Perhaps the highlight of this trip (with the possible exception of panhandling in Paris) was having the chance to make a friendship that has existed only virtually for the past several years into a real life one.
My visit with Isabelle Aubert Baudron and then spending some time with her ex-husband, Jean Louis was the stuff that dreams of travel are made of. These are really cool French intellectuals who were hanging around with the likes of William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac.
I won’t go into too much detail, but suffice to say that Izzy and Jean-Louis made me very comfortable and the small city of Thouars is one of those dream places where one meets a man who has been collecting ancient things since his boyhood and built a museum, ancient buildings sit side by side with modern ones, and the fattest cats in the world purr on in contentment while old french dogs beg for cheese, and are quite content in themselves.
Hearing the stories of Izzy and Jean Louis, seeing Jean Louis’ spaceship, experiencing the wonder of Brion Gysin’s dream machine, and hanging out in the French countryside make my wet journey worthwhile.
And as I sat in my battered old hat and read personal inscriptions in first editions from William S. Burroughs and others, I realized that this journey is just as important as those that the beat poets took and others as well.
The dreamachine (or dream machine) is a stroboscopic flicker device that produces visual stimuli. Artist Brion Gysin and William Burroughs’s “systems adviser” Ian Sommerville created the dreamachine after reading William Grey Walter’s book, The Living Brain.A dreamachine is “viewed” with the eyes closed: the pulsating light stimulates the optical nerve and alters the brain’s electrical oscillations. The “viewer” experiences increasingly bright, complex patterns of color behind their closed eyelids. The patterns become shapes and symbols, swirling around, until the “viewer” feels surrounded by colors. It is claimed that viewing a dreamachine allows one to enter a hypnagogic state.
There are amazing people in this world and I am very happy to be able to be friends of quite a few of them.
Here are a couple of pictures from Izzy’s galleries at www.interpc.fr/mapage/westernlands
With William Burroughs
Kandahar Afghanistqn October 1974
(Originally Posted 18 April 2009)