Ms. Della Goertz—12/21/76
SABIRA: Della, what do you recall about meeting Samuel Lewis?
DELLA: When I met him? I think it was in about 1953. I was attending lectures and classes at the Academy of Asian Studies, and also I was taking a Semantics course at State College and would talk to Sam in the class.
SABIRA: He was in both classes?
DELLA: Yes. We were going to both places at that time.
SABIRA: What do you recall about him? What memories do you have of those first meetings?
DELLA: I thought that he was very interested in the things that I was interested in: Asian thought and Semantics and I thought that he had a lot to offer.
SABIRA: In what way?
DELLA: I think he had already been to Japan, and I think he had initiation with priests and—
SABIRA: Did you talk about the things that you were mutually interested in?
DELLA: He would do the talking, I would just listen, because he had a lot to say.
SABIRA: What did he talk about?
DELLA: It's pretty hard to say specific things. I don't know how to—
SABIRA: You have some things written on your pages. What do you remember about what you talked about? Did he discuss world affairs or pet projects?
DELLA: I think he was very much interested in world affairs; he was interested in the problem of starvation. And I think he was working on a project with people who—I think he needed their help, though to help him get this started, helping, I think, improve the soil in India—
SABIRA: Right, those were some of his major interests. Did he talk to you about these things?
DELLA: Yes, but I don't think that he got off the ground with it too much. He was working in Asia on it with people, and I think that he was trying to get some help here.
SABIRA: Did he talk to you about his rejections and frustrations?
DELLA: A great deal of that—and I began to feel he was almost hypersensitive, that they weren't all that—people weren't against him I didn’t think, but he felt that he didn't get the audiences he wanted sometimes with people, or a chance to talk or given the floor enough, and I think that when he raised his hand, he would always be listened to. Sometimes he would go on much longer than most people when he did have a chance to talk.
SABIRA: What was it like at the American Academy of Asian Studies.
DELLA: He was there much before I was there, because he was there on Sansome Street and was in the very early meetings, and he knew the people who came over, from India to be on the faculty. He often talked about them, and I think he told me that they weren't treated as properly or with respect as they should be, and I know that he felt that he wasn't listened to by the president or the people in charge of the hiring or being put on the faculty.
SABIRA: Do you mean at the American Academy?
SABIRA: What do you remember about Alan Watts, or Spiegelberg or Landau—anything in connection with Sam?
DELLA: I think he was very much involved with all those people, but I am not sure what his relationship was with Rom because—I guess it was because that was both their fields. I know Sam was very much interested in the courses that Rom taught, but that wasn't my field so much. I was taking Buddhism and India courses, so I didn't take any of Rom's classes.
SABIRA: What classes were you in that Samuel was in?
DELLA: I think it was mostly the public lectures. He attended the public lectures, and that was every Friday night, and I know I never missed, and Florrie and I, we always went there, and that's where I got very I acquainted with Florrie and Sam.
SABIRA: Did he ever lecture at the Academy?
DELLA: No, not that I know of.
SABIRA: So you would attend the public lectures, and then what would you do afterwards? How did you get to know him?
DELLA: There is a great deal of question and answer period afterwards, and we'd often—I don't think I was driving in those days—so we often went on the #22 together, we'd leave together and he'd walk to the bus line with me.
SABIRA: What was he like, as a man, as a person?
DELLA: I thought he seemed very healthy and he always just amazed us by telling of his real age, and we would always think he was probably in his fifties, and he was telling us he was about 65 or so, and he seemed to have some secret for renewing his vitality or keeping himself healthy.
SABIRA: What year are you speaking of?
DELLA: '53, or in the 60's—
SABIRA: In '53 he would have been 57.
DELLA: So he really was that then already.
SABIRA: He was born in 1896.
