"Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band"
I think that's Phil Marsh in the front corner in the shades and hat. The guy next to Phil Marsh is Brian Voorhees, and the girl in front is the "Dynamite Annie Johnston." Also in the band, and maybe in this photo, are Richard Saunders, and Hank Bradley.

The Gilded Serpent presents...
Zaharr's Memoir- Part 3(& 4)
Part 3 - Teas of Green and Gold
by Zaharr A. Hayatti

Zaharr shares her struggles and her triumphs as a dancer from 1966 to the present. “For many of us, it was a hard road that led to North Beach and beyond.” she writes. Return to read her story as it unfolds here in the Gilded Serpent.

The huge house on Colby Street was wonderful. We had a garden in the back and there was greenery wherever we looked. I did NOT miss New York!

There were musicians everywhere: upstairs, downstairs, on the lawn, and just starting out at “The Freight and Salvage”, a new coffeehouse near the campus. Besides the members of the “Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band”, and “Dr. Humbead’s New Tranquility String Band and Medicine Show” who were in and out of Sue Draheim’s Place upstairs, the “Golden Toad” downstairs seemed to be constantly expanding. Sue, upstairs, played fiddle with a skill unmatched for tone, fire, passion, and sweetness. Will Spires and his brother Joseph downstairs, opened their doors to a steady stream of musical talent including: John Paul, Bob Thomas, Don Brown, Dave Ricker, and many others. They all played at the “Freight” in a variety of combinations, on musical instruments I had never even seen before let alone heard. Will played a devilish fiddle, and with Bob: duets on matching Portuguese guitars, smaller and with a sweeter sound than the Spanish kind. Bob also played Macedonian, Portuguese, and Italian bagpipes. Dave Ricker was equally at home on the fiddle or the mandolin, playing Bluegrass and old English tunes. I discovered that John Paul played many other kinds of music on his button accordion besides the Cajun music I had heard on the day I arrived in my new home. Whenever anyone in the house was playing at the “Freight and Salvage,” we would all go out and make up a large part of the audience!

My musical education was expanding and developing constantly. The “Golden Toad” repertoire ran the gamut of folk tunes from all over the Mediterranean and the Balkans. I heard music that inspired and moved me deeply. When no one was around, I would slip into the Spires brothers' music room and practice the tunes I had heard them play, on their old pump organ. It was nearly identical to the one I had played as a young girl growing up in the convent where my musical training had begun.

This time in my life was so musically fertile and fulfilling because I was able to hear these extraordinary musicians every single day, and sometimes for long hours into the night as well!

Several other amazing musical innovations were occurring around me. The “Golden Toad” had also created a Tibetan orchestra with authentic instruments including the long Tibetan horns which were designed to be heard deep in the Himalayan mountains, a wide variety of gongs and percussive instruments, and the strangest of all: a wind instrument made from a human thigh bone…

Don Brown, who played percussion with the “Golden Toad”, was a member of the indescribable “Floating Lotus Magic Opera and Theatre Company”. All of their performances were free. They gave huge outdoor performances in Berkeley that went on for hours. They even played at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral twice.

The troupe passed through the audience, distributing free loaves of delicious homemade bread, as the music continued to play. Sharing the bread with the troupe was an integral part of their productions.

It was the sort of love feast that could only happen in the sixties. They were very focused spiritually and all lived together in a big house, a lot like ours, where they all practiced a form of Zen meditation.

This was a very significant time in the lives of all of us connected musically. We were involved in seeking answers about our spiritual quests, and looking toward Asia for inspiration and wisdom.

Built into one corner of the Colby Street house was an old rabbit hutch that had been magically converted into a fantastical Japanese tea house. Bill and Kathy lived there, and one day they invited me in for tea. The tea was powdered, and bright green. Bill would scoop it into a bowl, pour a bamboo dipper of hot water over it, whip it with a tiny bamboo whisk into a foamy, steaming froth. My first taste of it reminded me of a day at the beach! It seemed like essence of seaweed, sea breezes, sunshine, and waves. I was hooked for life, had I but known it then.

