Thursday, November 19, 2015

Leaving Venice, 2013

Long before the sun rose to cast its golden mantle across St. Mark’s square igniting the incredible iridescent mosaics on the facade of the cathedral and illuminating the winged lion on top of his pilaster I couldn’t sleep. A deep dark storm front filled with torrential rain blew in from the Adriatic. It stifled and smothered the faint glow from the small lights adjacent to the fog covered canals that filtered through the watery passage where we waited, by a perfectly arched bridge adjacent to our now almost invisible hotel. I felt as though we were in a 1942 film noir starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall with Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and other actors in long black trench coats where something sinister was afoot. Our party had been awakened at 3:15AM from fitful sleep by calls from the night clerk at the Columbiana Hotel in Venice in order to meet a Venetian taxi boat driver who would ferry us to the airport across the distant bay through the fog and rain.

 The first and last plane from the Venice airport that day we could not miss! The airport seemed an eternity away beyond an impenetrable black unknown watery distance through a curtain of rain! The expected intense rains were certain to flood the St. Mark’s Cathedral, the square and many of the shops surrounding the area. The conundrum is that while you can push the flooding waters out of the shops, churches and other areas, it runs directly back into them. The water in Venice has no place to go but up, becoming a tragedy of monumental proportions that will continue to be magnified in the near future, the very near future. It is in all probability too late all ready to be averted. Venice is doomed. The magnificent murals in the Doge’s palace, the churches, the palazzos and everything else in the city will soon be as lost as Atlantis. Currently platforms have been constructed in order to be able to traverse St. Marks Square and gain access to the cathedral during elevated water periods like high tides and excessive rainy seasons.

We all waited in a dimly lit room of the hotel lobby anxiously waiting for the taxi speed boat to arrive and arrive it did, at exactly 4:00 AM. The driver loaded the luggage into the front of boat while the six of us were closed in the covered space behind the driver. He expertly ferried us through the inland canals of Venice, abutted by tall Renaissance buildings soaring skyward like two poised hands ready to clap.

 It was silent as a tomb except for the humming of the boat’s motor. We didn’t talk. By the time we reached the Grand Canal and the more open waters of the Venetian lagoon it was still really too dark to see anything except the lights across the water and their glistening reflections on the inky surface. The Italian driver pressed the throttle and the boat exploded forward. The speed was apparent by the lunging and skipping of the speed boat, at times almost leaving the water’s surface sailing through the air as we flew across the murky water propelled through the darkness. We would obviously make it on time if we weren’t killed in some fiery crash in the bay with some other boat also speeding through the night headed God knows where. We did however make it on time and after dragging our luggage across a paved walkway for a mile or so we came to the airline counter with time to spare. Checking in at Lufthansa’s counter, I wondered just who I was in my imaginary scenario; “Humphrey Bogart”, I hoped but probably Sidney Greenstreet. Linda was Lauren Bacall, maybe but just who would the others have been? Let me think……

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