19 September 2007

Venice Postponed

I was thinking of taking a trip this fall...

For quite a long time, I have talked about going to Venice. Having made it as far as Paris already, I thought it foolish not to take the opportunity to visit la Serenissima, the most serene of cities, and to dive into her art and architecture. I haven’t obsessed about Venice quite so much as the narrator of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu: that poor fellow writes pages sufficient to fill anybody else’s novel with dreams of the city, learned discussions of her painters, and an almost carnal desire, more urgent the longer it’s thwarted, to go there. But when he finally arrives, the poor narrator is disappointed. The wanting was a greater thing than the touring, and evidently looking at pictures of pictures was more satisfying than looking at the pictures themselves. This is typical of Proust’s narrator, who [Warning: spoiler alert] winds up disillusioned with almost everything that earlier enthralled him. But it’s also typical of me, to a degree. Working at Opera News, for example, wasn’t nearly the polyhymniac picnic I imagined it to be when I was 15.

Other factors are holding me back, as well. The least of these is the weak dollar: I’d do as well to throw my money into the Grand Canal nowadays. Moreover, I’ve come gradually to realize something more serious. I’m not in a relationship right now, and as Katharine Hepburn and Dirk Bogarde have tried and tried to teach me, Venice is unsafe for singletons.

Signore, shall I tell your water-taxi to wait?

My preconceptions of Venice are romantic, and what indeed may befall me if I wander there alone? Supposing there is no Rossano Brazzi to sweep me up, and only a Bjorn Andresen to lead me astray? Might I skulk along the pestilential canals and alleyways in darkness, might I dye my hair and paint my face, might I expire like a sitting duck in a deckchair on the Lido? The imagination reels. Sighing under a bridge is the least of the dangers I’d face.

Having followed Hepburn’s example in so many ways, from her forthright handshake to her flattened, nasalized vowels, I follow again now. I will wait.

Unless of course somebody wants to go with me.