Sunday, January 29, 2012

Buskology 101: An Essay on Enterprise and Whimsy

Ah to be a busker! The whimsy to follow the sun, and thrum in plummy littoral surroundings where the white seagulls squawk in a cerulean sky, where the sea spray refreshes on a picture perfect pitch, and where ever smiling consumers endlessly toss coin and bills into a brimming buskpot. And how can this happen? How does one get to be … a busker? Being a busker is simple; getting plummy pitches, complicated, but attainable.

The primary not-so-secret formula for busking success is preparation, preparation, preparation, in both the technical and tactical sense. The technical preparation for a busker begins with practice, practice, practice. Once a song has been thrummed one hundred times, it could be ready for street play. It takes a grand of sweat to beget but one dram of ear candy. In Australian words, it takes lots of hard yakka to produce a middling of soft melodies. For street performances, it is necessary that buskers have a technical competence grasp of their chosen instruments.

Nowadays when I busk, I play only random riffs. Rarely do I hold a circle court of listeners, applauding to my tunes. I’ve a dozen or so riffs that I string together for practice strums and frails on my banjitar. My sidewalk consumers always seem to just pass me by, one of every sixty or so tossing coins into my open banjitar case. It seems I am always practicing to discover new orders for the same ol’ chords. My latest strums for this week have been simply A …B …C …D (X3) E …F … G … (back to) A, and also Am …G …D … Am (X3). These are easy and effective chord combinations, which I purposely complicate when I vary the strum patterns and employ different finger styles and frails on each and every set.

Once you’ve established a signature playing technique, the next aspect of preparation is tactic. Your costume is one of your tactics for enhancing your street performance. Metaphorically, when it comes to performance, there is no such thing as bad climate, only bad costumes. Consumers, by their nature, are willing to pay for their outdoor listening pleasures, and on the pitch, first impressions are everything. Every customer you meet on the sidewalk is a vis-à-vis communication of usual phatic, sometimes philosophic enterprise; therefore, your look will directly reflect your take. If you look bad, you’ll be sad; if you look good, you’ll be glad.

Generally speaking, a costume ought to be a raiment of ritzy rather than of rags. Clothing transformations can as simple as a blink of the eye or a fillip of a finger. If you sing cowboy songs, don a cowboy hat. If you’re singing folk tunes, t-shirts and five o’clock shadows are always in fashion. A fellow busker, Devon, was a folk singing Bobby Dylan on the upper causeway in Victoria, complete with his attached harmonica. Another fellow busker, Dave, always wears a baseball cap and rolled up long-sleeved shirts whilst he fiddles away at the Farmers’ Market in downtown Regina.

In many entries previous, I’ve written about my personal busking persona that presents itself in my costume. Cap-a-pie I wear a bowler or tam, a crisp long-sleeved with collar white shirt, faded jeans, and walking boots. If the sun is hot and the back of my neck is getting dirty and gritty, I’ll jettison the long-sleeved shirt for a white tee. And when the sun is bright, bright, I’ll don a pair of shades.

What you’re selling on the sidewalk is a continual confection of you. As a busker, you become who you want to be. A busker is one unfettered by convention, doughty in nature, and whimsy in enterprise. In the baptism of fire, a successful busker must remain jocund, providing an audible olla prodida of pomp and passion, no matter the social condition.

The secondary not-so-secret for busking success is location, location, location. The venues for buskers are many and varied. In Regina I’ve mainly three buskingdoms, so to speak: the Extra Foods parking lot on Broadway, the Canada Safeway parking lot on 13th, and the downtown Plaza next to Victoria Park. Places where crowds of people congregate are the only places to busk. Such places include city parks where people picnic at lunchtime, outdoor malls where people shop throughout the day, entries and exits of amphi-theatres where people come to chill in the evenings. Strumming near cafe patios and fast food outlets, too, can be lucrative. Busking on primary and secondary sidewalks in busy downtowns is always rewarding, both socially and monetarily. An when I get the yen to busk elsewhere, away from my usual stomping grounds, I simply head out on buskations.

