Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolutions: An Essay On Self Mands For The Busker

A mand, according to psychologist B.F. Skinner, is a form of verbal behavior that is controlled by deprivation. Example #1: Asking for water when you are thirsty. Example #2: Opening the door when you hear a loud knock. Example #3: Playing yet another song when someone in your audience gives you the thumbs up.

Traditionally, the New Year is the time for people to make New Year's resolutions, self mands so to speak. All of you buskers, especially need to partake in this annual ritual. Here are some New Year's self mands for my fellow buskers:

  • I resolve to continually recognize that nothing is permanent.

Not my job; not my relationships; not my health. When I used to coach soccer I coined the phrase, A team is only as strong as the season is long. This phrase, to me, is pragmatic to all things in life.

  • I resolve to continually write new songs.

It does not matter that writing songs is really hard work for me. When I busk I strive to play only original compositions, and in doing so, my particular renditions of my own particular songs, are never up for comparison to others' covers.

  • I resolve to continually change my venues.

Spring and Summer days are great for busking – Autumn and Winter are not. To keep up my playing and singing skills, and my repartee with an audience, I need to get inside gigs for Winter. I do have a few coffee houses in which I have ample opportunities to thrum, and I ought to do so on a regular basis.

  • I resolve to continually go on buskations.

Buskations are the best! They can be bad (see my August 14th, A Bruno Buskation: An Essay On The Joys Of Rustic Busking,) and they can be bang-up (see my October 24th,The Bag Lady And The Busker: An Essay On Social Strata). Bad or bang-up, this Spring/Summer I plan on a few buskations to Banff, Alberta!

And to close, a last 2010 toast to you, buskers:

May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions!

(Joey Adams)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Fixx For Hollis: An Essay On Running And Readership And Busking

Alas Hollis, I acquiesce. It seems during any holiday breaks I rationalize (tell a rash of lies) to myself that I've nothing immediate to write about. And then followers like yourself rightfully state that my blog is blank and therefore, disappointing. Checking out my bog vexillology and seeing hits from Tunisia and Bulgaria in the last couple days, my blank blog is disappointing for me too. And so to Hollis and other company I've let down as of late, I do apologize for the vagaries of my blog entries.

Whilst on a most tristful morning run over the prairie sastruga (the weather was – 26 degrees), I did decide just moments ago, what to write to rid the pout on my face. Enough of this navel-gazing.

In 1977 Jim Fixx wrote The Complete Book of Running and he, unwittingly, changed my life. I was living in the tournament capital of Canada, Kamloops, British Columbia and began my daily runs through the most famous McArthur Island Park. Running worked for me. I quit smoking, lost weight, and became super fit. I was running chain in the bush for Noranda Mines at Goldstream north of Revelstoke, then for Trans Mountain Pipe Lines in the Coquihalla Canyon near Hope. I loved working in the B.C. Bush!

Later in life I landed a job teaching high school English in Regina, Saskatchewan, and kept on running. I used to run a minimum of five miles a day, Monday through Friday, take Saturday off, then run ten miles on Sunday.

While at work I was able to intertwine my profession with my obsession. I received a salary while designing and delivering an educational running programme for young offenders in a custody facility. Each weekday morning for seven years, twelve young offenders and two staff, self included, ran around the three mile shoreline of Wascana Lake.

In this past decade, for one reason or another, my fervor for running has waned. I have developed into a fair weather runner; I still run, just not as much. In Summer I try to run every day; in Fall I reduce my schedule to three runs per week, in Winter I mostly lift weights (I never, never run indoors), in Spring I pick up running again.

Running, indeed, has been a positive addiction in my life. It has kept me fit without noticeable infirm. It has kept hale and hardy, and ready for the vigor of busking come Spring again.

The Complete Book of Running by Jim Fixx has kept me in a thirty-four year burst of keen delight.

Now, Hollis, are you happy? Have I inspired you as Jim Fixx inspired me?

I should mention that Jim Fixx died in a ditch in Vermont of heart attack during his daily 10 mile run -- he was at 52 years of age.

Here is a love song for you buskers with a heart ache:


Verse 1

[C] One day [Am] some day

[Dm] We’ll be [G] together again.

[C] One day [Am] some day

[Dm] I could [G] make it up to you

[C] Maybe [Am] you’ll see

[Dm] I can [G] make your dreams come true …



[F] [QUARTER BEATS] I can’t really blame you when you finally told me

[G] That I’d have to go

[F] I can’t really blame you when you finally told me

[G] That you’d told me so.

Verse 2

[C] One day [Am] some day

[Dm] We’ll be [G] together again.

[C] Maybe [Am] you’ll believe

[Dm] I realize [G] what you meant to me.

