Wednesday, February 26, 2020


It is pouring rain when I awaken on our final morning in Sils Maria.

I can hear it tapping against my window, blowing in from the lake. 


I peer through curtains for a glimpse of this moody morning:  low cloud cuddling high mountains: dark, gloomy, wet.

Few know that Nietzsche was a composer before he became a philosopher.  

I discovered his complete works on two CDs at Nietzsche Haus.

As we roll out of Sils Maria, we listen quietly to Nietzsche’s compositions for piano and choir.  

The rain pounding our windshield feels like Friedrich’s teardrops, a poignant accompaniment to the sad strains of his sad composition, Miserere.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin
Against thee only have I sinned and done evil in thy sight
So that thou may be justified when thou speaketh
And be clear when one thou judgeth

We are in Italy, nearing Lake Como, when I look up to the clouds and see Nietzsche’s face.  One can read an awful lot into clouds, but this portrait is striking.  

“Look up there,” I say to Van Stein, pointing.

The artist lurches forward from behind, follows my finger.  “Ohmigod!”

Mazey leans across for her own peek.  “But that’s… that’s him!

Yes, Ms. Neuro-psychologist.   Wouldn’t it make a lovely inkblot?

“It looks just like his death mask,” says Van Stein in awe, reaching for his sketchpad to document our collective ideas of reference.

“Thank you,” I say.  “I thought I was hallucinating.”

We had answered Nietzsche’s summons, called his bluff, but it was no bluff, and now he is looking down upon us, the newest recruit to our gang of mad geniuses disguised as orbs.

It is mid-afternoon when we roll into Nice-Cote d’Azur Airport and bid farewell to JL and Mazey.  (We’d begun this road trip as Mazey’s patients, finished it with she as our patient.)  

Van Stein and I are weary, but punch-drunk from having accomplished our esoteric mission.  

We manage a seat between us in the sardine-packed EasyJet cabin.  When a bitchy flight attendant conducts her final check, she sneers: “I knew the Americans would get the only spare seat.”

The artist and I exchange puzzled glances:  A compliment or an insult?

Neither.  We needed a seat for Nietzsche!  

This propels us into a manic dialog over Bells Scotch whiskey, alarming fellow passengers as many as three rows away.  

The subject is Nietzsche’s walrus mustache.

“You know, when Nietzsche speaks, you can’t hear him. The sound is completely muffled.  And it’s not like a lip-reader can help.”

“As for kissing, out of the question.  No woman could handle that without choking to death.”

“It’s a defense mechanism.  Having experienced the joys of syphilis, which he contracted as a young man, and which ate through his brain like an apple, turning it to mush, driving him to madness and ultimately killing him, Nietzsche determined the best defense against mankind, more specifically, womankind, is an impenetrable mustache, the biggest ever grown.”

“What about eating?  He can't eat soup or drink coffee.  Spaghetti is out of the question.  Maybe a frankfurter.”

“You’re telling me his mustache is a Bratwurst Engulfer!”

“Is he hiding bad teeth?”

“Did he even have a dentist?”

“How many nits are living in that thing?”

“One million, thirty-nine thousand and sixteen!”

Somebody notifies the pilot.  Our flight attendant arrives to check us out.   “Landing cards?”

“Yes, please.”

She hands us three.  

I look at Van Stein.  “Three?” I mouth.

“She can feel his presence,” he whispers.

I fill out a landing card for dear Friedrich, using the Bedlam Bar address.

Immigration barely notices our antique German philosopher as we breeze through Border Control into the UK, and soon we spill into a balmy Marylebone evening, met by Reek Pisserin and two pairs of Iranian orbs in Hardy’s, grilled halibut, too much pinot noir.