Friday, October 21, 2016


213. JUNK
There's just a little more to the
Burroughs story, and then I'll
let it go  -  across from the
Studio School, on Eighth Street,
in that time, 1967 on, the
location of the Wilentz Book
Store (a double-tiered, famed
beatnik haunt). Sean Wilentz,
the 65+ year old son of one of
those two Wilentz brothers who
ran the bookshop for all those
years, is a Professor at Princeton
University  -  History writer,
good stuff. Plus, he's written
a few desultory Dylan books,
researching lyrics, ties and
places, etc., and deconstructing
same, for scholarly analysis,
all that crap. He says it's
because of a fascination,
having seen the young
Dylan around back in those
days. I rather think it's just
a rich man 'on' about himself,
but what do I know. It was
to Wilentz's bookstore that
I went, across the street,
(you may recall the story)
when that guy told me to
go buy Brautigan's book,
'Trout Fishing in America.'
Which I quickly mis-titled
'Trout Fishing In the United
States', to my great chagrin
and the clerk's annoyance.
(So now, to get back at him,
I hereby misconstrue the title
once more:  'Grout Fishing in
United America.' Asshole.)...
The only reason Burroughs had
to contact me  - believe me, the
only  -  was the 'poem' I had
sent to him, ostensibly about
him. I was nether one of his
boy toys, gay lovers, nor
beatnik-era friends. (I wish).
He liked it, sent me a note
back, and the next thing I
know I'm in Wilentz's Eighth
Street Bookstore awaiting
William Burroughs, and in
the middle of a clutch of real
people  -  cultural big-wigs,
the famous crowd. John Cage,
Morton Feldman, Allen Ginsberg,
Peter Orlovsky, David Hare,
David Mamet. Sam Shepherd,
and a raft of other names
I can't reach or remember  -
it was these and others, let's
just say. In walks Tuli
Kupferberg. He was in
The Fugs, or led The Fugs,
when they were around. An
East Village crap-rock band.
It somehow got famous and
took off, culturally, I guess.
They weren't worth anything
but were fun. Big hit? 'After
We Ball, I Hope That Won't
Be All.' Rather like the house
band for morbid ghouls and
fools. He says, 'Who you?'
I said I lived across the street
and was no one except by this
invitation. Ok, then. I guess
I passed his muster. He wrote
a book later about all this stuff;
I forget the name of it, but it
was a nice title. I always
wondered what his friends
called him  -  'Tool?'
There was an ice machine
or something brought in around
back and I then noticed a group
of like Warhol-type people,
maybe his bunch, swarming all
around it, swirling cocktails
and stuff as quick as a wink,
but for myself, I kept away
and just grabbed a black
coffee. My Sartrean drink of
choice. Anyway, young as I
was I figured I'd maybe be in
bigger trouble if I made a stab
for the booze but that was
just me. I don't think really
they could have cared. And
anyway there was one or
two sallow-faced lovelies
back there who would have
caused me great consternation
to be around. (They were
probably boys anyway). So,
you can see how much fun
I already was having, just
by reading about it, right?
If I had a car, it would have
rolled over the cliff by now,
with me in it. Burroughs
does eventually get there,
and it's about eight at night,
some people were pretty
wired already and some
others began clapping as
he enters, a small applause
and I think 'Jesus, this guy
just shows up and they start
clapping. He hasn't even done
anything yet.' And then it stops
real quick, as if they were all
too self-important to continue
or had made their point once
and that was it. Or maybe they
only clapped if it was for
themselves in some mirror-
image self-referential format
of doing things that the
art-world always had and
probably still does and even
worse. (If you could read their
thoughts I figured they would
be saying 'Now what can he do
for me, what can this applause
get me, if I do join in  -  who
will see me applauding and what
will it mean or appear as, and will
it be at my expense, will they
say I am getting old, and shall
I wear my trousers rolled?').
All of this was very funny. So
he goes up front, in that weird
voice of his, holding up a few
books, and says, "Wallop! The
rats ate my brains I'm sorry for
that. He thanks the group as a
whole, and then (probably
noticing the gay crowd), said
'And holes too! There's a lot
of holes here tonight, I bet!"
It was a sort of joke, you had
to be there to get it, and it "was
not onomatopoeia," he said, "it's
rather even more hilarious, it's
a homonym! Things that sound
the same but are different." And
the crowd went wild. At first I,
I admit, didn't get it, but some
of the gay guys were really
laughing it out, and then it
came to me what was going
on, and it was funny. Funny
too how a crafty guy can so
instantly rule a room with
his wordplay. I wondered
what that was called.
So, anyway, after that, later,
we said hi, and it was like
he blessed me, or sneezed
on me or something  -  and
that's how I got to spend the
next few days in his company,
his bunch anyway. St. Marks
and the rest, as I chaptered
here yesterday. The piece
itself that I had sent him was
never referenced or mentioned
again. Such is life.
He'd written a book called
'Junkie.' You'd want to think
it was about drugs, yes, but
another aspect of it was his
sort of holding up a mirror to
the grotesque well-being of the
1950's. Not too many others had
addressed that, in quite so forward
a fashion anyway. A decade of
consumer frenzy (and oh, aren't
they all now), and self-satisfied
affluence to a culture driven by
conspicuous consumption with
JUNK becoming the ultimate
merchandise  -  a product that
crystallizes the most brutal
imperatives of supply and
demand in equating identity
with addiction, and conformity
with control. 'Junkie' suggests
not so much a deviation from
society as its logical culmination.
Or, as he put it: "I have learned
the junk equation. Junk is not
a kick, it is a way of life."

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