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Monday, November 26, 1979  

            The change from our normal routine has been staggering.  Far from being a quasi-monastery, Zen Center is exciting compared to our simple life on the boat.  Much of the excitement has been related to Chris and the family, and over the weekend it arrived from another direction as well, when we got a phone message from Michael and Jan, a cruising boat couple we had last seen in Florida a few years before.  Michael called again on Monday morning at 8:00.  The news of Chris’s death had upset him so much he had quit his job and gone half crazy, he said.  Could he do anything for us?  He was working on and off as a fisherman.  Bob was grateful for Michael’s loyalty and enthusiasm.  He remembered him as an excellent wood boat carpenter, though kind of a street tough and petty criminal. To my astonishment though, as I listened to Bob talking on the phone, he proposed that Michael and Jan sail our boat from England to San Francisco next summer.  We didn’t even know their last names. He asked them to stop by this week to talk it over.  “We have this beautiful room here,” he said.

            We learned that Nancy and Ted had already breakfasted.  We talked about the three ginger beers we’d brought from England to open with Ted and Nancy but had not had the opportunity.  I wanted to give one to Ted for the road, and the others to Katagiri to take back to Tomoe and the kids for fun. 

            During breakfast Nancy came in, still subdued but no longer as shaky as before the funeral.  She passed around some letters from Zen students.  Then Ted joined us, and we headed for Zen Center, walking out into a blue morning on Page Street, Bob’s mood jubilant and excited.

            Then came several rapid-fire events.  In front of Zen Center we met Murayama Shoki wearing a bright blue sweatsuit and jogging shoes, and Bob abruptly asked him for the birthday of Baker-roshi’s little daughter.  We knew Murayama had a practice of writing down everyone’s birthday and had recorded Bob’s. He did not have Elizabeth Baker’s. Murayama asked how long we were staying in San Francisco.

            “As long as I am needed,” Bob replied.  He said we were going to Chris’s room. “Why don’t you come with us?” Murayama nodded.  There was always something a little childlike in his face as though he was not comprehending, but Bob always felt sure he was.  Of course, we hardly knew the man.  Bob and I had experienced the sesshin with him in Minneapolis; Nancy and Ted probably had never known him before the funeral. 

            Zen Center was always locked because of crime. A little sign said, “Welcome, Please knock.”  When someone opened we walked with Murayama through the first floor of Zen Center, and up past a statue of Suzuki in a little chapel.  Murayama gasshoed to it in passing.  We continued down a dark, echoing corridor with a concrete floor and passed a long row of doorways.  Outside each was a collection of shoes, sandals, and even roller skates. Stopping outside Chris’s room we removed our shoes.

            Inside a bitter argument broke out. Earlier Ted and Nancy had packed Chris’s possessions in boxes for a rummage sale to benefit Zen Center. Now they just wanted to do that and head home. Bob seemed to forget that our purpose in being there was to help Ted load the car, as Nancy had asked the night before.  Instead he seemed swept by a vision for using Chris’s belongings to draw contributions to a memorial fund, or as sacred objects with unspecified great powers.

            Looking at Chris’s little die-cast metal Buddha on the bureau, he said to Murayama that he wanted it to go to Elizabeth Baker on her next birthday. Murayama just nodded. Then an argument over Chris’s clothes and possessions boiled over, especially between Ted and Bob. We returned to the Guest House, Ted and Bob no longer speaking.  Ted and I said good-bye, and soon he left San Francisco.

            Katagiri, meanwhile, found his gift of ginger beer and thanked us.  Then he and Nancy prepared to be driven by a Zen student to the airport, so Reb, Ed, Meg, and Bob and I joined them on the sidewalk.  Nancy said goodbye by approaching each of us separately. As she faced Reb, looking deep and quietly into his eyes, she contorted her face in a sort of agony, much as she had done when they met right before and after the funeral.  It seemed she felt as strongly about Reb as Bob did.  As she hugged him good-bye she quietly whispered something in his ear, and they both smiled.  Someone said they looked forward to her coming back soon, but she said she didn’t think so.  This was our first indication she would miss the ashes ceremony.  “I don’t think I ever want to visit San Francisco again,” she said. 

            She hugged Bob a long time, while the rest of us averted our eyes nervously, and then she hugged me and said to “come and meet Martin and see the café,” and she hugged everyone else.  And we all gasshoed to Katagiri, and finally the travelers got into a Toyota.  Katagiri couldn’t make the seat belt work in the back seat and someone, probably Ed or Reb, wisecracked about Japanese cars.  Finally, as they disappeared,  I looked back at Katagiri in the rear window, and he was still watching us, as though with some concern.  When he saw me look, we smiled and waved to each other.

