Thank you, Barbara, for your patience with me from the first story I sent you back in September 2008, as you fixed commas and periods and so much more. At this point, I doubt I would even be able to write a greeting card without you.

Thank you, Marta, for successfully assembling so many pieces of a disorderly mosaic of appointments, of the right people in the right place and at the right time. And thank you for those trenchant comments with which, in no uncertain terms, you eliminated what I thought was “great”: You were right.

To those of you who are lucky enough to meet Barbara and Marta, don't be deceived by their identical carefree smiles. They are two adorable, indispensable but uncompromising “steel magnolias.”

Thank you, Giorgio. You will never cease to amaze me with your seeming tranquility and absentmindedness as you go through thousands of photos in random order and, like a magician, pull the rabbit of the right picture with the right color out of your computer, turning a messy palette into an orderly path.

Thank you, Francesco, for not leaving me alone during those unsuccessful adventures in a torrid and hopeless Milan, and for chasing away our disappointment by making me concentrate on your light-hearted habit of considering the changing colors of traffic lights to be an insignificant oddity.

Thank you, Giuseppe; thank you, Gianni. Thank you for making your rapid but crucial appearances, reviving meetings that had run aground in doubt. It has been a privilege to meet you, and I am proud to have spent time with you.

Thank you, Alessandra, and thank you, Catherine. During that period both of you went through sad times, but despite your pain you did not abandon me, and that is something I will never forget.

Thank you, Stefania and Giulio. You, my children, know why and it doesn't matter who else does.

If I were to forget Emilio and Ruggero I would be superficial; if I were to forget Claudio Catalani I would be unforgivably absentminded. Thank you, Emilio, for giving me your time and sharing my enthusiasm; thank you, Ruggero for your easygoing patience; thank you, Claudio for your ever-smiling curiosity.

Writing, collecting stories and taking pictures on the way are things anyone can do, but turning them into a book has been a fantastic and unforgettable group adventure that, through the work and commitment of many, has transformed a simple journey into ... West of St. Louis.

Francesco de Marzio

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