William Burroughs’ July 1985 reading at Naropa continues from here
WSB: I’ve been reading a lot of these doctor books lately (and) my Doctor Benway really shines forth as a model of responsibility and competence by comparison! Perhaps the most distasteful book of this genre is called A Pride of Healers. It needs to be remembered there’s a pathology of who decides if a patient’s got cancer or don’t got it. The doctors open her up and anything suspicious they send a hunk down to pathology and then they stand around, twiddle their scalpals and wait for the green light – its malignant boys, let’s go . So in this pride of prowling healers the runty, ugly, half-impotent pathologist finds a big surgeon humping his old lady. So he carefully frames the adulterous surgeon for a prostate cancer, falsifying the results and everybody knows there is only one answer to that. The surgeon is castrated and his nuts sent down >to Pathology. Holding the nuts of his enemy in his hand gets him aroused and he surprises his wife by a real pimp fuck. She’s got another surprise from him – as she comes, he shoves the severed nuts down her throat. As the Germans say, unappetitlich,unappetizing.
Well most of them aren’t as lurid as that, just ordinary, no-good, greedy, callous, bigoted humans, with a grossly inflated self-image.
Here is my sense from final diagnosis: Attractive, red-haired, empty as an empty waiting-room. Well, how can anyone believe in God or ESP or anything like that, in the face of these vast medical complexes, monuments to progress and science and rationality and healing?
This wretched specemin has fallen for a nineteen-year-old nurse. He fucked her in a broom-closet that reeked of Mr Clean. He has proposed. She has accepted. Then she comes down with a bone cancer. They have to take off her left legs (her left leg, stat, scalpels crossed, it hasn’t spread). Does he still want her? She tells him to take five days and think it over. He does. With bleak clarity he sees the years to come. Oh yes, he can see where his own interests are involved. He is striding towards surgery. “It takes guts to practice surgery he says (it sure does, what would we do without them?) Striding toward surgery, tho’ the patient is clearly terminal (he would operate on a mummy) and she’s scrambling along on her prosthetic. “Will you shake the lead out?” “I’m doing the best I can, darling”, “Why don’t you go back to your crutches, he thinks, irritably. Aloud he says, “Why don’t you jet-propel on your stinking farts?” – Admittedly his words were somewhat unkind. But cancer does stink. . Of course it’s not her fault that she’s in this loathsome condition, or is it? His mother always said: “Son, in this life, everybody gets exactly what they want and exactly what they deserve”. People who think they are getting what they deserve tend to believe it.
Another flash -‘Incongrously, Mike thinks of an old joke. The eternally travelling salesman protaganist of the eternal dirty joke. Salesman spots an attractive woman in the club car.As fate would have it, she is in the lower berth just opposite his upper birth. And he is eye-balling her. She pops out a glass eye. She takes off her wig. She spits out her false teeth. She unhooks her wooden legs, looks up at him pertly and says, “Anything you want?” “You know what I want. Take it off and throw it up here.” He starts laughing. She demands why and finally he tells her. She hits him with her prosthetic, requiring five stitches. “Look, darling, I’ve been thinking it over, and..” She throws an ashtray at him.”
The Medical Riots of 1999. It is estimated that ten thousand doctors, medical bureaucrats, directors of pharmaceutical companies, were massacred in the week of the Long Scalpels. The killings were not by any means random. The rioters had lists: “There’s the bastard that let me pass a kidney stone in the emergency room.” It stacked up and up. Unnecessary operations, patients dying in the emergency room. “We cannot accept medical admissions from emergency”. Ambulance calls disregarded. “I can’t send an ambulance unless I know what’s wrong with her”, “She’s having a HEART-ATTACK!” “I can’t send an ambulance unless I know what’s wrong with her”. SHE’S HAVING A CORONARY!” “I can’t send an ambulance…”. Potentially beneficial and harmless products kept off the market… lethal products kept on the market. A recent example is the.. are the.. so-called non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs for arthritis. Don’t ever let any doctor talk you into using them. I took one pill (and) I’ve never been as sick in my life. In England, eight people died of liver failure caused by this shit and still they won’t withdraw it – just change the trade-name.
I saw a tv show where the company representative, the lies just oozing and slithering out of him, tried to tell a woman her hepatitis must have come from some other cause. “I know it was that medicine”, and I know a nurse who got hepatitis from this stuff.
