Interview with A*n*n*a B*e*c*k
with Nancy Roscoe helping out
[The person interviewed here didn't want this interview to come up in an internet search]. - dc]
Professionally transcribed by
See interview with Robert Beck which includes more with AB
Suzuki was very quiet, and you had to draw him
out. I couldn't give you any word for word
memory about him. You know, I just remember that in general around him it
is kind of like a dream but it was real.
The Becks and the Roscoes bought Tassajara in 1960. The Becks bought the Roscoes out not long after that and sold Tassajara to the SF Zen Center in December of 1966. Sadly, Bob and Fred have passed on. I was most happy though to spend time with A___ and Nancy at Tassajara during this year's Noh Race, a yearly weekend gathering of good friends of the Zen Center and Tassajara. I've known A___ since way back then and Nancy since the early nineties. I love them both dearly. This discussion took place on Saturday nite in the Fireplace Stone Room where they were staying. For more introduction and more period on all this, see the interview with Robert Beck. - DC
DC: So, as you know, I'm interested in Tassajara history, your history with Zen Center, and anything you have to say about that or anything you want.
AB: All right, the first thing I want to say about that - Nancy and I were just speaking about this before you came. We were talking about my knowing you and how long, and I, my first memory of you was when you were married to Daya, when you were married to Daya.
DC: Really, I'd known you for five years when Daya and I got married. I guess not so well before then though - I mainly knew Bob back then.
AB: Well, before yeah, but my major memory of you was when you were married to Daya and then Kelly was born, and you were living up on the Flats [at Tassajara up above where the kitchen and dinning room are].
DC: Yeah, we lived up there - in the cabin that now is the library. Back when she was Dianne.
AB: And you and Di were living up in the Flats, yeah, where the old hotel was, and then Nancy was saying that you, after you and Daya divorced that you had been married to an astronaut's daughter.
DC: Yeah, yeah.
AB: Was that Wally Schira?
DC: No, no, Elin's father is Rusty Schweickart.
NR: See, I thought so.
AB: Rusty Schweickart.
DC: From Apollo IX
NR: I don't remember meeting you before Katie's memorial in Santa Cruz.
DC: That's when I met you.
NR: But you knew Frederick.
NR: Because he spoke of him and he knew of the bookstore. [Discovery Books, once a great used bookstore next to City Lights in SF]
DC: Oh yeah.
NR: So I knew you with Elin.
DC: Yeah, yeah.
AB: So how long were you with Elin?
DC: Elin and I were together from 1985 to 2000 - like 16 years, and we were married 11 of them and separated for the last year and a half we lived together.
AB: And Daya?
DC: And Daya and I were together about eight years - from the late sixties. We were married two and a half, we were living together married two and a half years and then we didn't get divorced for another ten years, because we didn't have to till Elin and I got married. And I had lived with a wonderful woman in Bolinas - they are all wonderful - for nine years between them - Elizabeth Tuomi.
NR: And now you're with Katrinka who my daughter knows.
DC: And Katrinka and I have been together for three years living together for the last year and a half or more.
NB: Were they all younger?
DC: No - Liz was 11 years older.
NR: Elin's a lot younger.
DC: Seventeen years.
AB: I met that nice Australian friend of yours. She was very young.
DC: Francine. Twenty-two years younger. Daya and Katrinka are just a little tiny bit younger.
AB: Do you like that?
DC: I like it all. But I feel very comfortable now.
AB: You're really old aren't you Davie?
AB: You're really old now?
DC: Yes, that's right. Sixty-two.
AB: [laughs] you've had all of these women in your life. Lots of girlfriends on the side?
DC: Not in recent decades.
AB: Have you ever been single?
DC: When I was young, before Daya. There were a few years in there, after Elin and before Katrinka where I was free - that's when I hung out with Francine for six months while she was in America, and I was single there for a while - but I've mainly, you know, been with a woman - until they get tired of me.
NR: You sound like Bob.
DC: Yeah. It's been good. It is good. But, gee, how about you? Let us just start with your history with Zen Center and after that I want to go back earlier than that and but what was your first memory of anything Zen Center-ish.
AB: Well, my first memory on this and it’s not a very clear one, was that Ed Brown, came to work for us as a conscientious objector, I guess to the Korean War pretty much.
DC: No no no.
DC: Vietnam War.
AB: Vietnam or something. And I think he at that time was a Zen Buddhist.
DC: Oh yeah, he was, yeah.
AB: And it was always my impression that it was through Ed that Suzuki Roshi and Baker Roshi learned about Tassajara. Now, Nancy has a different take on that.
NR: Well, yeah, and I had rather strong memories of it, and it goes back to a dinner at Sim Van der Ryn's house.
DC: Sim and I are old friends. I met him here back in the seventies.
NR: And he and some of the others there challenged what I remember and I remember Frederick coming home from the bookstore telling me that Dick Baker had been in the bookstore, and telling him that the Zens were looking for a place and they were looking for something in Northern California and Frederick said, the perfect place for you would be Tassajara - where people would work for free, whereas Tassajara is hardly making it with what they're paying people to come and work there, and that was the beginning of Zen's interest in Tassajara.
DC: Well, I know that's what Frederick told me too. He said I'm the one that told Dick Baker about Tassajara and he told me about Dick coming into the store and - very much like what you said.
NR: Well, he came home and he mentioned it. At that time we didn't own any part of Tassajara but the Becks were here, and it was hard life. He knew A___ was having babies, and he knew it was here to be had.
DC: When Ed Brown came to Tassajara - in the summer of '66, Dick baker and Suzuki Roshi had already been here. They came here in the Spring before that and they didn't see anybody. They walked all through it. Dick had heard about it. He had heard about it not only though from Fred. People knew about it. Mario Patterson Doss had told Suzuki Roshi about it for years, but he didn't make the connections, I don't think.
NR: Why would that connection be made? Cause it was a spa?
