An Update

Saturday night, my fiance spent the evening watching YouTube videos on my new couch (a graduation gift from my mother) when my Internet went out.  When we finally got in touch with my roommate just this afternoon, we discovered that he had done a security update and out MAC addresses were accidentally wiped (our router has MAC address filtering so our neighbors don’t max out our bandwidth).

Also, since my trip I’ve fallen into a particularly uncomfortable state.  I feel agitated, uneasy, and entirely uncertain about the future.

Things seem good on the surface; the US, a country I had tried to flee for political reasons in two successive lifetimes, has finally embraced same-sex marriage, upheld its first real attempt at health care reform in decades in the courts, is taking a long hard look at race relations for the first time in decades, and is gradually beginning to draw down on the destructive and costly unwinnable war on drugs (marijuana will be legal in my current home state in less than 24 hours and it’s already legal across the river in Washington, where cozy neighborhood shops on main street now sell the stuff).  Also, transgender visibility from figures like Caitlyn Jenner gives me hope that one day it won’t matter what I was assigned at birth and I won’t have to worry how many people have connected the dots and know that I was born male.

In my personal life, I’ve graduated, I’m well on my way to graduate school, and my home is getting cleaner and more livable as I finally have time to focus on the domestic space and to stop living out of boxes like I have for the last 4 years.  By the end of July, I should have yet another novel ready for publication (my goal is for a debut at that annual convention in Seattle this year).

But I don’t feel happy, satisfied, or at ease.  There is a pervasive sense of impermanence, of something being “off.”  I’m still dealing with severe employment-related anxiety that brings me panic attacks every time I start looking for jobs.  I’m still unsure of how I’m going to go about learning Latin ahead of grad school (not necessary but it helps immensely).  I’m still not sure I’m where I need or want to be in life.

Then there are the external factors.  Driving through some of the more rural parts of my own state was an eye-opener.  Confederate flags are springing up next to billboards condemning homosexuality, non-Christian religions, and the federal government, and if it’s getting like that in Oregon, I can only imagine that large parts of South Carolina- where I grew up and got firsthand exposure to the culture from age 4 to age 23- are starting to look a bit like a Klan rally 24/7.  Churches are going up in flames all over the South (several this week, including a number of confirmed arsons), and the Confederate Flag is quickly becoming a go-to symbol not simply of Southern identity politics, but of militant far-right culture warriors riled up by recent events.

The sort of people who legitimately feel this is worth fighting, killing, and dying for (and aren’t just posing in militant gear on Facebook to look tough) are fortunately a small minority, and they become isolated more and more every day as the tenor of their extreme rhetoric pushes away more and more reasonable people.  But do not underestimate the damage that a mentally-unhinged and well-funded group of even a few thousand militants can do; if the difficulty of controlling ISIS is any indication, a similarly-structured “Crusade” by rabid fundamentalists toting AR-15s in the backs of their pickup trucks could quickly take over large parts of the country and make life difficult for people in other parts of the country.

I do not anticipate that any of the groups who seek the overthrow of the federal government and establish strict Calvinist religious law a la Cromwell will succeed, but what I do anticipate is a bloody struggle as a small but well-armed minority that feels threatened and disenfranchised begins to lash out with increasing ferocity.  I also anticipate losing friends to violence, especially a number of openly gay friends I have in places like Texas and Oklahoma where moods are souring by the minute.

I just hope that I can live to enjoy the progress we’ve made without seeing the coming madness at my doorstep.  .

Finally, Photos!

Sorry I’m late with this, but I finally have some photos of my trip.

Sea cliffs near Point Reyes.

Sea cliffs near Point Reyes.  

I never found any cliffs exactly like the ones I remember being shipwrecked off of, but enough of Marin and Sonoma county had similar cliffs that I’m fairly sure it was somewhere in that stretch of ocean.

A Deer in Point Reyes Station.

A Deer in Point Reyes Station.

The wildlife was abundant and not terribly shy either.

