14 August 2011

LIFE: The Venetian Mission

SARONNO, Italy - Gary was in Venice on Friday, or most specifically he was on the Venetian island of Murano looking for special glass fish that his brother had asked for. This isn’t the first time Gary has taken two trains and a water bus to find replacements for broken Murano glass souvenirs for friends and family.  
 Island of Murano
He left Saronno at 6 AM and the next time I saw him it was close to 9PM. Getting to the island of Murano from Milan isn’t exactly like getting in your car and driving to the local mall. It’s a long and sometimes arduous process, especially in August when there are thousands of tourists who have the same idea.

For Gary, the most difficult part of the trip was not the 2.5 hour ride on the Freccia Rossa, Italy’s new high speed train, or even the half hour ride from Saronno to Milan’s Central Station.   It was the 1.5 hour long wait at Venice’s Santa Lucia train station, standing in line to buy a ticket for the water bus to Murano.
 A Water Bus at the Bus Stop
For those of you who don’t know Gary, he’s a walking, talking party. Wherever he goes, colorful balloons, shooting stars, sparklers and exploding confetti follow him. And he talks to everyone, which can be a definite advantage if you speak Italian, as Gary does because some of the people that he talked to in Venice on Friday gave him some very good advice. 
As he explained his mission to the woman standing in front of him in the line to buy water boat tickets at the Santa Lucia train station in Venice, she suggested turning right instead of left when he got off the boat in Murano. 

 Venetian Glassmakers at Work
Now that may not seem like such a big deal, but when you get off the boat in Murano the first thing you see is a man directing tourist traffic to the left. That move takes you directly to the large glass factories – and more importantly the large glass factories show rooms.

That’s fine if you are there to visit the glass factories, but Gary wasn’t. By turning right he avoided the large factories altogether and discovered a dozen or so tiny shops, all selling – what else but– Murano glass. And since he was there to buy a specific item, small glass fish that are suspended from a clear glass balls giving the impression that the fish are floating freely, that was exactly the right move.
Making a Fish 
I wish I could tell you that he found what he wanted in the first shop he went into, but he didn’t. As you can imagine, he was feeling pretty discouraged by this time. His stomach was growling, his back was aching, but he pressed on. And then a kind store clerk told him that he could probably find what he was looking for at Pesce Pesce, which was just a little bit further ahead.

Pesce Pesce turned out to be a shoe box of a shop with thousands of colorful glass fish hanging willy nilly from the ceiling, from hooks from just about anything you can hang a small glass fish from. So fish they had in abundance, but not the kind that you suspend in a bowl.
 The Fish
And then Gary had an idea. He asked the clerk if it would be possible to make the glass balls – after all, the owner of the shop had made, or more accurately blown, all of the glass fish on display. Surely he could make a simple, clear glass ball that Gary could attach to the fish.

The clerk called the owner of the shop out of the back room, the “furnace” room, and he said yes, he absolutely could do that. Eureka! Problem solved! It would take a few days, but it could be done. He said he would make them and ship them and they would arrive in Saronno by Monday – oh oh, Monday, not good. 
  Which Way is Saronno?
Monday is August 15th, the most important summer holiday in Italy and everything will be closed. The only way the glassblower would be able to get those glass balls to Saronno on Monday would be by carrier pigeon – and if they are Italian pigeons, even they may be basking on some sunny shore along the Mediterranean that day. 

But whenever they do arrive, I will forward them to Gary and another successful Venice mission will be completed.

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