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
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.
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
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
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
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
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."