The romance of Europe

Something I’m very guilty of at times is romanticizing Europe, even when consciously trying to correct for it.

I went to a concert the other night, and one that was so Berlin. Address in a random part of the city, walk half a block down a private-looking alley, enter a nondescript door, climb four floors of stairs passed empty landings with graffiti everywhere, and enter through a door with an enormous devil’s head above it.

It was a tiny venue. Two modestly sized rooms with a bar in the back. Even fifty people would’ve packed it to the gills.

The crowd was cool in that understated Berlin sort of way. All dark clothes, no visible logos (except those of bands), and dressed pragmatically, 0.5L bottles of German-style lager and half-smoked cigarettes in hand.

But what amazed me more: no visible phones. Everyone here was present, enjoying each other’s company, or just this beautiful, fleeting moment of life. A young lady sat on a couch reading a book alone, waiting for the show to start.

Had these people figured out something totally elusive to us in the Americas? Eschewing the addictive digital realm and all its hedonism and danger in favor of a simpler, more grounded life, favoring interactions in person to create deeper, more meaningful experiences and relationships?

My god Berlin, I have to know your secrets. We need them. Save us.

An hour later every person in the room has their phones out and is staring, glassy eyed, into their electronic bricks.

No one can resist these things. Not America, not Europe, not Berlin. I just happened to walk in at a lucky moment. The end.

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