I'm in Bad Kissingen. This is a wonderfully isolated spa place in the south of Germany that used to gather all the literary and musical geniuses of the previous century. It still happens today. From Tolstoy to Rossini, a host of others in between come here to taste the smacking nostalgia for the keiser und kirche culture, and the glorious days when maintaining all things status quo was not only the noblest aim in life, but also the very meaning of life. I'm at a spa hotel that has eeeeeverything in it, including little rich guests, and it amuses me at breakfast to read the look on 80-year old ladies when they size me up and wonder what I must be possessed by to pair my very expensive cashmeres with strings of mountain crystals in all colors instead of proper diamonds – which they flash in my direction with a mysterious largesse. I start laughing, when I feel the presence of the spirit of my dead mother in the room. Going to spa places used to be her thing, yet the only conservative act she ever engaged in. I almost see her taking a seat next to my table and urging me to play cards. Not poker - for God forbid to rob people of their precious possessions - but tarot. Mother is whispering, as she spreads the cards for the old widows and domestic housewives: “they all want to know things, no matter how over the hill they may be.” I follow suit, though I prefer my own card deck to hers. While she uses the Rider-Waite pack, I prefer the Visconti-Sforza. She is good with the symbols, I with the precision. We wink at each other.

The people of Bad Kissingen have so much money that they don't know what to do with it. So they splurge on organizing musical festivals, which I've attended for some years now. They can afford to bring in both, some of the best performers around and some of the weirdest. The only difference is that the weirdoes don't get press coverage, and nor do you get to see their faces plastered all over the city's posters. But this is all the same. As money doesn't interest me in the slightest – and I have a bizarre tendency to share it around, if I have it, or spend it under the oddest of circumstances, when I have it – I use my other senses to follow what money can't buy. As far as I'm concerned, I feel grandly privileged to have the year of 2010 end with being in the company of masters and geniuses who do things for the sake of enlightenment as an experience rather than an idea that can translate into financial benefits.

The formidable ensemble Oni Wytars delights with its program that unites Jerusalem with the beat of Mediterranean music, also anticipating my special rendezvous with them for a whole week in February at an institute of higher learning on Crete. Ensemble Unicorn, with its "Erotiche Lieder" program, follows my resurfacing out of the hamam, some hundred meters under the ground, where I've been communing with salts in the city's famed Salzgrotten. While inhaling what one can otherwise get by the sea - plus more and minus the tourists - the song “Via Con Me, It's Wonderful,” by Paolo Conte comes to my mind. “Via via, vieni via con me. Niente piĆ¹ ti lega a questi luoghi. Vieni via con me,” sings Conte, and it soothes my soul to know that there are still a number of wonderful things around that we can enjoy, if, as he puts, we dare to enter the dark love, rather than lose ourselves to the world of conventions. “Entra in questo amore buio. Non perderti per niente al mondo.” The only condition is that we know ourselves. Being above ambivalence and duality is a tall order and requires a rough and tough honesty. But it can be done, if we listen properly to the silence of the salts, or sands. Or else play and drink with the following: Carlo Rizzo, genius and god on the riq; Ross Daly, genius and ghost on the lyra; Luigi Lai, genius and grandmaster on launeddas. Happy New Year to you all.


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