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Larry Prager email after reading Crooked Cucumber

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Larry Prager

I spent part of the summer of 1968 at Tassajara as a guest student from Florida. My morning work duty was picking up the garbage in an old VW van, during which time I always managed to drive off and read Kafka or Henry Hiller for an hour or so; my afternoon work duties were unstructured, with much psychic energy expended trying to look busy.

Following afternoon work periods the men went off to the hot springs. There was always a crowd of monks jostling to get wet under the several shower heads in long deep tubs. But I had discovered a small cubicle apart from the main shower room that was, inexplicably, always empty. I made a habit of using it in complete privacy.

While showering alone one afternoon Suzuki Roshi appeared, naked and ready to bathe. He nodded to me with a smile and stepped down into the tub beside me. I remember being distressed at the intrusion and feeling guilty, as it was Roshi.

Soaping himself vigorously, he watched me patting my body delicately with soap suds from my hands.

"Like this, like this!" he exhorted, motioning me to put some energy into my cleaning.

"I can't," I explained, removing some of the soap to disclose the splotches on my body. "Bad poison oak."

He made a face of total alarm. " Acchh!" he cried, and leapt out of the tub with remarkable agility, leaving me to finish my shower alone.

It was some days afterward that a monk, seeing me enter the private cubicle, warned me sternly: "You cant use that. That's Suzuki Roshi's private shower."

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