Alan Watts

Bill was an old friend of Allan Watts, who was living in Sausalito at that time on one half of a converted ferryboat that had been built in the 1800s. It had been salvaged just before it was to be demolished. It was named the S. S. Vallejo. The artist Yanko Varda, who was born in Smyrna and had once lived in Paris with Jean Miro and several other famous French artists, lived on the other half. Varda had painted the boat with two great eyes. Everything, including the clothing of the artist himself, was brilliantly colored. When we would go to visit Allan, Varda always seemed to have a bevy of gorgeous girls in various stages of undress cavorting about the boat. In complete contrast, Allan was always correctly dressed in somber-colored Japanese kimono and his half of the ferryboat had the elegant austerity of a Zen temple.

Yanko Jean Varda 1922-1973
The background of this page is a portion of a Varda mosaic
Dr. Allan Watts, an ordained Anglican Priest from England, was the icon of Zen Buddhism for the Beat Generation. He discovered Zen on his spiritual journey and brought his views of it to America, publishing books and lecturing extensively. His broadcasts on KPFA in Berkeley created a devoted following among his listeners. He experimented with many forms of alternative paths to Divine Consciousness, including the Japanese Tea Ceremony. His use of psychedelics, in much the same manner as his friends Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary had done, endeared him to the newly emerging hippie generation.

Allan had a marvelous sense of humour, and liked to call me “Zohar”. It was his word-play on the founder of Persian Zoroastrianism. We had magical conversations about everything from Zen to astrology. I loved his laughter and gentle awareness of everything around him. He was one of the few special people I have met whom I believe was thoroughly awake!

By now, the middle floor of the big house on Colby Street was getting too small for the two photographers, a new girlfriend for the brother, and me. The rabbit hutch was beginning to lose its charm for Bill and Kathy as well. Just around the corner was a charming little cottage where one of our friends lived. One day he dropped by to tell us he was moving to the country with his lady and did we know anyone who would like to move into his house with its furniture, dishes, and everything! Bill, Kathy and I decided immediately to move in and stretch out a little bit. So we piled our belongings onto an elegant old wicker wheel chair that belonged to Will and Joseph. We made many rickety trips around the corner. I took the room at the back of the cottage overlooking the garden. Bill and Kathy moved into a room at the front. Bill created another fantastic tea room in the attic, directly over their bedroom. There were big bushes of herbs all around the cottage, an avocado tree, a lemon tree, enough space for a bit of a lawn, and a good-size kitchen garden. There were already lovely flowers in bloom all around the cottage. It was heavenly!

Now it was time for me to find some work. I was very lucky to meet an artist who needed a model. He was Arabic, and told me he was from Israel. I did a lot of office work for him as well as the modeling. One day as we were working, I told him that I had gotten an idea that I wanted to change my name. I told him that since coming to California, it felt as if my life were starting all over again. I was happy and everything felt new, exciting, and filled with endless possibilities. “Can you give me a name that sounds like someone who has just been born? Something to inspire me to strive toward?” I asked him. “Hmmm…” he mused, “Give me a few days to think about it. I’ll make it something very special, just for you.”

Later that week, as the day was finishing, he called me into his office. “I have made some special tea for you.” he told me, a smile on his face. We sat down with elegant china cups and saucers, and he poured out a fragrant, golden tea. As I sipped it, he told me the tea came from a tree that grew in Israel and was covered with lovely, golden flowers. “It’s delicious!” I told him sincerely, “So fragrant and delicate!” He was delighted with my answer, and replied: “This is you. This is your new name. It is Zaharr, a fragrant and delicate golden flower.” It sounded so beautiful to me, like a soft sigh, and I sipped the tea happily. “But what about my last name? I need that too,” I asked. He was ready, and began carefully explaining to me that when an Arab child is a long awaited first-born, the name Hayatti is sometimes given, to ensure a strong and healthy life. “The delicate flower needs support” he told me, “so let us make sure it has a long and powerful life. Your name is Zaharr Hayatti, Golden Flower of Eternal Life.” Tears rolled silently down my cheeks, and he poured another cup of tea for me. We sat without speaking for a while, savoring the peaceful moment, sipping the delicious tea. My happiness was complete. Now I was truly beginning a new life, with a wonderful new name, filled with images that inspired and thrilled me.

Now I was now ready for whatever the Universe sent my way!

Part 4 - My Teacher Arrives
by Zaharr A, Hayatti

Our pretty cottage was a joy to live in. My room had big windows that let in sunshine throughout the day. I decorated it all in white with a white lace canopy and long white silk bed curtains. Will Spires had given me a large stained glass piece that I hung over my window. Every morning when I woke up, colors filled my room, splashing it with rainbows and sunshine which gradually changed patterns throughout the day. A friendly neighbor had welcomed us with a tiny night-blooming jasmine tree and I planted it right outside my bedroom window near the lemon tree. My room was flooded with fragrances, sweet and pungent.

