Tuesday, July 3, 2012

They got me!

Tourists can be foolish, but you'd think someone who's used to foolish tourists in her own milieu would be a little smarter than I was yesterday.

In our neighorhood of San Polo in Venice, we've noticed several times a trio of roaming musicians  - accordian, fiddle and guitar - playing outside cafes and bars for tourists; playing near the gondola stops, playing in the wide campi. Sometimes the music is corny - "Carnival of Venice," perhaps, or the theme from the Godfather. Other times it's charming - and yet other times it's incongruous, like American country-western tunes.

But the other day near All' Arco, they strolled up just as we were leaving, playing "My Way". I liked the way they looked near the outdoor tables, and my camera was already in my hand, so I just snapped a quick photo.


I know better than this. I know that when I see the silver-painted statue-dancer on the Third Street Promenade not to make eye contact. I never snap a photo of the guy with the snake twined around him in Palisades Park. I avoid all the countless Spidermen and Sponge Bobs on Hollywood Boulevard, the plastic bucket drummers, the CD sellers down on Ocean Front Walk, the 3-card monte players in Times Square, and I actually don't care if that little kid on Bourbon Street can tell me where I got my shoes at.

I know that interaction, particularly with the sound of a shutter clicking, is a transaction.

I've actually paid some of these guys willingly - once with a visitor friend who wanted a photo with Darth Vader in front of the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard - but never without having small change at the ready. Let me emphasize - small change.

But here in Venice I screwed up. They spotted me immediately, and moved in. We were backed into a corner under the sotoportego, my hand frantically fumbling in my bag for a couple of coins. "No change!" I said, "Sorry!"

Here's where we were trapped!
"I can make change!" said the fiddle player. [The Man I Love] bravely stood by me, though he knew even before I did what a dumb thing I'd done. All I had was a twenty. The fiddle player did change it, but even so we ended up paying a ridiculous sum to take care of my photographic obligation.

Although to be fair, they did play us an entire rendition of "C'est Si Bon" with a fine flourish at the end. But I was so embarrassed I didn't even take the photographs I'd dearly paid for.

Throughout the rest of the day, we continued to hear them playing in nearby streets. I was torn by the desire to run away from embarrassment, and the thought that maybe I should go get more of my money's worth.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Ahh, I had no idea.

See, I like to take pictures of butterflies, birds, and flowers...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Even though it's Neapolitan, O sole mio will always be the stereotypical Venetian song to me.

M. Bouffant said...

I foresaw this ending w/ you turning away for just a moment & the camera being snatched, but obviously I watch too much telebision.

I didn't really have the idea either but I'd as soon not have actual humans in my urban landscapes, & certainly not those show-offs. Harrumph.

shrink on the couch said...

I was unaware of this obligation to pay for the honor of taking street vendor's photos. Obviously not just a California thing if you experienced this on foreign shores.

Glennis said...

Nope, shrink, it's also a thing in CA. You have to tip the costumed characters on Hollywood Blvd. to take their photos, or else they harangue you. But the funny thing was, even though I knew this, I "forgot" it in Venice.