DELLA: I was thinking maybe then I thought he was maybe about 40 when he was 50—because he was very young looking, and everyone was surprised when he did tell his exact age, because he seemed so energetic and so limber. I know he danced a lot, and he would hike a lot and walk a lot, and I couldn't keep up with him. He would always tell us, though, how to walk without getting tired, how to walk up the hills in Chinatown without getting breathless by breathing the right way.
SABIRA: You said he talked a lot about general Semantics, and Korzybski. What happened in Hayakawa's classes and—
DELLA: He always talked, I think, very scientifically about Korzybski and Semantics, and he would—it was a high level of verbalizing Semantics.
SABIRA: What direct things do you remember? Like—see what we are looking for are personal incidents that might have happened, like say, what do you remember about say Hayakawa's class? What might have occurred that you could—
DELLA: 1953 was some twenty-thirty years ago, and I really can't remember anything specific. I don't even remember the general title of the class. I suppose it was just an introduction to Semantics. It was my first class, but just talking about the non-verbal always got Sam interested too, because he knew that the real is unspeakable and non-verbal, and I think that’s how I got quite interested in wanting to further study Buddhism and Hinduism. And he was already pretty much of a scholar, I think, and respected for his thinking. I don't know if statistically he had any degrees, but I think in an honorary way he was respected for some kind of great wisdom that he had.
SABIRA: How did you feel about him? What was his personality like?
DELLA: He was very alive and very energetic, and he would cue you in and you really didn't have to do anything. If you were in his presence, he liked to talk, and he would do the talking, and you would almost have to interrupt him if you wanted to say, or get something in, or ask him. And of course if you were careful he would think you were asking something very stupid, and say you didn't understand.
SABIRA: What do you mean here? What do you mean on this sentence? It starts with "unspeakable," can you talk a little bit about that.
DELLA: That's just what I was referring to now, I think words aren't it, and always talking around it and it is never It, if you try to talk about—oh, the truth I guess. I always felt really stimulated, though, when I was in his company, because I think one has experiences with other people. I think he had it—had a closeness with great teachers in Japan, because he came back and went off and would say the ceremonies that he had gone through, and the acceptance that he had over there, and they treated him like a Zen Master, and I think that is what he expected from Suzuki Roshi, but I'm not sure Suzuki Roshi gave him that—I think he wanted initiation from Suzuki Roshi, but I don't think that Suzuki Roshi gave him initiation.
SABIRA: Did this happen after he returned from Asia the first time?
DELLA: Oh I don't know—he made so many trips back and forth, I really don't know. He was going almost every two or three years it seemed like—to one country or another, around the world—
SABIRA: Right, he went twice actually in 1956 and then in 1960-61.
DELLA: Is that all? I thought he went more.
SABIRA: I don't believe so,. What else do you remember about Suzuki Roshi?
DELLA: I think that Suzuki Roshi welcomed everybody; he was glad—I know that Sam would come very early in the morning and sit with us at ten to six. He came quite a distance; he would even walk from where he lived over on Minna near Mission.
SABIRA: Do you remember when this was, what year?
DELLA: Let's see, Roshi came in '59, so this would be the early '60's.
SABIRA: I see.
DELLA: Yes, very early 60's, Sam sat with us. Then later—oh he was telling me that I was sitting too much, and just sitting there wasn't—I wasn't going to get it just sitting there.
SABIRA: How did that make you feel?
DELLA: I thought I was still going to keep on trying. I liked Sam's way too, but—
SABIRA: What was Sam's way?
DELLA: Oh, I guess I couldn't get it—not talking I guess, or doing, I suppose.
SABIRA: When he said that you were just sitting, what did he expect you to do? Just what did he suggest?
DELLA: He didn't; he just felt that that was sort of wasting your time, being too involved in sitting. I am sure he realized that there was some value in this calming feeling that you do get, so I don't think he criticized too seriously, although, he knew how I felt about Suzuki Roshi, I was going to stay, and I was very fond of, very, very fond of Suzuki Roshi, so nothing could ever stop me from attendance—
SABIRA: Did he then stop coming to the Zen Center?
