William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg in conversation 1991 – 6 (continues)

[William Burroughs examining his painting – and a mugwump – photo: Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence, Kansas, 1992]

Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs continue their conversation. Allen takes out his camera and William takes out his pictures

AG (focusing camera) : Can you look at me for a second? – Got the picture?

WSB:  I’ve got my little Kowloon (painting)..  The first thing that fell into my hand, a painting of an old Chinese taking a shit in the hall..

AG: Oh yeah, yeah..

WSB (presents another painting): Ah, that gives another color.

AG: Two of them together are not bad.

WSB Yeah, they’re good.  Well, it’s the same subject. This, of course is completely yellow (sic). They’re packed in shoulder-to-shoulder. Imagine, you’ve got something half..  a cubicle half the size of this room, with three other people – that’s luxury, that’s luxury conditions!

AG: Well – I do – in China, the students rooms were about two-thirds the size of this room, or maybe the size of just this room, six bunk beds. One of them is reserved for trunks and luggage. And five people in a room. And then they have the hot water on one hour a day. And two hours a day down the hall in the showers. That’s it….

WSB:  Jesus Christ! all over each other, all of the time. Well I imagine probably the man with the heroin there can operate there, probably has a cubicle to himself! – Obviously it’s a kitchen (not quite..) a cubicle to himself, and a little tiny television set, you know, about that big?

[An opium den in Kowloon (Hong Kong) in the 1950’s]

WSB: Well I should think everyone that could afford it in Kowloon would be taking heroin or opium, wouldn’t you?

AG: Well, no, I wouldn’t, either

WSB: What?

AG: I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t if I were there.

WSB: Oh God!  who wouldn’t?  It just takes the edge off.

AG:  Yeah. But I have, you know, the.. I carry with me, like now I have lots of codeine, but I don’t take it (or buy codeine).

WSB  But You’re not a sharing a room with five other people.

AG: No.

WSB: No.

AG: But I do (did) when I was a sailor.

WSB: Yeah, but that is a pretty special thing. That is a way of life and you’re not trying to get the money for a bowl of soup a day which comes after your heroin money

AG: And I’d also go down to sea without a drink…

to be continued

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-five minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-nine-and-a-half minutes in] 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *