William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg at Marquette 1988

William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg at Marquette University Milwaukee, Wisconsin  March 3 1988

Burroughs reads first – He reads six short pieces – “Words of Advice For Young People”, “Mind Your Own Business” “The Do-Rights”, “Twilight’s Last Gleaming”, “One God Universe”  and “The Unworthy Vessel”  

William S Burroughs begins his reading with “Words of Advice For Young People”

“I get letters from young people asking me for a few words of advice. Well here are a few simple admonitions for young and old:

Never interfere in a boy-and-girl fight. Beware of whores who say they don’t want money (the hell they don’t!  what they mean is they want more money, much more).  If you’re doing business with a religious son-of-a-bitch, get it in writing (his word isn’t worth a shit, not with the good lord telling him how to fuck you on the deal).  If after having been exposed to someone’s presence you feel as if you’d lost a quart of plasma, avoid that presence, you need it like you need pernicious anemia. Don’t like to hear the word “vampire” around here, trying to improve our p.r. enlightened independence is the key word. Life in all its rich variety, take a little leave a little. However, by the inexorable logistics of the vampiric process they always take more than they leave – and why indeed should they take any?  Avoid fuck-ups, fools I call them for short. You all know the type. Everything they have anything to do with turns into a disaster. They’re trouble for themselves and everyone associated with them. A fool is bad news. Don’t let it rub off on you. Do not proffer sympathy to the mentally ill, it is a bottomless pit. Tell them firmly, “I am not paid to listen to this  drivel – and you are a terminal fool”. And above all, avoid confirmed criminals, they are special malignant strain of fool. Look what Norman Mailer got himself into by involving himself with this archetypical criminal fool, Jack Henry Abbott (as soon as Mailer gets him out he rushes out and kills a waiter) –  Well Abbott says. ” I will sell my soul for freedom but I won’t give another days work to behave myself for an instant for the same thing” – Surely Abbott is the foolishest of the fools. You can see that’s somebody to stay well away from.

Now some of you may encounter the Devil’s Bargain if you get that far. Any old soul’s worth saving, at least to a priest, but not every soul is worth buying, so you can take the offer as a compliment. Well, he’ll try money first, all the money there is, so (but) who want to be the richest guy in some cemetery? Oh, so money won’t buy.. not much to spend it on, eh gramps?getting too old to cut the mustard. Well, time hits the hardest blows and especially below the belt. So how does a young body grab you? – like three-card monte, now you see it, now you don’t.  Some old fool is going to rush out and realize all your wet dreams. Haven’t you forgotten something, gramps?  In order to feel something, you have to be there, you have to be eighteen years olds and you aren’t eighteen, you’re seventy-eight. You’re just not there. Old fool sold his soul for a strap-on.

Well they always try the easiest ones first. So how about an honorable bargains? You always wanted to be a doctor, well now is your chance. There are no honorable bargains that involve exchange of quality merchandise like souls for quantitative merchandise like money and time. The Devil’s Bargain is always a bargain for him. So piss off, Satan, don’t take me for dumber than I look. As an old junk pusher told me, “Watch whose money you pick up”.

Now here’s some specialized advice if there are any inspiring young thieves in the audience – “Don’t ever try and beat a Chinaman – He will die before he gives up his money!”  I remember a young hoodlum named Eddie who learned the hard way. Edie and two other bums need some money on a Saturday-night so they decide to heist this Chinese laundry. Below street level, one little skinny Chink down there ironing shirts. “So all we have to do is flash a gun and he will fork over” (so they think). But Instead, he comes up with a meat cleaver screaming, “Fluck you, fluck you, fluck you…” – and they, wisely, heed the words of the Immortal Bard,  Stay not on the order of your going but go at once”.  So out in the street this kid’s laughing about it, “Ah, you can’t win ’em all”,  and, imitating the Chinaman,  “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you” – “What are you all looking at me so funny for?” (says the kid). “Man, you’ve got a meat-cleaver stuck in your head!”  He reaches up and feels the meat-cleaver, and passes out. So they steer him to a hospital and shove him through the door. Apparently, he made it.

Now this planet could be a reasonably pleasant place to live if could just mind his own business and let others do the same but a wise old black faggot said to me years ago “Some people are shits, darling”, and I was never able to forget it   The mark of a hard-core shit is that he has to be right.

