& Recently . . .

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief as Experienced by Me Reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

by Lauren Verlizzo

  Avast! Spoiler WarningIf you’re of the sort who gets all pissy about cats being let out of bags. Um, also, we should point out that the author, Ms. Verlizzo, did not forewarn the noble Y.P.R. editors and thus ruined…

Rock Stars Enjoying Anonymity

by Daniel Byard Cox

Officer John Lee: You know why I pulled ya over, buddy? Gavin Rossdale: (Speaking loudly over music from his car stereo.) Uh, I was “speeding” I think it’s called. Officer: How ’bout I call it reckless drivin’ and take…

Polish Fact

Military Manpower:
10,354,978 (2003 est.)
[Army, Navy(!), & Air Force]

Learn a Foreign Tongue!

Learn Yiddish!
Der Tog nokh der Morgn.
The Day after Tomorrow.

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Friday, October 14, 2005   |    Fiction

What a Rick Steves Travel Guide to Venice Would Look Like if Rick Steves Were Severely Agoraphobic

by Greg Ruehlmann

In this guide we’ll explore the majesty of Venice: you’ll find out how to journey in quaint gondolas through august waterways, dine sumptuously in cozy back-alley pizzerias, and weep in bitter humiliation when a social-panic-induced diarrhea attack sends you fleeing for the blessed privacy of a restroom. Ah, Venice!

Benvenuti!” is the Italian word for welcome, and from the moment you arrive in Venice, you’ll feel warmly welcomed indeed. Incidentally, another important phrase in Italian is “Ho un timore paralizzante delle folle e dei posti del pubblico,” which means “I have a crippling fear of crowds and public places.”

Let’s take a look at some of the remarkably splendid sites and sounds you’ll want to take in during your time in this fabled city known to locals as “most serene.”

Walking the Streets
Enchanting, labyrinthine, and guaranteed to please, the winding streets of old Venice will captivate your every step. Don’t worry about getting lost; it’s guaranteed to happen but it’s part of the fun! This is assuming that getting lost outside doesn’t cause you to hyperventilate and your glands to swell.

Embark on a magical journey on foot to celebrate your first day in Venice. Set out without a map and discover! Fall in love with the myriad canals and bridges. Stuff yourself at one of the many hidden, tiny culinary treasures, which offer up delicious pizza, pasta, and local wine. Marvel at the wholly unique architecture—the points and curves of the windows, the colorful brick and stone, and yes, the Venetian blinds! And when your sweat-sodden body is overcome by the horror of it all, squeal for help and hope that you don’t land on top of one of Venice’s enormous rats when you faint. They are legion here.

Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge
Its praises have been sung in music and poetry for centuries, and in person the Grand Canal of Venice is no less impressive. It is truly a site to behold, or so I am told by people who don’t spend their voyage through the canal covering their eyes and shrieking under the crushing weight of being out in the open. I don’t quite glimpse the Ponte Rialto, with one hand holding my spectacles and the other blanketing my vision, even when the gondolier strikes me with his oar, barks at me to open my eyes, and curses me in Italian for being a disgraceful, womanly coward. But once I put on my glasses again and whimper back to my hotel room, I see some nice postcards. Nice and big. Ponte means “bridge.”

La Gallerie dell’Accademia
The Accademia is home to some of the world’s greatest works of art, and showcases in particular the astonishing éclat of Venice’s great Renaissance painters such as Titian, Tintoretto and Bellini. Art lovers from around the world flock to the museum and spend hours roving its cavernous, masterpiece-lined hallways. Bellissimo!

I spend my visit to the Accedemia curled up in a ball beneath a bench, wailing, twitching with clenched fists, and praying for death to come swiftly. Mercifully, I am removed by two angry security guards, who drive me back to my hotel. They tell me that the gift shop is also very nice. Cheap reprints.

Piazza San Marco
Oh God. Oh dear God. So many people. Pigeons swarming everywhere. I think I’m going to be sick.

The Basilica of San Marco

The Ducal Palace
Because my editor insists that I continue exploring, there doesn’t seem to be any end to this torture. There is vomit on my trademark blue collared shirt, I am battling incontinence, and also seem to have developed a nervous tick in my jaw. And now I’m supposed to visit the doge’s palatial home? With all its florid adornments, fabulous tapestries and centuries of rich history? It’s full of tourists and, I’m sure, stinks of infirmity as badly as the rest of this squalid, God-forsaken hellhole. Screw the ducal palace. I’m going to sleep.

The Glass-Making Island of Murano
Swaddled in the warm, warm blankets of my hotel room, nothing can hurt me. Nmmm. Cocoon. Nmmmmmmmm.

Greg Ruehlmann was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. His work has been occassionally published in McSweeney's (here, for example) and other places. Greg is proud to say that he knows what "sartorial" means. He now lives in New York City. Maybe he should have a Web site or something.