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[Grand Canal] Max was a 20 year old from Coral Springs, Florida who I met in line to check baggage in Venice. Tall, with glasses and a preppy outfit, he had an easy way of talking and seemed always to be smiling. Born in Colombia, he spoke fluent Spanish, which helped out in Italy. Italians understood 50-75% of what he'd be asking them. As I tend to become very shy in unfamiliar situations, he took a natural lead - very open and kind of pushy like most Americans, though in a friendly way. He liked to take photographs - photos of natives, photos of tourists, of buildings, of restaurants, of him and even me. We went up the Campanile, did the museums and walked everywhere. We both enjoyed the boat shuttles and were amazed by their efficiency. Max was especially impressed by how the boat drivers and conductors were impeccably dressed - leather jackets and expensive sunglasses. Max grew up on the water and didn't understand how anyone could live far from it.

[Cemetery] We took the circle boat around the Grand Canal and stopped off at the island cemetery. The graves were covered with an explosion of beautiful flowers. Each headstone was intricately carved and many had photographs of the deceased laminated to the granite. Max told me his parents had recently separated and his mom was getting remarried. He was shocked at first, but was getting used to the new situation. He was on a vacation from a 12 week intensive course in German he was taking in Heidelberg. When we were in a restaurant, we met a German couple who had just arrived and seemed at a loss as to how to get back to their hotel on Piazza San Marco. Max said he wanted to walk them back. He was genuinely helpful, arrow straight and didn't do drugs. I found out later that he was the second of three kids in the family and his older brother was in jail. He was very protective of his 16 yr old sister and was going to meet her in Rome in two weeks. On the boat back to the train station, four Italian boys, all about 16 years old, started up a conversation with us, mainly because they wanted to practice their English. When Max said he was from Miami, the boys recoiled in horror, saying there was a lot of crime there. I said I was from California and one boy said to the others that it was the place where people get shot on the freeway. Sensing a theme, I asked them where they were from. The leader of the pack said proudly they were from Palermo, Sicily, then added pointing to all of us, "Palermo, California, Miami -- ah, the Triangle of Death."
Back to the Grand Tour. . . .

back to fountain send a comment june 1996