photo by Lisa Law

Brief Memories
of Shunryu Suzuki,
Zen Center
back then, etc.

Emails from Jeri Marlowe with a brief answer from DC


I don't know if you will remember me, but I seriously remember you.  Long ago you and others used to crash at my house in Monterey on your way in and/or out of Tassajara.  Alan Marlowe was my brother-in-law.

A while ago I  joined a meditation sangha with Ed Sattizahn (and am good friends with Marsha Angus and her partner Christine) and in our readings and talks your name and website was mentioned so I decided to try and connect with you.  I realize I was pretty "background" during those visitations, but that is when and where my desire to study Buddhism began.  I now, finally, have a place to begin that long ago wish.  In between then and now I searched for the right place and finally found it with Ed, with stops at Siddha Yoga, and a few other places.

So here I am, and hi!  If you would like to connect that would be great, if not that's ok as well.

I hope you are well and happy.  The last few times I saw you was at Greens, you seemed to remember me then, or you were very polite.

I am also wanting to try and connect with Diane Di Prima if you know how and where. [Diane was married to Alan Marlowe]

Looking forward to hearing from you.
Jeri Marlowe


DC wrote back giving Diane Di Prima's contact info and letting her know about the fund to help pay Diane's medical expenses posted in What's New on April 19th and in the Ads section, and asking Jeri for any memories she had of Suzuki Roshi or anything else back then. She responded:


Hi David

So nice to hear back from you!  Yes I met Roshi a few times, both at Tassajara and Zen Center (no Green Gulch yet).

First, memories of you from 1970 or so!  You, Alan, Tommy Dorsey and others would frequently show up at my house in Monterey on the way out (or in) of Tassajara.  There was always a secret key left outside for you all should you need a place to crash. At that time, you had taken a 2 year vow of silence, and I remember laughing because, while you did not talk you still were the noisiest silent person ever!   My then 5 and 7 year old kids were baffled by your not speaking.  I did not have an answer that they really understood about why you didn't talk but I remember my oldest trying to get you to talk to him, and coming away frustrated. But I always knew where you were in the house because of your noise!

Additionally, It was always such a pleasure to have you all there as it gave me the opportunity to spend time talking and learning from each of you about Zen.  When we moved from Monterey to Hawaii I looked for a place to learn more, but no Zen Center existed there at that time so I did TM, which was a terrible experience as I felt like a robot, so I quit.  I learned about other ways of meditating as time went on.

 My first contact with Suzuki Roshi was at Tassajara, watching him direct Alan to endlessly move rocks, really big ones. Alan would have to move the same rocks over and over, at Roshi's direction and discretion.  We (Roshi and I) did not speak really, just an introduction. Later on that day I remember sitting at lunch with Alan, Roshi, and others.  I stayed silent, but could not move my eyes from Roshi's face.  I felt something indefinable, just sitting there. And I loved Roshi's smile, and his generosity of spirit.  As I was getting ready to leave I thanked Roshi for lunch and the beautiful day at Tassajara.  We bowed to each other.  His smile was radiant and went from the top of his head all through his body.

I moved away from the SF area for 5 years or so and when I returned  I met Alan at Zen Center to spend some time together. His brother and I had divorced but I tried to have Alan and his kids remain in our (my kids and I) lives.   I was once again invited to lunch.  This time with Roshi, Dick Alpert, Dick Baker, Alan and others.  Again, I sat in silence during lunch, wondering why I had been invited but again focused on "feeling" Suzuki Roshi's calm presence.  They were talking about "big" events, most of which I did not understand.  I asked Alan but, as I am sure you know, he lived on some other planet and his explanation was not clear to me.  I often wondered why, when he was dying, Alan was in Colorado with Trungpa, rather than in Zen Center.  I had lost touch with Alan for a long time but when I learned that he was dying I called him and in typical Alan form he brushed away my sadness and said the only thing he regretted was dying from lung cancer rather than AIDS," which was much more fashionable". I tried calling him the following week but he was no longer taking calls.  He died shortly after that last call.

So, David, take from this anything you'd like but mostly remember that, while we did not really know each other well, I always thought of you fondly.

All the best to you, and keep in touch


DC responded:

Yes, that's me. It was a six month vow of not talking that Baker Roshi put me on in 1972 after Suzuki had died. Everyone always says it was the noisiest vow of silence they ever heard.

I'm going to post your comments tomorrow. I love unique observations like yours.

I completely forgot that Alan had a brother. Remind me where you lived would you? I mean what street and what your house looked like.

I kept up with Alan till I moved to Japan. I talked to him about safe sex - he was coming on to everyone after a sesshin with Kobun Chino and I asked what, in light of the fact that his lover had just died of AIDS, what he was doing for protection and he said that his attainment was so great that he could neither get it or pass it on,

He died in Kobun's arms and his dying words you may not have heard, confirmed by several people, were, "The udambara taxi has arrived."

There was too Zen in Hawaii. The Diamond Sangha started there in Maui in the sixties and I'm not sure where else - Honolulu I guess.

Take care.