Wednesday, February 19, 2020


Compass Coin from Tuvalu.


Eight o’clock next morning we are up and out of Monaco, rolling north to Switzerland.

JL is at the wheel, myself next to him, and Van Stein in back with Mazey Sunshine, a sexy blonde neuro-psychologist along for the ride by extension of her partnering with JL. 

Mazey has a posh English accent and is as smart as she is pretty, with an eyeball grip that delves deep into the mind of whomever she engages.

It is our challenge to help Mazey, possessed of rigid French clinical training, to see the creative side of madness.

As we ascend out of Monaco, it is clear JL has told Mazey nothing about our true mission; she assumes this is merely a joyride to Switzerland.  

“There is a fine line between creativity and madness,” I begin.

“Oh-kaaay,” says Mazey, a tad of trepidation.

“We have been summoned," I add. "By Nietzsche.” 

“I see.”  Mazey’s tone implies she is not ethically allowed to treat us now that we’ve been introduced as friends.

“It’s a long story,” I say.  “But, fortunately, we have at least five hours on the road.  You have to listen and, of course, you’re not allowed to send a bill.”

“I’m not obliged to offer my opinion,” says Mazey.

“Therapists never do,"  I say with whimsy.  “Their challenge is to get their patients to open up for their own good.”  I pause.  “Fortunately, that isn’t a problem with us.”

Van Stein chortles.  “Just wait until we do orbs.”

“Excuse me?” says Mazey.

“Fundamentals first.”  

I explain about the red rock, the vortexes—and how Nietzsche jolted me awake in Sedona with metaphysical shock treatment, hence the reason for this road trip to Sils Maria, and to Nietzsche Haus, where we expect to find the mad philosopher awaiting our arrival. 

“Usually we have to go searching,” I say.  “But Nietzsche reached out for us, so this one is easy.”

“Why Nietzsche?” asks Mazey.

“Nietzsche was very creative," I say. "He wrote enduring books of philosophy, and then he went mad. He’s right up there with Van Gogh and Dali, who are already with us…”


“And in Florence, quite by accident, we picked up Machiavelli—and we also unexpectedly ventured into God and the devil, one of Nietzsche’s rants.  Not only is he famous for saying God is dead, but his last work was titled The Antichrist.”

“Yeah, uh-huh.”

“But most important, Nietzsche believed that madness is a necessary condition for spiritual progress.  So, it’s no wonder he feels left out and wants us to include him.”

“Interesting,” says Mazie.  “Uh, how do they do this?”  She nervously meets JL’s eyes in the rear-view mirror.

“Orbs,” I say.  “Thomas?”

“Yo!  How am I supposed to explain orbs to such a brilliant mind?” 

“Oh, stop,” says Mazey.  “I just enjoy what I do.”

“Okay,” says Van Stein.  “Let’s see if you enjoy this:  When we went to Gheel to pay homage to St. Dymphna, who is the patron saint of lunatics, the president of St. Amand’s Cathedral took a photo of our gang near the altar.  Right near us appeared a glowing medallion, somewhere between transparent and translucent.”

“Yeah, um, okay.”

“I’d never seen an orb before,” Van Stein continues.  “We blew it up, studied it.  After that, the orbs followed us around the church.  We get back to London and these orbs are still floating around.  So, we go on the Internet and Google orbs and we discover web sites galore, people sending in photographs from all over the world, an unexplained phenomenon.  And they’re happening more frequently now than ever before.”


Figueres, Spain: Dali in Duran, his favorite restaurant

“Ever since Gheel we’ve made it a point to seek out orbs wherever we go.  They showed up in Spain, at Port Ligat where Dali lived, and in Figueres, where Dali was born.  Marfa, Sedona.  In Florence I snapped a big orb hanging above my bed.  Did we see an orb in Arles?”

“No,” I say.  “That was before Gheel.  We had that other experience."  

(Vincent van Gogh's ghost assaulted me. A whole other story, soon to be told.)

Mazey gulps.

