Yesterday I had the immense pleasure of hanging out with PKD's second wife Kleo Mini. Here we are in front of San Francisco's legendary Beatnik hangout Caffe Trieste, one of their old haunts. After she and I drove around looking for a parking place for about thirty minutes, we walked around North Beach, a famous neighborhood in San Francisco she and PKD used to frequent via the cross-bay train that traveled on the lower level of Bay Bridge.
Kleo is an incredibly smart, funny, and together lady and we laughed a lot. She told me some great stories, one about three incompetent FBI agents who were a little too obvious when they set down their soft leather briefcase on the ground - clearly intending to tape their meeting with Kleo and PKD - and were quite embarrassed when the couple noticed the rather conspicuous attempt.
Kleo had a lot of insight into PKD's early writing and we discussed at length what they were into during their marriage. Kleo recommended I read Styron's Lie Down In Darkness, and reaffirmed for me that both she and PKD loved Nathaniel West's novels (if you want to read another writer who blends surrealism, humor, and a bleak world view West is second in my view only to PKD).
Kleo and I spoke at length about PKD's relationship with his mother, whom she described as harsh, stern, unaffectionate, and distant. Of course other family members remember PKD's mother Dorothy as a caring and loving figure. It's clear to me that PKD's relationship with his mother requires a lot more study, and perhaps, like most everything else PKD-related, the conflicted views of her nature may never be resolved.
Kleo and I ended up at a nice Italian restaurant where we sat at a table on the sidewalk eating bruschetta and artichokes, taking in some prime people watching. Kleo would stop talking at times, straining to hear the opera music being played, commenting on the singer's tone. She and PKD originally bonded over music.
I was blown away by Kleo's humor, charm, and stunning intelligence (remember PKD described her as a "professional student" and she spent most of their marriage taking all sorts of classes at Cal Berkeley). Kleo is a very impressive lady and further proof that Philip K Dick had a group of absolutely wonderful people in his life.