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Tzippy –( Thyme ) Interview with Court Tefft on 08-17-2002

1971 – Arrived at Black Mountain
CT: How did you come to Black Mountain?
"I was living in a house in North Oakland and I met Michael Hamrin. When I met Michael he said he was gathering up people, like Tom Slovik and he wanted people that were not employed. He wanted to gather a work force together and everybody would work together and make money. This was his idea, it was like Marxism. That’s where he was when I met him. Today he’s like a Milton Friedman economic theory believer. So for some reason Mike Hamrin was in this house where I lived and he told me about Black Mountain.
There was this woman Mary who had started the pod dome. She had gotten this design from The Whole Earth Catalog and it was half finished and she didn’t want to finish it so Michael said you can live here and finish this dome, and I did. I put a skylight in a port hole window on the side, insulated it, tar papered it, and put redwood shakes on it. "


CT: Did you come for ideological reasons or some sort of Utopian visions?

“I had just been at UC Berkley but I didn’t have a clue or a concept of career. I didn’t know what to do. It’s kinda like now, okay now what? Berkley had been very intense in those years. I had been running from tear gas again and again. The National Guard had been there. There had been the invasion of Cambodia. There had been Peoples Park. It was very intense.”


"Basically I was a country person. I grew up in this paradise in the backwoods of New Jersey. I grew up in a Nuclear Family. My parents were secular, liberal, “pinko” types with a sense of community. Every organization my parents were part of was named a "Communist Front Organization." The Jewish Community, The Food Co-Op, The Farmers Union Camp I went to... they were all accused of being Communist Front Organizations, all of them."

"In actual fact we lived very isolated and maybe they had a lot of friends and they had community but I just wandered around and ran with the birds and the deer so that was perfect for me at Black Mountain to perpetuate my isolation. The thing was that even though I was an isolated person and didn’t know how to talk to people all this stuff was going on and I was gradually drawn into it and it meant a great deal to me."

"This was the first time I had ever met people who were happy…of course they were all on acid (breaks into big laugh). I had to come to California to meet happy people because I just couldn’t figure out in New Jersey how I was supposed to grow up and be an adult because there wasn’t anything anybody was doing that I wanted to do and anyway the world was going to blow up."


CT: What was happening at Black Mountain when you got there?

“Well there was Kevin Freeman. Kevin lived in the clear dome down the hill... the ultimate hippie (laughs). I thought what I really wanted to do was lose my New Jersey accent and be like Kevin (laughs)."

CT: Dye your hair blonde?

"Yea and talk kinda slow and be real laid back and not be this maniac from New Jersey.

Howard and Melody were living down in that house at the very bottom of the property. They moved to Hawaii. Howard was this really competent guy. They were like a Ma and Pa couple. American Gothic hippie. He was kinda gruff. He’s the kinda guy that I never fathomed kind of intimidating, kind of attractive, completely mysterious. I never knew how to talk to him cause he was to silent but very competent. Melody was very sweet and liked gardening. They were just like the perfect couple.

Spare came a little bit later. He was a real nice guy. I could relate to him better. He was more outgoing. Then there was Sue Villard, she was from around here, her and Bill (Will) Linguist were like Woodside kids. Then there was Tom Slovik and a women named Bonnie and she had kids. She lived in a bus near the house that Michael Hamrin was building (a six-sided house on the south end). They were kind of a couple and they were into Subud."

CT: What do you know of the origins... How did Black Mountain come to be?

“Well they were renting from this guy (Carl Horvitz) , a real estate guy in Mountain View or something. Maybe they wanted it to be like Black Mountain in North Carolina which had been this experimental college in the 50’s which was this great shining beacon of light in the bohemian beatnik era.

Stan built the blue dome. He had a young wife named Virginia. Gordon lived there later. I don’t remember the origins. I was there a little later. Fred and Flewellyn lived in the tree house. Fred built it; lovely people and Earl, remember Earl and Joanna."

Raccoon Story-
“In Nov. 72 I was attacked by a raccoon and that colored my whole attitude toward nature and that was the end. I was only there for two years. (Shows me here scars). I was sleeping in the dome. Remember how the dome was, it was a platform and you came in thru the bottom."

CT: It was like going into a space ship.

“I heard this scratching so I pulled up the trap door and this raccoon came right in on me. I smashed the door down on its head. This was like a crazed raccoon. He started climbing the ladder up to the portal that was open because I had been working on it. I ran away screaming after being bitten and clawed. I ran into Kevin and Tom and the raccoon chased us. We ran into the main house. We had no running vehicles, lots of vehicles but they weren’t running–-Any way I got to the hospital and got rabee shots, he was not rabid, but he did get shot. When I got back to my dome the raccoon had trashed it. He’d gotten into some glue and torn up down pillows. It was a mess. After that I was scarred. I was shattered and moved."

CT: What went on Community wise?

“We used to hang out in the main house and smoke a lot of pot and bake a lot of bread. We put in the communal shower and had the pay phone put in. We tried to build a hot tub and built a fire under it and burned it up. We had a communal ideas... a garden. We were free form... anarchistic”.

After Black Mountain I went off and became a lesbian. I was a lesbian for 25 years. I went up to Eugene. The thing that happened to me then was I had a community that was coherent.”

“I would go down to “The Land.” I remember doing peyote circles. The Land was having these circles. There was a spiritual coherence to The Land. We were just a rag tag bunch on Black Mountain. I went down to The Land to get something more going, and to get something more interesting happening. I thought Mark Schneider was just magical. He was just like Merlyn the Magician. He might as well have worn a pointed hat with stars, I guess from being on acid that helped. It was all an exhilarating revelation, everything was magic.”


CT: I think there was a cosmic opening at that point in time. It was a point in time where there was magic in the air and that was the beauty of it. It was happening all over the world though this was an epicenter.

“I was dying of some kind of psychic thirst, it doesn’t seem like I would have made it if there hadn’t been this magic. I really don’t think I had any motivation to stick around. I just couldn’t get it, what human life was about. It just seemed really dry and boring, it didn’t have any levels to it. There was no multidimensionality to it, it was just flat and completely materialistic and that’s fine for like my three sisters and everybody else in my family because that’s who they are. They are materialistic and that’s the level they live on. I’m different. I was born with something else, a craving for three dimensions and I had to have it, there had to be some kind of break through."

“I’m on the very edge of the boomer generation but we didn’t really get much chance to have the magical times before they evaporated. But we had enough time to see a glimpse of hope and with hope you can keep on going. With hope you can say, Oh well I’ve seen it and maybe it will come around again, but if you’ve never even had a glimmer then why bother.”

CT: Are you hopeful now?

“My life has actually been rather magical. It’s nothing I could have planned, stuff just opens up for me when I need it. I seem to manifest what I need and that’s because I have a lot of hope... so why I go through these transitional periods where I say, I don’t know what I’m doing, but because I have a lot of hope something comes through."