The Gilded Serpent
"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.
Memoir- Part 3(& 4)
3 - Teas of Green and Gold
by Zaharr A. Hayatti
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!
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!
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.
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!
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…
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yanko Jean Varda 1922-1973
The background of this page is a portion of a Varda mosaic
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.”
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!
4 - My Teacher Arrives
by Zaharr A, Hayatti
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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…
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!
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.
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…
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.
Tea made by
Ms. Yoshie YanoPennings
What had I
just said? What did I know about the Nile River, or it’s
reeds shimmering in the moonlight?
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?”
was ready. The teacher had arrived.
a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
More from Zaharr
A New Series! Zaharr's
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by Zaharr Hayatti. I got really excited, and begged to
be allowed to sign up. There was only silence from my family.
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in the door, clutching my plants, vendor fever struck.
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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?