DELLA: Yes he did, he stopped a great deal. I tried to encourage him to come just for the lectures, so for a long time he would come to the lectures, but not the sitting part. I think he had audiences or interviews with Suzuki Roshi that weren't what Sam wanted. I think Sam really wanted like some kind of transmission—whatever that means—but being especially ordained—I think that that is what it is, ordained—in a special way.
SABIRA: Do you know if Suzuki Roshi accepted the different ordinations that Samuel had in Asia.
DELLA: At that time, I am not sure I could say; I have a feeling that he didn't, because I think it was a different sect. I think Sam's was—of course it wasn't, I'm sure it wasn't the Soto Zen, Suzuki Roshi's way—because I know that Sam used to talk about how they were very different branches of Buddhism, so I think that was probably it.
SABIRA: Suzuki Roshi is, is the Rinzai?
DELLA: No, no, there are two main sects of the Zen: the Rinzai and the Soto, and I think that Sam would be more of the Rinzai, and other master—I'm sure it wasn't Soto Zen so much. Soto is sort of the sitting Zen, and the Rinzai is just the Koan, and I think that Sam is really full of koans, and he would give you those koans too, and he was really bright and brilliant with them.
SABIRA: Did he give you any?
DELLA: No, but just in ordinary conversation he would say things were a Koan or something that sounded kind of nonsensical or silly, but yet it would have something very deep and great and meaningful about it.
SABIRA: Do you remember any of those?
DELLA: No, I don't—
SABIRA: Because in later years he appeared to teach by everyday life; he would read something from the paper maybe.
DELLA: I was there—
SABIRA: Then that would be a, as you say, a Koan in a sense—
DELLA: That's really the Soto way too. Everyday life presents a koan, there is a koan every day.
DELLA: That's what Suzuki Roshi used to say, "Everything we do is a Koan," and if you just do it masterfully, masterfully that would be it, solving your Koan.
SABIRA: So in that way he and (Suzuki Roshi would have gotten along then?
DELLA: Yes, but I do think that Sam's initiations in Japan were of a different sect than the Soto.
SABIRA: I believe there were several different ordinations of different sects, because he didn't see any difference, there was just—he just seemed to, at least according to his diaries to completely accept them (both talking here)—
DELLA: I don't think there was any difference, and I think that in Sam's way of thinking, too, I don't think he divided religion or life into categories like that either.
SABIRA: Was he also put down then by Alan Watts?
DELLA: Oh very much so.
SABIRA: Do you remember how?
DELLA: At that time Alan Watts was the president of the Academy, so I think that Sam wanted to be on the lecture list, and especially after his returns from travelling. No, I don't think Alan Watts gave him permission to lecture from the stage.
SABIRA: Do you remember in what ways Samuel might have changed from the time he want to Asia the first time, that would have been '56, and then came back? Do you remember any changes specifically in him?
DELLA: All I can remember, I think, is that the young people were liking him and he had great respect, and the only hope is the young people, and of course, I being an older person, I guess, he didn't come around with our group so much. He just had his own little group and he was always very busy with them, because I remember that sometimes I would ask him to come, and there was something I was going to do, and he just never had the time to visit or come over. He even helped me with gardening before all of this. He liked to come over and help me.
SABIRA: This would have been early—in the early fifties then?
SABIRA: Was this, was this the time that he was making money as a gardener?
DELLA: Yes, he was making money as a gardener, and he would come in and clean out my garden and clear up and do things for me.
SABIRA: You say here that you went several places with him like restaurants and the ballet and Gavin Arthur's—would you like to comment on some of those things?
DELLA: He just liked to do things, enjoy himself; if the ballet was in town or a good play, he would. like to go, and sometimes I would go with him.
SABIRA: What was that like?
DELLA: He would enjoy it very much.
SABIRA: When you went to these things, could you describe them as dates, perhaps, or going out with him. Or was it not like that?