If you happen to live seaside, then you can busk seaside. If you live landside and feel the need to busk seaside, you must plan for coastal buskations. Some of my buskation whimsies have taken me to dusty Prairie bugtussles; while others have taken me to where the white seagulls squawk in cerulean skies, to where the sea spray refreshes picture perfect pitches, and to where endless smiling consumers toss coins and bills into my banjitar case.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

O Canada: An Essay on the American G.O.P. Race, eh

Am I a crazy Canuck or what? I’m busking on the corner of 15th Avenue and Smith Street, right across from the Fireside Bistro, and along comes a leonine consumer named Richard (pun intended; take your pick of Richard the Lion-hearted or The Lion in Winter). I’ve roared with Richard many times previous because it seems, we have the same topical and political interests, though not, necessarily, the same views.

This sidewalk chat began with Jay Leno’s joke on The Tonight Show, at the expense of the Canadian Military.

Did you hear about the naval officer up in Canada being charged with espionage? Apparently he was providing a foreign government with military secrets, stated Jay. He went on to joke that, I didn’t know they had military secrets up in Canada! to the delight of the audience who laughed and gave resounding applause.

Granted, our military is fair fodder for American humorists, especially when the American military is deployed in more than 150 countries around the world -- Some are in combat zones, some are on peace keeping missions, and some are military attaches in embassy and consulate fashion.

But for an American to poke fun at Canadians is idiosyncratic; whereas, it is a normative habit for Canadians to make fun of Americans. We, especially, loved to make fun of American presidents, George W for a recent example. (For whatever reason, to date we’ve spared Barack.)

And why is this so? Could it be that our own state of affairs is so very vanilla when compared to the many-flavored and complex issues present in America? Are we just that quaint?

I believe the answer is yes, and since I am a Canadian, I’d like to ramble on a bit about some of our issues, tongue-cheek, of course.

On the Canadian national level our big issues are: Quebec versus the rest of Canada (Parlez-vous francais for beaucoup bucks anyone?), East versus West (Toronto is, but Vancouver ought to be, the center of the universe), and Health Care (a federal or provincial responsibility-the debate is sickening).

At the provincial level in Saskatchewan, we’ve a few concerns: resource management (someone, please, buy our dirty oil), and workers’ rights (unions are a fundamental right, at least from the left), and the added value of Crown/ing Corporations.

At the civic level here in Regina, the main issues are: to build or not build a spanking brand new-domed stadium for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League, to allow or not allow vehicular traffic on the 350,000 precious paving stones set on the new downtown plaza, and last, available & affordable housing for the resident poor.

Now, I know these are seemingly serious issues, but anyone regularly reading news articles of current and world events, knows that our concerns are really more colloquial than critical, just a pettifog when compared to places elsewhere on the planet (Syria and Sudan being just two of a 195 other examples).

Lighter readings, or just watching the American GOP live televised debates, does allow for some Canadian delight, and though momentary, some Schadenfraude-like experiences. One does not have to be Jay Leno to find a certain where-is-the- love humor lost in all four of the remaining Republican candidates.

In response to Jay Leno, here are some Canadian comedic observations:

Mitt Romney: This former Governor of Massachusetts is very rich and very handsome (the joke is he just looks like the President of the United States; the truth is he is Batman's real identity, Bruce Wayne). Mitt is spending considerable effort, time, and money in his campaign, and he could certainly cash in with the endorsement of the Tea Party. And Mitt is a Mormon.

Newt Gingrich: And this former House Speaker and academic staple has a secret wish – that he was a Mormon, but in the yesteryear of Mormon polygamy.

Rick Santorum: Could it be that this former Pennsylvania Senator sees his closet doppelganger self in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran (Projective Psychology at its finest). Ahmadinejad is on record, speaking to the students at Columbia University, that homosexuality does not exist in his country. Santorum is on record with the suggestion that an imprisoned father is preferable to one that is a same-sex parent. A significant piece of Santorum’s war-hawk ideology, is to execute a pre-emptive military strike against Iran, perhaps just to rid the world of his trash-talking evil twin.

