15 April 2012

My Brother's Venetian Experience or Not

A humorous account of a day in Venice by my brother, Alex. Actually I wonder if it was more about him wrapping his head around what his 3 years old niece is all about. No matter, let him peel back his eyelids and away with his story.

I peeled back the eyelids this morning to the insufferable sound of an engine that was not going to start and realised that darkness was still about. I lustily sucked in a big breath of Venetian air as I looked out the incomprehensibly askew window of our not so exotic hotel room at that contraption that was making all that noise and at its sight I relented to the idea that not all was going to go according to plan today. The rain was the first sign.

To add to that, I briefly caught a glimpse of myself in a well-positioned mirror and I can’t say that I liked what I saw. I stepped back a little to ascertain the fault and after 10 minutes of careful study, I found it. A pimple was forming within the follicles of the left eyebrow ruining the perfect picture. To this you might say, that vanity in all its diabolical splendour has taken a hold.

No matter, fast forward the morning through a shower that wasn’t to my liking due to the less than average state of the bathroom, further fast forward through a breakfast during which I should have left the cheese at the buffet table and there I was listening intently to a group of Americans giving a discourse on all things Venice, with the enthusiasm of a child who has taken its first step. All smiles, laughter, happiness and achievement. The problem was, and I now realise, that Yanks tie their words together in a most non-English of ways and I did not understand a thing. It was a terrible start to the day. Even the double espresso, Italian style, did not seem to be able to kick-start the cerebellum.

I concluded that not all was good in the world and I was struggling to bring myself up to speed with all that needed to be done that day.

The second double espresso jolted the heart and the inevitable surge rushed to the grey matter kicking it into action. It did the trick. The words flowed poetically towards my sister. The plan was being perfected. All of Venice was mapped out and vocalised and only when she pulled me up on it did I stop for a well deserved breath. I was away: do a tour, that is... an all day walking tour of Venice.

To those in the know, the two of us have left many a footprint on the streets of Rome and Singapore. So in my most able mind an all dayer on the streets of Venice at a most reasonable 20 degrees was a no brainer. Easy. Considering that we did Rome and Singapore at 35 degrees heat and 80% humidity. The stats are important at this juncture as we had a 2.5 years old rug rat in tow. Trinity put up a brave fight in the relentless sun of Rome on our lazy 9 hours amble and I now realise that Trinity’s lack of expression was largely due to limited words in her dictionary. Looking back on it now, those calm sorry eyes that were telling me one thing were turbulently telling me something else.

The coffee kicked in, the sugar was flowing in the blood stream, my sister was ready and all the jovial mood and energy was all of a sudden sapped away as Trinity asked to go to Costa Del Sol (her place of residence). In my mind, with all the American influence around, a sentence formed in the nether regions directed at Trinity: “Not today sista” with all the Harlem attitude a female of that species could muster. Costa Del Sol is in Singapore, 12,000 kms away and today we are doing Venice.

We hit the asphalt and in view of the fact that I was told to make this piece of writing short, here is a summary that brought us to the moment that Trinity pulled us up and made a stand for all the humanity that lay within her and most of all to what it cost my pocket.

Firstly, I wish I knew the person responsible for the street lay out of this most unworking of cities. I mean we got lost countless times and found ourselves in a loop that got us back to this most interesting of coffee shops and when we were finally ready for a well-earned rest we couldn’t find it. We must have gotten into a different loop. I asked a local for direction but his 3 days growth and the stained look on his face told me he was lost as well. As we left him to his own devices the hammer blow that I envisaged in the darkest alcoves of my mind when I sucked in that Venetian air this morning came thundering down. It was brutal, it was relentless, faultless, innocent and true all rolled into one. Trinity rolled this off the tongue – verbatim: “We have been here before and I can’t do this anymore.” The rug rat speaks. I stood there silently, losing weight.

This was around the corner from St Marco’s square. The place where coffee shop owners, believe that everywhere else in the world, dollar bills are cultivated, grow on trees and we mere mortals pick them at random and just come to Venice. Nevertheless, the order was placed and I had to find a place of rest and coffee.

I did what any man in my position would and found a reasonable coffee shop with a view in the square, as you would. So as the girls evaporated to the inevitable powder room check-up, I got to the bargaining table with this waiter that belonged in one of those spaghetti westerns that Clint Eastwood made famous. As the bad guy of course.

I told him I wanted a table close to the action and he replied with that tone of “anything you like” as long as you read the script (aka the menu) and agree to the fine print: 5.70 euro each for the musicians (I told him I had my own on my iPhone – to no avail), 8.50 euro each for coffee (1kg costs that much I said – he did not flinch), then I tried the next obvious thing, I tried to talk Trinity out of eating so we can save some of the hard earned currency but to no avail again. So there went 12 euros for a sandwich that had no substance and I firmly believe it shrank on the way from the kitchen to our table to the size of a 50 cent coin. Needless to say the mineral water weighed in at 5.50 euros. So if you ask about the experience, well it is quite simple. In Rome where Trinity was silent all was well in the world as far as I was concerned. Now that her voice box and all the rest of those tiny little muscles that make words fly out with reckless abandon, have come to party, I am resigned to postpone all future trips with the said female. As what is in it for me (1 – that is one – coffee) versus total cost for the experience (5.7 + 5.7 + 8.5 +8.5 + 12 + 5.5, you do the math) is financially not viable and fundamentally unsound.  (For those who don't want to do the math it was 46 euros, aka AUD$58, SGD$75)

It may not be her fault (but I am questioning it) for her exuberant and extravagant taste but I decided to nip that little rug rat in the bud, I mean – and this is the crux – where does she get off in chirping “we’ve been here before and I can’t do this anymore” precisely when you come across the best seat in the house, where all the action is and the price of one cup of average coffee leaves my pockets empty.

I knew it this morning. That one gulp of air had traces of arsenic through it and now at the end of the day I am forced to admit that I’ve been taken for a ride by an Italian waiter with his exorbitant prices and a 3 years old blondie. At least the waiter was a professional.