Venice Diary - April 2001

A personal account of our visit to Venice.

Note: This was our first filming trip after we formed VITA Digital Productions, our video production company which was focused from the very beginning in 2000 on filming our unique virtual experience videos along with stock footage which we planned to sell to Television networks around the world. We chose Venice as our first filming trip because this is where I had proposed to Kathi in the summer of 1999 and it seemed appropriate to begin our company's filming in this beautiful and unique city. From the 8 day filming trip, we subsequently released our first virtual walk, "A Morning in Venice," and later, "Enchanting Burano."

Being our first filming trip, we made a number of mistakes, the primary one was bringing too much equipment with us. On this first filming adventure, we brought external microphones, cables, and lights, which we did not utilize. In future filming trips to Europe we would bring only the tripods, steadicams, cameras, batteries, filming media, and microphones that would be absolutely necessary. Also, as the years passed, the equipment became smaller and smaller which made a big difference in how much luggage we had to pack.

Thursday, April 12th, 2001 - Venice:

Up around 6 AM and a snack of a croissant and a diet Coke. Kathi assures me that it's not currently raining outside; so hopefully it won't rain today. I'v put on the Glidecam vest for filming and then out of the hotel and onto the Riva de Vin.

7:02 AM Kathi and I are in front of the Rialto Bridge and we're ready to film a virtual walk to San Marco. Since Kathi and I are starting so early, the shoot was very successful plus it appears that I've got the Glidecam balanced better than ever. The walk down to San Marco Square was pretty restful but my back muscles hurt from the unusual position I have to walk in because of the added weight out front that I'm balancing.

When I arrived at the square, I went down one side of the colonnade, then halfway down the bottom of the "U", then came directly out from the far end toward St. Mark's Church, walked straight for St. Mark's, then turned right and went out to the water between the two columns with the winged lion and St. Mark's statue on them, and went all the way out to the gondolas in the water. That whole shot ran about 20 minutes, I think.

Then we shot tripod footage for the rest of the time. I used the yellow and red graduated filters and shot across the water to the church on the island. Then we shot details of the church in San Marco square. I think we got some excellent video there. We covered that area pretty good, but I would like to get a panning shot of the colonnade though. We also got some audio of the bell in the campanile going off at 9:00 o'clock but I did not get the beginning of the bell chiming and because of that we might not be able to use it. I would like to get the beginning of the bell chiming and hope to be able to do so at some later time.

Then around 9:30 AM we went back to the hotel for a quick trip to our room to drop off the camera equipment, then down the stairs to breakfast. Our favorite table in the corner is occupied so we pick out a table over to one side and get started. Usually as soon as you entered the breakfast room and select a table, the waitress will bring to the table a metal bowl of assorted croissants and hard rolls. The continental breakfast served at the Marconi was one of the best I've ever encountered in Italy. First there's scrambled eggs cooked two ways, firm or wet. Second, they have something very close to bacon. It tastes like bacon and it almost looks like bacon. It is extremely thin and not cooked very much which is exactly the way I like it. Many years ago, in the 1950's, my Grandmother Jacobs prepared her bacon almost raw. At first I didn't care for it but as I grew older I began to prefer bacon cooked this way. In addition to the bacon, there's the boiled ham, salami, and Swiss cheese, which seems to be served for breakfast all over Italy. I used the boiled ham and Swiss cheese, of course, to make our sandwiches for lunch. (The cargo pants pockets were perfect for stowing away the sandwiches.) There was thinly sliced white bread along side of a continuous feed toaster, which we used each morning. In addition, there were three cereals (one day I tried the muslix - it was pretty good), cold milk, jams and jellies (usually I had strawberry), cream cheeses, some sort of chocolate stuff in a small tub, fresh apples and pears, melba toast, etc.

The coffee was good, but the orange juice was even better -- I drank glass after glass of orange juice. They also had grapefruit juice but I left that untried. On each of the tables (there were 14 of them) was a small round waste container which was used to place empty jelly tubs, sugar packets, etc. It was an incredibly simple but effective device to help keep the table clear and uncluttered. As soon as someone would leave the breakfast room, the waitress would hurry over, clear the table and remove and replace the tablecloth with a fresh one. Breakfast, as you can tell, was a high point of each day for me. I usually left the breakfast room stuffed, both inside and out (my pockets).

Decades earlier, I had read a delightful book titled, "The Great Bicycle Expedition," by William C. Anderson in which, "The family embarks on a bicycling experience, with mishaps and hardships coming all too frequently as these four cyclepaths try to master their new ten-speed racers. After a wobbly beginning in Denmark, the group continues through Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium (where Dortha's bicycle and pocketbook vanish), and France. Sandwiched within the adventure are tips about bicycling, anecdotes, lessons, observation and low-cost travel in Europe."

In that wonderful book, which I've re-read numerous times, the author describes how in B&B's each morning he and his wife would utilize the croissants and meats and cheeses to make sandwiches which they and the children would save and eat later in the day.

It struck me as a great idea and I've used it on our European trips since then. Today I've made two ham and cheese rolls for us to enjoy later in the day.

Then back to our room to pack for a trip to the islands of Torcello, Murano and Burano today.

Around 10:30, we left the hotel and had a very curious experience at the top of the Rialto Bridge. As we were crossing the bridge on our way to purchase tickets to Burano, Murano, and Torcello, I passed a man giving out some sort of coupons (or tickets?) to some business in Murano. I stopped and asked him if it would be possible for us to get permission to film glass blowing inside a glass factory on Murano. He first said that they didn't like to have filming done, they had so many secret processes used in making their glass, etc. But he thought for a moment and said he'd ask.

He used his cell phone and said that one of the owners of a glass factory would be arriving at the Rialto Bridge area in about 10 minutes and we could discuss it with him when he arrived. We said fine and waited. A few minutes later his phone rang and he said that the owner was arriving by "Private water taxi" and would be here in a few more minutes. At that exact moment I began to get very uneasy about this situation. Events were happening which I did not understand. If the "owner" was coming by "private water taxi" why was he coming? When first mentioned, it seemed that the owner just happened to be on his way over to Venice and it was a lucky coincidence that I needed to ask him a question. But as I waited, it appeared that my "contact" was slowly changing that into "the owner was coming just because I had asked to talk with him." And if that were the case, since he was coming at my behest, more or less, would I be expected to pay for his "private water taxi"? They could get very expensive quickly. The private water taxi from the airport to the Rialto Bridge I knew to be about $70.00 one way. And if he was coming "to" the Rialto Bridge just to speak with me, I'd have to pay his "private water taxi" to get him back to Murano, wouldn't I? This whole situation just didn't feel right. I didn't know what I was getting ourselves into.