Ron Paul: Ol’ Doc Paul, the Texas Libertarian and the former Doc Adams of Gunsmoke, is attempting to recreate the hippy and free thinking spirit of the sixties, by attracting the rebellious emerging adulthood of the present. And it’s working! According to CNN, the survey says that the majority of university students are giving Doc Paul the vote. Ride 'em, Doc, all the way to Florida (though the white line's getting longer and the saddle's getting cold)!

And so sayeth this blogger who hails from the crisp winter country of back bacon and a mounted police force, a country where hockey is a religion, and a country of polite and respectful citizenry.

And I remind the reader … that I am but a busker with a bit of bluster … EH!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bifel That in That Sesoun on a Day: An Essay on the Chaucerian Parade

In the 14th Century Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories that describe a troupe of pilgrims traveling to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket at the Canterbury Cathedral. The Canterbury Tales, the most famous writing of Chaucer, is considered by scholars to be a literary masterpiece. Through these tales that describe a knight, a miller, a reeve, a cook, a man of law, a wife, and others, Chaucer paints a comical and ironic portrait of English culture and economics during his time.

Though the act of busking is filled with vagaries; the sidequest of people watching is a constant joy. As a buskologist, I know that any of my pitches, through which any potential consumers pass, present vista and vis-à-vis portraits, an empirical anthropology of all layers of society, including myself. A sub-title Inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer, An Essay on the Chaucerian Parade, I shall offer some one-dimensional highlights of my consumers in just a one-hour busk this past week.

-The plain-clothes security guard flips, with his thumb, coins into my banjitar case. Should be a good game tonight, he states. He is referring to the World Junior hockey game between Russian and Canada.

-Your music always sounds so nice, says an elderly lady as she tosses me some coins.

-.Two young ladies, dressed to the nines pass by. One gives me a big smile.

-A panhandler walks up. Got a light? he asks.

-Hey, Neil, how’s it going? shouts a former colleague from across the way.

-Too bad you’re a Boston fan, states a middle-age fellow. He is referring to my Boston outdoor classic jersey. Number 4, Bobby Orr, I reply. Number 4, Jean Belliveau, he quips.

-A young man throws a mitt full of change into my case.

-A little girl offers me a toonie. She is with her father who says he used to busk on the Causeway in Victoria, British Columbia. He was a sailor, and he busked with his bagpipes on weekends. (And that makes a community of four who live in Regina and have been busking on the streets in Victoria: Devon-guitarist, Allan-bagpiper, Baron-bongaro, and myself-banjitarist.)

-A car pulls up. It is the two young ladies who were dressed in the nines. The one who had previously given me the big smile asks if she can take my picture, after which she hands me five dollars.

-A police officer, Kevin, stops by for a quick visit – We were both, at one time, members of the scuba diving community.

-A camera and one-person crew from Global approaches me. He takes my picture and states that I look and sound great. (Over the next few days people stop and tell me they’ve seen and heard me on a television clip; they say that I looked and sounded great – I watch for it, but to no avail.)

-I break a string. I stop my busking for the day and go over to B Sharp, where the technicians give me a free fix. As I am visiting, Dustin, of the Dustin Ritter Band, gives me a copy of his latest CD – for free.

I have read that those consumers with higher education offer more coins than consumers with lesser academic learning, suggesting tony versus troglodyte I suppose. This, in my busking experiences, is not true. I have also read that buskers provide, for those who galumph or glide by, a tonic to relieve the stress of consumerism in general. This, I believe as I thrum, is true. And so

Bifel that in that sesoun on a day … Redy to wenden on my Buskingdom …

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Busk a Little Bit Closer: An Essay on the Concept of Love

The sun is a smudge in the smokey colored sky and the temperature is plus 1 degree. Cap-a-pie I'm clad in a black and yellow toque, a Boston Bruins classic outdoor jersey (under which a warm ski jacket), lined blue-jeans, scruffed and worn work boots, and half-gloves (like those on the hands of Dickensian characters depicted in wintertime). As usual, my thumbs are cold! Here is my routine: Play two songs, warm my thumbs, play two songs, warm my thumbs. My actual playing-time is less than my warming-time. Come Spring I’ll know more about the correlation between playing-time vs warming-time and coin in the buskpot.

