Sunday, August 31, 2014

Return to the 9/11 Memorial in the Evening

On Friday evening, George and I returned to the World Trade Center site in the evening to see how things would look in the changing light.  
Corridor of the new Fulton Street Transit Hub which will eventually connect to the WTC site.
Photo by Blomme-McClure
As we approached the site down Fulton Street we were looking right at the spikes of Santiago Calatrava's Transportation Center.  
Looking down Fulton Street toward One WTC (left) and Seven WTC (right).
The ribs of the Calatrava's Transportation Center are emerging at far left.
Photo by Blomme-McClure 
It seemed like they had made quite a bit of progress since our earlier visit.
The WTC Transportation Center by Santiago Calatrava looks kind of like a fish skeleton.
Photo by Blomme-McClure

Four World Trade Center by Fumihiko Maki is still by far my favorite building on the site and it is fascinating to watch it morph as the sun sets.
Four WTC by Fumihiko Maki from Church Street with reflections of One Liberty Plaza
(the old U.S. Steel Building, then Merrill Lynch, now multi-tenant) and One WTC.
Photo by Blomme-McClure
As you move around the site its immaculate curtain wall keeps drawing your eye back.

One of the eerie things about all of the reflective surfaces on One and Four and Seven WTC is how they catch the silhouettes of jets coming up the Hudson in the routine landing path to LaGuardia.
Reflection of jet over the Hudson in Four WTC curtainwall.  Photo by Blomme-McClure
About every two-to-three minutes a dark, shimmering image of a jet crosses the buildings.  Anyone who has seen (and seen and seen) the TV images of the jet smashing into the South Tower will be startled by these reminders of that awful day.
There's a reason that the base of One WTC is a concrete bunker -- 9/11.  By the way, the base looks better in the late afternoon light, but the transition is still awkward.  Photo by Blomme-McClure
One thing that becomes clear is that the site will be greatly improved when it is finally opened on all sides.  Right now, the crowds coming to the museum are mostly entering the site from the Liberty & Greenwich Streets corner (there is another entrance from West Street).  Eventually, as the rest of the buildings on the site are completed and occupied there will be access to the site from all sides.  There will be a north/south pedestrian corridor that will reconnect Greenwich Street and an east/west pedestrian corridor extending from Fulton Street across the site to West Street (which were both blocked off by the configuration of the old World Trade Center on its raised plaza).

We sat down on one of the stone benches near the museum to rest awhile and were suddenly aware of a loud buzzing sound and eventually found that there was a lone welder high up in the spine of the Transportation Center working on one of the ribs.
Looking east at the skeleton of the Transportation Center.  Photo by Blomme-McClure

Welder high up in the ribs of the Transportation Center.  Photo by Blomme-McClure
As the sun sets, the lights come on in the memorial pools and in the groves of trees around them.  
Lights in the North Memorial Pool illuminate the falls from the bottom and also the names of 9/11 victims incised in the bronze railings.  Photo by Blomme-McClure
There are lights at the bottom of the falls that light the falls, but leave the pools mostly dark.  There are also lights under the bronze railings that make the incised names glow.  

Looking across the North Memorial Pool to the Museum's Entrance Pavilion.  
Photo by Blomme-McClure
The mast/antenna/minaret atop One WTC emits a blue/white light.  It improves that element of the design, but looks rather like a New Years Eve party hat on a sober judge.
The mast atop One WTC lights up at night.  Photo by Blomme-McClure

Bands of light outline the top stages of Four WTC and the colors of the sunset sky silhouette the reflected buildings in Battery Park City.
Four WTC at twilight with buildings of the World Financial Center in Battery Park City reflected in curtainwall.  Photo by Blomme-McClure

The reflections of Battery Park City apartment buildings in Four WTC.  Photo by Blomme-McClure
It is a peaceful and reflective time.  The construction work has stopped, the commuters have gone home, the sound of the falling water continues to muffle the sounds of the city.
Dying light on a white birthday rose on the South Memorial Pool.  Photo by Blomme-McClure

Friday, August 29, 2014

Comments on the Movie 'Starred Up'