So, Kathi was already looking at shop windows, so I just sort of strolled away when the guy wasn't looking. I quickly told Kathi and things didn't feel right and so we walked toward the vaporetto ticket booth. We were half way there when I heard, "SIR, SIR, SIR!" and I look around to find my "friend" right behind me. He states that the glass factory owner is coming and I respond, "I've got a bad feeling about this," and I walk away. He stands there as we walk away, what else could he do? We walk to the vaporetto ticket window and purchase two round trip tickets for the islands of Torcello, Burano, and Murano for 36,000 Lira (18,000 Lira each). We discover that we have to walk to San Marco to get the vaporetto for the islands.

Once on the vaporetto, we later have to change to a different vaporetto than the one we got on at San Marco. Quite a long ferry ride actually. Kathi just came up to the front and I just finished roll 017 and will be starting roll 018 as soon as we get to the island of Burano. While on the second vaporetto, I filmed some great shots of another vaporetto moving beside us. Back home and after editing, I will utilize this footage in a video featurette on the Lagoon Islands of Venice.

Around 12:30 PM, we arrive on the island of Burano. And I immediately set up for some tripod shots of the island. Kathi goes off to explore while I film more video. After our initial filming is completed, we take a break and, finding a small park, sit down to eat the ham and cheese rolls I made this morning at the hotel. Kathi buys a couple of cokes for us to drink. The pigeons are walking by and we're sitting almost right under someone's laundry, socks, brassieres, panties, and towels. It's a very interesting place, very pretty though.

In the distance, across the water, I can see a church with a campanile on an island in front of us. A boat just unloaded another group of tourists. When we finish lunch, I put some bread scraps on the ground for the pigeons to eat and change the camera over to the Glidecam. I don the apparatus and we begin filming only to go down the wrong alleyway and have to stop and start over from the beginning. I want the Glidecam video to be one continuous shot, as much as possible. I'm shooting 20 plus minutes so that we can edit it down to 15 minutes but I'm still striving for continuous shots.

Around 3:15, Kathi reminds me that we have only about two more hours of filming left and we have not gotten to the islands of Torcello or Murano. Fortunately, the next boat to Torcello is at 3:30 PM. When we finally get to Torcello, I shoot a Glidecam sequence, walking along a canal with the countryside beside it, it's very pretty. After an 8-minute walk, we arrive at a church and discover that the church is all there is to see on this island, so we turn around and shoot some more Glidecam video returning to the ferry dock and take the ferry to Murano. Two years ago, I remember that we took a vaporetto from Venice over to the island of Murano, so once we get there, we won't have to take this island ferry back to Venice, just a vaporetto.

So around 5:20 we arrive on the island of Murano and prepare to film a virtual walk. After filming of the twenty minute sequence is completed, I set up the tripod for stationary shots from the top of a bridge using some of my graduated filters. (Graduated filters are like dark sunglasses at the top and about one third of the way from the top gently transition to perfectly clear, thereby making the sky or clouds darker than they would be. In addition, some of my graduated filters are colored red and orange for a more dramatic effect.) We're both tired from all the walking and boat riding we've done today but we've still got some distance to walk before we'll get to the vaporetto stop.

At dusk, Murano takes on a different character from the one it had when the tourists are crowding the streets during the day. Families are out strolling and chatting, trattorias are filled with locals and everything is very relaxing.

A quick walk back to the vaporetto stop and a short wait for the boat. Once onboard, the vaporetto takes us across the lagoon to the Fondamente Nove stop and once off the boat, I promptly get lost. Eventually we find our way back to the Rialto Bridge and then to our hotel, which fortunately is right beside the bridge.

7:29 PM - Wayne, "Law'd a' mercy, we're back in our hotel room! What an exhausting day." Our first stop was on Burano and we got two twenty minute virtual walks shot. Then we got one twenty minute virtual walk shot on Torcello, and finally one twenty minute one on Murano. Plus some tripod shots on Burano and Murano. It was exhausting! Minutes later, Kathi is dressing for dinner and I'm changing into my attire so that I will be a little more presentable.

7:41 PM We're walking out the door of the hotel. The Desk Clerk has recommended a little restaurant, the Restaurant della Madonna, just around the corner and down an alleyway. When we arrive, there is a huge line awaiting service. I absolutely hate to stand in long lines, an aversion I developed in college. I would rather just say, "To heck with it," and go somewhere else but I know that Kathi has her heart set on eating at this restaurant. So, we wait, and wait, and wait. And then we wait some more, over thirty minutes in all.

Finally we are called and shown to our table -- what table? It's really four square tables that have been pushed together to make one very long table. To my right are 2 other couples seated (one couple is Japanese) and to my left is a family of three. We're squeezed right in the middle of these 7 people – elbows almost touching. The patrons behind me are so close that our seat backs are almost touching. The whole restaurant is arranged like that. It is very popular so they've squeezed all the tables together to get the maximum number of people seated at one time.

I'm not happy -- after that extremely long wait, only to discover that we're squeezed in like sardines. And to top everything off, our waiter takes an extremely long time to arrive. While waiting, we strike up a conversation with the nice family from New Jersey sitting beside us. A man and his wife and their son Michael. During the ensuing wait, we had a nice conversation about travel and all the places they had been. They had flown to Frankfurt from the US to pick up their new BMW straight from the factory (It's actually cheaper to fly to Germany, pick up the car there, and then have it shipped back to the US!) They are in the unfinished furniture business and when I mentioned High Point he said that everyone in furniture "knows about High Point."

When the waiter finally arrives, Kathi orders insalada mistre (a mixed salad) and a plate of grilled vegetables, and a cappuccino, and I order a bowl of Pasta e fagioli (bean soup - very thick) and two liters of mineral water -- "No gas." (Actually the mineral water was about the best deal there, just 3,000 Italian Lira {$1.50} each.)

The waiter, however, is not pleased with my skimpy order and his expression shows it clearly. He won't be pleased with my tip either! Our total came to IL58,000 (about $24.00)! We left no tip because “Service” was included in the check (also a cover charge). Usually though, we always leave a 10 per cent tip even though we are charged a "Service Charge." But this time, nothing because the "service" we did receive was seriously lacking.

9:39 PM - We're back from dinner and in our room and we watch some of the video footage we shot today in San Marco Square. The shots with the orange filter and the part where the chimes are ringing are just incredible. I hope it looks as good on our home TV's as it does on this little camcorder screen.

Friday, April 13th, 2001:

I got up around 6:30 and walked out on our balcony overlooking the Grand Canal to look at the beautiful sunrise. It's going to be chilly outside this morning. Thirty minutes later, Kathi and I are ready to walk out of the hotel room to shoot a virtual walk to the Academia Bridge this morning.

Forty minutes later we arrive at the Academia Bridge and finish filming. We then walk to the San Salute Church and attempt to shoot video there using the Glidecam base as my support, resting on either the ground or some other object. I am not pleased with the results. We will return after breakfast with the tripod to shoot this site properly.

