we’re friends with the same birds #20

When we moved into our house fifteen years ago, for me, the most charming thing about the place was not its unpainted wood shingles or open floor plan or exposed beams, it was the fact that the writer Philip K. Dick used to live right down the street.

If you plugged me into a machine and read one of PKD’s novels aloud, alarms would sound and lights would flash and the gauges would jump and spin like disco dancers. Mention his name and my heart goes boom, boom. I have had a major thing for that guy since long before I met my man, so John just has to deal.

People who love to read know about the intimacy that can develop between reader and writer, when you feel like the writer voices something big and deep and true, that their words are like a gong that reverberates and awakens. Some might say it’s all in my head, but my answer to them is, 1. so what? 2. wow. I’m deeper than I thought I was, and 3. don’t you want to try it, too, because it’s so effing good.

I’m not going to try to explain why I like PKD here– if you want to talk about that, we’ll need to meet in real-time, in a bar or for coffee or on a beanbag in someone’s garage, or in email, at least. In fact, my understanding is not something I put into words, or perhaps I should say that my thoughts emerge as stories, so talking with me might not access my understanding the way reading me might.

As you may surmise, I spend a lot of time alone, writing and reading and thinking, perhaps too much. But last weekend, I somehow finagled a weekend off to attend the Philip K. Dick Festival in San Francisco.

On Saturday morning, I walked out of my house to get into my car and drive into the city and I was met by an extraordinary sight: a huge congregation of crows, more than I’ve ever seen at once, waiting for me outside my house.

Their large, feathery bodies clogged the air with flapping wings and clustered like big, black pearls on the telephone wire that runs along the street. And the noise, the noise! As soon as they saw me, they began to shout. One cawed out and the whole group answered in a raucous, deafening response. It felt like the universe was cracking open.

Here’s the video I took:

What does it mean? I have a feeling PKD would have an answer (or a hundred). And, because crows have territories that they pass on to their children, that means the crows in my neighborhood are the descendants of the same crows that PKD saw when he stepped out of his house in the morning to go to work.

The festival was divine. Pieces are coming together. I feel connected, inspired, and ready to write.


I met an amazing man named Richard Doyle who can put it into words, with whom I had a great conversation. If you want to see where my mind has been, watch this. Wow.

This is the twentieth time I’ve written about my attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. See more here.

To read my experience with PKD, go here, here, and here.


What makes your heart and mind go boom, boom?


About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.


  1. i love thinking about those crows connecting to pk dick, and our earth never losing anything . being a self contained system. i actually see us as a life form. this planet as a seed of life

  2. Your whistle to the crows got my little dog’s attention. She couldn’t figure out where that sound was coming from.

    I get that big YES reaction to Joyce Carol Oates. Not only because I love her voice and how beautifully crafted her work is, but because she drops these truth bombs all over the place, just casually, so that you feel she’s unearthing truths you’ve always known but never articulated. She’s wise and dark and fascinating to me.

  3. You have a great whistle! I love, love, love the way you make these connections from one (seemingly) disparate idea to another in a way that builds into a complete system of coherent thought and sensory delights. AF, you amaze me, all the time.

  4. There is this picture on Pinterest of two shirtless guys in kilts warming their hands over a fire. Awe.

  5. TheRumpus.net has a post today “Sisters” by John Kersey about Dick and Poe and twins you might want to see.

  6. My first experience with PKD was an encounter with DADOES when I was 14. The film had yet to come out, but the paperback reprinting was all over the shelves at the local supermarket, with the movie art and title on the cover, and the original title in parentheses. Only much later would I appreciate how truly odd a thing that was.

    I read and was transported, amazed and really, really impressed. SF until that point had been rivets and rockets. As I was won’t to do in those days, I immediately sent a letter filled with a hundred questions that I cannot remember.

    Shortly thereafter I read a letter in a magazine from another young fan who had been lucky enough to strike up a correspondence with the man. In those days they printed the whole name and address of correspondents – Kristian Hummel of Salem, Oregon had written in to report PKDs untimely death

    I felt cheated and furious that he died right before I discovered him, and heartbroken that letter would forever remain unread. I so envied Kristian and often regretted later not simply corresponding with her rather than nurse my case of sour grapes. I sometimes have the urge to write to that address today.