DC: Yeah, I mean Suzuki - Mario Patterson Doss told me she had been telling Suzuki Roshi since like 1962 or something about Tassajara, but you know, Suzuki Roshi wasn't that the mover, shaker, doer, it was Dick.
AB: It was Dick Baker.
DC: So when Dick - and there were some other people like Graham Petchey and Phillip Wilson who had walked in here like around '60 or '62 because they camped out and seen it but they didn't suggest it as a retreat as far as I know. I think it was Fred telling Dick. Or Margo. There are other people I've talked to who said they'd mentioned it as well. I don't remember who.
Dick brought Suzuki Roshi in here in like in April of '66, drove him down. They looked at it and they didn't meet anybody and he said Suzuki said oh, it’s just like some place in China that he had seen and it's wonderful and on the way out on the top of the road, Suzuki got out and danced down the road and Dick said it looked like Roshi was in heaven,
AB: But you know, initially they wanted to buy just the Horse Pasture
DC: Well, yeah.
AB: They weren't interested in the springs. They were talking to us about down in the Horse Pasture and that was - I - if my memory serves me correctly that was the initial negotiation that we got into with them and then, they, Suzuki Roshi and Baker Roshi changed their minds and decided no, actually what they'd like was the springs.
DC: Mm-hmm [as in "yes"] umm.
NR: David, do you know what confuses me, and I'm a little bit protective of my husband, I don't need to be, but I am never the less.
DC: Yeah yeah.
NR: Is that I do remember him coming home and making that statement but doesn't Dick Baker remember?
DC: Yeah, why?
NR: Well, what does he say?
DC: Well, I don't think he contests that, why?
NR: Well, because I forget the name of the man who was very adamant that night at Sims, that that is not how they discovered Tassajara, and now A___ is saying that Ed Brown found it.
DC: What person?
NR: I forget his name.
DC: No no. But A___ wasn't aware that Dick and Suzuki Roshi had been here before. My impression was that Dick asked Ed to come here to get to know the place. I've never asked Ed about this. I should do that. He might be another person who says he's the one who discovered it.
AB: Oh, OK, well, then that's subsequent.
DC: I can't say that for sure, but I think Ed knew about it because of Dick and Ed and Dick were very close then. Not now.
AB: And Dick was a customer at the bookstore.
DC: Nobody at Sim's dinner would know anything about any of this firsthand. Maybe Dick had said something to one of them and he's not good on history. You know? The first, well, I'll tell you, the way I first heard about it from Dick way back was he said something like, "I was taking a walk by myself in the woods and stumbled on it." Bill Lane would say, yeah, he's an Aries, they tend to see themselves acting alone, they don't even think they have parents.
AB: Well, it's a minor point.
DC: Yes, but anyway - OK. So and that was wonderful that Ed came down here and what were the names of the two cooks that he was working with.
AB: Jimmy and oh gosh, I can't remember. Jimmy and somebody.
DC: Yeah. I know where to get that.
AB: Yeah, that's in the cookbook.
DC: And he learned so much from them, and you and
AB: Yeah, he started out as our dishwasher, then he moved up to breakfast cook or salad cook or something and in the little hierarchy that was going on in the kitchen at the time and you know, and he just moved along, he was very bright and he wanted to learn, and he had a propensity for that and Jimmy and whatever the other
AB: Ray and Jimmy, I think that's right, I think that's right. And they took him under their wings and we flourished.
DC: And they taught him how to make bread, or you taught him how to make bread.
AB: Yeah, somebody some, we were making bread, for sure.
DC: But Tassajara bread came from what he learned here, so it really was Tassajara bread, it was Tassajara bread before we were here. And they had been, they, I associate them with Big Sur.
AB: Jimmy and Ray?
DC: Right, is that right? Maybe Eselen?
AB: That may be, I don't know. I don't remember that at all.
DC: I don't know why, it’s just
AB: I don't know where they came to us from.
DC: Some association in my mind.
AB: I was too busy with other things.
AB: To think about all that.
DC: Now, the first I came to Zen Center in I think early October of that year.
AB: Of what? Sixty?
DC: '66 and you know, Ed was already back and I met him and Dick and there was some talk about raising money and pretty soon I was involved in raising money for the Horse Pasture. And our first fundraiser was for the Horse Pasture, and do you remember a Morley Bear, the photographer?
AB: Oh, do I. He's a very close friend.
DC: Oh really?
AB: Oh yeah.
DC: Is he still around?
AB: Oh no.
AB: No, Morley and Frances were very, I we were very I had known Morley long before Tassajara. I knew Morley in San Francisco.
AB: In what the early 50's
DC: Maybe you introduced him to Dick or something because he, or maybe he got the pictures from you that he had already taken of the Horse Pasture, because the pictures we had of the Horse Pasture in the first fundraiser were Morley Bear pictures.
DC: Yeah, and Josh Bear, his son, used to come with his father here and I got to know him in Santa Fe he was like Dan Welsh's best friend he was selling Indian rugs for sixty thousand dollars and stuff like that.
AB: And got himself in lots of trouble.
DC: Oh you know about that, too?
AB: Oh yeah.
DC: Omigod, goodness. And
AB: Well, I was very close to Frances, Frances Bear, Morley's wife, and Josh's mother and I were both Virginians and she called me sister because a lot of people thought we looked alike and we kind of did and so we were good pals, we were good friends.
DC: But anyway and Morley Bear was a well known photographer
AB: Oh definitely yeah.
DC: And in terms of what I've heard, second only to Ansel Adams.
AB: Well he was up there with Ansel and Brett Wesson and all of Wesson's, yeah, he was a fine photographer, he was much more commercial, he started out much more commercially than they did, and then he got more into art photography and other things, yeah.
DC: So we did the fundraiser in the Fall. There was a big trip down here to see the Horse Pasture where Dick came and Yvonne, Gary Snyder came, a whole group of people I didn't go on that. I had just arrived at Zen Center and do you remember that?