Thursday afternoon we went to the Walter Reade Theater of the Film Society of Lincoln Center to see 'Starred Up', a movie directed by David Mackenzie and written by Jonathan Asser.  It's is based on Asser's experiences as a volunteer therapist working with some of Britain's most violent criminals.  It was filmed in two former British prisons.
Official poster for 'Starred Up'
The term 'starred up' is used in Britain to describe juvenile offenders who are placed in adult prisons because of they are too violent for the juvenile detention system.  Eric Love (played by Jack O'Connell) is a 'starred up' 19-year-old who we see being transferred to the adult prison where the rest of the action occurs.  The prison is so loosely run and the dialects of the inmates and prison staff are so difficult to understand that much of the movie unfolds in a befuddling haze (kind of like watching a foreign film without subtitles).  Neville Love (Ben Mendelsohn) is an older inmate apparently higher up on the prisoner food chain and (according to the reviews) Eric's father.  Neville arranges for Eric to go to anger management meetings run by Oliver Baumer (Rupert Friend) -- the Asser surrogate.  There are four or five black inmates in the group when Eric joins.  It seems like the prison warden and her staff are looking for an excuse to either shut down Oliver's program or put Eric in solitary confinement -- probably both.  Things happen.  Dialogue is mumbled and occasionally spoken.  Prisoners mill around (pretty freely for a prison).  People get punched and stabbed and hosed and handcuffed.

It all ends when Neville is transferred out to another prison, leaving Eric to fend for himself.  The beginning and ending are clear.  Everything else is a muddle of violence and mumbling.  The movie has won a few British awards and got decent American reviews, but I'm not recommending it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

First Visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum

On last Wednesday afternoon, we went to the 9/11 Memorial Museum for the first time.  In preparation, we had each downloaded an audio guide onto our phones and we brought along noise cancelling headphones to make sure that we could hear Robert DeNiro guide us through the museum step by step.

Of course, we arrived plenty early and had time for a leisurely visit to the 9/11 Memorial before heading inside to the museum.  The design of the Memorial park is by Michael Arad of Handel Associates, who won an international design competition.  Mr. Arad's design, called 'Reflected Absence', consists of two square pools in the footprints of the twin towers that were destroyed on 9/11/2001.  
The South Pool of the 9/11 Memorial with the 9/11 Memorial Museum beyond the trees.
Photo by McClure
The names of all those who perished that day at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, PA (where United Flight #93 came down) and also those who died in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center are incised into wide bronze railings around the edges of the pools.  The groups that they were affiliated with are shown in smaller raised brass letters.  
Incised names of the deceased along with raised names of affiliated organizations on edge of South Pool.
Photo by McClure
From those railings water pours in continuous 30-foot high falls into the pools below.  
Water cascading into the South Pool.  The soothing sound of the water blocks out
noise from the surrounding city.  Photo by McClure
In the center of each pool is a giant square 'drain' through which the water is recirculated.  The two pools are surrounded by a forest of trees.  Arad teamed with the landscape architects Peter Walker and Partners in planning the selection and placement of the swamp oak trees, benches, lighting, ground cover and signage.  
Rows of swamp oak trees on the southwest part of the 9/11 Memorial.
Four WTC by Fumihiko Maki rises beyond.  Photo by McClure
The new buildings of the World Trade Center (WTC) site are rising around the two 9/11 Memorial Pools.  Four WTC sits east of the South Memorial Pool (the pool in the footprint of the original 2 WTC).  Four WTC is designed by Fumihiko Maki, the Pritzker-Prize-winning, Japanese architect.  It rises 72 stories (nearly 1,000 feet) and is currently the second tallest building on the WTC site.  The curtain wall is so beautifully evanescent that the building almost disappears into the sky.

The new One WTC, a.k.a. the Freedom Tower,  rises on the northwest corner of the site quite close to the North Memorial Pool (in the footprint of the original 1 WTC).   It is designed by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) based on preliminary ideas from Daniel Libeskind, the architect of the WTC's master plan.
One World Trade Center by David Childs of Skidmore Owings & Merrill with
Seven World Trade Center also by Childs to the right.  Photo by McClure
It is crystalline, but coarser than 4 WTC.  The 20-story base is a concrete bunker disguised by shimmery glass prisms. 
Above this base it transitions from square to octagon as it ascends to a clumsy flat roof surmounted by an awkward antenna/minaret which gets it to the promised 1,776-foot height.
One of the white roses inserted in the incised name of one of the victims of 9/11.
These roses were inserted in names on the 9/11 Memorial Pools to mark the birthdays of the victims who were born on August 20th -- the day we visited.
Photo by McClure
Directly north of the North Memorial Pool across Vesey Street is 7 WTC also by David Childs of SOM.  Like his 1 WTC design, it is built on a concrete base that contains the building's mechanical equipment and a power substation that serves all of lower Manhattan.  This 10-story base is covered in louvered stainless steel panels.  
Seven WTC by David Childs of SOM with North Pool of Memorial in foreground.
Photo by McClure
The transition to the glass curtain wall at the 11th floor is somewhat abrupt and graceless, but the glass curtain wall above is nicely detailed and at night emits faint blue light.  The building tops out at 52 stories (741 feet).

