William Burroughs’ lawn

Before I became a gallery owner, I ran a lawn-and-tree service in Lawrence. It wasn’t much of a service: a pickup, a chainsaw, and some mowers. Also the occasional art student–who I never allowed to climb the trees. If anyone was going to fall, it would be me. This was a good gig, since it allowed me to write several hours a day. Later, the gallery would become a better gig.

Among the many lawns I mowed was that of William Burroughs: his little bungalow, with his Reichian orgone box and fish pond out back. How we met is an amusing story that, inevitably, had to do with one of my gay friends. Actually I mowed his manager’s lawn more than his–James Grauerholz. James is a great guy who brought Burroughs to Lawrence from where he was languishing in NY in the early 80s. Then James revitalized his career: getting all his books back in print, getting him on tour, then later the Nike spots and the music video with U2. Also the shotgun art. Very amusing, but I’ll not get into that now.

The few times I mowed his lawn, he would come out onto the porch to watch. On occasion we’d talk. Did I ever mention I was a novelist? Nah. We dwelt in different worlds. However I always looked to see if he was armed, knowing his love of handguns. He never was. Say what you want, I don’t think he ever got over the shooting of his wife at that party in Mexico City. Some sadnesses never leave the eyes; I believe that was one of them.

The last time I saw him was in the fall of 1993, when I removed the leaves from his lawn, just before moving back to KC. We didn’t talk much. He watched me mow up the leaves, I asked him how he was, he said Tired, I said I understood, then left. He died four years later. I’ve never forgotten the mischievous intelligence in his eyes. Too bad we didn’t become better acquainted, but it wasn’t the right fit.

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