Swami X in the 1970s

 

By Mark Hawes

Walking down the ocean sidewalk past the open café, past the craftspeople wondering whether they will be allowed to be there next weekend, past the musicians jamming with a hat for change in front of them, past the actors doing their improvisations, past the striking tenants of the old apartment building, one comes upon a lone figure standing on a bench in front of the Ocean Market. A crowd of people gather around him on the small grassy knoll between the sidewalk and the bike path. They listen to him and laugh or chuckle or leave. He is no other than the ubiquitous Swami X, not to be confused with your run-of-the-mill swami.

Swami X, or just plain Swam to his close friends, has a long grey beard that hangs below a pair of dark glasses with arab headgear to keep the hot Venice midday sun from frying his brain anymore than it has already been fried. He is a cross between a sidewalk poet, a mad prophet and a stand-up comedian. He despises any sort of organized religion or any kind of organized anything. He is from the Lenny Bruce school of raunch so any of you with an esthetic sense of the higher ideals of love and sex, stick with the craftspeople and the Sidewalk Café.

“The only difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats are fucking but not coming and Republicans are coming but not fucking,” is a favorite of Swam’s. He stands on the bench giving his views of politics (”They are afraid of me taking over the government. I could go to Washington and take over the government in a week, but who wants it.”), religion (”The problem with the Harry Krishners is that they are not allowed to fuck. If you’re not fucking then you’re killing. Fucking is a mystical experience.”), race (”Whites have a defective gene in them that when they try to say the word muthafucker, it sounds funny”), and sex (”Eating pussy is so good that even women are finding out about it.”)

At some point in the afternoon a crazed street person saturated with his fill of wine and reds and sun gets up to harangue Swami X.

“Hey, Swami, you suck.”

This is where one of the many talents of Swam is used to its highest degree: the put down. The drug crazed goon belligerently charges the bench.

“It’s the CIA,” says Swam, “I knew they were after me.”

“Hey, Swami, you suck.”

“I did not hire this guy to do this. Actually he is my business manager. We have good rapport. “

“Fuck you.”

“This is what we call group therapy. Everybody gets out their hostilities.”

“Fuck you.”

“Hey man you have a big vocabulary. Why don’t you wander on down the sidewalk and find your own bench. There are a whole lot of them.”

The Swam keeps on talking but the guy keeps on butting in, foaming at the mouth. At times it looks like the guy is going to physically charge the bench but Swami fends him off with verbal swords. Then a woman gets up and starts yelling at him. He is being attacked by all sides but he fends them both off to the approval of the audience. The crazies finally exhaust themselves.

It is time for Swami to read his poetry. His poetry is interesting but crude, designed to shock and stimulate. It sure isn’t T.S. Elliot. He also reads horoscopes that are interesting and answers questions as to the nature of the universe. The afternoon wears on and the audience keeps changing. Some people laugh, some are disgusted. That’s show business.

“I was asked to be on the Johnny Carson Show,” says the Swam jokingly, “but I would have to shake Ed McMahon’s hand. So I told them to forget it.”

Swami’s got his own show every weekend on that bench in front of curious crowds of wandering tourists, bike riders, rollerskaters and people of all walks of life. Who could ask for more.

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