To the east of the North Memorial Pool, the spiky, white ribs of the Transportation Center designed by Santiago Calatrava are emerging.  
WTC Transportation Center by Santiago Calatrava under construction east of the North Memorial Pool.
Photo by McClure
Right now, it's impossible to determine just how well it will combine with the surrounding WTC buildings or how well it will function.  It could be striking, or just a grandiose, empty gesture.

Near the entrance to the Museum there were three bagpipers from uniformed services who lost members on 9/11. 
Three bagpipers preparing to play near the entrance to the Museum.  Photo by McClure
We're not sure if they play every day or if there was something special about August 20th that brought them out.

The entrance pavillion for the 9/11 Memorial Museum (most of the museum is underground) is an unusual collection of angles and shapes in silvery and translucent glass.  
Looking across the North Memorial Pool to the Museum Entrance Pavilion.  The base of Three WTC with white steel squares is just behind and to the left; the shimmering Four WTC rises behind on the right.  Photo by McClure

The design by Davis Brody Bond Snohetta attempts to recall the crumpled shapes of the buildings destroyed on 9/11.

After going through security screening for the Museum, you quickly descend a staircase alongside of a pair of the 'tridents' that were the signature shapes of the lower facades of Minoru Yamasaki's twin towers.  Now in rough, rusted steel they are a powerful reminder of the buildings that stood on the site since 1968.
Two 'tridents' -- the shapes that defined the base of the 'twin towers' stand near the Museum entrance.
Photo by McClure
The mezzanine level at the bottom of the staircase displays the stainless steel dedication plaque placed on April 4, 1973 at the completion of construction on the original WTC.  
Commemoration of the original World Trade Center to the workers who built it.
Photo by McClure
The mezzanine also has a balcony view of the 'slurry wall' of the 'bathtub' that was built underground around the perimeter of the WTC.  Luckily, on 9/11 the concrete and steel wall did not collapse -- which kept the site from being inundated by water from the Hudson River.  It is now an important symbol of New York City (and the nation) withstanding the onslaught of terrorism.
Portion of the 'slurry wall' that withstood the destruction of the original WTC in the Foundation Hall.
For scale note the people in the lower right corner of the photo -- they're 70 feet below ground level. 

Photo by McClure
You descend from the mezzanine ramp to the lowest level next to the 'survivor stairs' -- the stairway from the north side of the old WTC plaza down to Vesey Street -- that hundreds of survivors used as they fled from the destruction on 9/11.  
Looking down from the top of the 'survivor stairs' used by hundreds to escape the destruction.
Photo by McClure
For me, it is an especially poignant artifact.  For many years I met George at the bottom of those stairs after work (he for the Port Authority in 1 WTC and me for Chemical Bank and later Swiss Bank further east of the Trade Center) so that we could walk home to the West Village together.
Looking back up from the bottom of the 'survivor stairs'.  Photo by McClure
As you reach the bottom of the stairs you are facing the ghostly steel outlines of the columns of the south tower where they were encased in concrete at the bottom of the 'bathtub'. 
This row of steel boxes encased in concrete are the bases of the columns that formed the west wall of the south tower.  Photo by McClure
On a wall in the distance is a twisted piece of steel from the 93rd to 96th floor of the north tower which fell when the tower collapsed on 9/11. 
Twisted section of steel placed at the end of Tribute Walk.  Photo by McClure
The shape of the steel and its placement at the end of a long vista reminded me of the 'Winged Victory of Samothrace' in the Louvre.  

Hanging on the side wall of Tribute Walk are several memorial quilts including a huge one that has photographs of all of those who died that day organized by who they were, where they were and why they were there that day.    
One of the memorial quilts has pictures of each victim of 9/11 along with their affiliations.
Note the huge block of photos for the Fire Department of New York (FDNY).
Photo by McClure
Inside the footprint of the south tower is a memorial exhibition with information about each victim and personal artifacts that were recovered at the site.  There is also an education center with classrooms and at least two small theaters.