            Reb and Ed were on their way to a “council meeting” in the Guest House living room.  “We’re on our way to heat things up,” Ed said.  Meg said Baker would attend.  It was where jobs were assigned for the coming season in the organization.  There was a feeling of “life goes on,” as though we and Chris would now settle into the background.  Meg had said she might need some help serving lunch, but it turned out she didn’t want me.  She did offer us some of their lunch, and I took it up to our room on a tray.

            In the room Bob was planning strategies. A light in our room was broken, a dimmer switch controlling the electric chandelier, and that gave him a new idea for our future: he could become the Guest House maintenance man.  I would help Meg serve and clean.  Perhaps, he said, we could even get his old tools out here from Minneapolis.

            He sent me on errands over to City Center. When I returned to our room he had lined up more action. I was to have our mail routed here instead of to England. He told me to call filmmaker Carlino and say our attorney would call him with our business terms, and also that he wanted Peter Coyote in the lead.  On our phone call Carlino zigged and zagged, and pleaded for one more opportunity to talk to Bob about it in person.  I held firm.  I assured him that Bob was not considering anybody else to do the film; it would be Carlino.  But, I said, the reason was because of Peter Coyote.

            When Meg stopped by our room Bob said he wanted to stay at Zen Center and be the handy man, and she seemed to like that idea.  We wanted to stay in the front room, he said, but whenever it was needed for another guest, we’d move out.  Meg cautiously said that special guests do sometimes come, like a princess from Lichtenstein who was now at Tassajara and would visit in December. 

            Then Yvonne Rand bustled in, filling our room with even more energy.  Chairman of the board of San Francisco Zen Center, she had met Bob and Nancy on their earlier visits, and was an old-timer and advanced priest of the inner circle inner circle yes. Advanced priest no. -DC.  I had encountered Yvonne in the kitchen earlier that day. When the council took a break, I noticed a short-haired woman talking on the phone in a loud voice to someone who apparently was a hospital patient.  “I hear your stomach is upside down,” she was shouting in a flat, slightly nasal alto, “your spleen is fractured, your intestines are inside-out and your leg is broken! And you say you’re fine?  I’d like to know what terrible is, if that’s fine!”  The patient turned out to be a Mr. Wheelwright, Zen Center benefactor and namesake of guest houses in the city and Green Gulch.  Yvonne was on her way to visit him.   

            In our room she made us feel at ease with her energetic attention and humorous, assertive personality. A mother of two nearly grown children named Hillary and Christopher, she was blond, square-faced, fair-skinned, blue-eyed and sharp-nosed, with a long thin horizontal mouth like a Peanuts character.  Her brusque manner was refreshing after all the pussy-footing pseudo-Japanese, and Bob liked her. 

            Bob had put the word out through Meg that he wanted to discuss a memorial fund for Chris.  Meg had also asked Yvonne to speak to Bob about Peter Coyote. But she only stayed for a second. She praised Peter’s acting ability, then left without picking up on the “Chris Fund.”

            Meg invited us to eat supper over at City Center with her and her enigmatic husband Marc.  The food was dull vegetarian but vibe-wise it was a great meal. It began with a chant for grace, and for several minutes everyone ate with no talking. One person served, and everyone used sesshin oryoki hand signals to indicate “stop” and “thank you” to the server.  Sparkles were everywhere on the Zen students’ faces all around us.  

            After the period of silence Bob chatted away about our intentions to stay at the Guest House in exchange for making repairs. Meg listened enthusiastically and said we should talk to Reb.  Marc beamed in a priestly way under his shaved head.  He had a warm smile, the kind where the corners of the mouth turn down, but he almost never said a word unless addressed.  Also at the table was a Black woman named Pamela and a German guest student named Eva.  They were rather shut out of our conversation and talked to each other. Eva eventually asked me a few questions and I explained that Bob was the father of the boy who was killed, and she fell into silence. 

            Back in the guest room, a beautiful old tall wood cabinet with sliding doors and little drawers was becoming a cabinet for Chris’s things.  Among the “relics” was a manila envelope Bob later marked “Coroner’s Envelope.”  Nancy had gotten it from the mortuary.  It contained Chris’s wallet and his bloodstained checkbook.  The other item was the Chinese fortune. Bob didn’t want to look at the medical report.  I read it but advised him not to because it was so gruesomely clinical.  It says nothing new, I told him.  The official cause of death was hemorrhage.  It said the knife had hit one of Chris’s lungs.

            We went to bed exhausted at 7:00 pm, after arranging with Meg to go to zazen the next morning at 5:00.  Just before falling asleep I answered a knock at the door.  It was Meg with a new basket of fruit.

