January 14, 2006

Venice tailgate party

There'll be a Rocky Mountain-size tailgate party tonight in the parking lot at Denver's Invesco Field at Mile High, where our New England Patriots , under the capable (and cute) leadership of quarterback Tom Brady, will take on the Broncos in the playoffs. People will circle their suburban wagons, break out beef, buns and beer, and party until kickoff time.

In the Venice lagoon, tailgate parties are staged on the water. It was a broiling July day, and we were making our way by public vaporetto from Venice to the island of Burano, famous for lace-making and crazy-colorful houses that line the island's canals like upright crayons.

The trip took about an hour, and we called on various lagoon islands before reaching Burano. The ports of call were interesting, but the real action was on the water, where we watched thousands of Venetians at play.

Motorboats of all colors, sizes and types, including some magnificent mahogany craft, plied the lagoon and zipped around in the hot, humid haze. Most boats' bows were adorned with sunbathing babes. (Nobody swam. The lagoon may look inviting, but Venetians know not to stick more than their tootsies in the dirty water.)

Just before we reached Burano, we saw a quarter-mile-long string of anchored boats, many tethered together in little groups and star-shaped clusters. People ate, drank, kissed, played music, laughed, danced, preened, posed, flexed, spread suntan lotion, and hopped from one boat to another. A reedy sandbar ran behind the scene, and on it people had pitched portable cabanas and bright, plastic umbrellas.

Tailgate party, Venice-style. Pass the Campari.