Philip K. Dick's Washington, D.C.
Photo © Jeff Sypeck
Jeff Sypeck (Becoming Charlemagne) wanders around Philip K. Dick's Washington neighborhood, mentions the peculiar PKD synchronicity I experienced there and provides pictures of PKD's D.C. haunts. In 2008, I wrote about that mystical 1970 event here.
by Jeff Sypeck
“In Washington, summer is a horror beyond the telling of it,” wrote Philip K. Dick in his 1968 “Self Portrait,”
echoing the more effable sentiments of sweat-soaked D.C. residents this week. Dick is so associated with California—he spent nearly his entire life there—that few science-fiction readers, and almost no Washingtonians, remember that in the late 1930s, the budding author and his mother lived in the Cleveland Park neighborhood, or that Dick’s three years here echo in his work.
Dick’s novel Puttering About in a Small Land,
written in 1957 but published posthumously in 1985, views several D.C. landmarks through the gauzy lens of personal mythology. Despite his prolificity and unabashed weirdness, Dick craved mainstream success, and he grounds an early sequence in Puttering About,
a realistic tale of infidelity and doomed postwar dreams, in actual Washington places: Rock Creek Park, Massachusetts Avenue, and the Tidal Basin, which a character imbues with her own anxieties:
In keeping with Dick’s real life, the action in Puttering About soon switches to California, but Washington remains a place of origin and a repository for obsessive memory. In the 1966 novel Now Wait for Last Year, Dick returns to Cleveland Park—naturally, by way of Mars.
To continue reading Jeff Sypeck, go here.
To her the Tidal Basin and the trees had a mysterious quality; they kept the countryside here in the center of the city, as if it could not be completely suppressed. Actually she was afraid of the Tidal Basin; it was part of the lines and pools of water that had cut into the ground by the coast, the canals and rivers and streams; Rock Creek itself, and of course the Potomac. When she came near the Potomac she believed she had been removed completely away from the present; she did not accept the fact that the Potomac existed in the modern world.
Labels: android, d.c., philip k. dick, pkd, Sypeck