Tuesday, November 27, 1979

            We continued sitting zazen every morning with all the Zen students and monks starting at 5:00 am in the zendo in the basement of City Center.  There were two 40-minute periods with a kinhin walking meditation in between. 

  City Center Zendo

            The alarm went off around 4:30. I put on long underwear because both the zendo and the Buddha hall were cold. At around 4:45 we stepped onto the street, checking first for muggers, then headed over to Zen Center in shashu, a special way of walking with hands clasped at the solar plexus.  We came extra early to find seats together and were therefore among the first to arrive. At the Page-Laguna intersection, Bob insisted on crossing at the crosswalks even though there were no cars at that hour and it would be easier to cut diagonally.

            “Why?” I asked.

            “Because,” he said.  His mood was tense, as though he was creating his own shashu, a strict formality for the street to match the strict forms inside the zendo.

            Everyone not living in the Zen Center building used the Laguna Street basement door on the side.  For security reasons one student was assigned to watch the door from the inside.  There was a straw mat where we stepped barefoot and put our shoes on a shelf.  As we moved into the meditation area we stepped on a wet towel, then onto a beautiful, varnished wood floor.  First we passed through an overflow corridor lined on two sides with about 30 zafus, where people sat if they arrived late.  The zendo entrance was partitioned with a curtain, making two doorways out of one.  We went in the left side, stepping through with the left foot, as is proper custom. 

            The zendo was dimly lit; the tones were all muted blacks, tans and browns, and no furniture, just tatami reed mats rush on the outside, rice straw on the inside – no reed - DC with round black zafu cushions.  Probably 100 or more students could sit in the room, but all the mats were never taken.  Around the edge they were all on platforms, a wide shelf really, a couple of feet high.  That way, when the perimeter of the room was filled with students facing the walls, a row of students inside them but down on the floor could face the same direction with their eyes hitting a cased-in platform rather than having to look at the backs of other people.  The perimeter platform seats were preferred.  That’s where Baker sat when he was present, with a little sign saying “Abbot” by his place.  Next to him the director’s place was marked “Jisha” because the director also happened to have a double role with being the jisha, the ceremonial assistant to the abbot - DC. Directly across the room from Baker was Reb Anderson and his counterpart jisha.  When Katagiri was here he also had a little sign at his place near Baker’s.  All the platform spaces along two walls were labeled with various signs, and so people like Ed Sattizahn all sat in reserved spaces.  For the first few days, we sat on unreserved platform seats near the corner opposite the entrance door.

            An altar stood in the very middle of the room with candle and incense burning.  No one was supposed to cross between it and Baker’s seat.  So everyone flowed into the room from the corner door in a counterclockwise direction till they reached Baker’s seat three quarters of the way around, and at the end they flowed out in a clockwise direction.  

            The next most preferred seats, after the platform seats, were lined up on both sides of two large plywood screens set in the center of the room on each side of the altar.  The screens had nicely carpentered legs and were painted with flat, dark brown paint. Bob and I ended up claiming two seats here every day, next to the altar and right in front of Reb as he faced outward.  

            As we arrived we could hear a sharp repeated “pok” as a special hanging wooden block called the han was struck at intervals.  It was a piece of thick hardwood, and a hole was getting worn from this.  The sound occurred every minute or so up until the start of the 40-minute zazen period.

            We found our seats, gasshoed toward and away, and sat down facing the screen on our zafus.  I always sat to Bob’s right.  We assumed our cross-legged position, hands shaped in an egg-shaped mudra with fingers overlapped and thumb tips lightly touching.  This zazen posture, and the gradual settling of thoughts that followed, were routine for us, from our years of meditation on the boat.  But many other things were new.  Three times during the minutes leading to 5:00 am there was a “roll down” of rapid-fire pok sounds; they could have been at around seven minutes, two minutes and one minute to the start of zazen. The last roll down ended with three strikes, and then two people silently entered through a door at one corner from the hall upstairs where the sound makers were. They went to the altar, lit more incense, and sat. 

            Then, after another moment, someone came in through the regular door and made a complete tour of the zendo with his hands in gassho, passing behind every person only the abbot or tanto and later when there were practice periods, head monk, would do this - DC.  My peripheral vision told me some days this was Reb, sometimes Baker in his brown robe, and sometimes I didn’t know.  As he passed, everyone raised their hands in gassho too, and then the person either sat to begin zazen, or sometimes I thought they left.  This review of the troops is something Katagiri also did each morning of the Minneapolis sesshin we attended in September, and at that point a light bell was struck three times and zazen began, so the first day in San Francisco we figured that was it, but oh no.  The light bell sounded but, as Bob was wont to complain, San Francisco Zen Center created a tremendous noise for silent meditation.

