Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To Die so Young, and Singing

Dante’s Beatrice died of the plague. So probably did Petrarch’s Laura. So it’s a good idea not to get involved with an Italian poet in the age of Swine Flu. Still, having been instructed by my faithful editor and unofficial therapist to “lighten up,” after a day at the Lido and several ice creams, and a Jacuzzi finally taken, I followed, not my heart, but the music, and came upon a jazz band playing their pecs out on the Zattere, their imitation of Ray Charles flawless, and their rendition of ‘You Are My Sunshine’ with sax, electric guitar, keyboard and drums (Batteria, I love that) fine enough so I bought their CD(the Trio Santi Bailer, no matter that there were four of them, the Italians do not insist on accuracy in the face of pleasure) and felt merry, continuing on to a waterside(redundant,almost everything in Venice is waterside) pizzeria. I should have looked at their menu before my last REPORT: it’s spelled UOVA. But then as you may already know, I am not that good a speller even in English. My Olde English teacher at Stanford, Huhbie Merrit(Actually Herbie but his southern accent was very thick) had gone to Princeton with my Chaucer teacher, Joe Herben(no accent); the two of them had been there with Fitzgerald. He asked me “Mees Davis, what you want with a Master’s Degree anyway? I told Scott: ‘If you write well enough, someone will spell fo you.’.
Back at the pizzeria, the wine was watered, so I invited the couple at the next table, really cute Greeks, to share an actual bottle of wine. They were grateful and affectionate, and it was not until the second glass that the girl,Elli, an accountant, said they had to leave because Dimitri, a cafeteria owner, had a fever and was on medication he had to return to his Pensione to take. I tried to remember if we had actually embraced, and wondered if I drank my bottle of Purel I would live long enough not to get it.
Then understanding that we only live once unless the Eastern religions have it right, I continued on to where the lights were even brighter: a cruise ship at anchor. Stopping just before I entered the police station which I guess is there to make sure no one is bringing in drugs or more Libyans, I turned right and heard the strains of a guitar, not that well-played, especially after what I had heard on the Zattere, but a voice was trying for ‘That’s Amore,’ so I went in. A great old guy named Italo played his heart out and the proprietress, a dark-eyed, warm smiling woman welcomed me and a Bangladeshi sold me flashing red glasses with hearts on them, while her daughter, so slender and tall it was a struggle not to dislike her, danced. I had a great glass of wine and met a Croatian,their new chef, whose name is Robert which is my once favorite name, so will go back there tonight, in my struggle to live in the moment which actually works if you can do it, and wake up to the fact that you are in Venice.
Now to the Guggenheim, to buy an English language copy of Death in Venice, as my editor Robert told me to do to get myself out of myself and moving around, suggesting I go to all those places Mann visited in the novel to cheer myself up. I mean, really. You can imagine how depressed I was if he suggested Death in Venice as a spirit-lifter.