"We know too many cities to be able to grow into any of them," wrote George F. Kennan, the American diplomat, in "Sketches From a Life" (2000), "and our arrivals and departures are no longer matters for emotional debauches they are too common."
This has not been my experience. A sense of place is an important part of my life. My emotional ties to New York and Venice, the two cities in the world I know best, run deep.
On the day of my departure for Venice, I reaffirm my bond with New York by walking 30 blocks along Fifth Avenue, marveling at the sun-filled streets and grand buildings.
In Venice, from room No. 10 of my pensione, I look on the Giudecca Canal and watch the arrival and departure of ships.
The ships come from Istanbul, Piraeus, Naples, Nice, Barcelona. They bear the names Mistral, Prometheus, Daedalus, and Splendor of the Sea. They are guided by Venetian tugs named Titanus, Hippos, Squalus, Neptune.
Mornings I awaken to the sounds of water lapping against the stone embankment, church bells ringing, and the powerful engines of arriving ships thrumming. I open wide the windows of my room to watch the procession. Some ships are 10 stories high, dwarfing the tallest buildings in Venice.
Smaller craft travel on the Giudecca Canal. Car ferries glide between the mainland and the Lido. Motorboats carry vegetables and fruit. And those workhorses of the Venice transit system, the vaporetti, convey Venetians and visitors around the city.
I board vaporetto No. 82. It follows my favorite route in Venice, crossing the Giudecca Canal, passing along the island of Giudecca by Palladio's church, the Redentore, to the island of San Giorgio with its Palladian church. Then passengers are treated to breathtaking views of the Doge's Palace and the campanile in the Piazza San Marco.
My visit to Venice passes too quickly. The time has come to depart. My bags are packed, the hotel bill paid. I take a last look at the Giudecca Canal.
The church of the Redentore stands in glory, and ships and boats wend their way along the canal. But I won't be here to see them.