Milan’s sharp fashion sense and wealthy citizenry make this glimmering metropolis the Paris of Italy. Rome is poorer, dirtier, hipper, and artier—-think Dublin or San Francisco. Pescara, a charming city of 200,000 nestled into Italy’s West Coast, is neither fashionable, glimmering, poor, dirty, hip, or arty. Because it overlooks the Adriatic Sea, I do suspect Pescara’s seafood is impeccable. However, because I am a vegetarian, I have never tasted any.

Pescara is so small that one promoter—-Paolo—-has booked every show I have ever played there. Though I have played in Pescara four times in five years, stayed at Paolo’s house, met Paolo’s girlfriend and mother, and petted Paolo’s dog, I have never learned Paolo’s last name. Yet, I often avail myself of the opportunity to practice “my Italian” on him.

Ciao, Paolo!” I exclaimed when greeting Paolo in Pescara. My Italian is limited to five phrases—-ciao, grazie (thank you), prego (you’re welcome), scuzi (excuse me), and dice euro (ten euro, the price of a CD)—-supplemented by a number of English phrases Italians often use.

Ciao, Justin,” Paolo replied.

“How is your girlfriend?” I inquired. “I met her when I last arrived here.” The phrase arrived here is not proper English, but is used by Italians when they mean to say visited. Thus, when talking to Italians about visits and visiting, I use the phrase arrived here.

“My girlfriend and I is good,” Paolo replied.

Perfecto!” I replied. “I remember your story was having some troubles when last I arrived here.” The phrase story is not proper English, but is used by Italians when they mean to say relationship. Thus, when talking to Italians about their relationships, I use the phrase story.

“The problems with our story is over,” Paolo replied. “We last four years. She come tonight.”

Perfecto!” I replied. “And do we play tonight when I prefer?” The phrase when I prefer is not proper English, but is used by Italians when they mean to say when I want. Thus, when talking to Italians about things |I want, I use the phrase when I prefer.

“You play as you prefer,” Paolo replied.

Perfecto!” I replied. “And how are your parents?”

“My mother is hosting a festival of philosophy,” Paolo replied.

“A festival of philosophy?…Perfecto!” I replied.

I realized that festival of philosophy meant academic conference and opened my mouth to point this out. However, I soon closed it again. Festival of philosophy is a better name for academic conference than academic conference. “And what is the subject of your mother’s festival of philosophy?” I inquired.

“The laity,” Paolo replied.

“The laity,” I repeated. “What?”

“Church and state,” Paolo explained. “The separation.”

Bueno!” I exclaimed, forgetting that bueno is Spanish, not Italian. “Your mother is celebrating her rights under the 1st Amendment.” I immediately realized that the 1st Amendment does not exist in Italy, but did not dwell on my error. “I only wish that your mother’s festival of philosophy was taking place when I had arrived here,” I continued. “Now that your story is resolved, you, your girlfriend, and I could all attend the festival of philosophy as we prefer!”