“There’s a book coming out called The Orb Project, co-authored by a NASA scientist,” continues Van Stein.  “They’re trying to explain what orbs are.  And after all their experiments they can’t conclude anything–but they’ve ruled out dust particles and moisture.  So, the possibility exists that we have advanced technologically to the point where we are bridging the gap between worlds, between that which is seen and un-seen by the human eye.  The orbs are drawn to water and spiritual places.  Main thing is, there is something beyond our comprehension that is showing itself to us.”

“Do they live in another dimension?” I say rhetorically.  “Do they come from another planet?  Are they angels?  We like to think we’ve collected a gang of friends.”

“Are you saying these orbs always existed but we haven’t been able to see them?” asks Mazey.

“The advent of digital photography is key,” I say.

“It’s revelation time!” yelps Van Stein.

“Fascinating,” says Mazey.  “So, you’re up to five in your gang?”

“We’ve got Saint Dymphna,” I say.  “Vincent, Dali.  We’ve got James Dean.  And Machiavelli.  Yes, five.”

“And the ghost?”

“That was Vincent,” I say.

“Vincent’s a disturbed guy,” says Van Stein.

I say, “He sure as hell disturbed me.”

“And Nietzsche will make six, if he appears?” asks Mazey.

“Nietzsche’s a done deal,” I say.  “No ifs. He summoned us, he’s waiting for us—we’re responding to his invitation.” 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020


Zero rent.

Comes with a boat...

(God bless those who need to rough it.  Bloomberg could feed and house a lot of people with the money he's wasting to feed his ego.)





Sleep in Dorking comes late, with an early awakening, adding to homeostasis disruption.

Gatwick Airport is but twenty minutes from Dorking, so it is from here that Van Stein and I fly-–Disordered between us–to Nice-Cote-d’Azur, where Disordered forks off with a plan to rendezvous for dinner in Monaco. 

JL greets Van Stein and me in a large black Mercedes with personalized 007 tags, freshly polished for our foray to Switzerland the following morning. 

Its blackness reflects JL’s gloom. 

Monaco's assorted clans cannot easily find invisible me so they’re making a meal of him; veiled threats, malicious gossip and general conveyance of their specific point:  Don’t mess with our rice bowls. 

“Nice wheels,” says Van Stein.

“Thanks,” says JL.  “It’s the most important thing I don’t own.”  He turns to me.  “It’s been rough.”

“How we behave under pressure is the true test of character,” I say.

“That’s fine,” says JL, “but you don’t live here.”

“Okay,” I say, “then how about this, from Nietzsche:  We need formidable enemies to keep us sharp.”

“Enemies aren’t the problem,” says JL.  “It’s our boss.”

The Prince. 

Otherwise known as Tubby Tompkins.

I nod knowingly.  “You never should have gotten involved with me.”

“Him?” chirps Van Stein from the backseat.  I never should have gotten involved with you.”

As we approach the autoroute, I casually mention Disordered will join our imminent journey into creativity and madness. 


“No,” says JL.

I try to explain our Dynamic of Inclusion, but JL has none of it, finally offering his car to me devoid of his own good company.

The pragmatics for changing gears like this is not good.  

We must revert to the Dynamic of Exclusion. Or, more pointedly, the Dynamic of Reliance.

And although I am sorely tempted to accept JL’s offer, call his bluff, I cave, respecting that perhaps it is unfair of me, unilaterally, to invite another humanoid at the eleventh hour without concensus, our open gateway to madness be damned.

“What’s the deal with Disordered anyway?” asks JL.

“It’s purely plutonium.”

JL goes, leaving me and Van Stein to dis-invite Disordered over smoked salmon and good Chablis at Quai des Artistes. 

Disordered rapidly processes this insult, consulting each and every personality–and possibly creating a new one out of the trauma. 

One of Disordered’s less appealing personalities takes control and asks incisive questions designed to pinpoint blame.

I take the blame, but Disordered wishes to direct it elsewhere, astutely settling on JL. 

By now I’m at the low ebb of the lag, sleep deprivation, and now hurt feelings. 

This is good. 

Because it means I’m starting to feel as miserable and wretched as… Nietzsche.

Monday, February 17, 2020



Fire Eaters
Photo: Van Stein

Our flight is called. 

