Monday, August 31, 2009

The Humor of Misunderstanding

Which Way To The Restroom?

A rather old fashioned lady, always quite delicate and elegant, especially in her language, was planning a weeks holiday in Sydney with her husband, so she wrote to a particular camping ground and asked for a reservation.

She wanted to make sure that the camping ground was fully equipped, but didn't know quite how to ask about the toilet facilities. She just couldn't bring herself to write the word "toilet" in her letter.

After much thought, she finally came up with the old fashioned term "Bathroom closet" but when she wrote it down, she still thought she was being too forward, so she started all over again, rewrote the letter, and referred to the bathroom closet as the B.C.

"Does the camping ground have it's own B.C." is what she wrote.

Well, the camping ground owner wasn't a bit old fashioned, and he just couldn't figure out what the old lady was talking about, so he showed the letter around a few of the campers and the only thing they could come up with was that B.C. stood for Baptist Church, so he wrote the following reply.

Dear Madam,

I regret very much the delay in answering your letter, but I now take the pleasure of informing you that a B.C. is located nine miles north of our camping ground, and is capable of seating 250 people at one time.

I admit that it is quite a distance away if you are in the habit of going regularly but no doubt you will be pleased to know that a great number of campers go there and many take their lunches along and make a day of it. They usually arrive nice and early and stay quite late.

The last time my wife and I went was six years ago, and it was so crowded we had to stand up the whole time we were there. It may interest you to know that there is a special supper planned there to raise money to buy more seats so that everyone will be able to sit in comfort.

I would like to say that it pains me very much not to be able to go more regularly, but it is surely no lack of desire on my part, just that I am so busy most of the time.

As we grow older, it seems to be more of an effort to go, especially in the cold weather. If you decide to come down to our camping ground perhaps I could go with you the first time you go, sit with you and introduce you to all the other folks.

Remember, this is a very friendly community.

Monday, August 3, 2009


We are all aware that Venice is vanishing before our very eyes. Even the gorgeous pink and light rosee stones know that. Like writer Mary McCarthy, I find Venice a very feminine city as opposed to Florence which is truly masculine. This has nothing to do with the so called "nurturing" spirit of the female. Indeed, the Venetians plundered, pillaged, burnt, raped, and slaughtered with a ruthlessness and a viciousness that would have paled King Vladimir(Vlad) the Impaler. That is saying a great deal.

It was their arrogance which drove them during the epoch of ancient Rome to build stilts on mud and silt. True, the Lagoon was astonishingly beautiful. What is man good for if not to defy the Gods?

But there are too many millions of humanity who visit Venice. It is a city of 50,000 people and they cannot cope in any way, shape or form.

Mayor Massimo Cacciari, a philosopher, linguist(he speaks Latin, German, ancient Greek, Arabic and Persian) has turned into the Lee Kuan Yew of the Adriatic. Bravo for him!

Woe to those who discard anything on the street. it is punishable by a heavy fine.
Entering any fountain to cool off one's toesies is VERBOTEN. That too will earn one a sizeable fine.

Never, never feed the pigeons or doves. They are carriers of meningitis and other horrible maladies. The city of Venice has embarked on a vast extermination campaign. Do not be deceived by their sweet cu-cu-rru-cu-cus - these birds are deadly. It's either they or us.

Even God may not be in a condition to help you if you jump into the Lagoon or into one of it's canals. Not only is it dangerous because of the vaporettos(water taxis) but some of the waters are still polluted with petrol and other chemicals plus the E coli and strep and staph which abound in the jade green waters. So, on top of a debilitating illness, you will be faced with a fine of 3,000 Euros.

Tourists on tour buses must be armed with their own toilet paper or else they will be charged for their use on the public toilets.

Restaurants will not allow a tourist to use its facilities unless they buy a cup of espresso or caffe latte. Minimum cost is 13 Euros. We prefer nice tourists who spend beaucoup loot not beggars.

Gondoleers may NOT sing O Sole Mio, Turna Surriento, Funiculi, Funicula or other Neapolitan songs requested by their clients. This is La Serenissima - Venice, for Criminy's sake!!!

They must also not solicit clients. They exist to give the city a unique color, not necessarily to ferry noisy and drunken tourists through the canals and caletas.It is expensive to hire a Gondola. It has always been thus. Prices
will go up by 30% to avoid the hoi polloi.

UNESCO declared Venice a treasure of humanity. Ahime! Some members of Humanity don't treasure Venice as they should. The presence of the Italian Army is to ensure that it does.

Moroccan and Senegalese sidewalk vendors cannot display and hawk their wares in Piazza San Marco under pain of heavy fines and/or jail if the offenses are recidivist. The vendors will have their very own market place farther away from Canareggio. I am all for free enterprise but please don't let your wares clash with the aesthetics of the place. Piazza San Marco is sacred. Hai capito?

Mayor Cacciari has called in the Army to assist him in implementing these rules. Tourists, rich and poor are miffed.
"Don't come to Venice," he says rather tartly.