Oh..So here is.. Nancy Reagan and her husband hand in hand..   They’re saying that nobody has a right to mind their own business – they say that only outspoken disapproval of drug use can be tolerated, that indifference is not an option. You just can’t mind your own business at all. It is disquieting to speculate what may lurk behind this collosal red herring of the “war against drugs”, a war neither likely, nor designed to, succeed. It looks like old clean money and new dirty money is shaking hands under the table and the old tried and failed police approach will continue and escalate. If something doesn’t work that is the best reason to go on doing it in politics. If something looks like it might work, stay well away, anything like that could make waves. The boys at the top, they don’t like waves.

(Harry) Anslinger’s missionary work, selling other countries on his disastrous police and punishment approach to the drug problem, (that succeeded in Malaysia beyond his fondest hopes) – of mandatory death penalty for traffickers, anyone found in possession of more than half an ounce of morphine or heroin and more than seven ounces of cannabis. As Mahathir Mohamad says, “We have to give up a measure of freedom to combat the drug menace”.  And the most.. nastiest thing going on in this pestiferous area is the systematic radio campaign to create a drug-hating and addict-hating personality. And Mohamad is said to command widespread support for his drug policy. So did Hitler command widespread support for his anti-Semitic program.  Substitute the word “addict” for “jew” and the stormer storms again.  Well, to get to the bottom of any issue, ask yourself who profits? According to Sindonas account in Power on Earth, the bulk of the world’s dirty money is processed in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Yeah, that would be interesting to examine the off-shore bank accounts of some of these Malaysian officials. But that’s the job for an investigative reporter like Jack Anderson, a job he is not likely to undertake since he seems to agree with Mahathir Mohamad.  He said he “spoke with real passion”.  So did Hitler speak with real passion, for godssakes!  And exactly what his former head of the CIA, William Colby, exactly in what capacity is he retained by the Malaysian government? to see how far a thing like this can be carried and whether it can be exported to America?  The danger from drug hysteria cannot be overstated. It could sweep the world and turn the planet into a vast police state. As Mohamad says, you have to give up a measure of freedom to achieve a blessed drug-free state where the narcs withered away, as the KGB withered in Russia

and of course the AIDS scare slots right in. It was inevitable that people would say it was a laboratory creation and here is… what’s his name?..Doctor Segal says AIDS is a secret anti-Soviet weapon, and here is another one that says AIDS is germ warfare by the US government against gays and blacks. Well, take your pick.  I don’t see that the Russians had.. could profit anything, but I can see that the Reagan administration could profit, they’re looking for scapegoats a lot..yeah

This folkloric text from the federal narcotics hospital in Lexington, Kentucky was inspired by the words of Juvenal, the ancient Roman satirist refering to Greek parasites and sycophants

If you would say you’re warm, he breaks into a sweat. If you complain of a draft, he screams for his overcoat.  There is an exclusive wing of Lexington reserved for the Do Rights who are considered good rehabilitation prospects. They get better rooms and more medication. Now a Do Right always shows up with letters from his employer, clergyman, congressman, and all the rest of it. You know the type, falls all over himself to light the boss’s cigarette. The doctor walks into the ward and says, “It’s rather warm in here”.  As one man the Do Rights break out in a sweat and rush around opening windows. “A bit cold in here, isn’t it?” Immediately the Do Rights see their breath in the air, snatch blankets and bundle themselves up to a chorus of chattering teeth.  Front office brown-nose finks to the bone. “Doctor, when I die, I want to be buried right in the same coffin with you. You’re the finest, the most decent, the most deeply humane man I have ever known” – “I’m putting you down for additional medications, son” – “Thank you,  Doctor, pushers should receive the death penalty”.  Of such tougher stuff are Do Rights made. It’s the old army game, from here to eternity, get there firsts with the brownest nose while down the dim gray wards and dayrooms  the Do Wrongs hawk and spit and shiver and vomit – Fuckin’ croaker wouldn’t give me a goof ball. He asks me what the American flag means to me and I tell him, “Soak it in heroin, doc, and I’ll suck it” – “Yeah, he says I got the wrong attitude. I should see the chaplain, get straight with Jesus”. And then, with the tears streaming down their lousy pink faces, the Do Rights leap up as one man and bellow out “The Star Spangled Banner”.

