Sunday, April 15, 2012


It was warm and windless and not a cloud in the smalty sky. It seemed the perfect day for a busk. With manager Shawn’s permission, early Saturday afternoon my favorite bongocero, (Baron) and myself, set up at the glass entrance to Value Village. We decided upon an hour of musical variance, alternating tempos, sometimes led by the unique Baron beats, other times led by my thrums. The moods of our pieces varied from accelerando to allargando, from blue tones to boogie-woogies.

As a soi-distant buskologist, while on a busk I take special interest in each of my consumers, and feel compelled to describe some of the more interesting marchers-by in our weekly Chaucerian Parade:

Tattoo Brian and zaftig, Chris: Tattoo Brian rode his skate board, while Chris trotted alongside. Brian had his cap on sideways, continually flexed his biceps wearing a muscle shirt, baggy jeans, and skate shoes. Zaftig Chris was quite scantily clad, wearing a very revealing halter top (I didn't notice the color) and short, short, tight, tight cut-off jeans, and green crocs.

We’re looking for a preacher to marry us. Do you know one? Brian asked.

The security officer: One week ago this same pale and chain-smoking, lanky security officer attempted to move me to no avail (I had permission) from another buskspot. Today he was off duty, but still in his Metro gray and grungy uniform. He smiled at us.

Hello again, he said.

The wasted loud-mouth lady: An unkempt wobbling lady almost hit us while riding her bicycle.

Watch my bike, please, she said as she leaned it against the glass! On her return she yelled, Where’s my bike! You were supposed to watch my f#%*ing bike!

Right where you left it, ma’am, I replied as I pointed, with my guitar, to where her bicycle was still leaning against the glass.

The Chinese Mason: A tall Chinese with a certain duende, wearing a beige-vanilla three piece suit stopped to chat. I couldn't help but notice his navy blue, gold trim Masonic tie tack, the square, compass, and letter G. (I thought at first it to be a brummagem; now I know better!)

I very much like your music, he said while extending his arm for a hand-shake. I have no money on me but I do have some gift coupons for my restaurant. Is four enough? he asked as he tossed them into my guitar case.

That same Saturday evening Baron and I decided to treat our ever supportive friends, Brad and Hollis, for some Chinese take-out. We, of course, would use the coupons given by the Chinese Mason.

Seated in the outdoor garden patio of Ms. Fortune’s Flowers of China, we dined on Jill Yim Ha, Gee Gee Gai, Ma Po Bean Cake, and Squid. (All agreed our small banquet to be exotically delicious!)

But then came the Fortune Cookies, brought directly to our table by the Chinese Mason. He introduced himself as Mr. Chang!

I have a fortune cookie for each of you, he said as he passed one to each of us in turn. Our cookies represent the four famous flowers of China. Sometimes these are called “the flowers of the four seasons”, he explained. Each of the cookies was wrapped in a motif representing each of the flowers.

The Orchid, the symbol of Spring, he presented to Baron. The Lotus, symbol of Summer, he presented to Hollis. To Brad he presented the Chrysanthemum, the symbol of Autumn, and the symbol of Winter, the Plum Blossom, he presented to me.

Thank-you so very much for dining at my restaurant. It was such a joy to have served you, said Mr. Chang. Enjoy your fortunes!

We each read our fortunes aloud in the same order Mr. Chang had given them. Baron’s Orchid Spring was first: Beware the girls in Bloom—They burst to seduce you.

Hollis read his Summer Lotus: Beware the blue dragonflies, yellow butterflies and bumble bees—They swirl in summer wine.

Then Brad read his Chrysanthemum Autumn: Beware the many colors in the breeze--The hunter seeks its prey.

And last, I read my Plum Blossom Winter: Beware those clad in fake fur—They come to chill the night.

To close, fellow buskers, keep in mind that:

Each of us inherits a culture, with all its written and unwritten rules, and lives in a story written for a fortune cookie.

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