Ode to the “Beautiful” People

May 21st, 2015

Oh, the “beautiful” people! They really do exist, and not just in People magazine.

Arriving to Venice for a 2-week home exchange, I unknowingly stumbled onto the opening of the Biennale—Venice’s famed contemporary art festival, considered one of the most important in the world. However, this story isn’t about the festival, because then it would be about commoners, like myself. Instead, I prefer to delve into the lives of the lovely, the privileged.


Art Delivery

Biennale Art Delivery


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The Red Boot Diaries

May 15th, 2013

I heard angry murmurs of “lazy thieves” and “Why do we pay taxes?” as I waded in knee-deep water spilling over from Venice’s canals. My fellow pedestrians, with their legs individually tucked inside large trash bags, were not in the best of moods.

I knew something was up this morning when a friend handed me a pair of bright red rubber boots and said, “Take these.” I hesitated, thinking she was being overly cautious. I mean, red boots really aren’t my thing. I’m not very good with bright colors, preferring to blend in with blacks and browns instead.


venice acqua alta


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Riding in Boats with Boys

July 4th, 2012

“So you pull up on your boat and the girls just jump in?” I questioned Gianni.

I thought I was trying to console a friend’s twenty-year old son after his recent break-up, however his wisdom was greater than mine. I was giving him the “There’s plenty of fish in the sea” speech, with a few entertaining antidotes, but he was one step ahead of me.

“You see, here in Venice it’s easy to get over a girl,” Gianni continued with the utmost authority. “You loose one and there’s another five hundred arriving at the train station. I won’t be alone for long.”


Hard at work, Venetian-style

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Italian 101

June 19th, 2012

True Confession: I’m a linguistics nerd.

I love languages—the soft, flowing melody of French; the challenging, puzzle-like grammar of German; the impossibility of Slovene; the soft sh common to Portuguese and Argentine Spanish. My goal was to speak five languages by the age of 25, eight by my 30th birthday, and then ease off and be satisfied with a total of ten for the rest of my life.

Another True Confession: I’m just a little bit behind schedule.


Another lovely day in Venice

Another lovely day in Venice

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Opera Lovers and Disco Dudes

June 11th, 2012

By now you may have discovered I have a thing for impromptu dance scenes and oddly dressed eccentrics. So, with this in mind, you won’t be surprised to learn that the highlight of attending La Bohéme at the famed Fenice theater wasn’t the opera, but rather the activity at the bar next door. Before and after performances, and during intermission, the place fills up with theatergoers who order flutes of champagne and glasses of wine. They stand around talking and looking beautiful, being seen, and also seeing.


Speaking of oddly dressed eccentrics, may I introduce you to Elverace Cash (remember?? Elvis + Liberace+ Johnny Cash

Speaking of oddly dressed eccentrics, may I introduce you to Elverace Cash (remember?? Elvis + Liberace+ Johnny Cash

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Ready to Wear…and Eat

June 8th, 2012

When I refer to bright shades of red, orange, purple, and pink I’m not describing the flowers blooming in window boxes all over Venice, but rather the colors of Italian men’s pants. Add a pair of lime green and sky blue and you have their complete collection of summer wear.



“It’s red, not pink,” a Scottish friend once declared after I commented on the color of his shirt.

“Well, actually it’s almost fuchsia,” I countered, not realizing the severity of my words. “Pink, scarlet, salmon, peach…really, what difference does it make?”

“Pink is for puffers, and I’m not a puffer,” he assured me with a growing temper.



Obviously, Scottish, and most likely American men have something to learn from the Italians. Canary yellow, a bold lavender, nothing is out of their range. Throw in some espadrilles and thick white-rimmed glasses and you still have a real man, his masculinity completely intact. (Most likely this board generalization doesn’t apply to dock workers and underlings in the mafia.)

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The Beat Goes On

May 31st, 2012

Drums keep pounding rhythm to the brain…la di da de di….la di da de da

And the beat goes on…

And on and on and on and on….

