Is Paris burning? Mike Stang almost skirts the issue

(Mike Stang, seen here with helmet, about to liberate Paris  from a flood of cognac after WWII)

Literati!  War is Over!

And now the inundation of the glorious frivolities of peace! Imagine our goat-bladder of wine filled with the stories backlogged from the last few weeks, as now they come trickling forth!  Patience, as we empty our bladder! Mike’s story is the first of many I hope to post this weekend.

We are contemplating the simplexities (I just made that up) of love with this contest. Love is a many rendered thing. Got your own personal take on it?  Enter our contest and share the love. NEW DEADLINE IS FEB 28th!

Here is war correspondent Michael Stang’s


by Michael Stang


The two of them out there on the sidewalk as if no one else has a right to the street. Imagine hugging and kissing, pretending it’s the end of the world. Well I guess if I consider it, it is the end of World War II, in that case, but shameless just the same.

I was drifting in and out of the long view of a major artery in Paris while keeping myself to the corner at a table for two, my Rolleiflex protected by my side. The café takes up the corner, pushing pedestrians dangerously close into the insanity of post war traffic in a liberated city but never stopping these two. She, filtered by a dark wool skirt with a matching sweater over a white blouse, collar and cuffs stick out like little flags of victory against the last four years. Sensible hair, most conservative, but those lips—land-locked with his. And him, the Patriot. Unruly hair blessed to be out from under a helmet. Bony stance. A wool scarf billowing around the neck from a fashionable double-breasted overcoat; a peek of a tee shirt. The huge right hand around her slender shoulder as he bends down from the neck to meet her upturned face, says it all. The left arm habitually lifts a cigarette between thumb and fore finger. The new function of the celebrated champions, prizewinners all, taking over our treaded ways with conquering body language. Boys home victorious to lift us to a breathtaking future. I wonder when he will let her up for air.

I take the shot from the table unseen. Racing back to the studio to develop the film my mind races thinking of the headline for the afternoon’s edition. I know I’m right. We have fought too hard for the ground we kiss, never mind each other. Millions have died. Is now is the time to frolic and make gay? Next thing you know she will trade her sensibilities for a can-can number; him sporting white bucks. My god, I asked myself, has it come to this?

Dissolving chemicals expose a further background: Parisians about their business. Bits of motorcycles, street lamps, fuzzy buildings in the distance. I thought there was a dove or two in the sky but it was only a rumor. No one was clutching, swooning, or holding hands. Nothing was kissing. This new love-thing, my duty to quash it back to the closet where it belongs.

Four o’clock deadline came and went as I head to the newsroom. A crisp paper is sitting on my desk with a note from the editor.

Mark, never received the copy but you have quite outdone yourself with this inspiring photo of the sweethearts. I decided to run it front page as a herald for all of France that we have entered a time for love and healing, and a gentler way of life. I ran your By-line in bold, 16 pt, Thought you wouldn’t mind. Outstanding, my boy—Ed.Kissing_the_War_Goodbye


(editor in chief administers emergency breath of life to swooning nurse intern who administered to his needs during post-op)

18 thoughts on “Is Paris burning? Mike Stang almost skirts the issue

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    Michael Stang brings us a sentimental return to love from an age which appreciated the difference between the cruel, inhumanity of war and the passion of love in its aftermath. Thank you Michael for capturing Paris of that time and its liberation so well.

  2. Diane Cresswell says:

    Mike you had me so involved in the unfolding of this story that when I looked out my window, I was shock to NOT see Paris!!! Wonderful point of view from the photographer and his hard hearted feelings of dismissing love, getting rid of it, making it into nothing. Man that was so vivid that I actually was smelling cigarette smoke and bad breath, feel him walking back to the newsroom. Damn you’re good!!!! And of course I love the story. Down here in San Diego we have a statue that depicts this photo and I have taken pictures of it from atop the Midway flight deck. Hummmmm…. twilight zone again mi compadre!

  3. elizabeth sloan says:

    Wonderful rendering of a classic “scene.” I especially love “…white blouse, collar and cuffs stick out like little flags of victory…”. You really brought the reader into the action. J’adore the WWII remembrance, and ah, Paris (say Pareeeey).

  4. Eli Fang says:

    I’m glad Mark’s plan to quash the exhibition of passion in the wake of war got turned head over heels, the praise for the picture’s real value painting him into a corner, hopefully of self reflection. Good read. Vive L’Amour.

  5. KYLE Katz says:

    The scene descriptions deposits you right in the center of the action. The methodical step by step guide from the POV of the reporter added dimension from a source one may not have ever considered. That is what made me grab a cup of coffee at that same cafe, sitting right next to you. “We have fought too hard for the ground we kiss, never mind each other.” “Unruly hair blessed to be out from under a helmet.” The dichotomy of blending the fight…the kiss, becomes the life spokes on a wheel. The viewpoints of life somehow connect, the wheel turns regardless of your experiences. Always have hope that even at the end through the chaos and clutter, a kiss is what we will remember.Love this Mike. 10 smackeroos and 5 thumbs up!

    • Michael Stang says:

      Thanks Kyle for liking the flashes within the flash. I always think that’s what makes the flash, but maybe Sal has something to say about that. On V day I’m gonna stand in the red jacket with 10 red lip stencils all over my face and plead my case.

      • Miryam says:

        Aww… Thanks back at ya Mr Stang…. I actually pulled off a last minute entry a few minutes before midnight!! It was raw, off the top of my head, whirl wind race writing!! Ha ha…. B & I have taken turns giving each other flu bugs for the last several weeks or I would have been more attentive to my WWYP family! I hope & pray we’re finally done with sickness. Shalom to you & your wife!

  6. Laura Girardeau says:

    Love how you put yourself in the character and time of the one who took this historic photo. My favorite line is: We have fought too hard for the ground we kiss, never mind each other. If that byline would have run under the historic photo when it was published, maybe we could end war with your writing.

  7. Laura Girardeau says:

    Michael, might you be a photographer as well as a writer? I see this story as an ode to that fine art…The photo is overused, but for a reason. It’s exquisite…Look at the expressions of passers-by! All very French.

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