The last Random Journal Entry was about the joy of Venetian mosquitos. This one looks at that special joy of drinking too much coffee and lying awake all night. I also write about my very first traghetto ride. How delicious is that? Since I mention the band Tindersticks, I thought it only right that you have a soundtrack for this blog post. Click this link before you read on. Tindersticks.
Aug. 9, 1996
Again I made the mistake of having too much coffee and I find myself unable to fall asleep. The Count of Monte Cristo brings me to the point of drowsiness not from boredom but from hours of reading), but the minute I put out the light I’m quite awake again. I might as well be useful with my time. It’s frustrating to simply lie there wide awake for so long, so I’ll write about the day.
After my pizza and caffe freddo today, I worked myself into quite a state. Why is that feeling so delicious yet so regrettable? I put Tindersticks on the walkman. I made my way down Strada Nuova to Rialto, crossed the canal, shuffled through the market, and headed for the Pesceria where the wind and water make the air cooler and I can sit comfortably on the marble stairs for a while. I resolved that I wanted to write today instead of walking and walking again. Besides, I wanted to try the traghetto (the gondolas that ferry you just across the canal), and I knew they crossed at that point to Campo Santa Sofia, which would bring me right back to Strada Nuova.
By the time I reached my spot, the coffee and Tindersticks where having their effects. I was feeling melancholy and distracted. At its most effective, Tindersticks makes me breathe heavy with loss and longing, or it makes the breath catch in my throat. I was doing all that and decided to press the matter, so I lit up a clove cigarette. There was just enough wind to make me use 7 or 8 matches to accomplish this. I barely inhaled, but I still felt the giddiness and dizziness that cloves can cause. But the taste on my lips and tongue is so delicious. It makes me want to kiss, unfortunately. I was putting myself in a bad way.
So there I sat on cool marble steps, puffing on a clove, notebook on my lap, alternately writing, staring at the canal, or sneaking glances at the fair gondolier with the ponytail. That went on for well over an hour, turning over the Tindersticks because at this point I couldn’t stop listening to it.
Finally, nature urged me to do something about the orange granita I had consumed, so I decided to take the traghetto across and make a quick stop at the hotel bathroom. I tried to find a garbage can for my granita cup, but there was none, and as I walked back the way I had come, the gondolier signaled to me asking if I wanted to ride across. I shut off poor Tindersticks for the moment, but the freddo and cloves had me shaky enough that I needed the gondolier’s hand to come aboard. It’s de riguer to stand in the traghetto, but I was feeling that shakiness and didn’t trust myself to not topple into the canal. I sat and fumbled with my sunglasses, walkman, and money and hardly looked up the whole trip. It was freshman year of high school all over. At the end of this very brief crossing, I thought I was so clever to say “due mille?” (2,000) to Mr. Ponytail, but he answered something other than “sí.” I stood there dumbly, still holding the hand he profferred to help me out of the boat. I couldn’t even remember to say, “Do you speak English?” He finally said “600,” and I mumbled something stupid, paid him, and managed not to fall as I stepped off the boat. Back on went the stupid safety of the headphones, shutting me off from possibilities.