Tag Archives: Italy

Done. Finally done.

So all of the blog-synching and photo-adjusting madness is finished. As you’d expect, going through and touching up hundreds of Venetian photographs was as monotonous and stressful as scanning them. I could very well have made many more interesting photographs out of the material with the right adjustments, but in the end it was too repetitive and too much tedium. In any case, a so-so batch of seventy-nine shots are in the gallery.

Here is the equally dry set of journal entries from the second leg of my European trip, mostly for record-keeping purposes:

Ah, Venice
Old, new, and always the music
The islands
A little bit of everything
Pensive; tea
In Soviet Russia, beard grows you
In Soviet Russia, security go through you

In Soviet Russia, beard grows you!

So my precious Targus Stowaway appears to be on its last keys, so to speak, and I am relegated to typing one handed, wwith the occasional key studder. I am on an Airbus packed with Russians and dicey ticketing has me required to check-in again at Sheremetyevo before catching my flight to Narita. I can only hope we don’t have any of that circling/deplane on tarmac nonsense again at Moscow, I’ll probably end being seated smack dab in the middle of the plane as it is

So, my first trip to Europe in two years is ending, and as usual very few of my anticipated celebrity meetings did not take place. There were no Von Trapp family singers in Austria, nor sweet long kisses goodbye in the Austrian way by girls named Elsa. I did meet a nice lady named Caroline and her daughter on the train to Venice.

I’m still not sure if people assume I’m European, I think that nearly everyone just wants to assume that I speak whatever language they speak natively. In Venice I spoke Italian to Italian merchants, French to French tourists, German to Austrian tourists, and Russian to Russian flight attendants.

When checking in for my flight to Moscow, a tall, attractive Alitalia clerk looked at my passport and remarked mock disapprovingly, “A name like Ventura and you only speak English?” I felt the blood rush to my face and managed a half tongue-in-cheek retort that I did in fact speak a little Italian. If I was James Bond the response would have been in Italian and suggest that she could perhaps help me work on native tongue.

Actually, most of my success seemed to come with French elementary school girls. In addition to my hangman partners yesterday morning, today I got into a face-making match on the vaporetto with another little French girl, and later told her mother which station the airport bus was at and how to find it.


Anyway, I’ve veered off into another personal diatribe. The issue here is what I bought for myself: two small form factor books from the MAK, two John Lennon buttons, and a Beatles badge for my jeans jacket. That’s all. Tomorrow I will buy a couple bottles of wine at the Piazzale Roma Coop and squish them in my rucksack, but they’re consumables so they don’t count. As for the books, they both have at least one-time utility… one is on art nouveau pattern samples, the other on an avant garde rural art installation in the 1970s. To balance out the book purchases, however, I think I will recycle/sell a couple novels I currently have at home with low reread value. Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man comes to mind. I had such high hopes but it really let me down. Too preachy, too Catholic. ::grin::

So net material possessions on this trip will come down to the badge and buttons, but they are meant for my jacket so household-wise are virtually negligible. As they say, take only photographs, leave only footprints. Speaking of which, the shot breakdown for the trip is ready.

tmax 36×3, 108
presto 36×2, 72
centuria 4 27×3, 81
centuria 2 27×3, 81
superia 24×1, 24
film 366

5d 261

Total 12 rolls, 627 shots, 125.4 / day

I already have ten rolls of developed and unscanned film from October raves, so with this incredible amount of material I will very easily be busy through the end of November and very likely early December getting through it all. I can’t even start though until after Design Festa is over (no doubt this post will also go up after the fact). To be honest, I think that bringing twenty rolls of film was a bit of an overkill. I didn’t want to run out but in the end some of it just is making unnecessary trips through crummy Russian x-ray machines. Though I did want to get a good breadth of lighting conditions and lens combinations for the Venetian architecture, in the end I did get a little sick of it. I should have been doing more of that original interpretation I was talking about earlier, but the fatigue and pressure to see stuff kind of sapped the creative energy from me a bit. Though you’ll probably see less than twenty percent of the shots from this trip, upwards of seventy percent or so look the same. Different buildings, different exposure values, same viewpoints and impact. This was a good lesson in volume, though. I think this is the first time I’ve ever gotten sick of taking pictures in a single thematic session.

Oh I forgot to mention that I did buy a piece of clothing, a scarf in Vienna but that was for utility as it was cold and I don’t know where my other scarf is. Additionally, I’m down a sock that I think the guy I met on the train to Venice wound up with.


