Sunday, February 17, 2019

Return from the Grand Spectacle of Carnival in Venice, Italy

Looking into the orb, the next few months promise to bring a seismic transition. I'm in the midst of a six-month Exit Plan from New York, an escape, really. Living in this city has become very difficult when it comes to being creative. Finding that balance has been nearly impossible, and after twenty years, it's time for a shift anyway. A big change.
As part of that Plan, I quit my job (this time, in finance) in January, and immediately bought a ticket to Venice; a place that has become a refuge when I need a true vacation. It was time to start putting the things that are important to me front and center. I planned to visit some longtime friends. It also just happened to be perfect timing to take in the festivities of Carnival. Below are some of my travel notes and photos from my second voyage to Venice for this colorful occasion.
______

Thursday - I spent my first few days in Bassano del Grappa (or just Bassano) with a longtime friend and his family. It was his daughter's fourth birthday party with a bunch of her friends from school and their parents. Amidst the chaos, I was trying to understand what people were saying to each other and also to me; trying to translate Italian into English and vice versa put my brain into overdrive. I had the usual problem of falling back to sleep after being awakened by something in the middle of my jet-lagged slumber. Today, I feel like I'm paying for it with a really bad head cold. It's not going to keep me inside though! I've been waiting far too long to come back here. 


Sunday - After a few days with my surrogate Italian family in the Veneto, I took the train directly into Venice to spend a few days on my own at my friend's family apartment near the Naval Yard. I had the keys to my home away from home, and my friend came with me to show me how all of the heat and electrical appliances work. I am so looking forward to exploring and taking pictures, resting, and having some much-needed solitude at night. 

Monday/Tuesday - The weather was great for February. Feeling more like the end of March, Venice showed off its warm weather, bright, sunny days, perfect reflective light, and clear twilight just like you might experience on a perfect June evening. This was my second excursion to my favorite water-drenched city for this colorful occasion. Eleven years ago (in 2004), the flooding canals, freezing rain, slush and snow felt like the horrid winter weather in New York I thought I had just escaped. The fog and dampness then was a deterrent to tourists lending itself to the Venice known only to murder mystery novels. 

Barometric perfection brought the crowds and the lavish, colorful costumes to a most exquisite backdrop. The city was absolutely mobbed with people. The masks and feathered costumes have been really something; a photographer's dream come true! I frequently see people walking around with two and three gigantic, weighty cameras and even bigger lenses to capture the spectacle of it all.
____

The sun's warmth has been helping the nasty sinus problems I've been battling for the past two days. Feeling this down and out definitely would have been enough to keep me home from my most recent dead-end job, but that's not happening in this stage-like setting! Tomorrow, I plan to go to Murano and then to mass for Ash Wednesday in Saint Marks at dusk when they will close that incredible basilica to the public. 
All over the city, you can see revelers of all ages in elaborate costumes lingering around this old church or that ancient set of steps with the heaviest concentration in St. Mark's Square on Fat Tuesday. Others are seen at an outdoor restaurant enjoying an ever-popular neon orange spritz or light lunch in the Lenten sunshine. Surprise encounters are to be had in the many squares, small bridges, and tight alleyways throughout the island. Nighttime brings bedecked party-goers who flock to the famous Cafe' Florian to gather for a coffee before rushing off to a masquerade ball. Everyone sits in the windows so they can pose for the throngs of photographers just on the other side of the glass. How strange this all seems! To go through the trouble of wearing complicated makeup, mask, and expensive garments so they can stand around like mimes slowly changing their positioning for the gathering crowd of photographers. I guess the prizes must outweigh that burden.

Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) - I went to Murano today following last night's annual festivities, and bought my train tickets to depart for Florence very early in the morning. The city has really emptied out. Everything is really quiet again; even the sidewalks seem to have a hangover!
The city is full of secrets, and even after all of the time spent there, (similar to New York) there are still little niches where, strangely, I have never been. At one time, I felt so confident knowing my way around every nook and cranny. The main fondamentas, the lesser-known campiellos, and the out of the way sotoportegos often acting as portals into even more remote spaces. So many things have changed since I was last here, and my memory fails me. I worried that it just might take my entire visit to re-orient myself. When you are lost, you try to remember all of the little architectural details like breadcrumbs to find your way back home or even just to something familiar; whichever comes first. Trekking along as I am submerged in my own hazy fog, I look up in the misty darkness - a gesturing, carved angel that I've seen somewhere before points the way...
On my last evening of wandering solo with a freedom and anonymity I seldom feel, I finally learned how to get back to the apartment in Castello with the same ease I once had several years ago. As I finished another full day of exploring and snapping photos, I approached the last leg of my journey and suddenly stopped walking. I found myself in Campo Giustinia, and looked up at the clear, starry night, grateful for the series of events that led me here once again. Despite feeling ill for the bulk of my trip, it was still far better than being at work sitting at a desk. Getting back to the me who was starting to feel lost, to who I really am once again as I prepare for the big changes coming my way.


➜Images seen in this post are available in my Etsy store as all-occasion (or no occasion) notecards.

(-travel notes, written in February, 2015)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Scrawls of Love - The Writing on the Wall


Trolling the streets of Lower Manhattan with my trusty camera, sometimes I find themes start to emerge. Often they are political or general human emotion. Here, the wall scrawls, scratchings, writings, and doodles all point to a similar place; the heart.💗

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Chinese New Year - Year of the Pig 2019 in Photographs

The 12th sign of the Chinese zodiac - people are born in the years: 
1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031, 2043

In the Chinese zodiac, pigs (or wild boars) are the metaphor and symbol of wealth. Their chubby faces, belly, and big ears are signs of fortune and the result of good fortune. Pigs might not stand out in a crowd, but are very realistic. Though frugal and not wasteful, they will let themselves enjoy life. They love entertainment, and will occasionally splurge or allow themselves a treat. They may be a bit materialistic,  but this is motivation for them to work hard. Being able to hold tangible objects in their hands gives them security. They are energetic and are always enthusiastic, even for the most mundane tasks. If the opportunity arises, they will take positions of power and status. They believe that only those with power and status have the right to speak, and that’s their core objective.

Pig photos from over the years- (top) a fashion slant featured at Bergdorf Goodman's famous windows;
 (left to right) Carousel outside of Rouen, France; downtown Manhattan - The Spotted Pig
... and of course, some lions too.

Happy Lunar/ Chinese New Year!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Love Stamps

As part of my new marketing idea to create background vignettes for my own greeting cards, I started buying lots of props, photography backgrounds, and postage stamps that might relate to the featured image of those all-occasion cards. Some of my favorites are the colorful "love" stamp bundles. AS an artist, I appreciate their graphic genius- anything from ribbon-like words, floral text, those colorful heart-shaped candies that we all know, or the iconic Robert Indiana sculpture from Philadelphia. 

They make great backdrops, and the message isn't so bad either! Happy Valentine's Day! 🖤