022023: Manifestations of Romance

Me standing in a colorful room, taking my photo in the mirror, camera in front of my face

Berlin, 6:25 pm, new note: I am typing this in iA Writer’s “focus mode”, a tool that highlights only the very current section that is being edited. I never use it because focus, what even is that?! Haven’t heard from her in years. And you, dear reader, haven’t heard from me and this letter in months, either, so: Welcome back.

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Some smaller towns in Italy have so-called “Necrologi.” Big analog boards in the center of the town, or at relevant pedestrian crossings, that originally announced the passing of a parishioner. When walking through the cities around Amalfi coast this summer, I saw them. Posters informed passers-by about recent deaths, yes, but also about upcoming celebrations, concerts and the town’s goings-on. They were not advertisement billboards; they were very local, specific platforms for communities to share events of interest.

The famous Parisian bookshop Shakespeare and Company has been cultivating a wall of analog notifications for ages. On little paper notes, people share messages, stories, call-outs for other visitors to dig through and find each other. True love may or may not be found in those layers and layers of paper, but the board itself is a manifestation of romance that visitors long for. Paper as a real connection to a stranger.

And also: Do you remember BVG Augenblicke? Berlins public transport system, BVG, used to have a digital platform where people who shared a moment on the train—a smile, a gaze, a brief conversation with a stranger—could find each other again. Oftentimes, secondary romance is to be avoided (as it turns out less exciting as expected), but having the tools—both digital and analog—to give it a chance; it was magic. Technology was magic!

As a true millennial, I stopped believing in digital tools as true connectors for a while now. But I don’t mind it too much. I’m just over it, really. Like Jason Parham writes in his essay on wired.com: “It’s not that I consider myself too old for social media, or the pace and attention it requires. I’m just less interested in being everywhere these days.” Same, really. I still enjoy posting to my Instagram story from time to time or write a blog post when I have something to share or need to feel productive. It’s ok to realize that the magic has vanished. Maybe it’s to be found offline, on public notice boards and in book shops and on train rides and through the people I already know. Or within a little community of readers and friends like you—thanks for sticking around!

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The last issue of this newsletter was sent in May. Summer passed, the world still spins, sometimes and recently so furiously that it has been hard to manage. I hope you do, somehow.

One of my coping strategies: I keep writing my monthly lists. They keep up the feeling of being creative, or at least productive; it’s some output that comes around every month. If you’re interested in what’s happened during my summer, find some notes from June, or September, or simply scroll through this blog. I’m planning on sending them out as a separate newsletter in the future because who visits weblogs these days, really. I’ll keep this letter as an English format, though.

How was your summer? Where are you right now? I’d love to hear from you: What’s been keeping you spinning? I hope you’re well!

(If you enjoy content like this: I send it out as an irregular newsletter called Christel’s CornerSign up for it here.)