            First, from somewhere through the walls, came a new sound, as though the very foundations were rumbling.  I saw later that the sound came from near that corner door to the upstairs hall, where a large deep drum suspended from the ceiling it’s on a stand - DC was thumped simultaneously with two sticks using all the drummer’s might.  This was done at about two-second intervals, five times.  Now we heard a beautiful old bronze bell struck twice, the densho bell we were told was struck a hundred-plus 108 - DC times for Chris the night he died. You could hear it all over the building, deep and strong.  Zazen started now?  No, not yet. Yes, it has started. This is happening during zazen. - DC The drum was struck five more times, the bell twice, the drum five more times, the bell twice, then silence.  Ahh.  Zazen now.  But a minute or two later: bong!  The densho bell was hit once every minute or so for a long time through the first zazen period.  It was interesting how your mind worked as you sat there on your cushion.  Sometimes I noticed that densho bell being struck the two last times and realized it finally was the end of it, but other days half an hour went by before I thought, “Hm.  The bell has stopped.  I wonder when.”

            The first period was forty minutes long.  Then we filed in slow walking meditation, or kinhin, around the zendo for twenty minutes.  Then another forty-minute sit.  Around us were serious, long-practicing Zen students, and most people sat very still.  Rarely was anyone next to me fidgeting.  Sometimes there would be someone who seemed new and they would be a little wiggly.  In the middle of the second period, someone sometimes came by a person like this and gently, silently touched their back to adjust their posture or straighten their chin.  Meg said Reb sometimes did this.  It was the way Suzuki-Roshi used to teach.

            Reb was also strict on ceremonial details and could even be harsh with more advanced students. Someone later told us a hearsay story that a student was chewing on a match or toothpick while ringing the densho bell and Reb allegedly came along and pulled it out of his mouth. 

            Bob decided not to go to service anymore but thought that I should, so he returned to our room after zazen while I went upstairs to the Buddha hall. Today Meg kept her distance in the morning once again, but after service I asked her how best to contact Reb for an appointment.  She took me upstairs to the same hallway where the family had waited for the start of the funeral. Inside a room (I never learned whose), Reb was standing and talking to another priest.  The heady happy radiance was gone; he was startled to see us and seemed to stifle a “what are you doing here?” look.  I told him I wanted to make an appointment “about our plans.”  He agreed to come to our room late morning.

            Eating breakfast chez nous, we became very nervous about this coming meeting.  We thought we should offer to “rent” our room rather than expect a free one.

            That morning we also reached Bob’s attorney, Ken Anderson, to talk about the film.  Bob disliked the phone so again had me make the call.  By this time, Bob was really starting to cool on Lewis John Carlino.  He had me tell Anderson to keep him at arm’s length for the moment.

            Then Michael and Jan arrived.  Meg made up a pretty coffee tray, complete with fresh flowers of course, and for a couple hours Bob gave them a huge dose of his current thinking: our enthusiasm for Zen Center; the potential power, toward what end still unspecified, generated by Chris’s murder; the funeral. They’d thought of attending the previous day, but Michael was afraid it would be too “heavy.”  Bob talked about zazen and Zen in general, and recounted the murder.  He explained our need for having the boat delivered so Bob could stay on top of a volcano of dynamism about to erupt in San Francisco. 

            Michael was just as we’d remembered him, a scraggly, dark-haired San Francisco “pirate,” as Bob liked to call him.  He had a good build and bright eyes and a beak nose.  He seemed intelligent despite little education.  Jan, a minister’s daughter from the Midwest, was long-haired and shapely, complete with subliminal body language in Bob’s direction such as piling her hair up while showing her chest. Yet she seemed sensible and much more attached to Michael than we remembered from Florida.  Later Michael told Bob he was nearly through with her; he’d loved her before, but she had fooled around.

            After a long buildup about Zen Center’s mystic powers, we told Mike and Jan they had to leave because it was getting to be time to receive Reb.  Then Bob meticulously arranged the coffee table: flowers, fruit, knife handle just so, a copy of Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. He arranged his talking points on slips of paper and set them out like a solitaire game.  When the “council” continuing downstairs broke at noon, Reb glided into our room again and sat again on a straight-backed canvas chair.  Bob decided to sit on the sofa, in deference because it was lower and so the light from the window would be better on his face.  I sat with my back to the light.

            I think Bob started by talking about Abigail, saying she was not ready to become a Zen student, and Reb nodded.  Then abruptly Bob said, “I want to stay on.  Is that okay with you?” 

            Reb blinked half a second.  “Just you?”  He turned questioningly to me. 

