Laura Shepard Townsend and Destiny's
Venice in Books A-C
Venice in Books D-K
Venice in Books L-P
Venice in Books Q-Z
Quotations about Venice
Free Venice Beachhead
headlines August 1977-October 1985
30 Years Ago
in the Free Venice Beachhead
Free Venice Beachhead Archives
Beachhead Archives 1982
Beachhead Archives 1983
1914-1916 Part 1
1914-1916 Part 4
1914-1916 Part 5
People of Venice (from Beachhead)
Windward Avenue Articles
Art in the Beachhead
from the Beachhead
From magazines in the
From other print
Tales of the Blue Meanie
by Allan Cole
Another Chapter from
Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole
Venice Historical Society
1969 Police Riots
Jack the Liar
Venice charmingly sabotaged any direct, linear journeys.
....Lions and Gondolas
Laura Shepard Townsend
Lions and Gondolas:
I Love This Book
by Pat Hartman
Lions and Gondolas
is the second of four novels collectively titled Destinys Consent.
Gypsies and Venice, California are just about my favorite
things in the world, especially when they show up in the same book. Lions
and Gondolas is a tale of three immigrant women, refugees whose only
capital consists of a pair of lions.
When the story opens in 1918, Angelica Grastende is already
a veteran trapeze flyer, and her mother is a novice lion trainer. Grandmother
Lena has an intimate relationship with the occult secrets of the world,
as well as a way of making things happen. It is her sly determination
to con a con artist that sets off the unfolding of her familys fate
in the New World.
This novel is soaked in Gypsy lore. Grandmother Lena
describes the Tarot as "the greatest book of all, but purposely left
unbound, so as to be examined from any direction of whim
. Of course! The Tarot as hypertext, predating
the computer by hundreds of years. Im impressed. It isnt every
novel that puts an entirely new thought into my head.
At the same time, Lions and Gondolas is a charming
historical romp through the splendors of Venice past. Starting with a
lyrical description of Angelicas first sight of the Lagoon, it shows
us the annual children's Christmas party at the dance pavilion, the spectacle
of the New Years parade, and the St. Patricks day celebrations,
giving well-deserved recognition to Arthur Reese, the black man who was
The three generations of Romany (Gypsy) women meet the
entrepreneurial genius of Venice, Abbot Kinney, whose eyes are full of
"the fire of passionate dreaming." He is a major character in
this novel, and we become thoroughly familiar with his personality and
Kinney takes a personal interest in Angelicas education,
and being the founders protégé makes a big difference
in her dealings with the various bureaucracies. Entering adolescence,
she tries to dress like the other girls, and changes her name to Anne.
Still there is plentiful criticism, both from those who mark her as an
unwelcome outsider, and from her grandmother who thinks she isnt
At first the three women live near the lagoon in the
Tent City, Kinneys housing solution for lower-income visitors to
his town. But Annes favorite place is tiny United States Island,
where the family later rents a bungalow, although Grandmother Lena of
course continues to sleep beneath the stars.
Lions and Gondolas gives a marvelously detailed
picture of the realities of the influenza epidemic, and flaunts an amazing
amount of arcane knowledge about the craft of the lion wrangler. In such
matters as the circus peoples enmity to the new entertainment medium
of film, it really catches the spirit of the time. And it confronts the
big questions facing not only Venice but the nation: should women have
the vote, and should anyone at all have alcohol?
Though reluctant to allow women access to political power,
the Venice environment is quite willing to let them parade around in scanty
bathing suits with (gasp!) no stockings. Anne finds Venice so compelling,
it even quenches her hearts ancestral wanderlust. She ditches school
and floats around the canals reveling in the lush, botanically ambitious
scenery and its wildlife. Sometimes for variety she mingles with the tourists,
but increasingly she is drawn to Ince Field where she hangs out with the
half-crazed daredevils known as stunt flyers.
Abbot Kinney talks to Anne. He tells her about the persistent
insomnia that brought him to California in search of a cure, and recounts
tales from his adventurous and often hazardous globe-trotting life. The
cultured dreamer reveals his disappointment over how his ideal conception
of an arts mecca has been replaced by the tawdriness of carny - but the
people vote with their wallets, and a raucous midway is what they are
willing to support.
Much depends on whether the reader can buy the relationship
between Angelica/Anne, and Abbot Kinney. Aside from the fact that shes
a pretty teenager, what does he see in her? Obviously, he responds to
her capacity to appreciate Venice in the ways he hoped it would be appreciated.
This counts for a lot with him.
What does Anne see in him? Kinney gives her what she
needs and wants, rather than someone elses idea of what she ought
to need or want. She admires his competent public face and understands
his private concerns. Whether because of his travels, or simply because
it's inherent, his outlook is unlike those of his peers. He has an awareness
of lifes design that is closer to the mindset of the Romany heritage
than to the thought patterns of his own gadge society.
Venices founder was, and the historical evidence
supports this, a proponent of Free Love. Perhaps the most fascinating
aspect of this novel is that he does not seduce Anne. Their relationship
is platonic all the way, although they do frolic in the ocean, surely
a displacement activity to sublimate the sex they dont have. He
also shows her hidden things, secrets not of his body but of his creation,
Venice. It's wonderful to be reminded once in a while that humans can
have non-carnal reasons for caring about each other, and that people of
different ages can relish each other's company, ideas, and thoughts.
Kinney is one of the rare creative types who can handle
the worldly stuff as well as the dreams. But despite his business acumen,
his romantic aspect is probably stronger; as Townsend writes him, anyway.
He sees a manifestation of the ancient deity Venus, which becomes central
to his existence. He says, "This unique Venetian aura is founded
upon her goddess energy."
Anyone familiar with the beat era poetry of Stuart Perkoff
will recall his fixation on the entity he called The Lady. In this novel,
Kinneys visitation is a strange precursor that foreshadows the Venice
Muse meme by half a century.
One of the signs of a relationship (as opposed to, say,
an acquaintance) is that it exists on more than one level. Sometimes on
many levels, and those are the best kind. While the pragmatic side of
Kinney makes Anne his trusted confidante, it may be that her Angelica
self embodies for him that same goddess energy.
So where do they go from here?
Not wanting Kinney to know that she has dropped out of
school, Anne avoids him, but he finds out anyway and obligingly adjusts
to the new reality by assigning classics for her to read and discuss with
him. She takes a job in game concession on the pier, but the idea of flying
airplanes quickly morphs from fanciful notion to steely ambition.
Lions and Gondolas ends with great loss and sadness:
Kinneys death, and the fire which destroys Venice Pier and so much
else. There is also great happiness, as the three women finally connect
with another group of Rom. Although introduced to them by her old name,
Angelica remains apart, more of an Anne that ever. The meeting is momentous
for mother and grandmother, who decide to attach themselves to the travelers
and move on. At fifteen, Anne is old enough to remain in Venice on her
own. Grandmother Lena leaves her with a bungalow full of spells and power
objects, and a sum of money to help her along.
What do we look forward to in Volume 3? Here is a hint.
During the original train journey to coastal California, Angelica and
her family met a Mr. Hughes, who treated them to dinner and paid extravagantly
for a lion exhibition in the baggage car.
P.S. I see Dennis Hopper as Kinney.
the Destinys Consent website!
Destiny's Consent author
Laura Shepard Townsend
the Destinys Consent website
It is a tradition that women
of Rom, when pregnant, were lent objects of supreme beauty to guide the
unborn child to be beautiful.
....Lions and Gondolas