St. Columba's Episcopal Church

St. Columba’s Episcopal Church

I have yet to confirm if Phil attended services here, but there was something incredibly familiar about the place.  It resembled a place I thought I had seen in my present life’s childhood but could never place.

The house in Point Reyes Station.

The house in Point Reyes Station.

I had absolutely no trouble finding this house without glancing at a map, tucked away though it was.  The road to it wasn’t even visible from the bend in the road but I knew exactly where to turn!  Everything is so overgrown now, I barely recognized it, though from this angle it looked the most familiar.  That door nearest the camera is where I remember that Easter photo with one of the girls being taken though sadly I’ve yet to confirm that memory.

The house in Santa Venetia.

The house in Santa Venetia.

I was reluctant to even take this photo, let alone post it, since the place was so tucked away and because my fiance’s inclusion of the car mirror makes it look WAY too voyeuristic.  Once again, I was able to navigate my way to this house with very little difficulty and without using a map.

The Marin County Civic Center

The Marin County Civic Center

This building was the source of one of my few confirmed memories, though to this day I’m on the fence as to whether or not someone besides myself or Phil would see a Roman building in these space-age shapes.

Rasputin Music, formerly University Music

Rasputin Music, formerly University Music

This was the music store Phil worked at.  In a loft that now contains Latin and classical music, I confirmed with a store employee that there were (until very recently) listening booths like the ones I remember!  With that confirmation, I bought a couple of Phil’s old favorites that I still enjoy (Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony) for old time’s sake.

Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

This view down Sir Francis Drake Blvd. headed back toward Point Reyes Station from Inverness was one of the few views that struck me as being intensely familiar.

In all, the trip brought few confirmations but it did give me some good circumstantial evidence that I might have been Phil.  Despite having only glanced briefly at maps a few weeks before the trip, I had no trouble navigating Marin County as if I had lived there and that has to count for something.

As for settling the question definitively, I can’t.  I could easily keep trying to contact people I knew to try to mine for confirmations but I don’t want to intrude.  I went through their lives like a tornado once and they buried the man I was a long time ago… it’s not like me to be a revenant and disturb their peace once again.  Still, I can’t help but hope that someone I knew- a friend or even better, one of my children- will see this blog one day and get back to me.

By the way, a friend who knows about my memories sent me a link to this review of the Wachowski’s “Sense 8” and I was really tickled by this passage (emphasis mine):

Such frank, brave representations of fluid states of sexuality and monogamy are hard to discuss in fiction, as they often are in society, without overtones of exploitation or tokenism. Sense8’s central premise of empathy-based shared consciousness normalises these ways of being, and in the process it legitimises them.

This is why Sense8 feels like the kind of thing Philip K. Dick might have written, had he lived to see this bold new era, with its growing acceptance of the fluid nature of identity, gender, sexuality and self. His books are sometimes criticised for their misogyny, both intentional and unintended. But at heart, Dick believed in empathy as the highest of the human virtues. A show exploring the notion that we share more than divides us, no matter what barriers or labels we choose or are born with, would have appealed to him.

If they only knew!  My writing does indeed have a queer sensibility these days!

Today’s Events

Today had a very different feeling. I didn’t have any new memories but things started having more emotional reactions and I even confirmed at least one memory.

I woke up early (due to allergies) to a misty morning with scores of different kinds of birds singing.  After breakfast, we drove down to Santa Venetia.

The first emotional trigger was actually in Fairfax, on the way to San Rafael. A police car got behind me- one of those Dodge Chargers that are styled so much like the muscle cars they used back in Phil’s time- and seeing that car in my rearview while songs from the late 60s played on the car stereo almost gave me a panic attack.

All the way, I kept second-guessing my route and finding that I was actually correct on my first guess all the way there. I would say “this is probably the wrong way” but I would find that some subconscious part of me knew the way, even though I deviated quite a lot from the route I had clicked through on Streetview. I found my way to the “Hermit House” (the place that inspired “A Scanner Darkly”) with incredible ease but didn’t stay long. We stayed longer at the Marin County Civic Center and took some pictures but vertigo got the better of me.

