December 2, 2007

per natale

Well, I leave in three days again for Italy. This will be the last time I can go before I hang and write my thesis in the spring. I plan to video and photograph, and I hope to make audio tracks.

Waiting for me are countless pizzas, pastries, gelatos, caffès, and kisses.

This will be my first Natale in Italy.

November 30, 2007

La Gonna

skirt floating in a windy day upon monte solaro, anacapri, IT. august 2007

November 15, 2007


selfishly, i would like to remind you that i do have prints for sale at my etsy account.


you can support my small bank account, that could certainly use help!
in fact, all images on my flickr account are available, just email me with something you'd like printed, and i can negotiate a price. I hate to be salesy on my blog, but I gotta get the word out somehow.



(a story from a while back)
Last night I went to a show. The bass player just oozes "Euro" and I'm weak in the knees. He's really not that attractive, but he is euro so who cares? He's jazzing about in this smoke-free Columbus establishment. And here he suddenly appears with a cigarette dangling from his lips. Yes, he is for sure euro now, with his disregard for rules and overly indulgent habit of smoking. And here I am in the middle of the floor, front and center watching this guy. But instead I'm watching you roll your own cigarettes. And now I can smell what I hate so much, and I'm yearning it. How you make small cigarettes, "not strong like company made." Just a little pinch of English tobacco in your short, thin Rizla papers. You even use filters. What the hell for??? And my mind works like ping pong: everything I think returns to me with you. And bassman is still prancing about with his dangling cigarette, granny ash and all. Except now it's euro ash from the euro man who is so cool he doesn't care about rules or health. He doesn't even care that he's in the middle of a performance. Instead, he keeps looking suave, poofing away. How did I get to be so googly eyed and enraptured with all this silliness?

I know exactly your perfume when I arrive in two months.

double vision

October 8, 2007


tomatoes, basil, sweet pepper, feta


me:on saturday i read online that i cannot apply for dual citizenship.
you: but why not??? you are italian rachel!! you can trace your lineage!
me: ha! i know. but SILLY great grandma was born a woman!! oopsies. that's right folks. my ancestor is a woman AND (gasp) immigrated as a minor. apparently girls are citizens of nowhere.
you: fuck that shit.
me: i know, bummer big time. so instead of being super mad and steaming all day i made some awesome pasta.
you: cool, what was in it?
sauteed squash, sweet onions, greek olives, and parmesean.

October 1, 2007


ave, o maria, piena di grazia.

sono piena con i ringraziamenti.

lo sai perché. non devo spiegare.

cara italia, grazie per tutto.

September 22, 2007


you're always there, aren't you?

September 6, 2007

"stai tranquilla"

ho perso le parole, infatti. "triste" non é parola giusta. forse "manca" invece. mi manca tutto. tutto di la. l'estate ha finito. devo ritornare. non voglio dire niente. solo voglio sentire l'italiano.

August 3, 2007


i'm a little buzzed, and there's a family meeting i'm avoiding. one on the bedroom with the women, where nonna lies down. one in the kitchen with the men. i've been on the computer a while now, checking various websites, prolonging social engagement. and i began to listen to the noises behind me. the music of the language. how this doesn't sound strange anymore, even though i understand nothing from a distance. only the voices, who is who. the rhythmic flow. the punctuated syllables. and the sigh my heart gives, the comfort that swims in my body, when i tune in to the language.

if you are ever able to find it, i highly recommend:
montefalco rosso (sagrantino grape).

