Tuesday questions, Piazza San Marco edition


Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.

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42 Responses

  1. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Great story and good question!

    Generally people who are comfortable in their skin and not doubty doubters like me.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      Which leads to a really interesting question:

      How can doubty doubters be comfortable in their own skins, and can they do so while remaining comfortably themselves?

      (Yes, I say. They can be comfortable doubting that they’re comfortable, for instance.)Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    At the risk of coming off as an arrogant bastard (when do I not risk that, in all honesty), I would very likely have said the same thing. And look forward to doing such in your company!

    One of the hallmarks of Zazzy and my relationship is that we both employ “What is the worst that can happen?” logic… only in completely opposite directions. I am all too willing to chance things under the assumption that one way or another they will turn out well. Or, worst case scenario, we will end up with a good story to tell. Zazzy, on the other hand… well, at current time, she can take pretty much any scenario to the “inevitable conclusion” of Mayo swallowing and choking on a marble*. While I am sometimes frustrated by this side of her, I also recognize it is an important counterbalance for me. And allows me to be more reckless than I might otherwise be. I often will do something highly dangerous with Mayo (360 spin throws!) and call her in to “watch”, secretly hoping she’ll put a stop to it so I don’t have to. The few times she tried to be “cool” with it ended with me yelling, “WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP ME?!?!?!”

    The people who leave me in awe are the people who can leave major life decisions to chance. I’m willing to let a random night go to hell if there is a shot it might turn out awesome. But when I see people who quit their job and fly to Asia for six months just because… well, I’m a bit envious. “What about your job? What about your retirement? How will you manage?” “Eh… we’ll figure it out.” Now, some of those people are situated such that they assume minimal risk… they might have family they can count on for money or something. But still. I have a small picture “Fuck it, let’s just go for it” attitude but envy those who can do the same with a big picture view.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      It is a hallmark of your good sense and judgement that your “good stories” do not end in jail. Or assaulted. Or causing international incidents.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Well, I am sure there are other factors at play (i.e., being a relatively clean cut, well-spoken white guy).

        At this point, things are generally much tamer. For instance, we might be checking into a hotel and I might ask, “Any shot at a free room upgrade?” I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? They say no, right?


        I also just realized I didn’t address my earlier asterisk. Zazzy has an irrational fear of Mayo choking to death on a marble. This despite the fact that there has never been a marble in our house during the entirety of the time we have lived there and I’m not sure we ever had a marble in any of our prior places of residence. It stemmed from a conversation we had shortly before he was born. “How am I going to drive alone with him in the car?”
        “What do you mean?”
        “Well, what if he starts choking?”
        “What could he possibly choke on? He’s strapped into a car seat. So long as we don’t put choking hazards into the car seat, he’ll be fine.”
        “What if a marble falls through the window?”

        At this point, “marbles” has become our shorthand for her expressing a difficult-to-articulate concern about him.
        “I’m going to bring Mayo to John’s with me.”
        “What? NO!”
        “Err.. arg… um… marbles!”
        Unsurprisingly, her mama-spidey sense is actually pretty solid. I need that.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I know a guy who helps idiots (okay, friends) get out of trouble.
        White, black, it don’t matter much.

        From him, I hear: “Don’t leave dishwasher on while you’re out. it might catch fire.”
        “Don’t buy Haribo Sugar Free Gummi Bears. If you do buy, eat very slowly”
        “My friend’s dog exploded his house. That insurance claim’s gonna suck.”
        etc. etc. etc.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Re: Harry’s Bar. Many frequenters of such places describe it as overrated. I wouldn’t know; I avoided it when I was in Venice. I would have avoided eating anywhere near Piazza San Marco could I have helped it, because, as a general rule, the closer you are to a very touristy place, the greater the likelihood of (raccontano di orrore!) encountering actual bad food.

    (In fact, my wife of six days was very hungry and very cranky and I was a little bit too, so we had a more moderately-priced snack at a cafe a block away, and it was every bit as poxy as I had sourly predicted it would be before my wife said “I want to eat RIGHT NOW” and I was too scared of her to veto the idea of eating there. It was the first bad non-airplane meal we’d had since we got married and we did much better the next day at the roadside cafeteria on the autostrada for half the price.)

