Vera Dalenberg

He seemed to be very comfortable with everyone. He didn’t seem to be ostentatious and was able to talk to everybody, but not especially reaching out to anyone. So, I attributed some serenity to him and comfort with all his – with his very polite mob of Caucasians.

Vera was married to Claude Dalenberg. I got to know her and her daughters a lot better after Claude was in hospitals and a convelescent home for five years and much of that time I went weekly to read to him. The interview below was made during that period. - DC

8-15-14 - The video of Vera Haile Dalenberg's Memorial service on 7/31/14 in case you were unable to join us.  There is also a link to the short photo slideshow we played at the service.   Both are posted on her website at

7-15-14 - RIP Vera Haile who died on July 9th, widow of Ananda Claude Dalenberg, dear friend and woman of the good fight for the underprivileged. Read her obituary and more at Vera Haile dot com. Condolences to her twin daughters Diane Dalenberg Schoonover and Laura Dalenberg whom she was so close to. She was also a very loyal and loving wife and partner of Ananda. - DC

7-17-14 - Vera Haile Dalenberg's memorial and light reception will be held at St. Mary's Cathedral (in St. Francis Hall) at 1111 Gough St, in San Francisco, from 5:30-7:30 pm, on Thursday, July 31st.  

 Flowers may be delivered to St. Mary's Cathedral, as long as the date and time of Vera's memorial are specified. 

Vera with daughters Dianne and Laura - taken from Vera's FaceBook page

Last email from Vera - 5-27-14

David,  I'm impressed that you are getting the Cloud Hiddens together at last. Diane and I put together all we could find, so we don't know where the missing ones might show up. I will hang onto your list, in case we uncover some more. Did you write [Claude's bother] David Dalenberg about your progress?  I'm sure he would like to know. If you've been to Bali and Kyoto, where are you now?  Always good to hear from you.  I'm a bit slowed down by having to use oxygen both day and night now, but am still plugging away on various issues. - Vera

Vera Dalenberg interviewed by DC   July 31, 2005

DC: I just wanted to ask you a few basic questions. You came from where?

VD: I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee.

DC: Right. And you came to California, when?

VD: Well, after I graduated from Antioch College in Ohio, I drove west – as many others were doing in 1957 to San Francisco.

DC: And so what happened when you came here?

VD: Well, there were 3 of us from Antioch and we looked for jobs and we got an apartment in an area that was common for people new to San Francisco in the Polk/Gough area on Washington near Leavenworth. We had trouble getting jobs so I did door to door for the city directory and I worked for an insurance company and an advertising agency before I got into things that I was more interested in.

We went to North Beach at night – we just walked from our place on Washington. There were 3 girls and one of them went to graduate school at Mills College and Susan, who had been my roommate at Antioch, and I would walk to North Beach and that was the height of the beatnik era – so it was – we didn’t really make a big deal of that – we thought that was just the way North Beach was and always had been.

DC: What was it like in North Beach then?

VD: Well, there was place called Bagel Shop where people went and talked and the most talkative people in the face of the universe were there. [laughing and laughter] And Bill Graham owned it.

DC: Bill Graham owned it?

VD: Yeah – Bill Graham owned it and sold bagels.

DC: You mean Bill Graham of…

VD: Yes, Bill Graham of became the great entrepreneur.

DC: I had no idea.

VD: Yeah – he owned the Bagel Shop and we hung out there and he was always grim and depressed.

DC: Ohhhhh

VD: And then there was a bar down the street called The Place, where Joanne Kyger and Jack Spicer and his crew hung out and gave poetry reading during the week and drank too much and used drugs and there was a place called the Cellar, which was one of the places I hung out – a jazz club.

DC: Yeah – there was a Cellar in Ft. Worth, Texas that was owned by the District Attorney.

VD: Well, this was not owned by the District Attorney.

DC: It was the closest thing to North Beach in Ft. Worth. And it was the first place, I believe, where The Band performed in America.

VD: Oh really?