>Well, it was a Burn Unit walk-out that set off the riots. I have this from nurses who have worked in burn units – absolutely no morphine or other pain-killers are ordered for the patients, otherwise there could be a danger of addiction for patients who may be in treatment for months. Even the dying are denied morphine if they have the misfortune to die in the Burn Unit. “But, doctor”, my nurse-informant protests, “the patient will be dead in twelve hours”. “Don’t you think I know that? This is the Burn Unit and we are under Burn Unit rules. These hands are securely tied by two-hundred-thousand-a-year. Every day Burn Unit patients have the raw cavaties scrubbed out with a stiff brush to clear away dead skin and flesh. The patients scream with agony and very few nurses can take it. Well, a team of amateur astronauts who call themselves the Spacers landed in the Burn Unit when their home-made space rocket exploded. After the first scrub-out, they issued an ultimatum – “Morphine every four hours as long as we need it or we walk out”. “What is this nonsense, there will be no more morphine and you are not going anywhere”.”Meet my brother the lawyer, doctor”. “Do you propose to hold these people against their will?” “It’s for their own good. If they leave the hospital they will be dead in a few days from infections”. They set up a private clinic in a loft . Clashes with police raiders searching for narcotics, three patients shot to death, the walk-out spread like a toppling forest-fire – “MORPHINE OR WALK!” “MOW! MOW! MOW!” The doctors paw the ground uneasily, like cattle smelling danger. In seventeenth-century London everybody got fed up to the mouth with the lawyers and the cry went up “Kill all the bloody lawyers!” Whereupon even the most elderly or infirm scrambled off with the agility of rats or evil spirits. Hampered by inflated self-image the healers did not acquit themselves as well. “What are we waiting for, a hospital bed?” ” Kill all the fucking croakers!”. Security steps nimbly aside and the crowds rush in.. “Got a hotshot cutting doc here. You think he needs an operation?” – “Hell, yes, a Gut-ectomy” Paging Doctor Doctor Streusschnitt (that’s Sloppy-cut). Enter Doctor Streuschnitt accompanied by his scapel-bearers carrying two-foot knives and saws. “You is filled up with unnecessitated parts, two kidneys?, Sure upon is a Jew. Heraus mit!. The inner parts should not be so close in together, crowded – they need lebensraum – der Vaterland!”
[At approximately forty-three minutes in, Burroughs shifts gears] – Well, I will turn now to the cat book – The title is The Cat Inside – “May 4th 1985. I am packing for a short trip to New York to discuss the cat book with Brion Gysin who is going to do the illustrations . In the front room, where the kittens are kept, Calico Jane is nursing one black kitten” (it’s a little calico cat, she had five kittens) – “I pick up my Tourister. It seems heavy, I look inside and there are four kittens…”Take care of my babies. Take them with you wherever you go”” – “I’m selecting cat food at the pet shop in Dillon’s (supermarket) and I meet an old woman. Seems her cats won’t eat any cat food with fish in it. Well, I tell her, mine are just the opposite. They prefer their fishy foods like Salmon Dinner and Seafood Supper. “Well”, she says, “they certainly are company”. And what can she do for her company when there is no Dillon’s and no pet shop? What can I do? I simply could not stand to see my cats hungry.”
