Thursday, October 20, 2016


It was funny enough. The first
thing that happened to me upon
hitting New York  -  well, one of
the first anyway, by October  -
was mixing it up with the
William Burroughs crowd.
And I tried, began to write
about it immediately, so as
not to forget the weird scene.
What happened to me was
memorable, and unique too.
I'll try to convey somehow
a report and a 'feel' for what
happened. It started after I'd
sent him a poem, months
back, to one address for him
or another. I forget. Incredibly
enough, I got an answer one
day. The poem's kind of long
and tedious - entitled 'Burroughs
Clock Ticking' : This is one of
those places / in real life you
would just go away. / The
hammer is not yet connected
to anything......' : it went on
and on, touching on numerous
topics, and was, tangentially,
completely connected to him.
Anyway, he responded, and I
did eventually meet up with him
and his little crowd, one day when
there was some sort of Vietnam
teach-in or something at St. Marks
in the Bouwerie, and we were there
together. [I continue]  -  'That
phlegmy constitution, that sound
of jazz, that harmonic convergence
that occurs when too many things
in the world happen together, in
one place. It has me, holds me,
keeps me in place. In thrall. Lights,
action, movement, camera! Always
between places and things there is
a continuation : William Burroughs
and me together walking University
Place, up and over from Eighth, he
with a nice scarf on, and me already
freezing my ass off in the early cold
of late October; looking for an address,
something next to a sandwich shop and
an upstairs bowling alley  -  something
I'd for sure never heard of before. The
sandwich shop, when found, was some
God-awful hole with cheap windows
and a broken-pane front doorway that,
apparently, someone had kicked in.
We're passing along all the street-curb
junk, and he lights a cigarette with his
warmed-over hand in a tweed jacket
and gloves, like he came over from
uptown somewhere, a place of big-time
people. The damn thing  lights, first
touch, and it seems like always certain
people have perfect success at most
everything they do  -  the wind never 
blows out a match, their lighter always
works, etc. So, we're headed over now
to the area of Stuyvesant and e10th, 
and the corner has the crooked old
church Pieter Stuyvesant had on his
property, St. Marks in the Bouwerie,
whatever it's officially called, and the
old Indian statues in the front are all
weathered and pale and sizzling away
in the pollution, like some sandstone,
powdery rock slowly turning to
emaciated dust falling off in a slow
and smoky haze, every eye and 
nose and hand pf those sorrowful
Indians with their no-face faces
staring out and passing so slowly
from the scene, and I start wondering
about how man years they've been
standing there, maybe forlorn, or
maybe just right, and what this all
must have looked like when it was
brand-new and just layed out. Newly
chiseled, placed with pride. The old
church there nearly sinks now in the
equally old ground. There's a rock
wall facing out, and a few benches
and things where people sit about,
mostly beggars and thieves, looking
for food or change. Long ago half
paved over anyway. The hum of the
street, all that, with me and Burroughs
walking; the place opens into its
soft-white space inside, benches,
chairs and pews and all sorts of wild,
skinny, overly-righteous poetry girls
and artsy-type guys and a few intense
and enraged political types all seated 
around, on their mission for peace and
rights and anti-war fervor, artistic
liberation of consciousness, all that.
Burroughs sits down and starts right
off reading, and he even cuts off 
the applause and the creepy little
guy trying to introduce him. You
need to understand, Williams
Burroughs was a strange and 
eerie character, pretty foul in 
language too. I've cleaned this 
up, left the message intact as
best I could. He ofen spoke in
non-sequitors and things that
didn't always make sense, like
he just picked up a line of words
somewhere. He also had a really
nasally voice: "Never go too far
in any direction is the motto
Limey Land is built upon, and
I went to England lo many years
ago and nearly freaking lost my
mind and the place is an absolute
bugfest of stupidity, the kind of
meat you wouldn't put on  a 
sandwich; In 1936 I did my then
almost obligatory coming of age
tour of Europe, Paris to Vienna 
and all that, finding the decadence
amazing, the sex plentiful and
rich, if not perfectly acceptable,
and I found the promise of
intellectualism stimulating as
well as the cafe society and the
wonderful gay sub-culture, and 
than I get back to America those
years later, and I find I'm in the
middle of a junk-heap of repression,
a fog so dense you couldn't piss
for fear it would splash back
to hit you, a wall of ignorance
and deceit so raw it hurt to 
watch and I thought to myself
why was I here? Why certainly?