At 8:30 AM, we arrive back at the hotel after riding the vaporetto to San Silvestri. We still have a valid 24 hour vaporetto ticket which we purchased yesterday around 10:45 AM. Once at the hotel, we stow our equipment in our room and go downstairs for a much needed breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, jams, juice, and coffee.

After breakfast, we leave the hotel for filming more footage with the tripod. It's the tripod footage which we plan on selling to television networks for use in documentaries, travel shows, and even some commercials. In addition, we even sell our footage to some movie companies for use as "establishing shots." We’re traveling rather light today, for us anyway - only carrying the 33mm still camera, the video camera, a tripod, filters, spare battery, videotapes, and guidebook. Once at the San Silvestri vaporetto stop, we depart for San Salute to get those shots we missed early this morning.

10:31 AM Off of the vaporetto at San Salute and quickly set up to shoot some video of the church and across the Grand Canal. I am using a Tiffen “Ultra Contrast” filter which is designed to actually reduce the contast in the scene I'm shooting.

While here I get another tourist to take a photograph of Kathi and me in front of the Grand Canal.

11:11 AM We’re back at San Salute after walking down to the very end of this projection and shooting some video there.

11:40 AM While walking back to our hotel from San Salute, we were crossing a bridge over a small canal. I looked down and saw a 1,000 Lira note wadded up in the corner with some trash. So I took the tripod off my shoulder so that I could reach down for the bank note and Kathi asked, “You’re not going to make a picture, are you?" And I responded, “No, but I’m going to get 1,000 Lira,” and held up the bank note. She said, “Did you really find it there?” And I said, “Sure.” I seem to find money in strange cities! Last summer in Istanbul I found a 1,000,000 Turkish Lira note in the gutter of the street (It only amounted to about twenty-five cents).

12:00 PM We’re seated on a park bench between the Peggy Guggenheim Museum to my right and the Academia Bridge to my left and I’m looking at the Grand Canal. It is very pleasant but a bathroom would be nice about now. Bathrooms, or the lack thereof, is really a problem in Italy.

2:48 PM We are having lunch on the Campo del Specseia at the Trattoria alla Fontenella, which is an outside café. Kathi's having Pizza Margheritta and I'm having Gnochi a quatro formaggio (Potato dumplings with four cheeses). I'm also having a mineral water and Kathi's having a Coke. I'm also eating the bread sticks and bread too, which are included in the "Cover Charge." Kathi certainly liked her lunch, "Molto Bene." (Later she would state that this was the best pizza she's had in Venice.) It's a pleasant afternoon and we are enjoying our lunch as we "people watch" from our sidewalk café table. We finished with Terrimissu for dessert -- my choice had been Chocolate Mousse -- but they had run out of that. Our total ran 37,400 Lira and I left a 4,000 Lira tip on top of that. (Remember there is a 15% Service Charge included in the total.)

Kathi: "Italy is one of the few places in the world where you can see a good looking guy walking around with a purse and still look perfectly masculine."

3:35 PM We're back in our hotel room to change batteries and then "hit the road hard." It appears to be chillier out there now that it was earlier today. It's become overcast a little bit and consequently, the temperature seems to have dropped dramatically, so I'm going to be wearing a coat on top of my camera vest, which is on top of my thin shirt. At least we'll be working our way back towards the hotel as we film this afternoon. We then film several segments of our Venice Virtual Walk along with numerous stock footage shots with a tripod.

6:35 PM Taking a break -- we've been filming down the Grand Canal. Now we're back in our hotel room. As we were coming upstairs through the lobby, I noticed that there were two couples talking to the desk clerk, and he was telling them that the hotel was booked up. Change cameras and back to filming.

7:45 PM Out in the rain to walk to Vivaldi's Church to film the exterior. Kathi held the umbrella (provided by the hotel) over the lens of the camera which was wrapped in plastic while I attempted to film in the light rain. Quite often, water drops would hit the wide-angle lens and I'd have to stop filming and wipe the lens clean. As we walked back to our hotel, we stopped at a McDonald's (they even had a line which surprised me) and got some food which we brought back to the hotel room to eat. Our meal was delicious. We spread it out on the round table in our room and enjoyed it tremendously.

9:05 PM We're finished with dinner (like the Italians, we're eating late!) and now we're going to watch some of the video we shot today.

Saturday, April 14th, 2001:

6:50 AM Up around 6:30 and it doesn't appear to be raining. We're getting ready to go filming.

7:04 AM We're out the door of the hotel and onto the sidewalk to purchase vaporetto tickets to San Marco. We'll do some store window shooting today. We're getting smarter as the week progresses; today we'll take the vaporetto to San Marco and slowly work our way back to the hotel.

7:11 AM We purchased two 24 hour tickets for the vaporetto for 18,000 Lira each (total = 36, 000 Lira) and we're at the Rialto Bridge dock waiting for our boat to arrive and take us to San Marco. It's chilly but it's not raining so we're thankful for that. After waiting 7 or 8 minutes, I begin to wonder, "There may not be any vaporettos going to San Marco this early in the morning." Most tourists aren't even out of bed yet and the vaporettos that are running are full of locals going to work.

8:00 AM Off the vaporetto at the Guiglo stop to shoot the "Suicide House", the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and the Salvino House from the vaporetto dock. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time -- I didn't realize how much these vaporetto floating docks "rocked." Even though I shot six or seven minutes of tape here, back home I would discover that most of it couldn't be used due to the rocking of the dock. After leaving the dock, we walked to the little alleyway we discovered earlier in the week, which we know has a good vantage point for photographing. Luckily, once there, we re-shoot most of the stuff shot from the floating vaporetto dock. We also shoot a lovely little shrine to the Madonna against an old orange wall.

8:43 AM We're in a big square with a red flagpole shooting an ornate red wide globlet in the window of the Fortini shop. This is one of the first times we use the black cloth that Frieda purchased for me. I cut a small slit in the very center of the cloth and slip the camera lens mattebox through it. It works perfectly in eliminating all of the reflections in the store window. The only problem is when wind blows the cloth. Then back to the hotel for breakfast.

9:59 AM We're sitting here in the breakfast room finishing our breakfast, planning what we're going to do today. Kathi likes my suggestions of photographing the faces of some Gondoliers today. We've got to get a lot of miscellaneous shots today. Kathi wants five minutes to sit and do nothing right now so I leave and return to the room (along with, of course, the two ham and cheese sandwiches which I've made for later in the day).

10:30 AM We're ready to walk out the door and start filming again. We're going to the mask shop where, two years ago, Kathi and I purchased masks, to see if we can get permission to film there.