DELLA: It just seemed like he would just have two tickets or something and I don't know if someone gave them to him or what, he would just say, "I have two tickets for the Bolshoi ballet, would you like to go?" And I would go, or somebody would give him tickets and maybe he would share them.
SABIRA: Did he ever appear to be romantically interested in you, or anyone?
DELLA: No, not really, I know when he came back from India he thought that he was—that he had found somebody that really liked him—and he loved her, and he was going to go back, or she was going to come here—I wasn’t sure which—and he was going to get married.
SABIRA: Do you remember her name?
DELLA: No I don't.
SABIRA: Did he show you pictures?
DELLA: Yes, I think I have her picture, because it was like a postcard, like she was a movie star or somebody that was already quite prominent, so I might find it, I don't know.
SABIRA: That would be very interesting—
DELLA: Would it?
SABIRA: Yeah, because we are trying to gather information as to whether Samuel ever in fact did have any romantic interests. So far we haven't come up with anything, but anything like that would be great. It would be interesting for us to have.
DELLA: I know that we were very friendly but it really wasn't on any kind of sexual basis.
SABIRA: What about Gavin Arthur's; what did you all do there?
DELLA: Gavin Arthur's was one of those things that I guess people call, I guess, pads, because his place was always running around with young people, and Gavin—and his house was so—I think they lived together at one time—
SABIRA: Right. Next door to one another—
DELLA: Which they shared on Clementina, and his house, the walls were just papered with things that had happened in the the society and contemporary world, were just full of celebrities and current people—
SABIRA: His pad or Gavin's?
DELLA: Gavin's, and Sam was always sort of happy to show you Gavin's place where he lived, and I noticed when he introduced me to Gavin, it was nice that I could be able to meet the grandson of a President, but he was happy to introduce me to him—and also Varda—the one who lived in Sausalito, a friend of Alan Watts. I know he introduced me to him once when we were at a play, and he was very happy when he could let you know that he knew many people 'and that he'd like to have you meet them.
SABIRA: Do you remember in what ways Samuel was looked down at at the Academy, any specific instances?
DELLA: What I recall now, he might have come over what we would say egotistical—but I am sure that he wasn't really egotistical but he came across that way a little bit, and that really isn't the way that a great saint or a teacher really comes across, or shouldn't—I don't think should come across, because they have to be very humble and—but Sam didn't come over as being too humble. Maybe in his later life he did.
SABIRA: I think that he did later, but at this point in the middle '50's, probably not.
DELLA: You see; he was a little too pushy, and that turned people off a lot, and they—because he kept always talking about other people being like that way, great big egos or something, but he came across that way too.
SABIRA: So he couldn’t see it in other people?
DELLA: No, no he couldn't see it in others, or couldn't see it in himself.
SABIRA: Couldn't see, yeah, couldn't see it in himself. Do you have any stories to tell about that?
DELLA: My memory is not too great, that is why I decided to jot these things down ahead of time, because I do not remember too much detail. The Sufi things, or even exact stories I could tell, it was just general things that we did.
SABIRA: What about the annual Chinatown luncheon you have down here? On his birthday, what were they like? Who was there?
DELLA: That was very nice, he would pay for the luncheon and he would—I know Joe Miller was one of them, and Richmond I think has passed away—
SABIRA: Yes, Ted Reich?
DELLA: Yeah, Ted Reich was there, and then we would tour Chinatown after lunch and visit the museums, Ching Wah Lee's museum, and—
SABIRA: This was in what year?
DELLA: Oh, we did that for several years, but I guess not the ones—
SABIRA: So he would pay for it, he would pay—and then would he also order at the same time?
DELLA: Yes, he would do all the ordering and all the planning, and we didn't always go to the most expensive. He always had a favorite one, it was some place on Washington off of Grant, and it was always very good food; it was always family style and we liked it and we had a good time, we were always told ahead of time that he wanted us to come, that he wanted to take us to lunch for his birthday.
SABIRA: Who else would have gone to those parties: you said Ted, and Joe Miller and yourself.