Memorial Hall, between the footprints of the two towers contains 'Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning' by Spencer Finch -- an entire wall of 2,983 squares of watercolor paper each painted a different shade of blue.  In the center of the wall is a quote from Virgil: 'No Day Shall Erase You from the Memory of Time'.  
'Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning' by Spencer Finch.
Photo by McClure
Behind that wall are the unidentified human remains from the attack in a space not open to the public that's maintained by the NYC Medical Examiner.
Photo by McClure
Along the Center Passage on the south side of the North Tower excavation are several huge artifacts -- 
Section of radio/TV antenna.  Photo by McClure
a piece of the radio/TV antenna that stood atop the North Tower which pierced the South Tower when it collapsed; 
Express elevator motor.  Photo by McClure
an enormous elevator motor from one of the express elevators that whisked people to the top and the two intermediate 'sky lobbies' of the twin towers; 
Crushed Ladder Company 3 firetruck from the front.  Photo by McClure
The rear end of Ladder Company 3 firetruck.  Photo by McClure
and, most moving, the crumpled remains of a fire truck from Ladder Company 3.  It's important to note that many families with children of all ages were visiting the Museum.  They remained amazingly quiet and respectful even when confronted with this firetruck. 

Inside the footprint of the North Tower is the Historical Exhibition which covers in ways both large and small the chronology of September 11, 2001 as it unfolded.  There are chronologies of each of the four flights, of the two towers, of the first responders, even of the terrorist conspiracy.  They included phone conversations of both survivors and the deceased with loved ones; communications between police, fire fighters and other first responders; FAA contacts with the four planes; and television coverage as events unfolded -- all presented with enormous sensitivity and respect.  There is no photography allowed in the Historical Exhibition, but I did find one poignant photograph from the exhibits on the internet.
Photo from Historical Exhibition of 9/11 Memorial Museum and National Geographic.
It really conveys the innocence and bravery of first responders and the doggedness and calm of the survivors.

You leave the Historical Exhibition in the footprint of the North Tower emotionally numb.  The Foundation Hall is a place of recovery and contemplation after reliving whatever memories of 9/11 have been dredged back to the surface.  It is a lofty and spacious space that speaks of endurance and rebuilding; and of those who returned day after day to the site to clear the debris of terrorism and make way for the brighter future to come.
'The Last Column' juxtaposed against the 'Slurry Wall' in Foundation Hall.
Photo by McClure
One long wall of Foundation Hall is formed by the 70-foot-high 'slurry wall' that endured the attack and withstood the potential inundation of the site.  A centerpiece is the 'Last Column' which was the final piece of the old structures removed from the site -- signed by groups and individuals who worked on the clearance of the debris from the attacks.

Rising back out of the the Foundation Hall to the light of day and the bustle of rebuilding is welcome.
Four WTC reflecting the afternoon sky.  Photo by McClure

And the roar of the waterfalls crashing into the Memorial Pools somehow washes away the sense of helplessness in the face of evil.
Waterfalls in the South Memorial Pool.  Photo by McClure

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Comments on the movie 'Love Is Strange'

We went to see 'Love Is Strange' this afternoon.  The theater was packed -- with (it seemed) enough canes and walkers to fill a senior center.
Poster for 'Love Is Strange'
The film written by Mauricio Zacharias and Ira Sachs and directed by Sachs centers on a New York City gay couple who have been together for 39 years.  Ben, played by John Lithgow, is a 71-year-old artist.  George, played by Alfred Molina, is a somewhat younger music teacher in a Catholic school.

In the opening scenes they wake up, get washed and dressed, and go to their wedding.  The ceremony is followed by a party at their apartment where we meet their family and friends.

The next scene shows George conducting the choir at his school.  After choir practice, George is pulled into the principal's office, where he is dismissed because 'the bishop' has found out about his marriage -- which conflicts with the morality clause of his employment contract.

Without the income from George's teaching position, Ben and George are forced to sell their modest apartment (for $17K and change, after flip taxes, income taxes, lawyers fees, etc.).  Unable to quickly find an apartment in NYC they can afford, they are forced to separate and move in with their friends and family.  Ben goes to live with his nephew's family (Darren Burrows as Elliot, Marisa Tomei as Kate and Charlie Tahan as Joey) -- sharing a bunk bed with Joey.  George sleeps on the couch of two neighbors (Cheyenne Jackson as Ted and Manny Perez as Roberto) -- gay NYC cops and party animals.