    So I’m pretty sure that you actually weren’t missing all that much. I read on Wikipedia that a bowl of minestrone will set you back €20. The website itself does not post prices for its menu. Maybe this is orgasmically good minestrone. Or maybe it’s just bean soup mixed with reputation. Don’t worry about it. Lots of good food to be had in Venice, at much more reasonable prices. We stumbled in to some great places in the Cannaregio — awesome seafood prepared in local styles. If I recall correctly, it’s this place.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Oh yea… if we’re discussing Venice…

      My mom took me to Harry’s. That’s how she rolls. We had drinks. It was cool but not the sort of place I’d pay the price it cost to be there.

      I saw three major Italian cities (Venice, Florence, Rome) and one small coastal town (Grado). Venice was my least favorite of the four. It felt the most tourist trap-y and I found the food, while still good, to not hold a candle to the other places. Venice is what it has always been… a merchant’s town. I found the history and mishmash of cultures fascinating and there is a unique beauty and specter to the place. But Florence was far more my speed, what with the history and the food and the art. Ooooooh, the food.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      LeeEsq and I had some great meals in Venice. One place had a brilliant lobster spaghetti.
      I can’t remember the name but there was a restaurant that served historical food from Venice. Dishes that were popular in the 16th century, etc.

      Though I still think Tuscany is best for Italian food. I loved all the food I ate in Tuscany.Report

  4. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Re: heroes. There’s about a dozen lawyers who illustrated to me how to combine assertiveness for the client with a advocacy for justice in a broad sense, who taught me not to apologize for my clients or to buy in to the other party’s narratives, but to demonstrate that they were in the right not just legally but morally. For a 24-year-old with a freshly-minted license, those role models were important to me.

    Another lawyer who helped out with a tough issue that arose early in my career both dispensed the advice and demonstrated how to follow the advice of “walk away from something that doesn’t smell right.” Still another lawyer challenged me to look at the people I was working for and to ask myself if I really believed in the same things that they did, if I wanted to attach my name to what my clients were doing. That lawyer’s advice prodded me to step out of the “tribe” I was in, and to start deciding for myself what I was doing.

    And it sounds corny, but my wife (the same one who guided us to what must have been the worst restaurant in Venice) also inspired me and showed me how to do things that are aimed at creating happiness, not just making money or racking up some other kind of point. On that same honeymoon, she put her foot down to her husband of eight days, and said “We will not see San Gimignano, Volterra, Chianti, and Siena all in one day. You will pick one of those and that’s the only place we’re going and we’re going to spend the entire day there.” (It was Volterra, and it was before those silly vampire books, and everything about it was delightful.) My wife’s done some other fairly brave things in the past to pursue happiness even knowing that some other parts of her life would have to give way. But she’s reminded me, and often continues to remind me, that happiness must be a powerful factor in life choices.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog says:

      Maybe corny, but necessary – if your spouse doesn’t inspire admiration, show you who you’d like to be – you probably married wrong, no?Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Perhaps you, like me at the time, would have stared in mute horror at the prices.

    “Psst, Russell. Those are in lire.”Report

    • Awesome.

      (The prices were, however, in euros.)Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      In Latakia, Syria, I had an incredible fish dinner at an open-air restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean. In Damascus I’d been eating street food at about 150 pounds a pop. The tab in Latakia came to 1,000 pounds, and I had a moment of sheer panic at what I had done to my budget. Then I did the calculations–50 pounds to the dollar–and realized I’d had the best seafood meal of my entire life for 20 bucks.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        I had the same thing in reverse. When I was in Prague on business, I went to a casino one night and won thousands of koruna at roulette. It was a real letdown when I realized that was about 60 bucks.Report

  6. Avatar Kim says:

    Eating expensive is best done in a place where labor is cheap, or where food is done in bulk.
    Las Vegas or Puerto Rico (there’s a few places in pittsburgh that aren’t bad).

