Yehudah (Alan) Winter
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3-02-17 - Alan remembers Saturday mornings at Sokoji
On Saturdays, as I recall, we would do 2-3 sittings (I think 2) with a service and end with a breakfast. I always remember the raw egg that we’d crack over the hot white rice. Yummy, but certainly not anything I ate at my parents’ table. Then we would clean the zendo. One task was waxing and polishing the floors. it was great fun to go racing across the floor with a cloth, buffing it as we went. One time, several of us were washing dishes when Okusan came in and very seriously asked, “what you think of Suzuki Roshi.” We all started vigorously shaking our heads and acknowledging him as a very great teacher. Pregnant silence followed broken by her saying, "maybe good teacher, but not such a good husband.” We were shocked and no one said a word. I know I was still in the realm of thinking he had super human powers. That idea was broken when I was cleaning the baths at Tassajara and he came to use the private bath. After he left, I went in there to clean it and discovered it was a total mess. Suzuki Roshi a slob…impossible, yet there was the reality. The impression of his being above human foibles was totally erased when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. How could someone with such high spiritual power get something as disgusting as Cancer!?!
Nothing like a death to bring out the memories.
Tim Buckley was a drug addict before he found Zen. He was the real shoot ‘em up thing, having been into mainlining heroin. I’m taking this from memories of what Tim told me not from having seen him actually do any drugs. After all, I only knew him after he was doing Zen. One summer I heard or saw (since the description he gave me was like I’d been there when it happened) that he’d been stung by a scorpion. He was strolling near the old kendo, wearing Birkenstocks, when one of the more vicious scorpions native to the mountains of Big Sur got caught between his foot and his sandal. He did a cartwheel, which must have been quite impressive as he was a tall man, and hit the ground. He told me it was the greatest rush experience he’d ever had, far surpassing any shot of heroin he’d experienced.
I also drove Tim’s black, bubble-top Volvo back up to Zen Center from Tassajara at least once. The strongest memory I have was when I was driving Roshi up at night. He was asleep sitting up in the back seat. At one moment, I caught a look at his face in the rear view mirror, headlights bathing it in light. My thought was “how care worn he looks…those deep folds of skin in his forehead.” I can still see that image.
[In this interview Tim remembers Alan living in Jamesburg when we first bought Tassajara. He'd worked at Tassajara with the Becks and had suggested to Ed Brown that he do so. - dc]
Ed Brown wrote: My friend Alan Winter and I decided to attend meditation at the Zen Center in San Francisco. We had talked about it a lot, but now we were actually going.
Alan told me long ago at Tassajara that once he and Ed were way in the woods in Canada I think camping and they got in some spat and Alan said something like fuck you to Ed and Ed took offense and said, You said fuck you. It was to me. There is no one else here. I'm not going to talk to you anymore. And then, Alan said that Ed would not talk to Alan anymore and that they were way out there in the wilderness for another two weeks or something and Ed stuck to it. - dc
12-15-13 - Joanie and Yehudah (Alan Winter) are back in Uganda. Check out their Fundraising for Compassionate Listening Trainings in Rwanda and Uganda!
Their page on The Compassionate Listening Project
SR0020 - That's Alan on the far left with kitchen apron. That's Kobun, Shunryu, Li Gotami, Anagarika Govinda, Tim Buckley with camera on right. For all names see SR0019 in SFZC photo archive. Alan is not in that one.
Correspondence between Alan Winter and DC about early Tassajara
DC to Allen Yahudi Winter
I'm going over a little book on Tassajara History done in the 70s and 80s by a guest named Marilyn Doyle McDonald. I'm looking at the ZC part now. I think you were at Tassajara the summer before ZC bought it. Isn't that right? Like Ed? She says in her book more like a booklet that an overzealous student who'd been sent down right away upon purchase - that's Howard Campbell who was married to Jeannie - that he tore down the kitchen building without asking and that's why the new kitchen had to be built. Richard Baker confirms that Howard did tear down a building without ask which shocked him and Suzuki but he doesn't remember if it was a kitchen. But he says they were going to build a new kitchen anyway. I got there early - like February moving there in March and the kitchen was in that little building in back of the deck - the same one we used till the new one was ready in 1970. It seemed to be rather well worn and don't remember anything about it having to be thrown together quickly because the old one was torn down. As I recall, what was torn down was the end section off the old dining room which became the zendo. Maybe it was a separate building but it was on the same deck. There was an office back there behind that old dining room that was still functioning. I remember Peter Schneider using it. Anyway - if you were there as I remember - where was the kitchen? What was the end part of that building used for, the part right next to the courtyard that was torn down? Maybe it was part of the kitchen and the building by the creek we used till 1970 and the one torn down both had food prep uses. What do you recall?
AYW to DC
I’m a little confused trying to follow your description. I would direct you to Ed Brown who worked in the original kitchen and was there when it was torn down. But I know that Ed isn’t terribly good at responding to emails or even cards and letters. The short answer is, yes, it was the original kitchen that was used to cook for the guests.
By the time I came back to Tassajara, it was already torn down and I do not know the full story. I know that the kitchen we worked in was originally the kitchen and dining room for the staff. There was a small 4 burner propane stove in there and the dining room consisted of a small table with 4 chairs around it. I remember when Suzuki Roshi came to have a meal with the crew. Jim Cook, the bartender, had prepared for him a so called Zen-macrobiotic meal with brown rice and placed it before him. As the monks did in Phillip Kapleau’s book when he tells the tale of him serving them brown rice, Suzuki Roshi gave a disgusted look and pushed the bowl aside and reached over to a plate of hamburgers. With a greedy look on his face, he latched on to one and took a big bite out of it. I thought Jim would pass out! I saw this as one of Suzuki Roshi’s spontaneous lessons.
Enough of the stories. Somehow the cook stove that was originally in the big kitchen got squeezed into that little space and that’s what we cooked on until the new kitchen was completed which was awhile after I left Zenshinji. The zendo we used back then was the old dining room and next to it, on the pine rooms side, was a small attached building that housed the reception area and a store where we sold Zen Center shirts, etc. and the loaves of bread that we sold to guests. Now that you mention it, I believe there was a small office behind it where Peter or whoever was “in charge” had a desk. and filing cabinets.
If I knew how to do a drawing with the right function I could do a drawing, but the building torn down was definitely the old kitchen. Fortunately, the walk-in coolers weren’t town down as they were essential to keep food cold in the summer. I think I heard that one of those propane compressors was the cause of the fire the burned that whole area in the early 70’s. When I returned, the old zendo had been turned into a food preparation area.
A couple of stories have come to mind. The kitchen is the hardest place to work in a monastery. With Ed going through his crises, a lot of responsibility was heaped on my shoulders. I became the head cook and manager of the kitchen as well as the head baker. One day I lost it and punched one of the helpers in the face. Not knowing how to fight, I had tucked my thumb inside my fist and practically broke it. The guy I punched, I’ve forgotten his name at the moment but I know you knew him, was actually a trained boxer and could have decked me with one punch, but being aware of his abilities and to his credit, he didn’t touch me and my punch had barely fazed him.
Years later, when I was visiting as a “guest student,” I was given the job of preparing food. No one knew that I had been the head cook decades before. I was watching someone making a mess out of the vegetables he was cutting up. I very calmly asked if he’d like me to show him how to cut vegetables. He started screaming at me to shut up and leave him alone. I took a deep breath and smiled and didn’t say a word. Perhaps I was reversing the karma that I’d gotten for punching that guy so many years before. After all, I had a very sharp kitchen knife in my hand….
Thanks for contacting me and giving me a chance to relive our adventures now over half a century in the past.