AB: Yeah, I kind of do. Was Gary the one who had the wonderful Japanese house up in the Gold Country? We went up there, I remember when they were building that and he had, they had brought over, I guess the Zen Center had brought over the wonderful Japanese carpenters with all of their fabulous tools.
DC: Right. And that was next door. Dick and Gary and Allen Ginsberg and owned land together
AB: A group of them, yeah.
DC: And then I think Ed Brown was one of the owners.
AB: No no, I don't think so.
DC: No, I think Allen Ginsberg sold to Ed Brown.
AB: Oh really? I don't know about that. But I know that
DC: Something like that.
AB: But Gary had a house, that was, it was Gary's house that we went up to watch some of the construction going on it was a major experience in my life.
DC: Well, Gary had a house there that was already built that was designed by Zack Stewart. Dick was having the home built by the Japanese carpenters.
AB: OK, I guess it was, it was Dick's house that we were seeing then.
DC: They were actually reconstructing it.
AB: Yeah, they built, brought a house over from Japan.
DC: It was like a tea ceremony building.
DC: They put it back together there and it was quite a coup for him to get them to come over and do it - they were a firm that specialized in that type of building as I understood it.
DC: And you know, it was really Virginia's place I think.
AB: I don't know about that I just
AB: All I remember it was going up there and watching those carpenters with those tools assembling that house and making things work and fit and planning the wood and it was so fabulous, I hadn't thought about that for years.
DC: So, so we raised the money for the down payment for the Horse Pasture. Now, the way you stated it was Dick and Suzuki Roshi changed their minds. The way I remember it is that Bob said you know the Horse Pasture, the Tassajara is available now.
AB: The Tassajara was always available.
DC: It was always available?
AB: Oh yeah.
AB: Yeah. Yeah, it had, it had been a, we had had, you know, we had put it on the market it was available in my memory, but Suzuki Roshi loved the Horse Pasture, he loved the lay of that land and all of it, and it was his idea to build in there, that's the way he wanted it to be is my memory of it. And I don't know whether Dick convinced him that that was, you know, that here was the springs with all the buildings and everything that you could need already to go you know, with the generator and the creek and everything, why buy the Horse Pasture? and they switched.
DC: Yeah, and you know another thing is Zen center's budget was like less than a thousand dollars a month and so the Horse Pasture was less money and it might have been in starting to raise money for that and getting all the connections from Allen Watts who was helping us and maybe it seemed more possible to buy Tassajara then and Dick changed his mind, I'd say it was Dick's decision.
AB: I would too.
DC: You know, because I watched a lot of the interactions between him and Suzuki Roshi and he - was very strong willed and Suzuki Roshi trusted his judgment and
AB: Yeah, and they were student and master.
DC: For one reason or another anyway it changed to Tassajara and all of a sudden all the structuring of the debt and everything was different and it was you know, like Lesley [James] said today - it was very generous of you all to sell it to Zen Center because Zen Center didn't have any collateral
AB: That's right.
DC: You know, I mean it seemed like buying something you know, out of nowhere.
AB: You know, David, I wish Bob were still here to talk to you. I wish you had talked to him about this, because his memory of all this was much
DC: Well, I talked to Bob about these things, and...
AB: But he was the person who was really doing the business end of it, the negotiation. I'm running the office, and the cleaning of the cabins and god knows, the kitchen and the whole nine yards, I was not that much involved or paying that much attention to I mean I was aware of it certainly but I wasn't as intimately involved in it as Bob was.
DC: Yeah, well, I have talked to Bob about it.
AB: Well, you should listen to your tapes if you have them from him.
DC: Oh I have it transcribed and on my web site and I have you on the web site too, and Adam (their son) but you know I just wanted to see what your memory was. Do you remember the first time you met Suzuki?
AB: I don't exactly. I remember clearly negotiating with Suzuki Roshi and Dick for the sale of Tassajara at a restaurant and I was talking to Nancy about this tonight. I was nine months pregnant with Katie and we were sitting cross-legged at the Japanese restaurant just below Broadway off of Columbus. I can't remember the name of the restaurant. It was one of the good Japanese restaurants and we were sitting around you know the flower thing having dinner and we were finalizing the verbal friendly negotiations for this place. Then it went into the hands of the lawyers and it got finalized but that was toward the end of December of 1966. Kate was born on the 30th of December and this was just days before that. I can't tell you which day but
DC: Yeah, my understanding is that the Zen Center bought it in December - at the end of December.
AB: Yeah, I think so.
DC: Of '66.
AB: I think it was wound up, I think it was signed, it was a very interesting evening.
DC: Do you have any particular memories of any discussion with Suzuki about any of this or
AB: Not really you know, he was very quiet. Dick did most of the talking. Suzuki was very quiet, and you had to draw him out. I couldn't give you any word for word memory about him. You know, I just remember that in general around him it is kind of like a dream but it was real.
AB: It was a long time ago.
DC: Yeah, do you have any memories or any impression of Suzuki Roshi that anything does anything come to mind or ?
AB: Not particularly. I always remember him speaking with a very soft voice, very carefully wording his sentences and all, but no, I have no specific - I couldn't tell you anything he actually said. I can't give you any quote.
DC: You know, there was the fellow who did the - the sound man on the KQED movie that was done here 1969 that said you were here at the time, I guess you and Bob were here and he said that
AB: In '69?
DC: Yeah. They did a - KQED did a movie on Zen Center, and came here in the summer and did some filming, and the sound man, who was on that movie was here recently a month ago when I was here and he said he remembered having dinner with you here, you and Bob were in here visiting. And he said he remembers having dinner with you and he said that you told the story at that time about you talking to Suzuki about Zen Center being here and he said that you said at this dinner that you had told Suzuki that Zen Center had to keep the guest season open at Tassajara.
