Sunday, March 11, 2012

Schtick Two: An Essay on Navel-Gazing

It was shirt-sleeve weather and the snow was melting into puddles. In our buskingdom we were basking in the warm sunshine at the front entrance of the Value Village Mall. B beat on his bongos and I frailed on my banjitar. Come any time after twelve o’clock because that’s when we’re busy, stated the mall manager, Shaun. He was right. Just after lunchtime on a Saturday and umpteen shoppers were tossing coins into my case.

This day, B and I were wearing matching black toques. Somehow, wearing a toque makes a busker look like … a busker. My last few outings my black toque, white turtleneck, knee-length split leather black coat, and work boots have been my wardrobe. My wordrobe has always been about me, me, me. In fact, I was contemplating another title for this blog entry: My Hero: Another Essay About Me, Myself, and I.

I was reminded about my narcissistic navel-gazing self while at the Regina Teachers Convention, the very day before we set up for our Value Village busk. Though the keynote confident, articulate, and funny, her speech did have a glaring weakness – She, as I, suffers from I’m-the-hero-in-every-story-I-tell Syndrome. And I knew this even before she entered the stage. Our programme brochure stated that others wanted to hear about her life story.

When I read such words in her thumbnail (knowing that it is really a short, short bio given by the keynote, to the person who is to introduce the keynote), I knew there would be a speech fraught with a descriptive humble background, and her words would polished to present a contest in humility compared to the critical mass seated in her audience. I was right. She grew up in a single-parent household, her dad was a Volkswagon mechanic, and she was ridiculed by her school mates. Both her dad and mom had been married three times and she always knew she was a talker. Enough of her ... back to me, me, me.

My last entry I wrote about schtick, and how I am all about schtick, especially when it comes down to busking. All that is fine, but I knew that it would need another blog entry to make my other descriptors for whom the street is not a bivouac, but a place of habitation. And if matters could be worse, these street folk have got only a whimper for a voice. It is for these types that I shall write today.

For these who are the consumers of the mental health agencies. Just scroll down the left side of my blog header and you’ll see the agencies to which I’m referring: CANADIAN MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION, SCHIZOPHRENIA SOCIETY OF SASKATCHEWAN, PHOENIX RESIDENTIAL SOCIETY, SEARCH.

What you see is what you get. Street and sidewalk panners have no time to present schtick, they are too occupied with survival. Here are three such examples -- all three in blue jeans.

Martin, in his fifties, stands close by oftentimes when I’m busking at Extra Foods. He has long blond hair, long blond beard, dressed in a green parka in winter, and a blue jean jacket in summer. Always he is in blue-jeans. His shoes are scruffy and he walks with a limp. He just stands there asking everyone passing for spare change. He looks like a very scruffy Jesus.

Whenever I walk over to Scarth Street to busk, around the corner on Victoria Avenue is Bob. Bob comes out only in summer. His garb is always blue-jeans and jean jacket. With his long white hair and long white beard and outstretched palm he looks like Santa on a panning vacation.

And then there is Allen. He never talks or smiles; he just continually cruises back and forth among the Radisson Plaza, the Ramada, and Regina Inn, stopping only to pick cigarette butts. When he pans, it is only for smokes. Sometimes he wears a cowboy hat. He is usually dressed in a denim jacket overtop a western shirt. He is always in blue jeans and cowboy boots. His gait is noticeable from afar because of his long stride. He looks like Mr. Truck, a character off those Keep on Truckin' posters from the 70's.

I could go on but it’s not necessary. My point is simply that as a faux busker I am but an artifice, whereas, the people I’ve just highlighted present really who they are, presenting the opposite of schtick. As a faux busker I’m continually experimenting ways to make my consumers happy. Panners are just trying to make themselves happy.

In a Psychological sense, these panners and scroungers would represent the counterpatterns to the regular workaday consumers. Most consumers, when going shopping for example, present themselves in ways that appear to be okay. Generally speaking, they get somewhat spruced up because they are going out and about in public. Most panners on the other hand, do not have the capacity to look spruced, and rather than going, they are stationary. For panners, any type of schtick would be the tramontane of maintaining a daily sustenance.

One could simply think such street people could easily transmogrify into regular commercially- conformed werewolves, like the cluttered majority rest of us. One could simply think that perhaps they could get bitten by some client-centered counselor, and finally discover that they’ve always had the power within to transform to our majority values.

Or perhaps not. Generally, those who wander the sidewalks plying for our hard-earned spare change or our tailor-made cigarettes with their palms up, are the marginalized consumers of agencies who specialize in the treatment of clients with mental health issues. Pan-handlers, rather than pandering schtick, are presenting their real McCoy selves.

Fellow buskers, I need not remind you that there is a bright line between you who can play and sing, and those ostracized others who have only the capacity to beg. The demarcation between busker and beggar is quite like a polarization between those having the mental abilities to reflect and introspect about capital and corporate manners, and those have-nots who have not the mental ability to do so.

Fellow buskers, to finish this blog geared toward me, myself, and I, join me in this weekend wordrobe of plaudits to the dedicated agencies (such as those on my blog header) and their staffs (i.e., Lin & David, Anita & Jackie, Carole & Ann Marie, Nikolina & Lionel) who effect sea-changes in either their disparate consumers or the general public, or both.

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