            Bob assured him he was meaning both of us, and I laughed.  I think he elaborated on the handy man idea for a little, and our willingness to be flexible on the room schedule. 

            Reb answered easily.  “Stay as long as you want,” he said.

            Bob relaxed a little and we discussed the ashes ceremony date.  It would be held at Green Gulch, and Reb suggested that only some of the ashes be deposited, so the rest could be scattered in Minnesota.  We talked about Minnesota, where Reb had lived and how Lake Calhoun, now neighboring Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, had been one of his old hangouts.  When the conversation moved back to how Chris’s ashes might be scattered in a city lake, I suggested Lake Calhoun with a grin at Reb.  This was still a tense conversation, but I felt it was OK to speak.  Bob assented and Reb discussed a certain beach and drew a little map, which immediately wound up in the relic cabinet.  Chris had also gotten some new parking tickets, and before Reb left Bob told him he was not going to pay them till city officials came and tried to find Chris Pirsig!  Reb nodded to this idea like everything else.  The conversation ended and he beamed at us and gasshoed and glided away.  When the door closed I smiled and kissed Bob and said, “Welcome to San Francisco.”  However, when I looked back on the whole encounter weeks later with some distance, I could see that Reb was holding back a lot and did not truly embrace our presence.  (Later I wrote letters to the city traffic department saying the person who got the parking tickets had been murdered and asking them to write me with any questions.  No one ever did.)

            A dark force was growing at this point. I wanted to go to the neighborhood grocery store; we needed lunch food, but Bob said it would be dangerous.  Then he started talking about creating something called the Theater of Persuasion to scare street toughs by getting them into a dimly lit room for conversation and then slowly bringing the lights up to reveal real human corpses and a speech about Chris.  We tried to nap but couldn’t sleep, so Bob analyzed Michael and Jan’s hang-ups for a while. A look of hate had moved into his eyes.

            Then an envelope slid under our door.  We pulled out a poem.  It was signed at the bottom by a little coyote face.  We found a letter in the envelope signed by Peter Coyote.  It said the poem was written after “Tenshin-sensei”—Reb’s Japanese name—lit the incense the morning after Chris’s death.  Peter’s letter was formal in tone and had some awkward, vague references to the Carlino relationship and Bob’s plans for the film.  There was also a dinner invitation.

            “Pretty strong!” noted Bob.  Ever since Reb came out with that phrase, Bob had been using it a lot.

            He had me call Peter to accept.  The call began with Peter explaining that his dealings with Carlino were actually quite tense.  Despite a long relationship with Peter’s father, Carlino had not helped Peter get started in his career.  I assured Peter that Carlino or no Carlino, Bob wanted him for a lead role in any film.  Peter remained very slow on the whole thing though; he wanted to re-read ZMM and thought we should not rule out minor or non-acting roles for him.  He reminded us that he was primarily a stage actor and director—though a good one, he said.  It was a good conversation.

            Otherwise, Bob and I were going on an outswing away from each other.  He lay long hours on the bed in a distant mood with his hands behind his head, as though he didn’t want me close.  He fell asleep during the day and lay awake half the night.

            All day and all night long, street noises fill our room at the front of the Guest House.  A bus line went around the grocery store corner, so buses were always roaring around the turn from Laguna onto Page, and down past our windows.  A general drone of tires was constant, and every second or so a car traversed the Laguna-Page intersection, where there were stop signs.  Late at night the street was eerie and deserted and we could hear the foghorn in the harbor, and now and then strange voices.

            We were there many days before I noticed that Page was actually lined with small trees that evidently had been planted quite recently in unpaved squares of sidewalk.  Like most California trees they were still leafy though it was December. Yet the effect of vegetation was nearly overwhelmed by the inhospitable quality of the neighborhood. At the Page-Laguna corner, a jungle of wires hung about 20 feet over the intersection, mostly to power the buses.  Though they roared like diesel buses they were fueled via two grasshopper-leg-type attachments on their roofs.  In addition, the pavement sprouted a maze of wooden poles with utility wires. 

            Many of the buses going by the Guest House were named for the streets along their routes.  Bob sometimes looked out the window and said grimly, “Here comes the Hate Ferry,” and I’d see a bus marked 7-Haight-Ferry.

            During the day the sidewalks always seemed to have young people on skateboards or roller skates.  Some were skilled, actually figure skating on wheels.  One day a Black skateboarder “schussed” the entire Page Street incline on one foot all the way from Laguna to Octavia right in the middle of the street, scuffing the other foot as a brake.  An audience of other kids cackled.

            Across the street from the Guest House, at Page and Octavia, was a store called Larry’s Liquors with grates across its filthy windows.  Mostly Blacks went in there. I shuddered when we went by, especially as Bob usually slowed down and stared inside, glaring.  He thought that’s where Chris bought his six-pack before he was killed.