While we had lived at the big house on Colby Street, we had become involved in some very creative activities with the people who lived there as well as a lot of their friends. One exciting adventure we looked forward to was Joseph Spires’ “Colby Street Opera Society.” A group of us would dress up in our finest evening wear. Much of it from the finest thrift-stores. We rode the bus into San Francisco to the magnificent “War Memorial Opera House”. None of us really had much money, so we only bought standing-room tickets, but it was a very elegant adventure nonetheless. As I grew more familiar with various composer’s styles, I was also able to develop a finer ear for different vocalists. On the bus home, we discussed the performance, the staging, the orchestra, and the singers.

Another great inspiration was Will Spires’ idea for “The Colby Street Eating Society”. Once a month, someone would volunteer their home to hold a large potluck dinner based on a particular theme. For “Italian Seafood Night,” Will and Don Brown and some other friends went out to the beach and spent the day collecting delectable mussels. Dozens and dozens of them! We had live music, wine, and a glorious feast with our friends to look forward to every month.

Bill and Kathy were terrific cooks. I learned a lot about seasoning with our own herbs, vegetables, and I also learned new techniques for preparation. I learned how to make my own yogurt and cheese. I explored a variety of exotic and simple breads and made fresh juices everyday. I would prepare the juicer, go into the garden, choose my vegetables, then rush inside, wash them, and have them in the juicer and half drunk before they realized they had been taken out of the earth!

Dinnertime together was always a special event for us. Bill worked in a wine shop and we got to study many sorts of wine from France, California, and Italy. We would plan our meal. Bill would begin his part of the prep and then go into our big living-dining room and play Chopin nocturnes for us on the old upright piano there, while Kathy and I did our shares of the prep. Many nights, friends from the Colby Street house would drop by for dinner around our candle-lit dining table. We had acquired a massive slice of lovely redwood. Leaving the surface rough and unfinished, Bill just attached legs to it that were short round pieces of the same tree. Kathy and I sewed many cushions from different types of fabric for the floor. We always ate Japanese-style, sitting on the floor and using beautiful hand-made bowls and plates which we purchased, one at a time, in Japantown in San Francisco. Each bowl and plate was different, and sometimes we would give them special names, much as fine bowls for Japanese Tea Ceremony are named. “Autumn Breeze”, “Sea Anemone”, “Snow Mountain.” Such names as these were given to pieces that conjured up that image in their abstract swirls and splatters. We would often match the guest with a bowl that suited their personality. All our guests were proficient with chopsticks as well, and so we only used those with our fine, hand-made Japanese pottery. My mother had taken me to Chinese restaurants as a child and introduced me to chopsticks. I perfected my technique in Berkeley and later, in Japan.

Allan Watts had told us that washing dishes was a unique privilege since we could more thoroughly enjoy the colors and textures of each individual piece as we handled them in the water.

Later on, when I was studying Tea Ceremony in Japan, I was taught that washing dishes was like chanting “Sutras”, the special prayers that Buddhist say.

So buying and appreciating hand-made pottery was another area of training in appreciating art. Elevating simple tasks from tedious to joyous required merely a simple change in attitude. My spiritual journey flowed quietly throughout my daily life.

Since acquiring my new name, I began tentative forays into Arabic and Middle Eastern cuisine. One month, I offered our cottage to the members of “The Colby Street Eating Society” for a Middle-Eastern feast. Bill, Kathy, and I sought out recipe books for cuisine from all over the Middle East. None of us had ever eaten most of what we chose, and none of us had a “Nana” to show us her age-old tricks. We couldn’t even pronounce the dishes we chose from the pretty pictures and the yummy-sounding dishes. But we chose Fesanjoon: Persian chicken with pomegranate sauce, which may have been unrecognizable to any genuine Persian, but I learned the truly magical process of baking my own pita bread. It actually split just like it was supposed to! We were cruelly deceived by the simplicity of creating hummous, and then all of us rolled our very first dolmas. Were we foolish, brave, or simply naïve when we chose spanakotiropita and baklava to round out our menu? Using phyllo pastry sheets for the first time, we decided was definitely a three-person process: one to begin lifting one of the ready-made sheets from one side, another to lift it from the other side so it wouldn’t tear, and another to wield the pastry brush! Clarified butter was brushed ever so gently on one side, and then the “turners” would present the other side to the “brusher”. Ahhh…how many torn grape leaves, how many sheets of dried and shredded phyllo we accumulated, and then we wondered what to do with all of them! At the end of three days, we were experts in turning, brushing, and rolling. We deciding that a glass of wine for each of us was the key to on-the-job tranquility.