C Am Dm G [fingers to one strum C]

That’s what she said to me [x2]

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Where You Are Is Where It's At: An Essay On Carpe Diem, Zen, Existentialism, Phenomenology, And Busking

Fernie Alpine Resort is in the Canadian Rockies and Mission Ridge Winter Park is in the Canadian Praires. Where you are is where it's at – is an axiom of downhill skiing. I drive eight hours to ski in the mountains at Fernie a couple times a season; but rarely do I drive the forty minutes to ski in the valley at Mission! Mission is where I am and therefore, following the axiom, should be where it's at.

This ought to be a lesson for me, and it is (sort of) when I apply this axiom to other areas of my life. In order to do this I must first reflect on some notions of Carpe Diem, Zen, Existentialism, and Phenomenology.

I first learned about Carpe Diem when I was an English major in university. Carpe Diem at that time meant to me grasp the day. Later in other studies it took on seize the day. Today, most Latin scholars would interpret Carpe diem as literally, pluck the day (as in the fruit of the day), or more simply, enjoy the day. All these notions, however, mean the same thing. Enjoy, seize, grasp the moments when they happen. Do not dwell, do not rationalize, just kick the ball when it comes to you. The longer you linger on any opportunity, the less likely you are to enjoy or appreciate it.

I first happened upon Zen in my favorite read, The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. Robert and his son, along with a couple of friends in Easy Rider fashion, hit the road on their motorcycles, traveling some of the northern states. The book, however, is much more of a travelogue. It's about the meshing of East and West philosophy as it relates to quality and the world of work. The more I read about Zen the more I realize it is not a religion (never mind one of the major world religions as it is often defined), for it is without a congregation and without dogma. In the world of Zen one simply appreciates life, moment by moment by moment.

The notion of Existentialism has a place on this same plane of thinking. Moments of existentialism arrive when we sometimes come to grips with the reality that our lives are just really, our lives, and that we exist only within them. Our quest for the values of life comes from the notions we have managed to gather within ourselves. What we as individuals decide to value will give meaning to our lives, give validity to our existence.

Phenomenology is to very much appreciate the synchronizations of life from a very first person point of view. To recognize phenomenology is to link together certain external experiences and then attach positive meanings to these experiences. Phenomenology relies on quite a strange ability, one that can connect people to places and to things.

Carpe Diem, Zen, Existentialism, and Phenomenology are all moment-to-moment recognitions and if one has an awareness and an ability to attach these moments together, these moments will most certainly enhance one's existence, improve one's life, so to speak.

And all of the above is true in the world of busking. Here are some soliloquys to keep your busking self in check:

  • I must never be a bastion of contentment, seemingly happy in my polished program of guitar replication day in and day out.

  • Each corner, each park, each storefront I busk is but a bivouac, a temporary encampment until I busk elsewhere.

  • Each time someone approaches and says something to me is to be considered another dram of someone else's life to be savoured.

  • All busk stations are ecotones, transition areas between entertainment and enterprise.

  • Any move up the block that I contemplate is but a finger snap, a fillip away, and therefore, can be done on a dime.

  • The majority of my customers gloze what is really going on in their lives.

  • Only I can control my kismet.

  • My memories oft are hazed through romantic nostalgia, a distant mirage to where I can never return.

  • Improving my life does not demand a sea change – I just need an awareness to recognize and appreciate each and every moment.

  • Peace only exists because there is sturm and drang in my life.

To be comfortable in one's own skin is quite a life accomplishment. And strumming and singing on a public sidewalk with an open guitar case is offering your skin to the world, exposing your warts moment by busking moment.

Fellow buskers, where you are is where it's at – so pay attention!

When I was young my friends and I used to go down the line, stopping at all the bars along the way. Here is a song I wrote about what might have happened:

Hotel d'Paris (de Paree)


Am D Am (X whenever)

Am C E E7


[Am] My love for [D]Carol[Am]ine

[Am]At Hotel [D]de Pa[Am]ree

[Am]My love for [C]sweet Carol[E]ine

[E]Is greater than in[E7]finity

(V 1)

[Am]Goin’ [D]down the [Amline

[Am]To see my [D]sweet [Am]Caroline

[AmAt Hotel [D]de [Am]Paree

[Am]She’s still singing [D]in my [Am]dreams


Am D Am

Once upon a time

Am D Am

Goin’ down the line

Am D Am

I met my sweet Caroline

Am D Am

Singing at Hotel de Paree


(V 3)

Am D Am

Goin’ down the line

Am D Am

To see my sweet Caroline

Am D Am

Hopin’ she’ll be mine

Am D Am

And leave Hotel de Paree