“Just over there,” said the tall, dreary-looking man in the raincoat, gray hair topping his deep-set eyes and long face. He was standing just west of the Brandenburg Gate, beneath Berlin’s overcast sky, his finger pointing at something. “It was 1954,” he added, but that was all you could hear. Following in the Man’s wake was an amorphous mob that included a dozen photographers, American and German, snapping away on their $7,000 Canon 1D Xs. Others were Foreign Service Officers, or FSOs, divisible into three subspecies: the pony-tailed sci-fi nerds, who talked your ear off on the van ride from the airport; the slim-fit Thomas Pink metrosexuals, who scarcely looked at you while massaging their iPhones; and the liver-spotted lifers, who got their starts under Jimmy Carter and swore this would be their last posting. Also in tow were Diplomatic Security officers, their eyes hidden behind aviator shades as they muttered into miniaturized microphones, and their German counterparts, ripped dudes in pea-green vests with Polizei emblazoned across their backs.
Traveling press walks in the street! Herding us like cats was the State Department’s Ashley Yehl, a brown-haired Texan, 27 and already a veteran of VIP trips to 99 countries. Yehl was enjoining the American reporters from even thinking about walking on the cobblestones where the Man was leading the mob along a lordly half inch above the rest of us. Suddenly the Man—John Forbes Kerry, America’s 68th secretary of state—resumed his slow march across the Pariser Platz, and the mob slowly followed. Kerry was headed for the prime real estate just beside the gate that is home to the U.S. Embassy in Berlin.