Monday, April 02, 2007

Swami Mendicananda

"You have a beautiful aura," the old man said. He was walking toward me on the sidewalk in Santa Monica, ten feet away, dressed like a swami. I was talking to Flip on my cell phone, but smiled acknowledgment at him. He quickly covered the remaining ground between us when he saw that he had my attention.

"You have had many misfortunes, but things are shifting." He thrust a crumpled spitball-sized shred of paper into my hand, directing me to keep it. I politely stuffed it into my jeans pocket. "No, in your hand," he said. I removed it from my pocket.

"He wants your money," said Flip in my ear.

The swami asked me how old I was, if I had children, and what kind of work I do. He told me to pick a flower. I said, "Lotus," thinking it might please him. Yes, I know. Swamis are Hindu, not Buddhist. But lotus is a very nice flower nonetheless. "Lotus is water flower," he corrected me. "Choose garden flower." "Lilac," I said, thinking of the fragrant purple display newly blooming in my San Francisco backyard. "Leleck," he scrawled on a tiny pad. He seemed to be assigning numerical values to every answer I gave him. I reflexively opened my mouth to correct his spelling, but thought better of it.

I was already feeling stupid because I couldn't understand his accent and kept asking him to repeat himself. With any luck, he assumed that I was hard of hearing. He gazed deeply into my eyes and assured me that he was a holy man, not a beggar.

"Your money," repeated Flip on my cell phone. "I'll call you back," I told Flip.

The swami worked with his numbers and then gave me a reading, most of which was unintelligible. Too bad, because I really would have liked to know my future. He did say that in one year, I would be famous and wealthy. He did not tell me how this amazing metamorphosis would occur. Or if he did, I missed it. He asked for the crumpled scrap of paper he had given me. I produced it, and he pointed triumphantly to the numbers on it, which were the same as the ones on his little pad. I can't guess how he did this. Houdini would have been envious.

He opened his book, which had become a rather large wallet, leather, brown, and showing considerable distress. "Give me twenty from good heart," he said. I understood every word. "I am holy man, not beggar," he added again.

I had a twenty and two ones in my wallet. How did he know this? But I needed the twenty. I put the two bills in his open, gaping billfold. He regarded me with contempt. "I AM HOLY MAN, NOT BEGGAR," he stated in case I hadn't understood him. "Two dollar will do nothing."

I apologized. I did not snatch my offensive small bills back, nor did I hand over my twenty. I am shallow. I needed it for Starbucks.

The holy man stalked away without a backward glance, leaving me to wonder if I had sealed my own doom with my lack of spiritual awareness, my miserliness, my inability to believe a stranger on the street, or even to understand much of his heavily accented pronouncements. I am probably screwed.

"I met a swami on Main Street," I told my daughter when I returned to her apartment. "Of course you did. You're in Santa Monica," she said.


Open Grove Claudia said...

That's lovely! Although it sounds like you were on the border of Santa Monica and Venice Beach where the Swami's live.... How fun! You should mark the calendar and see what next year brings!

Anonymous said...

I loved this HinSF (just as I do everything you write). I loved the details, the back and forth of good/bad, truth/scam.

And I adored that your daughter seems to share a good and swift mind, like her mother.

QT said...

Oh boy - kind of like when a deaf person hands you a slip of paper that says they are a deaf/mute and can't work so could you give them money? Then when your boyfriend is picking you up and honks the horn at you they turn around too?

Thailand Gal said...

Isn't it funny how they always say "you'll be rich and famous one day"? Geesh! There must be some people out there who still buy into it.

The numbers.. well, he probably knew exactly what was on the slip of paper and designed his calculations to that.

Holy man, my ass!


Oh .. and the accent was probably fake. Heck, I can speak Thailish like an old pro, too. You'd think I just got off the boat!

"Come wit meh. I gib you swa pok and fly lie!"



heartinsanfrancisco said...


