casanova's travel log
essay by michael estabrook
OK here we are, finally made it to Venice (Italy, not California or Florida), celebrating 50 years together. 50 years! Holy crap! How the hell did that happen? Where did the decades go? It seems only yesterday I was walking her to class, carrying her books, trying to avoid the teachers so I could hold her hand.
Refugees seeking safety from hostile Germanic tribes murder, rape and plunder, settled on 118 islands located in a lagoon off the northern Veneto coast of the Adriatic.
Back then I was lifting weights to get strong enough to protect her and fend off the other suitors, like Odysseus returning home after his 20-years' adventure in the Big War, and his wanderings hither and yon through Hell and beyond.
Odysseus, while he still had arrows left to defend himself,
kept aiming at the suitors in his house; each arrow
found its target, and they dropped one after another.
Only for me the fending off was constant throughout high school and college. The bastards came out of the woodwork: football heroes, math whizzes, wealthy double-talking fratboys. But my God you should've seen her, a face to launch . . . well you know.
I took karate too, leaving nothing to chance. The toughest karate, Shotokan Karate, hit first, ask questions some other day.
They remained there, constructing their entire city on wooden platforms set atop millions of piles sunk deep into the mud of the lagoon bottom.
Let's face it. The poor girl deserves something special, a reward for sticking with me all that time, for her forbearance, her patience, devotion and sweet wisdom. So, it was Hawaii or Italy and Italy won out. How can you be a lover of literature (a bona fide Dante freak), opera and art-have you seen the Sistine Ceiling, Botticelli's Nascita di Venere?-and not visit Italy, not come to Venice?
Every year 600 gigantic cruise ships, 100,000 tons each, carrying a total of 1,500,000 passengers make their way up Venice's ancient Grand Canal which is only 17 feet deep and 200 feet wide on average.
So here we are, struggling with jetlag, pushing all the crap back home deep into the shadows-the poor dying dog, the lawn mowing, laundry, vacuuming, grocery shopping, bill paying-all those insidious nuts and bolts of living.
Today there are over 7,000 chimneys in Venice. Can't help but wonder, what do they burn, if all the wood is buried underground holding up the city?
We have children (and grandchildren) 3 of the suckers and like I always say, once a parent always a parent, the children never go away, not that I want them to go away, it's just that you never stop worrying about them.
In 1609 Galileo demonstrated his telescope from the top of the Campanile di San Marco, 300 years before it came crashing down into the piazza, killing the caretaker's cat.
So, it isn't merely nice to get away, it is imperative for our health, sanity and longevity. In today's day and age of medical marvels and genetic breakthroughs who wants to die at 36 of stomach cancer (like my Dad) or 65 of an aneurism (like her Mom)?
Both Venetian men and women wore masks as they went about their daily activities thereby hiding their identities. Nobody knows who began this custom nor precisely why.
We expect, almost demand, to live longer more fruitful, energetic, worthwhile lives. Danielle my financial planner, for crying out loud, is trying to set up my retirement portfolio (such as it is) to last until I'm 100. Seriously! What the hell am I going to do with a bag of money when I'm 100?
Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, El Greco, Tintoretto, Canaletto, Paolo Veronese, Marcello, Albinoni, Vivaldi, Galuppi, Antonio Salieri Goldini, Ruzante, Da Ponte, Giacomo Casanova-
Where was I? Oh yeah, here in Venice, sightseeing, living the life, clutching our passports and Euros so tightly leaving impressions like fossils in our skin, taking all the obligatory photos: St. Mark's Basilica, The Clock Tower, The Doge's Palace, The Grand Canal, Byron's Bridge of Sighs.
George Gordon Lord Byron lived in the Mocenigo Palace on the Grand Canal, with nine horses, seven servants, five carriages, two cats, two dogs, a monkey or two (and a partridge in a pear tree). It was here he began his masterwork, "Don Juan".
We're staying at the famous Hotel Palace Bonvecchiati which, according to its website, proposes a new hospitality concept in the historic heart of Venice, 200 meters from Saint Mark's Square or the Rialto, with an international flair and authentic modern art plus very luxurious amenities. The hotel welcomes elite travelers for an exclusive stay.
I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs,
a palace and a prison on each hand.
I saw, from out the wave, her structures rise,
as from the stroke of the enchanter's wand.
The Hotel Palace Bonvecchiati is a modern, 4-star hotel of contemporary Italian design, so civilized, so cultured, so peaceful-wait! What's this? Who's that? Over there having a drink at the bar. Looks like, I'll be damned, Casanova. Seriously? Casanova, THE Casanova!? Can't be.
Giacomo Girolamo Casanova made over 200 sexual conquests from teenage girls to sisters to street prostitutes to a contessa or two and even a castrato and a nun.
Yes dammit! It's him, I know it's him. As a literary historian I know Casanova when I see him and I see him, I do, right over there leaning on the bar talking to some beauteous chick, of course.
You will be amused when you see that I have more than once deceived without the slightest qualm of conscience, both knaves and fools. As to the deceit perpetrated upon women, let it pass, for, when love is in the way, men and women as a general rule dupe each other.
I don't care what you say. Casanova himself is staying in our damn hotel. I saw him. I see him. I can see him right there. I have eyes. I'm not blind. And now of course I have a problem. Keeping the bastard away from my wife. She's older now, but still a beauty and . . . with his casanovian reputation . . .
Casanova spied for the State Inquisitors to expose traitors and traitors-to-be. Yet on the other hand he may have assisted Lorenzo Da Ponte in writing his libretto for Mozart's Don Giovanni so he can't be all bad.
Yup, ok, fine, he's a cool guy, a regular James Bond. But still, all the more reason I should go over and meet him. Remember what Machiavelli preached: Keep your friends close but your enemies closer. Yes, indeed, Machiavelli.
For it must be noted, that men must either be caressed or annihilated; they will revenge themselves for small injuries, but cannot do so for great ones; the injury therefore that we do to a man must be such that we need not fear his vengeance.
I'll need to keep my guard up, just like in the old days keep my eye, both eyes, on that archetypal womanizer maybe find a dojo here in the Queen of the Adriatic brush-up on my old tried-and-true karate moves just in case I need them.