So Saturday evening has come and my European tour draws to a close. It feels like I’ve done a fair amount more writing than usual, but maybe that’s just the scale of the trip. As usual I’m under budget, but I really haven’t done anything extravagant so I guess that makes sense. The motivation to eat in a restaurant with courses is rather low when traveling alone. Still, it is my last night in Europe, so I think I’ll eat at the restaurant run by the hotel owner’s husband. I just hope I can eat everything I’m given. Traditionally I’ve been more of the “eat often with smaller portions” kind of person. The frequency is due to my metabolism, and the portion size is probably just habit from years of being frugal. In the end, I think it’s healthier this way, anyway. Eating a lot at once causes significant discomfort, which one could say is my body’s way of telling me I don’t need anymore.

Anyway, I’m a customer not a guest at a family’s house, so I suppose it’s not a crime if I can’t eat everything I’m given, especially if I don’t decide the portion size.

I also hate buying non-consumable (food) products. My home is only so big, and I don’t like having stuff that I don’t use. It feels wasteful, it collects dust, and it’s a pain when moving. Technology I can forgive because I make heavy use of everything I own photography related. Music is best downloaded so plastic CD cases don’t have to be thrown away. Clothes I do not buy unless something in my small wardrobe wears out to the point of being unusable (and sometimes not even then). So I guess the biggest problem I have it books. I love reading, I love having books for reference. However, books are heavy, they take up a lot of space, and chances are they only get touched once a year if it all. this drives me mad. if I wasn’t so fanatical about a lean lifestyle, I’d probably have tons of books. I have the disposable income, and I have a burning desire to learn and digest media for reference. Only the common sense that I don’t have any more free time to read keeps me in check.


But that’s my problem. I go abroad now and I judge. I judge instinctively, without though, just looking at appearances or quickly estimating the situation. Fake, processed, fat, indulgent. No thanks, I’ll pass.

I wonder, could I do it again. Could I rip up roots and start in something completely different in a whole new atmosphere? Could I be happy like I am now in Japan? Is Japan my place because it really does fit me? Or did I just decide that it did, and change myself to fit it, because I was twenty-two, felt ostracized from the society I spent twenty-one years in and needed an identity so bad it burned?

It makes me wonder, and I think this is a very important issue in my life. Because it’s going to dictate what I do with my adulthood, who I choose to share it with. And most importantly, whether or not I’m fake.

Pensive; tea

I suppose it’s just natural to be thoughtful on a trip alone. No one to talk to, no one to balance plans or “must-see” lists with. Also, my detox from work may have something to do with it. For the longest time I had to turn off so many normal levels of higher-order thought, like being pensive. I had to strip down my functions as a human being so I could do the one thing that mattered at the time: finish the project.

Anyway, now it’s early Saturday morning, my last day in Europe, and a pretty steady rain is falling outside my window into the canal. I was hoping that today the weather would clear up, at least for four hours or so midday, so I could use some of the barely touched Centuria stock I’ve brought with me. I only have one roll of black and white left, and then it’s all color. That’s pretty much been the weather this trip, though.

I wonder a lot about being sure of things, decisions I make in life. The more experience I accumulate and the older I get, the harder it seems to make decisions on a whim, impulsively. There’s always some bit of “oh I remember having something before that reminds me of that, and I didn’t really care for it, it’s not me.” Then you just brush it off, cull it away, and don’t give it any more thought, choosing something that looks more familiar or closer to your comfort zone. I think a good microcosm of this general problem is soft drinks. Every time I go to a different country they have different soft drinks. Sure, all countries may have some form of tea, but the ingredients and flavor vary wildly. There was a time when the only tea I knew was the iced tea with lemon and sugar that my grandmother made on holidays. So I came from a family of black tea; sugared, lemon. Ok, I knew what that was. Then the first time I met Melia for a date, we met on The Corner. I forget the name of the place but that tea place near Greenskeeper. She ordered a cold green tea with ice. I thought it was the craziest thing, and trying it absolutely hated it. It was so different from Lipton’s, lemon, and sugar. It was just… thin, slightly bitter, austere.

Then on a completely unrelated branch of my academic life I went to Japan, and of course everyone drank cold green tea there, in plastic bottles nonetheless, and I had to adapt. This was two years from when I first met Melia, and I think my mind was a lot more open to trying new things then. I mean, I was in Japan, out of the country for the first time, I had a passport, everything was new. And a girl I had a crush on swore by it, so truthfully my love affair with Itoen began with one for a woman. But now I can’t even think about not drinking sugarless tea cold. Sencha, bancha, mugicha, sobacha, jasmine… the list goes on and on. Pure, additive-free simplicity. And now in these last five years, every time I’ve gone abroad and found another convenience store or market filled with some semblance of green tea reconstituted with a ton of heavily processed sugar, it just breaks my heart. I just see a bottle with a flavoring written on it, “Peach tea”, and I cringe. Because I know it has so little to do with the actual fruit and so much with syrup and red six.

