A Surreal Bounce

Nearly one year ago, MJ published an interview with Robert Eringer, upon publication of his latest book, “The Ruse,” detailing Eringer’s undercover work for FBI counterintelligence that helped bring a couple of notorious bad guys to justice. Since then, Eringer has become a Santa Barbara News-Press columnist (“The Investigator”). Long before that, however, Eringer was introduced to one of our favorite local artists: nocturne specialist and OAK group member Thomas Van Stein.

Both men share a fondness for alcoholic beverages and developed a friendship that found them in a variety of local taverns, notably Lucky’s and Piatti, planning the first of a number of trips in search of darkness and insanity. The quest was to find subject matter for a series of Van Stein paintings with which to decorate Eringer’s about-to-open Bedlam Bar in London. The bar’s mottos: “We gladly suffer fools,” and “Don’t suffer mental illness; enjoy it.”

The search for a link between madness and darkness brought the pair to Iceland to experience winter solstice – the shortest and darkest day of the year – beneath a full moon (“berserk” is apparently taken from the Vikings and is, according to Eringer, the Norsemen’s “only contribution to the English language.”

Next was a trip to Arles and St. Remy “in pursuit of Vincent van Gogh’s spirit—and his severed ear.” Then Gheel, Belgium and the relics of Saint Dymphna, patron saint of lunatics. In part, because of the tragic death of Saint Dymphna at the hands of her own father (in 621 A.D.), Gheel now boasts “the world’s most progressive (open air) mental hospital.”

Other trips included one to Las Vegas, the “suicide capital of the United States,” Catalonia, Spain, home of surrealist artist Salvador Dali, the Machiavelli family estate in San Casciano, near Florence. Other cities visited include Sedona, Arizona, Marfa, Texas, Sils Maria, Switzerland (home of Friedrich Nietzsche), and finally, Alaska, land of the midnight sun.

A celebration of Vincent van Gogh's birthday and the publication of “Surreal Bounce,” Eringer’s book detailing his and Van Stein’s odyssey, is set to take place at Piatti in Montecito. Eringer will be there to sign his book, which includes 22 color plates by Thomas Van Stein, on Monday, March 30, beginning at 5:30 pm. Wine and antipasto will be served for up to 80 guests. Cost per person is $100, with all proceeds to go to The Arts Fund. For more information, call 805-965-7321, or go online: www.artsfundsb.org.