11:22 AM We've got permission (the owner even signed the release form for us, now all we have to do is find his other shop where a worker is painting masks -- and it's not as easy as you may think. Street numbers are not sequential at all and "streets" (really alleyways) change names without warning. After about five minutes of wandering hopelessly around, we accidentally stumble onto it. Once inside, we verify that we are at the correct location and begin filming. The young lady painting the masks is around 19 or 20 years old and is quite beautiful.

I get a lot of good shots of her carefully painting the masks.

In an adjoining room, Kathi rearranges the masks and I begin filming them. At one point, we use the black drapery cloth as a background for a "Plague Doctor" mask and it works quite effectively. After spending more than 40 minutes in the mask shop, we leave confident that we have some really good video to use (23 minutes of raw video). On the way back to our hotel, we photographed a number of things including some store windows.

12:39 PM We're back in our hotel room and Kathi takes time to look at the video we shot in the mask shop while I am occupied elsewhere.

1:00 PM We're through watching the mask shop footage and we're ready to go out and "hit the road" again.

1:09 PM We're at the San Silvestri vaporetto stop waiting for a vaporetto to arrive.

1:41 PM We got off the vaporetto one stop past the Zaffarri stop and set up the tripod to film some lagoon shots. We're waiting for some boats to clear the shot before we begin filming.

2:12 PM We've left Vivaldi's church and we're walking toward San Marco Square and maybe the glass blowers. We've got some pretty clouds coming over the top of us and I don't know what that portends. When we arrive at the same glass shop in which 2 summers ago, we saw a glass blowing demonstration, we are told that the glass blowing demo is only for tour groups. The gentleman directs us next door, telling us that "they may permit it." When I go next door and ask, no luck. So Kathi and I walk to the glass shop we discovered earlier in the week in the San Zacarri Square. Knowing that they would not permit photography, we plan on returning after they close tonight around 7 PM.

3:05 PM We're on the San Zaccarri vaporetto headed back to the hotel (Kathi: "Make a note that when we come back around 7 o'clock, we get off at the San Zacarri stop and walk straight back to Campo San Zaccarri and the shop is on the left.")

3:14 PM We're back in the hotel photographing our room. After completing photography of the room, we pack everything up -- I chain the luggage to the bed frame and hide the camera equipment luggage under the bed.

4:37 PM We're on the Rialto Bridge headed for the gelatto shop -- Kathi wants some ice cream. I get her a double scoop (3,000 Lira). The shop owner did not give me a receipt -- that's unusual, most Italian stores give you receipts religiously. As we stand here amid the crowded street, we're right around the corner from the Rialto Bridge and near a McDonald's Restaurant (they WILL be open tomorrow, I asked). There's even a Disney Store here, I'm sorry to say. The street is very, very crowded, very, very busy -- you'd think it was a Saturday afternoon -- by golly, it IS a Saturday afternoon! This seems to be the first time we've walked around just looking since we've arrived in Venice.

Wandering around we discover what we believe to be "the bridge" which Kathi and I went under two summers ago, just before I proposed to her -- it's called the "Ponte del Lovo."

4:57 PM Right across from the Al Theatro Goldini Restaurant at which Kathi and I have eaten twice, I purchased for my daughter Kathy a bracelet to match the outfit I gave her at Christmas for 15,000 Lira. We looked around but didn't see anything else we wanted. We stop at an ATM machine at the Banco Populari de Navora and Kathi gets 100,000 Lira using her CCB card and gets a receipt.

5:34 PM We're leaving a bookstore after looking at a reprint of the original and definitive book on Venice, "Stones of Venice," plus two of Hugh Honors books on Venice (we only knew about one), and the exact same 2 volume set of coffee table books on Venice which I purchased at the Met in New York City in October.

6:29 PM We're back in the hotel room to take a break before we go back out again, this time for filming. We did find, literally next door, a crystal apple made in Murano, which Kathi wants to purchase for the "Object de Art" in our home. It's too bad it doesn't have a way to put water in it, but other than that, it's perfect.

7:37 PM We left the hotel and walked to the San Silvestri vaporetto stop.

7:41 PM We're on the vaporetto headed to San Marco.

8:02 PM We're off at the San Zaccaria stop and headed to the Jolly Glass Store to film in their shop window. When we arrived there, they were closed, as we expected, but they didn't have any lights on so we could not do any filming. We'll have to come back early tomorrow morning to do that. We've decided to walk up to Piazza San Marco and photograph the colonnade at night. It's dusk, the sun is setting, and it's very, very pretty.

9:01 PM We got what we wanted in Piazza San Marco. We did have to shoot several takes before we got one with the foreground clear. We'd begin shooting and someone would walk right in front of the camera, so we'd start again and the same thing would happen. We are now on our way back to the vaporetto stop. Wayne, "Oh, my God. Do you see that line?"

9:12 PM We're on the vaporetto and on our way to the hotel.

9:36 PM We're off the vaporetto at the Rialto stop. We stopped at a little sidewalk cafe and picked up two pastries, a chocolate one and another kind for 8,000 Lira. We'll take them back to the hotel.

9:41 PM Back at the hotel to enjoy our pastries along with the ham sandwiches I made at breakfast today.

10:08 PM We've finished eating and we've been watching "Science and Technology" on CNN. I am disassembling the Glidecam Vest and stowing it away in the carry on case. It's served its purpose very, very admirably and will not be used any longer. We've finished filming all of our Virtual Walk footage.

Easter Sunday, April 15th, 2001:

7:43 AM We're going down to breakfast.

8:15 AM We're back in the room after another wonderful breakfast - the coffee was more bitter than normal today. We gave the red headed waitress/maid (she's our favorite for some reason) a 10,000 Lira tip. I took one croissant and put some ham and cheese in it for later today, Kathi did not want anything for lunch. They switched hard rolls on us this morning. Today, for the first time instead of hard white rolls they served us hard wheat rolls.

8:54 AM We shot numerous scenes from and around the Rialto Bridge, plus some effects shots with colored neutral density filters. Now we're walking down one of the side streets toward San Marco. As we walk, Kathi is on the lookout for beautiful shop windows for us to photograph.

One shop window, around a corner and on a dead end alleyway, has particularly beautiful glassware in its windows. Stopping to photograph it, we set up the tripod along with our black drapery cloth to remove reflections. After shooting there for about 10 minutes, I begin to notice a rather large man, around 40 years old, in a black suit. In addition to having unusual looking small earphones in his ears, he is acting strangely; he is standing twenty or thirty feet from us and glancing back at us frequently. We complete our filming at this window and pack up our equipment in order to move on down the street.

That's when I began to really notice our "new friend." At first he was in front of us, and every time Kathi would stop to look in an attractive store window, he would stop and look away, still all the while keeping an eye on us. As soon as Kathi and I would begin walking again, he would begin walking again.

