Boris Koodrin's INNER VISONS

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"The Courage to Change"

by Paul Totah - Editor Genesis Alumni Magazine
Saint Ignatius College Preparatory- San Francisco
Winter 2003

Kezar Stadium 1 9 6 6

Industrial Screen Printers 1 9 8 1

New Jersey Pine Barrens 1 9 9 1

San Mateo County Fair 2011

Log Cabin Ranch 2 0 0 1

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In this issue we feature four alumni who have shown the courage to change and, in so doing, transform their lives for the better. These four include an artist, a writer, a healer and a film producer. They didn't start out that way. Each of them felt what we all feel at times-- dissatisfaction, boredom or fear. Something about their old lives wasn't working, and they did something radical to give their lives meaning. We hope their stories give you inspiration to change anything unsatisfying about your life. After all, as Boris Koodrin '67 says, "our fears are doors. . . and if you walk through them, you undo them and find out what's on the other side."


After two years of working with a group of tough teenage prisoners, Boris Koodrin '67 knew that they had one advantage over him. They had faced their fears, while, Koodrin confesses, he had not.

Koodrin, a football star at SI, took a circuitous route in his storied life to get to Log Cabin Ranch, a juvenile detention center in LaHonda run by the city of San Francisco. He has worked there since 1998 first as a volunteer and then as director of Vision Youthz leading
wilderness experiences for inmates 15-20 years old.

"We take young men away from the black top and into the 650 acres of pristine wilderness around Log Cabin," said Koodrin. "We introduce them to an unfamiliar environment and take them through rites of passage."

Those rites include making fire without matches using Native American methods, staying in the forest at night and learning how to track wild animals. "They learn to navigate an environment they once feared. We teach them to walk through their fears. Even the first thing we ask them to do--to take off their shoes-- scares the hell out of them. But when they master something like making fire, you see something incredible light up inside them."

Then, about three years ago, Koodrin realized that he was a bit of a hypocrite. Koodrin had always had a gift for art--he had won first prize as a senior at SI in an art contest and had worked as a silkscreen artist for many years--but he never thought he was good enough to make it as a fine artist.

"I walked away from fine art in my 20s because I was afraid," said Koodrin. "Here I was, telling these guys to walk through their fears. I realized I couldn't look them in the face unless I walked through my own." And he did just that. He picked up his brushes and palette and started painting.

Earlier this year (2003), one of his pieces earned entry into a juried show at the California Institute for Integral Studies on Mission Street along with 50 other works for an exhibit entitled "Empowerment: Woman as Symbol."

"This time around, I'm not afraid to fail," he said "I'm painting now not to become famous but to walk through my fear and find out what's on the other side. I believe our fears are doors to the spirit world. When you walk through them, you undo them. The result is a huge opening up to life." The painting, entitled "Melissa, Preparing to Steal Third," is of his neighbor, a childhood friend of his son, Peter. "I took a picture of her one day while she was wearing a shamanic ring on one hand and a Chinese charm around her neck. She had a great expression, full of attitude. When I asked her about it, she jokingly said it was her 'come hither' look. I told her that it was the same look she had when she was playing Pee Wee baseball and getting ready to steal third."

That Koodrin sees the athlete in his subject should come as no surprise to those that knew him at SI, where he played left guard and linebacker and earned all-city honors. In his senior year, during the Turkey Bowl game in 1966 at Kezar Stadium, a tough Lowell team faced a Wildcat squad that had lost key players to injuries, including first-string QB John Cercos, fullback Paul Schneider, and right guard Jeff Braccia.

Nonetheless, SI fought Lowell to a 14-14 standoff late in the fourth quarter. Then, with seconds remaining, QB Paul Contreras threw to Tom Schwabb. A defender tipped the ball, and it went into the arms of SI's Gary Hughes, who scored a touchdown just as the game ended.

"It was an incredible moment," said Koodrin. "The crowd tore down the goal posts, and we carried coach Vince Tringali around before a crowd of 10,000. I'm not sure if he liked being carried around, as he wasn't the touchy-feely type."

Another transforming moment came for Koodrin on his senior retreat. "That introspection really touched me and woke something very powerful in me. It set off a deeper search for meaning." A young Jesuit English teacher, Tony Sauer, helped Koodrin in that search. "I wasn't a particularly good student, but one of my highlights was being in Tony Sauer's English class. I had never been inspired by a teacher the way he inspired me. He has a way of seeing you for who you are and playing to your strengths. I'll always be indebted to him for giving me something I really needed."

Koodrin was also inspired by the world outside the school in the days leading up to the Summer of Love.

"The Haight Ashbury scene was entirley different from the Stanyan Street campus," said Koodrin. "Students would spend their lunch period in Golden Gate Park's horseshoe pits watching hippies roam around. It was an interesting conglomeration of worlds." On occasion, those worlds came together, as on the night of April 7, 1967, when an SI-sponsored concert featured the Jefferson Airplane and Buffalo Springfield at the USF gym. Koodrin attended, but left early to go hunting with his friends the following morning.

