Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Travelog(ue)II: Death in Venice

Well, okay, not really. I just needed a title. Today's title was going to be "Renaissance Art Illuminated," and I was going to talk about the clear sexual content in so much of renaissance art, but I can't find good pictures on the Internet. Or at least I can't right now. I'm sure I'll be able to at home. I do, however, have good pictures of Venice, though, really, if I were coming for the pictures, I might just as well stay home and search on flickr: the pictures there are better than mine. I did take all these myself, though.

Yes, I'm drunk again. Need you even ask?

Anyway, b&c tells me that Death in Venice was based on Mahler's life, or, more accurately I suppose, his death. As it happens, though, Wagner also died in Venice. We were wandering along the streets and canals, and we came upon the place where he died. I have to say that I don't really miss Mr. Wagner. Eva Peron did not, I believe, die in Venice, but there is, nonetheless, a hotel there named after her. I only took a picture of the sign, but I looked through the window, and there was a bust of her in the lobby. I'm somewhat grateful I wasn't staying there.
Don't cry for me, Piazza San Marco.
Speaking of opera, I feel bad about coming to any country where I don't speak the language. I've decided to address this deficiency by pretending that I know Italian. There's no way to demonstrate your knowledge of a language so effectively as to go off on a rant in it. But since my knowledge of rantworthy Italian is, well, limited, I have to rant with the only Italian I know, namely, opera lyrics. So the next time b&c ticks me off, I'll impress the locals by gesticulating wildly while saying, "Non piĆ¹ andrai, farfallone amoroso! Notte e giorno d'intorno girando!Delle belle turbando il riposo! Narcisetto, Adoncino d'amor!" I figure that attitude and tone are more important than what the words actually mean, right? Of course, I haven't field tested this approach yet, so you might want to wait for additional reports before implementing the strategy yourself. Still, I can't wait to go to Germany and sneer at b&c while launching into a spoken rendition of "In Diesen Heilgen Hallen."

Actually, I'm making leaps and bounds in Italian, as illustrated by this exchange which took place today in a small pasticceria in Florence:
[TED grabs a bottle of acqua minerale frizzante and goes to the counter, where stands the proprietor. Within the counter rests a small focaccio, with green olives, after which TED lusts.]
TED: E uno focaccietti
Proprietor: Con olivo o senza?
T: Con.
Proprietor: Mangia subito?
T: Si.
Then he asked me for money, and I gave him the exact amount. I mean, really, I'm practically fluent.

Seriously, though, one of the great things about Italy is that it gives me the opportunity to feel inferior both for not knowing Italian and for not knowing Latin. (Deciding which I want to learn more is tough.) I never learned Latin, though. B&c went through Catholic schools and had to take years and years of Latin, but he recalls little of it, leading to exchanges such as the following:
TED: What does that mean?
B&c: Um. I don't know.
TED: What do you mean, you don't know. Didn't you take like twelve years of Latin?
B&c: It was a long time ago. I forgot it.
TED: Geez. I took French for six years, a long time ago, and I remember most of it.
B&c: You use your French.
TED: Oh as if. I have sex with a French guy once a year if I'm lucky. Latin guys fuck you all the time.

We spent an afternoon in the Accademia, and it's very impressive, but I was mostly taken with how incredibly somber a religion Christianity is, especially when you look at it through its art. There are probably more than six Annunciations in there, and in almost ever one of them, Mary looks bored. (Also, she's sitting at a desk reading a book in Latin, and in some of them, she appears to be sitting in a very well appointed drawing room somewhere in Tuscany, but we'll just leave that aside for a moment, except to say: "What the fuck, renaissance?") In some cases, the angel also looks bored. In others, he looks a bit stern. Personally, if I were given the job of telling someone that she was blessed among women, I'd at least muster some false enthusiasm, but whatever. Mary, though: how is she bored? I can see being frightened, excited, or even angry ("Let me get this straight. I'm going through childbirth, and years later I'm going to die still a virgin? Does this not strike you as a raw deal?")

I posed this question to b&c today in the bus coming back to the hotel from San Minano, and he tried to say that she didn't look bored so much as skeptical and that depending on when in the Annunciation the painting represented, skeptical might be reasonable. And I was all, "Dude. She looks bored. And what do you mean 'when in the Annunciation'? Have you read the Bible? The angel's all, 'Hail, Mary. Blessed are you among women. Sorry, can't stay and chat, gotta go convince your fiance not to dump you when he sees that you're knocked up! Kthxbye!' B&c had to admit that I had a point. My take, of course, has always been that Joseph couldn't keep it in his robes and had to make up the angel to avoid a spear wedding, but I'm willing to leave the Christians their virgin birth. I just don't see why they can't be a little more joyful.

There's not much joy in the Accademia, unless you count the way I felt when I entered the room with the twin Adonis statues. Oh my. My, my, my.

There is a lot of sex, though. There are any number of paintings of Venetians standing around watching processions and such, and in all of those paintings, the Venetians all look alike. They're all dressed alike, sure, but they all have the same pronounced eyebrows and the same long, thin noses. Not huge noses, but decidedly long and thin. It's clear that they're saying, "We're hung, yes. When you've been fucked by a Venetian, you'll know you've been fucked. But we're not so hung that you can't take us, so grab the olive oil, and let's go!"

And then there are all the naked and semi-naked martyr pictures. It's some twink saint or other who's got a great iliac furrow and is run through with arrows. Run through with arrows: how obvious can you get? It's Venice's way of saying, "Yes, we have many hung tops, but you can also find cute, young, smooth bottoms who will take whatever you give them."
Not an actual gondolier, just an attractive young man who cleans the gondolas.
I have a good deal more to say about my very short time in Venice, but I'll probably hold it until I'm sober, which likely means when I'm back. I'm not actually drunk all that much, but when I'm not drunk, I tend to be busy. For the moment, let me just say that the gondoliers are moderately attractive, but not more than that. They're pretty much the local equivalent of truck or taxi drivers. Somewhat more fit, perhaps, but not always all that much more fit, since they spend a lot of their time sitting around, smoking, and waiting for their next fare. There are plenty of other Italians more worth lusting after.


jason said...

Oversexed in Venice, you worry us.
Hope that relief is near and no more visions.

Will said...

The Catholic Church's dirty little not-so-secret secret (OK, one of the many) is that their Renaissance and later religious art is wildly sensuous and frequently blatantly homoerotic. As a kid subjected to 12 years of Catholic education by his parents, I never had troouble finding material to jack off to--I didn't need to buy skin mags, I just had to open a prayer book.