That's exactly where I was. My daughter, who is not a Swami, lives there, too. And yes, I did notice a lot of yogic activity in the neighborhood.


But what if it wasn't a scam and I blew it?

My daughter inherited every last lurking smart gene from both her father and me, so she surpasses both of us. It's scary.


You make me giggle. I have also encountered the deaf-mutes with the little flyers explaining their sad plight and wondered why they had such a well-developed startle reaction.


You're messing with me, aren't you? You can't be serious that I'm not going to be rich and famous in a year. I guess we'll never know since I didn't pay full price. I thought two bucks was fair for the entertainment value.

Your Thailish sounds rather like Hawaiian pidgin. Wassamatta you. Come we go. Buggah stay kapakahi.

Thailand Gal said...

There's probably not too much difference btwn Thailish and Hawaiian pidgin. The funny thing is that I can usually determine rather quickly when I answer the phone if a telemarketer is on the other end.

I yell at them in Thailish. Makes 'em crazy.

*Phom ja pai Pai in-a bat dem!!*




Anonymous said...

Sounds like you have a helluva daughter then.

For what it is worth - I think you are famous now, and you are wealthy (at least more than some holy men and parking attendants).

Lee said...

Wouldn't he know the numbers on each piece of paper since he wrote them both? I'm confused.

You seem anything but miserly, my dear. In my opinion, any Holy Man demanding money really, really sucks at his job. Wealth is not created with dinero.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Whoa! I no like beef wit you, Haoli.

I loathe telemarketers. Some of them continue to talk while I'm hanging up. I haven't blown whistles into the phone yet.


My daughter is very beautiful, too. Thank you for noticing.

I am so not famous that sometimes I'm not sure that my cat recognizes me.


Yes, but the numbers seemed to correspond with answers like how many children I have. I have never been really good at figuring out party tricks.

I believe that true holy men and women do not charge for their help. I am always amazed by gurus and psychics who do. (Sylvia Browne, for instance, gets about $1,000 for a half-hour telephone reading.) I think that if one is given such gifts, they are meant to be shared and demanding payment diminishes them.

Cece said...

Venice Beach, anyone? lol Do you live here in S. CA?

Oh the last time we were at Venice Beach, we saw a "fortune teller" doing a reading for a young gang-banging looking Mexican kid. I was waiting for my husband near their stand so I overheard what they were talking about. All I heard him ask was "...I just want to know if she's cheating on me!" I contained my laugh til my husband joined me & told him about it. To this day he still cracks up thinking about it.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I live in San Francisco, although I was in San Diego for several years. I was visiting my daughter in Santa Monica.

That's a funny story. One could make a haiku of that:

See fortune teller
learn girlfriend cheating on me
a murder follows

Sienna said...

I called back in to see if you got your Sunday paper! I thought I might have a plan to trick the thief...roll up an old, old paper and put it out the night before...make sure the crossword is done in it..

But this latest Swami development rings a bell.

I was a sceptic...actually a nothing really, just non commital, then one day I was working outside with my horses and heard a man on the radio say; "Just for fun, google your name on the internet".

So I did, (it had never occurred to me you know).

My name-sake came up, she lives near San Francisco (Milpitas)...and we are same names, same age, same blood group, same shoe size, same family names, similar-not all, birthdates, same interests, similar personalities...and on and on...

Also Pam has dreams about stuff that happens here, to us, and the family, and this is "before" they happen...she was a sceptical type too...Has dramatically altered my perspective on the what if and what maybe's...I would never have believed ...I would have laughed (or run) and now it has happened to me, I think I have really altered my mindset.

Your Swami sounds interesting.


heartinsanfrancisco said...


That's all fascinating. They say everyone has a twin.

I do believe in psychic phenomena, and I know that true holy men and women exist.

If he hadn't stalked off in high dudgeon over my small offering, I might have found him more believable.

Maybe I'm a spiritual socialist. I don't think that prophesy and guidance should be available only to the wealthy.