The bulk of the movie focuses on how these domestic intrusions change (or don't) the two households where Ben and George land and importantly, on how their relationship endures in the face of their adversity.  Lithgow and Molina are subtle and superb in their scenes together, projecting the intimacy that binds their relationship and guides it through adversity.  The frustrations of dealing with a passive husband, an intoverted teenage son and a thoughtlessly intrusive house guest are brilliantly conveyed by Tomei.  And Charlie Tahan nearly steals the picture with his portrayal of a volatile teen, whose fragile life is upended by his bunk-mate, Uncle Ben.

The picture moves forward with great economy.  While never overtly explained, each scene is set by what has gone before and allowed to develop through the dialogue and interactions of its characters.  Each element is there for a reason and the acting of the entire ensemble cast coalesces into a complex mosaic centered on the steadfast, loving relationship of Ben and George.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Italian Trip Diary -- Day #13 -- Along the Brenta Canal from Padua to Venice

Monday, June 25, 2001 -- Padua to Venice along the Brenta Canal:

Unfortunately, our trip from Padua to Venice was set for Monday.  It is the day that most of the villas along the Brenta Canal are closed.  In fact, it is also the day that there are no boats on the Canal between Padua and Venice (the way we had originally intended to make the trip).  Nonetheless, we took the road along the Brenta Canal and saw some of the villas designed by Palladio and his followers – two up close.

The Brenta villas were built along the Canal by the Venetian nobility as retreats from the unhealthy summer climate in Venice.  Many were designed by Palladio, although others were completed much later in a neo-Palladian style.

We stopped at the Villa Pisani near Stra, which was supposed to be open on Monday.  Unfortunately, on that particular Monday it was closed to allow an arts and crafts show to be set up.  We had to content ourselves with a walk along the front façade and garden walls. 
Villa Pisani on the Brenta Canal, built in the early 18th century for the Venetian Doge, Alvise Pisani.
Photo by Blomme-McClure
It is a very large house with an imposing central pavilion designed in the Palladian style by Giralamo Frigimelica and Francesco Maria Preti.  The house was built for Alvise Pisani, who was named Doge of Venice in 1736.  In later centuries it was used by Napoleon and hosted Hitler's first conference with Mussolini in 1934.  
Central pavillion of Villa Pisani with George walking away after finding it was closed the day of our visit.
Photo by Blomme-McClure
Detail of Telamones (male Carytids) on the central pavilion of Villa Pisani.
Photo by C. Koiveneumi
There is a large stables on the opposite side of the formal gardens from the villa.  The gardens extend in both directions and include a Belvedere folly and a formal maze with a viewing gazebo above it.
Stables across the back lawn from the Villa Pisani.  Photo by Blomme-McClure
Folly arising from the center of the formal maze in the gardens of Villa Pisani.
Photo by Blomme-McClure
Day lilies surrounding classical statue along the wall of the stables at Villa Pisani.
Photo by Blomme-McClure
We passed several more villas as we drove along the canal toward Venice.  We detoured along a side canal to Mirano to see the Villa Morosini XXV Aprile, which is now a public library surrounded by a park.  The Palladian-style symmetrical two-story façade with pedimented loggia on the second floor in the central bay is quite lovely.  
Villa Morosini XXV Aprile in Mirano is now a library.  Photo by Blomme-McClure
 We ate lunch on the terrace of the River Pub across the street from the villa/library.

Returning to the Brenta Canal we continued driving toward Venice through an increasingly industrialized area.  To reach Venice by car, you cross the Venetian lagoon on a bridge parallel to the railroad tracks and arrive at a huge parking garage where the Hertz office is located.  While I finalized the papers to turn in the car, George and Carl negotiated with a porter to take our luggage to the hotel.  They decided that I would accompany the porter with the luggage while George and Carl would take the vaporetto to Piazza San Marco and walk to the hotel from there.

The Piazzale Roma and the adjacent train station comprise one of the biggest intermodal transportation hubs in the world.  Everything and everyone coming into Venice must switch from a land-based mode of transportation (train, bus, truck, car) to some form of water-based transportation (water taxi, gondola, vaporetto, freight boat, barge).  It is a bustling place where porters and longshoremen move the baggage and freight from one conveyance to another.

