Best. Birthday. Ever! I spent it in Venice, where the temperature was 76F (24C). And where the restaurants seat you next to the Grand Canal as gondolas go by filled with Americans watching their iPhones so that when they get back to Ohio they can look at their video clips and see what it’s like to ride in a gondola in Venice.
Oh, sure, the art was great and all. Those Italian guys really knew how to toss around a paintbrush and a chisel. But the best part was watching my fellow tourists. Like the woman talking to her thirteenish son outside the Doges’ palace:
Mom: “You’re not even trying to enjoy this.” Son: I didn’t ask to go to Italy. I have stuff to do, you know. Stuff!”
Then there was the sweaty middle-aged man at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. He caught up with me in the garden in front of Guggenheim’s grave and the memorial to her pets. “She didn’t really know anything about art, you know. She just liked to sleep with artists because they were all sexual perverts.” His dutiful family murmured their shock. Trying to look like someone whose native language didn’t originate on this planet, I pretended I didn’t understand and moved over to a stunning Henry Moore sculpture. Stepping up next to me, Mr. Expert took off his hat and used it to wipe the sweat from his sparse comb-over. “She was completely into sick twisted sex.” I hurried along the path, but he was fast. His family must have been running to keep up. “You know what she did with Picasso…”
I made a dash for the special exhibition. But I didn’t even make it through the first room before that voice brayed. “See this painting? It’s supposed to be [pause for dramatic effect] her va-GI-na.” He came into the room where I was trapped, and he got as far as, “And with Calder…”
Like any cornered creature, I attacked. “Yes, but look what she left to the world. So just what are you leaving behind?” (Not brilliant, I know, but I’d already ruled out dumping his body into the Grand Canal in front of the museum. Too many witnesses.) While the Great American Art Critic was doing his impression of a beached flounder, one of the docents came over and handed me a free pass to a neighboring museum.
I can’t wait for the next birthday-with-a-zero.