That’s Amore!

Today is a glorious spring day, one of our first after what felt like an eternity of winter. I cannot wait to change the clocks back this weekend. For some reason, last night I had very vivid dreams of my first love: Franco Falcone. Though it has been 16 years since we first met, when I was a young girl of 16, he still remains not just my first love, but my best love. Sure, there were other times I thought I was in love, but it was more like love-ish. Charlie in college who broke my heart with infidelity. Matthijs in Amsterdam who took me on an emotional rollercoaster. Even Chris, as bland as we were, there was love there.But Franco was different. It was full-hearted and almost completely unconditonal.

Saying Goodbye at the Train Station in Salerno

The summer of my 16th year, I flew to Italy where I would live until the following summer. I remember getting on the airplane, my first of many trans-Atlantic flights, thinking, “what the fuck am I doing?” I didn’t speak any Italian and knew nothing of my host family waiting for me in Naples. Thankfully, my first stop was to spend a month in the teeny-tiny town of Valva, in the mountains outside of Salerno. Here, I lived in an elementary school, sleeping in bunk beds, with the other exhange students in my program. In the day we would take language and culture lessons and in the evenings we would sit in the local cafe` and drink beers and orange flavored Fanta. I was there only a few days when Franco and I first met. Almost immediately we were joined at the hip… despite the fact that we could barely speak the same language. Thankfully, my spanish got me farther than I would have imagined and I was able to pick up Italian rather quickly.

Streets of Valva, Italy

Valva was an interesting town, and about as different from Potomac, Maryland as one could get. The above picture I took from a moving car, and was a common scene in this town that had more goats than people, and where things like telephones and televisions were available only to the most wealthy of inhabitants.

Looking back at these old photos, taken when we first met, cracks me up! I could not be any more American (in my Nike’s and cut off jean shorts) and he could not be any more Italian (in his loafers and striped t-shirts). In the picture below we are with Noora and Luigi, who also had a bit of a love connection if I remember correctly. Noora is from Finland and is married now, we just got back in touch after a long absence. The car in the picture, an old Citroën 2CV, was the first car I ever drove.

After the month in Valva, I was moved to my host family in the heart of Neapolitan chaos. It was tough, I missed Franco terribly and could only see him on Sundays, the only day I didn’t have to go to the local high school. But every Sunday, like clockwork, he would come up to Naples, a 2 hr trainride from Battibaglia and a 30 minute drive from Battibaglia to Valva, to spend the day with me. Every 2 months or so I would get permission to spend the weekend down in Valva with a girlfriend I had there, Maria Luisa.

After school was out we had a month to travel together. I was 17 and felt very grown up. We first went to Rome and stayed at the empty apartment of a friend of his just outside the city. To get into downtown Rome we had to hitchhike– funny I would never do that now but thought nothing of it then. It felt like we were married, I would cook dinner each night, and then he would kick me out of the kitchen since I didn’t know what I was doing. While sitting in Piazza Republica a passerby asked us if we were on our honeymoon.

We also went camping in Sicily together, along with some of the other exchange students. First we were in Agrigento on the Southern coast of the island, then we moved to a small town called Patti on the northern side (the picture above was taken there). I think we lived out of the tent for two or three weeks, each day becoming more stressful than the last as it became closer to the time to return back to the US.

I remember calling my dad from one of the campsites in a fit of anxiety about coming home and leaving Franco behind. He told me if it was meant to be, we would find a way to work out the distance. I believed him. Before I returned home, I promised I would come back to Italy and that I would marry Franco. He gave me a small gold ring.

For the next five years we called, wrote and I went over twice to visit him. I begged and begged him to come to the US to meet my family and see where I come from, but it was like asking him to go to the moon for this gentle man who spoke no english and had never been further than Sicily. In a stubborn fit, I issued an ultimatum to come to America or lose me, and as quickly as it began the relationship was over. He refused to speak to me ever again because he said it was just too painful.

I often wonder where he is now and what he is doing. I wonder what my life would have been like if I had followed my heart instead of running off to see the world in an attempt to satiate my incurable wanderlust, which to this day still requires a remedy. I wonder if I will ever fall as blindly and blissfully in love as I could when I was 16 years old.


In my dreams I am swimming in a sea of tulips, breathing in their earthy aroma. Finally, winter is breaking and spring is slowly knocking at our door. Finally.

