He needed headphones. So he was crossing the old town of Mainz from the Roman Theater train station (so named because it crowds the ruins of a Roman Amphitheater) down past the imposing red sandstone edifice of the cathedral, the Mainz Dom. The Dom was his north star, you could see it from anywhere. The thousand year old structure loomed over town like the alien ship that everyone looks up in horror to see. The headphone store was on the other side of it.

In the old town the cobblestone streets narrowed to the point where cars could not pass, though of course they were already not allowed out of common decency. The streets were lined with shops and punctuated with squares and plazas. It was Christmas season, and the banality of the shop decorations reminded him of an American shopping mall. Outside of a scented candle shop a woman was playing a kind of table harp. The complex instrument sat on a pedestal. A range of strings were packed into the compact space and she struck them with wooden mallets as if it were a xylophone. The tune was familiar, a fast paced Mozart number that he was certain had been used in Looney Tunes cartoons before. She had her hat out on the cobblestones, where Euro coins gleamed their recommendation of her skill.

He walked on, and as the sound of Beethoven faded behind him he was greeted without pause by a great booming tenor voice. He didn’t know the aria, but it was moving. The emotional notes were delivered with raw power, producing a soulful, otherworldly sound. In one corner of the square he found the tenor, looking with sad eyes off to one side, not connecting with the small crowd emotionally at all. The singer was obese, his hair a mess. He wore the kind of shoes you get when you have strange feet, poorly formed black shoes secured with velcro. And there by his shoes was a hat containing coins. At his side was a bluetooth boombox that you could only hear as you got close. It was playing the right opera, but its thin pale tinny noise did not belong in the same park with the man’s great voice.

The tenor now stared off silently while the hideous boombox played the music that would lead to the next singing part. He continued his walk, and as he rounded the corner of the great Mainz Dom he found himself crossing yet another square. Now a third song caught his ear, a sort of organ grinder instrumental version of ABBA’s “Knowing me knowing you”. Single notes played with perfectly even spacing, maniacal, relentless, robotic. God I hope that is a machine, he thought to himself as he reached the headphone store.