28 February 2009

Donning the tricorn

Lent is underway. Here is the Carnevale wrap-up...

I confess I feel a tiny bit sad because the season was more satisfying for me this year than last. I'm sure that's because I made a costume, and costumes enhance any event, in my opinion. I admit it was much easier to get into the spirit of the games in the guise of La Piratessa (the lady pirate).

Months ago I had asked my friend "G" (a veteran costumer whom I call “Pirata” because he looks just like a pirate, and he surely has the spirit of one) if we might be pirates together during Carnevale season. He agreed... and I faced my challenge!

Being short on cash, I was concerned about what kind of get-up I could possibly create on my own. But it turned out my regular wardrobe held many piratessa-like items already: a black velvet buccaneer’s coat, a black satin lace-up corset, black wool stockings and garters, a long, red, fringed sash, turn-down boots, and a lovely tricorn hat. I had only to purchase and cobble together a couple 10-euro dresses from the boxes at Laura Crovato’s secondhand shop – a flouncy organdy Scarlett O’Hara number to serve as the blouse and petticoat and a dreadful black-velvet-and-gilded-gypsy-print one that came apart to become the overskirt. Add to that big gold hoop earrings, some over-the-top make-up, and a handbag made from the bodice of that second dress, and my transformation was complete.

It had been a while since I had played dress-up. Almost immediately I re-discovered how one’s outer garments and trappings permit one’s “inner pirate” to emerge. I guess that confident, Grace O'Malley-ish gal had been near the surface for some time because I had no trouble imitating her strut and swagger. I swear to Heaven – in La Piratessa’s boots I actually felt inches taller and many times tougher. In fact, I enjoyed that part of the masquerade so much that I went out in costume a few times just by myself. And while I had fun with other costumed friends, it was even better to feel the freedom of really letting loose on my own. That was, in fact, a magnification of a lesson I have been learning here these past eighteen months: change the body, change the wardrobe, change the attitude, and you change the woman forever.

There is one piece of Carnevale that I cherish and keep enjoying, even beyond the festivities. That is my tricorn, which I purchased early last year from Giuliana Longo, Venice’s best loved, most authentic modisteria (milliner). It is a cocky, smart-looking hat, my preferred headwear for the Venetian winter. All the masking and seasonal silliness aside, when I don my tricorn to go out for ordinary things – just to run to the bank or pick up some groceries or meet a friend for a drink – I always feel a little historical thrill, a thin sense of belonging to this place. A pale, ghostly shiver goes through me as an invisible thread connects me to thousands of Venetians who have walked these streets just as I do in these precious days.

22 February 2009


Bad news. Another fellow has lost his bird… this time it’s a little grey pigeon.

It shouldn’t be too tough to pick him out among Venice’s massive flocks of little grey pigeons though. He walks with a limp.

18 February 2009

Large and in charge

Lording over the Carnevale festivities this year is a giant winged lion topiary. He towers over the stage in a fool-the-eye formal garden that sprang up Friday night in the Piazza. His golden eyes see all…

Tonight he watched as a half-dozen couples (a few of them decked out in their best blue jeans) danced the tango to taped music.


I believe Casanova is turning over in his grave.

15 February 2009

A confetti conspiracy

Carnevale 2009 began Friday evening, and early yesterday morning I noticed something a bit odd when I opened my shutters and looked up and down Calle dei Fuseri. As usual, the pre-dawn streetsweepers had brushed away every single cigarette butt, scrap of litter, and soda bottle. Clean as a whistle. Yet there was still a dusting of vividly colored, high quality confetti all along the calle. Hmm. Strange…

As I have mentioned here, my street is a major artery between San Marco and Rialto, lined with many shops and other businesses. It’s no secret that these enterprises rely heavily on the income from this busy tourist season. Was it possible that city fathers had planted this false evidence of street festivity to encourage and enhance the Carnevale experience for the tourists who would soon be making their way along this route? Sort of like using breadcrumbs to trap pigeons??

I had to get up early this morning and check to see if my hunch was right.

Yup. There it was again! Spic-and-span streets all around Campo San Luca, made bright and inviting with that very same confetti, sprinkled in a far too regular “random” pattern. “This way to the fun!” it seemed to be saying, “Follow me!”

It made me wonder…

Who is appointed to do this secret scattering task? And what do you suppose is the amount of the confetti allotment in the annual Venetian city budget? (For that matter, what do you suppose it is in New York City?!)

13 February 2009

Friday the 13th

I realize Carnevale season is upon us. But it’s still very weird to see Hallowe’en costumes in the shops just a few weeks after Christmas.

What, I want to ask these know-it-all Venetians, have ghouls and goblins to do with a pre-Lenten festival? How exactly does Jason’s goalie mask fit in?

10 February 2009


(Is that not one of the greatest words in the English language? It always leads me to think of Holly Golightly explaining the difference between “the blues” and “the mean reds.”)

Sometimes things happen to me here that aren’t exactly blog-appropriate. Not even blog joke-appropriate.

Currently I find myself wrestling with something very personal that probably should have come up back when I was about 20 years old or so. My own fault, really. I came here seeking to discover some things about myself, both as an artist and as a woman. And Heaven knows I have! I guess I was just hoping to discover...

I cannot say more than that, but I can offer you this old chestnut:
“Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”

05 February 2009

Updates & corrections again

Last year I reported that frittelle (Venetian fritters sold only for Carnevale season) come in three versions – plain or filled with pastry cream or zabaglione – plus a mini version called a rossato. This year I have also seen them filled with whipped cream. And! (Are you sitting down?) Tonolo in Dorsoduro now has a frittella di mela – a perfect apple fritter. Does it get any better than this?

I have had some additional input on the phrase, “Fai la brava!” According to my friend "M," it can be something you say to a child, i.e., “Behave yourself!” When I mentioned that to another friend, "R," he said yes, but when you say it to an adult, it’s could mean something more like “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. (Wink, wink!)"

A few wrote to ask for a translation of the subtitle on the TV frame of the new POTUS Obama that I showed here (Yes we can!, 21 January). It gives me great pleasure to do so. It reads “…and that is how changes happen in America.” Magari! From his lips to God’s ear!

The clementine count is now up to 265.

02 February 2009

Grey day, blue night

February 2nd already. Call it what you will: Candlemas, the last day of Christmas, Groundhog Day.

I see that Punxsutawney Phil, America’s official groundhog, clearly saw his shadow up at Gobbler’s Knob this morning. Six more icy weeks of winter in the U.S., it would seem. (And yes, I do sometimes miss these quirky, uniquely American things like furry ol’ Phil’s prognostications.)

There’s no groundhog here in Venice, but I’m sure our pantegane (big, big rats) couldn’t possibly have seen their long-tailed shadows in the grey gloom this morning, and that must mean spring is on the way. I have mixed feelings about that. Even as I shiver in my Chinese silk longjohns, spring isn’t something I’m looking forward to. But it is inevitable.

Meanwhile, I wistfully look at these blue fairy lights, the last bit of Christmas still shining in town, and I wonder, as I so frequently do… How does the time go by so fast here?