AB: Oh yeah. Well that was in the contract of sale.
DC: Oh it was?
AB: Oh, that was written into the contract if you go back and look at this you'll see that that was a stipulation of the sale.
NR: Why A___?
AB: Because it had been a resort in Monterey County since the 1800's and we really realized how beloved it was by all of the Yugoslavs in Watsonville and you know, the Staces and the Noviciches and god knows who all, and we felt you know, it would have been a travesty for us to allow it to be closed to them for ever more And to the general public. I mean there are a lot of people who love this place, not just the Yugoslavs who used to come up to have real wild parties, but you know, a lot of people. A lot of people love this place and we knew that the, well you know, for our own self preservation, we thought you know, if we sell this and no one can come in here, they're not going to like us, we're going to be disliked in the county so that was probably, no, that was very clearly written into the sale. Along with a lifetime estate of us at the Springs.
AB: And an acre.
AB: Which we never activated, but we've always felt you know, that we had the right to come and visit.
DC: Oh, I know, I definitely remembered that and I remember Bob coming here at times and I'd walk around with him, and he'd look for a place he wanted to build and Dick would come up and he and Dick would argue about where it would be.
AB: Yeah, we used to look at a place across the creek down almost across from what I call the corporation yard now, sit down in that area. Yeah, there was a sort of little plateau across there that we felt that would be a great spot. But we had to get across there, you know, you had to cross the creek to get there. And that, you know, presented some problems. But that was one of the spots that we were looking at and Bob pursued that very diligently, he was adamant about finding that acre, but then you know, nothing ever happened about it. It’s OK.
NR: All right, I remember that when I was here with them.
NR: He's always asserted it, so he never let it go, nor have you A___, and it’s still in the contract.
DC: Yeah, still in the contract.
AB: Yeah, and Adam really you know, wants very much to be able to continue with that, I don't know how it’s written in the contract but Adam would like to be able to come up here the rest of his life and he loves this place, I think this Nancy and I were talking about this earlier and I think you know, if Bob Beck had any favorite place in the world in his life it was here, he loved coming up here, he loved this place, and he I think he loved the whole Zen caring for it, you know.
AB: Well, I think I certainly do too, but he was much more you know, he came up much more often than I did.
DC: Yeah, and he had this room down in the lower barn, where there were all sorts of furniture.
AB: Oh where he had all his antiques and stuff, yeah, god knows what happened to them, they disappeared, they just sort of disappeared over the years.
DC: And didn't he come take them out or something?
AB: He took a few, but we took some when we left but there were lots of things left that just so, I don't know what happened to them.
DC: I wonder about that. Hmmmm - I can remember going down there with him when he'd open it up and another thing is I remember whenever he'd come in I'd ask him questions about Tassajara, he knew more about Tassajara than anyone - about the generators and the fire pump. And the stones in the creek. I remember him pointing to a stone in the creek once and saying he never thought that that one would move - be moved by the high winter waters.
AB: Oh yes.
DC: More than anybody he knew the details around here.
AB: Oh yes, oh yeah. He was enormously involved in the physical plant, and how it worked and what the possibilities were and all that.
DC: How many people did you all use to run this place?
AB: [laughs] I've been asked that before, I'm trying to think. We had Nino, we had Ralph who was the caretaker, sort of stayed sometimes through the winter and Ralph's brother what did I say his name was today?
NR: I don't remember because I don't remember him. I remember Ralph.
AB: Ralph and his brother. At a full summer time, we'd have Ray and Jimmy in the kitchen let's say and they'd, and Ed, and then there would be two waitresses who would double as housekeepers and do the cabins, and me and Bob - seven and sometimes we had a bartender, so maybe eight at the most.
DC: That's what I remember hearing.
AB: Yeah, at the most, we probably had yeah, eight or ten people here during a season.
DC: Now, that is just unimaginable. We have up to eighty students here during guest season and I wonder what the fewest we've ever had is - maybe thirty. We really need fifty or more.
AB: Yeah, and did I mention Nino? The Gardener. There was Nino and Ralph, the two kitchen guys and Ed and Bob and me and two waitresses, yeah, that's about nine or ten people.
DC: Well, see I came here in like March, I can remember the first time in February and then I moved here in March, I think it was a guy named Jim with his wife Laurie who were living here and I thought we inherited them from you, there were like four people. and Bill and his wife- they were very nice. But they left
Bill was tough. I heard that once he told some hunters that they couldn't shoot out at Grasshopper flats and one of them pointed his rifle at Bill and said, yeah and who's gonna stop me and Bill walked up to him and took the rifle away.
They all left when things started getting more monastic. When the baths got separated
DC: When Suzuki Roshi said, well, you know, the baths aren't really for socializing in a temple, you know, they're a place of meditation so, we should have a men's side and a women's side and that was the reason a few people left.
AB: Boy, you have a marvelous memory of all of this David, much better I must say, but then I don't know how old you are but I'm 80 going on to 81.
DC: No, I don't believe it.
AB: So my memory is getting a little faded.
DC: My memory is too but I remember some things. I'm worse on names and better on stories.
AB: Yeah, there were some nice couples here.
DC: You know Dan Welsh. I remember him telling me Jim and Laurie were living near Santa Fe when I was living there in '92 and '93 with Elin and Clay.
AB: That's on the edge of my brain, but Bill and somebody his wife, a lady whatever, were here - they made the transition. And I can't tell you all their names.
DC: But yeah, they were sort of like caretakers, I guess and they had to deal with - well that's just unbelievable. Now, I have an idea of the answer to this question but I want to hear it from you guys. How did you first learn of Tassajara?
AB: Well, Nancy knew it far before I did.
NR: The way it happened was that Frederick was friends with a woman named Maxine Peterine.
NR: I think that's as close as I can come to the correct pronunciation. But her husband was a captain in the Lafayette espadrilles in Italy during the Second World War and they married and came to California, and he, according to Maxine, because he died before I met her, and before Frederick met her, brought the first wild boar to Lamberts.