DELLA: I remember that—
SABIRA: Was Vocha Fiske one of the People?
DELLA: I think she was, and then there was another couple—another woman, I can't remember—he knew her from—oh I forget her name—I can't remember too many of these peoples' names—
SABIRA: Oh, that's okay. You mentioned here something about Spiegelberg—would you put that down for the tape; it's interesting.
DELLA: Sam, when he would come off on these questions/answers, he gave out a lot of information—I guess, spontaneously, and sometimes I know I heard Spiegelberg say that his mind was just like a wastebasket crumpled up with little bits of facts here and there, and lots of facts, he would come out with a terrible lot of information, and he didn't think that it was as organized as it should be. He compared it to a wastebasket crumpled up with papers.
SABIRA: That's very accurate—that's what Spiegelberg said about Sam?
SABIRA: Do you think so?
SABIRA: I don't know, but that's what has come through from other people—
DELLA: That's somewhat like all of us, until—I don't know—
SABIRA: What did you feel about Sam? How'd you view him? It says here, "However I thought Sam had something—and respected him for it." What did he have, what did you respect?
DELLA: I think his great gift of having something there that we didn't have, caught something that was real and he was trying to share it with us, and trying to give it to other people. I think he was very sincere and very honest. There was nothing; he was utterly natural and he came across a little bit too strong sometimes by being sort of natural, and he wasn't—it didn't come out polished like a lot of people do, but yet I think he was very accurate.
SABIRA: Why do you think he was like that? Why didn't he polish himself? Do you have any feelings any impressions, any reasons why you think that he didn't?
DELLA: I don't really know too much about his formal education. I don't know if he had a lot, but, or maybe he did it for effect. When you come off strong, you give of the attention of people and he did know how to sort of startle people, and sometimes he did it for kind of an effect, to wake people up and to let you know that he had something to say, and that it was true.
SABIRA: Did he have that effect on you?
DELLA: Yes, but I didn't mind, I kind of liked it. I would rather have people that are spontaneous and talk right off the top of their heads than pussy-footing and not really saying much of anything.
SABIRA: Tell me something, Della; did he make sense to you?
DELLA: Sometimes he did and sometimes he didn't, but then I felt that it was more or less my fault that I didn't, if I didn't understand it or didn't appreciate him entirely, although I think that I did appreciate him even though and sort of valued his friendship, and I was always glad to see him or welcome him if he could visit with me, or if ever I saw him anyplace we would always stop and chat a bit, say "hello," just like real friends would. And he would call me on the phone, and I was always glad to take the time and visit with him.
SABIRA: Did you attend any of the parties at Precita when he moved there?
DELLA: Yes a few of them.
SABIRA: What was that like?
DELLA: There were so many people that I didn't know then, and he seemed very, very busy, and getting involved with more and more people, that I didn't know, but I think that he invited me because I just was an old friend, and he wanted me to meet some of the people.
SABIRA: Do you remember who you met?
DELLA: Joe Miller and his wife, who was very active. He would sing and talk and participated probably in the entertainment, and, but he always seemed to be having more of these other people. I like the Sufis, and I didn't really know hardly any of them.
SABIRA: You have something down here about Dr. Blanche Baker; what were these seminars like?
DELLA: She offered her home when he came back, and I think that he wanted to do it at the Academy of Asian Studies, and he couldn't do it there, but she opened her home on Saturday nights for—I think it was Saturday nights once a month. We went out there and Sam would tell about his experiences and the people that he met and—
SABIRA: How was that received?
DELLA: Great! Many people came from down the peninsula and everybody really liked it and they felt that Sam was really giving a lot, and they would would come up and ask him a lot of questions, so he was quite popular at that time; but then I think that Blanche Baker got very ill and passed away, And that kind of put an end to that. She got very ill, and I know he tried to help her, or help her find the right doctor, but I think that kind of bounced and he couldn't save her either.
SABIRA: He had a great deal of respect for her.
DELLA: Yes, he did.
