20 May 2009

Gains & losses

It’s the two-column list, that trusty old tool we use for seeing how everything turned out when it’s all over. A personal P&L. Here’s how I fared during my 20 months in Venice:

- My hesitation to speak Italian
- My hesitation to identify as an artist
- 2 friendships that brought me great joy in their brief histories
- Almost 20 pounds (without dieting!)
- A very expensive pair of progressive lens eyeglasses
- My financial security (only a temporary loss)

- The improved ability to read, write, and converse in Italian
- The chance to help some Italian friends speak English
- The joy of proverbs from the Venetian dialect
- A closer relationship with an old and dear friend
- A bunch of great new friends – people whom I hope to know forever
- The restoration of one of those two lost friendships (jury’s still out on the second)
- A lot of information on a wide variety of subjects
- Improved exercise, dietary, and housekeeping habits
- A good many new recipes and kitchen practices
- A whole new wardrobe of things I never dreamed I could actually wear
- Lots more shoes, boots, and handbags
- Lots more books
- The rare experience of playing the role of a spy
- Some amazing insights about my own personality and sexuality
- A few unexpected, even shocking romantic adventures and, thus, many memories – some bitter and some delicious
- Greater freedom from concern about what people think of me
- More confidence in myself as a woman
- More trust in my intuition
- My first public show of studio work
- Considerable entitlement to proceed with that studio work
- And real, actual, cold, hard cash payment for some of it
- Many, many new ideas and lots of materials for future studio work
- This blog to remind me of the whole wonderful experience when I’m old and grey

This journey wasn’t without pain and sacrifice, and it wasn't entirely the way I had imagined, but all in all, I have to say I did pretty well.

And I also have to give thanks to all the people who encouraged and helped me. You know who you are, but you cannot possibly imagine the depth of my gratitude to you. Thank you so much. Grazie mille.

15 May 2009

Was I really there?


Something I was not expecting… a sense of disbelief that any of this happened at all, that I ever had a home and a life in Venice, that it all goes on without me now.

Painful. And strange.

11 May 2009

Per Veneziani soltanto

What’s wrong with this picture?

Yup. It’s another illusion. This time the windowsill is that of my New York brownstone, and the ceramic impostor mimics the typical Venetian take-out espresso cup.

(Probably this little joke is amusing only if you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning.)

07 May 2009

Two Avalons

Yesterday morning I took my last look at La Serenissima from the window of my New York-bound jet. As we climbed higher, I could easily make out the Piazza, Rialto Bridge, even my own little campo. I searched for my friends’ homes and my favorite spots. But the clouds were closing over her and, just like the mystical island of Avalon in the King Arthur legend, she faded into the shroud of mists. Ethereal. Elusive. Too strange and beautiful to exist, to endure. As she disappeared from my view, it seemed impossible that I had ever really lived there at all. I confess that I wept bitterly.

The flight was cramped and torturous – nine long hours of tasteless food, brain-dead movies, inane jabber from the seat-kickers behind me, and nonstop screaming and crying from a toddler a few rows ahead of me. Nine long hours of wondering what lay before me, probably the most unwilling traveler on that crowded flight.

Descending toward our destination, I looked over a deep layer of the same dense, dull clouds I had left behind in Italy. Then the mists parted and I caught my first glimpse of Manhattan, my other Avalon. It took my breath away, just as it always does when I come home…


But I just left “home…”

05 May 2009

New York songs

It was so easy living day by day
Out of touch with the rhythm and blues
But now I need a little give and take
The New York Times, The Daily News

Tomorrow morning I leave Venice. Tomorrow afternoon I become a New Yorker again. “I’ve a cozy little flat in what's known as old Manhattan,” and all that jazz…

I confess I have some trepidation. I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know how it will be for me now. Will I feel welcome, “at home?” Will I readily fall into the paces of the places that I so loved? Am I really a different woman than I was before I left? And if so, does that woman fit into New York life? I hope, at least, I will be up to the challenge of settling back into my apartment and studio, finding some kind of suitable work, re-building my battered finances. I hope I can hit the ground running, get up to speed without faltering. I do not feel confident. Only confused.

I thought I’d be well ready to head back to New York when the time came. Twenty months ago I never really imagined I wouldn’t do that. The last thing I told my friend “W” was, “Don’t worry. I know where ‘home’ is.” But at some point I think I stopped believing I would ever actually leave Venice. When I returned to New York for a short time in October, I dimly thought of it as “just popping in to pick up a few things.”

Maybe that was foolish. Maybe not. Maybe now I have to figure out a way to live in both cities. It seems I cannot do without either of them. Something to ponder… “In a New York minute everything can change.”

But first I must go back and try to make my beloved New York my home again. Start over.

Retreat. Review. Re-group. Reorganize. Restore. Refresh.

It comes down to reality, and it’s fine with me
‘Cause I’ve let it slide
I don’t care if it’s Chinatown or on Riverside
I don’t have any reasons
I left them all behind
I’m in a New York state of mind.

04 May 2009

Final final updates & corrections

Last autumn my fave coffee shop Zanin closed – almost broke my heart, truly. It was shuttered for some time. Then, early in spring, it re-opened as Marchini Time, run by the same people who make the best candies and sweets in town. Their coffee is terrific; so are their pastries. But they aren’t nearly as nice to me as the Zanin folks used to be.

That plea for assistance in finding a lost pigeon – little, grey, slightly lame – turned out to be a hoax. Apparently the perpetrator/
performance artist posts “LOST!” flyers for all kinds of things, tangible and intangible, all over the world. (Check his website - address on the flyer - to see some of the hilarious examples.) OK. I fell for it. But here in Venice, it didn’t seem all that farfetched.

I’m now clear that there was absolutely nothing to admire about my “warm, charming, handsome” coffee vendor. A liar and a coward, rude and cold, with all the depth of a parking lot puddle. Still, I feel a bit like Adelaide in Guys and Dolls: “Tell him I never want to talk to him again. And have him call me here.”

The final clementine count was 366. A personal best.