There is no Europe. I've been saying this for years, much to my wife's discomfort at cocktail parties and reunions.

"But I've been to France," she insists. "I inhaled the yeastiness of bakery bread as I walked through an alley down which could be seen the apex of the Eiffel Tower."

I'm not buying it. As far as I'm concerned, the Atlantic Ocean just keeps going.

"Where do you think we came from?" she asks, trying to see if I'll repeat her propaganda about Luxembourg and Spain and the huddled masses.

"Adam and Eve," I tell her. I don't really think this of course, but it shuts her up. The people who believe in Europe tend to believe in the Bible. They have the same need for there to be something farther than the horizon. Clouds aren't good enough for them.

I say Europe is the invention of Americans whose mistakes are so bad, so big, so colossal, they want for them to have happened on the other side of the world. Haven't you ever noticed that Louisiana and Italy both look like a boot stepping into a puddle, that Kentucky and Austria are basically the same shape? Palaces and queens and the Magna Carta — the whole thing stinks of fairy tales.

When I talk like this, my wife exhales and begins swirling the ice in her drink. That's when I remind her of Las Vegas.

"That wasn't Europe," she snaps.

"Exactly," I say. "That's where you had to sell your body for airfare after you went crazy with the credit cards while I slept off a quart of Cutty Sark. Remember? Two men took you by storm in that hotel from which could be seen the apex of the Eiffel Tower."

She glares at me as if I've been talking about her flatulence. The people beside us start looking around like this might be the kind of party where waiters go weaving through the crowd with little trays of olives and crabmeat.

"I'm sure you remember," I say. "Later that night, we saw the New York City skyline winking in the desert air after I vomited into that fountain at the Bellagio. You said you were ashamed. You said you were sorry."

"We're not talking about that now," she hisses and begins shaking her purse for her cigarettes, peering into it as if there's a television at the bottom with bad reception.

This is her way of letting me know I've won, that she'll stop insisting openly about such fantasies. At least for a while she'll agree with me that Europe is a land of watered-down drinks and palm trees, call girls and slot machines that take your money in increments. Or, if you're at the right table, you can lose it all at once, though this takes foresight and effort — the kind that can conjure a continent from seawater and smog.

As for the different languages — another misapprehension. Those are just very thick American dialects. You can figure them out if you really try. As I always say, America is big. Even the President doesn't know where all the roads are leading, despite his having built them.