After a while he got behind us, and since the streets are still relatively empty and because Kathi and I both have on soft sole shoes, we could clearly hear his hard leather soles striking the pavement stones. As we walked we heard, "Clomp, clomp, clomp, clomp." And as soon as we stopped to admire a store window, the clicking would immediately stop. When we started walking again, the clicking would also begin. After about 10 minutes of this I finally told Kathi, "I think we're being followed." Kathi first thought I was joking, but I assured her I wasn't and described the man to her. She surreptitiously took a quick look and was soon convinced. Of course, she "freaked out."

I told her that we had nothing to worry about. I was sure he was just some sort of plainclothes policeman. In addition, we had with us the fax which we, months earlier, had sent to the Venice police headquarters stating our intention to film on these dates. If he confronts us, I'll just show him the fax (which is in Italian, thank goodness).

But Kathi was still distressed by the thought of having someone actually following us. As time wore on though, I began to see the humor in the strange situation. We continued to walk and stop periodically at store windows, attempting to act as "normal" as is possible for the two of us. He continued to follow us, we could hear the distinctive " Clomp, clomp, clomp, clomp," of his heels striking the pavement stones.

Finally we reached the Piazza San Marco and once there, I quickly set up my tripod and camera and began filming. He watched for a few minutes and then walked past us, obviously no longer interested in what we were doing. As he walked away from us, I quickly got a video shot of him, just as he turned to give us one last look! As far as following someone, this guy was about as subtle as a "Mack truck."

10:15 AM We're in San Marco Square and the bells are chiming. Our "friend" has left us and we're attempting (without much success) to photograph some faces of Italians.

10:56 AM We're walking quickly back to the hotel to switch rooms. When we made the reservation way back in August, we requested the room for 7 nights only. Then a few days later, after we got our plane reservations firmed up, we added a day to our stay. They did not, at that time, tell us that we'd have to move to the other balcony room for the eighth day, but we understand, and don't really mind. We've had their very best room for 7 nights and will only spend one night in the other, smaller balcony room.

11:02 AM We're coming down the Rialto Bridge steps now just seconds from our hotel. It's really pretty amazing how fast you can get from Piazza San Marco to our hotel when you hurry -- about 6 minutes!

11:22 AM We're just about finished packing our things for the move over to the other smaller balcony room. I'm actually waiting on the maids to complete their work in room 102 before we can move in.

11:38 AM We're in our new room, 102 -- we made the switch within a minute! As soon as the chambermaids said, "OK," we were in this room, lock, stock, and barrel, within about a minute -- a new world's record.

12:05 PM Kathi, "Senor and Senora Ja-co-bo have been booked and confirmed on our flight from Venice direct to New York through the Italian concierge of the Marconi Hotel." I go to the shower and get cleaned up. While in the bathroom, I empty the small, clear plastic shampoo bottle which I take on trips, and rinse it repeatedly, so that later tonight, I can fill it with water from the Grand Canal.

12:59 PM We're out the door of the hotel and we sat down at one of the tables to decide where we are going next to film.

1:20 PM I'm in the process of filming from a bridge over a small canal, attempting to get shots of gondoliers as they go by. An older gondolier, turning a corner and approaching me, sees me with my camera. So what does a gondolier do when he obviously doesn't want to be photographed? He looks straight at me and takes out a cigarette, puts it in his mouth and lights it. It does spoil the shot but, for spite, I keep on filming anyway.

1:51 PM We've just finished shooting a window with some beautiful small Murano glass eggs in a little back alley - it's the Jolly Glass Shop where we came the first day we arrived in Venice

2:50 PM We're sitting in San Zaccaria Square beside the well eating our lunch. On the way to this square, we came though some winding alleyways and I discover what I believe to be the small grocery store (about 10 feet by 20 feet) where, on the first day we were in Venice, we purchased the two cokes for only 1,200 lira each (I've been looking for this store ever since). I finally found the store where we purchased the cheap cokes! We also purchased a large bag of potato chips (total = 3,200 Lira) which we are eating here in the Campo San Zacccaria. Kathi, "That proves that the store that sells 1,200 Lira cokes really does exist -- at least on the first and last day we're in Venice."

After finishing our "lunch," I went into the Jolly Glass Shop and purchased two little decorative glass bottles for Susan and Sarah which I plan to fill with water from the Grand Canal.

3:09 PM We purchased two 24 hour vaporetto tickets (36,000 Lira total) so that we can use them tomorrow to get from the hotel to the San Zaccaria stop, where we'll have to then purchase separate tickets to get to the airport. (I realize that tomorrow at 3:09 we will have left Venice and be on the airplane bound for home.) We're now waiting on vaporetto #41 for San Michelle -- the cemetery island where several very famous people are buried.

3:18 PM We're in the middle of the longest line I've ever seen. Everybody here at the vaporetto stop is going to Murano on a Sunday afternoon -- we, on the other hand, want to go to San Michel, Climetero stop (the cemetery island).

4:05 PM Off the vaporetto and onto San Michel only to walk 100 feet and discover that IT'S CHIUSO! (CLOSED!) Yes, the only time they close the cemetery is on Easter Sunday. What luck! So, we do a little photography in the limited area available to us and return to the vaporetto stop to await the next boat.

4:17 PM Back on another vaporetto and it's so crowded we can hardly breathe. Apparently, we're on our way to Piazzale Roma. Kathi said, that down here we don't have to worry about "Six got off but twelve got on" because we are unable to see who's getting off or on the vaporetto. As unbelievably crowded as this boat is, we've seen ladies with baby strollers get on and people have to all "scrunch" together to make room for yet another stroller!

4:38 PM Kathi and I finally have a seat in the vaporetto.

5:04 PM We're off the vaporetto at the San Zaccaria stop near St. Mark's Square. We first have to walk across the bridge from which tourists view the famous "Bridge of Sighs" and it is literally packed with people so thick that it is almost impossible to get through. Once through this mass of people, we are going to walk back to the hotel -- it's easier than standing in line to get on another vaporetto. Passing a money changing shop, I notice that the spread on US Dollars and Italian Lira is 2,170 and 2,270 Lira to the Dollar (buy, sell).

5:16 PM We're still on our way walking back to the hotel and the little streets in Venice are extremely crowded.

5:24 PM We're back at the hotel. After stowing our camera equipment, we discuss the details of how we're going to get from the hotel to the airport tomorrow.

5:40 PM (Approximately) We return to the streets of Venice but this time without camera equipment. We first go to the vaporetto ticket window across the Rialto Bridge and inquire about which boat to take to the San Zaccaria stop tomorrow morning. (The San Zaccaria stop is where we take the Ala Luguna boat to the airport.) I am told to take vaporetto #82. Then we walked to a nearby ATM, and this is important: I got another 100,000 Lira out of the ATM at the Banca Commerciale Italia in Campo San Bartolomeo. Once again I did not receive a receipt and this worries me. (Weeks later, after returning home, I would finally receive my statement and discover that both withdrawals from ATM's in Venice were correct. However, the fact that I received two 50,000 Lira bank notes from this ATM is important for understanding what will happen tomorrow morning at the San Zaccaria vaporetto stop.)