Didn’t get a picture of the house on Francisco Street in Berkeley, but I passed it. I had a bit of trouble finding that one but I found it without having to consult a map. There were people outside, I was busy driving, my fiance was slow with the camera, and I really didn’t want those people to see me making multiple passes in a nondescript sedan with a camera out!

From there we went to Telegraph Avenue, which I found with only moderate difficulty. We stopped at Rasputin Music (formerly University Music) where Phil was a clerk, and I asked a clerk if there had been listening booths up in the loft where they now keep the latin and classical music. I am pleased to say I have confirmed this memory! While I was there I bought CDs of Toscanini conducting Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Leonard Bernstein conducting Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. I almost bought a 4 LP set of Bernstein conducting Fidelio but sadly I have no turntable yet.

After lunch at the Caffe Meditteraneum my fiance and I decided to head back the long way via the Golden Gate Bridge, which gave me the only major wrong turn I’ve had since I got to the Bay (turning eastward on Hwy 24).

Let me tell you, the freeways leading up to the Golden Gate Bridge are a mess! Save your sanity and don’t bother! I didn’t have to check the map once all day but dealing with cars weaving in and out of lanes in bumper-to-bumper traffic probably aged me about ten years.

After all that, it was a relief to head back to Point Reyes Station. We took a drive out to Drake’s Beach and had a nice romantic walk to cool down after dealing with the crowds in the Bay Area. I’ve come to feel very relaxed and happy here in Marin County and I think I’ll be back.

All things considered, I still don’t know if I was Phil and I guess I never will. I know the area a little too well to brush it off completely, but none of my confirmations have been really stunning..

One thing that did emerge is that I am undoubtedly a better writer. Seeing this place from the ground brings to mind a descriptive richness that one needs to really convey the look of the place; Phil simply didn’t have that. If I was him then I have it better all around and I’m happy with who I am and what I have now.

Pics of the trip to come when things settle down a bit, probably Monday or Tuesday. Tomorrow we’ve scrapped our plans to go to Muir Woods due to the crowds (we stopped by today but didn’t go in because there was nowhere to park). Instead, we will be going back to the gorgeous seaside here in Point Reyes, this time exploring the Tomales Bay National Seashore. Then it’s back to Eureka for the night before dragging ourselves back to Portland, thoroughly exhausted but strangely satisfied.

Point Reyes Station

Today my fiance and I drove down from Eureka along highway 101 and then highway 1 to Point Reyes Station.

Our first attraction along the way was Avenue of the Giants, which was well worth the extra time to drive down and see (I’ve wanted to see giant sequoias in California since I was just a kid).

Despite clicking through it on Street View multiple times, I missed the turn-off for Highway 1 initially.  That on its own didn’t mean much but that becomes more relevant later.

We stopped briefly in Mendocino, which is kind of nice but not really my kind of place (too expensive for one thing).

The day’s only major trigger had nothing to do with Phil; it was when I saw the sea cliffs in Sonoma and Marin County.  I feel increasingly confident that the regression where I saw a side-wheeled paddles steamer capsized in the waters off these cliffs was a legitimate memory.

About 11 miles from our B&B, I completely blew my prediction that our destination was only 5 miles away, and as far as specific memories and feelings the place doesn’t really give me any.  After going to several places where I know Phil would have known (including the Point Reyes Lighthouse) I feel doubtful that I was him.

However, there is one detail that leaves me with nagging questions: unlike the turn-off for highway 1, I have had no wrong turns whatsoever in this entire town.  I even knew short cuts back to the B&B.  I knew how to get to the lighthouse (despite not even clicking through that route on Streetview), and I knew how to get to the grocery store (I even knew that the grocery store parking lot had a back entrance).  I made every turn without hesitation as if I knew the place like the back of my hand.

It’s weird because I don’t get the typical “past life feeling” in this place, and yet I seem to know streets I’ve never even clicked through as if I’ve been here.

