An Incredible Book Journey: Time Was Soft There

Over the next six weeks, I will have the joy of visiting independent bookstores in 23 cities. Follow the trip and meet the many wonderful friends, book people and random characters I encounter along the way.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


The train north is a depressing affair at the best of times. The sun is inevitably shining when I leave Marseille and just as inevitably the clouds thicken the farther north I get. Everybody who lives in the south of France talks about the weather and for good reason: it is so damn wonderful. When I lived in Paris, winters were wet and grey and it often rained six days a week. In Marseille, I can take my afternoon coffee on an outside terrace in February and last year my dear friend Buster Burk and I went swimming - briskly, I admit - and then sunned ourselves on the rocks on New Year’s Day. The longer I live in the south, the more allergic I become to clouds and cold, and I loathe to leave when winter is approaching.

But this time, the departure was nearly crushing. I have fallen in love with Marseille, a 2600-year-old port city that is raw and rough and alive. I have never really felt at home until Marseille. I think I dreamt a city like it might exist but never thought it could: ringed by mountains, soaked in sun, on the shores of the Mediterranean, a vibrant and diverse community that has earned it the nickname ‘the most northern city in Africa.’ After years of drifting and travelling, I finally found a place I could put down roots. And yet I leave, on this daunting book tour, to the cold winter of North America no less, with no sure plans of when I will call it my home again.

I also feared I had been too optimistic in the planning of this book tour. How can I manage to 10,000 miles on the road? Being ‘on’ all the time, no corner of my own to curl up, long and lonely highways. Sitting in the train, watching the city blur away from me, I wanted to throw it all in, to cancel everything and return home where I can take afternoon siestas and drink perroquets for my appero and simply be happy.

And, probably the most important reason for my depression, was the woman who waved me goodbye as the train pulled out of Gare St. Charles. She is the woman I thought I would spend my life with, the woman who stood by me while I wrote the book. We are travelling that treacherous bridge between love and friendship and I as journey out into the cold world once more, I fully understand all I am leaving behind.