Our luggage and I were taken to the side of a canal where luggage from a bus (probably a tour group) was being loaded onto a freight boat.  After all of the bus luggage had been stacked on the boat, the porter loaded our luggage, the luggage cart and me onto the boat.  The porter and the driver hopped on and we were off down the canals toward the hotel.  
Grand Canal from the back of the freight boat with our luggage.  Photo by McClure
At some point, after negotiating several smaller canals and crossing the Grand Canal we got mixed up in a huge traffic jam of gondolas, water taxis and other freight boats.
Traffic jam on one of the narrower canals from the prow of the freight boat.  Photo by McClure
At the next 'corner' the porter decided that the land route would be faster than waiting to get to the 'water door' of our hotel.  He grabbed the cart and the bags and the driver and the porter hoisted me out of the boat.  Off we went through a maze of small alleyways until we arrived at the 'land entrance' of our hotel (Albergo Cavalletto e Doge Orseolo, San Marco 1107, Venezia, 0039 041 52 00 955,  I paid the porter the agreed upon 100,000IL for transporting me and the luggage to the hotel.  I was graciously received by the front desk staff and escorted to a lovely corner room on the third floor.

In the meantime, George and Carl took Vaporetto #81 (it turns out that there are several different routes and both local and express versions with this number) down the Giudecca Canal
Gesuati (Church of St. Mary of the Rosary) on Giudecca Canal viewed from Vaporetto #81.
The church was designed by Giorgio Massari in the Palladian style and built between 1726 and 1743.  Photo by C. Koiveneumi

and around the Dogana to the San Marco stop.  
Punta della Dogana (foreground) and Santa Maria della Salute (behind).  The Dogana was built between 1678 and 1682 on the point where the Giudecca Canal joins the Grand Canal.  It was the customs house for the Republic of Venice.  Photo by C. Koiveneumi
From there they made their way to the far end of the Piazza San Marco 
Piazza San Marco, the 'Times Square' of Venice.  Photo by C. Koiveneumi
and thence to the Cavalletto, arriving nearly an hour after me and the luggage. 

The Cavalletto is through an arch near the northwest corner of Piazza San Marco and over a small bridge.  It is on a 'corner' where the canal broadens and then turns – running directly behind the buildings on the north side of Piazza San Marco.  
Water Entrance to Hotel Cavalletto (Albergo Cavalletto e Doge Orseolo).  Photo by C. Koiveneumi
Our room was on the corner of the building overlooking the canals on two sides.  When the windows were open,  it was filled with the cacophony of the gondoliers and their customers, since the corner of the canal opposite our room was where the gondolas were loaded, unloaded and tied up for the night.  
Gondolas on the canal from the windows of our room at the Hotel Cavalletto.  Photo by C. Koiveneumi
However, when the windows were closed the room was extremely quiet.  Carl had the single room next door which also overlooked the gondola basin.

That evening we walked through Venice to the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal.  
Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice.  There are shops in the pavilion in the center of the bridge.
Photo by Blomme-McClure
Like the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, it is always packed with tourists.  It is one of only three bridges over the Grand Canal, although there are several tragettos – the wide gondolas that cross the canal on a regular time table.  Since the Rialto is a very high bridge, it affords lovely views of the palazzos lining the canal in both directions.
View from the top of the Rialto Bridge looking up the Grand Canal.  Photo by Blomme-McClure
On the far side of the bridge we found Trattoria alla Madonna (San Polo 594, Venezia, 041.5223824) which had been recommended by a New York friend.  It is in a narrow alleyway off the Fondamenta del Vin which runs along the canal from the end of the bridge and was readily apparent from the line of customers waiting in the alley to be seated.  Apparently it is always packed and anyone who wants to minimize the wait should be there when it opens.  There are no reservations, although some customers appear to get preferential treatment.  The specialty is fish and seafood and all of the varieties that we tried were fresh and delicious.  The prices are reasonable (for Venice) and the service is friendly, but fast paced (not a problem for New Yorkers, but possibly annoying for those accustomed to a more leisurely meal).

After dinner, we took another route back to the Piazza San Marco.  The square is never uncrowded (actually Carl got up early and went jogging several mornings and reported that it was quite peaceful in the early morning).  In the evenings the orchestras of at least four outdoor cafes create an aural competition offering jazz, show tunes, light classical and Venetian (Vivaldi, Scarlatti) music.  The one playing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” received the loudest cheers that evening.  Even with all of the people milling about and the clash of musical styles it is a magical urban space.  

While we were there (the Biennale was in progress) there was site-specific installation called 'Water and Fire' which lit up the second floor windows on the west side of the square.  LED screens alternately showed licking flames of red, orange and yellow and falling water of blue and white.  The square itself was alternately bathed in a warm red glow from the 'fire' and an icy blue glow from the 'water'. 
Basilica of San Marco bathed in light of 'Water and Fire' installation.  Photo by Blomme-McClure
It was a lovely work of site-specific art that brought added uniqueness to an already indelible place.