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.

I’m Actually Going…

I’m actually going.

Holy crap, I’m actually going.

That thought’s been playing in my head for the last week or so.  I’m actually going to see places that I knew in my last life.  I’m returning to my roots in the Bay.

Such a strange mix of emotions right now.  How will I feel when I’m on the ground in Point Reyes Station, or Berkeley?  How will I feel when I see the houses I lived in, the record store I used to work in, the high school I went to?

Maybe it’ll prove to me once and for all that I wasn’t him.  I’m kind of hoping that’s the case.  The whole time I’ve suspected I was Phil I’ve been vexed by what exactly that means, if it’s part of some bigger Divine plan that I’ve been returned to this earth or if it was hubris to think I’d be whisked away to some heavenly Palm Tree Garden when I died, and what if anything I should do with myself as a writer.  But if I wasn’t him, then I have none of his baggage and that can only be a good thing because he had way too much of it.

Graduation gives me a good pretext to go… as far as a lot of my friends know that’s my reason for this trip.  I’ve admitted publicly that I’m a fan of Phil’s work but only a few friends know the real story, and that’s how I want to keep it.  I sure as hell won’t say here where I’ll be staying or what my exact itinerary will be, on the off chance someone more unhinged than me might think it was a good idea to confront me.  Even if I meet someone who knew me in that life, I don’t feel like I want to bother them with it.  This is about more than just answering selfish questions.  Even so, there is someone I really would like to apologize to for how I treated them back then, and if I say anything, it will be by way of apology.

I’ve still got a few more weeks for this to really sink in.  The trip will be in late June.  I’ll be driving, which will bring me right through the Humboldt Redwoods and some perfectly majestic stretches of the Pacific coastline.

The place I’m staying will have WiFi, so there will probably be updates.  Also, I got a new camera, so photos are likely and video is a possibility.

Until then, updates here will be sparse as I finish up a grueling term at Portland State.  I’ve had some great success with the research I’m doing on that old medieval manuscript, including discovering things about it that the library didn’t know.  That project is eating a good bit of my spare time though, and probably will until the middle of June.

Until my next update, stay tuned… this story isn’t over.  Not by a long shot.

Well This Sucks…

The trip to Berkeley might be off.

I’m really not sure if I want to go alone… it might be too much for me.  But the person who was going to go with me has an injured ankle and needs to keep weight off of it for a while.

We’ll have to see how it goes.  If nothing else, owing to financial uncertainties and the increasingly fragile health of my cat, my fiance and I might settle for a weekend in Marin County over traveling to England.  Then, I could give extended time to seeing Berkeley, Santa Venetia, and Point Reyes Place and I could have him with me for support if it got rough.

Back to Berkeley- Meditations on a Lost Childhood in the 1930s

There’s a good chance I may be visiting Berkeley while I’m down in San Jose.  A friend from one of the reincarnation forums I post on may help me get there.

I’m both excited and a bit nervous.  This will be my first time knowingly walking into places where I had a previous life.  It was weird enough being in places I knew without realizing why I felt so strange, but this will really open the flood gates.

I’ve been listening to music from the 30s and 40s a lot lately, and feeling homesick for those times more than the turbulent 60s and 70s as the day draws near.  Admittedly, my previous life’s identity as a child of the 1930s is downplayed because he was always so much with or ahead of his times, but all his life- and well into this life- I have always had a profound nostalgia for the period between 1935 and 1941.

I think the nostalgia was helped along in this life by the TV show “TaleSpin,” which debuted around the time I was 5 years old and by “The Rocketeer,” which debuted around the same time.  I also spent a lot of time in antique stores and auction houses as a child, where I saw art deco radios, vintage toys, and old furniture proudly displayed.  I think this is why my work ended up taking a dieselpunk trajectory in this life rather than starting out with space operas like Phil did (as space opera was pretty passe by 1989-92, when I was around the same age I discovered science fiction in my previous life).

Something about the timing of my exposure to the aesthetics of the early 20th century probably planted the seed in my mind that I had lived in those times.

I remember once playing with a friend around age 9 at living in the year 1938.  I stuck a piece of paper on top of a framed cross-stitch I had been given with my birth date on it, modified to say 1928 instead of 1984, and put up a replica 1938 calendar I had (1994 dates coincided with 1938 dates).  I think we may have used some other items too, random old odds and ends that I had from antique stores and auction houses.  In hindsight this makes a lot of sense; I would have been 9 years old in 1938.  That was also the year I moved to Berkeley from D.C. so it was a big year in my life that I would want to remember.

Now that I think about it, I also remember when I was about 7 fantasizing that I was actually from the 1930s, and had traveled to the 1990s in a time machine, and in truth I half-believed it and told others that I didn’t think I belonged in the present, which led to a lot of ridicule.  In hindsight, so much of my childhood was marked by a persistent feeling of being displaced from the proper time period.