SABIRA: The seminars, then, did people believe him?
DELLA: Yes, I think that they did.
SABIRA: Who would he invite?
DELLA: I think that Florrie used to go, but I can't remember the people.
SABIRA: What did he do, did they have like posters announcing them or—
DELLA: No, it was just like I think Sam would send a postcard to me or—
SABIRA: Oh, I see—
DELLA: He would just word-by-mouth say that "I am giving this," sort of like a little "in" group, sort of private, it wasn't anything public, ever.
SABIRA: That's what I was wondering about.
DELLA: I don't think that he ever gave public lectures, I really don’t think he did.
SABIRA: You have something here about "He amazed people by pretending to be Krishna." Would you tell the tape about that?
DELLA: I know that one of my friends who really didn't think too highly of him, they felt he was really kind of mixed-up, but he really was Krishna. "I am so glad that I came tonight, because this was really, I was so impressed." He really did impress everybody the way he played that flute and sounded so high and sweet and lovely, and even his whole body—everything looked like was not his regular self, he was somebody else.
SABIRA: Where did these take place? Were these in—at Dr. Bakers?
DELLA: At my house.
SABIRA: Oh at your house!
DELLA: I used to have a Christmas party—I still do it—every year I have all my Zen friends and all the friends I know come, and even at the last year that Sam was alive—it was around Christmastime when he passed away, he was very ill—I had called his house seeing if he couldn't come to my party, because he had come every year before. I couldn't get any information, I didn't know he was even that ill; the person who answered the phone said that he was too busy to go anyplace—and he was too busy, I guess—being ill.
SABIRA: Right. Let's see, when did he fall—I think Dec. 29 or something like that—and then he died Jan. 15, 1971 and—
DELLA: The parties I usually gave were one of the New Years' parties—
SABIRA: That would fit—
DELLA: It was after Christmas.
SABIRA: Right. But when he did do the flute of Krishna, it was at one of these parties?
DELLA: Yes, one of these parties.
SABIRA: And how would this happen? Would somebody say, “Get up and do it?"
DELLA: I think that everybody was just doing something, sometime, so he would just get up and do something.
SABIRA: Did you ever tape it?
DELLA: No, I didn't tape in those days. That would have been great.
DELLA: I wasn't even taping ,when Suzuki Roshi was around. It makes me Ill to think if I could just have his voice, or even Sam on a tape would be nice.
SABIRA: And he helped you to type your papers?
DELLA: Yes he did, and he would come—when I was giving parties he would come over and decorate with me, because he had a flair—he would bring the flowers and plants too. He knew I liked flowers a lot, and he had a feeling for art and he knew just how I should arrange this horn of plenty. I remember one time we were making a horn of plenty at Thanksgiving time and he would yell at me to get it just right, to get the decorations just right.
SABIRA: You got a lot of letters from Sam—some very angry and critical of me (ourself?) and others. Do you remember about those?
DELLA: That was I think when he was getting his little group started—in other words, when he was really getting very active—and Suzuki Roshi did not give him—ordination—and I think he was getting a little disillusioned with Zen, and I think he had a higher way, he thought, that I should know about and that I should be doing.
SABIRA: So that's what it means by the "angry, critical letters?"
DELLA: Oh yes, and then I would get these letters, and they were tirades—they were really upsetting a little bit because I liked him as a friend, but I didn't like him to be criticizing my—what I thought was my way—I thought he would at least accept me the way I am, and not condemn me, and tell me that I am just wasting my time, that I am lost and I thought he was a little harsh. I think he could be harsh with people, that's what I couldn't understand about Sam entirely, that he would get very critical of people that would differ with him. But I suppose in the end, though he realized that there was room in the world for everybody, that everybody was on their way in a certain way. But I think he could be harsh with people. And I know he believed that karma would—oh, everyone would suffer.
SABIRA: You said you went to visit your mom and that he sang opera on the way back, what do you remember about that?
