I have grown to love the sight of the words “Ca’ Elena” in my inbox. Just the sight of that ending apostrophe sends shivers up my corn-fed, middle-aged spine. There aren’t a great many words in the English language with that funny little punctuation mark at the end of them. Sure, contractions like “can’t” and “won’t” and “don’t” and “shouldn’t” are dripping with them in an oh-so-negative fashion. But put it on the very end of a word like ca’ and the exotic implications drip with the promise of foreign adventure on a grand scale.
Call me crazy, but I need more ending apostrophes in my life, and I don’t mean the plural possessive kind.
Enter Open House Spain. As September draws near, it draws ever so closer with it my Venetian dream which is about to come true in spectacular fashion. Mid month I will set off on my lovely adventure thanks to Open House Spain’s
“Go With Oh” international travel blog writing competition. As a runner up, I have been awarded the use of an apartment in Venice and thus begins my relationship with that Italian beauty, Ca’ Elena.
For Ca’ Elena – which Google Translate claims in English is Ca’ Elena – is the delightful name of my home-away-from-home in the far eastern regions of the Cannaregio District, and it appears in the subject line of every email I get from Michele, the apartment manager, who I like to think of as my Italian match maker extraordinaire. Even when I read her emails they carry an Italian accent. I bet if I print them out they’ll smell like cheese.
Set in a quiet local neighborhood, Ca’ Elena is perched at dead end of Corte Paludo, a narrow street which runs east to west between two canals and which, no doubt, has never seen a car or truck in it’s life. From what I can see from Google Earth, Ca’ Elena is a delightfully squatty building with a dusky red tiled roof, and sports a wide southern facing balcony between brick red walls to the west and ochre yellow walls to the east and which overlooks a small courtyard – begging the question, is that OUR balcony perhaps?
Oh, pinch me now, fair Ca’ Elena, pinch me now!
Ca’ Elena’s caretaker, Michele, has graciously emailed me on several occasions regarding such necessities as what vaporetto to take from Marco Polo Airport and when and where to meet so she can walk us to the apartment. While Venice is a maze in which I intend to very quickly get lost, doing so with luggage in tow is not on the bucket list. And so Michele graciously emails me and I do cartwheels and my mind wanders off to the Bridge of Sighs and I make plans to cook pasta for dinner and every word I utter ends in “o” and I find myself ordering vividly colored sundresses on ModCloth while asking the children to bring me a gelato.
And, as Ca’ Elena comes with not one bedroom but two, just joining me in my dream will be my bestie art buddies, Candy and Preston, because dreams are nothing without characters – and, trust me, Candy and Preston are characters – because characters come with stories and plot lines and emotions and opinions and visions that are the proverbial salt and pepper which season any experience worth having.
So let me introduce you to my sea-salt seasoning, Preston who comes with a black leather hat worn on all occasions and who likes his bourbon from the top shelf. As a fellow Hoosier, he lives in the country where he and his brother, Alan, run a cooperative garden, raise free range chickens and sell organic eggs in between making art and smelling like men.
While Candy and I are artists of the tamer persuasions – paint, pastels, pencils, etc. – Preston, like any real man, is drawn to flame and fire and smoke. As a child, he was drawn to pyrotechnics and once diverted a band of Blue Angels flying overhead who – while headed to a local air show – streaked over his house just moments after he set off a rather aggressive bottle rocket. Fortunately for Preston, no charges were pressed.
A skillful glass artist, Preston has his sights set on Murano and, knowing him as I do, he will have talked his way to a working forge before we can say Dale Chihuly. For Preston is a talker – which is why the charges were never pressed – and a natural story teller, and I can’t wait to watch him work his verbal magic in a city home to a foreign tongue. Somehow, I know, he’ll make himself understood. And won’t that be fun to watch?
Whereas Preston is our sea salt, Candy is my spicy cracked pepper with a taste for margaritas. In a city of bland, Candy is a colorful bell tower, ringing out
with a deep laugh that gets me every time. Hanging with Candy is instant cardio for the abs and I have the six-pack to prove it, though it’s hiding under an extra layer of fat to keep me warm.
Where I am short, Candy is tall, elegant, commanding. While I sit in a home office working away while surrounded by cats, Candy is the executive director of a local museum and gets to do such exciting things as curate exhibits and plan art shows for her galleries and represent the museum on every non-profit board and city function one can think of. When Candy speaks, people listen. And when Candy jokes, I snort Malibu rum and Coke out my nose.
I’m planning my Venetian wardrobe carefully because I know walking in Candy’s shadow, I will have to work hard to keep up and be noticed. She has a dressmaker’s dummy and doilies, and she’s not afraid to use them. For the local pioneer fair which she organizes, Candy shows up looking like the love child of Daniel Boone and Sacajawea. It says a lot that my 17-year-old daughter, Jackie, wants to BE like Candy. Yeah, she’s that good.
So, it goes without saying that a good time will be had by all. For how can it not when I will be joined by two creative talkers who find the humor in
everything? Whether we’re getting lost in the Dorsduoro or puzzling over an Italian menu or trying out a Turkish toilet, I will be assured of one thing – we will be living the dream together and making memories for a lifetime. Let the games begin….
By Robin Winzenread Fritz
To start your own love affair with Ca’ Elena, check out the following link to Oh-Venice and their many beautiful apartments. Good luck pulling yourself away from apartment shopping and getting back to work:
Follow this link for more information about “Go with Oh” and to read other winning entries: