Posted by: cochinblogger | February 4, 2010

Just See What You’ve Got Left Afterward

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When, one evening in 1976, Philip K. Dick invited Tim Powers to his Fullerton apartment, the Cal State student expected the kind of night he often passed with the science-fiction titan: a wide-ranging conversation, fueled by wine and beer, about religion, philosophy and Beethoven.

The night began the usual way. But it took a strange turn as Dick’s wife, Tessa, and her brother began grabbing lamps and chairs. “She and her brother were carrying things out of the house,” recalls Powers. “I said, ‘Phil, they’re taking stuff, is this OK?’ “

” ‘Powers, let me give you some advice, in case you should ever find yourself in this position,’ Dick said. ‘Never oversee or criticize what they take. It’s not worth it. Just see what you’ve got left afterward, and go with that.’

“And then,” Powers recalls, “her brother said, ‘Could you guys lift your glasses? We want the table.’ “

Dick was an old hand at marital dissolution. Tessa had reached her breaking point, and that evening marked the beginning of what would become his fifth divorce. The author could bounce in and out of love affairs, stints in rehab and drug overdoses — all the while never losing his cool.

This time, though, the nonchalance wouldn’t last. After Powers left, Dick took 49 tablets prescribed for a heart condition, along with other pills. He slashed his wrist and sat in his car, parked in his garage, so the carbon monoxide would finish him off.

But he threw up the pills and his car stalled. The blood from his wrist clotted. After a quick stay in the hospital and two weeks in a psychiatric ward, Dick went home.

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An unbelievable anecdote, that. I like the unflappable attitude. I found this interesting because that’s how I try and behave — never losing my cool — but it’s an ideal I’m often not able to achieve. Interesting character, Philip Dick. May he rest in peace. I say this though though he’s been gone a long time.

“Just see what you’ve got afterward, and go with that.” Now, that’s a quote to remember when you think life has been unfair. A keeper.

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