August 1, 2007



i have returned to naples. how i had missed it. up early to do the laundry and the dishes. waking up next to someone and a morning kiss with that awful morning breath. this time i don’t care. a few nights ago it was a full moon and the moonlight reflected off of vesuvio, bouncing between the clouds and the volcano, so close together. the moonlight did not reach the city. perhaps the clouds and vesuvio were too selfish; they kept it to themselves. i returned to a full moon, an empty refrigerator, a scared family, a very sick woman, and spaghetti with tuna. apparently vegetarianism is too difficult for some to accept.

i’m a little afraid to write. ideas bounce in my head all the time, but writing sounds scary these days. i’m either too tired, or i’ve forgotten the words in english. the computers here are PCs and very volatile. at any time, they will crash, infected with viri and technologically retarded users. but this isn’t what i want to talk about. what did i want to say?

anticipating grief. how do we do this? how do I do it? i have an amazing ability to detach myself, or attach, depending on what i want to do. for as “crazy” and unorganized as we pin italians to be, there’s so much regularity that i’ve fallen into. every morning at 8:20 am, i am awoken by who i call “the crazy man” with the scruffy voice who sells a variety of fresh food from his truck, yelling into a microphone/intercom type system. no word is recognizable, even to fabio. the view from annamaria’s hospital window is of the entire città. the airport, the sea, the port, tutte le case, capodimonte, vesuvio…. if i do not eat pasta at least once every 24 hours, i begin withdrawl symptoms. the ubiquity of bra straps, cleavage, and undergarment type situations in general in plain sight. crowded public transportation and the measurement of personal space. never silence, never peace; sempre caos, sempre confusione. and a hunger for solitude.


today i’m wearing a bra that shows. the color of my bra does not match the color of my tank top or my skirt. today i feel like i fit in just a little more. or maybe it’s just that i will not stand out as much.

July 16, 2007

le foto per voi

a crazy city. most of the time i'm too tired to write, and most of my life is still on film.

spazzatura (fabio)
but i can share a few digital images for now.

the hospital is a presence every day of our lives, but sometimes we have free time for play....
(di fabio)

in the garden after analysis at the ospedale

my shower

i currently care for fabio's family in any way that i can. contemplating the death/life of a spouse has rendered sergio exhausted and almost functionless. i cook and do laundry nearly everyday. but one morning sergio woke me to tell me fabio was at the hospital and my breakfast was on the table.

(di fabio)

July 3, 2007

giorni strani

These days have been strange. How long have I been here? I’ve already forgotten, but I have already attended a presentation on a cruise ship, slept and not slept at the appropriate hours, had countless caffés, attended a terrible Blues Brothers style concert in the piazza, and attended a funeral. Ciro’s father has been sick; in fact, in the same ospedale as la madre di Fabio, and now he is morte. Yesterday I met Fabio alle 10 at La Rinascente on via Toledo to go to the cruise ship to find out if he won the premiazione di letteratura. He did not. Allora, another girl did, not because she had the love for literature, but because her mother wanted to win a cruise. Typical. The night before I got little sleep. Fabio had to stay to his father, leaving me alone in a room that fills with noise every night from the street below and no peace. After we left the port, we went straight away for a quick pizza and to meet Alessandra. She bought flowers for Ciro and we proceeded to the church. And for a man I did not know, I cried. I watched Ciro stare solemnly at the casket that held his father, laid in the middle of the aisle. I watched two women sob so completely that they could not walk out of the church without assistance. And I watched Fabio sit quietly, knowing that his mother is dying, though only occasionally is it mentioned. Later, Fabio and I discussed and silently mourned our own “impossible situation”. He returned to his father, and I cried for myself selfishly. I went out with Mirko, hoping some fresh air and walking would help. We found a bookstore, and I got some dinner: a loaf of bread, 100 g of mozzarella di bufala, e 3 pomodori. I made a make-shift caprese salad and read Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet.” I am quite sure that with every bite of mozzarella I committed yet another sin; the taste was like nothing I’ve had before. Mirko taught me how to keep mozzarella: not in the refrigerator as in gli stati uniti.

