Be brief in Venice
It has more tourists than China, in fact it has almost more tourists each day than it has residents. Every second person (literally) is a tourist.
Against the power of that force for the lowest common denominator and highest possible price, no city, culture or civilisation would be safe. It would be the same as if the number of tourists in New Zealand were 365 times larger than it is today.
That said, there are lots of good things about it. I like that there are no cars. I like that the streets are mostly not straight, that the city is flat, and that you often catch a glimpse of where you want to be but can not figure out how to get there. Venice inspires an absurd kind of patience.
I like that Italians are friendly and incredibly helpful and always say ‘Prego’ when you say ‘thank you’. I like that they remember coffee orders, they remember we have been there before, they understand the value of not rushing dinner (or anything much) and of unexpected parks and garden seats. I like the towering buildings and the narrow streets, and watching people maneuvering their boats around each other in the narrow canals.
I like that shouting in a foreign language is nowhere near as irritating as shouting in English. Even early in the morning. But let me record for posterity that bulldozers make the same noise at 7 in the morning in Italy as they do anywhere and it is nowhere near as soothing.
I could never be Italian though. I have not the interest in style. I am sure that if SARS comes to Italy there will be a full range of stylish face-masks on offer. Not entirely sure how they will continue to smoke with them on, but I guess they will figure something out.
I spent the last four days in Rimini, at an ultimate frisbee tournament called Paganello. I was not fit. I had not practised. And I was playing with a team which, while spectacular, was mostly filled with people I had never met before.
Still, being the sixth best mixed beach ultimate team in the world is not too bad. Not as good as third (last year) or first (the year before) – are we on some kind of downward slide? And I have some enduring memories of long dinners and endless toasts, german beer (of course), cold sand, sunny days, wind burn, the game we won with only hucks, wandering around Rimini in the middle of the night clad only in underwear and searching for the man who took our clothes, the opera that kept time at the games, meeting old friends on the beach, the maids who managed to tidy my room despite the incredible mess that I generated from the moment I first opened my bag, and of sleeping instead of going out (perhaps I am on some kind of downward slide?).
The people opposite me in this train are like aliens. They may in fact be aliens. They both have (matching?) blow-up cushions around their necks and glasses that are just a shade too dark. The cushions do not appear to be making them more comfortable either. It is hot on this train. They are facing backwards and wearing what looks like too many clothes.