DC: Yeah. And it was a very, very cool place – and it took advantage of stupid teenagers like me – it would serve us alcoholic drinks that had no alcohol and charge us large amount of money and it had cushions all over the floor and waitresses in bra and panties and had things like “live” spelled backwards is “evil” and on the wall – it was amazing – so I didn’t know there was a Cellar in North Beach – that’s what it was named after I guess.

VD: That was the center of the local jazz scene. It had jazz and it had poetry and Lawrence Ferlinghetti would read there with a jazz group and it had sessions on Sunday where everybody could sit in and I wasted the years of my youth sitting in a dark Cellar on Sunday afternoons listening to jazz. But I didn’t see it as wasted at the time. Those were the days when the big thing was you could go to the jazz workshop – where I first heard John Coltrane and people like Miles Davis came to town.

DC: Wow.

VD: So – I got to hear them first hand. The scene there began to increase in intensity and drugs and problems.

DC: Around what year?

VD: Oh – this was probably around ’60.

DC: uhh hmm

VD: I went out with a guy who was a jazz musician, Bruce Lippincott, for about 2 ½ or 3 years in those days. Spelled like the publisher.

DC: Alright

VD: And he also went to do jazz poetry played a saxophone at the Cellar and the Jazz Workshop. There was a very nice lawyer guy who owned the jazz workshop – and I always went every night when Coltrane came and it was very cheap in those days – we had to pay $2.50 for drinks – that was 2 drinks and that was all you had to pay to hear John Coltrane and Eldon Jones and – I forgot who else was in his band. Uhmm… there was another place down in the Tenderloin on Turk Street – a parking lot where I heard Miles Davis – but all in the same era. But gradually more and more people came to catch it and there was a place across the street from the Bagel Shop called The Coffee Gallery and it got so there were so many people coming to sit in – The Coffee Gallery didn’t have a regular group, but they had let musicians sit in and they got very loud and violent sounding when Dizzy Gillespie brought bee bop to North Beach it created a lot of music the earlier people did not want to hear. So people started drifting away – but the lines at The Coffee Gallery got so that you could go there in the afternoon and there would be 50 people in line with their horns to play.

DC: Wow!

VD: And it was more success than they wanted – and a lot of them did not play very well. So, some of the musicians began to do sessions in their homes or somewhere else and Bruce sort of went with a group in New Orleans musicians one of whom lived in a building on Cumberland near Dolores Park and they had had Sunday afternoon sessions there and I was glad to get out of the dark basement. But then gradually there became more conflict and more people strung out on drugs and people dying on drugs – it was very sad and people sort of drifted away.

DC: uhm hmm  – when you are talking about people dying on drugs, that would just be like Heroin and Morphine, I would think.

VD: Mainly – well, mainly Heroin, of course.

DC: Yeah.

VD: Methamphetamines were around.

DC: Uh hmm

VD: .. but people didn’t die on those – they went crazy.

DC: Right [laughter]

VD: Some of them are still around, actually. But there were a number of people that I knew at the time who died from overdoses and did have an incredible impact on the jazz scene not just here.

DC: Yeah. Were there any people back then who I came to know later – or know of later?

VD: Joanne Kyger and Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg would come to town and at The Place sometimes.

DC: When did City Lights open?

VD: City Lights opened just before I got here in ’57 – so in ’55 or 6 and there was a bookstore called Discovery right next door.

DC: Sure – Fred Roscoe. I knew Fred Roscoe – he owned Tassajara for a while too.

VD: Oh, really? I never knew that.

DC: Yeah – he and his wife Nancy - she is still a friend of mine and she is a drug lawyer and lives in San Anselmo and they bought Tassajara with the Becks and then she got pregnant almost immediately and they sold out to the Becks because they couldn’t handle it, so it was just the Becks who sold it to Zen Center. But Fred says he’s the one that told Dick Baker that he should go visit Tassajara – but there’s many people who say that – but I used to go in there and talk to Fred. He was a cool guy.

VD: Yeah – he was very helpful. I’d say I met Herb Gold there. We would both talk to Fred Roscoe. Herb Came in there frequently – well, everybody came – because they had used books.

DC: Yeah.

