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So, my R&R at my friend’s converted monastery in the Italian countryside has turned out to be not as recuperative as I had hoped. The view from up here is beautiful, and the monastery itself is lovely, but it is still being renovated, which means that I have been descended upon by a crew of hirsute Italian workmen, who are jackhammering big holes in the walls.
So I’m making arrangements to return to New Normal Berlin, where I’m under God knows how many criminal investigations for my thoughtcrimes by now.
Yesterday, in order to escape the jackhammering for a few hours, I hopped on a train to Venice, which, OK, I am glad I did, because, well, it’s Venice, and I had never been to Venice, and one should visit Venice if one has the chance, and so on, but … damn!
My wife had warned me about Venice, and, as usual, my wife was right. After fighting my way through through the herds of sweaty, selfie-taking tourists staggering through the labyrinth of streets that lead to Piazza San Marco, I found a table on the terrace of the historic Caffè Florian, where I drank The Most Expensive Cup of Coffee on Earth. (Actually, I ate it with a spoon, as it was more like a dessert than a cup of coffee.) I had just about finished when Matt Taibbi called, but I couldn’t hear him on account of the string quartet that had started playing right beside my table a few seconds before, and which it turned out I was being charged some kind of coperto for, along with the usual coperto you pay to just sit there at Caffè Florian watching thousands of tourists shuffle around in circles taking pictures of everything with their phones as Italian waiters in white jackets rush past you with trays full of pastries and coffees hollering attenzione!
Matt and I shouted unintelligible gibberish at each other for a minute and then made plans to talk an hour later, which I thought would give me time to find a quieter spot.
There are no quieter spots in Venice. I shoved my way through the tourist herds for a while and wound up on the terrace of a 5-star hotel across the street from Harry’s Bar, right on the Grand Canal, where it appeared a gondolier convention was in progress.
As it turned out, it wasn’t a gondolier convention. It was just a normal day in Venice.
The terrace I was on looked out onto the loading dock where they shove the tourists onto the gondolas and then row them around the canals all jammed together side by side like some monstrous gondola flotilla. A lot of shouting in Italian is involved. So that wasn’t going to work either.
Fortunately, the nice Italian ladies in the hotel lobby hooked me up with the hotel’s Wifi, and a comfy sofa in a quiet part of the lobby, and I filled Matt in on the latest developments in my Kafkaesque prosecution back home in New Normal Germany. After which, I went ahead and had lunch at Harry’s Bar, because, well, life is short.
Then I hopped the next train back to the monastery.
It really is a lovely place, the monastery. I can’t tell you much about it because I’ve been sworn to secrecy. I am not the only one the authorities are cracking down on, and, the way things are going, thoughtcriminal sanctuaries like this might become increasingly useful. Not that the authorities can’t locate it if they want to. We’re all walking around with bugs and trackers in our phones (yes, I have a phone I use for traveling). But there’s no reason to make it easy for them.
Anyway, I’ll be heading home to New Normal Berlin soon. In the meantime, apart from this oddment about Venice, and the monastery I can’t tell you much about, I added a few more interviews to the Interviews section right here on my Substack.
For those of you who are used to receiving my irregularly-published newsletter in addition to my columns, these oddments will probably take the place of that now. They’ll go out via email, and will appear in the Oddments section of my Substack, rather than on the main page, which I want to keep reserved for my columns. And, that way, I can tell you about interviews and other news without flooding you with emails. And I guess it’s my way of doing a kind of “subscribers-only” thing without having to paywall any of my content, which I’m not going to do.
OK, that’s it. I’m going to go and stare at the beautiful Italian countryside. It’s the weekend, and the Italian jackhammering guys don’t work on the weekend, so it is finally quiet and peaceful here, and I am going to suck as much of that up as I can.
I have a feeling I’m going to need it.
All best wishes from somewhere in Italy …
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