This… this text is called “Twilights Last Gleamings”in which I collaborated with Kells Elvins in 1938, commemorates the first appearance of Doctor Benway. We based this on the Morro Castle and the Titanic. The Titanic was supposed to be sink-proof and the Morro Castle was supposed to be fireproof and one sank and the other burned.

“It was the maiden voyage on the Titanic. There were a number of rich and very fancy people on board. I think  It was Mr Astor or somebody of that caliber. He and his valet  put on full dress suits and said we are going down like gentlemen (imagine that frame of mind! “going down like gentlemen”! – glub glub glub)

But some old gink, Colonel Clinch Smithwho was right on the deck when the Titanic went down got clear and latched on to a chicken coop and survived and that’s the name of the game – survival. In our story, “Twilight’s Last Gleaming”, the ship”s captain puts on women’s clothes and rushes into the first lifeboat, and also in this lifeboat is the ship’s doctor. There was actually someone who did this in the Titanic. Somewhere in the shadow of the Titanic disaster, still living, slinks a cur in human shape, today the most despicable human being in all the world. In that grim midnight hour as their countersign rang over the deep, “Women and children first!”, what did he do? – He scuttled to the state-room deck, put on a woman’s skirt …a woman’s hat and a woman’s veil and, picking his crafty way back among the brave and chivalric men, filth, seated in one of the life-boats to save his skin. His identity is not yet known. So foul an act as that will out like murder. This man still lives. Surely he was born and saved to set a new standard  with which to measure infamy and shame? –  Oh boy, that 19th Century!  – yeah..

“Twilight’s Last Gleamings. SS America off Jersey Coast Ladies and Gentlemen there is no cause for alarm. We have a minor problem in the boiler room but everything is now under..sound effects of a nuclear blast. Explosion splits the boatA paretic named Perkins screams from his shattered wheel chair. “You pithyathed thon of a bidth!”  Second class passenger, Barbara Cannon lay naked in a first class stateroom. Stuart Hudson stepped to a portal. “Put on your clothes, honey”, he said, there’d been an accident.”

Dr. Benway, ship struck doctor, drunkenly added two inches to a six inch incision with one stroke of his scalpel. “Perhaps the appendix is already out, doctor”, the nursesaid, peering dubiously over his shoulder,”I showed you a scar”. “The appendix outI’m taking the appendix out! What do you think I’m doing here?” Perhaps the appendix is on the left side, doctor. That happens sometimes, you know.” – “Stop breathing down my neck, I’m coming to that. Don’t you think I know where an appendix is. I studied appendectomy in 1904 at Harvard.” He lifted the abdominal wall and searched along the incision, dropping ashes from his cigarette. He thrust a red fist at her. “Get me a new scapel .This one has got no edge to it” The doctor flattened against the wall. The patient slid off the operating table spilling intestines across the floor.”Sew her up, I can’t be expected to work under such conditions!” He swept instruments, cocaine and morphine into his satchel and tilted out of the operating room.

Mike Dwyer, a politician from Clayton, Missouri rushed into the First Class Lounge, crossed to the jukebox, selected “The Star Spangled Banner” with Fats Terminal at the electric organ, and shoved home a handful of quarters. Oh say can you see... Captain Cramer putting the finishing touches to heavy makeup. Now a green cloche hat and fox stole, one of those horrid creations where the fox’s mouth forms a clasp. Rather Sadie Thomson he decides, slipping a .32 automatic into his handbag. Dr. Benway.. By the dawn’s early light.. Dr Benway pushed through a crowed rail and boarded the first lifeboat.“Are y’all alright?”,  he said, seating himself amongst the women, “I’m the doctor.”… By  twilight’s last gleaming.. Radio Operator Finch mixed a bicarbonate of soda and belched into his hand – SS America… SOS – urp!  – “Goddamned captain’s a brown artist. SOS- off Jersey Coast – SOS – might smell us – Son-of-a-bitchin’ crew – SOS – “Comrade Finch” – Comrade’s a pig’s ass – The Captain stepped into the Radio Room and shot Finch in the back of the head. He shoved the body aside and smashed the apparatus with a chair – By the twilight’s last gleaming – The Captain stiff-arms an old lady and fills the first lifeboat.The boat is lowered jerkily by male passengers. Dr Benway casts off. The Captain pats his bulging suitcase and absently looks back at the ship. Our flag was still there…

It happens in every shipwreck.Something folks don’t like to talk about. People trying to..keep trying to  get into the lifeboats that are already full and someone has to cut their fingers off with a butcher knife. In our story, a paralyzed, semi-paralyzed breather is the instrument of destiny. Someone gives him the knife and tells him what he has to do.