VD: And that was a big deal. I mean they were more affordable then they are these days – but Discovery was the only place with used books.

DC: Yeah – and Herb came to Tassajara in 67 and gave us his Jaguar– and I still see Herb. We go to Saint Stupid’s Day parades.

VD: Ah.. I never read anything he wrote about Tassajara.

DC: Well, he wrote one thing in the Chronicle – in an article about good places to take a date where he mentioned Tassajara and he got an angry letter from Yvonne Rand [laughing and laughter] for doing that.

VD: I’m not surprised.

DC: Yeah [laughing]. Do you remember Stan White?

VD: Stan White? No.

DC: “Sebastian” he was called sometimes.

VD: Sebastian White – no?

DC: He was a North Beach character in the early sixties. And he was a Suzuki Roshi student and became a good friend of Claude’s. When did you first meet Claude?

VD: Uhm – well, we had this mutual friend – I guess I first met Claude in 1962 because we had this mutual friend, Don Montgomery, who was a crazy librarian – who also knew Kerouac and Ginsberg.

DC: uh hmm

VD: And he wrote poetry and he went and found things and gave them to people – like he left a bombshell on my doorstep –

DC: ha ha – an actual bombshell?

VD: Yes – an actual rusted old bombshell. He lived in Mill Valley – he was having a party and asked me if I would give Claude a ride.

DC: This is ’62, yeah?

VD: Yeah. And I said, “okay” and he gave me the address. It was when the East-West House was on California Street.

DC: Right

VD: And so I went to pick him up on California Street. I think he only had a moped or something – something he couldn’t drive across the bridge. So it must have been before his Saab – so I gave him a ride to Don Montgomery’s party in Mill Valley – and Don Montgomery had said, “Well you two have been in India” – I went to India in ’61 – and Claude had been to Japan and then on around the world and to India and he really liked India – so we had that common interest to talk about and that was why Don wanted us to meet.

DC: Humm. So did you get to know Claude then?

VD: Yeah – yes. We went out some. Don Montgomery already did this incredible, gigantic party at my house. I had this one studio apartment on Lexington Street? between Dolores and Guerrero and Don Montgomery invited … well, over 75 people came – I don’t know how many people he had asked, including Ferlinghetti and I couldn’t get ‘em to leave [laughing and laughter]. They wouldn’t go home so finally I left and went at about 3 in the morning to Portrero Hill and left my car and then went back. Fortunately, they were all gone [laughing], but he liked to do extravagant things.

So Claude and I went out – we went to East-West House some or either my house or sometimes the Zen Center.

When Knute or Claude were cooking – Knute was the best cook in the EW House and Claude would cook the same meal.

DC: Who was Knute?

VH:  Knute Stiles. He was living in the East-West House and you know Tom Murphy, right?

DC: Tom Murphy? Is he still around?

VH: No – he died. But Knute was at Zen Center for many years and he did art and collage and water colour and art criticism and now he does poetry.

DC: Oh, you mean he is around now?

VH: Well, he is in Arizona – in Bisbee.

DC: Oh, wow.

VH:  And now he writes more poetry than art. There is some poetry website that has his poetry. He does very nice poetry. But anyhow, he was the best cook at the East-West House. He always made the most creative dishes and the most elaborate and Claude always made exactly the same thing – ham and lima beans and cornbread and I kept saying, years later, “When are you going to cook ham and lima beans and cornbread again?” [laughing] I never could him to make it again. He would eat it, I mean if somebody else would fix it.

Back then I went to the Zen Center with him, the Soto Zen temple on Bush Street once. That would have been maybe ’63. And the only people there who were serious about Zen were the Caucasian Americans. The Japanese Americans talked during the entire service and they’d sit around in groups and chatted and Suzuki I guess was leading the service and it was the serious Zen students who got up and walked around and did the chanting and followed every word.

DC: You mean you were at a service where both of them were there together?

VH: Yeah – both of them – yeah.