DC: Mmmm what do you mean, brought them from away from here, or brought them from the woods or what?
NR: He put wild boar in this area and that's why she came here, because he did.
DC: Because he was stocking the woods with wild boars?
AB: And there are lots of stories about how the wild boars came to this area.
NR: I'm sure there are and that's all I heard and I have no personal knowledge at all, but anyway she knew Tassajara and she brought Frederick here to Tassajara, and - she got me into the coffeehouse business, she got Frederick into it, he put his books in her coffeehouse in Berkeley, students stole them all of course. So he had his bookstore in the financial district. And so we came to Tassajara, and we brought friends with us.
AB: What year would this be?
NR: A bit in '58
DC: And did the Hudsons own it then?
NR: No, I don't think so. Mr. Saffik owned it.
AB: The Sappet's owned it.
NR: The Sappet's owned it and she went over the road, and died.
[Will check spelling of these names later]
DC: No kidding!
NR: Going out of Tassajara.
DC: Whoahh! Sorry about that.
NR: Yeah, so we brought the Lifton's here, Ed Mitchell who cooked here for a while, I was telling this to A___ earlier and Jacques Overhoff, Mimi Tallis, various friends of ours, and then among those friends, we brought the Becks.
AB: We were fresh from France and looking for a little place in the country to go on weekends.
NR: Yes, fresh from them.
NR: Frederick was a persuasive man, and he said, let's buy this place and we'll run it as a resort in summer and then in the winter, we'll travel - that was his unrealistic business dream.
AB: My memory of that was that when we were here the four of us, Frederick and Bob would wax enthusiastic about the place. I remember those two guys saying boy if we owned this place, we'd do it better.
NR: Oh yeah, I remember that.
AB: And the next thing I knew we owned it.
NR: Yeah, it came to be not if I owned this but why not own this? Let me own this. We'll do this we'll do that.
AB: Yeah, it just osmos'd into ownership [laughs]
NR: And it was so hard, and it was so wonderful in the early days, it was winter. It was cold, we had, it was really cold. We lived in the cabins and we would go every morning drink sulfur water which would help some problems I had.
DC: But that can be you know, that can be reinstated.
NR: No one's interested. I met one guy who said. I like that idea.
DC: Hey! You know there's persistence.
NR: Well, I think that's why the Indians settled here.
AB: At least one reason.
NR: Yeah, a place where meat is dried, water's hot, water's fresh, we have both. Get warm in the baths early in the morning go to work. And I remember putting up burlap on the walls of the pine rooms.
AB: And the stone room.
NR: And the stone rooms. We cleaned the pool for our first guests.
NR: Do you remember that one A___?
NR: And there were those errant lawyers from a well known law firm and their girlfriends and I guess they thought it was a hidden place which it was in a sense. And it got difficult, there were issues that we had.
AB: Well, and
NR: There were issues about
AB: You were pregnant.
NR: We had very legitimate problems yes, and well, my coffeehouse was going broke, I didn't really care about it, But I was 21 and liked the city lights. I do admit that, but there were problems, and there were problems about the dogs, I think our dog attacked Lumpy, I'm not sure of that, anyway and then of course Lumpy killed Simon.
DC: Who's Simon?
NR: The Becks had a white poodle, and
AB: Not white, black, black.
NR: Black poodles all right, and they came very fashionably from Paris, and traveled with their black poodles, elegant and sophisticated and
AB: They were good dogs.
NR: Of course they were sweethearts, Lumpy was a crazed dog. Anyway there were disputes about dogs, and about tools, Ann and I got along just fine, but the buddies, the life buddies, they had issues.
AB: They had issues yeah.
DC: Oh the guys?
NR: The guys. That's why.
AB: But it was not just all that, it was the fact that you had the coffeehouse, Frederick had the bookstore.
AB: He couldn't unload it, you know,
NR: That's true.
AB: He and you had responsibilities there and it just became kind of untenable and you were pregnant with a child, your first child yeah, so that was all and it just felt that we needed to buy out the Roscoe's, so we took all of my money, what was left of my money, and did that.
DC: Mmmm and what year was that?
AB: That was 1960.
DC: And '59 is the year you bought it.
AB: Well it was 60 that we bought it and it was '60 that we bought the Roscoe's.
NR: Was it '60 or '61?
AB: Yeah, no it was '60. you never had a summer season here?
NR: No, I remember winter here.
AB: Yeah. We were only here during the winter and trying to get ready for the summer and I think we bought you out in March or April somewhere along in there. I don't remember exactly but
DC: And here you are again.
AB: I have it on record though.
NR: Oh, I'm sure it’s on record.
DC: Yeah. That's amazing and here you are
AB: Yeah, here we are
NR: Well, you know,
AB: We've both kind of had some long years with Robert Beck.
NR: Well, as I was telling that earlier because I wasn't sure she knew this but one thing about Robert and difficult as he could be, he was very forgiving, and so after we left Tassajara and didn't see them for a while.
AB: Yeah, there was not a great happiness around that.
NR: No, and it took a while, but I was pushing Peter up Telegraph Hill in a stroller and I saw this Bentley come by and brake lights go on, he turned into the alley, and came down and said let me see your baby, so Robert was very
AB: Making a peace overture.
NR: Yeah, peace overture. And as A___ put it to someone, it wasn't too long before here we are again, all of us back together, and we have been together one way or another ever since.
DC: So you came back to Tassajara and visited them here?
NR: Oh yes. Brought my babies, brought my mama, and I loved Tassajara when the Becks had it. There was, I love it with the Zens but it’s a different feel. When the Becks were here and A___ supervised the kitchen it had a French feel. It was nice.
AB: We served wine with our meals.
NR: It was permissive in that kind of pleasure. It wasn't outrageous. And we had company here. Dick and Mimi Farina were friends of ours and they came. Joan Baez came with her girlfriend.
