photo by Robert Dula
As a gondolier, one of the things I love to do is visit and row in other locations. Different operations do different things, and the creative spirit is alive and well among gondoliers.
Here's a case-in-point:
At City Park in New Orleans, there's a great operation called "NOLA Gondola". Gondolier Robert Dula, a.k.a. "Roberto" has seen hundreds of marriage proposals on his authentic Venice-built boat.
In fact as of this writing he's up to 246 successful "yesses".
Like just about every other gondola location, City Park is unique.
There are beautiful sights, placid waters, and bridges to go under.
Only one problem with those bridges - some of them are too low
for a gondola to fit under.
Roberto, however, is a very inventive guy.
After some serious contemplation, and the careful application of a saw to both ends of his gondola, Roberto managed to solve the clearance problem.
I like it when gondoliers think outside the box,
and so do the 246 couples who would have been stuck with a substandard proposal if not for this slight modification.
Now the gondola fits under every bridge.
Now the couples get to kiss under those bridges too.
I'm sure this goes over quite well with all involved.
Another detail worth pointing out, is that because some of those bridges are too low for an unmodified gondola, once he figured out a way to get the boat under them, the passengers were a lot closer to the underside of the bridges than they would be in normal circumstances.
And with some of these bridges within easy reach, gondolier Roberto started handing couples pieces of chalk and they started scrawling their names beneath one particular bridge along the route.
A great tradition was born.
The passengers really get a kick out of it. Unfortunately, I'm running out of space and folks are writing over other names.
Sounds like a nice problem to have.
Now and then I see something and truly wish that I'd been the one to come up with it first. Roberto's chalk-under-the-bridge tradition is definitely on that list. He calls it the "Under the Bridge Club".
I think it's more of a play on words in reference to the playing card "bridge clubs" than the infamous "mile high club".
I've even seen a photo of one young lady wearing what looks like safety glasses while reaching up to write. I'm sure chalk dust in the eyes could really ruin the mood.
This fun and original way for couples to literally "leave their mark" has become a great Nola Gondola tradition, and lives on as a fond memory for each and every couple who has written their name.