DC: Well that was pretty unusual.  Maybe early on back then, but he had one service a week for Japanese Americans and maybe back then he was trying to accommodate the two and some of the Caucasian students would join in – but by the time I came in ’66, they were totally segregated and they didn’t want the Caucasians because they added a different vibe. Maybe a few still went some to the Japanese services then though I don’t remember any of that. Even the joint Buddha’s birthday events weren’t both in my time – only his stepping down ceremony and Baker becoming abbot and his funeral. They just wanted to have their own thing going.

If you go to services in Japan, you know – I’ve been to services, different types – in Japan, for holidays or something at a temple where there are ash trays spread around on the tatami – people are smoking, talking and children running around, women preparing food and chatting in the kitchen, and it is something that everybody feels comfortable with. Incidentally, I experienced the same thing in India at a talk – the Westerners going “shh shhh” and I asked this Tibetan guy I was with, “Who is that talking – he keeps going on and on” – he was so far off - and he said, “Oh that’s the Dalai Lama” and I said, “Really? All the Tibetans are just talking to each other” and he laughed.

VH: That’s the way it was. That was my impression there – the Americans were walking around with their heads bowed and chanting and the Japanese Americans were talking. I knew several people who went to Sokoji that I worked with at the Department of Human Services.

DC: Do you remember their names?

VH: Yes – Dorothy Sakamoto – no not Sakamoto.

DC: Japanese Americans.

VD: Yes. Some who I saw there in later years.

DC: Claude would keep up with the Japanese side of things and – more than anybody – and when it became more segregated, he would still do it because he appreciated that and he wrote an article for the Wind Bell about, you know, the other side of our practice or something like that – years later.

VH: He had a big ecumenical thing.

DC: Yeah – yeah. So, did you meet Suzuki?

VH: Yes, but it was later when I went to Zen Center with Claude. See, we went together for a while and then we broke up – I can’t remember exactly what year. But I went to graduate school in Berkeley and I went to India again.

DC: When did you go the first time?

VH: In 1961.

DC: For how long?

VH: For 3 months. That was on my own – totally. I went to a yoga ashram.

DC: Where?

VH: Where they all were – in Rishikesh. When I went there the first time, I went through Japan. I talked to Gary and Joanne about it and they went there – but on their trip to India they, liked Maharishi Maheesh’s place better .. and that’s where the Beatles and everybody went. But the place I went was Sivananda’s Ashram which I’ve noticed has now become the symbol for all traditional yoga. It’s funny – Sivananda sent out all these young swamis to America and the one that came to San Francisco in 1957 [58],  Vishu-devananda became very popular – he’s the one I studied with when I went to India the first time, I ran into some other Swamis on the boat I was on who were going various places and had been to the U.S. and I realized what a massive world-wide organizing they were doing and today when you read yoga magazines, journals – they think it’s marvellous the thing America has done to yoga. [laughing] But they talk about Sivananda’s yoga as traditional and it certainly was traditional, but in those days there were more of them. Now there are almost none. I mean, Bikram, for example, and the competition in the U.S. is so anti-yoga, it’s hard to believe.

DC: What do you mean?

VH: They have yoga competitions for people who can do more ashtangas better.

DC: I’ve never heard of that.

VH: - and faster.

DC: Well – people I know involved with yoga aren’t doing competition – they are just doing yoga.

VH: Well, that’s because they are not yoga intuits – people in Bikram. You can use the line I read in the magazines.

DC: Well, you are just talking about some magazine – I mean – the people – I know many, many people into yoga and they do it in a totally non-competitive way.

VH: I know – I do too.

DC: Yeah, you’re just ticked off because there is some new competitive thing, but don’t worry about it – it will pass.

VH: No, there is an incredible – yoga is a big, new market in the U.S. In San Francisco, it’s a big new market. The property is there – one of the things we should aim for, if you want rent property, is to set up a yoga school [laughing and laughter].

DC: Well, so – alright, so you were in India in ’61 doing that and then you said – like you and Ananda – you and Claude broke up and you went back to India.

VH: Yeah, after graduate school – to Delhi.

DC: What year was that?

VH: ’67 ’68. In the Department of Urban Community Development. That was a work – study program. Neighbourhoods in Delhi.

DC: And how long were you there?

