Venice Fatale  [Photos]

For the tourist hordes, Venice is the city of breathtaking canals and magnificent churches.  For some others, the place offers a fateful attraction, not unlike a game of chance, or a tempting of fate itself.  This might not be a conscious choice or even a course of one's choosing.  Another hand might be at play, in need of a pawn.  Whatever the source, whether choice or chance, it can take you in little by little, or all at once, depending on who you are and how far you think you're willing to go, and then you might become led. 


It could begin with Venice's eerie sensuality of decay.  Or the labyrinthine layout of canals and narrow, winding streets and bridges that somehow all end up looking the same, leaving you caught in a maze and at the mercy of a stranger's help.  Even with foresight enough to have packed a seemingly adequate map, it's hard to escape an ebbing confidence in your own judgment, or a burgeoning sense of feeble anonymity.


You know a bit of the history: the successive bubonic plagues … the Council of Ten, its culture of surveillance and denunciations, secret trials and executions, the ducal prisons … and that cursed house down on the Grand Canal. 


Maybe you’ve read Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice.  You don’t need to be the literary type – the movie version will do.  And then there’s Du Maurier’s Don’t Look Now and McEwan’s Comfort of Strangers, both having gone from fiction to film as well.  I’d bet you’ve come upon at least one of these and it’d given you the chills and you enjoyed it.  Taking chances, taking risks can be fun, you think, and if you have some time on your hands, why not welcome them, if only for a while?


So relax.  Take in a jazz set to loosen up.  Then drop some of that change that's weighing you down, the casino is good for that.  It's all part of the ride.  And if not Florian’s get on to Harry’s or wherever, a drink emptied without hesitation and another ordered, maybe an exchange of winks and a nod along the way; or just a walk through the night to see where your mood takes you.  You only live once, before you sleep for the night, whether with an alluring stranger or alone.


Still, at what point could it all go too far?  At what moment might this odd pleasure get you in over your head, leaving you your own worst enemy?


Boredom, impatience, fear, loneliness.  Like the physical, these can induce and blur, confounding the harmless and the sinister.  Some of the Carnival masks in shop windows are disquieting.  You wonder what that solemn-faced gondolier really had in mind for his passengers. 


Are you being followed?  The broad, vacant street you are walking along narrows and up ahead you'll have to turn sharply onto a dim corridor.  People can be unlucky.  It excites you, yes, it's a little adventure, while in the back of your mind is a nagging suggestion of impending misfortune, and your own worst fear.