"When truth and compassion part ways, follow compassion." ~ Unknown

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Swami, one year later

A story is like a river. Sometimes a river disappears, but that doesn't necessarily mean it has dried up. Sometimes it goes underground where it travels, not just miles, but hundreds or thousands of miles through the secret earth before resurfacing... to be it's own same/never-the-same self again, like it always was.

The thread of this story disappeared amid the ruins of Angkor Wat, leaving us with the clangorous ring of the cicada and the rattle and whir of Mr. Keen's tuk tuk as our only comfort in the dark broken heart of Cambodia.

This story began a year ago almost to the day and is in three parts, here, here and here. If you've never met Swami, I took this video in Ankor Wat last December, about a half hour before he disappeared. It's good way to get to know him before reading further.

 Swami riding in Mr. Keen's tuk tuk


One year ago Swami, our beloved traveling companion of nearly 15 years, disappeared at Angkor Wat. It was totally my fault. I was careless. He was very vulnerable riding in his little bag. I kept telling myself I should make a harness for him but never did.

M. Lee and I were heartbroken. It wasn't like losing a family member. Swami is family. It was devastating. But, traveling without him is inconceivable so he immediately "reincarnated" as coral Swami. I know. We're odd.

The cursed temple of Ta Keo and the last photo of me & Swami
Me flouting a warning at the cursed temple of Ta Keo

But here's the thing. After that first, heart stopping moment when we realized Swami was gone, the idea that we'd never see him again was simply and totally unthinkable. To even consider such a thing was not only preposterous, it was impossible. We knew he would return. He just had to.

So, this last year, we've combed secondhand stores, gift shops, baby boutiques, toy stores, junk shops, art museums, Pintrest, Etsy, Ebay and countless other websites hoping to find him or someone who could make a new yellow Swami body. Family and friends, old and new, joined the search, some even volunteering to sew a new one and finally we realized that, unskilled as we are, M. Lee and I would have to figure out how to make the yellow Swami body ourselves.

Swami with his friend Andy
at the old Whitney Museum in New York

Then a few weeks ago, almost exactly a year to the day since Swami disappeared, a very strange thing happened. Totally out of the blue, and in his usual innocent and cheery way, Coral Swami turned to me and said, "Yellow Swami is coming back". We didn't know what to make of it. How could he know? On the other hand, how could he not know?  But last week, when we were still in Chiang Mai, M. Lee stumbled on this.

Yes, yes. Click the button and watch the scary, bad clowns.

We replayed the part around 0:35 seconds, where HAM sprinkles vinegar on everything and stuffs his mouth with more chips. The music is building as he picks up the newspaper, sees the picture of a little yellow dude in the ad section, throws his bike into high gear and roars off into the store to claim him. And we paused at 1:07, the part where HAM first sees the little yellow dude on the shelf. so that we could read and re-read the name on the wall.... Flat Eric! Of course, we had checked out Flat Eric before but the searches never led anywhere. This time was different.

And don't miss this one. It is part of the narrative.
Flat Eric

What happened next went as fast as the gunfight but had a better ending. M. Lee did a quick search for Flat Eric. That took him to a six-year-old discussion where someone had posted a link to the German Ebay account of a guy named buecherfritzke01 who sells second hand collectibles and there he was... Swami! We bought him immediately and, within the next 24 hours, buecherfritzke01 sent him on his way. Thank you very much. And a couple of days ago yellow Swami arrived in America! The mailer was beat up and taped back together, but he is still smiling. Now he is waiting for us in Portland, Oregon. I hear he's hanging out with some crazy Christmas angels there. We'll be home in January, Swami! See you then.

Swami, resurfacing at last

So, thank you HAM, Mr. Oizo (aka Quentin Dupieux) and Flat Eric. And thank you Dalai Lama and the Tulkas. And especially thank you, our family and friends. The fact that you guys get it and care, or at least care, makes all the difference. And thank you, Mr. Swami! Welcome home!

Swami contemplating the moon
Ko Kood, Thailand, 2013

PS.  No. I do not think M. Lee is at all like Mr. Oizo and certainly I, in no way, resemble his tailgate buddy so don't even go there.


Roy said...

That is great! There is, really, only one Christmas story. My best regards to the old fellow--enjoy the stories he must have accumulated!

Paula said...

ZOMG that is fantastic!

Wishing you and M.Lee and Swami the very happiest of Christmases! :)

Anonymous said...

Magic inside rain drop flows like green Christmas tree light - If I lay on back under the tree I see your image of distant past in drop looking out to me shimmering.

Thank you for Swami update. He just travel with you small time, now his journey take him other places for other purpose, Maybe start Swami religion in jungle?

Look for him in rain drop, maybe me also.

Merry Christmas to you and to Mr. Lee

asha said...

Roy, Swami say hi! Oh yes. He has stories. Sometimes he's hard to wake after a night of sailing in the Moon Boat with the King of Namibia and entourage. He's a discrete fellow though. When I ask how it went, he only says things like "WOO" and "Oh boy!".


Hi Paula! Thanks! Very sweet, happy Christmas to you too!


Mr. Anonymous, Yes. There we are, you and I, floating together in the green shimmer of lost Christmases and separate in the convex worlds reflected in the steadily falling drops of rain.