I’m actually pretty perplexed by this development.  I thought it’d be all feeling and almost no sense of direction but it’s quite the opposite; it’s almost no feeling but the layout of the town is all there.

Tomorrow is the real test.  I’m going to see if I can drive to the Hermit House in San Rafael and the house on Francisco Street in Berkeley without using a map.  I still don’t feel as if I’ve been here before but maybe something will trigger in Berkeley at least.

Made It To Eureka

Just a brief post because I really don’t trust the wi-fi here at this hotel.  I’m in Eureka for the evening.

Saw a gas station along the Redwood Highway that kind of reminded me of the Esso station I remember seeing some time in the early 60s but I don’t know if that was the place.  Aside from that, nothing but a faint twinge of familiarity that I typically get at these seaside towns on the Pacific coast.

The redwoods were really something to see though.  If not for the poor light and the fact that the big car they gave us was a bit of a handful on those twisting roads, I’d have taken pics.

I will be completing the leg to Point Reyes Station tomorrow.  If I’m going to have a flashback, it’ll be about the time I get deep into Marin County.  Still not counting on it though; I just don’t feel like anything’s going to happen.

Packed And Ready

This should be my last entry before leaving on my trip, unless something comes up at the last moment.

Budget didn’t have an economy or compact car on their lot, so they upgraded me for free to a premium sedan.  They were going to rent me a nice white Chrysler 300 but they had already rented it out to someone (confusion and chaos in the office today), so they gave me a Ford Taurus Limited which is still a very nice car.  I got a little overwhelmed by all the bells and whistles on the thing since I’m so accustomed to driving cars that are barely even running.

I stopped and got us some groceries at Trader Joe’s on the way out.  We should be set for most of the weekend with the stuff I got.  All we’ll need to buy is anything dairy or any veggies and we can do that when we get to Point Reyes Station.  We may also be forced to buy dishes down there but I’ve bought a couple of microwaveable Thai noodle boxes just in case we end up in that predicament.

I also got us three different kinds of cider, something Phil wasn’t known for swilling but I’ve developed a taste for since moving to Portland… it ought to ground me a bit if things get awkward.  Also, I really want to try it with bleu cheese since discovering what dessert wine does for the stuff while my mother was visiting.  I figure something sweet like cider could do wonders for it and I’ve read that there’s a place called Cowgirl Creamery down there that has really good bleu cheese.

Going to load a few more songs onto my mp3 player too.  I’ve already got pretty much all my favorite songs on it but I’ll do one last check.  The playlist for the drive down the coast runs about 140 files and some of those are entire albums ripped as a single mp3.

I’ve only got a cursory amount of packing left to do, and that’ll be all the stuff I need to have out until the last moment.

My first stop will be in Eureka, since Portland is pretty far up the coast.  From my place to the B&B it’s around 680 miles or about as far as the drive from Key West to Hilton Head, for those on the East Coast (or Paris to Padua for those on the Continent).

If any of my readers in Marin County runs into a tallish brunette wearing a blue lapis pendant, feel free to say hi but don’t expect me to talk about past lives.  This isn’t the triumphant return of a long-lost legend, this is just a slightly insane author trying to sort out where her past ends and her fictions begin.

Assuming Nothing

I’m trying to clear my head of any and all expectations, assumptions, and preconceptions before I get to Marin County.

Now, granted, that’s quite impossible to do completely, but it’s helpful to remind myself that most of my case for having been Phil is a handful of memories, some very minor synchronicities, a similarity of body and being that is consistently “a little more than halfway” to quote my father, and the rest is all just gut feeling.

It’s the gut feeling I’ve been trying to tamp down the most, and I feel like I’ve done an okay job of that.  Without the gut feeling this is by far the weakest of my past life claims (Pte. John Harris being the strongest owing to the sheer number and quality of confirmations and the fact that he wasn’t famous).