            “I think somebody spotted his watch then and went after him to rob it.”  We didn’t  know though if he wore a watch when he died.

            Mike and Jan came back in an old Mercedes to take us to Chinatown.  Michael chose a new little dirty second-story walk-up called Ping’s.  We had to wait for a table so we walked around for a while.  I had my eye out for a postcard for my relatives and found one portraying a mask of an ancient Chinese warrior from the Han Dynasty.  At dinner the food was pretty good and we talked about the practical aspects of the boat delivery.   Bob became even wilder.  We would pay all their expenses, he said.  He’d give them “a couple thou” to start with, then send more as it was needed.  “I know you’ll be fair.”

            “How do you know I won’t pad the bill, or run off with the boat?” Michael asked.

            “You won’t.”

            To me Michael and Jan were strangers, and the prospect of them taking our home made me glum.  Everything we owned was aboard, including our writing.  Michael never answered one way or the other about the delivery, just shoveled food.  I assumed he was still incredulous.  Jan was all for it and twinkled at Michael in a sexy way.  She currently was going to school and supporting herself by going to fairs and selling handmade satin moon ornaments.  They lived in the woods north of San Francisco, but they were dying to go sailing and this was the deal of a lifetime.  Perhaps it would lead to a life of making future boat deliveries to other customers, Jan noted.

             After dinner we saw a flag at half-mast on top of a building.  On the way up Market Street we learned a huge candle-light parade was in progress. Traffic was held up, and someone behind started honking. It was the anniversary of the murder of San Francisco’s mayor, George Moscone, and supervisor Harvey Milk last year. Thousands of people with candles thronged in a line around Market and Van Ness.

            Back in the Guest House, Bob and I went to bed without saying a word to each other.

November 28, 1979, Wednesday

            This was kind of a low day, and it began with us waiting as usual for Meg to accompany us to zazen, but she left without us.  We caught up and she apologized, saying she thought we’d gone ahead, but the message seemed to be that she was tired of making a connection with us every morning.  During zazen I felt sad about the boat and England.  Meg went straight up to service without waiting for me.  I attended, though I was still unsure about the procedures there, and all the Japanese.

            At service, it turned out that once a week a remarkable kind of scripture reading took place.  Instead of everyone turning to the sutra number posted outside the hall, everyone opened up to a different page and read whatever they wanted.  All 50 voices went at something different!  These scriptures were translations so at least they were in English.  But it was very strange the first time, and produced lots of what Suzuki called beginner’s mind, as I heard my own voice reading about enlightening all beings, whether born or unborn, finite or infinite, and that enlightening them was not going to enlighten them.

            After that service, Meg did meet me and take me to the City Center kitchen.  She showed me how I could put together a breakfast for us and take it over to the Guest House. But I declined, saying we would be glad to buy and cook our own food.  I worried about giving further offense.  I also asked if she would show me how to participate in soji, the cleaning period everyone performed after service for 10 or 15 minutes.  She introduced me to Neil Rubenking, the City Center work leader. He was younger than most of the priests, tall, thin, serious and tense, with little razor nicks on his shaved head.  Together Neil and Meg explained how everyone lined up in the hall every day, and he quietly and quickly assigned duties as they walked by.  The next day I would begin this.

            Back at the Guest House I carried breakfast up to the room and found Bob staring at the warlike face on the Chinese postcard.  He had been soaking up its aggressive feelings, and he said it had great powers.  He put it in the relic cabinet, but I asked for it back because I needed a postcard to send my brother.

            After we talked I went downstairs and Meg was there.  Very quietly, she abruptly stated that after Christmas she and Marc would leave the Guest House for Green Gulch.  She gave no further information.

            A few minutes later she came to our room with some messages.  Bob said we were sorry she and Marc were leaving.  I asked if we would be taking care of the Guest House in that case, and she said no. But she didn’t say who would be.

            As Meg talked to us the spooky China mask postcard lay on the table facing the door. Her eyes kept going to it and away from it.  She frowned, as though she picked up on the evil in our life.

            When she had gone, Bob said the China mask was great.  It signified death.  It was good that it was on the table, for Meg to see where we were at.

            “What do you see in it?” Bob kept asking me.  “Do you see something else?”  I didn’t answer, and he kept asking.  Once I said it looked like Reb, which was true.  Mainly the card looked like a terrible unknown we were falling toward, and I didn’t want to name it.

            We debated the meaning of Meg’s departure.  Bob thought she must have asked to leave. I thought the Zen Center powers that be told her to go.  We assumed that either way, we were at the root of it.