As I busk I’m reminded again and again what a small world my pitch really is. Busking on a regular basis in a city of 200,000, I keep bumping into the same people over and over again. Today, I’ve chatted with the owner of the nearby gas station. I always purchase my petrol at his gas bar and we always chat about the local weather and local politics whilst I pay the bill. I’ve also chatted with a fellow who volunteers every day at the Wascana Rehabilitation Center. Our band, The Grand Trunk Troubadours, frequently performs there and he is always in the audience. A school-mate, Marcie, whom I’ve known all of my life stops and chats. Neither of us is from Regina, but we both have resided here for years. The security guard from Extra Foods stopped by, as always, to donate and chat. An elderly lady who always states that I play such delightful music drops, as always, a few coins into my case. And this consumer list goes on and on and on and on.

Being a buskologist, whilst warming my thumbs I am woolgathering on the concept of love. In a city of 200,000 people I seem to meet the same consumers repeatedly on my busks. For example, when I set my pitch at Extra Foods, I know pretty much which people will likely bump into me. When I set up at Safeway, I know, too, whom I’ll likely see again. Downtown busking is less predictable, but to a point I know I’ll greet at least a dozen consumers with whom I’m familiar.

It’s a small, small world for a local busker searching for coin, just as it’s a small, small world for anyone searching for love. Think about this. In a city of two hundred thousand people, I find my coin in the most predictable places; places that I’ve established myself for a variety of reasons, safety being among them. On a planet of 7 billion people, how is it that I can find my true love within minutes of where I live or where I work or where I play.

What are the odds? When in fact everyone on the planet is a potential mate, how is it that I my true love has always been right next door? I’ll tell you why.

Consider Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This comedy is about three distinct sets of characters and their concepts of love. There are royals and a band of fairies and a troupe of bumbling craftsmen, all romping about in a forest setting, falling in and out of love because of Puck’s potions and pranks. Generally, the theme of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been accepted as the difficulty of love (The course of love never did run smooth -- Lysander, a character in the play).

This widely accepted theme misses the mark. The real theme of A Midsummer’s Night Dream is simply: We are, all of us, capable of falling in love with anyone at any particular time given the right circumstance.

The only reason we fall in love with the girl or guy next door is because of convenience. The only reason we run off with that gal or guy we’ve met at work is because of convenience. The only reason we fall madly in love with anyone is because of convenience. And Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream presents the physical transmogrification of such a meme and reality.

Most of our choosing of mates, rather than projecting the true concept of love, are adumbrated by the following criteria of colloquial gots:

-my mate has got to have heart (displays kindness and generosity toward me)

-my mate has got to have a sound mind (displays curiosity and interest in me)

-my mate has got to have money (displays a stable income with the means to help pay my bills)

-my mate has got to have a beautiful body (displays my svelte or zaftig physical tastes)

Along with the statistical evidence (fifty percent of us die within 100 miles of our birthplace, and by chance we also find our perfect mates, our true loves, within 100 miles of where we live), anyone in the workplace has the empirical evidence as well (who does not know couple who met one another in school or at work or by chance in the neighborhood).

Is giving hand to your sweetheart that really an emprise, really that adventurous? Especially if we can muster up the courage and the wildcat within us to travel the planet and find a true love anywhere we so desire?

Again, I answer: We search our true loves out of physical convenience and physical attraction. If our destiny is for physical convenience, our psychological risk is low (not having to experience the anxieties of job or resident or habit changes). If our loving eyes seek physical attraction, our psychological ids are high (after all, we imagine a beautiful body to be the Annie Oakley to rodeo pleasures forever).

Come (busk) a little bit closer, you’re my kind of man, so big and so strong …

Monday, January 2, 2012

Phantom Secrets: An Essay on Busking with the Ghosts of Christmas Past

Yes. Christmas came and went just as it always does, and New Year’s Day followed Santa’s suit.

No. This blog entry is not to be of redemption and resolution. It is an entry about Psychology and Busking a la wordswords.