    But, when all else fails, go where the locals go.Report

  7. Avatar Chris says:

    tell us about someone who showed you a little bit of who you’d like to be

    As I would say to you if we were speaking in person: All y’all mother fishers! (Meant affectionately.)

    Seriously, though. Particularly those of you who don’t casually cuss as much as I do ;). Or use emoticons in comment.Report

  8. Avatar Pinky says:

    Too open-ended. Too many to list.Report

  9. Avatar Maribou says:

    There are a lot of answers to this question for me.

    The first one who sprung to mind was my junior high band teacher. He knew how to be his real, personal, often crude self AND stay inside the boundary lines of being a teacher, perfectly, both things, which is rare. Plus he genuinely cared about all of us, even the obnoxious ones. I often think of him when I am training a student worker, or having to figure out how to get down to brass tacks with them.Report

  10. Avatar Stephen M. Stillman says:

    Russell, your story reminded me that, 3 years ago, my wife and I were right there at Harry’s, specifically to order Bellinis, a peach-flavored sparkling wine drink that was invented at Harry’s. Anyhow, before we could be seated, we looked at a menu and saw the outrageous prices. We were torn by the approach-avoidance conflict because we don’t like to waste money on the one hand, but on the other hand, we have also learned that it’s often better to spend the extra money than to miss out on what might be a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I think we learned this on our own from several occasions when we later regretted taking the cheap route. Nevertheless, when making our quick decision about Bellinis at Harry’s, it was so pricey, and the reward seemed sort of minor, so we did cheap out on that one.Report

  11. Avatar zic says:

    I have a friend, she’s a sculptor. When we met, she was working her way through school cutting hair. She cut my hair for many years while we still lived in the same city, even when she had risen to the job of a top administrator in the school she attended. (She now runs a very famous school for sculptors.)

    After my first kid was born, we went to her house/studio for dinner one night, kid in tow. And as is the way with kids, he was into everything. And instead of freaking out about it, I got the single best lesson in fostering creativity I’ve ever had. She had stuff everywhere, rocks, sticks, feathers, what not, for use in her work; not to mention the paper and drawing implements common to artists. She let him look about, and when she saw the thing he kept coming back to over and over, she gave it to him. A jar full of sand dollars. And together, the built things with them; they colored on them. The broke them. They made prints with them. We all did.

    We were the first of our circle of friends to have children, and a good many of those friendships didn’t withstand the change in our lives. I haven’t seen this particular friend for many, many years; though we’re still in touch. I have followed her work — beautiful sculptures, often weighing tons, that balance and move in the wind or with the lightest touch. And I’ve kept that lesson — what keeps drawing the eyes and curiosity, and how can I use that to spur creation.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      “And instead of freaking out…”

      It amazes me how quickly people will freak out around children. I don’t expect everyone to have the talent your friend demonstrated — and obviously I have some biases here — but it does really stand out to me that some people seem to lack even a basic understanding of children and how to act in their midst. I wonder how we can improve on this…Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        that’s really only something you learn by exposure and doing, though, right?

        also people are weird about their kids. we’re always wary and overly apologetic around other parents because we have one of them “spirited” kids and he can be kinda uh yeah. very friendly – especially with strangers – but also very uh yeah sometimes.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Some people are merely klutzes, and hate being around kids for fear of unexpectedly falling/tripping on one.

        In a house, the obvious thing to do is sit down, but it’s far from obvious what to do in publicReport

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        I would say yes and no with regards to exposure. I’ve seen people who will tolerate all sorts of noise from an adult on, say, a crowded bus. But as soon as a kid starts yapping, suddenly they can’t handle it. For whatever reason, some people give more latitude to “bad” behavior from adults than children, even though common sense dictates just the opposite. Exactly how you might respond will vary and that is where experience can come into play. But some people freeze at the sight of children. They gatherings of children as their own personal hell. I don’t understand it.

