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9-12-07 - Tassajara Report Part I - Dish Shack Duty

Dennis Samson, son Clay (16), and I spent ten days at Tassajara this summer as usual. Katrinka was in Scotland so she didn't make it. Our friend Linda Anderson who's with Pacific Zen Inst. came from Santa Rosa. She's been cooking for their sesshins and retreats for years and went right to the kitchen. It wasn't long ago - late August. Thought I'd mention a few highlights.

Clay worked in the kitchen and I washed guest dishes both of which are nothing new. But the dish shack is new which was good - except it wasn't quite completed. I remember being there in May and talking to the guys finishing it up and it seemed that they'd been taken off that job a bit early. The lights were hanging from wires coming out of holes in the ceiling, there was no hose or hose connection which we use to fill buckets or to fill the containers dishes are washed in so they had to be filled more tediously with the spritzer. After consultation with shop authorities, a hose was ordered and came in while we were there but they still needed the faucet. But the new spritzer is great. The old one always dripped.

We lost the wall mounted rotating fan in the remodel and when Dennis checked out the electrical box in the wall where the old one was and where a new one could be mounted he found it had two hot 120 lines which was weird. So there's a fan on the floor which gets in the way.

There was no shelf or table to put the dishes etc on that have to go back to the dinning room so everything was getting bunched up on the stainless counter for racks coming out of the washer or things were being stacked on the floor. The second day, Dennis bless him helped me build a table from scrap in the shop which was ready in a couple of hours to have stuff stacked on it, a nice piece of maple plywood on top - used up the kitchen's butcher block oil on it.

My greatest disappointment was that there was no floor drain. Too much trouble - where would the water go - can't go in the creek. I went oh yeah of course and only later thought, wait a minute, that would be nothing compared to the dishwashing water - just tie into that line. But it was too late. And the benji crew which mopped the floor every day didn't seem to mind and I guess less water is used that way.

One last thing I wanted to get to but didn't was to make it where the broom and mop could hang on the wall behind the door - at benji Stephan's request. I consoled myself remembering Suzuki Roshi saying that sometimes you should leave work for others to complete when you move on.

The guest dishwasher is part of the dining room crew, normally they all rotate through the various positions. But I don't rotate except inside the dish shack - thanks to the continued compassion of the dining room crew. I do join them over there in the morning for the brief soji after service when they get the dining room set up for guest breakfast. Each day I organized the cloth napkins tucked in bamboo rings, some of which date back to the first ones I made for the first guest season - bought the bamboo at a dock in SF, cut them with a fine hand saw, sanded, and soaked them in linseed oil, dried and wiped them, and on them affixed little white labels with the names of the guests written in felt pen. I ran the guest dining room the first four summers and here I was at a table outside putting the napkins in alphabetical order just like  back then. Guests come up before entering the dining room and find theirs. There are more guests now though - some days eighty, and all those napkins can hardly fit on the table. And they're rolled and in the round rings and the ones on the edge sometimes fall onto the gravely and dusty ground and for years I've been thinking of putting a lip on the table so they don't do that so I decided to do that but first I consulted with Sonja who's head of the guest program and the dining room crew, especially Ron who does a lot of little fix-it jobs. He suggested I use triangular pieces on the sides rather than flat ones so it would slope up nicely. Good call. I found a full 1x2 just the right length in the shop, ripped it at a 45 degree angle, flattened the sharp top, found some little finish screws with tiny heads with the little square hole in them - what's that type called? Pre-drilled the holes.

Back to the table with wood and tools. Pulled back the red table cloth with the napkins rolling into the center of the table, unstapled the vinyl covering along the sides and pulled it back - yuck, it was grimy - cleaned it off, screwed in the angled molding - not from the side which would have made the table an inch wider which would have been good but from the top where it would hold better. Ron brought some impermanent spray mastic to hold the vinyl covering tight to the new edge contour. Stapled the vinyl covering back on tightly to the underside of the table, pulled the red table cloth back over it and put the napkins all back in order and it looked great and wow it was great not to worry about them falling off the sides.

I always like to make some improvements when I'm there so I was quite pleased with these. I'd smile when I walked into the dish shack and saw the wonderfully functioning table and I'd feel all warm inside when I'd walk by on the path and see the little ridges on the side of the napkin table and know how secure the napkins were.

I also received favorable comments which reflected positively on my harmonious standing in the community.

For instance, one of the officers came over, sat down on a bench next to me, and as we gazed together at my handiwork she told me she really wanted me to know how much she appreciated these little odd jobs I'd done. She said that even though it irritated others that she appreciated it and knew how much it meant to me. I said oh thanks a lot, I really appreciate that. She said that the table in the dish shack for instance - it will do till there's something in there that's the right size. I thanked her again. And she said not to worry, that she'd personally undo what I'd just done and make sure the triangular side pieces were taken off the napkin table at the end of the guest season so it could be used as a study table during the practice period. I thanked her for her thoughtfulness and added that along with the legs from the table in the dish shack, they'd make nice kindling for when the stove is moved back in and thus will have served twice.

Community is so rewarding.

Tomorrow - part 2 of Tass report

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