Out And About

As the punishing heat of the El Nino summer dissipates into a mild early autumn, I’ve been trying to make good on my promise to myself to get out more.

Today I rode a bus down Barbur Blvd. in Portland down to a world food market near the Barbur Transit Center.  I’m going to have to go back because they had a lot of the necessary exotic ingredients I might need to recreate some of the recipes in the Forme of Cury (a 14th Century cookbook full of delicious recipes).

I met a Londoner there… how I love meeting Britons anywhere in the world!  There’s always an instant rapport when we get talking about the comforts of home.  He gave me some good tips on places to check out including a chippy up North Portland and a British food store and tea room down in Lake Oswego called Lady Di’s.

So, grinning ear to ear, I hopped on the bus and went the opposite way, back through City Center and down Sandy.

The stretch of Sandy Blvd. I was on is a rather unusual place.  There’s a lot of mid-century architecture; it must have been heavily developed from about 1930 to 1970.  There are novelty buildings shaped like jugs of rum and persian Palaces (and there used to be a now-infamous chicken place which is now an unassuming rib joint), there are art deco theaters and offices, and there’s a jet age Pepsi bottling plant.

Among (and sometimes inside) these relics of the mid-century, sprouting almost cthonically like the wilted flowers of yesteryear bearing fruits of chintz, are numerous vintage shops selling pretty much every item of everyday life from the last 100 years or so.  They cater not only to collectors, but to hipsters who appropriate items for re-use as decor and to old souls who actually use these items the way they were intended (and there are many in this city).

I was looking for things that jog memories, as I often do, or things that might have some sentimental value related to past lives.  I was also looking for a suitable Edwardian tin to become the basis for a sort of portable shrine to John I’ve been wanting to put together for a while now.

As “Sleepwalk” by Santo and Johnny played on the PA, a friendly clerk in a pretty black Chinese dress asked if there was anything she could help me find.

Thinking quick, I gave her a perfectly plausible story about a thrice-great uncle who had died in the war and an unwise great aunt who had thrown out his belongings, which is utter bullshit.  I then told her that I wanted to create a simulacrum of the sort of thing he might have kept in his dresser had he survived the war as a sort of shrine in his memory, which is entirely true.

She replied that she did get Edwardian tins in every now and then and I left my contact info just in case.

I wandered a bit more, going into a couple more stores, mostly lost in my own thoughts as I picked through the detritus of eras I vaguely remember, lost in the inscrutable mess of past life memories and present life ruminations.

I wonder sometimes if the bits and pieces of John Harris’ life weren’t sold off in shops like this.  Photographs without context bundled into bins and sold piecemeal, letters from the front, his old phonograph un-played since the summer of 1914, memorial placards distributed among his friends and family back home, all of them behind glass and priced to sell.  It’s a desolate thought, but these are exactly the sort of items from other people’s lives I kept seeing.

All the while I kept feeling the strangest yearning to be a straw hat-wearing dandy.  I pictured myself in those days as a handsome man with a straight back and a trim figure, enjoying all the things a young Victorian or Edwardian dandy might enjoy, and I cringed to think of myself, bloated and craven and hovering between male and female.  For a while I thought “what the hell happened to me?” and questioned if I should have transitioned at all.

But then I realized that these weren’t my aspirations at all, they were John’s.  In every one of them I was dreaming of a time that doesn’t exist any more.  And when I thought of forswearing my gender-bending ways and becoming an anachronistic dandy in the 21st century, it began to feel silly and wrong; that just isn’t me at all.

At times I feel that fragments of my earlier selves compete with who I am now, and have to be reminded that the past is gone.  Maybe vintage shops aren’t the best place for someone like me after all.

Couer de Lion No More

Spending some time with the guy who reminded me of Richard over these last couple of evenings, I have some thoughts.

First, I can’t be sure he wasn’t Richard because he has a certain charisma, energy, lust for life, and idealism that are all traits Richard had. He brings these traits out in others the way Richard did too (last night I partied harder than I had in several years and by the end of the night, I was actually dancing which is rare for me). From my view he very well could have been the old Troubadour.

Now here’s the thing: If he was Richard, I don’t really care because I like him better as he is now, not saddled with the responsibility of being born to rule a kingdom. He’s happier to sing and dance and make his living as a performer on the weekends and a music teacher during the week. He’s not having to beat the living shit out of people just to keep their respect. He’s able to live openly with his boyfriend instead of keeping his sexuality a matter for the historians to debate.

If this is my brother from so long ago, he’s free and he’s happy and I love him as he is. He doesn’t have to be Couer de Lion any more.

That Tune Again!

A couple years ago I remarked on how I had heard the melody “Va Pensiero” come up often.

I hadn’t really noticed it much lately, until this evening when I was browsing a series of recordings by the band and bugles of the Third Battalion of the Light Infantry (the division formed by merging the KSLI with various other Light Infantry regiments in 1963).

This was one of the recordings:

Did that song have some significance to our regiment, I wonder?  Is that why it has stuck in my head for so long, haunting me as if it was a clue to something?

I need to look into this.