Why are Sonny and Cher singing in my bedroom?

Honestly, that was my first thought this morning when I was awoken yet again by the staccato beat of sledgehammers. I knew the sound was coming from workers digging up the nearby sidewalk, but it nonetheless caught me by surprise. There’s a problem with the water lines hidden beneath the heavy stones and there’s no other way to fix it, or so I’ve been told.

When the noise begins to blend into the background of every day life, an older man in dusty overalls comes and sits by our massive front door and slowly whittles away at the wood. The abundant spring rains have swelled the door almost shut, making it difficult to use. Eventually he’ll work long and hard enough for us to come and go with ease.

In a world of water, humidity, and five hundred year old homes, maintenance is obviously a big issue.


greengrocer goes home

greengrocer goes home

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Ghetto Music

May 11th, 2012

After twenty years in San Miguel, coupled with my obscure travels around the world, not much surprises me. Even yesterday at Billa, on a morning run to get fresh bread for breakfast, I ran across Elverace in what appeared to be his wife’s lacy nightgown and I didn’t even look twice. He and his outfits are now a familiar feature in my life. I no longer need to hide behind the Bellini display in order to get a discreet good look.

Then I went to a neighborhood restaurant called Paradiso Perduto (Paradise Lost). The chef and owner Maurizio has curly, grey, shoulder length hair and stylish glasses. Like Elverace, he sometimes wears his pajamas in public, especially when he comes in late at night to check his kitchen. The first moment I saw him I knew I would be a regular at his place. (He was stirring a large copper pot of polenta in a floppy chef’s hat while drinking white wine.) Maurizio is an anarchist; his restaurant motto—“good fish at good prices.”


fried calamari

Frittura Mista

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Venice: Love Thy Neighbor

May 3rd, 2012

I knew I had chosen the right place to live when I saw Elvis, or was it Liberace, at my corner grocery store–Billa. Cloaked in a black cape, a jeweled t-shirt glimmering underneath, he waited patiently in the checkout line. His jet-black hair, draped to his shoulders, hinted at youth; however, his aggressively receding hairline told a truer story of his age. Venetians in conservative wool suits greeted him warmly, inquiring about his day with little notice of his large rhinestone-studded sunglasses or dangling gold chains. He was one of them, a fellow member of my new hood—Caneregio.

There’s nothing I like more than eccentric individuals, people who move to the beat of a different drummer, or better yet, their own forty-piece orchestra. Venice is full of them, or so I have read, and I plan to befriend a few before the end of spring. Elverace is high on my list.


view from ca d'oro

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Venice: The Audition

April 24th, 2012

Last summer I reviewed my life when I was I told I might not make it through an emergency surgery for a massive blood clot after an adjustment from a (Canadian, not to be confused with Mexican) chiropractor, I now call Dr. Death. Confronted with the surprising news, I was relieved I had recently made out my first ever Will. I was delighted I had chosen Mexico and a life of adventure and travel, and I even smiled with satisfaction knowing I had done almost everything I had ever wanted in lieu of playing it safe. Not bad, I thought.

I then sent a quick email to my friends saying thanks for the memories and goodbye. I made them promise I could have a gelato cart at my funeral and a slide show of Betty, my foster child in Malawi. (Don’t worry, on an intellectual level I do realize she’s a baboon.) I asked them to play an eclectic mix of music from my life, starting with Abba and the Bee Gees and ending well, with Abba (thanks to their Mama Mia! revival) and Michael Feinstein. They were only to serve the best prosecco before, during, and after the event, as well as memorize a few simple steps for a “Soul Train”-style procession down the church (?) aisle. “Don’t worry I’ll leave the choreography notes with the nurses,” I told them. “Oh, and if the Harlem Gospel Singers are available, book them and start a donation fund for their transportation and lodging.”


gelato cart idea

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