Well, not to hear the the words of 
any nascent, new-born, suckling 
creep like that was just trying to
introduce me! I remember  his
type from Dr. Karkus's clinic on
e92nd Street, we used to boff
their kind for breakfast but then
I got out of all that and I was done
with heroin and, yeah, Lawrence
Kansas seems like a good place to
wash-out, dry-up, live out my
God-damned life! And what 
else do you want to know?"
Only a few hands went up, the
usual doctoral thesis types wanting
to know this or that synoptic discussion
about the when of the why and the
where; all the usual gibberish and
Burroughs laughed back, sneering : 
"1957, yeah, that was the year I ate
alone and spent most of my time
in dishabille, hosting other men
and hoisting them too, but now 
it's mostly Chinese food or books 
about cats. One way or the other
I eat enough to stay well." All
this went on for near two hours
and there were occasional
interruptions but we sat there
watching the hippie girls in 
sheer-enough, but long, dresses
instruct us in the new practice of
no underwear and happy being
while prancing about, sunlight be
praised. "Their freaking Gods are
all behind them," Burroughs said,
"and thank God for that."
It wasn't exactly hipster express
but he kept on talking to anyone he
could, and the people in the green
hallway who had stayed behind
were piled up against the wall and
there were a few tables around with
flyers and handbills about Vietnam
Action Committees and rallies and
all that Art Alliance Against the War
stuff  -  they were just trying to
bunch together poetry and anti-war
activism into some facade of power.
The kids standing around were the
usual pimply or pasty-faced types 
or the very confused and wandering
types and they were all looking for
any crumb, any word, Burroughs
said. "Shit, you people seem as
dazed as as I did when I spent years
in Tangiers trying to sort this all 
out - but it's meaningless you 
know; there's nothing factual 
to report, there's NO war at
that front let me tell you. Yeah,
storm the reality machine to see
what butterflies rest within it,
but they turn out to be bombers
going off in your face so the hell
with any butterfly image. And,
this damn warren of rooms 
isn't  your way? Why don't
you just get up and leave?"
(Burroughs didn't split hairs, 
was blunt, and said whatever
he wanted). And with that, a
guy lunged forward, came
out of the crowd, and slammed 
 me on the chin-side with a fist
from somewhere, and I went
down but got right back up,
tasting blood from some gums
and teeth but no damage. The
other people  rustled him out,
arguing 'No way, man, no
violence! What the hell was 
that? No, man, please don't fight,
no anger, no violence, not like
this, this isn't what's it's all about.'
And the place was getting wild
and pandemonium was almost
breaking out and then this Father
Paris guy, or something, comes
over to restore order and threatens
to call the cops on peacemakers
and says 'Now what would all that
look like to the world?', and the
others gasp in horror thinking of
the headlines 'Peaceniks arrested
in brawl at Burroughs lovefest.' 
And the whole scene stunk because
it was all so fake and false and 
Burroughs says to me, "Get it
going blood donor, we're the hell
out of here." So we manage to
squeeze out the back and out of
the crowd somehow and get
outside to another place entire
where in many ways he's just
another cranky old guy on 11th
Street with no manner, no bearing,
nothing worth explaining. He says,
"Christ almighty. Kids. What's 
got into them? You okay, or do
want to hold a candle? That 
whole place is nuts."
And we walk on towards
University Place; he wants to
get to one of the bars there, and
without much being followed,
and I'm not sure it'll work, I'm
nursing a banged up face and
a bloodied gum but I'm with him
so I drag along, just wondering.
I just walk along, offering nothing
and as dazed an any other person
I guess would be in this same
situation. I realized I had no
'protocol' for this stuff. And I
realized I was half his age 
anyway, and probably less,
so what's the use. It seemed
funny too, a turnabout like,
'Anything he says can be used
against me', even though I was 
the one who got knocked about.
Perplexed and confused, I was
learning fast, except I didn't
know what. So he goes into the
bar and takes the fifth  -  booze 
that is  -  and I put ice water to
my mouth for a very long time.
We sit there, for way too long,
it seems, and then others start
coming in, and then everything
quickly fades to confusion for I
don't really remember much else.

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