Half Empty - Aug 1, 2005

By Ariel Leve.

Week two of the holiday in Italy. In an effort to communicate better with our neighbours, Liza has learned to say: "Lieto di conoscerla" ("Glad to meet you"). I have learned: "Mi lasci in pace" ("Leave me alone"). She sits in the town square, chatting away and making new friends while I, seeing no need for new friends, have mapped out the back roads to get to the places I need. The pharmacy, the bank machine and anywhere that has shade.

The other night we went to a seaside restaurant. Trying my best to fit in, I ask the waiter in broken Italian, what kind of pasta the blonde woman at the next table is eating. He stares at me for a second and replies, in English: "Giovanni is Mama's nephew."

I'm done with fitting in.

A few minutes later, a loud American family is seated behind us. The father enquires if they have Manischewitz, a kosher wine that tastes like grape juice. This is wine found at Bar Mitzvahs, not Italian seaside cucinas. I'm from a country that has elected George Bush, produced Britney Spears and Disneyland, and yet hearing him say those words, I've never been more ashamed to be an American.

Meanwhile, throughout dinner, Liza is receiving sexy text messages from her new love, Alfonso. One of them reads: "A sweet kiss for a special woman." If this came from a guy in New York, she'd be rolling her eyes and calling him a loser. But because we're in Italy, she's swooning and says he's a poet.

We rush back so that she can meet him at his gelato store in the square. Alfonso has not yet delivered on his promise for me to meet his "good friend" Gore Vidal, but I'm told he comes to the square at night for sambuca, so I wait. Liza and "Fonzie" go upstairs to his apartment to make out while I sit eating gelato, stalking Gore Vidal. Three gelatos later, I call it a night.

I've decided to develop a crush of my own. The local bus driver looks like Antonio Banderas, but in order for me to see him it means taking the bus along the winding roads of the Amalfi coast. Only one problem: I get carsick.