Letter to Bill Burroughs: Tangiers Revisited
by C. Woww
I push my way through the bead curtain and suddenly there I am! The Mecca of post-modernism, Dean’s Bar, Tangiers. It’s busier than I imagined it would be. I’m surrounded by expats, Americans, British and even a few burnoosed Moroccans, all working away at non-linear novels on typewriters that look like mechanical crabs. Every now and then one of the stereo-typists leaps up and shouts ‘Breakthrough!!’ Naturally I’m wondering where I fit in. Then along come William Burroughs and his mate Brion Gysin. They sit down at a table and start cutting up bits of paper. Having a good laugh they are too. "Ah there you are Simon," says William when he spots me.
"Simon? I’m Dick."
"Dick sorry, pull up a chair. Help yourself to a pair of scissors."
William is his usual jovial self but Brion seems less friendly. I join them anyway. William explains to Brion how we met in Robert’s gallery. Then he shows me how to clip lines out of newsprint. I sit with them for a while but I don’t have much to contribute. They keep clipping away. I get a vision of the future, J.G.Ballard, David Cronenberg, Will Self …even Jake Arnott all feeding off this time and place like sucking jism through mugwump headtits. Each to his own.
You and Brion really started something Bill. Bar after bar is packed with fraught young writers cutting up bits of paper. Scissors for sale on every street corner…young boys run after you shouting ‘Cut up mista!’ I’m making all this up of course. Tangiers is a lot tamer these days. Now there are cyber cafes where you can find trilingual keyboards with half the letters missing (perfect for cut-ups).
I’d just come off the fast ferry from Tarifa that evening. Tangiers, I am happy to report, is still weird, scary and rich in odours. Sure Tangiers has a beach but there are no tits on display. Just cheap hookahs, staring warehouses and stunted palms. Tangers, a lovable old bitch. Still not winning any beauty contests but, the muezzin calls, she’s still got something.
I find it not much changed at all in some ways Bill. Still scruffy and cheap. One tenth the price of Spain. I get a hotel room for 6 euros (60 dirhams) ...just like the 60s....pas de douche of course. I will give you and Brion more details so if you do ever make it back you can get properly lost just when you need a toilet. Olives are plentiful and they still have lots of kittens up for adoption.
So here I sit in the Café Centrale letting the thoughts flow just like you did so many years ago. It hasn’t changed much. You may even recognize a street hustler or two, Abdul and Mustafa on their way to pray. They are older now of course, not so slick, made the hajj, traded in their leather jackets for djellabahs. It could be a routine if anyone is in the mood to write it.
They still wear those yellow slippers, bananas can still be purchased singly, dérangées still jump out of doorways and warn you about dérangées. Hash dealers still sit on the corner across from the Franciscan Church in the Petit Socco. The clinic now has wheel-chair access. The English fags have all gone, gone wherever English fags go. It may be a touch less exotic but none of us are easily impressed these days, are we Bill.
That first winter in the Interzone was hard on you Bill. The cold, the loneliness, Joan’s brains oozing out. The demons were persistent. There came a point where there was nothing to do but write. A few hits from the keef pipe and the words would come out of nowhere…watch them flow across the paper. Fill the page, throw it on the floor and start another one. Let Ginsberg sort it out. And who the hell is going to read it? Janet Bowles thinks you’re just a queer junky, maybe she’s right. Or maybe she didn’t like the way you guys were glomming on to Paul. That was writing eh Bill? Squat toilet stuff. Bare light bulb, black coffee and bed bugs, making Couplandish observations. Way ahead of your time.
The hooded figures still flit through the narrow twisting lanes, the babble of foreign voices, the veiled women, all highly conducive to paranoid thinking but the craziness has gone. Or so it seems to me. Nobody tries to drag me into shops…they carry cell-phones now and nobody whispers ‘hash-hash’ or ‘change money’ every five minutes. All very civilized, I don’t get hustled at all. Or perhaps I’m granted senior citizen immunity.
Oops, almost forgot, a black guy got elected president. I’m off to the slave market to catch a beheading. Just kidding…so are you in heaven or are you in hell you old bastard? Do they have guns there?