Posts Tagged ‘country’


Bath Portrait © Jim Korpi

If you have not done this you have only half lived in an apartment building, half lived in a city.
Lean back into a hot tub of water. Lower your head beneath the surface so only your face is above water. Breathe.
Your breath is the first thing you hear, deep hollow echoes from the inside of your chest. What follows is another dimension.
Here you are witness to the innards of a beast, not the pulse but the digestive process.
Every sink, toilet bowl and drain of every apartment in your building becomes a receptor for the sounds of its nighttime routines.
Riders on the Storm plays from the radio of an apartment close by and mixes with children fighting in an apartment beside the street. Dinner is being served, the clinking of silverware and the sliding of chairs across tile floors.
You can return to the slow rhythm of your breath at any time. This is a Buddhist exercise in apartment living.
You are in the womb of it all, the womb of the building, the womb of the city.
The slurred murmurs of all those anonymous lives around you are beyond your understanding. You hear your heart beat. The warmth of the water that surrounds you is the amniotic fluid you floated in before entering this cold, strange world.


Lago Maggiore, Italy © Jim Korpi

The woman upstairs wears high heels in her house at night while she struts down her hallway. The sound reminds me of the time my brother and I were at a swimming hole one summer as kids. “Go under water and tell me what this sounds like,” he said and then tapped two round, wet stones together. “What does it sound like?” he asked when I came to the surface.
It sounds like your neighbor upstairs who wears her high heals in the house at night, quick thuds submerged under a lake of concrete.


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.


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.