A Lonely Road

Last night my fiance and I were sitting together listening to music from the first half of the 20th century (music hall, Swing, Foxtrot, and ballads from about 1900 to 1950).

At one point I played a slow foxtrot song from 1939- a year I still have strong feelings for (I would have been about 10 at the time, and deep into science fiction magazines and pulp adventure novels). I asked him how he felt when he heard it and he responded that he felt nothing.

I then played a song from 1929, hoping an earlier piece might resonate more with him. He replied that while he enjoyed the song, it wasn’t any specific feeling and that the only music that had specific feelings for him was the music he grew up with (mostly early 70s prog and 90s alternative).  For him, the music of the first half of the 20th century is a rare import from a distant past, an exotic acquired taste; for me, it’s a rare shred of something I once had.

It just reminded me of how weird I was. Every time growing up I heard a music hall piece from Edwardian times and wondered “When was this made? It sounds so familiar, why?” or every time I saw that same bare upstairs room with a single bed, a table, a record player, and a bare lightbulb when I heard music from the 1940s, I was experiencing something not everyone goes through and I feel like such a weirdo.

Stranger still, I have a weird feeling that my fiance might have been my first wife, Jeanette Marlin, back in 1948 (an old photo of him without his beard looks bizarrely similar to a photo of her from high school). But if he was, he has no memories. For him, the slate seems to be wiped clean, though he does give me the benefit of the doubt.

Unexpected Reaction

Curious about what it might stir up for me, I listened to some songs from 1948 (the year Phil married Jeanette).

The two songs I listened to were “Now Is The Hour” performed by Bing Crosby, and “Nature Boy” performed by Nat King Cole.

I didn’t get any memories, but I got a strong, uncomfortable sense of familiarity from these songs.  I was not expecting to feel so anxious at all.

I have a weird feeling that a lot of things happened during that time that nobody ever spoke of.  I’m still feeling really uncomfortable, actually.  I’d heard music from this era before (I certainly knew artists like Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Dinah Shore, etc) but it has never made me feel this uneasy.

An Interesting Development: The Mysterious Jeanette Marlin

As some of you know, Philip K. Dick’s first marriage was in 1948, to a rather mysterious woman named Jeanette Marlin.

Jeanette is barely a blip on the public record; no one knows if she’s still alive like Phil’s other four wives and there isn’t a whole lot to go on.

As for my memories, sadly, nothing except I believe that the room I remembered with the nice hi-fi was probably not an attic loft as I had previously believed, but a basement at University Radio where Phil courted Jeanette (and according to some versions of the story, lost his virginity).  Sadly, it’s the interval between 1963 to 1972 that my memories are the most coherent from; make of that what you will.

I found an oldish issue of PKD Otaku that tackled the question of Jeanette Marlin, and I was immediately struck by several things:

*The room I may have remembered was mentioned in one of the documentaries I watched but (having checked it again) not shown so far as I could tell.

*There have been several people that say that Phil slept with Jeanette to prove to himself that he wasn’t gay, and that years later he thanked his friend for “saving him from homosexuality.” That is REALLY interesting, considering I have struggled with my sexual orientation and identity in this life too.  It turns out I’m technically bisexual and I guess if I was courting in straight-laced, sober 1940s America instead of the permissive America of the 2000s, I might have had to try and muddle through masquerading as a straight man instead of shacking up with a guy and transitioning MtF.  But all reliable sources are very explicit that Phil wasn’t gay, and if he experimented with any guys no one has admitted it.

*This also brought to mind a comment that Phil made in an interview (I can’t recall when) that he had several gay friends who were confused and/or frustrated that he wasn’t gay.

*He and Jeanette apparently courted quite musically, not unlike my current fiance and I (though this time around, prog rock was the ice breaker rather than classical music).  there is also some mention in the article I linked to that one of Jeanette’s complaints against Phil was that he played the same songs he played when he met her; my tendency to listen to favorite music often has been a small complaint from my current fiance though we both have our own music libraries so it’s not so bad.

*My fiance and I courted online, but he was really taken aback when we first started getting close the first day we actually met.  He looked like he’d seen a ghost.  Furthermore, we’ve been together a long time but there were several points where we almost called it off.  He has always been a little fearful that I might leave him but I think with time that fear has diminished.

*There is an account that Phil kept a picture of Jeanette after they had split and called her “my sweetheart,” and signs point to Jeanette’s brother (who thought a “real man” shouldn’t listen to so much music and threatened to smash his collection) as the source of the problem.

*Anne apparently said that the reason Phil liked Jeanette was because she “left him alone.”  I think if we use a less loaded phrase, like “gave him some space,” that would certainly apply to my fiance and I because he doesn’t smother me and trusts me to behave when I’m on my own (something Anne never did, from what I gather).

*From the article: “Then Jeanette disappeared. Edgar thought she remarried and then later died.” I’m guessing this is from Phil’s father Joseph Edgar Dick, who out-lived him.  This could be a reliable lead.  If she died in the 1950s, then it might allow for my fiance’s memories under regression of OD’ing as a young man in the 1970s, though he dismisses those memories as nothing more than suggestion.

Then there was the photo they showed in the article of a young Jeanette.  My blood ran cold.  The small chin, the large lips, the glasses, the high forehead…  Damned if I didn’t see my own fiance’s face before me!  Even he thought it was an odd resemblance though by no means conclusive.

My fiance remembers nothing, and I don’t remember anything firsthand about Jeanette.  This could mean that we simply forgot, or more logically that we couldn’t have been Phil and Jeanette.  Also, there is a major problem: the last known record of Jeanette is in 1948.  Nobody knows if she’s still alive or not.  Unless she died before the later half of 1982, my fiance couldn’t be her.  Even if she did die before late ’82, it’s still likely that he wasn’t her but not impossible.

But… well, wouldn’t it be something if that was us?  I think this is the first flicker I’ve seen for the prospect that two people who know each other could come back together.  Also, my fiance and I had a long-shot courtship: we met when I was 6,000 miles away and on another continent.  We started “dating” about six months before we actually met in person, we were long-distance from about July 2005 to January 2008.  We’ve endured major relationship killers like dark secrets coming to light, poverty, career frustration, my severe anxiety and depression, and my gender transition.  By all accounts, we should have split years ago, and Phil and Jeanette were only together a couple of months which is almost what happened to us, honestly.

Maybe life gave us a second chance.  Maybe our paths were meant to cross… or maybe I’m mythologizing again.  I wish my fiance remembered something that only Jeanette would know, because shy of that I have no reasonable cause to believe he was her.  But something about the story sticks in my mind, and that photo was rather eerie to look at.

EDIT: 12-1-18

Since this article still gets more traffic than any other entry on my blog, I should point out that Tessa Dick contacted me and informed me that Jeanette passed away in the 2000s so her passing resemblance to my husband is a coincidence. I thought I had updated this post but apparently I must have mentioned it in another post. Anyway, I’m underwhelmed by the quality of recollections of Phil’s life and I’m more than likely wrong about having been him. The earlier life I recalled in WWI was much more likely to have been genuine as the quality of recollections has stood up much better over time.