        Our little one (10.5 months) is shaping up to be a highly spirited little guy. And a very loud one. But also incredibly good natured. Right now, most people think it’s adorable. But he might have a rocky road ahead of him if it continues.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:


        “For whatever reason, some people give more latitude to “bad” behavior from adults than children, even though common sense dictates just the opposite.”

        adults might pop off and kill you. children, less so.

        also large gatherings of kids can be cacophonous to an unsettling degree. there’s a lot to take in, a lot of ad hoc self-directed ludic play, violent confrontation and resolution taking place in the span of minutes or seconds, etc. it’s pretty nuts. i’ve done a party chaperone gig at the kid’s pre-school and it was an interesting experience that i was probably not well prepared for, though i do read stories better than anyone else, apparently. (if pre schoolers were yelpers, i’d have five stars)

        also some parents are absolutely chuckleheaded about their kids, and – as you are no doubt incredibly aware of to a painful degree – being a dude around small kids requires having an extra set of defenses built in because all it takes is one unhinged npr mommy yelling CHILD MOLESTER to fuck up your life forever.

        is that paranoid? yes. is it a sad commentary? yes. but is it unwise? i couldn’t truthfully tell someone that it’s entirely unwarranted.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        All good points, @dhex . There are many legitimate reasons why people would prefer the company of adults to children. What concerns me more is the people that see a 7-year-old quietly eating his meal three tables over and somehow allow it to ruin their meal. The mere idea of children seems unsettling to them.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @kazzy what always gets me is the reaction to crying babies on planes.

        I have no tolerance for people who get upset about a baby crying as the plane descends from 30,000. I want to cry, too. Intolerant bastards.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:


        “What concerns me more is the people that see a 7-year-old quietly eating his meal three tables over and somehow allow it to ruin their meal. The mere idea of children seems unsettling to them.”

        technically speaking, those people are whiny jackasses. if someone wants to control their sensory field to that degree, they should stay home. i’m not sure we have a degree path for “getting over oneself” but devry should get to work on that.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        I think I’ve told this story before, but once on a long flight, a baby started to cry at the very end, when we were waiting on the runway. It was otherwise silent the entire time. After a few minutes, someone piped up, “Someone quiet that baby!”

        Another voice followed: “You be quiet! It’s a baby. What’s your excuse?”

        Maybe not a degree, but perhaps a freshmen-level course at most colleges? What say thee, @jm3z-aitch ?Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @kazzy that’s a perfect demonstration of Russel’s question.

        I wish I’d been that person who spoke up to the whiner.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        to be fair (somewhat) to the jerk, a baby crying is weaponized brain scrambling for most humans, even those who like babies.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I will actually say that I think the response was sub-ideal. I can imagine a host of legitimate reasons why the initial yeller did not deserve to be berated. Or, more precisely, had reasons to be bothered by the crying. I actually credit our very own Rose Woodhouse for helping me move beyond making such assumptions.

        I don’t know that it necessarily excuses his initial outburst. If the crying bothered him to the point of needing to seek remedy, he should have pursued more reasonable means.

        Of course, if he was just being a petulant jerk, well, you reap what you sow.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:


        That’s a subtext in most of my classes.

        Also, if I dare say so, in many of my conversations with colleagues.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:


        “If the crying bothered him to the point of needing to seek remedy, he should have pursued more reasonable means.”

        his choices were basically
        a) put on headphones, crank pig destroyer
        b) put up with it
        c) jump out of plane mid-flight
        d) be, ironically, a baby about the situationReport

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        I’m thinking bigger picture. If you know you are someone who struggles with babies crying, you should plan on how you’ll respond on a long flight that might have one present. As you note, headphones. Ear plugs. Talking with a flight attendant in advance about a possible seat change. Again, this is if you have something that makes your response atypical and necessitating accommodation.

        If you just don’t like being annoyed? Eh… stay home.Report

  12. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    A previous mentor had the gift of leading people to their own right answers. Someone said it so well at her funeral. You never felt like she was judging you. She was everyone’s best friend. Oh boy, you should have heard her laugh. 🙂Report