Now, as an adult, I long for more complete memories of that childhood, and the teen years I spent in the more Bohemian circles of Berkeley.  I want to remember clearly what I saw “through a glass darkly” when I was young in this life.  I want to remember what it was like before all the marriages and divorces and the banal but troubled adulthood in the 60s and 70s that is pressed so firmly into my memory.  I know those memories are there because I re-enacted those years when I was a child in this life, even if I had no idea what I was re-enacting or why these weird ideas that I was living in the wrong decade entered my head.

I want to remember… I hope I find what I’m looking for in Berkeley in a couple of weeks.

From An Old Journal

On the subject of music from the first half of the 20th century, I found an old journal entry dated January 31, 2009 that in hindsight tells me I really did remember more than I knew:

I sometimes listen to big band, swing, and lounge jazz from the pre-1955 era when I have a strange, detached sort of melancholy going on. In a way I guess it’s sort of invoking ghosts of the past. The authentic recordings sound like they’re being played from the end of a long, empty hall and it kind of feels like listening to spirits… not in a creepy way, but in a sort of soft “opening of the worlds” kind of way.

I’m not sure I can ever describe it accurately. It’s not music I listen to specifically just for the sake of the music like I do with more recent artists, or with the classics. It’s music that carries a strange sort of essence with it; not the essence of 1940’s NCO clubs and air raid shelters like Hollywood would have it so much, but the essence of a dark room in some big city apartment building with the neighbor’s record player on a little too loud. Maybe there’s a war on somewhere or maybe it’s just another day… the smell of an extinguished cigarette, the creak of an old wooden floor, the sound of a lone motorcycle on the street below but not much else, and somewhere on the street the dim glow of a neon sign half a block away.

My mind is full of vignettes like this from different times and places, and while I’ve no idea how they got there, it’s always the same things that switch them back on. Maybe it’s just an author’s imagination hard at work.

I think it was one such mood and listening to a short playlist of old big band and jazz recordings that got me to start writing [my second novel], oddly enough.

You know, in hindsight this was all just brewing beneath the surface and I was clueless.  That room I saw, I’m fairly sure, is my room in an old warehouse in Berkeley in the late 40s where I lived with gay beat poets.  I could picture it so clearly in my mind and still can.  This pretty much proves (to me at least) that my second novel- which was a gay-themed romance in a dieselpunk setting- was somehow born of my past life experiences as a young Bohemian in Berkeley.  I remembered those days fondly in my previous life and now I think they may have steered my writing well into this life.

The Old Record Store

As some fans of Philip K. Dick might know, he worked in a music store in Berkeley fairly early on.  At the time it was called University Music, but it changed to Rasputin Music while Phil was still in Marin County.

Here we have a video inside the store.  It’s been remodeled a good bit, but there were a few moments where my nostalgia went into overdrive:

First, that stairway to the loft looks more or less the same.  I think the colored steps were done after it became Rasputin, but the aluminum trim on the edges of the steps was definitely there.  My gut tells me the loft has been majorly remodeled because I seem to remember there being a cozy, paneled, carpeted space with a hi-fi and a couch.  I’ve been trying to track that memory down for months, though, and information is sparse.

Second, they still have the 50 cent record bin!  Incredible!  I didn’t even remember it until I saw this but I remember them having it back when the place was still called University Music.  They’ve long since moved it to the basement with the rest of the vinyl, but after I saw this I distinctly remembered it being to the right as you walked in the door.  Now I’m hoping against hope someone can confirm this for me.  A brief look at information on the cost of records in the 1950s-70s shows me that 50 cents would have been cheap for a record even then, so it seems plausible.

This Is Rather Interesting

An article about Philip K. Dick’s early years living in what I can only guess was slightly better than squat accommodations with gay poets in Berkeley, and his resulting homosexual panic that culminated (according to legend) in a short-lived relationship with Jeanette Marlin.

However, the article contains a rather revealing passage:

And according to Spicer’s biographers, Robert Duncan later told the poet Thom Gunn that Dick once stepped into Duncan’s room and suddenly masturbated in front of him.

That…  really changes things.  It doesn’t prove that Phil was gay or bi or whatever, but it’s worth noting.  I still have to wonder if Phil wouldn’t have been more sexually adventurous if he hadn’t grown up in the 30s and 40s.

It’s interesting that my first published book was set in a period analogous to the 30s and involved gay characters living in a glorified squat.  It’s hard to draw a direct parallel though since the setting and characters had very important differences.

It’s also interesting that my memory of having been William Longespee is of being quite readily bisexual, and even in this life I have my preferences but I’m not sure I’m 100% one way or the other.

That just leaves John, in the way of lives I can recall, but nothing about John to me suggests he was anything but straight (in fact my only remotely sexual memories are sadly from brothels in France).

So now I’m MtF trans, bisexual with a strong preference for men and engaged to a man who has a bizarre resemblance to the woman Phil married in a moment of homosexual panic.  What do I make of that, if anything?