I am nearly 100% positive that the woman who breastfeeds and begs on the street is the same as last year. I think she is also wearing the same outfit, or at least, quite similar. The child is now one year older. Today a woman grabbed me with a plea. I spun away, confused. I do not yet know Napolitan. The people here look varied, and I wonder what they see in me. Straight across the street (10-20 m), there is a nice old man who comes to his balcony often. Sometimes I wave. Below and across is a man who sits as his window often, smoking. I watched as he put some thing in a basket, tied it to a string, and flung it across the street, as the person on the other end of the rope surely pulled the basket into their window to retrieve the item. Ancient, yet still genius. From my balcony, I have the piazetta, Vesuvio, the sea, and the streets. Across the piazetta is an old woman with a large balcony. She brings out a towel to rest her arms upon, as she plans to stand and watch for more than just a few minutes. At 1 am I go back to the balcony: the trashmen have come to collect, two men replace a street light bulb, a woman below the old woman comes out to watch the men work, and another below me hangs clothes on the line.

And if I photograph this, who will I appear to be? So I don’t for now. I remind myself that I don’t care what I appear like when I photograph in the United States. I do not photograph as a tourist there. So, why should I be so overly concerned here? Maybe with the right attitude, I’ll blend in completely. Maybe this year there is less to marvel at. It’s a little more familiar, and it’s not so bizarre. But I haven’t wanted to photograph anything for quite some time now. It was only in Fabio that I had the need to record images. We meet tonight at Piazza Dante alle 7. I will meet his father. I will stay in the family home. I must decide what to cook.

June 29, 2007


in europe the planes are noisy. especially on the way to italy. they talk talk talk. get up to find one another, stand in the aisles and talk.
i want to desperately to converse. i stink and it's obvious.
the wine is a bordeaux. i watch the man next to me drink, contemplating the label. i watch how he pours: only after he's emptied the glass, which he pours only a small way full. i do the same. itàs not very good. i imagine myself saying "che buono, si o no?" i imagine him saying, "no." i imagine myself laughing. "è francese." that way they know i'm on their side. i'm on the inside.

June 17, 2007


closer and closer to leaving, arriving, and i think of paolo. i think about what we actually are now: the past, a memory, a fond one. above paolo's bed are bookshelves that hang from the wall. an assortment of disorganized radical literature. on the edges, though, are his memories: various items saved from "ex-girls." he calls his past relationships his "stories." i found a picture that i did not even recognize as him, a teddy bear with a heart, these kinds of things. i left three items:
1. a rose that he bought me from a street vendor that i did not want. "--but he's my new friend!!" cries paolo, always striving to help those without privilege in roma.
2. a box of crappy condoms. in fact, i think they were made to sit on shelves, not actually be used/worn. when tabbacchi close at night, there is a vending machine outside the door for important things, such as crappy condoms.
3. a headscarf. my favorite, in fact. day three was the wine-drunk blackout extravaganza in which i met paolo, my designated driver. apparently i took off my headscarf when i was puking on paolo's foot and handed it to him. he kept this, setting it by his nightstand to remember me, which i did not know or believe until later.

paolo bought two rolls of film for his ancient no-bells-and-whistles-point-and-shoot camera. he looked at me often through the eye piece. we went to siena. he took about ten photographs of the campo, in almost the same exact position. what did he see? he photographed me extensively, whether i was paying attention or not. i have one photograph of us together, from my film, and a few of him alone.
fabio writes to me this morning that he photographed his day trip to roma. he says he will show me when i arrive. and i wonder about how these men envision their surroundings. what is it like when magical things become common day scenery? is it capable for them to feel the wonder and magic that i feel there? i play visions over and over in my head and i know i must capture them.
i have a future now, and a past to collect.

May 28, 2007

uno mese

exactly one month from today, i will see you. i will touch you. and you will feed me.
a long time coming, and my passion still burns.
mi fai sorriso. mi fai felice. non c'è niente (nessuno) più che vorrei.
allora, sto aspettando....

May 21, 2007

perchè non capite?

it seems quite a few are having a hard time grasping my ideas. and the problem is that my work makes so perfect sense to me, i do not understand the confusion others have and thus have a hard time explaining to non-believers. my ideas are shared with fabio; they are so innate in fabio's life that i find perhaps his words much more eloquent than my own:

28 gennaio:
Tell me about you and your art. Is
it the same art and live? Yes, of course and fighting to eat when with
art you can have [no - rj] money, and so more an more art is life and there is
nothing to smile about this.

