~feticcio di pantofole conj occhio~

October 8th, 2007

Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.
~Truman Capote


Tonight, after another day of resting on my back and dreaming of the city beyond my windows–the world of birds and bells—the menfolk return to roast a chicken and potatoes and flourishing salad and a lily for me, now displayed on the table in a Gewurztraminer wine bottle.

They also brought muscle-relaxant from the neighborhood pharmacy that Ernst was able to purchase by simply saying he is a doctor. This is true, but how Italian, no? So perhaps a good nights sleep tonight…

In the next room from where I type, two deep, emphatic voices discuss the world’s problems in German as Lou Reed sings Pale Blue Eyes.

In this room, a woman invents a whole new genre of travel-writing: From bed!
Next time tune in as i scribble about Cairo from my couch…

Ive been prowling the apartment–testing my ability to move about. Walking is pretty good, sitting is still not possible. While prowling Ive been pondering (besides the mad before or after question) the silky ribbon connecting the beloved saints of Venice and the beloved courtesans. Ye ol’ Virgin/Whore fascination never more chairo than in Italy it would seem.

There are many saints reliquaries lurking about here, the biggest being Saint Mark’s body which was stolen and then smuggled back wrapped in pork to throw the Muslim customs authorities off of the scent, as it were. Clever, clever eye-talians.


My favorite is Santa Lucia, who has a church here in Venice that houses her remains, senza occhi. Rumor has it she plucked her own eyes out and what lady doesn’t feel that urge from time to time? On Festa di Santa Lucia on December 13th, people gobble small sweet buns shaped to resemble eyes. Damn pagans.

I once made a series of self-portraits as saints, my least favorite of which is Saint Lucy, though it was fun to make. I went to my favorite butcher in the Mission District of San Francisco, the Lucky Pork Store.


I called ahead to see if they would sell just the eyes of a pig. The cute boy behind the counter who answered the phone said, “This is that red-haired girl?” I was a regular, often found poking through the back freezer to find just the right expression of ennui on my sheep’s head.

He let me have the eyes, I didn’t even have to use my food-stamps. He pulled the bag out of his pocket real smooth and slid it across the counter, saying nothing, never breaking eye-contact.


Then to the courtesans, who were all over Europe in the 1600s and beyond, but thrived in Paris and Venice, becoming wealthy and influential members of society. Cortigiane were skilled in all arts, including music, dance, poetry, conversation, wit, charm, general sprezzatura, and certainly love. These free-acting and free-thinking women were self-educated and created a kind of niche market in society, being available to noblemen and foreign merchants willing to spend small fortunes on them.

And they wore incredible shoes. Chopines, the original platform shoe, were inspired by geisha’s Lotus Feet which when bound properly were three inches in size.


In Venetian culture even the suggestion of bare feet was considered scandalous. These elaborate shoes were designed to be worn over other slipper-like shoes, and then hidden under the folds of a velvet dress–a Chinese box of fetish.


They reached as high as thirty inches, and were constructed of wood, cork, or bone, which would of course have been my choice. Why do it half-way? Naturally wearing such stilty chaise longue on the feet required a man-servant to escort one through the flooded streets and in and out of gondolas.

But perhaps the distinction between saints and sinners is a vanity. As Hamlet smart-mouthed, “By’r lady, your ladyship is nearer to heaven than when I saw you last, by the altitude of a chopine.”

I leave you with the scandalous feet of my favorite courtesan, Countessa di Castiglione.

Linger sopra, i vostri occhi blu-chiaro…


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