Billy Batman

The British Cemetery Located in the centre of Kabul, is a small oasis in the middle of chaos.

The graves of local ex-pats, foreign tourists, missionaries, and the like all sit in rows, while monuments to fallen foreign soldiers, from the Anglo-Afghan wars to the current NATO/ISAF mission in Afghanistan, line the perimeter of the small compound.

One tombstone is of particular interest, firstly because it no longer marks a gravesite, but rather is standing up against the wall in one of the corners, and secondly, because this man’s name stands out immediately – Billy Batman.

Born William Joseph Jahrmarkt, he died in 1972 in Kabul. Apparently, he died when he dropped his gun and accidentally shot himself. A poem was written by one of his friends years later:

“And Billy Batman, who made the best hash in the world,
he dropped a loaded pistol in Kabul, shot himself in the balls,
took some heroin and lay down to die.”

He got the nickname Billy Batman simply due to the fact he loved Batman comics. On his grave is written, “Billy Batman loves Joan, Hassan, Caladonia and Digger.” This was his wife, Joan and their three children. The last of which, Digger, shares his name with the improv/alternative theatre in San Francisco that Billy Batman was a member of, called the Diggers. While in San Francisco, he also owned an art gallery, called the Batman Gallery, and was famous for presenting alternative art. Unfortunately, this enterprise didn’t last long due to Billy’s drug use.

And drugs is what he would be famous for. Billy made his first trips to Afghanistan in the 1950s and is credited with taking and then introducing the first hash ever to the United States. Apparently he had a special technique to make it which included a hammer and two vinyl records. I can’t really get my head around it, to explain how it works though. He got involved with beatniks like Alan Ginsburg and William Burroughs, supplying hash to the great jazz musicians of the time and generally was the man to know.

In 1969, he moved him and his family to Kabul to live permanently, becoming the king and queen of the local ex-pat scene. He could be found smoking on the grass as a buzkashi match was being played or wandering the antique shops of Chicken Street. Then, as the poem you’ve read described, he shot himself and rather than seeking medical help, he took some heroin and lay down to die. Now his grave is permanently in Kabul, the place he loved so much.

That is the Weird World Guide to Billy Batman

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