“Well, of course, there are many wild cats, some of them that could be tamed, cats that weigh only three pounds. However, they’ll be fewer and fewer exotic beautiful animals. The rain forests of Borneo and South America are going…to make way for what?. At Los Alamos Ranch School, where they later made the Atom Bomb and couldn’t wait to drop it on the evil East, the Yellow Peril, the boys are sitting on logs and rocks eating some sort of food. There is a stream at the end of a slope. The counselor was a Southerner with a politician look about him. Like many Southerners, he was a natural orator, just naturally full of bullshit. He told us stories by the camp-fire, culled from the racist garbage of the insidious Sax Rohmer (you remember Sax Rohmer, who created The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu? Hearst Yellow Peril? – and Fu Manchu went on and on like Tarzan, you thought he was dead and then he’d pop up again. He also wrote books about evil Egyptians, The Green Eyes of Bast, (and) the unspeakable Bazarada, “who was told that he looked more like a beautiful evil woman than a man, up to his crotch in unspeakable rites and depraved practices and secrets so foul no decent man may learn them and live. Basic postulate – East is cruel, depraved, devious and immoral, anti-Christ, anti-American, and, in a word, evil. West is humane, decent, wholesome, straightforward, moral, sincere, and god-fearing – in a word, good. Good for what exactly?) – “Suddenly a badger erupts among the boys – don’t know why he did it just playful, friendly and inexperienced, like the Indians who brought fruit down to the Spanish and got their hands cut off. So the counselor rushes for his saddlebag and gets out his1912 Colt 45 auto and starts blasting at the badger, missing him with every shot from six feet. Finally, he pus his gun three inches from the badger’s side and shoots. This time the badger rolls down a slope into the stream. I can see the stricken animal, the sad, shrinking face, rolling down the slope, bleeding, dying. “You see an animal and you kill it, don’t you. It might have bitten one of the boys””
“This book [The Cat Inside] is about inter-species contact, not interspecies communication. There is a basic difference between communication and contact. Communication is designed to avoid contact, maintain a distance across which communication can take place. Contact involves identification with the creature you contact, and this can be very painful. Communication can be forced. Contact cannot. You cannot force anyone to feel. This cat book recounts my own experiences with inter-species contact. You know when it happens. It can’t be faked. And, in this case, of course, contacting the badger is very painful indeed – he just wanted to romp and play and got shot with a 45 – Identify with that. Feel that. Contact that.
I don’t know how many of you saw the tv short on Bigfoot – “Tracks and sightings in the Norhtwest mountain areas. Interviews with local inhabitants. Here is a three-hundred-pound female slob: “What in your opinion should be done about these creatures if they exist ?” A dark shadow crosses her ugly face and her eyes shine with conviction “Kill them! They might hurt somebody”” – “A specemin of homo-sapiens green, with a longer-range rifle with telescopic sights, close-cropped beard, trying to look like an adventurer and looking like a marginal freelance journalist who writes for survival. He is quite sure Big Feet are out there in those hills and proposes to kill a specemin. If I lived in the area I would be more worried about this jerk with his rifle than about Bigfoot. But I suspect Bigfoot to be a fake like the Barnum & Bailey Unicorn. Well, a camera team just happens on Bigfoot with their cameras all set up and ready to go – Lights! Action! Camera! – There he is about a hundred yards away, walking with a strange slow gait, taking six feet in a stride, like a moonwalk. Scientific stride experts say this is not a human stride. Well, certainly not at twenty-four-frames-per-second. I suspect it to be a man in a gorilla suit projected in slow-motion.”
‘When I was four year old I saw a vision in Forest Park, St Louis. My brother was ahead of me with an air rifle, I was lagging behind and I saw a little green reindeer about the size of a cat. Clear and precise in the late afternoon sunlight as if seen through a telescope.” – Well, can those images,those visions, be photographed? Certainly, anything that can be seen can be photographed. And anything that can be photographed can be faked. “The magical medium is being bulldozed away. No more green reindeer in Forest Park, angels are leaving all the alcoves everywhere. The medium in which Unicorns, Bigfoot, Green Deer exist, always thinner, like the rain forests and the creatures that live and breathe in them, as the forests fall to make way for motels and Hiltons, the whole magical universe is dying.”
“Well, life such as it is, goes on. Dillon’s is still open. I am the cat who walks alone. To me all super-markets are alike.”
This is the end – “We are the cats inside. We are the cats who cannot walk alone, and for us there is only one place. Walk alone for us” – Thank you [Burroughs acknowledges enthusiastic applause – and offers an encore] –
Well, “Political Program” – “Every man a god. And how can this be accomplished? Well, to put it country-simple, by doing your job and doing it well – because there are many gods – a god of whores and thieves and pushers, a god of cheaters and plagues who rides on a whispering south wind, god of the long chance the horse that comes from last to win, the punch-drunk fighter who comes off the floor to win by a knockout, a god of anti-heros and outrage, the ships captain who put on women’s clothes and rushed into the first life-boat,the pilot who bailed out of a burning plane leaving his passengers to crash, a god of future space-travellers who are ready to leave the whole human context behind and take a step into the unknown. Every man a god, that is, if he can qualify. You can’t be a god of anything unless you can do it.”