After graduating from SI, Koodrin went to City College where he had a short-lived football career. "I weighed 175 pounds and went up against guys like Al Cowlings, O.J's pal, and some other big boys. One day, I was so banged up and still suffering from high school unjuries that it took me two hours to get from the field house to the bus stop. That day, I decided to hang up my cleats."

As an art and design student at City College, Koodrin's new passion was the visual world of the burgeoning rock scene in San Francisco. He went to the Gathering of the Tribes concert in Golden gate Park along with 10,000 others who listened the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksiver Messenger Service and the Sons of Champlin as they circled around on flatbed trucks. "I literally bumped into Janis Joplin and sent her rolling down an embankment. Fortunately, she laughed the whole way down without spilling a drop from her infamous bottle of Southern Comfort."

With the introduction to the music of the Grateful Dead, Koodrin continued a spiritual journey that started with his senior retreat and led him to join a religious group called the Holy Order of Mans. He worked in San Francisco soup kitchens and with street people, while intensively exploring religious mysticism. Eventually he sensed the group was slowly turning into a cult and left to finish his studies at City College in 1971. He married his high school sweetheart, Bardi Rosman, in 1973 and managed a pet store in Stonestown before leaving to work for a friend's tee-shirt company, Off the Wall Productions.

"None of us knew what we were doing, but they needed an artist," said Koodrin. "People would come to us with jobs,ask us if we could do them, and we would tell them yes. Then we would have to figure out how to do them. We did a lot of learning on the job."

Throughout the 1970s and early '80s, Koodrin and partners applied their silkscreening to t-shirts, posters, store displays, corporate scarves, glass fiber wafers used for heating elements on railroad tracks, solar powered heating elements, elevator doors and guidance systems on battleship control panels.

The business had its origins at the communal artists' colony at 10th and Howard Streets known as Project One. When the business outgrew that space, it moved to the American Can Building on Third Street and then to a 10,000-squarefoot space near the Oakland Airport.

The daily commute to Oakland soon wore Koodrin down, however. He found himself at another crossroads with a young son and a mortgage. When his business partner decided to quit in order to join a seminary, Koodrin realized that he had no desire to build a large company. They sold everything, and Koodrin turned the garage of his San Bruno home into a workshop where he still does freelance silk screeninig and graphic art, including sandblasting on fine crystal for customers such as Joe Montana. "I make less money than before, but now I have the one thing I craved the most: freedom."

That freedom opened the door to the next big adventure in his life. One night in 1991, while sitting in his hot tub in his back yard, Koodrin heard a strange sound coming from the county park bordering his home. "It sounded like a weird scream, like a metallic pterodactyl, and it piqued my interest."

The next time he heard it, he left his house at 2 a.m. and tried to find out what it was. "I tried following it, but it kept its distance from me, and I never got close enough to see. Then, as I started making my way down the hill back to my house, I placed one foot on a path, and something barked at me right around my knee. It scared the hell out of me."

That experience left him wanting to know more about the animals near his home, and a week later he picked up Tom Brown's book The Vision, about Native American vision quests and animal tracking. Koodrin loved the book and, when he learned of Brown's classes in New Jersey, he immediately enrolled and studied there on and off for the past 12 years (*at the time of this writing). "When I returned, I never looked at nature the same way again. Now everywhere I look, I see stories of what the animals are doing."

Koodrin returned to the county park where he discovered the animal that made the strange sound was a gray fox. He learned that by sitting still in the woods at night, he could lure the fox out of hiding. "When you stop acting like a human, a different world opens, and animals will come up to you. In time my wife joined me, as did the fox, his mate and kits (offspring). We developed a trusting relationship with that family. The fox would bring his family and we would literally sit with them as they watched their kits play."

Then, in 1998, Koodrin received a letter from Vision Youthz at Log Cabin Ranch looking for t-shirt donations. He arranged a meeting with the group's founder who saw tracking as a perfect skill to help young offenders. He felt that the more they felt confident and the less they feared, the better they would succeed in life. Koodrin loved the program so much he helped rewrite its curriculum and eventually became the group's director.

He also works with these young inmates after they return to their homes. "During our year together, we build a deep rapport with them," he noted. After they leave, the program pairs them with mentors "who extend that circle of trust and who give them new challenges and new rites of passage." Mentors help them find jobs, drive them to appointments and go with them to City College to show them how to register for classes.

"The part of the Ignatian ideal that stuck with me from day one is service to mankind," added Koodrin. "the most liberating part of it all is that this service brought me back to my first love, which is art."





Eileen Borgeson Art

Vision Youthz

Tom Brown Jr./ The Tracker