolier claimed they could be 60 plus years old. This would make them antiques! I do not doubt it! Looking at the iron stands that pass through the corbala and the detail in the brass, not to mention the actual size and weight..They are very unique considering the newer cavalli we see today.
Here comes the dilemma! Do we polish these bad boys and really show them off and give Firenze the respect and dignity that we feel she demands.She is a lady after all, and I've yet to meet a lady that wants to look old and dull. Or simply let time, age and some dulling effects of the patina reflect the true grace and character of this beautiful boat.
As you can see in the photo above we have made our decision,
but I would like to hear what other enthusiasts out there have to say Good or Bad!
So, If there's one thing I know about gondoliers (aside from the fact that they're interesting), is that they all have opinions. What would you do? Polish or not polish? Leave a comment - even if you don't have cavalli of your own.
It's no secret that I'm crazy about gondolas.I'm also pretty nuts for Venetian rowing, other Venetian boats, and of course Venice and the Veneto. But today I was reminded of another thing I love - the people. Today I spent time on the phone with Joe Gibbons of Gondola di Venezia in Boston; we talk regularly and I always enjoy catching up with him. I chatted for a while with a gondolier friend of mine - Fred in Texas; we talk a couple times a week. Tim of Sunset Gondola, John of Gondola Romantica in Minnesota, Sean of The Gondola Company in Coronado, and Mike in New Jersey, These are guys I enjoy talking to on a regular basis. And then there are gondola friends on Facebook. I regularly post photos from guys like Nereo, Tamas, and Chris Clarke.
Sure, I love the boats, but the people are terrific too, and there are many more names I could mention here. Gondola people are great.
This afternoon I was visited by Marie of "Italy to Los Angeles and Back" and her husband Roberto - a carreer gondolier in Venice. We share a common love of many things mentioned above, and while this was the first time we met face-to-face, they were like family.
Serenity. Everybody has their own interpretation of the word. No matter what your serenty is, you'd probably like to have more of it. We all seem to be longing for this, um... Is it a feeling? An experience? Maybe a state of mind?
Whatever "serenity" is, it's popular. In fact a few years ago, the list of most popular boat names in America showed "Serenity" as number one.
I have many things that represent the word for me,
and tonight's cruise at sunset was definitely one of them.
Once again the odd spectacle of rowers dressed as old women with brooms took place on the Grand Canal. The Regat delle Befane is an event that appears to be unique to Venice.Nereo Zane covers the story on his site vogaveneta.it. "La Befana a Venezia"
Last year, with the help of Nereo, I gave some background on this annual occurance that often has old men, dressing up as old women, and rowing mascarete with brooms propped up in their boats. (see "Befane")
I mentioned earlier in the week that a friend of mine, Timothy Joseph, who I met on a gondola (of course), has launched a fun new blog called "Daily Food Holiday". You can read more about it in my post "Spaghetti", or just go to the blog itself.
Tim has graciously put up a post of mine (written for "Daily Food Holiday") which explains how
tea helped me survive two Alaska winters.
No, it has nothing to do with gondolas, but it's fun writing and I'm a big fan of this new undertaking of Tim's.
Tucked neatly between the fondamenta and a row of paline, just a few steps from the Rialto Bridge, Tamás came upon this beautiful gondola.
If you take a closer look at the background, in the center you'll see a familiar green awning. Walk in that direction, and you'll see the servizio featured in the post "Benchwarmers and a Beautiful Boat".
There are a lot of beautiful boats in that vicinity.
Fully carved deck and lots of extra attention to detail also seems common to the shores of the Canalazzo just this side of the Rialto.
Many of the gondoliers along the Grand Canal moor their boats perpendicular to the fondamenta.
This guy, however, has a spot that seems perfect from a marketing standpoint (so easy to show off to people as they stroll by). On the other hand, it looks like whoever rows this wedding gondola has extra challenges getting in and out.
Gondolas built in Venice typically have brass straps adorning the perimiters of the trasto da prua (or trasto da prova as Venetians call it).
The straps across the forward edge of the trasto on this gondola read "Monica".
She could be the gondolier's wife, daughter, mother, or even girlfriend.
Whoever she is, she must be honored to have such a beautiful gondola with her name attached.
Being the fanatic that I am...of all things "gondola", "Venice", and to many of my friends "Italian", I regularly receive e-mails with things someone thinks I might appreciate. This one actually came from my wife who happens to be a travel agent.
Here's a nice article on the Budget Travel website called "5 Beautiful Reasons to Love Venice". One other aspect of the Gondola Blog, of course, is photography. In the above-linked article we get some thoughts and perspectives on Venice from folks who make their living with a camera.
In other cities they "wrap" busses with advertising. Well, in Venice they don't really have busses...or do they? It's called a "vaporetto", but some folks say "water bus". Is it any surprise that the vaporetto gets "wrapped?"
Over the years I've visited a number of different gondola operations. One time, while my wife and I were in Orlando, Florida, we took a cruise with a great gondolier named Timothy Joseph. Tim and I have kept in touch over the years, and recently he's launched his own blog with a great plan and purpose. The blog is called "Daily Food Holiday - 366 National Days of Food", and it chronicles the different "National Day of ___" foods. Did you know that each day of the year has at least one food or drink that it is the "National Day" of? For instance, yesterday - January 4th - was "National Spaghetti Day". I celebrated, did you? Well, Tim celebrated too, and he blogged about it in this post. Read it, enjoy it, leave your favorite spaghetti recipe in a comment. As it is only the first week in January, Tim has just begun his 366 day project (it's leap year, you know). So we have a whole year of posts to look forward to. I can't wait.
Someone rowing in Venice is a fan of Brazil. Maybe he's part Brazilian. Maybe he likes jiu jitsu. Maybe he's a fan of Brazilian soccer - Ronaldinho, or even the famous Pelé. Or maybe he just has a girlfriend from Rio.