DELLA: He was great. It was just fun, a real fun trip.
SABIRA: What did he sing?
DELLA: I can't remember, Carmen, and every popular one that I knew—I didn't know too much about opera—but he could just sing all of the overtures and the arias. He was just really good.
SABIRA: Did he have a good voice?
DELLA: Yes, he did, he really could sing. I really enjoyed it. First he would ask did I mind, but I didn't mind at all, but he did singing all the way home.
SABIRA: What did he—you said something here about—he wanted to see your horoscope—what was that about?
DELLA: I don't know much about astrology myself, but anyway they say that if you are born a certain time you—or under a certain influence—you can be more funny with people if they are this complimentary kind or of the same type, I don't know, but he didn't—he wanted to see if he thought my horoscope could be similar or we could be very romantically inclined, but he said that it didn't show in the horoscope that we would be romantic. I thought it was amusing and interesting. I even felt kind of flattered that he even felt that way. I always felt that there was greatness in Sam, that he would always be very great.
SABIRA: This is just kind of on the side, but in one of our interviews a person said that in the Academy days they remembered one time when Sam was sitting bolt upright in the chair—
DELLA: He always sat that way—
SABIRA: Can you tell us a little more about it, because they didn't remember much about it.
DELLA: Sam always sat in the front row and I always did too, I liked to sit up there—and he—there wasn't aver a meeting I don't think that he didn't get himself known or got up to talk. He was very much a part of any meeting; he wasn't ever one to take a back seat, and sometimes he would pose some very difficult questions, and I think that's how he kind of annoyed people sometimes. I don't know if by talking out in a very critical way especially about Westerners that seemed to—that they don't know a lot about Asian studies—or Europeans, he always criticized the Europeans. They didn't know nothing or anything.
SABIRA: And do you remember him ever sitting almost in a trance, like bolt upright in his chair? Do you remember any kind of incident like that?
DELLA: No—yes and no, because he could always—you felt his presence when he was in a room, because he wouldn't slouch like the rest of us, he was always very erect and I think he even stood that way, erect, or stood up very erect, and you felt an aura and a power that he had. He was very strong, very, very strong person, I guess, with strong dislikes and likes.
SABIRA: What were some of his likes and dislikes?
DELLA: Not getting enough attention I think. People didn't listen to him enough. He had a lot, he wanted to give; I was always glad—I think at the end he got what he wanted. I think that he got people to listen to him and he had followers and he had respect, and I guess there is still quite a real organization around Sam, and I think—I'm sorry I missed them—I understand there are memorial services sometimes or—I remember Vocha Fiske used to—
SABIRA: I can tell you about that when the tapes off—
DELLA: She was living here—
DELLA: And she went to them, and I thought, "Oh I wonder why I don't get invited, but nobody knows me."
SABIRA: We'll invite you right now.
DELLA: Vocha would go and she talked a great deal about Sam. They were good friends.
SABIRA: Alright, it's going to be January 15, and I don't know where yet, but I'll let you know, how's that?
DELLA: I'd be very happy to go.
SABIRA: It's every year and we call it an Urs and it is just a yearly—what we call celebration—of his death-
DELLA: I know a few years ago Vocha was standing over at Zen Center lobby; she was waiting to be picked up.
DELLA: by Sam's group, and "Oh gosh, I should be going," but I didn't know them—
SABIRA: Perhaps you can go this year. We'll let you know, where it is going to be or I could tell you. It will be January 15, which is a Saturday night.
DELLA: That should be a good night.
SABIRA: Right. Okay. I how would you summarize Samuel?
DELLA: I wasn't too surprised when he passed away, they called him a saint and a sage. I guess he was.
SABIRA: Why do you say that you weren't too surprised?
DELLA: Because I always believed in him, the things he was saying and trying to do. I am just glad that he had this recognition, and I think that that is all he needed was to have people believe in him, and know that he had something to teach.
SABIRA: Did you believe in him?