DC: She's been here a number of times since we got it too.
NR: A lot of people came. We sat around the big fire.
AB: And around that big table we had in the main room.
NR: And the big table.
AB: We could seat 21 people at that table.
NR: But do you remember A___, I thought of this earlier to interject this - when we first bought it, we were not, we being the females, were not allowed to go behind the bar and serve drinks.
NR: Only men.
NR: Yeah. Well, I've been
DC: What's that about?
NR: Darling, there's been women's lib since then. I can tell you a lot of legal stories, breaking through that. No, women were not allowed to be bartender. [Nancy is a lawyer]
DC: Oh really that was a legal thing?
DC: Is that right?
AB: I don't remember that, but I don't know
NR: I do.
AB: I know I never was behind bar.
NR: But I get exasperated about such things.
NR: I remember that.
DC: When didn't you become a lawyer?
NR: '68 I went to school started law school in '65 and then graduated a few years later.
DC: When did Fred die?
NR: When did he die?
NR: '91 Robert was the last person to come and visit him. Robert and A___.
AB: I didn't know that.
DC: The dining room where we ate tonight, what did you all use that room for back then?
AB: That was [laughs] I was telling Nancy tonight that the porch what I call the porch - it used to be a porch - it was just a porch with you know, a railing around it and then, I think we put some screens around it to try to keep the bugs out, and it had a very flimsy roof. Actually it didn't have a roof at all when we first were here. I can remember feeding Adam one day at lunchtime in his high chair and I had a silver little silver baby spoon that I fed him with and something happened and I put the spoon down on the tray of the highchair and left him and went in to deal with something that I had been called in for and I heard Adam scream and cry and I went out and the spoon was gone. The baby spoon was gone, and he was just freaked and I guess a blue jay had come down and picked up the spoon and gone after it, you know cause they're attracted to anything shiny and that's all we could figure was that's how that spoon disappeared. But that's where we used to feed him and have meals and then on the inside where the main dining room now is, we had set up a living quarters, we had a living room and a bedroom and a little kind of space for Adam you know after he was born in '62
AB: Yeah, and that was where we lived.
DC: Oh goodness. And what about upstairs?
AB: And upstairs the crew, the people who lived here were living, in very meager rooms.
DC: Oh, I love those rooms - well insulated - better than anything else here.
DC: Because there was all the rest of this space. What about the old bath house. There were rooms above there, were those too dilapidated?
AB: They were, yeah, we never did have any, that I remember I don't think we ever had anyone up in those rooms, because the flooring was so insecure, as I recall.
DC: I remember the
AB: You're bringing up things David I had forgotten for years, my god.
DC: Well, I know we tore them down - we tore down the building above the baths not long after we got here. There were bath tubs in these stone rooms.
DC: In all three I think, or maybe even in the pine rooms. I'm not sure
AB: Yeah, I think there
DC: And with hot water.
AB: No. No, wait a minute, yeah, there were, yeah, yeah, we put them in. We did, we put, we put bath tubs in the pine rooms, because the pine rooms originally were a bar, that was a bar.
DC: When you bought the place?
AB: Yeah, and we converted it to the pine rooms.
DC: And but you have plenty of big rooms.
NR: That wasn't the bar in opposite the fireplace? [In the present screened in summer dinning area which was the old zendo that burned down]
AB: We made the bar in the big stone room which is now you know, the dining area outside because it burned, but the when we first bought the place the bar was in the pine rooms, and we wiped that out immediately and made it guest quarters.
DC: And the dining room.
AB: And then the big room which is now where the Zen students eat - we built a fireplace at the end of it. And put a furnace stone in that fireplace. You remember that. And that fireplace that was a fabulous fireplace and we had a, we had the half of an oil drum as the fire hood which extended on chains, it was a great fireplace, and we had this wonderful oak table on the I don't know where we found it, but I kind of think it was from the English antique place and we could seat 21 people there.
DC: What happened, did you take that out when you sold it?
AB: I guess we did, I don't remember
AB: I can't remember I know that why we, I think we should have left it, but I don't remember
DC: I don't think we would have gotten rid of it. Sounds great.
AB: And then at the end of that room opposite the fireplace which was down this way was where we put in a bar.
DC: Yeah, and then beyond that there were like offices.
AB: That's right and then beyond that was the front office and the front desk. And then the dining room was where the kitchen now, yeah, the kitchen is. And the kitchen was back by the dishwashing area.
DC: Oh yeah, sure, and you had a big deck out there with like three walk-ins. Did you use those walk-ins?
AB: Boy, you have a great memory for all of this. It’s amazing.
DC: Yeah. And of course we kept that kitchen which was rather small
NR: For a long time
DC: Yeah. I mean this other one didn't open until '70.
AB: When did the zendo burn?
DC: It burned down in like '79 I think so, the forest fire was '78 and the next spring the zendo burned down which had been the dining room when you were here. I remember when I first came, there was a deck right where the kitchen is now. I assumed there had been a building there that had been torn down, like that was where the front office you mentioned was I guess. Sure. I remember there were offices behind the dinning room in our first guest season. We served people in, we used your dining room as a dining room.
AB: Yeah, well my memory of it is that there was the dining room, then there was a reception office. Behind the reception office was the desk, I mean the behind the reception desk was the office, then the kitchen was behind all of that.
DC: Yeah the kitchen was toward the creek.
AB: But the bar yeah, the kitchen was toward the creek, and then the bar was just on the opposite side of the office and the reception desk was just past it.
DC: Yeah - Bob Halpern and I used to duck behind the bar that first guest season - duck down and eat some of the guest food and drink the half and half. Your kitchen was the same kitchen we used, it was like a separate building?
AB: Yeah, it was, no, it was part of the thing it was part of all that building, it was all connected
DC: We had a separate building out there.