Liz said...

I think you're already rich in spirit so I our "holy man" got it all wrong.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you, Sweetie. He sure did turn on a dime when he realized his mistake in picking me.

The Moon Topples said...

Weird that I keep having to remind people that I am a beggar and not a holy man.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I can see how they would make that mistake.

Send money, not incense, damnit.

Crankster said...

A fantastic story--I think you handled it well. Although, I have to admit that he had a really fantastic scam going!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It's a living.

meno said...

I no beggar, give me money. WTF?

I look forward to next year when i can say i knew you when.

Michael C said...

Wow, I've only been asking for $10. I guess I can raise my prices!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you for the vote of confidence but unfortunately, I stiffed my destiny.


Nice costume. I'd probably give you at least $3.00

urban-urchin said...


heartinsanfrancisco said...

Mother T, I'd know you anywhere by your saintly deeds, your angelic mien, your lack of a decent pedicure.

Judith said...

I think he really has something with the swami look, it screams 'dont fuck with me and give me your money for a good reading' in the nicest of ways. Intimidating to all non caffene drinkers *giggle*
As for the newspaper Im sure truffle could sandwich something in between the pages of an old copy and you could leave the rolled up 'daily crapper' for the theiving greedy bugger the night before.. Just an evil thought. I retain plenty of them to champion the underdog.

Pickled Olives said...

my goodness you are nicer than me. I would have made that scrunchy face, pointed to the phone while shaking my head and mouthing the words: I'm on the phone.

But I can't wait to see what you'll be famous for. Maybe it'll be because you are nice to beggars.

jali said...

My middle name is gullible so I dunno what I might have done.

furiousBall said...

I would have asked him to arm wrestle for my karma. Seriously those swami's are wiry, but those thin wrists are no match for all my power.

Maybe I'm missing the point here...does this explain why there aren't many Hindu NHL enforcers?

Bob said...

Spiritual Socialism. That's my new creed!

Kevin said...

I've never had anything like that happpen to me. Oh sure, I get the freaks on the bus who want to talk your ear off about some stupid shit like how the world's changed and how none of the stuff here now used to be here when they were young...but never anything like what you described.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm not sure I could interest Truffle in the project, delightful as it would surely be, since she does not, to my knowledge, read the paper. I could be wrong.

But please do keep the evil underdog-championing thoughts rolling.


How many times do I have to tell you, he was HOLY MAN, not beggar?


You would have given him your two dollars and felt vaguely guilty.


I guess he could have been with the NHL. I didn't notice if he had teeth.

I am not great at arm wrestling, especially while balancing a shoulder bag and cell phone.


Glad I could help.


You don't live in Santa Monica, do you?

thethinker said...

Rich and famous in one year? I wouldn't doubt it. That guy is good.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


For $20, he's good. As he said, "Two dollar will do nothing."

As it stands, I won't even get my 15 minutes.

Lex said...

Isn't it funny how preachers say the same things before passing the collection plate? You're destined for prosperity. I'm holy and special, and therefore able to tell you of your impending fortune. Now, pay me!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


If they didn't have some kind of mystique going, they might actually have to get a job.

velvet girl said...

Hee hee! I'm sure that everyone who gets a "reading" to will become rich and famous in a year, kind of like how spiritual mediums always tell people that they were kings or queens in their past lives. That's a lot of kings and queens. ;)

heartinsanfrancisco said...



Odat said...

"I met a swami on the street...."
Makings for a great novel.......
Do it!!! LOL (then thank him when you'are indeed rick and famous)!!!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Maybe a limerick:

There once was a Swami named Pete
Who walked up and down the main street
Wearing rags and long hair,
And his wallet was bare,
Oh, where is some holy cow meat?

djn said...

I love your story! That's so great! So, now I guess your doomed for notoriety instead of fame, which might be better in the long run -- especially if you want to be remembered. Whatever it is, I hope you have fun in the process!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I will live in infamy forever. Send chocolate.