DELLA: I know I did, I believed in him, but I was getting so involved with Suzuki Roshi and Zen Center, that I couldn't go his way, be with him or be with his group as much, but he always invited me, he thought it would be very good for me to go to dance with him because he had his dance groups, and he invited me to come, but I was just so busy with the Zen Center that I didn't go this groups, his meetings.
SABIRA: So then when was the last time that you saw him alive?
DELLA: I would think some time during that year that he passed away. I don't know what we did, but I was in touch with him all—enough to be calling him now and then, and I remember sending him Suzuki Roshi's book, "Beginners Mind…." and wanting him to read it, and he wrote me—and at that time he was so busy I didn't write the letter. He—even somebody wrote me in the letter, to thank me.
SABIRA: He had a couple of secretaries by that time.
DELLA: By that time, yes, and they thanked me for the book, that Sam had received the book, and thank you. And at that I knew he was getting very, very busy and did not have enough time to write to me personally like he used to—
SABIRA: I did you go to his memorial service?
DELLA: No I didn't; I felt very badly that I didn't know it; I was teaching school and I didn't ask for the day off, or a half day off. Later I thought, "I wish I had asked for the day off," because I heard how lovely it was, and I felt badly, but I never go to funerals very much, anybody's.
SABIRA: So after he started working with the young people he didn't see much of his old crowd?
DELLA: No. Or not me, anyway.
SABIRA: I don't think that he did with any of the people that he had known earlier.
DELLA: I know his job was his excuse, "I am too busy—"
SABIRA: That was the truth—
DELLA: Yes, it was the truth—but I am glad he got your help and your support. I am just happy that I have been able to have a friendship with him that did last for several years until he did get involved with his Sufi group.
SABIRA: I his vision in 1967 was that in order to become known or to have his theories accepted was that he had to work with the young people, so that is how that developed.
DELLA: I think all the great teachings are that way, because Zen Center is mostly young people too.
SABIRA: It is there for anyone who wishes it, but the young people came along and just conned it up, they were ready for this kind of truth. Do you have anything more to add to the tape?
DELLA: No, I don't; I can't think of anything much.
SABIRA: You were telling me about Paul Reps, Della?
DELLA: Yes, I wondered if you had had an interview with Paul, because I met Paul through Sam and we have become good friends, and Reps has made a lot of pictures—
SABIRA: I thought I recognized the pictures on the wall—
DELLA: And when he comes to Zen Center he visits with me, and they had a very long and close relationship, Reps and Sam—
SABIRA: Do you know anything about it? The relationship?
DELLA: Not too much except they had a correspondence for many years, and when Paul would come to San Francisco, Sam would always spend time with him and that is where I met him.
SABIRA: Does Reps speak to you about Sam?
DELLA: Yeah, I know he does. l I think that they both had a lot going in Los Angeles together, I think they studied the same Zen masters—
SABIRA: Nyogen Senzaki?
DELLA: Yeah, Senzaki, yeah. I heard about that—
SABIRA: What have you heard about that?
DELLA: How they spent a lot of time, I guess, visiting or studying or sneaking at that temple or—I don't remember too much but I just know that Buddhism, I think, drew them together.
SABIRA: Did Samuel ever speak to you about Senzaki?
SABIRA: What did he say?
DELLA: I think that he was one of his first teachers here, and Sam studied with him—and they had a Mentorgarten or garden over where—a meeting place?
SABIRA: That's where Wali Ali lives, and the name came, as far as I know, from Senzaki—from Senzaki's Mentorgarten or zendo—
SABIRA: Mentor garten—teaching garden—
DELLA: I know Sam was in the very beginning, when his interest in Buddhism first started—he was studying with that L.A. priest, I remember Sam was very impressed, and I think that Sam gave me a few little pamphlets by Senzaki.
SABIRA: Yell you were going to look for a picture for me? would you like to look for that before we stop.
DELLA: I can't do it now, it is really packed away in cartons, yes, but I will, yes—
SABIRA: Yes, okay.