This past spring, I bought a book from a young author while browsing through a book fair in Metz. At the time, he mentioned the possibility of attending a workshop in Iowa this summer.  By chance, I asked him last week if he had attended the workshop.  He told me that he had, indeed, made it to Iowa, was in fact, still there, and would be making a side trip to San Francisco the next day.  He would have one day free, during which we planned to pass some time together.

Early (for me) last Friday morning, I hopped into my midlife crisis convertible and drove up to Union Square. I parked, walked down the street and saw the Saint Francis, and the Sir Francis Drake hotels ... and realized that all I remembered about his hotel was that "Francis" was one of the words in it!  I sort of recalled when I first found out where he was staying that I pictured a beefeater-style doorman, so I took a chance on Sir Francis.  Luckily, my recollection was correct!  A minute or two after I sat down in the lobby, Mabrouck walked out.

This spider was obviously on acid.  Sutro Baths, San Francisco.

Mabrouck is fascinating.  He gave up the (relative) security of a  career in finance to pursue his passion as a writer.  He didn't just continue his day job while he wrote in his spare time, he completely quit his job to write.  He has since published one essay and two novels, one of which was in the works for filming when budget cuts in French public television ended production.

I'm in the process of reading his second novel, le Petit Malik.  It is a funny story about a boy growing up in a banlieu, but there are also bittersweet elements to it.  Mabrouck himself grew up in a banlieu (the French equivalent of an American inner city area, except they tend to be on the outskirts of the city -- the term can be confusing, because the literal translation is suburb), and when his first novel, le Poids d'une Âme (the Weight of a Soul) was published, he was asked if someone had ghost written the book for him.  Ouch!  I can say that in my communications with him that he is well-spoken, well-written and sharp as a tack.  Plus, he not only understands, but puts up with, my horrible French.

Above:  a long exposure on the dish of the Giant Camera Obscura, a giant pinhole camera.
The camera sports a rotating lens that gives a 360 degree view of the area.
The image is projected onto a concave dish. 

I am always in awe of people who are so focused, so sure of what they want.  My best friend in Metz was similarly captivated by his work.  He had dropped out of University to work to support his family when his daughter was born and began working as a vendor, traveling to the braderies around northern France.  I asked if he planned to return to the University.  He said no, that he had found happiness in what he was doing.  And there was a contentment in his stature, a certain indescribable fire in his eyes when he was spinning his pitch.  On the Saturdays he worked the braderie in Metz, I would pass by just to watch him work.  To watch someone with such ardor for what he or she does is intoxicating to the observer as well.

I do not recall ever being so enraptured by my work or hobbies.  Most of my decisions have been logic-driven, rather than those of the heart.  Perhaps that is one reason why I am so fascinated by people with such strong passion.

 Above:  sunset over the Pacific Ocean, Ocean Beach, San Francisco

EDIT:  I spelled Mabrouck's last name wrong in my comment.  It is Rachedi, not Rached.
His blog address ...