VH: For about 8 months. And then I came back and I guess it was around 1970 or ’71 I ran into Claude on the street and we stopped to talk and his father had died and left him enough money so he didn’t have to teach anymore.

DC: What was he teaching?

VH: He was teaching English as a Second Language at an adult school.

DC: And had he been doing that a long time?

VH: Yeah. When I first met him that’s what he was doing to make money and he’d gotten a Masters in ESL at San Francisco State.

DC: So, when you met him then, he was just mainly involved with Zen Center then.

VH: Yeah – yep, he was very much involved and I went with him to Zen Center on several occasions and met Suzuki.

DC: To Paige Street.

VH: Yeah – right.

DC: So, tell me what you remember.

VH: Well, I remember meeting Suzuki – I didn’t go to regular services. At that point he would go to seshin too for a couple of days. He was helping set up the Zen studies program – I think that was his idea.

DC: Right.

VH: On the board. He was involved in the work program and setting up the studies program and the library. And he also gave lectures on Saturdays. And we went there for some social events. I remember when we got married, he wanted to go announce it at the Zen Center, which was after Suzuki had died, by the way. He wanted to go announce it at the Zen Center and I wasn’t quite sure what that meant and he didn’t explain much –he said, not a regular service – go and identify ourselves before the group and have tea and cookies or something.

DC: Where were you all married?

VH: At City Hall. By a judge I knew.

DC: What year was that?

VH: That was 1973

DC: Okay – I was at Green Gulch that year.

VH: And I nearly ran out the door. I met him early – came from work early so we – he said, “Now you walk down this way and then you turn that way and then you bow this way and you turn that way and you walk the other way” – I thought, “I’ve got to get out of here!!”

DC: [laughing]

VH: [laughing] Because I knew he liked all that sort of ritual – he would never say he did, but you could see he enjoyed doing it. He would make fun of nonsense syllables and stuff like that. But I said, “Well, can’t I just do what you do?” and basically that’s about all I did and later when we went to Reb’s wedding, Reb and Rusa, I was so grateful we didn’t do that at the Zen Center because I could not conceive of a wedding where you take a vow of non-attachment to each other. I thought, “What’s the point?”

DC: That doesn’t really ring a bell.

VH: Well, that’s what the service – they promised to be non-attached and I said, “Well, why are they getting married?” I understand what non-attachment means, and I was told, “Well, they’ve adapted an ordination ceremony for marriage.

DC: That’s right.

VH:  “And I thought, “There’s something wrong with that.”

DC: Well, in Japan people don’t tend to get married in Zen – they get married by the Shinto.

VH: Yes – right.

DC: Say – going back – you said you met Suzuki. I’d like to get some picture of it. When was it?

VH: Uhm.. let’s see – what year did he die?

DC: December of ’71.

VH: Well, it must have been in the early 1970s. It seems like… I’m not certain of the year – but I know we got together again after I got back from India – went there for supper. Claude was living next door, and I met Suzuki and Mrs. Suzuki before dinner and we talked very briefly – not long conversations.

DC: Well, what impression did he make on you?

VH: Well, of course when I met him I knew how much respect Claude had for him – how important he was in his eyes - and he seemed to be very comfortable with everyone. He didn’t seem to be ostentatious and was able to talk to everybody, but not especially reaching out to anyone. So, I attributed some serenity to him and comfort with all his – with his very polite mob of Caucasians.

DC: [laughing]

VH: They were all so polite to him. But I didn’t really have that kind of energy.

We were at a couple of other occasions. Well, I saw him first at Sokoji where the Japanese Americans were talking and the Caucasians were chanting but other events I was at, I think he was there.

And later after Suzuki died we went to Yoshi’s and Mrs. Suzuki was there and some other people from Japan and maybe her son.

DC: Her husband’s son. She had a daughter, Harumi. That’s who she lives with now.

VH: Oh. In Japan?

DC: Yeah. In Shizuoka

VH: Anyway, I didn’t really hear him lecture.

DC: Alright. Well, and then you all got married in what year? ’73?

VH: Yeah

DC: Wow – yeah – and that’s when the twins were born!