AB: You could walk from the dining room into the kitchen, you could walk from the kitchen into the office sort of I think. And bar.
DC: From the kitchen we used from the time I arrived, was a separate building right next to the dinning room.
AB: Well, there was some separation.
DC: OK, we're talking about the same thing there.
AB: But you could get into it without going outdoors.
DC: Then we're not. What I'm wondering now is all right, moving away from the fireplace you have the dining room, you have the bar, you have the offices, the front desk.
AB: You got it.
DC: We were tearing down the office and my last memory of it is when there's just the floor there but there was only a deck out back and anyway, that's enough on that.
Do you remember the story, I might have asked you about this before. I think you and maybe - were you there? When this story about somebody knocking on the door in the winter?
DC: Can you tell that story?
AB: That's so freaky. Well, you know, it’s sort of it’s slipping out of my head, but we were all sitting, we were sitting. Were you [to Nancy] there then?
NR: No, but I've heard this story from Bob.
AB: We were sitting around the fire and it was snowing.
DC: I believe it was you and Bob and David Schwartz.
AB: I don't remember David Schwartz being here, but I know it was certainly Bob and me and someone else.
AB: And we were just talking and maybe we were having wine, I don't recall and it was snowing and it, you know, it was, very obviously it was - nobody was going to come in, because obviously the road was you know, there was a lot of snow up on the ridge and the road would be closed, and we heard a knock on the door. And I don't I guess Bob got up to go, I didn't certainly, and we all heard it, very definitely and he got up and went to the door, and there was no one there. What more could I say? We were totally freaked by the whole thing. I mean, it was just so bizarre. We all heard this very definite knock on the door.
DC: Wow, I've sure heard that story in different versions.
AB: Well, that's the pure and simple version as I recall it. I'm sure Bob Beck who was a great story teller, probably told many versions of it.
DC: Yeah, I don't want to go into 'em because right now
AB: He embellished it, I'm sure.
DC: But do you remember any other stories from here?
AB: Oh, one of my most favorite stories from here [laughs] was the time when we cleaned the, we decided we needed to clean up steam room, we needed to clean up the steam room, we needed to clean off the stuff all over the walls.
DC: Yeah sure. The moss or mold or algae.
AB: You know the stuff and it, so we'll tidy it up, and we did, and someone came and some old fellow and I don't recall, he was a, he was a long time, patron of the springs and he was, I think he maybe was missing a leg or he was crippled or something and he was a newspaper seller, he had a stand on a corner in Watsonville, or Castroville or somewhere over there, I think Watsonville and he came up every
DC: Jack Novacich (sp?).
AB: Was that who it was?
AB: I see you remember all of that.
DC: Well yeah, he came here for many years, until he died.
AB: And anyhow yeah, he came and he came to the desk the first night he came after he had gone to the steam rooms and he was absolutely incensed that we had cleaned the steam rooms, he said, you've taken away all of the spirits, you've taken away all of the spirits, I used to sit there and talk to the spirits. They came out of the walls and they're all gone. You've ruined it! [laughs] and he was just, he was livid that we had done this to the steam room.
AB: I think it was Jack, it was some old timer.
DC: Yeah. Jack came here every year from...
AB: Oh he had been coming ever since his childhood.
DC: No no no no. He didn't come from childhood
AB: Well, I think he had come for many many years.
DC: Well, he had been coming, he came unless I'm getting him mixed up with someone, he helped build Grand Central Station in New York, and then he came out here after the earthquake and was doing electrical work.
AB: I don't know this. I don't know this.
DC: And he was in an electrical accident where he had his leg amputated and went to Watsonville, I think he was Yugoslavian.
DC: And he started coming here you know really early in the last century. We've got hours of interviews with him.
AB: Really? Beautiful. Well, maybe did he ever say anything about the steam room?
DC: Well, I don't know. I talked to Jack a lot, but he'd bring booze, you know, and so he'd give the guys beer and he'd go and put his hand on a girl's thighs, right.
AB: Well, I don't remember any of those aspects of the story, but I just do remember this person an old timer who was so incensed about that.
DC: I remembered Bob talking about somebody who would come here, and I don't think he was talking about the same person necessarily somebody who would come here to talk to the spirits in the steam rooms.
AB: And if I don't know that it was Jack. I'm not sure
DC: There might have been somebody else.
AB: It could have been someone else. Yeah. It was some person though who had been coming here for many years I have no idea who.
DC: And Bob would talk about hearing the mule trains.
DC: The bells
AB: Oh yeah, the bells. Oh yeah.
DC: What do you remember about that?
AB: Uh, we would hear those if we were over in the baths, on a stormy kind of night, when you know, in the winter when we were here, we would hear those bells, and Bob said it was you know, the mule trains coming over the hills [laughs] he always had a reason or a story for everything, but we did really hear bells on stormy nights, it seems to me, it was generally a sort of a winter kind of night when not a lot of people were around. Gosh, David, you're bringing up so many things I've forgotten.
DC: I've got some other stuff. I, remember I recorded you on the UFO story in the interview with Bob, so I don't want to get into that, we've gone into that thoroughly with you and Adam and Bob.
AB: Yeah, yeah,
DC: And that's a good one. Anything else leap into your mind.
AB: No, I think we're going over a lot of stuff we have probably already gone over?
DC: No no.
AB: And Nino, the time that we were going to roast the boar, you heard that story?
AB: About Nino [laughs] oh Nino was about five feet tall and he was all muscle, he's as wiry as anyone could be, and he could god, he could dig a hole in anything but Bill Lambert got us a boar and we were going to have a boar feast, we were going to roast a boar in the ground, so we charged Nino with the task of going up to the flats and digging a hole in which we would put the coals and set the fire and get the ashes going and put the boar in and cover it up and roast the boar overnight and have it the next day.