19 febbraio:
And i am italian, Rachel! and you - Rachel - are American,
old power and new power touching in us, in our way to have art in our possibility to live.
I want to touch your artistic way to connect reality,
confusing languages,
grammatical way to write,
mixing ourlanguage
and language of man are many and so fusing visual and lips,
and voice too
putting in the fascination of your photos in which the body could talk –
your blu body fragmented in blu pieces is the imagine of this new millennium –
and building bridge between our reality – and they are not so much differents.
Because there is no more straight road
because there is no more unity
but just fragments and pieces and I feel the bloody in veins rivering when we put together the different fragment of our art over the ocean between us.

24 febbraio:
i am
looking for
to see
coul be
my artistic way
with another
that is
in a room
is not art
is just
stupid narcisism
for this reason
i say
there is nosense
in world
and for this
to create
what we want
for us
it is
the story
of infinity
no center
so everypalce
in the same moment
the center
and the oppost of it
the only
thing to do
to give
our sense

my art is not just about becoming italian, becoming who makes me happy, this is life, a way to living, a means of understanding; simply: communication. this is everything. or at least an attempt to know everything. through confusion.

May 19, 2007

la tua forza

quando penso al tutto che è terribile nel mondo, sono molto triste. penso alla tua forza. e uso la tua forza perchè lo so che dobbiamo combattere.

May 9, 2007

a revisit

i had forgotten what happens in the summer.
today i made summer salad, which i haven't made in probably years.
i had forgotten that when i chop fresh tomatoes and basil that my fingernails turn color. that my fingers, for the rest of the day, smell like basil, olive oil, and tomatoes. and that no amount of washing with soap will diminish this aroma. and the stain remains.
i had forgotten that the flavor of plain pasta itself is divine. and that the first sip of red wine heals all.

rachel's summer salad
farfalle pasta
fresh mozzarella
fresh roma tomatoes
fresh basil
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

cook, chop, and mix.

May 7, 2007

(ma... dove siamo??)

qui, qui, certo!

(e anche)

"there's someting about the Italian language or at least the Neapolitan dialect that makes it so I can understand it very well---"

Naples Oct – 29 – 1889

Dear Father

This morning when I awakened on looking out of my port we were just coming to Ischia the island where a few years ago occurred such an earthquake as has seldom happened to any place it is about fie miles long & very rocky & mountainous in character. We had not long to wait ‘till old Vesuvius & the bay of Naples hove in sight & I truly agree with the Neapolitans in the well-worn phrase “see Naples & then die” for truly it is like a fairy-tale to enter the bay of Naples on a clear morning – on the right looms up Vesuvius the most ideal of volcanoes over 4000 ft high & further on the heights of Sorrento (where I expect to live) & a little further on the right the Island of Capri – on the left is Naples – she dots the hills like jewels against a blue sea & hilly background – one hears much about beauty of the bay of Naples but truly it is simply impossible to tell of this place – one must see it – it is like a dreamland & Naples itself is not disappointing.

. . . . .

George R. Barse, Jr.

May 6, 2007


last night i had a bad time. i'm sitting in line at the bathroom in the northstar cafe and realize i have absolutely no desire to be here. non voglio essere qui. i watched them; i listened. ma sono stanca parlare inglese. sometimes i'm incredulous, sometimes it's overwhelming.

questa è capodimonte. qui, io posso essere in pace. posso vedere caravaggio nel silenzio. non c'è tempo. non c'è preoccupazione. solo la pace. e è vabbene essere da sola e pensare. sospiro.....

May 3, 2007

il sogno

La notte scorsa ho sognato ero al Capri. Le spiagge erano sabbiose e ho nuotato senza paura. Ti ho chiamato da un telecom telefono con mia carta telefonicha e la tua voce eri confortante (è sempre). Abbiamo progettato a incontrare. Adesso, non posso dormire perchè io penso solo dell tuo tocco. Eri vicino nel mio sogno.

