Archive for November, 2015


Lost & Bored, Milan, Italy © Jim Korpi

It started the week before last, an onslaught of emails reminding me of savings to be had. “Black Friday Week Deals…Cyber Monday Sale.” I had forgotten about Black Friday and had slept through the announcement of it growing into a weeklong phenomenon followed by a Monday of online shopping.

The streets are empty on Sunday. The stores are closed. There is a calm in the inactivity, a rest. Sundays have the stillness and quiet of winters. A winter Sunday is doubly quiet, doubly restful.


Paris, France, November 15, 2015 © Jim Korpi

Our feet were on the dirt oval track and our backs against a wooden fence made of cut up telephone poles and worn 2×6 rails. A gap in the fence was our spot. Tickets in the stands are expensive, and you couldn’t get better seats to the Hollywood Stunt World Thrill Show than ours.
We were close enough to watch as the driver of one stunt truck turned the corner of the track and set it back down on two wheels. His face was calm as he sped within a foot of us, exploded into the wooden fence beside us, through the fried dough stand and onto the unsuspecting crowd.
Time does not stand still in these moments, it disappears. It’s rendered irrelevant. Time no longer ticks by with the secondhand of the clock on the wall, the gears of a gold wristwatch, or the electronic intervals of neatly divided moments measured by a computer in a cellphone.
The body enters a state of primal sensitivity to all that surrounds, every sound, movement, or smell.
The smell of car exhaust and frying dough mixed with screams of mothers whose children lay beneath unmovable steel and screaming vendors whose grease from tipped vats now covered them.
We ran. We ran past the 4-H barn of cows and sheep, past the vendors selling sausage with grilled peppers and onions, past the Ferris wheel and then slowed when we got to the rides where the youth mingled and plucked cotton candy and popcorn from their proud and careful hands.
Everything was normal. Carnies pried us to pop three balloons with three darts to win stuffed lions, fair music played, people laughed. No one knew what was happening at the Hollywood Stunt World Thrill Show.

The reviews online said the food was average but the atmosphere was authentically Parisian. I am not sure what is authentically Parisian, but there was something authentic about this restaurant. The tables were built in a decade when Parisians built tables. The artwork covering the walls could have been the collected gifts of patrons who could not pay their tabs over the past ten decades. A large, warm impressionist nude of a sleeping woman hung amongst a scattering of stilllifes of the same style.
We left the restaurant to walk the food off. Outside, a black car with a loud European police siren flung on the driver’s side roof passed us at a racing speed. “They always drive like that,” our friend said. His words were inaudible as a line of ambulances and police cars passed just then. The streets were filled with sirens and flashing blue lights. We followed the flow of emergency vehicles with our heads as if to see what they were going to. A man pushing a scooter along the sidewalk rode by and said calmly in English, ”Someone is shooting people up the street.” We humored him with, “Really?” “They just shot 10 people. I was just there,” he said. Somehow there was now a reality to this absurdity.
A crowd of Parisians now stood still beside us following the lights and perplexed by the activity. A black car stopped in the middle of the road and five armed and armored police jumped from the doors and yelled at us in French. Those who understood ran in the direction of the sirens, those who didn’t hesitated and then followed. The police yelled again, the crowd of the fleeing stopped and ran in the other direction, like a startled flock of sheep.
We ran. We ran to a subway station, boarded a train and quietly sat with passengers who laughed, sent messages on their phones, and knew nothing about what was happening to the city above.



Window Shopping, Milan, Italy © Jim Korpi

“Now, the American people have got to go about their business. We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don’t — where we don’t conduct business, where people don’t shop. That’s their intention. Their intention was not only to kill and maim and destroy. Their intention was to frighten to the point where our nation would not act. Their intention was to so frighten our government that we wouldn’t seek justice; that somehow we would cower in the face of their threats and not respond, abroad or at home.” George W. Bush, October 2001

Italian Bicycle Thieves


Protected Motorcycle, Isernia, Italy © Jim Korpi

The metal rims of Buzzino’s bicycle clanged on the rubble of road, an out-of-tune banjo plucking a hurried song.
You could hear him coming for a mile. The roads were quiet. The Germans shot most things moving along the road and British planes bombed from the air.
Dusted in a thin coat of flour, the apparitional form of the partisan baker Buzzino rushed from one part of town to the next.
Since the occupation by the Germans in Florence, keeping possession of your bicycle, your horse, or any mode of transport proved difficult. The Germans stole what was needed.
Buzzino reckoned he would hold onto his bicycle by making it less of a convenience. He removed the rubber tires. It was a rough and loud ride, but no German ever stole his bicycle.

Guardian of Faith


Entering the Duomo, Milan, Italy © Jim Korpi

Gianbattista sits slouching in front of a computer for nine hours a day in his white, fluorescent-lit office at a software firm. He is in accounting. For his parent’s 50th anniversary Gianbattista wanted to do something special. Knowing his parents, he typed an email to the Pope. The Pope’s people answered.
Now his father refuses to ride his bike. His mother will not leave the house. According to the pen-marked calendar beside the kitchen table, there are still 14 more days before their meeting with the Pope. No risks can be taken.
The two have been married for 50 years. Being Catholic, they consider the Pope to be a supreme guardian of their faith and second to no one but Jesus in significance.