Early morning in Paris. Rainwater on little round tables sparkling in the sun at an outdoor cafe; an aproned young woman arranging bouquets of baguettes at the corner boulangerie; a crescendo of buzzing scooters and banging trash trucks (finally the latest strike is over).
In August we are going home to Philadelphia. I’m now working on what will probably be my last list of items for sale before we take off: albums and almanacs. These range from a 19th-century chronicle of a Belgian dining club to a collection of photographic postcards of actresses from the turn of the century. On my way to work this morning, via my kitchen, I began picturing our experience abroad as if I were already back in Philadelphia, sorting through a wunderkammer of memories. Behold the electric tea kettle on the white tile counter. Boil the water for the French press. Open the tiny refrigerator. Smell the leftover Époisse. Rush to the living room window facing the street. Sit at the desk with no drawers.
There are many things we will import. The electric tea kettle, for one. My metric postage scale from the Office Depot on rue Monge and my rolling pin from Dehillerin, where Julia Child shopped. Lists of what cheeses and wines we like best, scribbled onto receipts from Androuet and into a booklet from this year’s Salon des vins at Champerret. Souvenir magnets and postcards from Stonehenge, Keukenhof, Lapland, etc. Paper directories for SLAM and ABA, and other ephemera collected at book fairs. A folding linen-backed map of Paris purchased at a flea market near the Opéra metro.
Our Paris has already acquired a mythic quality, like any absurdly great pause from “normal” life, and we haven’t even left yet! (Here’s one of my favorite recordings that perhaps best captures the nostalgic mood around the home office these days.)
Concerning ZARB, I’ve developed a routine suited particularly to life here, where the next bookseller is just around the corner and the next auction is in five minutes. Although the U.S. market is less concentrated, it’s there in force, bien sur — and anyway modern technology means the only real concern with buying internationally is condition and shipping — so ZARB will translate just fine. And, hopefully, we’ll be back someday.