William Burroughs Conversation continues – 5 (Leary in Tangier)

William Burroughs, May 1986 – photo by Allen Ginsberg – courtesy Stanford University Libraries / Allen Ginsberg Estate

AG: Well now the tone of that period (in Tangier).  I think (Timothy) Leary had come, and Bill had taken some psilocybin. I was a little afraid of it for some reason or other (though I’d had it before, but I was going through a period of aversion to psychedelics) but I felt duty-bound to take some, so I took a tiny bit and went up walking on Boulevard Pasteur with Gregory or Peter and great waves of nausea and fear swept over my body). Bill took some (to WSB) What happened?

WSB: I thought it was terrible stuff, I never liked it, and this became a sort of, eventually, a rift between me and Leary. I said that majoun was so much better, you got as high off it but you were in control, and this stuff sort of made my hands shake and interfered with my appetite and my coordination. But I never did like it. I didn’t like that, I didn’t like mescaline, I didn’t like LSD.

GC: You know what you told me?  You know what you told me?  You know, I remember this. I took it that night too. What you told that man Leary – “Look, the walls are weird enough, I don’t have to see them shake”.  Remember that night?

WSB: No, not clearly. The walls what? …

GC: “The walls are weird enough I don’t have to see them shake.”

WSB: Well, I don’t know.  I don’t exactly remember that but they do have all these mechanical patterns and geometric patterns that seem to be more or less forced. I didn’t like it at all.

AG: What I remember, just sort of from the human drama of this evening, was maybe me and Peter and Leary go in to knock on your door the early evening after you had taken some psilocybin (maybe you’d taken it sort of two or three or four) and we went to knock and see how you’re doing, and see if you wanted company, and thinking that this is going to be a great breakthrough,. and that you are going to be hung on a psychedelic thing and was going to greet Leary as the great avatar brain of bringing it in his hands across the ocean to you.  And I remember you coming to the gate in the wall of Villa Muniria – Were you there at that moment, Gregory, do you know? – and opening the gate slightly ajar, looking at us with this very dour face (that I thought was somewhat between terror, panic, and nausea (or disgust, or total depression), as if cats were scratching at your soul) and saying. Nooo, you did not want to see anybody, we would be together tomorrow perhaps, but you did not feel well with this awful stuff.

WSB:  Well, exactly. I was feeling quite ill from the stuff so I didn’t want to see anyone.

AG: Yeah

WSB: So I just wanted to lie down. That’s all. There was nothing more to it than that. His medicine – It made me sick.

WSB: So listen we better get on here.
GC Yeah what time is it? I wanna get out of here.
AG: We have fifteen minutes.
WSB: Well come on, let’s go.
GC: Fifteen, alright, good.

to be continued

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirteen-and-a-half minutes in and continuing until approximately seventeen-and-a-quarter minutes in

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