Next, we went to McDonald's and got two fish sandwich McMeals for 15,800 Lira (for which I had to break one of the two 50,000 Lira bank notes.) Kathi and I took the food and went upstairs to the dining room of McDonald's and ate our meals leisurely. Darn, they gave me one mayonnaise and one catsup for my French fries. I wish I had asked for two catsups instead of the mayo. I've tried it on a previous trip to Italy and I just cannot get used to mayonnaise on French fries -- in fact, I find it disgusting.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at a stationery store on the Rialto Bridge and purchased some pretty marbleized stationary for Frieda and some Venice note cards for Susan (total = 24,000 Lira). Leaving the stationary store, it's a short one-minute walk to our hotel.

7:13 PM Back in our room after going down to the desk and settling up our bill. Using Kathi's American Express card, we just paid 3,200,000 Lira (a little less than $1,600) for 8 nights in this hotel. All in all, it's been worth it. We had the very best room in the hotel with a beautiful balcony, an incredible view of the Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal, and last but not least, the best breakfasts I've ever had in Europe. So, tomorrow morning, the only thing we have to do is eat one last breakfast and drop the room key off at the desk before walking out the door.

8:10 PM Kathi and I went downstairs and walked a short distance past the sidewalk restaurants to where the gondolas are tied. Once there, I took my plastic bottle and, kneeling down, filled it with water from the Grand Canal.

Kathi took a photo of me doing this and then I took a photo of Kathi holding the bottle.

8:28 PM I turned on the TV in room 102 about 2 hours ago and I am observant and do know something about TV but what is going on? The TV in this room has a totally different channel arrangement from the TV we watched for the past 7 nights in room 101. How is that possible? The channels are in a slightly different order on this TV than the TV in room 101. For example, channel 10 in this room has CNN International but in room 101, CNN International was on channel 8. Very strange indeed.

Now is a good time for me to make recommendations for our next trip to Europe. In no particular order: We don't have to bring the light, battery, or battery charger for the light. That will save a lot of weight since the battery for the light is a type of lead acid battery and is extremely heavy. We do need to bring more rubber bands though. And a small water bottle of some sort - make that two small water bottles for Kathi and me. We don't need to bring the Steadicam Jr. as backup, the Glidecam Pro worked just fine. So we can save some space and weight next time by leaving these items at home. In addition, I need a small clean up kit that can be packed maybe in some of the carry on luggage. Tonight, I'll be forced to shower and shave because after I finish, I'll have to pack up my rather large shaving kit in our checked baggage. This will prevent me from being able to shave tomorrow morning.

9:16 PM We're all packed and ready to go to bed. Surprisingly enough, everything fit in our three pieces of luggage (1 checked and 2 carryons). The alarm is set to go off at 6:00 AM tomorrow morning and we hope to eat breakfast at 7:30 as soon as the breakfast room opens, be finished with breakfast at 7:45 and out the door of the hotel by 7:55 AM and at the San Silvestri vaporetto stop shortly thereafter.

Monday, April 16th, 2001:

7:15 AM We went down to the breakfast room on the off chance that it would open early but discovered a locked door instead.

7:20 AM We're standing on the top of the Rialto Bridge for one last look at this incredible city. Kathi: "We're the only people on the bridge. That happens about once every three months. We're saying, "Goodbye" to Venice. No, actually not "Arrivaderchi" but "Arrivaderla" which means, "We will see you later.""

7:24 AM We're back down waiting outside the locked door of the breakfast room, sitting on the steps of the carpeted stairs.

7:35 AM They finally opened the door and we hurried inside and went straight to "our" table in the corner of the dining room. We began to fill our plates with food for a quick breakfast. I had to wait a few moments for the eggs and bacon to be brought out but everything else is ready.

7:45 AM Kathi returns to our room while I finish eating my eggs and bacon. It will be a long time before I eat again and I am determined to eat enough to "tide me over" until then.

7:47 AM I leave the breakfast room and climb the stairs and walk back to room 102 for one last time.

7:51 AM We're out of the hotel with all our luggage and proceeding on to the San Silvestro vaporetto stop.

7:55 AM We arrive at the vaporetto stop and are awaiting #82 which will take us to San Zaccaria where I will purchase the tickets on the Alla Luguna boat to the airport. We just missed the 7:50 vaporetto which was leaving about the time we arrived.

8:10 AM We're still waiting for our vaporetto to arrive. I can see the Rialto stop on the other side of the Grand Canal from us and I believe I can see our vaporetto arriving there now so it won't be much longer. But we are already about 10 minutes behind schedule. The Alla Luguna boat leaves around 9 AM so we've got to get there in time to purchase the tickets and get on board.

8:12 AM We're finally on the vaporetto. We're seated inside the cabin while our luggage is at the front -- but we're seated where I can keep my eye on it. Kathi, "The girl handling the lines for the vaporetto, and noticing all our luggage, first said "This boat doesn't go to the airport," and I responded, "Yes - San Marco?" and she responded, "Si." Then after we deposited the luggage in the proper area toward the front of the vaporetto, she said, "Do you have tickets?" and we said, "Yes -- would you like to see them?" and she said, "Oh no."

The same thing happened last night when we settled the bill at the hotel. The concierge asked if we had made any telephone calls or used anything from the mini-bar and we said, "No." It was totally on the honor system, we were trusted based on what we said. " It's so nice to know that the Italians have that sense of an Honor Code." (Ironically, Kathi makes this statement just minutes before we are to be cheated out of $25.00.)

8:21 AM The vaporetto stops at the Academia stop and I've moved to the front of the boat to stand near our luggage. We've been so careful all week long that I'm not about to take any chances now. Two young guys were standing close to our luggage so I moved from the cabin to stand near it.

8:42 AM The vaporetto arrived at the San Zaccaria stop and I quickly left Kathi with the luggage and went to the Alla Luguna ticket booth.

Once there, I made a BIG MISTAKE: I was in a hurry to get those tickets to the airport, and I quickly went into my zippered pocket on my cargo pants and pulled out my wad of Italian Lira and peeled from it a 50,000 Lira bank note and placed it on the counter in front of the ticket agent. Then (and this is the mistake), I took the wad of bills and LEANED DOWN to place them back into my zippered pocket.