Tough Choices

I have been thinking a lot these past day about a very hard decision that has to be made. Strangely enough, it isn’t mine to make, but rather that of my dad and step mom’s.

For the last couple of years they have both been mentors to two inner city boys, Paul and Ron. It has been a rewarding but sometimes hard relationship to maintain, but I know my parents have really enjoyed the time they spend with the boys. I have been so impressed by their committment to them– every week on Tuesdays and then some weekends they take the boys to various places, help them with schoolwork, and just spend quality time with them. Paul is a little older, maybe 13 or so, and prone to mood swings (as most 13 year-olds are). Paul is only 10 and quite a loveable young boy who still likes to hold Jan’s hand when walking down the street.

Dad and Jan are both soon retiring and moving down to the Carolinas. Even though the move is still a year or so away, they have been preparing the boys for their departure.

This is where things get tricky.

Jan was recently over at Paul’s house talking to his mom. His mom was saying how much Paul is going to miss them when they move down south, and Jan told her that they will miss him too, that he is a joy to be with. By the end of the conversation, Paul’s mom had asked Jan if they would take Paul with them down south and be his guardians.

My parents are considering it, taking over as Paul’s guardians and moving him down with them when they retire. The risks and rewards are both significant. To take on raising a 10 year old, after raising (between the two of them) four of their own kids, when they are supposed to be embarking on the journey of their retirement, is no easy decision. To know that they could positively influence a kid, who otherwise may not have many opportunities, is a soul wrenching decision.

I hope they do it.

Boys are Silly

When I first heard about this, I thought it was a lie. A fabrication. A hallucination even! I was left no other choice than to call Matthijs in Amsterdam to see if it is true.

Do the urinals in Schiphol airport have little flys tattooed on them so that men have something to aim for when they pee, thus keeping a cleaner restroom?

Strangely enough, the answer is: Ja, dat is waar (it is true!).

And I even found photographic evidence to prove it, thanks to, “The best place to piss away your time on the Internet ™”.

Open letter to any man who might come across my blog:

Dear Men,



Make Me Over

Ashbloem, Reilly and I went for MAC makeovers on Saturday. I love going for makeovers at MAC. This time they had a DJ, body paint models and mai-tais floating around. Yum!

here are some of the action shots…

We went to Bar 10 afterwards for some cocktails and to show off our pretty faces. The waitress remarked, upon hearing our ages (all early 30s), “You give me hope.” Ah, to be young.

Lately I have been wishing for a total makeover. You know, like you wake up one morning and you are someone totally different. Like Cameron Diaz. But I guess that doesn’t really happen in real life. I have been thinking about cutting off my hair or dying it another color. It would be interesting to wake up with new hair, and maybe even new eyes. What do you think? Can you see me as a brown-eye’d redhead (ala` photoshop)?

I just want something…. different. Clearly another manifestiation of how much I am wishing for change in general in my life right now. OK, it’s not Cameron Diaz… but maybe…


I like Oysters.
I like oysters a lot.

This is a relatively new favorite of mine. The first time I had oysters was when Frankie was visiting from London and we went out for seafood one night. The waiter brought us a selection of his favorites, and I have been a fan ever since. But only recently, have they become an addiction of some kind. Blame Victor, it’s all his fault.

We went out to the Union Oyster House on Monday and sampled their goods. Suprisingly, they only had 2 kinds. Some from CT and some from VA. They had more complicated names, but I don’t remember now what they were. I was suprised for an “Oyster House” that they were not teeming with all sorts of exotic varieties, but Vic and I settled in at the cozy bar with our shuckers Mike and Dave for a few hours of entertainment, basketball (on TV, Pitt vs. WVU) and oyster-lovin’-goodness.

I won’t lie to you, I kept trying to find a way to incorporate the line “mother shucker” into the conversation. I never found the right opening.

Eventually, dear Mikey let me come behind the bar and take some pictures. He also gave me a “lucky” oyster shell (dutifully cleansed in the dishwasher before being wrapped in tissue and put in a gift bag). I like the photos that came out as a result. Have a look.

[Look how giddy Vic is at his Oyster pile]

Question (for those of you who like raw seafood of any kind): if you could have only sushi OR oysters for the rest of your life, which would you pick?