I never met Phil Dick, but I just finished up Lawrence Sutin’s “Divine Invasions — A Life of Phil Dick,” then read “VALIS,” and am about two-thirds through “The Divine Invasion.” To contemplate the meaning of Phil’s beautiful and crazy life, I took a motorcycle ride down the coast about thirty miles from here and watched the waves and the sky and sun.
When I arrived at my stopping place (gettin’ cold on that bike), I sat down for a while in flat spot next to the parking area, then decided it was too public, and moved down the steep, erosion-veined cliffs, to a spot to sit and contemplate seriously. It was like sitting in an ampitheatre, and the performance was the sea, the sun, the wind and the sky. The waves, rolling in an at inexorable clip, crashed one after the other as the sun slid down the western arch of the sky’s vault. The waves created music in my head, because they had perfect rhythm. The sun shining through the waves turned them to moving stained-glass windows, as wind-drifted spray flew off the crests, giving them a frosting of dancing diamonds.
One thing about thinking about Phil Dick — it can get your mind off its own troubles. If you enjoy reading about other people’s problems, you will be a kid in a candy store with Sutin’s life of Phil Dick. My wife says it’s just one more case of Illuminati character assassination. Maybe, but it’s encyclopedic. According to Sutin, Phil destroyed his health by overconsuming speed for many years in the Bay Area, then moved to Vancouver and got his way into a drug rehab program by pretending to be a heroin addict, and cleaned up his act for about six years and cranked out some good books without speed, and tried to kill himself more than once, coming damn close the last time, then died suddenly a couple of years later, as a series of strokes destroyed his brain. His neighbor found him on the kitchen floor of his Santa Ana condo. Although he made it to the hospital and the docs said he might recover, and was able to recognize friends who visited during his last day, Phil’s body went down, and we received no more reports from him.
Who can think that a mind like Phil Dick’s could die? It seems antithetical and yet of course, as Phil acknowledged, that may be the case. But he didn’t think so, and I can’t hardly remember anyone who does believe that death is the end.