When I finished and stood straight up again, the ticket agent was pointing to a 5,000 Lira bank note which was on the counter. "Oh, I'm sorry," I said and went back to my zippered pocket to get the 50,000 Lira note. Well, of course I couldn't find it (because I had already given him my only 50,000 Lira note) but I was confused. I looked in my money belt, in my other pockets, in my shirt pocket, but I couldn't find the 50,000 Lira note anywhere.

Once again I pulled out my wad of Italian Lira -- which I'm pretty sure amounted to around 35,000 Lira and which I had planned to take home to give to my daughters as souvenirs. Finally, the ticket agent motioned for me to hand him my wad of small denomination Italian Lira, which I did. He appeared to count it and said that I had 35,000 Lira and since I was purchasing two tickets at 18,000 Lira each, I needed only an additional one thousand Lira.

I looked in vain but that was all the Italian Lira I had. I offered the ticket agent a one dollar bill which he declined. An American, standing against a railing nearby, asked, "How much do you need?" and I responded, "One thousand Lira." The American got out his wallet to give me one, but the ticket agent quickly gave me the two tickets and motioned me on, to which I responded, "Grazie, grazie!"

Taking the tickets and walking over to the American to thank him, he said, "He tried the same thing on me. He switched the bills and said I had given him a 1,000 Lira note when I knew that I had given him a 10,000 note. I argued with him and he finally gave in." That's when I realized that I had been duped. One of the oldest tricks in the book -- one that I had read about -- one that I should have been ready for -- and I fell for it "hook, line, and sinker!" I even thanked the agent for taking the "35,000 Lira." What a FOOL I was.

One of the most important rules in Europe is: "Never take your eyes off of the bank note which you put on the counter. -- Better yet, hold it up and state the denomination aloud, showing the agent that you know exactly what bank note you are giving him."

What an idiot I was.

Looking back on the events, everything became clear. I know for a fact that I should have had a 50,000 Lira bank note left. Yesterday evening, I got 100,000 Lira out of the ATM. I "broke" one of the two 50,0000 Lira notes I got to purchase the food at McDonald's last evening but the other note I put with my other Italian Lira to use in purchasing the boat tickets to the airport. So, obviously, I did first put down a 50,000 Lira note on the ticket counter and when I bent down to put away the rest of the money, the ticket agent switched bills on me.

He probably pulls this trick many, many times a day. What a gold mine this guy's got -- probably pulls in an additional $200 to $300 a day -- and it's tax free. (Postscript: One month later, as I transcribe this diary from my dictating machine, I still have not found the "missing" 50,000 Lira bank note which, if I didn't give it to the ticket agent, I should still have somewhere and certainly should have found by now.)

Two summers ago, when Kathi and I toured Italy for 22 days, our trip ended on a high note: an Italian pick-pocket had attempted to pick my pocket on Bus #64 in Rome and I had caught him in the act. Ever since then, the "score" was Wayne 1, Italian crooks 0. Now the score was tied. I'll have to be extra careful in Rome this July.

The kind American turned out to be Robert, from San Diego. He was the EMS director for the San Diego Fire Department. We talked with him the whole trip to the airport. Very nice quy. I told him our business plan and thought it was a good idea. When I told him about the "Treadmill Virtual Walk" his eyes got big and he smiled and said what a good idea it was. But he really liked our company mantra: "You got it, You sell it, You Still Got It!" He said he'd have to tell his boss about that. On his way home to San Diego, he is going to stop and visit his parents in Gilbert, Arizona.

HISTORICAL NOTE: As you read the next paragraph, please note that it was written on April 16, 2001. Less than five months later, the events of September 11, 2001 would shock the world. As I look back on the incident described below, I have incredible appreciation for the professionalism of the Italian Security Personnel at work that day in the Venice Marco Polo Airport.

10:37 AM We're through the check-in at Delta. We did have some problems with our carry-on luggage. In x-raying the two bags, they first spotted the screwdriver and took that away from me. Then, the x-ray technician asked about the fold-up pliers (sort of a Swiss-knife arrangement -- it unfolds into many different types of tools). He asked if it was a knife and I said, "No," and he motioned me on through. After finishing with the Italian customs, we had to go through yet another security check in order to get to our gate. Kathi got in front of the line, as we had planned, while I kept all the luggage and bags. But this time, she beeped going through the magnetic arch. They made her come back, take off some jewelry and go through again. Again she beeped -- so they scanned her using a hand scanner. At last they let her through. As soon as she was in place at the end of the conveyor, I placed the two pieces of luggage and our bags on the conveyor and went though the magnetic arch. I didn't beep! Usually, it's me that beeps.

But, the X-ray operator insists on seeing something specific in my bag number 2, the one with the Glidecam and harness in it. I quickly open it and show him the brochure with the picture of how the apparatus works but he is not interested in the Glidecam stuff. He points to a little side pocket where I keep the fold-out pliers. I take them out and he takes them and shows me that a really serious knife blade folds out from the handle. I honestly didn't remember that it contained any knife, much less such a deadly looking knife blade.

He tells me that I can have it placed in a "Security Envelope" and shipped separately back to the US. So I quickly leave Kathi with the luggage and return to the Delta desk and ask for a Security Envelope. Quickly filling out a form, I place the pliers in the envelope thinking that I'll never see them again. That's OK, they only cost around $19.00. No big loss. I quickly return to the second security check and go though the magnetic arch again. Surprisingly, the steel security tethers located in side pockets of each carry-on did not cause any concern to the security agents. All in all, I have to say that the security staff was very nice to us.

Finding Kathi, we hurriedly walk to the main area of the international terminal and wait. Our gate area isn't open yet -- it's too early. Kathi and I realize that we can't buy anything since we don't have any Italian Lira remaining -- I gave the ticket agent back at San Zaccarria everything I had! But, we're not hungry -- we had a nice breakfast at the hotel this morning -- and we're excited about returning home. Kathi would have liked a cup of coffee though.

10:33 AM Kathi and I take turns, one watches the luggage while the other goes to the restroom. Then, we take turns going in the shops located in this area -- we have a lot of time to kill but no money to purchase anything.

10:56 AM Sitting in the big lounge of the Venice Airport watching people walking around. Kathi's been gone for seven or eight minutes taking a walk.

11:02 AM We just went through another passport check point and we are now in the Gate 15 waiting room.

11:05 AM I walked over to the duty free shop and looked around-- just to kill some time.

11:46 AM They've started boarding the Business class passengers onto our plane.

12:04 PM We are on the plane and in our seats, 39 A and B. We rode a special bus from gate 15 out to our plane parked on the tarmac. Delta flight 155 is scheduled to leave at 12:30.