VH: Yeah.

DC: That’s when my son was born.

VH: Oh, really?

DC: Yeah, ’73. My older son. and then you – and, you know, Claude was having less and less to do with Zen Center at that point – wouldn’t you say?

VH: No – he was very involved and he actually – let’s see, we got married and he was going to be a father – he wanted to be paid for the first time. People thought the end of the world had come when he asked for $400 a month.

DC: Ahhh

VH: Because he had always refused to be paid.

DC: Ah ha

VH: He got everybody on the volunteer – but, so he was involved – he was on the board as well as involved with the studies center and lectures in a room where people could talk.

DC: Oh Right.

VH: He gave lectures at least twice a month.

DC: And how long did that go on?

VH: That went on for several years – there was a sort of a mixed attitude about the studies center. Some people thought you just need practice, you don’t need to study was my impression. After Suzuki died, he felt a big commitment to stay on and help in the transition. Silas was still around in those days. That’s when I met Silas

DC: He was closest to Silas and was so when I arrived in 66. I can remember seeing them off to themselves talking. It was like – they were adults and were mature and calm and not ambitious, liked it simple.

VH: And when we had Diane and Laura we began to go to Zen Center partly because a lot of people were having children at about the same time. Ed Brown and Jack Weller and Lew Richmond and Amy. So, is Lew Richmond still married to Amy?

DC: Yeah. Jack Weller is still married to Mary.

VH: And Della’s Christmas Parties at Christmas time were a very nice event for a couple of years. There were several things that those of us who had children in those years got together and talked about. We were always sharing resources.

DC: We were there for a couple of years from late ’75. I did some childcare. Can’t remember much though.

VH: I was definitely interested in child care resources, but they weren’t very helpful in that – most of them did not work. But Amy Richmond was involved in setting up a resource center – a Jewish Community Center called Children’s Place that I think still exists, though in a different form.

VH: And Diane and Laura had a double stroller that we then gave to Norm Fischer. His wife had twin boys. It was a twin stroller. So we passed that on.

DC: And what were you doing at the time?

VH: Well, I was working – I was director of self-help for the elderly and then I came to be the executive director in the Tenderloin about 1983.

DC: Executive director of what?

VH: North of Market Senior Services, a service agency. And so between the children and work, I didn’t have much additional time- both jobs were like more than full time.

And Claude took things very seriously about Zen Center’s transition until after the Dick Baker scandal. And then he began to pull back. He had hung in there pretty hard but he didn’t much want to be a part of that.

DC: He kept some involvement – I remember being in a class with him with Reb in 1986 for people who might be involved in transmission and he got transmission.

VH: Well, he went to Japan -

DC: That’s when he got ordained in ’66, right?

VH: No, no – he went to Japan in – what was it .. ? I don’t know, 1990 something… Diane and Laura were in college. He was there for 3 weeks – completed what was necessary for transmission.

DC: He got transmission from Reb.

VH: Yeah, but I don’t remember. Part of the process was – could it have been Suzuki’s son?

DC:  Oh – maybe he did something with Suzuki’s son Hoitsu who’s his successor there.

VH: Claude was very concerned about Bill Kwong and his getting transmission and was trying to help that process along.

DC: You mean trying to get Dick to give it to him.

VH: Yeah and Dick didn’t want to.

DC: Right.

VH: As I remember.

DC: Right. That’s why Hoitsu Suzuki did it. In Japan. He did Bill, Mel and Les Kaye because things were sort of – you know – because Dick wouldn’t do it and they each had centers – Sonoma, Berkeley, and Los Altos – and needed transmission to be independent teachers and Hoitsu agreed. They went around Baker and got transmission in Shunryu Suzuki’s lineage from Hoitsu. Hoitsu told me he wouldn’t do that for anyone else who was his father’s student. I translated for someone who wanted to talk to him about that sort of thing and he made that clear. He gave transmission to Robby Pellet too but Robby’s his disciple.