Summoned by Nietzsche, Van Stein and I are about to embark on an astonishing week of motion and madness, through six countries, a different place to sleep each night. 

This isn’t living out of a suitcase—more like living out of a toilet kit.

August is the ideal month to visit London, even for just one night. 

It is calm and quiet. 

The Russians and Chinese, Arabs and Indians, the Poles, Romanians and Bulgarians—they’ve all gone home to visit relatives, or somewhere else.  Schools are out; workplaces slimmed down.

Van Stein forks off to Reek Pisserin’s new digs in the Surrey Downs; I sail without delay the opposite direction into central London, to Marylebone, my center of gravity; a perfect balmy day for covert cavorting with the spooky people.

We have chosen August for this trek, one, because it was almost upon us when Nietzsche’s subpoena arrived and, two, the laziest of summer months was Nietzsche’s peak period in Sils Maria, where, in August 1881, Zarathustra first spake to him.

And it conveniently coincides with a bash Reek Pisserin is throwing to celebrate a renewal on life–a stab at eternal recurrence, the concept Nietzsche invented or abhorred, depending on whose version one subscribes. 

(Some say Nietzsche perceived the moon’s lunar cycle as the ultimate symbol of eternal return; others write that the prospect of having to live one’s life over and over again in perpetuity throughout the universe horrified poor Fritz.)

I am met in Marylebone by Disordered, so named by JL (we’ll get to him) several months earlier in Monaco when, during a chance encounter, he swiftly and intuitively deduced that this individual enjoys more than one personality. 


JL has a penchant for choosing adjectives as nicknames, which, though disconcerting at first, is a charm. 

Disordered, a Nice-based artist and part-time spy, is in town for Reek’s party. When we’re together, we’re both eight years old.

Spontaneously, I invite Disordered to join we Luna-seekers on our imminent road trip to Nietzsche-land.  

It is our way—Van Stein and me—our Dynamic of Inclusion, opening the gateway to any and all who feel the magic, the madness, and want to throw their baggage into the trunk, add another dementia to the mix. 

As Rantanal Oldham once said, “Even the world’s biggest idiot knows something you don’t–there is something to be learned from everyone.” 

And this: I’ve always enjoyed mixing people like chemicals to see what combusts.

Disordered enlists without hesitation.

We make it from door to Dorking in an hour and check into the 750 year-old Burford Bridge Hotel, lodgings once favored by John Keats and Robert Louis Stephenson, their ghosts still lingering.

Van Stein joins Disordered and me for a pre-party Famous Grouse whiskey in the hotel bar, then on to  Reek’s new house. 

Goblets of champagne are thrust into our hands, a prelude to Pomerol.

Reek Pisserin and I know some of the same characters through our murky endeavors:  Schnudler from Luxembourg, EJ from Latvia–fare for furtive huddles in far corners of Reek's sprawling garden, providing intrigue, humor; stimulating me farther into this warm summer night.

“Any orbs yet?” I whisper to Van Stein as we manically cross paths.

“Only the ones on those Iranian lasses,” he whispers back.  “And I’m sure it cost them a few bucks.”

Painting: Fire Dancer
Van Stein

Disordered, meanwhile, changes personalities throughout the evening, morphing from one to another and back again with increasing frequency while fire-eaters, magicians and flamenco guitarists roam the grounds, an aroma of grilling monkfish and lamb kebabs.

Late in the evening, my white trousers take a hit:  a few drops of mis-poured Pomerol. 

“Sparkling water,” recommends Shani, one of the two Iranian lasses.  “Or salt.”  She gets up, finds some, assalts my trousers.

Pomerol wins.

I inspect the damage. 

“So what if I’ve got a Gorbachev wine stain?” I rationalize aloud.  “That’s the beauty of travelling in white trousers–you pick up souvenirs and mementoes throughout the trip:  chocolat mystere from Quai des Artistes, tomato ragu from a bowl of pasta at Autogrill, cappuccino from CafĂ© de la Costa–maybe not enough for the kind of midnight snack Nietzsche carried in his bushy moustache, but I can wear my travel scars with a Tom Waits swagger and through them recall events when too much motion fogs my brain.”