[The reading ends at approximately fifty-four-and-a-half minutes in. Anne Waldman announces that audio tapes of the reading are available (at five dollars (sic)!) and more announcements are made (“a lot of very interesting poetry activity” at Naropa, not forgetting an upcoming visit by Eido Roshi, Zen master)
[At approximately fifty-six-and-a-half minutes in, the tape continues with Burroughs reading several further sections from The Cat Inside]
“An English cat-hater of the upper classes (he became a Lord in the course time so I hear), well this limey sunovabitch confided to me that he had trained a dog to break a cat’s back with one shake. And I remember he caught sight of a cat at a party and snarled out through the long yellow horse teeth that crowded out of his mouth, “Nasty stinking little beast!” Well I didn’t know anything about cats at the time. Now I would get up from my chair and say,”Pawdon me, old thing, if I toddle along, but there’s a nasty stinking big beast here.
” I will take this occasion to denounce the vile English practice of riding to hounds. So the sodden huntsman can watch a beautiful delicate fox torn to pieces by their stinking dogs. Heartened by this loutish spectacle, they repair to the manor house to get drunker than they already are. No better than their filthy, fawning, shit-eating, carrion-rolling, baby-killing beasts.”
Warning to all young couples who are expecting a blessed event – get rid of that family dog! – “What! Our Fluffy harm a child? Why, that’s ridiculous” Long may your child live to think so, little mother… fondly dandling their child and drooling baby-talk when Fluffy, in a jealous rage, rushes on the baby, bites through its skull and kills it.” – (that’s an actual case, and there are many, I read one quite recent one – “Jealousy Caused Dog to Kill My Child”, a small dog too, it was a Scottish terrier.) – “Dogs are the only animals other than Man with a knowledge of right and wrong. So Fluffy knows what to expect when he is dragged whimpering from under the bed where he cowers. He realizes the full extent of his trespass. No other animal would make the connection . Dogs are the only self-righteous animal.”
And another horrible practice – walking to hogs – Hear Clem and Cash, down in the Everglades of Florida get their jollies killing wild hogs with knives “Jump on the hog’s back and cut its throat” But they couldn’t indulge their loutish pastime without a pack of thirty yipping, yelping hounds to distract and immobilize the pigs. When your hounds stand and bay at pigs, you got to get there fast because a hog’s tusk can open up a dog like a surgeon’s scapal. And sometimes you arrive too late. It brings tears to the eye to see a courageous dog half gutted-out, coming back for more. To whose eyes does this bring tears, you bestial redneck. Pigs out there minding their own business, living on roots and berries, and out-charges Clem and Cash and their horrible hounds.
I have eulogized the fennec fox, a creature so delicate and timorous in the wild state that he dies of fright if touched by human hands . The red fox, the silver fox, the bat-eared fox of Africa…all beautiful animals. Wolves and coyotes in the wild condition are quite acceptable. What went so hideously wrong with the domstic dog? Man molded the domestic dog in his own worst image…self-righteous as a lynch-mob, servile and vicious, complete with the vilest coprophagic perversions… and what other animal tries to fuck your leg?”
“I am not a dog-hater. I do hate what man has made of his best friend. The snarl of a panther is certainly more dangerous than the snarl of a dog, but it isn’t ugly, because a cat’s rage is his own, beautiful, all its hair standing up and crackling with blue sparks, eyes blazing and sputtering . (But a) Dog’s snarl is ugly, a redneck lynch-mob Paki-basher snarl, the snarl of somebody who’s got a “Kill A Queer For Christ” sticker on his heap, a self-righteous occupied snarl. When you see that snarl, you are looking at something that has no face of its own. A dog’s rage is not his. It’s dictated by his trainer. And the lynch-mob is dictated by their horrible conditioning.
Cats were held in veneration by the ancient Egyptians. To harm a cat was a capital crime.
Here’s a newspaper article – a man in Warwick, Rhode Island was fined $200 for killing a stray cat in his microwave (a case that screams for Egyptian justice).
Dogs, of course, started as sentinels, and that’s still their chief function in farm and village to give notice of approach , as hunters and guards, and that is why they hate cats. “Look at the services we provide and all cats do is loll around and purr.. it takes a cat half an hour to kill a mouse. All cats do is purr and alienate the Masters’ affection from my honest shit-eating face.” The cat does not offer for its services, the cat offers itself .Of course he wants care and shelter. You don’t buy those for nothing. Like all pure creatures cats are practical..”