I have some other rules to suggest to Mayor Cacciari.

There should be a Venetian Visitor's tax on every living soul who comes to Venice. The super rich;we know straight away who they are because they head for the Hotel Cipriani, the Gritti, Danieli, Excelsior in the Lido, the Monaco etc. must pay a minimum tax of 500 Euros which is automatically tacked on their hotel bill.

Every tourist on a bus should pay 30 Euros each, no ifs or buts. I think it should be included in the price of the ticket. Private jets should pay a special landing tax, to be determined by the modern day Doges of the city. The rich can be notoriously miserly. I know this for a fact. I have witnessed it many times within members of my own clan. Well, they are going to have to lump it if they wish to luxuriate in the enchantment and sorcery of Venice.

Passengers on trains and airplanes should do their part as well. Since the Italian State Railroad has raised the prices of tickets to Venice this should be studied carefully. In any case, foreigners should pay more than Italians. Few Italians go to Venice in the spring and summer because they have their own homes by the sea or in the countryside.

Ah! yes. The Casino in Venice. There should be a surcharge for gambling. Another one when a high roller wins. What is one rich for? I have never heard of anyone with the ability to take his liquidity with him. So, cough up.

What's that? The rich will all troop to Montecarlo ? Merde! Let them. Montecarlo is beautiful BUT would you dare compare it to the Laguna, the shimmering Palazzos at night, the sorcery? the magic? the emotions and fierce passions of Venice? Get real.

I have splendid memories of Venice. One is lying on the floor of a majestic gondola which reminded me of a Viking ship because its sail was in red and white stripes. My companion and cavalier, Baron Philippe de Rothschild and I lay swaddled in furs against the night chill. He recited/declaimed the quatrains of Omar Khayam, the Ghazals of Hafiz and the Mathnawis of Rumi.

Count Vittorio Cini was perhaps Venice's greatest benefactor in the 20th century. We became deeply infatuated with each other. Our love affair lasted until he died, although it never degenerated into sex.

"Young beautiful bodies belong together," he told me.

He was 90 and looked 50. I was almost 33. Nearly two meters tall, sharp and dark golden eyes, the eyes of a raptor. His skin was a mixture of cream and strawberries for he loved sailing on the Adriatic. He had a marriage of sorts to a fascinating woman who could almost be called an explorer. His two daughters reminded me of King Lear's Goneril and Regan.

Come September La Serenissima holds its Regatta. On that occasion Vittorio's yacht flew my clan's royal colors high on the mast. I was transported back to 17th and 18th century Venice. I smiled and kissed his hand. One could show admiration, love and respect to a 90 year old Titan.
Count Cini's myriad industries in Mestre and elswhere in the Veneo had been partly responsible for the "acqua alta" the annual flooding of the Piazza di San Marco. how does one scold a personage of Vittorio's calibre? Doubtless he knew which is why the Cini Foundation is very engage in all artistic and social matters pertaining to Venice.

Our family's ties go back to the 18th century when the Hapsburgs ruled Venice and the surrounding areas. One of my ancestors donated what today would amount to $8 million U.S. to build new locks, closures and fortify existing ones. This took place in 1846. The commemorative plaque is still in place. When Venice had its cataclysmic flood in 1966, historians angrily denounced the fact that the locks had not been maintained since 1846, when Count Mikal von Vacani had donated the famous sum of money. Indeed, the Italian authorities had not spent a cent since then.

The Moses project to save what's left of Venice has seen a series of stops and starts. Governments are notoriously slow in disbursing funds. N. B. The monies have been allocated from the EU and private financiers. If all goes well, Moses should be completed by 2012. I have my doubts as do most Venetians.If anything can go awry it inevitably will. Hope is the last thing one loses. The Venetians will die first before their La Serenissima vanishes from the face of the earth.

Let's face it. Venice does not have a particularly positive karma. Yet they have managed to create vast fortunes through their ruthless and pitiless nature hidden under a deadly charm. Most of their treasures such as the lions of San Marco were plundered from Byzantium. Later, their wealthy nobility commissioned artists like Titian, Bellini, Tintoretto, and Canaletto. Their banks granted loans to the entire world in the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries at high rates of interest.

Lest we forget Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. A superb psychological study of human nature; the wealthy shipowners who took shuddering risks, the brilliant women of Venice and its ruthless moneylenders. One of them was Shylock, a Jew. The play is hardly performed these days except in Venice. Some individuals, elsewhere in the world fear being termed anti-semitic. Not so the sophisticated Venetians. It's part of their history. Some of the most illustrious families are Sephardic Judean in origin. Most of all they consider themselves Venetian.

They forked up money to merchants in Arabia, Istanbul, Peking, Delhi, Lebanon and Scotland. Tis said that British royalty intermarried with many of these royal Venetian bankers, centuries ago because their wealth, exquisite manners, good looks and penises dazzled them.