A cry goes up in the tilting deck, bodies hurdled around the boat, heads bob up in the green water. A hand reaches out and closes on the boat side spring-like Perkins brings down the knife. The hand slips away, finger stubs fall into the boat. “That’ a boy comrade don’t let them swamp us.” The crew pull on the oars,  Perkins works feverishly cutting on all sides. His false teeth fly out and with the speed of a snapping snake, he snaps them back into is mouth. “Bastards, sons-of-bitches, bastards, sons-of-bitches…” Oh say.. does that spangled banner yet wave… Barbara Cannon showed your reporter her souvenirs of the disaster. A lifebelt autographed by the crew and a severed human finger. “I dunno” she said, “I feel so bad about this old finger.” oh, The land of the free and home of the brave. Thank you

“Daddy Longlegs” looked like Uncle Sam on stilts and he ran this osteopath clinic outside East St Louis and took in a few junky patients. For two notes a week you could nod out in green lawn chairs and look at the oaks and grass stretching down to a little lake in the sun,  and the nurse moves around with a silver tray feeding the junk  and we call her “Mother” – wouldn’t you ?   Doc Benway and me is hold up there after a rumble in Dallas involving this aphrodisiac ointment and Doc goofed on ether and mixed in too much Spanish Fly and burned the prick off the Police Commissioner. So we come to “Daddy Longlegs” to cool off and we find him cool and casual in a dark room with potted rubber plants and a silver tray where he likes to see a week in advance. The nurse shows us a room with rose wallpaper and we had this bell any hour of the day or night just ringing and “Mother” charges in with a loaded hypo. One day we are sitting out in the lawn chairs with lap robes, it’s a fall day, the leaves changing, sun cold on the lake. Doc picks up a piece of grass, he says, you know “Junk turns you on vegetable – It’s green see?.”  So we check out of the clinic and rent a house and Doc starts cooking up this green junk and the basement is full of tanks, smells like a compost heap of junkies. So finally he draws off this heavy green fluid and loads it into a hypo big as a bicycle pump. “Now we must find a worthy vessel”, he says.  So we flush out this old goofball artist and tell him it’s pure Chinese H from the Ling Dynasty. And Doc shoots the whole pint of green right into the main line. And the Yellow Jacket turns fibrous grey green and withers up like an old turnip. And I say “I’m getting out of here, me”.  Doc says, “An unworthy vessel, obviously. I withdraw from the case.”

Just consider the impasse of a One-God universe. He can’t go anywhere since he is already everywhere, he can’t do anything since the act of doing presupposes opposition. He can’t exert inner energy since he is omnipotent. His universe is irrevocably thermodynamichaving no friction by definition. So he has to create friction – War, Fear and Death –  to keep his dying show on the road. Sooner or later, “Look boss, we don’t have enough sick, enough energy left to fry an elderly woman in a flea bag hotel bar.”. “Well, we’ll have to start faking it. “Sure and leave the details to Joe ” –  that from real disaster you get a pick of energy – Sacrifice, Heroism, Grief, Separation, Fear and Violent Death.  So, from a energy surplus you can underwrite the next one. But if the first one’s a fake you can’t underwrite a shit house. Try to explain to God Almighty where his One-God universe is going.  Asshole doesn’t know what buttons to push or what happens when you push them -erp! – “Abandon ship, goddam it, every man for himself” – “Can’t launch a lifeboat, boss, film’s fucked” – “Fix it” -” What with? a band aid and chewing gum?  so, licking the master film, fix it yourself, boss man” – Like the Great Gatsby,  Kim believes in the green light.  He believes in the magical universe, unpredictable, spontaneous, alive, a universe where anything is possible, a universe of many gods, often in conflict. So the paradox of an all-powerful, all-knowing God who nonetheless permits suffering, evil and death, does not arise.

“What happened, Osiris?  We got a famine here” – “Well you can’t win them all, I’m hustling myself” – “Can you give us immortality?” – ” I can get you an extension maybe, take you as far as the first checkpoint. You’ll have to make it from there on your own, most of them don’t.”    Figure about one in a million, and, biologically speaking, that’s very good odds.” Thank you.

The transcript continues with a transcript/note on Allen Ginsberg’s reading here

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