April 30, 2007


past/present/future. nothing as beautiful.

and those older tell me maria was always fun. women would have braids in their hair by the end of the day. they tell me she was madly in love; devoted. she was beautiful. like i cannot even describe. she had good legs, even in her 80s.

the greatest compliment was that i resemble my namesake. i can only strive each and every day to be the maria i am to be.
con amore.

April 29, 2007

therapy dinner

it had been a while since i last cooked anything specifically "italian." i've been in a slump, and often if i'm not happy, i do probably the worst thing i can do: not cook. i lose motivation, even though i realize if i'd just put in my 30 minutes to an hour, i'd be happy again, eating something so delectable. so here we are:

on the inside is this:

and also grated parmesean (with part of the knuckle of my thumb).

make yourself happy too!!

i don't know what i will do this summer without this book. maybe i'll be better having to ask the locals.

April 17, 2007

$5,000 tradimento

i can be a strong caprese girl, too. i have the proof.

April 13, 2007

The Secret

there is one painting i haven't seen in person. there is one painting i want. it was a sketch for the painting, the secret. my grandparents have the secret; it's unfinished and rather eerie. the pastel sketch is what i want.

and in one swift move, at the cost of four grand, my cousin, nina marie, betrayed the bernardo and barse family entirely. selling to strangers at an art dealer house.

1. that's fucking insane. not one person in our family has any desire to be rid of the paintings of my family and capri.
2. let's just say someone was insane and wanted to get rid of the art. the LEAST someone could do, the DECENT thing to do is to first offer the artwork to family.
3. i mean who does not understand the family consensus that we want the art to stay in the family? i thought this was perfectly clear. i've known this for as long as i was cognizant of what the paintings were.

why do i continually feel that my access to my own family is blocked while random strangers have access to the lives of rosina ferrara and maria primavera??

i will not regret one ugly word spoken to nina marie nor will she receive sympathy when she begins to feel the weight of guilt and regret that is surely on its way for her grandiose mistake and betrayal. it wasn't just this one painting she sold....

but this is the one that i wanted more than anything.
maria's beauty is simply arresting. i simply have no words to convey the overwhelming, the sense of understanding in her eyes, and the sense of loss, how i want so badly to be her: maria primavera bernardo

(addendum, 4/30/07: it seems that all three siblings sold paintings, not just nina marie. what a waste.)

April 10, 2007

Le Chiese

My first lover in Italy had peppered hair. He was only 28 and he hated it. But, of course, it’s what I noticed first; that, and it was curly. Curly and graying!!!! I thought. Mio dio, perfetto. I knew I would be after him in minutes; we talked about politics. I got embarrassingly drunk and forgot my camera in his car. We were to meet the next day so I could retrieve my belongings. I spent the whole day with him, and the next. And so on. When I left him for the next city in my vacation plans, I was confusingly devastated. I looked in the mirror that night and found a pure white hair on the top of my head. I thought it a sign and returned to Rome the next day to stay with him. We walked the city together and because I walked with a native, I too felt native, not a tourist. I had my own personal translator. In Siena we had large lunches, complete with the most delicious wine. We were already arguing; we’d return to the hostel, argue more, cry, and then make love. Paolo called me overdramatic, but I had thought surely in Italy my behavior would blend in.

In every city that I stayed, I visited as many chiese as I could. Seeing as how Paolo and I are both atheist, he seemed rather perplexed. I sat inside on a pew staring at the altars. It was not long before I began praying – to who I’m not sure. The first altar I prayed at was in Basilica di San Pietro and Paolo was not with me that day (in fact, I did not know I was to meet Paolo that very night). One of the reasons that I even wanted to visit Rome was to see the Pietà. Behind dirty plexiglass, zillions of tourists snapping photos with their cellphones and shitty digital cameras, Maria still held all of her wonder, all of her dignity, pain, purity and grace. Perhaps it was she who was perfect, and not her son. But something in me came alive. There was meaning for love and life. Voglio essere una moglie e una madre. And in Italy, motherhood is still sacred.