DC note: Vera seems to be getting two events related here that I think aren’t. One is Kwong, Kaye, and Weitsman going to Japan to get transmission from Hoitsu. Kwong got it in 1978 so I think the other two got it at or near the same time. Then she’s talking about Claude going to Japan having something to do with his transmission and seems to be conflating that with his concern over Bill’s transmission. But Claude got transmission from Reb in something like 1989 or 90 and then went to Japan according to Vera to do something to finalize it. So that wouldn’t be to finalize it as it was already final. But remembering back to conversations with Claude, he several times made the point that Suzuki could never get the Soto Zen sect there to recognize his ordinations. Claude said he tried to register them and failed. So maybe he went to talk to Hoitsu about getting his transmission registered and saw that as a way to finalize it. And maybe talked to Hoitsu about getting Kwong et al’s transmissions registered with the Soto Shu too. He was always into the Japanese American congregation at Sokoji and thought Zen Center should be closer to them and maybe wanted some recognition from the Japanese side too.

VH: It was after Dick left that Claude went to Japan and somebody there – it must have been Suzuki’s son. And, of course, Claude spoke to Alan Watts and Alan Watts and his relationship to Zen Center came into play.

DC: Like what?

VH: Well, they weren’t interested in him for one thing. This was while he was still alive and Claude was still very much interested and on frequent occasions would go visit him and he was part of the Society of Comparative Philosophy.

DC: Well Watts died in 73 while Richard was abbot. Richard did his funeral at Green Gulch and I was his jisha.

VH: Yeah – and Claude. Yeah. But was active with that for six or seven years after Alan died. But that became very separate from Zen Center and so then when Alan Watts left his library to Zen Center – [laughing] – it was a problem. Zen Center didn’t want it and you told me it’s because they didn’t do archival things and my impression has been that they thought Alan Watts was too much a popular writer.

DC: Well – no, no, no – that wouldn’t be the reason they wouldn’t want his library.

VH: Well, they didn’t say that – I assumed I got that from Claude’s attitude.

DC: Yeah, Claude was all for doing anything he could to promote Watts and Zen Center was friendly but - it’s more of an individual thing – I mean Alan Watts’ importance and his role in establishing Buddhism in America is indisputable – his library would be important – it was probably because they felt they couldn’t properly take care of it and that it would be better off with the university.

VH: Well, they gave it to the California Institute of Integral Studies.

DC: Yeah – that’s a better place for it, I think, anyway.

VH: Eventually. But – it took a long time to find them and get them to agree to it. They were changing directors: and buildings and all sorts of stuff and so it took some time and during that time the books were in storage at Zen Center. And we still have – we have an awful lot of old tapes on Alan Watts.

DC: Well, why don’t you give them to his son, Mark, who has the Alan Watts archives? Though I’d imagine it’s just copies of what he already has. Mark Watts, you know, did the Suzuki Roshi audio tape archiving.

VH: He put out CDs of Alan Watts’ talks.

DC: Yeah.

VH: And one of Claud’s friends brought some to the convalescent home but he found it difficult to listen to more than one of them. They were the same programs as in the ‘60s, I remember – and ‘50s, listening to Alan Watts on Saturday morning on KPFA, his radio program.

DC: He was on KPFA, And he had a TV show on KQED and you know, Richard Moore, who founded KQED, I still see him – he’s in a retirement home and he always apologizes to me for putting Alan Watts on [laughing] because – oh, he – and I’d say, “No, no –that was a good thing – it was very important you did that”  - oh, I don’t know, because, you know – maybe he was around Watts too much when Watts was drunk or going after some woman. A number of people had critical feelings about Watts, but a lot of people really appreciated him. I did.

VH: Yeah.

DC: How important his role is – and Claude came out to the Bay Area, actually following Watts from Chicago, right?

VH: Yeah.

DC: So now when Claude started getting less and less involved with Zen Center, what did he do?

VH: Less and less?

DC: Uh hm

VH: I mean less and less, generally?

DC: Uh Hmm

VH: But it was – he didn’t want to be part of the board – that was the first thing he didn’t want to do.

DC: Uh hm

VH: And then he was active with the Northern California Buddhist Council for a few years. He was chartered into that group. And that was quite a conglomerate of Buddhists – Jerry Bolick was one of them.