A little bit of everything

So I can’t be this tired. It’s just not possible. I worked four hundred hours in a month, over eight weeks without a day off and now I can barely keep my eyes open after being awake for only eleven hours. Am I really this out of shape?

No, I won’t believe that. I think we’ve just a number of factors colluding against me here. First, though I’m not normally susceptible to jet lag, I may be feeling it a little this time around. Second, I have technically had a cold all week, I’m just too stubborn to admit it and let it ruin my vacation. Third, I have been walking virtually nonstop and carrying around fifteen+ pounds of gear suspended on a single shoulder all week. Fourth, not by choice, but I’m eating a lot more meat this week. A LOT more. I’ve probably had more pork in the last four days than I’ve had all year. I am so not kidding. But, the Europeans love their buta (pig), be it bratwurst or prosciutto. The upshot here is I just don’t have the enzymes to break this stuff down anymore, so that takes energy, and I haven’t had natto, or fish, or tsukemono all week. Think about giving your Ferrari high-octane jet fuel and then all the sudden dumping regular in the tank.

So, I guess it’s not entirely inconceivable that I could be getting a little more run down than usual. I mean, it’s not like I’ve overweight or never do any aerobic exercise or anything. Still, I’m going to have to ganbare and have dinner tonight in an actual restaurant. I’m seriously worried though if I can handle the portions, though. I don’t want to be wasteful or offend. The other day I went to a Greek restaurant in Vienna and I couldn’t even finish my tzatziki, it’s just too much heavy stuff for a healthy man to finish (unless your Michael Phelps, I guess).

I got off track from my original topic, though. The key is that today was much more well balanced than yesterday. Admittedly I didn’t hit so many Frommer’s landmarks, but geographically and sociologically, I covered a much wider swath of the island.

In the morning as I said, I first took the vaporetto to San Michele and the cemetery. Then I continued on to Murano, where I passed about three hundred shops selling the same glassware. More importantly I got some photographs of a slightly different part of the city, architecturally. Then I took a string of vaporetto and made it all the way out to the other side of Venice in particular La Giudecca. There are not many shops there at all, mostly just blocks of Venetian apartments. Again, the buildings and the streets have a slightly different layout, so that was interesting to compare. Just as all practical ambient light disappeared I finished another roll of film and walked past the Venice Hilton, which to be honest is quite an eyesore, not fitting in at all with the rest of the island. The fact it occupies a ridiculously large piece of land doesn’t help either.

On the chain of vaporetti back to San Toma, I played hangman with some gap-toothed, little French girls. I could guess and understand the words they chose, but I realized I don’t know my French alphabet. I could guess the letter ‘r’, but I couldn’t properly pronounce it. I tried saying it and the little girl with glasses, she said “pardon?” in French, it just about killed me. They were sitting up on top of the life raft compartment by the window, but the younger one wasn’t tall enough to climb up completely, so I had to keep giving her butt a shove so she could climb up on the ledge every time they switched positions to draw on the window. After we got off the boat we cast glances at each other through the crowd, I mean we didn’t like say goodbye or anything, but it was a strange, mixed-up kind of feeling.

A little bit of everything, not a bad day I guess.


After I had a glass of chianti and a pantina at the bar around the corner, I came back to the hotel to go up to my room. I got my key from the lady just fine, but when I started to ask her what time the restaurant opened, I realized half-way through the sentence that I forgot what the word for “time” was in Italian. She told me but I was still thrown off by having forgotten the word for time that I wasn’t ready to parse what she had to say. I stood there with a blank look on my face until with her eternally heavy-lidded eyes stated, “seven o’clock.” I blushed and managed an embarrassed grazie before scuttling off to my room. For the most part I did really well today though, really. French and Italian.

[Checking the “City time” app in my Visor, I noticed that it is almost two-thiry a.m. Tokyo time right now…further proof to the fact that I may very well be still jet-lagged! I have no idea what’s going to happen when I get back on Monday, though. Somehow I doubt I’ll just break even on the whole process.]

The islands

Quest for Glory V was a denouement of sorts in a lot of ways. The game takes place in the kingdom of Silmaria, which is modeled after ancient Greece. The concept of many small islands connected by a series of boats and ferries is something familiar to me, so travelling in between the various islands of Venice via vaporetti is particularly entertaining for me.

The rain has been virtually constant since this morning, but fortunately its more of the drizzle to light variety, as opposed to the “heavy rain” forecast by The Weather Channel earlier this week.

This morning I departed via vaporetto to il cimetero on San Michele Island. Though photography is prohibited, I managed to take a few shots by retreating to a secluded corner of the graveyard. If you think about it, it seems odd to have a graveyard on an island in a lagoon, as you can’t dig down to bury anyone. Accordingly, all of the graves at San Michele are above ground, in a series of multilevel vaults.