I prayed at le chiese, mainly to myself. Trying to understand new love, understand me, and everything else. I wondered about the saints, their devotion, obsession, and eventual sacrifice. Le chiese are dark, cool, and damp – a much needed relief from Italy’s summers. They are forever quiet and bring peaceful solitude from the craziness of the streets. I peek in, creep in, when I need a space for meditation. I sat through a service or two, awkward without the lifelong practice – and understanding the language would have helped little. Here, at Easter, I wanted to go to church. See the people filled with hope. Wanting to go back – it makes sense really. It is finding comfort in an obsessive ritual. It’s what they call home.

Paolo fell in love with my praying, maybe because he found peace for just a moment, or maybe because he began to understand my duplicitous ways – “I love when you (improvisely) change the subject, and when you talk to yourself inside the churches.” Nevertheless, I still have my white hair; and it’s the mark that I carry.

April 9, 2007

ohio still sucks

you might remember i posted this photograph a couple months earlier:

essentially: italy's effect, personified. this woman embodies how i feel when i am in italy -- weightless, beautiful, dancing, and carefree.

this is by far one of the most beautiful graffiti pieces i've ever seen in my life, and i happen to be lucky enough to live down the street from it. and frankly, it's rare to find anything even remotely beautiful in ohio. la bella donna lives on the side of a convenience store and i pass by her at least twice daily on my walk to and from the bus stop. there was a time when i was nervous she would disappear, but she remained steadfast, reminding me of italy, reminding me i would soon be there--i would be her.

today, however, she is gone. someone has finally painted over her so that now i am greeted by a plain beige wall everyday instead. ohio just made itself uglier. it has proved, yet again, that it has little to nothing (good) to offer. viva l'italia!

April 2, 2007


1. my external hard drive has crashed. this perhaps will set me back. sometimes i think this is the sign. the sign that i should not be here... i should be there. and then i remember i'm on the cusp of something great. andy says it will only get better. this is only material, rachel. he says it is a sign that i should backup.
2. but fabio's mother is ill and needs a liver transplant. and when i think in perspective, sento egoista. e poi, penso a quest'estate a italia.
3. questa è dove fabio legge nella piazza.

and i need his strength.

March 31, 2007


our ways to offer

manifesta di 4 marzo

i want to hurry up and move to italy. fall passionately in love with an italian and get married. i want to dance on the streets and make love all the time. drink wine, sing songs, and say hello to my neighbors. swim in the sea and have babies. and then make art about all that. and publish it. who wouldn't want to read about that or see it? because everybody wants that passion and they rarely have it. and then they can remember the flame. - march 4

il affare

towards the end of last quarter and over my spring break, i neglected writing here frequently. which is not my intention. so maybe a little update is required. sorry, i find this slightly unprofessional and artistic to include business. allora:
1. i've received george barse's letters. (however, i'm also taking a graduate level english class, so time for reading seems nonexistent).

2. fabio's mother is not well and due to this we are not able to work on our art project as much as we'd like. we are still unclear as to what is wrong, but they are on my mind frequently and i hope her situation will improve as soon as possible.

3. also, many people have asked how i will represent fabio on this blog. they've requested a photograph:

4. a cousin of the barse family randomly discovered this blog, and consequently, me. he has sent me a painting postcard of my greatgrandmother. i believe eventually we should catalog all of the family paintings.

5. for spring break, i was able to visit my family in oklahoma. mother and i made many dresses and a couple skirts as well. this is something that my great grandmother did for as long as i know, and something i am doing for to wear quest'estate. mother will ship them to me (as i did not have room for to take them home) and then i will post. i was also able to visit with my grandparents. i have new photographs of the family to archive, and i even learned some napolitan dialect from grandpa!