Bill Lane

11-06-04 - A memorial service for Bill Lane will take place at the City Center on Page Street in San Francisco on Saturday, Nov 27th at 3 pm.

10-03-04 - Our dear friend, Suzuki Roshi student Bill Lane, died last night at 9:35.

With him when he died were his sister Barbara, his daughters Sonja and Nevada and Nevada's husband Adrian Johnson, Bill's former wife Linda Lupo Wong and her husband Wilbur and a Fijian caretaker named Vili. Bill learned he had liver cancer last December and stopped treatment in August. There will be a ceremony at the City Center for him later which will be announced here. It may be as late as after Thanksgiving. Tony Patchell who has seen a lot of Bill in recent months is going to write something I'll put here in a couple of days along with an interview with Bill that I did about ten years ago. Bill and I have been quite close through out the years, even more so since he left Zen Center about six years ago and I am happy that I had a very intimate couple of hours with him a few days ago. I'll miss him. Gone gone, gone completely beyond. Go beyond Bill! - DC

Read the cuke interview with Bill Lane.

Bill Lane vignette in Zen Is Right Here

Read Tony Patchell's emails about Bill 

How Green Gulch Farm was aquired by SFZC - by Barrie Mason

DC comment: Bill was, as I recall, the first person from ZC to live at Green Gulch. He moved into what is now the office. In Barrie's story, she talks about how Bill had impressed Huey Johnson when he and Barrie lived on s Nature Conservancy bird sanctuary island. I remember Huey being blown away by Bill returning the unspent remainder or their tiny stipend. Bill was basically a strictly honest and forthright person. 

The Back Porch Zendo has the Bill Lane Memorial Library
Bill Lane was a friend and a Buddhist priest who served as the comptroller at Zen Center in San Francisco for many years.  He died last year of liver cancer.  Bill gave us his Buddhist Library as he was divesting himself of his worldly goods.  Over the years, Bill collected many classical Buddhist texts and some current writings and teachings of  Buddhist scholars.  Please feel free to sign out books from this extensive library. 

SF Rocked by Theft by Don Lattin - SF Chronicle

Thoughts on Bill by DC

Poor Bill - his temporary fall from grace destroyed him. He spent a lot time driving around the country and living with me after that. He said he'd jealously guarded ZC's cookies for years and one day started eating them and couldn't stop. He'd become a bad alcoholic - drinking a lot of hard liquor after work every day, going home where he had the bottom floor as I recall, drinking, going to sleep. He had unique work hours - arrived quite late and worked late. He had a bad body odor and I finally realized that it was because of the drinking. Bill had two completely different attitudes toward me. At City Center or Green Gulch he was untrusting and judgmental, would look at me with a scowl. Then we'd take a walk, maybe take the afternoon off - and as soon as we were out of the premises of the ZC he would be engaging and friendly - like another person. We'd always end up at some bar and have a few drinks.

We saw Alien at the North Beach theater opening day first showing at noon. We were so shook up after that we went across the street and had three margaritas before returning to ZC to get to work. I never saw Bill act bad or like he was inebriated. He did come to a board meeting where we made him treasurer again and he was uncharacteristically giddy. I thouht, he's drunk and they don't realize it. Or maybe he was in love - some sort of temporary insanity.

I can remember a board meeting not at a ZC place where all the board members went to a nice wholesome family restaurant and Bill and I went to a seedy bar and had some heavy meat something and three shots of Irish whiskey. I remember Tom Cabarga commenting, "If I went in there they'd beat me up."

Bill didn't get caught embezzling by the ZC. He confessed to Mel and maybe Norman as i recall - the two abbots at the time. He didn't want to confess but he had to. He'd been involved in a love affair with a female ZC priest. Either so in love he quit drinking or she was one of the people who got on him about his drinking and they fell in love after. I remember they went to Serenity Knolls in Forest Knolls where Jerry Garcia went and died. Bill said he'd just stop. And he did.

It was after that that that he and his lover took ecstasy together and in his open-minded, trusting-the-universe state, he shared his deep inner secret. The next day when they awoke in normal states of mind, she reminded him what he'd told her and asked what he planned to do about it. As he explained to me, he said he planned to make an anonymous donation to pay it back. She said he had to tell. He did not like that idea. She said, "Either you tell or I will."

After that their relationship ended as did his relations with others in the fold. He was disgraced and became a wandering lost soul, ending up frequently at my place. He didn't give in to temptation there as every evening my friend and old Suzuki student and former vintner Dennis Samson would drop by and we'd drink a couple of bottles of wine or more.

What disturbed Bill the most was an article in the WB a year or so after the fact naming him. A wealthy mutual friend I'd gotten involved with SFZC decided not to give to give anything again because of what he considered as a ZC indiscretion. He told Bill he could sue ZC for defamation because they'd never filed charges. Steve Allen let Bill stay in his New Mexico cabin on the condition that he didn't sue ZC.

