Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Restoration of the Capiteo - Video

When I first saw the Venetian lagoon in September of 2000, 
it was from a train passing over the bridge to Venice known as the Ponte della Libertà.  

My eyes searched for any sort of rowing boats, 
and of course the first ones I saw were orange and blue club boats from the GSVVM and their neighbors in green and white.

GSVVM caorlinas - ready to be rowed.
Our neighbors in green and white.

With the help of my dear friend Nereo Zane, the next day I was on one of those orange and blue boats, rowing in the same area.  
I smiled when I saw people watching us from a passing train.

Rowing with my daughter in the lagoon.

As we rowed back and forth between Mestre and Venice parallel to the Ponte della Libertà, we would regularly pass by a Bricola with a sort of shrine on it.
The waters of the lagoon are not all deep enough for most boats, 
and so there are navigable channels that have been dredged to allow safe passage. 
These channels are marked by bricole, but I noticed that one was different.
I asked my friend Nereo about the green shrine and he told me it was called a "capiteo."
Nereo Zane captaining a caorlina.

If you try to look it up, you'll go down a rabbit hole that ends with the term "wayside shrine."  These are typically found in catholic countries along roads or pathways where people travel.  
Naturally, since the channel we were rowing in was a type of pathway, it made sense for someone to place a shrine there.

The original capiteo on this spot was placed in 1979 by the GSVVM rowing club and the Gruppo Tre Archi.
It has been a source of spiritual encouragement to many who've passed by - either rowing, motoring, or even from the train looking down.

A while back Nereo posted a great video about this remarkable "wayside shrine", with narration in Italian.
He asked me to provide a narration in English and I was honored to do so.

Below is the video, although if you can launch it in full screen, 
you'll enjoy the scenery a lot more.


Big thanks to Nereo Zane for including me in this project.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Row Venice Makes Deliveries!

After spending so much time shuttered indoors, 
our friends at Row Venice are finally getting to do some rowing, 
and it's real rowing for a great purpose.

Watch the video and learn more.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Deserted Venice

If you watch the news you might be seeing footage of some of the busiest cities in the U.S. during this strange time of quarantine.

Without a doubt, one of the most remarkable places to see without people all over the place...has got to be Venice.

My good friend Nereo Zane has put together a great video compilation with the help of friends Silvia Bortolato and Thalitha Nicolini.

Watch it in full screen if you can.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Wind Face

I'm convinced that somewhere out there, 
in the myriad of different cultures and languages, 
there is a group of people who have been so remarkably astute 
as to give the month of March or April a name that, 
in their native language translates to "windy as Hell".

Maybe it's a different month where they live, but here in Newport 

I'm thinking of launching a campaign to rename those two months. 
Perhaps we could go with something more descriptive.  
We could call March "What the heck is going on out there?"
and April could be "Holy mackerel it's windy!"

Sure, you probably think I'm ridiculous.
But right now there's a guy named "Vermin Supreme" 
who's running for President.

I'll wait while you look him up - really, it's SO worth it.


Aw heck, here he is:

Yes, that IS a rubber boot on his head.

Compared to that guy, I look surprisingly normal.

some of his campaign promises include giving everyone a pony, 
and defeating ISIS by using time travel.
Man, I could solve so many problems that way.

Ummm, I feel like maybe I'm getting off topic here.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, it's windy out there.
Really windy.
Always is this time of year.

In other news, there's this thing going on right now where all non-essential businesses have been summarily shut down.  I understand why, 
but I'm quite certain that the gondola business is among the most safe businesses out there right now as far as cross-contamination goes.

I mean if you really think about it, we're even safer than hot air balloons.
Firstly, you can't fall to your death from a Venetian gondola.
(NO, that was NOT a challenge, people. And YES, I'm sure there ARE some bizarre exceptions out there)

Secondly, we're away from everyone else.
There's no sick dude sneezing at the restaurant table right next to you.
It's my well-thought-out opinion that in this time of quarantine, 
when folks are getting stir crazy in their homes, that if two people who already live under the same roof want to enjoy an open air cruise on a gondola with only the gondolier aboard 
(and easily six feet away from them), 
that they should be able to do so.

Sorry, I feel like I'm getting off track again here.
Oh yeah, "windy as heck", that's where I was.

So in this time of COVID 19 where everyone's cooped up, we have been encouraged to stay healthy and exercise, and the Governor of our state has told us we can go outside for that exercise.
With that in mind, I'm jumping on a gondola every day 
and rowing my heart out.
All the while wearing a Row Venice shirt in solidarity 
with those dear friends of mine in the Veneto 
who can't row right now due to tighter restrictions in Italy.

And because we're currently in the heart of the month which shall heretofore be called "What the heck is going on out there?"
I've been getting a superb workout in this wind.
I am determined not to come out of this strange time in history as a prime candidate for a reality show about 600 pound people.

Drinking lots of coffee and rowing like a maniac seems to be a decent fitness program.
Blasting Rage Against the Machine also helps. 

Today while I was out there dodging sailboats (which were racing each other at frightening speeds), I propped my phone up and set it to snap some photos on a delay.