            Bob proposed chores like working on the possessions in Chris’s room and calling Peter Coyote.  But I was getting depressed, so we settled on a walk.  Also I wanted to mail the damn postcard. 

            “Maybe your brother will decide to come out here,” Bob speculated crazily.

            We also bought stationery supplies and junk food.  Bob wanted to walk to Chinatown for more mask postcards, but after a while he got tired too so we went back.

            Bob asked Meg to give us a tour of the Guest House with an eye toward repairs and maintenance. Instead she introduced us to Neil Rubenking, who took us all on a tour of the City Center workshops. It was tense. Their idea was for Bob to trot over and borrow tools, whereas Bob wanted ultimately to have a shop of his own at the Guest House. As it turned out, I did the trotting but also not much work got done. The shops were not spectacularly equipped, and there were sign-out sheets used by all the Zen students.  Here and there were Chris’s name and handwriting, from when he’d worked on his vehicles.

            Meg returned with us to our room and we discussed jobs to do: paint the front steps, fix window sashes, repair bathroom fans. 

Thursday, November 29, 1979

            Now the poison has really seeped into our lives.  It seems to get worked off each morning in zazen, especially at the end when Bob goes back to the room and I am alone with the students for the service and soji. The air was clear today down the hill and across the city as I walked back about 7:30, and the empty Guest House kitchen where I made coffee seemed familiar now and not unfriendly.  

            But no sooner had we started breakfast and Bob began talking than the despair came back. I can hardly muster the energy to write this journal.  Just to get through the day is like beating against a stream of hatred. I don’t even want to write this down.

            Bob just fell asleep at 6:30 pm, and it’s a relief to think that for a while he can’t hear the sounds of the streets below: sirens, buses, shouts of strangers.  I know he’ll wake up later and spend the night thinking. There was also the terrible sadness of our separation, of watching him slip off at day’s end without a kiss or without a smile.  His face was relaxed but estranged.  It felt like we were both near the edge, but separate edges. This is what I dreaded most since Chris died:  the kind of grieving that is beyond tears and pain, the kind no kisses reach.

            Our return tickets to England lay in the drawer and I thought longingly of returning to the boat.  Or to New England or to Bob’s father’s house or Katagiri’s friendly neighborhood in Minneapolis (I have sometimes contemplated Katagiri during zazen for good cheer).  Anywhere but here.

            Chris’s room felt warm and tender when we stopped in there briefly in the morning.  It was a jumble of boxes from Ted and Nancy’s packing, and I sat quietly by his zafu and zabuton, and his beads and a tipped-over teacup that Bob strictly specified should be among the last things to be moved out of the room. The “Chrisness” in the room was clean and good and friendly, and I wanted to just be quiet there for a while, but something was happening to Bob again. He wanted to pick out some books to give Ted, and to get Chris’s sandals to wear to zazen, and his umbrella.  Then he wanted to hurry away.  His hands were shaking and his tone was strict, as though everything must be done in such and such a way.  He said Chris’s bed, a mat with green blankets, must be used by the next student to join Zen Center. We were also supposed to be clearing the room out, but, though we easily could have carried more things, Bob insisted we had enough. 

            As we were leaving we saw on the table a copy of the Monday, November 19, front page newspaper story, presumably left by Ted or Nancy.  This was the first time we had seen it. On the jump page was a photo of the street corner where Chris fell, and it showed a fire hydrant, a typical San Francisco two-story wooden house, and the street signs for Octavia and Haight.  It was the first time we knew exactly where Chris died.

            “Haight!” said Bob. He said we had read enough of the article for now, and we left without finishing it.

            There were two sources of brightness in our lives though. One was the Green Gulch Green Grocer run by Zen Center in our neighborhood.  I have been there alone on two afternoons and found friendly faces and good food. 

            The other brightness was from Reb.  Today he stopped us outside the City Center office, as we stood with Chris’s books and bought tickets to an upcoming dinner with the abbot of Eheiji. Reb showered us with sunlight. 

            “Okusan thinks you are a very nice man,” Reb wanted Bob to know.  “In fact, she said, ‘Next to my own father, you are best.’”  Good old glittering Reb.  Bob’s hands still shook. We talked about going to the dinner, and Reb arranged a ride for us.

            I almost wished he and Okusan would be more hostile so that we would have to leave, because that is what so many other people appeared to wish. Meg had again been waiting for us at 5:00 in the morning, because we explicitly asked her to, but when we got to the zendo she slipped off her sandals and disappeared inside while we took off our clumsy shoes. At service she didn’t wait for me. Other people, while not explicitly negative, still seemed tense. 