DC: The librarian at Buddhist Churches of America.

VH: Yeah

DC: - He sees Claude some now (at the convalescent home).

VH: LaVerne Sasaki was also active with the group. He’s a priest at the Buddhist church –

DC: The Buddhist Churches of America? BCA? A man’s name?

VH: Yeah. And he was always calling on Claude to do things and calling on Claude to lecture and trying to get Claude to lecture there.


VH: Yes – and he did a number of times.

DC: I remember when Claude had what I would call a spiritual emergency – or not what I would call – what is called by some people, a spiritual emergence – or sometimes it’s called a one-time psychotic break or that sort of thing – like about 10 years ago or 12 years ago?

VH: Yes. Oh you were aware of that?

DC: Oh, well certainly.

VH: Well – you’d never get him to discuss it afterwards. I tried several times to get him to talk about it and he wouldn’t talk about it, but I knew he had talked about it at one Zen Center thing.

DC: Yeah – at the Disciples Meeting.

VH: Uh huh

DC: He came in the morning to a Disciples Meeting in Berkeley – this was Suzuki Roshi Disciples. And he said – he said he’d never had any spiritual experience, you know – and he kept hearing about it and nothing happened  and he said all of a sudden things started happening to him and he said it started off with this dog talking to him and that he got into having all these incredible visions and going into altered states of mind and I remember him talking about that and a lot of it he told just to me. I stayed with him a while when they went to lunch. He was only there for the morning part – and I remember afterwards people were very concerned about him.

And I said, “Hey – the guy is having classical sort of break throughs – spiritual experience, you know.”

VH: Having a psychotic break?

DC: Well, a psychotic break and a spiritual experience are often similar or close, like R.D. Laing called it a one-time psychotic break – and R.D. Laing said if it only happens one time, people just totally take care of themselves – all they need to be is – like, you know, watched over and protected – they don’t need any drugs, they don’t need any therapy – and he said if it keeps happening that then they can take mediation. And he said if people take responsibility for it and realize it’s something that’s coming from their own mind, then they can take care of it on their own. They just need support, right? But if they think it’s something coming from the outside, then it’s like paranoid and then there’s practically nothing you can do, because it will just – it tends to keep happening. But it seemed to me that Claude went through that, basically, once. Is that true?

VH: No. It was more than once.

DC: So – what would you say about it?

VH: Well, I’d say he had a psychotic break – a classical one in that he heard voices – he believed he could feel people over the telephone. He would tell me about people in wheelchairs he had been able to heal and they were walking again and he was doing this by some telepathy with his mind – that he was able to do that – and it also had things that were very scary. He would tell me people had called, who had not called.

DC: What’s scary about that?

VH: Well, no – he thought – he told a doctor that it seemed like Halloween had never ended there were so many things going on.

DC: Yeah. And how long did this go on?

VH:  That went on for about 2 weeks until we got him 5150ed.

DC: Yeah, he told me about that – he told me you sent him to a mental hospital.

VH: Saint Francis Hospital.

DC: And did they put him on medication?

VH: No, he refused everything.

DC: Uh huh . And how long was it before he was not having these sorts of experiences?

VH: Uhm – Well, he didn’t talk about them as freely – but he didn’t have another break where all that was going on for another five years. I could never get him to talk about it.

DC: Uh huh . He told me some about it, you know. I mean, I agree with you, of course, you’ve got to call it a psychotic break, but a lot of times those things are part of a person’s, you know – sort of like rebuilding themselves. You all have been involved with the Quakers – look at the history, the experiences of the founder of the Quakers – you know, it’s like he was totally psycho, you know, for a long time wandering from town to town having visions.

VH: You mean George Fox was psycho?

DC: Well he was having just incredible visions and experiences.

VH: This was a dramatic change from what he had been.

DC: Yeah – now did he ever recovery from that?

VH: Well, somewhat and then he had another one some years later.

DC: But I saw him a number of times later and he seemed fine.

VH: Yes. Usually.


Transcribed by Alice Prasetyoko and checked and edited by DC December 2017