The result:
A lot of pictures of me making weird faces and exposing a pair of legs that, really, the world would probably rather not see.

But hey, you work with what you've got.
And I've got chicken legs, a funny face, and enough grit and determination to fight those winds all the way to the other side of the harbor and back.

I don't normally row in shorts, but there's nobody on my boat to tell me otherwise (or witness the horror).

We all derive our energy from somewhere.
for me, when the caffeine kicks in, and it's still not enough,

I like to "make it personal".
I imagine that the wind is actually really out to get me.
Then my inner slam-dancing punk rocker takes over.

As if to intimidate the wind, certain faces are made.
Faces that might be seen in a haka war dance before a New Zealand rugby match, but it gets me going. 

Some folks have a "game face", I've got a "wind face".

As we venture further into this strange time, I'm encouraging all of my gondoliers to take boats out for fitness purposes.
So if you see a gondola out in the coming weeks, we're not breaking the law, we're simply staying in shape in preparation for better days when this is all over.

And if you see a guy with chicken legs out there making strange faces in the wind, it's probably me.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Fistbumping Again

It happened again.
Parker Harrison and I passed each other on our gondolas and someone was there to capture the action.

A few years ago my friend Ruben snapped this shot from the Newport Boulevard bridge on a brilliant sunny day in spring.

 photo by Ruben J

Gondoliers in Newport do this all the time.
whenever we see each other and manage to pass by close enough. 
It's a fun exchange.

Oh sure, we've done other things:
- there's "high sticking" (whacking the ends of our oars), 
  which sometimes frightens passengers,
- passing extra bottles of wine for passengers or water for gondoliers,
- the rare but appreciated sandwich hand-off,
- and there was that one time when two gondoliers actually swapped boats...and kept rowing each other's cruise.

Most of the time though, a fistbump will do 
(although I'm always up for a sandwich).

Here's a link to the original fistbump post:

So as I was saying, it happened again.
This time the sequence was caught by the passengers on my boat.

Here's the play-by-play:

The recognition.

The hat tip.


Just before impact,

aaand the actual bump!

And of course, reveling in how fun that was.

As you might guess - we love our job.
we get to be on the water with happy people.
We're often part of big moments and positive memories.
We get a workout while we're at it,
and our fellow gondoliers are great people.
So it's no wonder that we enjoy seeing each other while out on the water.

Sometimes it's the little things that make my day,
and this was one of those times.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Calm Before the Storm - V-Day 2020

All the boats are washed and clean.
All those "I'm gonna get to it" tasks have been gotten to.
Fresh oars, fresh stripes, and a group of fresh gondoliers:
all waiting for the big day to finally arrive.

Valentine's Day is the "Superbowl of gondola cruises" for us here in Newport, and in a lot of other places.

It helps us get through winter, sure.
But it's also a huge event that we look forward to - simply because it's awesome.
On most nights a gondolier is one of a few who are out doing cruises,
but on February 14th it's all boats all day and on to midnight.
That's exciting to be part of.

In between dialing things in on several boats,
and fixing even more things on land,
I took a boat out to move it to another spot, and I caught this view.
Gary was just departing with a happy couple,

gliding towards a colorful horizon and making great memories.

Happy Valentine's Eve, amici.
I hope you sleep well and have a fantastic Valentine's Day.

-Gondola Greg

Thursday, January 30, 2020

That Heat Where Eddie Smoked Me

photo by Cassandra Mohr

About a year and a half ago we did a fun segment on gondolas for an Australian TV show.
Along with showing how romantic it all was, I mentioned that we also race these boats.  The host HAD to have us race for the segment, so Eddie and I took a couple gondolas out and ran a down-and-back sprint.  
I didn't expect to win, because Eddie is younger, bigger, 
and had been training a lot, but as luck would have it, I won that race.

This year at Nationals, Eddie and I ended up in the same heat 
for the Solo Sprint event.
It was again - a down-and-back course.
I thought "well, I beat him before..."

Turned out that such logic did NOT apply.

Eddie beat us all off the line, made it to the buoy turn first, and from there...flew away from us, all the way to the finish line.

It was an impressive performance, but it got me wondering:
was this payback for that race in front of the TV cameras?

Or had he just let me win that time?

I guess we will never know.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Just another Summer Day...in January

This time of year we never know what we'll get,
weather-wise, that is.

Today I was happy to be rowing in my summer uniform:
short sleeves, thin overshirt, and mesh deck shoes with no socks.
My sunglesses weren't dark enough, 

and I was still warm enough to sweat a little.

Just another summer day in January.
I just hope we'll have this kind of weather on Valentine's Day.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Back in 2019...

With all the craziness leading up to the last day of the year, 
and the requisite lazy recovery after, 
I neglected to post these images from December 29th here in Newport. 
Just another day - working a job that's way better than I deserve.

Gondolier Mike Bixler heads off with happy passengers 
on the gondola known as "Stella".

Rowing alongside Linda Isle, the lady in the gondola has no idea that she's about to be asked the biggest question ever by the man she loves.

She said "yes", of course.
And they lived happily ever after.