Wishing to see if the pensione still existed,rnI set out one morning from the PiazzarnSan Marco, where, as usual, fatuouslyrnsmiling tourists were havingrnthemselves photographed with hopefulrnpigeons perched on their arms, shoulders,rnand even heads —it does not takernmuch, in this peanut-producing age, tornmake of one an ersatz Francis of Assisi —rnand headed for the Riva degli Schiavoni.rnBeyond the top-heavy Palazzo Ducale,rnwith its squat arcade pillars, I had troublernpushing my way up and over the marblelinedrnsteps of the first arched bridge,rnfrom which dozens of camera-wieldersrnwere jostling each other in desperate effortsrnto “snap” a view of the ornately coveredrnBridge of Sighs.rnI moved on past the familiar russet facadernof the Hotel Danieli, with its narrowrnGothic windows, where GeorgernSand and her 23-year-old Alfred spent arnfateful “honeymoon” (which ended inrndisaster), and where in more recentrntimes Ernest Hemingway spent severalrnmonths writing one of his worst novels.rnThe venerable hostelry seemed muchrnthe same, although — po/ftesse des richesrnoblige—it had developed a large whiternannex, surmounted by a penthousernrestaurant where those who can affordrnthe prices can enjoy a fine panoramicrnview of the lagoon.rnSure enough, not far beyond it was myrnold friend, the Pensione Wildner, whosernsomewhat seedy exterior was now enhancedrnby an outdoor restaurant coveredrnby a large green awning. But what inrnthe meantime had happened to the Rivarndegli Schiavoni? The sense of spacernonce offered to leisurely strollers hadrncompletely disappeared. Instead, a seriesrnof booths now lined the middle ofrnthe broad promenade, exhibiting every-rnLIBERAL ARTSrnIT’S TRUE BECAUSErnI SAY IT ISrn”When the first lady complains of arnright-wing conspiracy, it rings truerneven though there is little or no evidencernthat right-wingers have donernanything.”rn—Ted Koppel on Nightline, quotedrnin Media Reality Check, a publicationrnof the Media Research Centerrnthing from brightly lettered T-shirts (Ricardo,rnAngelina, Luigi, and of coursern”Venezia”) to cheap scarfs, garish postcards,rnminiature trinkets, and imitationrncarnival masks—in short, the kind of bargain-rnbasement bric-a-brac which souvenir-rnhunters now insist on taking homernas proof that they really made it to this orrnthat tourist mecca. But even more dismayingrnwas to find that one could nowrnhardly see the elegant flagstones of thisrnonce proud promenade. They had morernor less disappeared beneath a slowlyrnmoving mass of gym shoes, boots, bluernjeans, and shapeless pantaloons worn byrnthe kind of hatless, tieless, skirtless rabblernwhich now unconcernedly parades itsrnunkempt sloppiness everywhere—fromrnthe waterfront of San Francisco to the sacredrngrottos of Lourdes.rnPerhaps my trouble is that, like Baudelaire,rnI have read too many books. Nostalgia,rnlike all romantic moods, can easilyrnbecome a pleasure-spoiling ailment asrnwell as a distorting mirror of the past.rnThose who—and I confess that I am onernof them—secretly regret the passing ofrnthe horse-and-buggy age must take tornheart what Jane Jacobs, in The Economyrnof Cities, had to say about life as it was reallyrnlived in 19th-century London orrnParis. The streets reeked of horse dungrnand urine; every time it rained the pedestriansrnwere splattered by mud; and, asrnreaders of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair mayrnrecall, the sound of metal rims rollingrnover cobbles was so grating and unpleasantrnthat straw was often strewn in front ofrndoorways to soften the noise made byrnpassing carriage-wheels.rnWe should similarly beware of overidealizingrnthe rosy image we may havernformed of 18th-century Venice, immortalizedrnfor us in the geometrically precisernpaintings of Canaletto and the lovelyrncanal and seascapes of Francesco Guardi.rnVenice was then a still prosperousrncity of 200,000 souls, whereas today itsrnpopulation has dwindled to 70,000. It isrnromantic fancy to imagine that its narrowrnstreets and its 400 bridges were notrnoften crowded and thus radically differentrnfrom the idyllic vision so many 18thcenturyrnartists and engravers have left usrnof beautifully uncluttered Europeanrnsquares graced by one or two horsedrawnrncarriages and several untioubledrnstrollers armed with canes and parasols.rnThis said, of one thing I am certain: therncrowds in Casanova’s or Canaletto’srnVenice were certainly far better dressedrnthan the mass of itinerant vagabonds onernnow sees on the Piazza San Marco andrnthe Riva degli Schiavoni at the height ofrnthe tourist season. Or, for that matter, onrnthe Champs-Elysees in Paris, whichrnonce prided itself on its vestimentary elegance.rnFor soon, at the present dizzyingrnrate of free-and-easy “progress,” the onlyrnwell-dressed people left in the Westernrnworld will be head-waiters and thernconcierges of posh hotels.rnOurs is, among other things, the Agernof the Instant: instant coffee, instantrn”knowledge,” fast food, faster fornicationrn(generously supplied by many TV channels).rnIt is also the Age of InstantrnTourism. 1 do not say—of instant travel.rnFor, as Andre Malraux once noted on anrnunpublished slip of paper, “Tourism is torntravel what prostitution is to love.”rnA century and a half ago any Englishman,rnFrenchman, or German wishing tornsee the pyramids of Egypt, the greatrnmosques of Istanbul, or the temples ofrnthe Peloponnesus had to endure a weekrnor more of rough sailing to reach thernlonged-for destination. During that periodrnthose hardy travelers had plenty ofrntime to work up a high degree of anticipationrnprior to the magic momentrnwhen —for Byron, Chateaubriand, andrnLamartine, for example—the minaretsrnand dome of the Sulimaniye, of the SultanrnAhmed mosque, and of HagiarnSophia emerged slowly from the Sea ofrnMarmora like a watery mirage. The ineffablernpleasure then experienced wasrnenhanced by the obstacles and dangersrnthey had had to overcome to reach therndistant city, the dimly surmised unpromisedrnland beyond the seas. Theirsrnwas the happiness that is vouchsafed tornthe courageous, when it comes not as arngratuitous gift but as a well-earned recompensernfor risks taken and hardshipsrnendured.rnEvery time I read or hear a new announcementrninforming us that the internationalrnairport of this or that great cityrnurgently needs to be expanded and itsrnrunways doubled in order to absorb anrnever-increasing volume of human traffic,rnI experience a sinking of the heart. Inrnthis age of facility—the unnamed god tornwhich all industrial and postindustrialrnactivity now pays instinctive homage—rntravel agencies, like airlines, municipalrnauthorities, and governments, combinerntheir efforts to lessen the time needed tornget from one place to another. They thusrneradicate the temporal dimension of psychologicalrnexpectation which, like goodrnwine and so much else in life, needs timern36/CHRONICLESrnrnrn