It is a sunny -18 degrees. I am cold and bored and ghosts are coming to mind (and I know exactly why). My childhood friend, Brent, came by over the holidays and we visited for eight hours, the equivalent of number of hours in an ordinary moiler’s working day! I have mentioned Brent in previous blogs: Strum and Dang and Oom Pah Pah: An Essay on Guitar, Banjitar, and Accordion Busking, February 27, 2011 & Canines and Coins: A Shaggy-Dog Essay on Busking with Bowwow, December 27, 2011. Whenever visiting with Brent, my woolgatherings always take me back to my teenage years in Vanguard, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Foot (Brent), Race Car, Skin, Gin, Chief, Parson, Pretty Boy, O’Toole, Bear, Toe Head, Radar, Smitty, Stoney, Curly, Fuzz, Teeter, Shane, Carbon, Lash, Weasel, Say, Grooby, Javaman, Teeter, Cork, Honk, Sam, Jimbo, Hooker, and Baiter (self).

These are some of people that we grew up with in Vanguard. These are some nicknames of people from my past. These are my ghosts. Rather than accursed, these are friendly ghosts, and these were their assigned nicknames of affection. They are nicknames of which only those who were there would know the origins, mostly Aesopian in their nature, having meaning only for such spectre members as Brent and myself.

Of these ghosts, wherever they physically may be, I have secrets of them I will never tell. And knowingly in return, these faraway ghosts have secrets of me that they will never tell.

This should be of no surprise for anyone, because by degree, all of us have secrets. All of us have work secrets (of which the public will never know); all of us have family secrets (of which the neighbors will never know); all of us have secrets so secretive (of which not even a spouse will ever know). Such are the secrets of these aforementioned ghosts, those nicknamed phantoms of my past.

These kinds of secrets, of course, would be developmental secrets -- secrets of first love experiences -- personal, interpersonal, heterosexual, bromosexual! Ouch! Have I hit a nerve! Without getting into gritty detail, most of us, in our sexual development, have had far-out and nearby real sexual experimentations, both fantastical and real.

Today, I really don’t know the present condition of these people whose nicknames I have scrivened, other than that all of them are still alive. Of these ghosts, I’ve only had a steady haunting with one – and that is Brent. He still has family there, whereas my Vanguard family has been long gone.

Whenever I am busking and my business is not brisk I often think of my ghosts. I love these thoughts: I am eleven years old and playing Knocky Knocky Nine Door (Bunny Bunny White Tail). I am twelve years old rafting on a slough, swatting mosquitoes, swearing and laughing. I am thirteen years old hiking canyons, riding my bicycle down the highways on bottle hunts, and constantly thinking of sex. I am fourteen years old, rolling about midnight swards, kissing girls in the dark. I am sixteen years old driving around and around and around our town, searching for sexual adventure in my 1960 Chevrolet. I am seventeen years old driving to other towns, flirting with strangers, hoping for back-seat adventures with zaftig fraus. I am eighteen years old and going drinking down the line, starting in Ponteix and ending in Gravelbourg, all the while still hoping for back-seat adventures with flirty zaftig fraus.

All of these things I did with others, others who had nicknames. No, we were not (fill-in-the-blank) ophiles. All of these acts I have mentioned very much represented normative transitions of teenage sexuality. Even all of the acts that I did not mention (and that would be many in number, and too secretive and horriblarious to even write about), were, too, normative transitions of teenage sexuality. Each of these most secretive of acts, save for those bracketed under the covers as personal, were done in the company of those with nicknames. (In fact, about the only idiosyncratic transition I can recall would be that I, and I alone in a village of 400, was raised by my grandparents because … my parents were divorced!)

I really do pity those among us, leading their troglodyte lives, never admitting to such verboten pleasures of teenage angst. As for myself, attempting not to winkle from such a sordid past (humor intended), I shall emphatically state that such teenage amorous adventures really seem rather will-o’-the-wisp. Afterall, they did take place on some adolescent swivet, some forty years away from this present frosty buskapade.

As I daydream of ghosts in my Christmas past -- I cannot help but wonder if ever a ghost of Christmas present daydreams of me.