January 31, 2011

Venice. September, 1984

I am not your garden-variety tourist. When I go to Las Vegas or Montreal or Madrid, I like to check out the supermarket, the public library, the places where the natives go rather than the standard, pre-packaged “sights.” So I was thrilled on this, my second trip to Venice, when I experienced the acqua alta, the high-water flooding of the Piazza San Marco. There were elevated boardwalks quickly assembled for those who wanted to avoid the inconvenience. But I just took off my shoes, rolled up my pants and joined the Venetian grandmothers who were also “making do.” The shimmer of the water over the meandering black-and-white geometric designs in the pavement was beautiful. And as you can see from my right foot, the acqua wasn’t all that alta, maybe an inch or two. Still, the near-panic and irritation among those crowding the boardwalk was remarkable, eliciting some snickers and sidelong looks from everyday Venetians. In a few hours, the tide retreated into the lagoon, the boardwalks were disassembled and all was returned to normal. Or at least normal for Venice.

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