            I kept telling Bob we were moving too fast, yet in a way I shared his impatience, for while we waited to get “assimilated” our imagination was running us ragged.  All day he plotted “chess games” that frightened and depressed me sometimes to the point of tears.  He was like a mad general with no army.

            “I read over a letter I wrote to Chris on orthodoxy in Zen, and also his response to me,” he said, looking through our papers. “We’ll have them published in Wind Bell,” the Zen Center journal.  Later he acknowledged that we would have to be invited.

            He wanted to wait on emptying Chris’s room until July 2 because that was Elizabeth Baker’s birthday, “when the Buddha will come out,” meaning Chris’s Buddha figurine. When I suggested the unfairness to Zen Center of monopolizing a dorm room for seven months, he then said we would instead ask the next student in the room to keep Chris’s Buddha statue and “take care of it.”  He also picked the student: a brown-haired girl who cried during the Sunday lecture at Green Gulch. Bob wanted me to get Meg to find this girl and figure out if it would be “appropriate” to have her move in.  Strangely, on my first day of soji that morning, cleaning the Buddha hall, I worked with someone I felt might be the girl he wanted, but it was hard to know.

            We also heard Reb say that recently Okusan had been teaching Chris the tea ceremony. This surprised us both. It also changed Bob’s mind about the room designation. “Chris’s room should become a tearoom,” he declared to me.

            Many of his ideas would have been fine if we were not so hopelessly isolated from everything he wanted to command, and if he had been as open to uniting with Zen Center as he was for ruling it.  He wouldn’t attend service, he didn’t want to eat in the dining room, he opposed Zen rituals “except zazen and gassho.”

            And he was interested in exploring violence to fight neighborhood crime. He said we should take Chris’s Bhagavad Gita from his room because it espoused the idea that violence used to oppose violence is really non-violence. Bob kept speaking of the Theater of Friendly Persuasion. Then he fantasized about a disembodied head being easier to arrange than an entire corpse. It seemed so long since last weekend at Fisherman’s Wharf, when we gazed lovingly at each other and hugged and laughed and cried.

            I made a dentist appointment, to get a problem tooth taken care of since we were stuck here. The dentist saw many Zen students, and the nurse asked if things had “settled down” since the killing. So I told her who I was, and, shocked, she became nervous and apologetic. She was a kind person. Bob sat in the waiting room, and when I came out of the dental exam he had decided we should get a gun.

            “The house is completely unprotected. They could break in any time,” he said.  “A shotgun would be best. The police don’t mind them as much.  With a shotgun, you also can pick people off in the street.”  He proposed we head for a sporting goods store, but I looked so doleful at the idea of bringing a shotgun into a Zen Center building, that he dropped the idea for the time being.

            Driving up the tension was that we sensed great things in the air at Zen Center, but everyone was so enigmatic we didn’t know what they were, and our imaginations ran wild.  Ed Sattizahn tapped Bob’s shoulder as he greeted us. Bob said that must mean they have arrested the killers. 

            Then, the next day when he returned alone to the Guest House after zazen, two young Black boys around age 10 said hello.

            “The word’s gotten out; they know who I am,” he speculated.  “It’s on the wire that I’m the father of the boy who was killed.”  But this was not good news.  “If there’s an arrest, they will retaliate, you can be sure.  They could be watching our house already.”

            We had breakfast in our room that morning on Danish from Tassajara Bakery.  Chris used to tell us about making the Danish pastry there. But Bob kept talking instead about the Han Dynasty postcard with the death mask, and his ideas for a Theater of Persuasion. 

            For two nights, instead of supper, we snacked alone in our room and went to bed. The original fantasy, that a community needing a father would spontaneously embrace Bob who had lost his son, just wasn’t happening. We had no real purpose here.  Not the criminal investigation: Ed Sattizahn, friendly though he was, preferred to keep us out of it. Not the memorial fund: Yvonne Rand didn’t seem interested.  Not answering condolence mail: there had been little. The handy man idea hadn’t gone farther than fixing the light switch in our room. We hadn’t rallied Chris’s friends in symbolic memorial gestures because no friends identified themselves. Bob couldn’t start teaching students because he had not been designated a teacher.  We couldn’t reform the neighborhood. We couldn’t even join Zen Center practice and rituals without becoming much less anti-conformist and anti-ritualist than we were.

            On the way home tonight, about 4:00 pm, we went for the first time to the place where Chris lay dead at Haight and Octavia.  There was no sign of the crime. We wondered, had some dedicated Zen student been assigned to go out and scrub the blood away? Who? Who? Why did we never know? Overhead on Octavia was a freeway; in the distance were some hills. Bob suggested we should put flowers at the intersection, and each day return and replace those that get kicked over on the sidewalk.  But we never did.

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