Wed 21 Feb 2007
“Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea,” as Walter Winchell led off his World War II radio broadcasts. “Let’s go to press…”
Topping the news… A film is due out shortly titled The Penultimate Truth about Philip K. Dick, the late science-fiction writer who once lived in Point Reyes Station. You can see a trailer for the film at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_VgXuYvzfU.
The stories of Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) inspired the movies Bladerunner, Total Recall, and Minority Report, among others. “Philip K. Dick was known as the most brilliant sci-fi writer on earth,” the trailer to Penultimate Truth proclaims. Although a drug addict, paranoid, and (as he sometimes thought) possibly schizophrenic, Dick wrote 50 books and many more short stories.
As for his paranoia, Dick suspected the KGB and or the FBI was out to get him. In the movie’s trailer he tells an interviewer, “Anyone who grew up within the Berkeley counterculture [as he partly did] became a marked man. My house was broken into. My files were blown open. My papers were stolen.” The author admits to not being certain the federal government was responsible but notes his lawyers believed that’s what happened. Dick, however, later wondered if he had done the deed himself and just forgotten about it.
As for his drug addiction (especially amphetamine use during all-night writing): Point Reyes Station innkeeper and jewelry maker Anne Dick, to whom he was married from 1959 to 1964, acknowledges in the movie’s trailer, “Towards the end of our marriage, he was taking tons of stuff.”
Ironically, as Wikipedia notes, during Philip K. Dick’s life, he was “highly regarded in France, [but he] received little public recognition in America until after his death.”
Walking onto the silver screen… The Los Angeles Times on Jan. 23 published a lengthy account of the life of Planetwalker John Francis, 60, of Point Reyes Station.
Most of us in West Marin know Dr. Francis’ story: how he stopped talking from 1973 to 1990 and refused to ride in motorized vehicles from 1972 to 1994. His self-published book Planetwalker: How to Change Your World One Step at a Time tells the story, and a feature-length film based on the book is now “in the works,” Times reporter John Glionna notes.
Overheard… An item by Point Reyes Light obituary writer Larken Bradley was picked up by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik for her Feb. 13 “Public Eavesdropping” list: “I’ve had enough hippie guys. I need more superficial, materialistic guys.” (Forty-ish woman to another, overheard at Tabla Café in Larkspur.)
I forget, therefore, I did… A writer friend in Los Angeles this week called me with an item of his own. Having overheard a passing guest at a party ask, “Did I finish that joint?” he quipped that merely asking the question provided the answer. Sort of like Decartes’ “Cognito ergo sum” taken to a higher level: “No memeni ergo feci.”
Rumblings south of the border… Accompanying me on a weeklong trip to Mexico earlier this month was a retired Economics professor from the University of Hawaii, Mac Williams. Mac and I attended high school and Stanford University together, and in 1963, we spent two and a half months driving all over Europe in a VW bug I bought in Brussels.
Mac went on to get his doctorate from the University of Chicago where he studied under famed monetary theorist Milton Friedman.
On our trip to San Miguel de Allende, Mac as always was a great traveling companion — even though I’d never before heard anyone who could match the decibel level of his snoring.
He and I shared a second-floor hotel room hotel overlooking a narrow street in San Miguel’s historic downtown. After returning to the hotel following a night on the town, Mac would go to sleep with his iPod playing music in his ears as his snoring gradually built to the level of our old rooting section in Stanford stadium.
To my astonishment, it was virtually impossible to waken him once he had fallen asleep. Our hotel room shared a common wall with a bar, which had a live band that on weekends played till 4 a.m. The music was loud enough in our room to sometimes disrupt conversations, but once Mac was asleep, he didn’t hear it.
As it happened, immediately across our narrow street was San Miguel’s main cathedral, and its bells chimed loudly and at length every 15 minutes day and night, but that didn’t wake him either.
Only once did a disturbance break his slumbers — although it was subsequently repeated almost every night. The Jardin, San Miguel’s central square, was less than a block from our hotel, and the roads around the square were closed to traffic during the day. However, a second-story roof of the towering cathedral was under repair, and workers were allowed to drive into the square at night to haul away debris.
During the day, workers (such as those seen here at right) would pile broken bricks and cement blocks at the edge of one nearby roof of the cathedral. At 3:30 a.m., other workers would show up and from the second floor start dropping the discarded masonry into a steel dumptruck parked below our hotel window. The impact of each chunk sounded like an explosion and actually awakened Mac the night it all began. He rushed to the window to see if our hotel were under attack. When he saw it wasn’t, Mac went back to sleep, and the clamor never bothered him again.
The cacophony reached its peak the night we had a lightning storm. The band was rocking, the cathedral bells were chiming, workers were hurling cement blocks from the church roof into their dumptruck outside our window, thunder claps rattled windows, but at least in our room, Mac’s snoring was loudest of all.
I couldn’t shout at Mac to awaken him because others in the hotel would probably think there was a fight going on, so I tried barking and growling in his ear, hoping that anyone who heard me would think there was a street dog outside; however, that didn’t work either.
But, as I said, Mac and I are good friends, so I was able to laugh as the pandemonium built to a roar each night — although I did tend to sleep late each morning.