The other day I was talking with someone about gondolas in America,
about how we all know each other and about how there really is a
"gondola culture" in this country.
With gondoliers rowing boats in several locations, and a history of these operations going back decades, the US has a “gondola culture”.
The word "culture" seems to have many meanings, but simply put:
America's gondola culture consists of several individuals,
who practice a similar craft,
share many of the same traits and interests,
and to a certain extent, are only truly understood by other members of the culture.
In addition, our gondola culture has some of it's own lingo, protocols, mannerisms, and so forth. There are hierarchies, "families",
and even feuds within the culture from time to time.
Of course we take many of our cues from what goes on in Venice, Italy,
but we interpret and adapt things to suit our unique locations.
Our whole world revolves around this wonderful boat known as the gondola.
When you do something as unique as gondoliering,
sooner or later you'll realize that nobody understands what you do,
like someone else who does it too. Get a bunch of those people connected,
and you've got a sort of club. A few decades into it, and you've got a "culture".
American gondoliers use the same lingo, help each other out like brothers,
and enjoy working (or not working) together.
More importantly, most of these gondoliers love their job.
Sure, there may be a few jobs they'd rather do (astronaut, rock star, sultan, secret agent, Ferrari test driver) but within the realm of reality, there aren't that many vocations as enticing as this one.
In some of the gondola operations that have been in place long enough, hierarchies, rowing methods, preferences in clothing and footwear all come into play in the gondola culture.
Many gondola operations have also developed traditions - some are location-specific, while others can be observed in multiple servizi.
Because Southern California is home to nine separate gondola companies,
the gondola culture is strongest here. Get-togethers occur regularly,
gondoliers visit and row together in different harbors, and groups from the region participate in Vogalonga and other events in Venice.
But the culture exists in other parts of the country too, with enthusiastic rowers in locations in New England and the midwest - each with their own accent to the dialect that we all speak.
With all this in mind, it's no surprise that the recent national competition
(with gondoliers from eight different companies in several states),
almost felt more like a family reunion than a series of races.
When you're a gondolier, no one understands you like another gondolier.