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.

Doubt

I no longer doubt that in this life, I am a capable writer with a grand voice all my own.

What I doubt most of all is my previous enthusiasm for this being my second such lifetime.

Sure, I knew about the Marin County Civic Center and what Phil thought of it.  Sure, I’m psychologically, physically, and culturally similar on many levels.  Sure, I haven’t yet ruled out further confirmations.  Sure, I found clues in Phil’s writings that suggest he recalled WWI just as I did.

But why do I remember nothing of writing?  Why do I only have one very tenuous memory of the stamp collection I prized?  Why can’t I remember more things I can confirm?  Why didn’t I remember my step-children or their names?  Why can’t I remember more about my life in general?

Generally, without getting into the finer details of his biography, my case is pretty weak and even with the stronger details, I can only say for certain that I’m a halfway plausible candidate for having been  him.  But without more memories or more confirmations, I’m extremely doubtful.

I wrote an extraordinary book to see once and for all if I was made of the same stuff and ironically, though the book turned out to be everything I wanted it to be, I’m still left with gaping doubts.  I know I’m a great writer and that this kind of helps my case circumstantially, but I could have been a great writer without being one in a previous life so it proves nothing.  I would be less vexed if I had failed miserably at my attempt.

I’ll be going down to the Bay Area this summer, staying in rural Marin and making trips to Berkeley, San Rafael, and San Francisco… maybe I’ll manage to find the place unfamiliar enough that I’ll finally be cured of the idea that I was ever him, and I can get on with my life.

I want off this ride.  I feel like fancying myself to be the reincarnation of Philip K. Dick helped cushion the blow from John’s memories (which I regard to be more likely real owing to the number of confirmations I’ve made) and it gave me the impetus to get off my ass and write great literature, but it’s time to put it to rest if I’ve really been making much ado about nothing.

Then again, I made a similar post about Longespee a while back and those of you who have been following this blog a while saw what happened…  I ended up getting blindsided by a couple emotional reactions I was not prepared for.  Emotional reactions prove nothing, but they make it so much harder to doubt on a personal level.

For now, I’m seriously starting to doubt that I was or could ever have been Philip K. Dick and if anything, I’m starting to think I’d rather believe I wasn’t.

Admittedly…

Though I have very little case for having had a previous life in the Middle Ages, I have to confess something.  When I see these elegant restorations of 12th and 13th century interiors, or see medieval clothing authentically recreated, or hear medieval music done a certain way, I cannot, for the life of me, shake the feeling that this was a world I knew, firsthand.

Some of the weirder coincidences between John’s life and William’s still bother me, too, particularly their proximity to each other in defeat 7 centuries apart, and the fact that John’s regiment now house their museum in Shrewsbury Castle (where William Longespee was castellan for a while).  There are weaker coincidences too, such as the places I gravitated toward while in England in 2003-05 (several of which were sites Count William would have known such as Dover Castle and the city of York).  Such coincidences prove nothing, and I can never say I was him or anyone else in that era, but they stand out forever in my mind and breathe enough life into the thought that I don’t think it will ever die completely.

I still plan to visit sites that William and his family would have known, and I still plan to make it a point in my studies to learn as much about the High Medieval period, its culture, its people, its religion, its art, music, and literature, as I possibly can.  I feel that having even considered the prospect of having been there, on the ground as a Royal retainer, has made the era more real for me now than it ever has been or ever will be.

I was lazy when I learned about that era before, but that was a mistake.  I was missing so much that didn’t even click until I saw myself there.  I had lost interest in it and begun to feel that the medieval period was an embarrassment to the West, a dark age best left on the spoil heap of history, derided and forgotten.  I forgot what it was like to remember a world that wasn’t smothered in asphalt and concrete, choked with smog and garbage everywhere, or painted hideous beige from floor to ceiling because it was spoiled for choice when it came to color.

I’ve rejected the modernist narrative of medieval lives being “nasty, brutish, and short” for a more balanced one: that life could be even more “nasty, brutish, and short” during the Industrial Revolution (a mill worker in 1900 had fewer days off and a shorter life expectancy than a peasant in 1200), and that the Middle Ages were a period of chaotic flux that had many positive attributes among the negative ones.  It’s not an era we can go back to or should want to go back to, and medieval religion would be absurd to return to because it would not fill our needs today, but it’s an era that was not without its highlights in artistic and cultural achievement and one that I think deserves its due as a period when the first stirrings of our culture as we know it today began in earnest.

Memory Fragment

I seem to recall that there was a radio station in the Bay Area in the early 70s that played the song “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams before every news break.  They used to fade the song out around the time they had the brass part about 1 minute 15 seconds in.

