Above: PKD and Tessa at Worldcon 1972 in LA.
I was floored when I saw PKD's fifth wife Tessa Dick had spoken to Etienne Barillier over at Dickien.fr and, soon after establishing contact with her, was even more excited by her willingness to answer some of my questions. Tessa was married to Phil from April of 1973 to February of 1977 and, a published author in her own right, helped PKD with his novel A Scanner Darkly. Even better, she got PKD to acknowledge this in writing:
Tessa gave birth to Christopher, PKD's first son, in 1973 and was living with PKD during the much-discussed March of 1974. Tessa has written a short memoir of her time with PKD called A Dim Recollection of Philip K Dick, and continues to write both fiction and non-fiction. In part two of our interview (to be posted soon) we discuss her observations on PKD as a writer. Now, without further ado, part one of my converastion with Tessa Dick:
Q: After you mentioned in a comment that Sutin had never interviewed you, I went back and looked and I never noticed before but he always says "Tessa writes." Did he take your quotes from your memoir? What do you think of his depiction of Philip? What does he get right? What does he get wrong?
A: It has been many years since I read Sutin's book, but he never saw my memoir. Only a couple editors have seen it, and that was also many years ago. I am currently rewriting my memoir. It needs a lot of work, and of course it's on paper, not a computer disk. I was using a typewriter in those days. Sutin copied my statements from other interviews, primarily those done by Gregg Rickman.
Q: As a skeptic I have a really hard time believing that 2-3-74 was 'real', but I know it was real to Philip - and what's more I do 'feel' a lot of truth in the experience. What can you tell me about those experiences that might help me wrap my brain around all of this?
A: The experience of 3/2/74 (it was March 2, not Feb. 3; the confusion arose from the difference between European and American date notations). was very real. The question is, what was it? Was Phil suffering minor strokes? Hallucinating due to drugs or mental illness? Or seeing reality?
I submit that the evidence points toward something very real. There was the night when our radio would not stop playing, even when it was unplugged. There was the Xerox letter, which I held in my hands and read. There were strange cars stopping in the alley behind our apartment at all hours of the day and night. There was the yellow van that parked out front. Two men in workmen's coveralls got out of the van and carried about a dozen cardboard boxes into the vacant apartment next door.
One strong possibility is that the electronic equipment in the vacant apartment next door was affecting both our radio and Phil's mind. I know that I also had some very strange dreams during that time.
Phil wrote that he had wisdom teeth extracted, which is ridiculous. He no longer had any wisdom teeth. He had two broken molars. He also mangled his description of our son's hernia when he wrote about it, but he got it right when he jumped up from one of his frequent naps and told me about it. Something very strange was going on, and although the general anaesthesia for the oral surgery might have had some effect on Phil's mind, there was much more to it.
Q: What are your favorite PKD books and why?
A: The first book Phil gave me to read was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the second was UBIK, so of course those two are my favorites. Some time later, I realized that I had read his short story "Roog", and that was already one of my favorite stories by all authors. I simply did not remember the author's name until Phil started talking about "Roog".
Q: Can you tell me your fondest memory of Philip?
A: Christmas 1981, I was at Phil's condo along with Tim Powers and some other people, and there was a professional arrangement of a dozen red roses on the coffee table. Phil had been receiving flowers from other writers to congratulate him on the movie Bladerunner, so I asked him who had sent the roses. He picked up the vase, handed it to me and said that he had bought them. There was a little card made out to me. That was when I decided to accept his proposal to get married again.
Q: I noticed that you commented on the Sutin post. I was also reading the transcript of Paul Williams interviews with PKD (I was really impressed by your input and presence in those interviews as well!) last night and wondering about these memory lapses PKD mentions. Is this one of the medical issues you mentioned in your comment to my Sutin interview? You said he made too little of "the health problems that Phil suffered due to his premature birth, as well as to the psychological problems that arose from the death of his twin sister in infancy." Could you elaborate on this a bit for me?
A: Health: Phil was hospitalized several times during our marriage. First, he dislocated his shoulder and had to have corrective surgery. Then he was hospitalized for ten days when his high blood pressure got out of control (he said that it was 220 over 180!). Toward the end of our marriage, he was held in the mental ward for 72 hours after a suicide attempt.
Among friends, I joke that I suffer from CRS: Can't Remember Stuff. Phil had missing time, and he also had memories of two different things happening at the same time, but in such different places that both could not be true. The superimposition of ancient Rome on the streets of Fullerton is just one extreme example.
Q: I was also surprised to hear PKD's anger towards his mother in the Rolling Stone interview. Did you ever meet her? What was PKD like around her? Did he change?
A: I met Dorothy twice, but I never saw Phil with her. She seemed like a very nice, cultured lady, but I had the impression that she had no clue about how to raise a child.
Thanks Tessa! And stay tuned for part two!