12:15 PM Most of the passengers are now on board. I, of course, picked up 4 or 5 magazines as I entered the plane and have stashed them for later reading. Examining our menu, it lists "Seasonal Garden Greens with tomatoes and croutons, French Vinaigrette Dressing." And I'll have to choose either Four-cheese Tortillini or roasted chicken -- I'm sure I'll choose the chicken. Then there's "Fruits of the Forest Cake, a chocolate, cheeses, and roll, followed by a mid-flight ice cream service and lastly, a turkey, salami, and cheese sandwich." The pilot comes on the PA system and tells us that the flying time is 8 hours and 20 minutes.

12:47 PM Take off for New York City. After flying over Venice and Mestre and looking down at the pretty scenery, we pass into a cloud, so so much for looking out the window. Kathi is seated, as usual, by the window and I am seated, as usual, by the aisle -- just the way we both prefer. I am watching the TV monitor which has a computer generated map with our exact position. It looks like we are headed about midway between Zurich and Milan. The pilot informs us that it looks like our arrival time in New York is 3:07 PM or about 20 minutes earlier than scheduled.

1:23 PM Kathi is filling out the Customs Declaration.

1:47 PM I'm finishing off my Cranberry Juice Cocktail and Vodka -- well it's free on international flights, so why not? In addition, I am finishing Delta's Snack Mix which is really pretty good. I asked for a Diet Coke also which I haven't touched yet. I may keep it for a souvenir since it says "Coke Light" instead of "Diet Coke."

(And eighteen years later..... I still have that "Coke Light" from that flight, still unopened.)

2:47 PM They have begun passing out lunch.

3:29 PM We're through with lunch, it was very good. For lunch I had Chicken with Tomato Sauce -- very good, very moist chicken, potato wedges with some sort of flour coating on them, large green beans, a salad with French vinaigrette dressing, Diet Coke, water, very good cream cheese on a cracker, and a little milk chocolate candy. The only thing I didn't like was the dessert. The crackers that came with the cream cheese were delicious! I also got another free Vodka and Cranberry Juice.

3:50 PM Kathi's reading "Inc Magazine" and I'm reading "Fortune Magazine." We're really boning up on business. The movie "Michael" is now being shown but I'm not watching it. Kathi: "The article I'm reading says that common sense is back in "etailing" and that etailers need to have a high ratio of value to shipping costs. A direct quote from this article says, "A high value to shipping cost ratio is also a key reason that books, music, videos, and DVD's do so well online and sofa's and kibble do not. It can be a logistical nightmare to ship a bag of dog food to a customer's home and try to generate a profit from that." Wayne: "There you go!" Kathi again, "From that same article, they have three successful e-tailers that are profiled in this issue and it says in the article that they all play in the fragmented, niche markets where no single manufacturer exercises monopolistic power and all sell products with high value to shipping cost ratio."

I have reset my watch. I am changing it from 4:10 PM Italy time to 10:10 AM Eastern Daylight Time.


Kathi now says she has the single most important sentence in the article she has been reading. Kathi, "Quote: Bad site design and slow downloading equal no customers."

10:15 PM (Eastern Daylight Time) We just heard that some writer and his son are sitting two seats up from us. People are going to his seat and asking him questions, which I can't hear, but I did hear him say he has a movie coming out this July called "Score." The First Class Stewardess (who is dressed just a little better than our flight attendants) has brought him and his son drinks from First Class -- and they're not in the little plastic cups that we get either.

11:45 PM (EDT) I just woke up in time to eat some ice cream and watch a little of an episode of "Welcome Back Kotter," which I would rather have not watched. Kathi is reading Fortune 500 and I'm just sitting here. The "celebrity" sitting 2 seats in front of us turns out to be Scott Marshall Smith, the man who wrote "Men of Honor" starring Cuba Gooding and Robert Deniro. The Stewardess comes on over the PA system and announces that he is on board and that they are going to show the movie "Men of Honor" for us.

1:53 PM (EDT) We just finished watching "Men of Honor" and when the movie ended, the passengers applauded -- it was a very good movie. The flight attendants have served a turkey and ham sandwich to everyone.

2:07 PM (EDT) I just finished my Turkey and ham sandwich and diet Coke and it was good. Especially the desert which was some sort of Italian lemon cookie and was excellent. No more Vodka's -- the three I had previously were enough for me. We are probably about 30 to 40 minutes from landing and Kathi has gone to the bathroom and I've moved over to her seat and am looking out the window for the first time but all I can see are clouds.

Kathi returns from the bathroom and says that she stopped by Mr. Smith's seat and told him how nice it was to finally see the movie and the added treat of having the writer on board. Mr. Smith told Kathi that they had been over to Italy to visit some friends and that it was a treat for him to watch the movie with the passengers.

2:18 PM We just flew exactly over the tip of Cape Cod -- the little curlie cue at the end of the Cape. I'm in Kathi's seat looking out the window and it's very interesting looking down on Cape Cod and Provincetown -- I can see the streets and the little pin point houses. We're up too high to see any cars on the roads.

2:27 PM We're beginning our final descent into Kennedy Airport. My ears have completely closed up and I can't hear a thing. The pilot tells us that the estimated arrival time is 2:53 PM.

2:46 PM My ear is hurting more than usual. I just held my nose and blew like crazy and my left ear opened up but my right ear is still closed and painful.

2:51 PM We just landed at Kennedy and the passengers are applauding.

2:59 PM We're sitting still, waiting to be towed in to gate 8 then we'll be finally getting off. We're going from gate 8 to gate 6 for our next flight. It sounds like it should be very easy.

3:02 PM We've got our carry on luggage and are standing up in the aisle waiting for the door to be opened.

3:35 PM My ear is still not opened yet. We're through customs and everything went well. He asked what kind of business I'm in and I said "Travel Photography" and he said, "Have a good day."

4:19 PM My ears are still messed up but I'm sitting here in the lounge, gate 6, Kathi's gone off in search of a book. It's really strange to (think that we) got out and walked on the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge earlier this morning and here I am sitting in New York City, very, very strange. It's also very strange to know that we've got 16 hours of raw, unedited video to use and I think we can make a pretty good virtual walk video out of that with a little bit of good editing.

In just about a month, Kathi and I will be off again to first London, and then Rome to film more stock footage and virtual walks.

Post Script - I did not know and could not know, of course, when I wrote the above lines, that the Venice that Kathi and I fell in love with would be very much changed the next time we visited it - only nine years later in 2010 - when monstrous cruise ships would be allowed to simultaneously unload tens of thousands of tourists each day.

In 2010, the young man who owned the B&B where we stayed on our third visit, sadly told us, "Venice is dying." He went on to explain that Venetians no longer own the shops and restaurants, the masks and souvenirs being sold are now made in China, and almost all the tourists who visit Venice by day, leave and don't spend the night in Venetian hotels or B&B's.

Subsequently, one of the most unique and beautiful cities in the world is being overrun by tourists but Venetians are not benefitting from that tourism.

Kathi and I are so fortunate that we once had the chance to experience the Venice "that used to be."

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