My uncle in this life was a DJ in the same time period, so I already knew that the FCC regs of the day required DJs to not interrupt any song for a news break except an instrumental.  But I don’t recall if “Classical Gas” was one of those songs.  My father in this life, who was in his early teens at the time, was the one who told me so he would know.  I seem to remember that in my uncle’s case it was “The Horse” or “Grazin’ in the Grass” but I’ve e-mailed Dad to see if that’s correct.

If there’s a chance that this might be more than just confusing my memories with what Dad told me, my next step is to find someone who lived in the Bay Area in the late 60s and early 70s and ask them, I guess.  I know a few people down there though most of them are closer to my age and the oldest of them would have been just toddlers back then.  Obviously, any help from my readers is greatly appreciated.

It’s weird having these memories that would be shared by living people, and it makes confirming them harder because I’ve spent my life in contact with people who lived through that era, whether as children or as adults.  At least William Longespee and John Harris lived in radically different times and places, so there were nuances of everyday life that I had to work hard to confirm and I’m now mostly certain my memories of John’s life may be genuine. The details of day-to-day life aren’t nearly as distinct between 1970 and 2014 because so many of the people, places, institutions, and things from that time are still with us.  Maybe this is why I always find it hard to fully accept my memories of Phil’s life as genuine and wish I could remember more from his childhood and teen years, an era I would naturally know less about.

Why Doubts Persist

Most of the details about John’s life that are of interest to historians are things I don’t recall readily.

I was reminded of that while talking to a Yeovil historian who has made a page about John using some of the facts I’ve discovered and some of the available records.

In particular, he mentions a job I have no recollection of (working in a skinner’s yard), a residence in another town in Herefordshire in 1901, and a marriage to a woman named Margaret which I have never conclusively traced to this particular John Harris.  He also mentions John’s father dying in 1891 (though I was under the impression from what I’d seen that he had at least been alive when John moved to Hereford and that John had lived with him a short time).

Meanwhile, what do I have?  A few memories I’ve traced to actual places from John’s life, a bunch of memories from the war that are “plausible” given the historical facts, an unaccountable vision of a grave that matches John’s, and a bunch of memories that don’t necessarily contradict any of the historic record but are unproved by it.

And really, it makes me terribly self-conscious to claim to have his memories at all, let alone a possible past life.  Shouldn’t I remember Margaret, for instance, or more detail about the death of his parents than simply a vague memory of a woman I presume to be his mother lying dead on a table?  Why do I remember so little about training and troop movements?

And what about Ann?  Did she even exist?  Was it an affair?  Was I transposing memories from Phil’s life (his second wife, Anne) into John’s?

For that matter, why don’t I remember anything really important from Phil’s life, like working on books or his supernatural experiences?  Or from William’s life, apart from random memories of unimportant interludes?  That seems to be all I get and while I guess it makes sense (the unimportant interludes make up 90% of any given life), it makes me wonder why I didn’t consider these other things important enough to remember, if that really was me.

I suppose I’ll always be dogged by doubts over whether these memories were really mine or not because the things you would expect me to know are things I don’t, and much of what I do know was the little insignificant moments that give color to the man, but are useless to historians in a traditional sense.

And yet, what are the odds of as many of my memories being accurate as I’ve managed?  I’ve matched a grave, a birth home, a location in Hereford John would have been intimately familiar with, a battle ground, and a number of details about weapons and materials on the Western Front that turned out to be perfectly true.  Part of me says I can’t have been right about so many things by accident.  But this only establishes that these memories may be genuine, not that they are genuinely mine; I could have gotten them beamed into my head with a laser beam by God for all I know (Phil seemed to think what he saw of the war came from there).

And if the memories aren’t mine, then what the hell was going on in 2003-05 when I wandered around England taking pictures of WWI memorials and walking miles and miles through the New Forest looking for a village that I felt I would “know if I saw it?”  I spent hundreds of dollars on train and bus tickets, hopped in cars with people I barely knew, and sometimes went nearly 2 days without sleep (my trip to York had me awake for 36 hours because I couldn’t afford a hotel) just to get in as much searching as I could.  Can I really say that these several centuries of memories are “not mine” when my actions really do tell a completely different story?

It’s funny, Phil spent the rest of his life trying to work out what happened to him in February 1974.  Now I’ve spent several years of my life trying to figure out what happened to me in September 2012 and whether or not I was any of these people whose lives I seem to remember, and I’m sure I’ll probably be at this for a very long time.