I’m actually kind of hoping nothing triggers me on this trip.  The truth is I don’t want to have been Phil because I want to believe he’s achieved gnosis and isn’t coming back.  If I was him, then I either fucked up or I was fooling myself.  Also, if I was him then I was a terrible father and a fatally flawed husband and that’s a painful thing to consider.

I had gotten rid of the gut feeling that I was Count William, until meeting a friend whom I had only spoken to online up until that point and who reminded me in subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways of Richard jerked me back into that feeling permanently and made me feel awkward about talking to my friend for months.  I don’t want that again… but I do want answers.

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, I suppose.

I’m picking up the rental car and packing my bags tomorrow, then Thursday morning first thing we’re heading on the first leg of our drive, stopping in Eureka before continuing on to Point Reyes Station on Friday.  It’s such a long drive from Portland and I haven’t driven in almost two years so at the moment I’m actually more nervous about the drive itself.

I’ll post at least one more update before I leave.

Mother And Child

As some of you know, my relationship with my mother in my current life has been a fraught one, but it seems to be on the mend of late.

Yesterday, while looking for a sofa in a store that sold both used furniture and antiques, she came across an 1929 edition of “A Child’s Garden of Verses” and showed it to me. She told me it was one of her favorite books as a child and opened it to a poem called “The Swing”:

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside–

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown–
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

She read it aloud and I felt myself choking back tears though I never let her see it. I knew I had heard this before… I knew this wasn’t the first time I had a mother read that aloud to me though I know this wasn’t a book Mom read to me as a child. I had the most powerful sense that I had heard that poem as a child in the 1880s.

I looked up the date of the initial publication of “A Child’s Garden of Verses.” It was initially released under the name “Penny Whistles” in 1885.

I already had a similar sense about the song “Lavender’s Blue,” which I cried when I heard as a child in this life much to my mother’s confusion… she was the one who played that song too.

I now have the most eerie feeling that I have the same mother in this life and the fraught relationship we have has something to do with the first time I lost her… and I’m beside myself emotionally. She doesn’t remember and looks nothing like the fair-skinned, strawberry blonde woman I remember, and she thinks I’m a bit insane for even thinking I had lived in those days, but I don’t care… I’m just happy that I still have a chance to nurture that relationship and that we’ve opened a path to reconciliation after such a very long time.

Off And On For A Bit

Things have been really crazy between the first university graduation I’ve had in any life to date (I now hold a BA in social science from Portland State University), a tense but ultimately rewarding reconciliation with family, and a long trip back to a possible past life home town coming up on Thursday.

Also, the laptop I used to write four of my six completed novels to date (an afflicted Asus K42F with chronic problems with keyboard and graphics drivers) experienced a catastrophic keyboard failure, and I’ve been breaking in a new one since last night (though it’s a very nice HP Envy 2 in 1 my mother and stepfather bought me before they went home).

I will have some Internet access on the trip so expect sporadic updates between now and Monday, but things won’t really get back to normal until next Tuesday.

A Visit From Family

My parents are in town for my graduation on Sunday.  I haven’t always had the best relationship with my mother but I want to try to get along with her as well as I can… I really hope she can keep her end of things.

I did some cleaning today, clearing out my living room which up to this point has been used as a storage space.  I’m trying to reclaim it for actually living in.  It’s still kind of bare because I don’t have the furniture I need but if there’s one thing that’s plentiful in Portland it’s cute furniture at a good price.

I did more than clear it out though; I did some setting up to try to get some idea of where things are going to go as I furnish the place ad-hoc over the next few weeks.  The space had been used for storage since we moved here four years ago, and it still had the lingering stink of my former roommates’ chaotic energy in the arrangement.  What I was doing today is nothing less than re-claiming my space from chaos itself.

I hung up the first of many photos (a photo I took of Mt. Rainier from the window of an airliner in 2005), set up my book shelf, and (perhaps most importantly of all) I set up my stereo, which has been sitting under a pile of stuff since 2011.

The first song I played on it was “O Welche Lust” from Fidelio.  I think it was a fitting selection.