22 October 1957 / San Francisco

I will try to make this account of my night as accurate as possible, but I suspect that some of the details might have faded in the intervening hours that I have been repeatedly showering in my hotel room's bathroom.

It began when I went to a reading at the City Lights bookstore. I had shown up because a friend of mine had recommended their sourdough ham sandwiches. Either I had confused City Lights bookstore with City Bites bakery, or they had simply run out of their signature hoagies, because by the time I got there, the only food available was a tray of amphetamine laced shortbread. I know "speedcakes" when I see them, so I left them alone (I do not like the bitterness the drug lends to most baked goods).

The store seemed oddly packed with people for a Wednesday night, especially for a place that was out of sandwiches. Only when I had pushed my way to the front of the crowd did I realize that it was playing host to a poetry reading, and a few more moments passed before I recognized that I was on stage.

With all eyes on me, I felt obligated to entertain, and I launched into a free-form invocation to the spirit of an "American Bacchus." It was more or less a rehashing of the commencement speech I had given earlier this week at an elementary school, with a few curse words added to "punch it up" a bit. The audience bobbed their heads and jived their bodies to the rhythm of my words.

As I stepped off the stage, I recognized Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who I had met briefly at Columbia, after giving a talk about animism. He introduced me to Allen Ginsberg. I had heard good things about Ginsberg's work, (Marianne Moore said that "Howl" was "one of the finest poems about dongs" she had ever read) so I was happy to meet him. I stayed for the rest of the reading, and then went with Larry and Allen to a party at Pauline Kael's house. It was there that the night took a turn for the worse.

Among the other guests was a slender, unpleasant looking man named William Burroughs. When I walked in, he was hopping around and fluttering his long bony fingers. I was never introduced to him, and only found out his name when I demanded to know the name of the man that kept putting his fingers in my ears. The others apologized for their "friend" and assured me that his weird, inappropriate touching was his way of saying, "he likes you."

The only respite from his unwanted attention came when he took a break to lie down in the bathtub and listen to party guests use the lavatory. Everyone else was seemingly used to this kind of behavior, so I tried to ignore it, but he made it difficult. While talking on the sofa, he kept crawling into my lap and pretendeding to be a cat. The last straw came when he took off his socks and stuffed them into my jacket pockets. I could take no more. I thanked Allen, Larry, and Pauline for their hospitality, and left.

To my horror, I found that Burroughs had broken into my car and was writhing in the backseat. He claimed to be a lost harbor seal and demanded that I feed him smelts. I did not want to hurt such a clearly ill person, so I tried to remove him from my auto with as little violence as possible. During the struggle, however, he slammed his own hand in the car's door and removed one of his semi-detached fingernails and slid it down the back of my shirt.

I have seen and done many things that would shock the average person, but I have never been party to anything as gross as that.