AB: So, it was according to Bill Lambert's instructions on how to roast a boar, and so we sent Nino up you know, with a spade and shovel and the whatever, all the stuff he needed to dig a hole and he came down, I as I remember he came down maybe around twelve o'clock and he came back to the kitchen he said Nino need a beer. So we gave him a beer, you know, and I guess he had lunch or something and he didn't say much and he went back up and then along about after mid-afternoon or so, he came down, I may not have this story exactly right but he came down. He said uh, Nino no can dig hole. All rock, no can right dig hole. Oh they went up. I think they gave him a crow bar and a couple of guys, Bob, maybe and maybe what's his name, Ralph.
AB: Whoever, went up with him and to try to dig this hole and they finally all just gave up.
DC: Yeah, it’s impossible.
AB: They started some other place they finally did find a place and they dug a hole, but poor Nino struggled down there, that little guy, all morning long and all half the afternoon trying to dig a hole where it was just solid rock.
DC: There's so much of this is like that because it, you know it's like creek bed.
DC: Or you know, something like that
DC: Yeah, I've done a lot of digging around here - it takes an army.
AB: Oh yeah, the fact that they had been able to, that the Zen you people have been able to build the gardens down there, that you've built, I just find that fabulous. Because I remember that area as being just rocks.
DC: Well, that's the benefit of slave labor you know.
DC: I mean I was involved in digging the sandstone blocks out of the upper garden.
DC: I mean we dug there, we'd pull out these sandstone blocks that one person couldn't lift. We, you know, we'd have to have chain and tripod to get those things out, because I guess when the old hotel had burned down they just...
AB: They just let it, they just dumped it in to up the insurance.
DC: Maybe there was a basement to it.
AB: They may have been
DC: We might have been able to dig down and hit cement.
DC: Yeah, and find things, omigod.
AB: Maybe some good old wine, who knows?
DC: So do you think that was an arson job?
DC: When the big hotel burned down, do you think that was arson?
AB: Oh I don't think it was arson, no. But I think that they you know, they didn't try to pull anything out and save it, they just bulldozed. It, you know, there were several buildings standing, but in order to collect the insurances as I understand it, and I think this is fairly well documented they just bulldozed it.
NR: You mean after the fact.
NR: But why David did you think it was arson?
DC: Oh just looking at some of the old historical stuff we've got. I think it was owned at the time by the husband of that actress can you remember?
AB: Joannie Crawford.
DC: Joan Crawford. And her ex-husband.
DC: Or her widower.
AB: Phil, her ex-husband, Phil Somebody or other.
DC: And I think it was like in '49 and it wasn't a good time for making money and he had insurance and there was some speculation it might have been arson.
AB: I have no clue. That would be a normal kind of suspicion.
AB: Yeah. In a litigious world.
DC: Yeah. Well.
AB: Who knows.
DC: Let's see, I don't
AB: Have you plumbed the depths?
DC: Yeah. That's pretty good that's really nice. Do you have anything else to say?
NR: Well, I have a funny story. It doesn't have any meaning other than its obvious one, but one time this car drove in and a man and a woman you know what I'm going to tell?
NR: And he got out and he said which way do I go to go to Los Angeles. Do I turn right or left, I mean to the swimming pool or the bath to get to Los Angeles.
DC: Ahh. Pretty good. Yeah, amazing. I've had that happen too. After that fourteen mile steep, winding dirt road. Poor people. Oh I have a question. You know, a month ago when Katrinka and Clay and I walked in cause the clutch went out. You know Little Bear? Tommy Nason.
AB: Oh yeah. Right.
DC: He bought it, a four-wheel drive vehicle rather than fixing the clutch and everything we sold it. He was in here doing backhoe work and he bought it sight unseen. Good deal for both of us.
AB: Oh really?
DC: We got to the top but I knew we'd never get out again and didn't want to pay $400 for the tow - so we coasted all the way back down to Jamesburg and slept there. The next day we walked in, and we got a ride a long way, so we walked for five hours.
AB: From Jamesburg to here?
AB: You and Katrinka did this?
DC: And Clay, yeah.
AB: Starting where?
DC: Starting in Jamesburg, and then walking a ways and getting a ride, you know, past China camp and then walking from there.
DC: Yeah, it was a nice walk, five hours including the ride, but when I was walking down, I was reminded of all the places where there's asphalt on the road, and I remembered hearing that the road at one time was paved from what I can see from having walked the road a lot, and driven a lot, it looks to me like there were at least pretty long sections from the top going down past the bath tub that were paved at one time, and I have even heard the whole road was paved, but I can't believe that because I don't see any signs of it on the other side.
AB: I've heard that rumor but you know, I never knew anything about it.
DC: I heard it was paved before World War 2 and that during World War 2 it all washed away.
NR: Who would have paved it?
DC: I don't know.
AB: The county? I mean it’s a county road.
DC: Got me.
NR: And who would have made the decision to discontinue paving it?
AB: Yeah, I mean I think it’s a disaster to pave it.
NR: It was a road they maintained and still is isn't it?
DC: Yeah, yeah they maintain it, but there are large, there is a lot of asphalt and it’s not asphalt fill so every once in a while I see chunks of asphalt and I think well maybe it’s fill but then I realize no, there was a stretch that was asphalt and you can see it, you can see places where there's asphalt here and there.
AB: Really? I'm not aware of that.
DC: I heard that during World War 2 there was pretty much nothing happening here and that the paved parts were all washed away and it had to be sort of rebuilt after it.
AB: I know nothing about that David.
DC: Jack Novacich might have said stuff like that. One thing I'm encouraging Zen Center to do is to get this Tassajara history down. I have a whole list of things I'm encouraging them to do in terms of archiving and historical stuff, and I'm saying this is a good time to get it all together, and of course I'm vying with people who have got other projects that they want done.
AB: You have an endless amount of tape on this thing?
DC: Oh this is two and a half hours, it’s not tape, it’s digital.
We all said thanks to each other and good night. - DC
|To interviews What's New|