After walking for twenty minutes we came to the Rialto Bridge. The view was spectacular on a late summer evening. The gondolas were cruising the Grand Canal. The fancy restaurants and cafes were full of beautiful diners. This was why people came here from all over the world.
After zig-zagging down the narrow, crooked lanes, and over countless small bridges, ignoring questions about the severity levels of foot blisters, and asking for directions only three times, we found the Venice Jazz Club. It had a small door in an ancient low building and a neon sign in the window. Muffled sax squeals emanated through the stone walls.
Inside it was like a scene from an old movie. The cool kind, film noir, made back in the 1940s where the men had slicked back hair and wore tuxedos over the bulges of their revolvers in their armpit holsters and the women were glamorous in their evening gowns waving their long cancer-causing cigarette holders in the face of the maitre’d. The band wore blue shirts with bow ties and grooved on a huge stage with a piano player who wore spats, and a top hat and tails. A fight would break out, shots would be fired, and the band would play on.
Ok, it wasn’t quite like that. It was however, a very cool scene. The club was tiny, fitting no more than 25 people around tiny tables in front of a tiny stage. The 15 foot bar was manned by a punkish-looking but attractive young woman. The ceiling was low as were the lights. The walls were covered with old posters of jazz greats and advertisements for shows from days gone by. An intimate setting. The place was packed and we took the only remaining seats, stuck in a corner of the room that was piled with various junk that reminded me of somebody’s basement back in the Midwest.
I could tell the girls were a little disappointed at the crowd. No hot young Italian men, just middle-aged American and European tourists.
The band was a four piece – piano, stand-up bass, drums, and sax. They were jamming away to some tune I didn’t recognize. Between songs the piano player, who was the band leader, told us a little bit in English about each piece. They were usually old classic jazz tunes. The band was good. They took their turns on solos and breaks.
Relaxing in a small club hearing live jazz music is a great way to spend a Saturday night, wherever you are. After three sets, the concert was over. It was time to find our way back to the hotel.
By this time it was quite late. The wet streets of Venice were deserted. I thought we had taken the long way to get to the club. After looking at the map, I thought there was a shorter way to go. This would allow the girls to actually walk through the airport in the morning instead of being transported in a cart.
“Let’s take a short cut back,” I said. “Let’s go this way.”
We happily walked on the empty pathways next to the canals. It had been a nice night out.
Soon, however, I didn’t recognize any street names. It appeared we were off the edge of my map. I don’t know how, but sometime walking down the twisty lanes and in crossing the multitude of bridges we ended up on a different island. I kept looking for the signs to the train station and our way home, but couldn’t find any.
Using my heightened sense of navigation, I steered us in the direction I thought was home. We walked and walked. At least an hour went by. The girls were getting tired. It seemed that we were no closer to the hotel than when we started. I had to admit defeat. We were lost. Now if we could only find someone to ask for directions.
But there was no one out on the streets except us lost tourists. Everyone else was home asleep.
Eventually we came to the end of the island. Up ahead I saw a vaporetto stop. A boat was at the dock idling. It looked like it was about to leave.
“Look! A boat,” I yelled. “I’ll run ahead and see where it’s going.”
I ran 50 yards to catch the boat. It was just about to leave. I could see from the timetable that it did indeed go to the train station and this was the last boat of the night.
The girls were hobbling on their stiletto heels as fast as they could go. Which was as fast as an old tortoise goes in lots of sand. The deck hand took the rope off the dock post and threw it on board.
“Take off those silly shoes and run for it!”
Finally, practicality trumped fashion sense. They pulled off the stiletto heels and sprinted for the boat. As the boat drifted away from the dock, they jumped the 18 inch gap onto the deck.
“Next time, wear cross-trainers,” I said.
“Next time, get a better map,” they replied.