CSL said...

I don't know about Holy Man or beggar, but he certinly was a bully! ANd probably hands that same number to everyone, then "figures" it regardless of your answers (although insisting that you re-choose a garden flower was a nice touch). It is especially classic that he got all offended, yet took your two bucks!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Oh, thank you! I feel so much better now.

It's true that if he'd been authentic or honorable, he would have returned my cash after declaring it worthless. I am not proud. Two dollars is two dollars, not as good as twenty, but better than nothing.

And he really should work on his diction.

Jay said...

No kidding he's not a beggar. He didn't beg, he commanded. I think that's worse.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


When you put it that way, hell, yeah. Semantics is everything.

Jocelyn said...

Such a writer, you are. And your daughter's reaction was perfect.

I was guessing you needed the $20 to keep the homeless parking babysitters to keep from scratching up your car.

Since I never have any cash, I may have to try this swami gig.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I hope it works out for you, with the beard and all.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Wow. Hearts, you need your daughter to train you on street smarts in Santa Monica. The swami was a con man. Just think, you might have lost twenty if that money was not already pledged to overpriced coffee! :)

Ryane said...

HAHA. I once had a cab driver read my palm. It was bizarre..he just started telling me stuff and eerily, it was spot on! The weirdest part of all was that I has already paid him for the fare, and tipped him (& to be honest, not even a lot!) when he just started talking about me to me.

As for being cursed for not giving up the $20 (which I probably wouldn't have done either, esp. if it was earmarked for coffee. hello), that swami is playing hard and fast w/the golden rule for things like this: If he truly has a 'gift', and can tell you your future, then he got that gift for free...and should never ask for money for sharing his gift w/others. So I say, you are in the clear. ;-)

Ryane said...

oh yeah, and PS: Don't forget us little people when you are big and famous! ;-)

Pendullum said...

I think I love your daughter!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


He was pushy. I like my holy men gentle, like Jesus and the Dalai Lama.


It sounds as if your cabbie had a gift. I have always believed that such a gift should not be utilized for riches. Still, artists and writers, musicians and accountants all use their gifts and (hopefully) earn a living by them.

For some reason, I distinguish between the gift of prophecy and "talents." The problem is that musical talent, for example, can't be faked while anyone can pretend to read the future.

I don't like people who take advantage of others in any way.


She's great. Thank you for noticing.

MsLittlePea said...

Where exactly was he? I want to go to that exact spot and wait for him. I've never been told I have a beautiful aura and being that he's an expert and all, I think I should seek him out.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Sweet Pea,

Okay, I'm telling you right here. You have a beautiful aura.

I see your future and you will feel better soon. :)

Deb said...

I want someone to read my future. Do you think he's available for parties?

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm sure he is. How much money do you have?

Thanks for coming by.

katrice said...

Maybe the accent was too thick. I'm sure he said, "I'm fake holy man AND a beggar."

Deb said...

Whaddya mean thanks for coming by?? Its me.. D from Boondoggled. I know I've been someone missing for a while, but I can't buhleeve you so totally forgot me already.



heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm sure you're right. I feel so foolish now. "Fake holy man" should have been the tipoff.


it IS you. I wondered, but you used to sign your comments just d~ so I thought you were some imposter pretending to be The Deb.

Yayyyy. I have missed you, so I do give thanks that you're back. Trust me, I wouldn't have been so polite if I had known it was you. (That didn't come out right, did it?)

Oh, happy, happy, happy. Deb is back!!!

seventh sister said...

Every place seems to have its characters. When you come to Austin, you will probably see Leslie (Cochran). I googled his name and found him on wikipedia.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Are you trying to fix me up?

I live for it.

My heart runneth over... said...

Too funny... There in New York too... you can tell your daughter! lol All the best~M

heartinsanfrancisco said...


How true. I'm from New York originally, so I've seen them. But in Southern California, they don't have to wear longjohns under their flowing robes.