    • This is a fabulous story, Philip. And as I write this I see you and he have the same name, only one “L” different. You should write– or have you written?– about this experience. I am always fascinated by others’ fascination with authors (esp. PKD) because I believe that when we read someone, we sit in their seat to a certain extent, and so the relationship becomes real. It sounds like a skipped stitch. You should look her up. These things don’t happen for no reason (or they shouldn’t).
      I have been enjoying your posts, as per Courtenay’s suggestion. I wonder how being freshly squoze feels and offer my congratulations. I can see what all the hoopla is about. I imagine you’re overwhelmed with comments– thank you for stopping by here.

  7. I confess. I never heard of Phillip K. Dick till just now. Obviously, I have some catching up to do. As I watched your crow video, I thought…she’s a crow whisperer! This reminded me of my journey’s as a letter carrier, and the delight I got from trying to befriend skittish cats along the way. I had my own “cat language” to chum them or put them at ease. Occasionally this worked too well and the little critters would be waiting for me to return to my mail truck so they could jump in and go for an adventure.

    What makes my heart go boom, boom? Boy. Lots of things. Music…the souring melodies of Copeland or Sibelius to mention a few. The sight of horses (or big cats) running. There is something incredibly magical about watching them, especially in slo mo. Oh dear… my list of things that make my heart thud or is way too long. I’ve got to go investigate this Dick guy and finish the Ted talk. So much to do, so little time.

    • I guess we’re all drawn to the things that matter to us, so don’t worry about not having heard about PKD– you have your own thang. And how wonderful that you think your list is too long– what if it were too short? How sad would that be?

  8. inkspeare

    I love crows; they are gorgeous birds. I have to admit that I have not read PKD, but now I have to, thanks to your contagious excitement about this writer.

  9. This post, actually, made my heart go boom boom. Without the comma, as a means of connecting the beats, a more non-stop-type rhythm as my soul and mind smashed together in a sudden excited frequency. Life, coming to life. Boom boom.

    I feel the depth with pure completeness, of which you so eloquently speak. It makes so much sense to me. Personally, the experience is increasingly far and few between these days… And honestly, no author has yet to trump this vivid connection with my heart and soul so much as the great Jack Kerouac. His words, even upon the fifty-seventh time reading them, possess something in-between deja vu and nostalgia; it’s as if he somehow managed to produce one of my previous lives in an autobiography… Though I don’t believe in re-incarnation nor do I presume to hold myself in equal esteem with the guy, still there aren’t quite words to paint a mental picture of how deeply he holds my spirit and my perceptions in his own first person. He is magic, and his works are the same.

    I love-love this post, and I love-more this blog. Happiness.

    • Yay, happiness! You’re right– maybe I mean boom boom. Or boomboomboom….
      I get the Kerouac. Kesey does it for me, too. Something about the fringe of the 50s and 60s that resonates. The music, too. I open something by Kesey and feel like I belong here. (If I were a scientist, I’d devote all my time to figuring out this spell books/authors can have on certain readers. What is happening in our brains when we read a book we love? Is it like other kinds of love? I want to know.)

      • Scientifically, the release of dopamine triggers what we refer to as “love”; so from a biological standpoint, the only distinction between real love with a mate and real love with an author is the chemical oxytocin, which is the hormone released when we cuddle another person. Quite fascinating stuff. I studied this in-depth in college, and the processes of the brain are one of the single most intriguing aspects of life I have found. (I had planned for years — prior to deciding to raise a family first instead — on participating in the most cutting edge research at UCLA involving MRI scans in real time of human brains while visualizing making love versus brains reading a favorite book.) I digress, but we seem to share a deep kindredness of spirit. I love that.

        • The studies were not that specific, that was my personal goal. Currently, the focus is more on criminal brainwave activity, autistic/savante brainwave activity, and genius-level if the same, specifically contrasting the cranial scans to determine which parts of the brain are crucial to develop desirable traits and similarly to minimize the less desirable. (ie can we specify DNA that are responsible for criminal behavior, etc) …but the romantic love that occurs when an author suckerpunches my soul with their intellect has always felt more real to me than the typical romance with a person in the flesh. So fascinating. I’d die to have the chance to study this phenomena more closely.

  10. Hi Anna, I was at the PKD Fest in San Francisco! Sorry I didn’t get to meet you but it was a whirlwind event.The 3rd Philip K. Dick Festival will be in Irvine, California area in late April 2014. Hope to see you there.

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