Bill sold some stock and made about the same amount of profit as the amount he'd stolen and given back - 60K - and felt like the cosmos had forgiven him. But he didn't really recover his self-respect or will to live. He lived with me on and off for a total of nine months and we'd gotten along fine, mainly leaving each other alone a lot but having frequent interesting conversations. I refused to let him pay me anything - for two reasons: I didn't want him to start making demands and rules and I didn't really want him to live there - though we got along fine. But I gave him my office above the garage and I loved it and didn't want anyone else there permanently. Elin and I were living together though separated for a while that Bill was around but for most of it she'd moved out.

One day Bill, knowing I was always on the verge of financial disaster, insisted on giving me a check for 5k that I could pay back anytime so I accepted it - and paid him back when I sold the house. I remember he got pretty freaked out at the amount of alcohol I drank on a three day talk-a-thon Niels Holm, Steve Tipton, and I had - a yearly event in the nineties after I'd returned from Japan. We always did that early to late but after it Bill got nervous and asked me to sign something acknowledging the debt I owed him.

I sold the home, paid all the debtors (except for a few banks who'd gone crazy with unsecured loans), went to Asia for half a year, and was back at my new home in John Tarrant's barn in 2004 February. Bill called and told me he had inoperable cancer. He'd rented a home in Santa Rosa. From that point on he was uncomfortable with me and after a couple of visits told me not to come back to see him. I didn't care, was actually relieved, because the chemistry was no good for me either at that point and I had paid my dues. Tony Patchell spent a lot of time with Bill from then on and later Annette Lyle later and Bill's daughters and ex Linda were frequent visitors.

Toward the end of his life i visited him a few times and there was no problem. He was pretty out of it but would get up some. I hope he gave up his vengeful attitude toward the big shots in Bush Jrs. administration - for the sake of his transition into the next bardo. He said for what they'd done to Iraq before he died he'd like to see them - George W., Cheney, Rice among them, hanging from light posts on Pennsylvania Ave.

He said he'd started drinking again just a little. Why not? Not like before but some - and asked me to take the hard liqueur bottles away so I did - except at the last minute he decided to keep one that was half full. I never kept alcohol at home because I knew I'd drink it and I tended to work all day. But my new mate Katrinka who didn't drink was most non judgmental as I polished off Bill's bottles with no regard for the time - and kept working. They didn't last long. At the end of that year I quit drinking and all my friends were please - even the ones who were rather libertine. Bill would have been but he died a few months before my last drink.

I remember Bill and John Steiner working together early on at Tassajara, driving the Chevy pickup, picking up trash and recycling. He was a concentrated student. I was almost always the last person asleep at Tassajara. But I recall usually seeing Bill's light on - he'd read late. If I was fire watch I would leave him alone.

People liked Bill unless they were on the other end of his sometimes authoritarian style of being a treasurer and he was suspicious of something. He was straightforward, no nonsense. I called him a meat and potatoes guy. He liked to go have a standard American breakfast when the rest of us were eating brown rice cream with gomashio sesame salt. I made gomashio in Sebastopol and he looked down his nose at it. We used to go out and eat hamburgers or ribs. (I quit all that too - again)

He was well read and could be most helpful in getting things organized. Michael Katz told me that when he went to work at the SFZC bookstore at Fort Mason that he sat before a desk covered with an imposing assortment of papers to go through. He said Bill came over to help him, picked up one item and they dealt with it. Then Bill picked up another. Before too terribly long Michael sat at a desk with nothing more to do. In a related vein, Bill was a good proof reader.

Bill was into good solid movies. Did not like Woody Allen films (which I do). He liked a good B movie. We'd go see a double flick at a big old theater where we could sit in the smoking section and smoke away while watching - like a film with Bert Lancaster or Charles Bronson.

Bill's down-to-earth-ness was balanced by his passion for astrology and psychics. There was nothing too far-out for him to discuss. He'd do astrology charts and was into the details. He liked Richard Baker but said, "He's an Aries and sometimes they don't give others enough credit. They don't even believe they had parents."

He said to me, remembering what a psychic had told him, that this incarnation is like a vacation for him, that he's been lucky. He'd come to terms with his crime and punishment and was grateful for the whole schemer. I'm somewhat into the woo-woo myself and talk to Bill sometimes now that he's not here in the flesh. I say, "Hi Bill," mainly and leave it at that.

He knew his sports too, especially baseball which I knew nothing of. Grahame Petchey was over at the house and was talking about his time in Japan working for the sports equipment company Rawlings. He mentioned a baseball player who was in the office with him and said something like, "he'd played short stop with the New York Yankees." Bill immediately countered with, "Second base."

I had this dream last night where I'd come upon one of Norman Fischer's sittings or meetings that was just getting over and I didn't see Norman, just a lot of old SFZC students walking out in pairs. He has a lot of old SFZC students but I'm not sure which ones and so the cast of characters, though real figures in my past, were not at all necessarily students of his in waking life (or as Ramana Maharshi called it, Dream One). Peter Rudnick was near the end of the line and we hung out some and Bill Lane was walking next to someone - I can't remember who. It might have been Peter Van der Sterre or maybe Michael Wenger. I mentioned to whomever I said this to, "Oh it's nice to see Bill Lane here,"and he said, "Bill Lane's not here. He died." I said, "Yes I know, but he's here and was walking right next to you."