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Interview with Grahame Petchey (link page for him soon)
3-12-12 - Visited with Grahame Petchey yesterday. Told him SFZC abbot Steve Stucky's assistant asked me for Grahame's contact info to make sure he got an invite to an August event honoring the SFZC's 50th birthday. Grahame hasn't been to a ZC event in years but he plans to attend this one. I'll bring him. He's the guy who walked the papers through and got it done back then. Maybe the event will come near Grahame's birthday, born August 25th, 1938.
I told Grahame Steve was also looking for contact info for two other ZC early-timers, Paul Alexander and Constance Lueck. He must have been looking through old Wind Bells. I wrote they're long gone - I think. Grahame knew them both but had left for Japan when they were still around.
Paul disappeared around '68 and it was assumed he'd committed suicide. He was depressed and I remember Jack Elias who'd lived some with Paul saying that Paul hadn't come to terms with his homosexuality which was really unnecessary in that non homophobic crowd. But who knows? Maybe he went off and started a new life somewhere. Paul answered the door to Sokoji when I first went there. He introduced me to Katagiri Sensei and showed me the big old synagogue organ he was restoring. Grahame remembered Paul sharing an apartment up near Fillmore and Sacramento with a student named Bob Brown who spent some years sitting at Sokoji. Brown was a mail carrier. I remember that name but never met him.
Grahame said jokingly that Connie Lueck was a loudmouth who would shock him, Grahame being rather proper and strict back then (he's still rather proper). He remembers her telling him how she was going to get drunk the night before a sesshin, the 3rd one he recalled. I remember people saying she stepped outside to smoke during sesshin. He suggested I check with his ex Pauline to see if she remembers what came of Connie. She was gone before I arrived in '66. [Get photos of Paul and Connie]
Grahame apologized for groaning as he walked with his walker to the john and back. I apologized for my groans and explained I'd had my left side ribs bruised (I guess) and been smashed to the deck while sailing with Michael Katz and that sent Grahame off remembering his experiences sailing in Japan during the period in the seventies when he was living in Tokyo and running a language school. He had a getaway, a tea master's house in Hayama and loved to take a little sailboat out when there on Sundays and holidays. He joined a club through which he was on the crew of a large two-masted sail boat.
I was going to go to see a doctor today about the aching ribs, thought maybe I shouldn't wait till my Friday yearly appointment in Sebastopol, but nurse-practitioner and Zen priest Robert Lytle in Ukiah wasn't concerned. He said wait till Friday and that in a similar situation he'd had his wife Brenda tightly wrap packing tape around his and that helped a lot. He said the left side is the best one to hit too cause the liver's on the right. And then Katrinka got me to take Aleve and wow has that worked.
We agreed it was time to copy Grahame's Eiheiji dairy from the early sixties. He was one of the West's pioneers into the Japanese temple briar patch. He'll have to look further for the diary but he did find a scrap book with photos of his time there. As he talked about the photos I put in post-it notes. "That's Tatsugami," he said, leading takuhatsu, monk's begging. Grahame had been in the hospital for malnutrition from Eiheiji's diet and Tatsugami came by and said if he wanted to experience takuhatsu he'd better come now. There are a couple of photos of Grahame putting on the proper begging garb while sitting next to a woman, his doctor. She told Tatsugami that Grahame shouldn't go because he had a cold and Tatsugami said his shaved head in the elements would help him recover.
Grahame said that at the end of that day's begging that the monks had a feast and that Tatsugami had offered Grahame sake but that he'd refused because it was against Buddha's early precepts to do so. He said Tatsugami asked him which one of them was drunk. Grahame admired Tatsugami more than anyone at Eiheiji, saying he was a real man. When he led service in the hatto it was the strongest. He might have liked to drink, said Grahame, even in his room, but his example was good.
Then he pointed out Kobun Chino who was the monk assigned to watch over him and Phillip Whalen who was there at the time of Grahame's second Eiheiji practice period. Phillip was also ordained and sent to Eiheiji by Shunryu Suzuki. There was another Westerner with them, a man from Chicago. [name?]. Kobun had also assisted Jean Ross who had been sent to Eiheiji by Suzuki a year before Grahame. [get photo of Jean and Kobun at Eiheiji]
It's interesting to hear Grahame talk about Kobun at Eiheiji back then because it's not the Kobun we knew in the States. Grahame says Kobun rode them and would chastise them for the tiniest infractions. They had a rather unflattering term they used for him. Grahame says he was the perfect monk, the epitome of Japanese militaristic Zen. Wow. Not at all so here. I guess our hippy magic worked on him like it seems to have on Suzuki whose children also described as strict and demanding, severe and distant.
Grahame and I agreed we'd get his memorabilia copied and go over the history of the creation of the SFZC for a brief report this auspicious year. I'll try to get some photos up that relate to this article. We'll see - hard to keep up with everything.
Before and after visiting with Grahame, I spent time with his ex wife, Hideko, and son Mark downstairs. Mark is profoundly brain damaged from an auto accident over ten years ago. He's in his mid twenties and is always progressing but will never recover unless there are completely unforeseen medical advances. Hideko told me about the country dancing she does in the city, the class being led by Zennie Mary Watson who lives next to the SFZC City Center.
Hideko reminded me that the calligraphy on the wall was done by Suzuki Roshi. I wish I'd known about it when Fire Monks was being written. It reads
Hi no Yojin
- Be careful with fire.
photo by Hideko Oga