After il cimitero, I continued on to Murano, which is famous for being the traditional glass-making center of Venice, and moreover historically Europe itself. I’ve been trying to pace myself and account for the strain of carrying multiple camera bodies and lenses all over the island; I have two days left. So periodically I pick up a new panini and keep half in my bag, along with a bottle of cheap COOP tea. Currently I’m enjoying my first Italian draft beer at a small pub on the north side of the island.

Before I left Japan someone asked me if I’m accepted as European when travelling abroad. Forgetting the cheapo approximation of the US flag on my right jacket sleeve, actually for whatever reason I am indeed often interpreted as being an EU native. This may be a bit of a stretch, and the more correct statement of facts may be just that Europeans are not ones to go out of their way to speak English and they simply start talking at me with the hope that I understand the language at hand. Most times people start in German or Italian and only resort to a few words of English when the bare minimum for communication stalls. I am holding my own a lot better in Italian than in German; my confidence is a lot higher and I make a greater effort to initiate transactions with as much detail as possible so I don’t have to try and parse anything my partner question says. Interestingly, when I did buy a sandwich in Murano today, the clerk thanked be with a succinct “merci.” This isn’t the first time I’ve been mistaken for being French.

Old, new, and always the music

Music is always going to be important. The first time you hear a song at an important time in your life, it bonds to your heart and then forever that song is your own at that moment in time. Bands are associated with phases of your life, or new loves and breakups. I first discovered Coldplay when I was living in San Diego, at that extremely tense and transitionary period between graduate school and Japan. Warning Sign and The Scientist were huge on the radio; I often heard them in my PoS Escort rental car when driving down highway 78 home after work.

After Nobue left me it was Clocks that flew with me into a turbulent new life in Tokyo. A Rush of Blood to the Head was so representative of all the jumbled acceptance and rejection I was going through at the time. Now I’ve just heard Lovers in Japan (ironically) for the first time on Italian radio, and it seems with another album release, my life comes full circle again. So not ready to accept what I have, so driven to become so much more.


Yesterday was largely uneventful. At the end I returned to my hotel with the fall of darkness at five, and after taking a much needed shower, found it hard not to get into bed. My body was heavy, and my feet almost numb from the pain of three days of constant walking with twenty-some pounds of gear. I should have chosen better shoes and socks. In any case, I was incredibly tired, and the prospect of wandering around the maze-like streets of Venice in the dark without a torch were not so much tempting, so I crawled under the covers with the intention of resting a few hours until supper. However, a few hours became five, and eleven o’clock seemed a bit late for dinner, so I just turned over and made it a good thirteen. But all criticisms aside, that’s how I spent my birthday, for the most part asleep.

I did, however manage to see three of the biggest landmarks in so many hours, visiting Rialto, St. Mark’s Square, and All’Academia, all by foot. When you stick to the main throng of tourists, it’s hard not to find one of these places, actually. My entire food for the day was also consumed in a period of roughly half an hour: panini genovese, gelato, pizza. As authentic as tourism gets.

Now it’s light (and unfortunately completely overcast), and the delivery staff are already busy in the canal outside my window, delivering all the essentials by boat beer, spirits, and something in a lot of white bags that I’m going to guess is laundry? [Later investigation confirmed this was spot on.]

It says on my reservation email that breakfast is included with my stay. This would be much appreciated having not eaten for seventeen hours, but I’m not sure what time it’s served. I suppose I’ll pop down at eight and if the conditions are right, I’ll stop for a bite.

Ah, Venice

So I’m sitting in St. Mark’s Square, the famous site of where Vesper was supposed to meet James after she wired the Casino Royale winnings back to the Imperial Treasury Office. Of course this never happened thanks to Mr. White and his cohorts, but that’s another story.

I’m starting to think I could make a decent living just taking people’s pictures here. I’ve already been asked three times. It must be the 5D. The 24mm end of the lens brings out the beauty of plaza’s graceful columns, but I think I’m already sick of it. One of the problems of shooting a subject with such arresting natural beauty is that’s all that it is. It’s virtually impossible to mess up, and when people compliment you on the photograph, it’s not you, it’s the subject that’s due the credit. But I suppose it’s about purposes. I’m not here shooting all of this architecture to define myself as an artist, I’m simply a representative set of eyes for everyone who couldn’t be here. Actually, if you think about it, shooting in places like this is in some ways more difficult than someplace mundane. Everyone has an idea of what Venetian architecture looks like, and that image in their mind is what they want to see. It’s very hard for me to create an original way of viewing it and make the representation unique. Overstated, but it’s true that professional photographers are paid not for what they see, but how they see it.

It has grown overcast and the blissful morning sun has been replaced with increasingly cloudy skies. But at least it’s not raining. Oh, by the way, it’s my birthday.