EDIT:  WHOA.  I was just showing this to my fiance and he asked what part of the Bible the plot of the opera “Nabucco” is adapted from and I replied that Nabucco was the Italian name for Nebuchadnezzar, who is mentioned in the Book of Daniel… then it hit me like a ton of bricks that I’d been having a lot of dreams and visions related to the Book of Daniel lately!  The threads come together in a bizarre way.

Off To Seattle Again

I’ll be off to Seattle to sign books again like I did about this time last year, spending time with many of the talented friends I’ve made over the years.

Very excited to go on this trip again!  Last year I left feeling like I was an integral part of a really unique community of brilliant people and I need to feel that again.

I just hope there’s no awkwardness with my friend who reminds me of Richard… I don’t want to make him into someone he’s not.  Luckily he was surprisingly cool with it when I told him about the feelings he brought out in me and I think just spending a little time with him might help cement him as the person he is and not the person he reminds me of.

Fortunately I think we’re going to be too busy for any centuries-old baggage to carry any weight.  I’ll travel light and expect nothing but a good time.

John or Jack?

I can’t believe I didn’t notice this sooner.

Going back through Philip K. Dick’s works, I discover that in at least two places he referred to himself as “Jack.”  In “Confessions of a Crap Artist,” he used the name Jack Isidore for his author avatar character.  He also wrote “Orpheus With Clay Feet” under the name “Jack Dowland,” which was a reference to the composer John Dowland.

Indeed, “Jack” is a nickname for John and it’s got me wondering if I wasn’t better known, during my earlier life, as Jack Harris and if Phil’s use of this name wasn’t somehow a residual memory.  It’s a long shot to say the least but it’s food for thought.

I really need to get back to reading his work to see if I can spot more instances of the name Jack.  Maybe this is just a fluke or maybe he was thinking of Dowland in both instances.

Still, “Jack” is a rather fitting name for a country boy from Somerset.  It’s trusty, strong, and unassuming.  That’s certainly how I would like to think I was back in those days.

Meanwhile In The Present…

Lately, a major development has been going on in my life which I would like to share here.

As I’ve briefly mentioned, I am transgender in this life- a strange stroke of fortune if there ever was one- and I am actively transitioning male to female.

So far it has gone about as well as one could reasonably expect, barring some disappointments with laser hair removal.  I’ve been on hormones now for more than 2 1/2 years, and I’ve had my name and ID legally changed to reflect my new status.

Now, I’m eyeing the final finishing touches: re-attempting hair removal and taking that final, certain step to ensure that I will live the rest of this present life irreversibly as a woman.  I am referring, of course, to full genital surgery.  I’ve been thinking about it now for the better part of three years and I have not, in all this time, soured on the idea.

I have obtained the two required letters- one from an attending physician and one from a board-certified psychologist with whom I have a working relationship.  She is aware of my past life claims and we have talked at length about my memories and how they have shaped my view of the world.

Today I made arrangements for a local clinic to refer me via the Oregon Health Plan to a doctor for consultation.  Whether or not I choose to go through with this operation will depend largely on the skill and experience of whatever doctors are made available to me through the state health plan.  I am aware of the risks and I will not take any cavalier chances on a doctor whom I suspect may turn out to be a butcher; better to live my life hiding male parts and still able to enjoy that life to some lesser degree than to be taken in by a bad surgeon and live the nightmare of severe complications.

Only the prospect of complications scares me; if I could go into the operating theater with a 100% guarantee of a favorable outcome I would not hesitate and I would not be the least bit deterred by the permanence of the change.  My body has already undergone permanent changes on HRT; I am past the point where things like sterility and breast growth would be likely to reverse themselves if I were to stop HRT.  The process of chemical feminization has done nothing in its due course but heighten my enjoyment of life that much more; I don’t anticipate that a successful operation will be anything but an improvement to that end.

This blog may be largely about the highs and lows in my past lives but in my present life, I have been overall very fortunate.  Transitioning male to female has taught me so much about life, love, gender, sex, philosophy, religion, and even about myself and I hope that the lessons I have learned will stay with me until such time as I can transcend the cycle of reincarnation altogether and become reunited with pleroma.

Until then, I will move forward with what the wheel has spun: to be born a man and die a woman.  I will accept this as my destiny gladly and with joy in my heart.

Hottest Lead In Years

On January 6, 2014 (the Feast of the Epiphany, of all days!) I made this post in which I mentioned one of my possible memories from Phil’s life:

I remember a large, short-furred dog (possibly a labrador) that either lived at or visited the house where I lived until 1972. This was not my dog but someone else’s. had previously asked the person I confirmed my earlier memories with, but she was unsure of this memory.

Last night, after sitting on it for a couple of months, I dug out my copy of “The Search For Philip K. Dick” by Anne Dick and started reading again.  I had previously put it away after reading up to the part where Phil’s marriage to Anne had disintegrated and he was living in Oakland with a worsening drug problem.

I read through his San Rafael years last night and I was astonished to discover that there was indeed a black lab that lived at the house in San Rafael!

Once again, this proves nothing.  A black lab is a very common breed… but it really got my attention and brings my earlier claims back to plausibility.

As an aside, there is no mention whatsoever of Kathy Demuelle in Anne’s book… I thought it was strange because she was one of Phil’s biggest crushes (I even remembered the car she drove, a little red Nova).  I even checked the index but she’s not there.  Very odd.