Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Humpty Dumpty In Oakland

Maybe it's going to be Robot Week on the blog ?

Last month I was working on the photograph that was of...or about...or simply included this bust of author Philip K. Dick. It was created by robot maker David Hanson, I had photographed the bust in his studio in Plano, Texas while on assignment, but wanted to place it elsewhere. Was the photograph about PKD? Was it of PKD? Is this about literature or is it about the creative process...or is it about science fiction?

I went to the bookstore, ignoring VALIS and other influential PKD books and was sucked in by the title of "Humpty Dumpty In Oakland" and started reading. Here is PKD, out of the science fiction realm, writing about real people living on real streets I drive on every day. Dark and depressing, but hitting a core of truth, here is a wikipedia plot summary:

During the early sixties, Jim Fergesson decides to sell his Oakland-based garage business, which annoys his business tenant, used car salesman Al Miller, who rents a lot from Fergesson to sell his vehicles. Chris Harmon, an entrepreneur, advises Fergesson to invest in a new garage located in Marin Country Gardens, which Jim visits. On his way back to Oakland, Jim has a minor heart attack. Miller is convinced that Harmon is corrupt, and tries to blackmail him about his alleged sale of pornographic recordings. At the same time, Al starts a job with Harmon, which he initially believed was selling classical music, but then discovered was related to barbershop music sheets. He disrupts the final contract signing between Fergesson and Harmon, playing on the former's paranoia, and the entrepreneur never gets his chance to close the deal, as Jim dies that night.

Al's used car lot is vandalised, his wife Julie quits her job, and they run off, while Lydia, Jim's widow, discovers that her late husband's deal with Harmon was not as corrupt as Al pretended. Al is temporarily arrested after Lydia threatens to sue him for fraud, Julie leaves him, and Al starts a new relationship with his real estate vendor, Mrs. Lane.

Got that? Take it in...see what you think. The story is slow moving, rainy day grey, kind of hopeless. Every option the characters pursue just land them in another form of purgatory. And all the while the streets of Oakland, Marin and the East Bay are winding thru the story. Looking at the photograph today, I realize that the undertone of melancholy in "Humpty Dumpty In Oakland" ended up directing the pallette of the series and tone of the photograph.


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