At the time, I had a boyfriend who collected unusual cars and equally unusual antiques. One day he drove over in his vintage black hearse to deliver a black net scarf decorated with folded silver foil.

He said it was very old, but had never been worn. Someone had found it wrapped in crumbling tissue paper in an old trunk. I received my very first pristine piece of antique assuit without even realizing what it was! Naturally, I adorned myself with it for the dinner party and it gleamed softly in the candlelight.

One of the guests at the party brought up Middle Eastern music and dance. I sighed heavily, “I’ve seen posters of Jamilla advertising classes in the shops on Telegraph Avenue, but they are too costly for me.” I yearned to study with her, but it was impossible to get the money together for lessons. “I have a friend who is a dancer, I’ll talk to her about it.” he said. I didn’t really take him seriously. I didn’t want to raise my hopes. I secretly cherished my dream of becoming a graceful dancer like the ones who had lived on in my memories of that night in Washington D.C. But the assuit seemed to shimmer with a secret all it’s own.

About a week after the dinner party, our guest stopped by again, and said he had some good news for me. The friend who was a dancer had told him she would teach me for free! “She’s only sixteen”, he said, “but I’ve seen her dance and she is really amazing. She’s been dancing since she was twelve and is really into it. Here’s her phone number." My heart began to pound…

Every day, Bill and Kathy went up to the tea room for tea. It was a very quiet part of their day and so I spent that time working in the wonderful garden we had created together. We had bushes of Rosemary, Oregano, Peppermint, an array of all of our favorite vegetables, and an army of snails!

I would collect them and put them in a jar of cornmeal for two weeks then Bill and Kathy and I would make “escargots” in revenge for the damage they did to our artichoke plants! Bill had explained that someone had released all these fat French snails by mistake and they were taking over gardens all over Berkeley. He was right.

Every French restaurant in which I have eaten escargot in, including places in Paris and Tokyo, served the same sorts of snails. I always have a private chuckle over that…

Ceremonial Tea made by
Ms. Yoshie YanoPennings
That particular day, after our guest had left with his joyous message, I was invited up to the tea room for the very first time. Bill and Kathy made tea for me in a beautiful deep blue bowl. While I sipped the frothy green tea, Bill read a passage from a Zen Buddhist book. The phrase “When the student is ready, the teacher will arrive.” struck me in my heart. Then, as Kathy finished washing the bowl, the signal for the Tea Ceremony to end, she handed the bowl to me and said: “This is for you from us. This is your own bowl for making tea.” I was deeply moved and thanked them for their thoughtfulness. I turned the bowl over and over in my hands and looked at the undersides of it for a long time. “This looks like reeds along the Nile River in the moonlight,” I said.

What had I just said? What did I know about the Nile River, or it’s reeds shimmering in the moonlight?

Immediately after tea, I called the number of the sixteen-year-old dancer. “When would you like to start lessons?” asked the warm voice over the phone. “Would tomorrow be too soon?” I asked.

The student was ready. The teacher had arrived.

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Ready for More?
More from Zaharr
6-9-03 A New Series! Zaharr's Memoirs, Part 1- Washington D.C. and Part 2- New York to Berkeley by Zaharr Hayatti. I got really excited, and begged to be allowed to sign up. There was only silence from my family.

8-5-03 Kayla’s Travel Journal, The Prince Islands, Istanbul by Kayla Summers
One picture that caught my eye was that of a dark virgin, named Mirtidiotissa

7-27-03 Justine and Her Plant Visit Saqra's Annual Showcase by Justine
Standing in the door, clutching my plants, vendor fever struck.

7-24-03 1001 Nights Oslo Belly Dance Festival, The Show May 2 - 4, 2003 by Lunacia
The festival began with a show at Oslo Concert Hall, and this year's guest star was Lulu Sabongi from Brazil, who opened this year's show.

7-18-03 My Greek Transformation A Conservative Engineer meets the “Instigator of Revolutions” by Barbara Grant
Rhea displayed boundless energy, far beyond my own at the best of times. How would I be able to keep up with her?


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