Saturday, June 30, 2012


I am fortunate to have four jobs that I love: full-time high school guidance counselor, part-time university professor, psychology consultant, and fair weather busker.  And I shall describe these jobs in descending order according to income and time commitment.

From September through June each year I play the perfect role of high school guidance counselor. Career usually connotes a focus on the ladder of success, social standing, and prestige; however, for me it is an opportunity help adolescents in crisis approximately 200 days each year.  Having such a career keeps me connected to the adolescent world of whim and fancy, of trend and argot, and in not a strange way, keeps me young at heart.  I shall not succumb to the apex of the Peter Principle – I long to climb no more rungs on the public school ladder.  I have found my niche. 

As a university professor I am committed to just 80 hours, 25 days each year.  In my Adolescent Psychology classes I am dealing mostly with adultescents (emerging adults).  I am thinking this would be a job, since the contracts are quick and thick, and do not interfere with my personal life.  Teaching at the university keeps me ever present in academia, a place, I daresay, sparsely populated in the public school system.

In my private practice as a Psychology Consultant I quite enjoy the complexities, ethics, and methodological interactions between client and consultant.  My private practice weakness is a simple one: I have little patience for those sky-is-falling clients who are not willing to help themselves.  To separate the serious client from one who is scattered, I charge a minimum of $100 per session.

Among these jobs there are obvious ties.  All of these jobs relate to dealing with people.  All my jobs require me to acquiesce to a common sense code of dress and ethics (both of which are continually abused among the brothers and sisters of the buskerhood, by the way). 

At school I have considerable freedoms within my job description.  Though I mostly deal with crisis situations during individual sessions, I can, on a whim, incorporate group counseling for specific client needs.  At school I am a company man, keeping the essence of public education, the municipal school board policies, and the school needs in constant mind.

At the university my leash is definitely shorter, mainly due to instructor evaluations and student grades.  My job description is specific:  Deliver and inform to the students, current theories and pragmatic notions of Adolescent Psychology. The skinny of my duty is to measure the students’ ability to do research and to write about that research.

In private practice I am paid to help clients in any regard they so choose.  If they like me (personally or professionally) they return for more.  If the opposite is true (they do not like me) they end the sessions.  No matter what happens, I go only four to six sessions with my clients.

As a novice, all four of my jobs began with seemingly Antaean performance tasks.  Teaching at a school is talking before a live audience (spectators, rather) of restless adolescents, where one has to wear a duck costume to get any attention.  I am told teaching at junior high is even harder.

There is bright-line between teaching adolescents in the rough and shiny university adultescents.  Teaching university students is to express philosophies and ideas not at all akin to the know-how of the pedestrian masses.  One has to be immersed in academic studies to appreciate academic settings.

Success to counseling/consulting in a private practice is to last at least as long as your client, the first rule of thumb being that sometimes the presenting problem is the problem.

And busking!  Busking is to bare your soul, your talent or lack there-of for all the world to see and hear and ... expect a monetary appreciation from an endless parade of total strangers.

Furtherance to my role of being a social entrepreneur, my artist friend, Chris, created a octagonal red and white Buskologist & Free Counselling sign to put on display while busking (scroll left for a look at it).  If I were to measure its value according to the number of disclosures from the consumers in my Chaucerian Parade this week, the sign has certainly paid for itself (pun intended).   
  • I spent a dozen years playing the steel for Waylon Jennings.  We’re presently trying to put another show on the road.  It’s in the works as I speak, said a Waylon Wannabee.  He seemed unaware of Waylon passing a dozen or so years ago.
  • Hey, brother, you’re welcome to my spot over there, offered Miles pointing to the liquor store. Miles is a local guitar busker who plays just long enough each day to buy a pack of smokes.
  • Basically I was blind-sided.  Everything was going fine (I thought) and then she left me. This young man dressed in a sports jacket handed me a twenty dollar bill.
  • You might say we were unofficially married.  Even though I spent just seven and a half years volunteering and helping her out (at the Wascana Rehabilitation Hospital in Regina, Saskatchewan), she gave me more happiness than 17 years of marriage with my ex.  We were actually going to marry, but she died last May, stated by a volunteer who, himself, was stricken with a brain tumor.  His bride-to-never-be suffered from Multiple Sclerosis.
  • We’re not from here, we’re from Nigeria, stated a thankful father whose four year old ran outside to stand beside me.  When the family had entered the mall, the father had stopped to chat and tossed some coin into my guitar case.  Twenty minutes later, his little boys in tears ran outside and stood beside me, crying the entire time I attempted to figure what was happening.  Of course he was lost and, of course, I didn’t know he didn’t speak English. Beyond his parents, I was his only connection for that anxious moment.
  • My teacher died last night, said Emma, my best friend at the Value Village Mall (her father, Shawn, is the mall manager, and her mother, Chrysta, owns the island food court).  Emma’s teacher, whom she adored, was thirty years old with a wife and two children.  And Emma, who is only in grade four, was preparing tributes and goodies for the funeral.
  • A lady tosses some coin into my guitar case, and then she squeezes her business card into my palm.  It reads: Dixie Delivers!

I would call my fair weather busking a calling, rather than a career or a job.  Though I busk only in sunny and windless weather, slinging my guitar and banjitar on the sidewalk has evolved to be an integral part of my life and identity.  Such a calling allows for unlimited self-expression and unparalleled personal fulfillment.  Being a people person in all of my jobs, busking, more than any of the others, because of the random face-to-face connections, keeps me in tune to what is really happening in the marketplace.  I know busking to be a calling because … I’m not working my performance skills to get to a bigger stage.  I am not out thrumming guitar and humming my harmonica in the hope of one day being discovered. 

Each busk is another chapter for my bildungsroman autobiography -- for on each and every busk I do so discover more about myself!

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Mouth organ. Blues Harp. Harpoon. Pocket Piano. Mississippi Saxophone. Tin Sandwich

Yes.  I’ve just purchased a HOHNER BLUESBAND INTERNATIONAL HARMONICA for just $6.99. My new tin sandwich is silver, four and a quarter inches in length, has 10 blow holes, and I love it.  Also, it’s easy to play, (sort of).   

The day of my purchase, my buskmate, Trent (TRENT’S GUITAR STUDIO), joined me to learn some simple sandwich techniques.  Here is the skinny of what we discovered:
My blues harp is in the key of C.  As long as Trent played his guitar in the key of G, my windy bellows seemed to fit.  We performed before a couple of music connoisseurs, Judy (my best-friend forever, band mate), and Melissa (a songbird whom I adore). Trent played his guitar in G, and I huffed and puffed into my pocket piano.  
Awesome, said Judy; Lovely, said Melissa.  

Upon such praise, I returned to the music store and purchased a rack (harmonica holder).  It cost $8.99 (total investment so far rounded off to $16.00).  By 5 o’clock that afternoon I was busking in front of SHOPPERS ON BROAD, blowing sad while thrumming my twelve-string.  By 6 o’clock I had made $24.00.  In just sixty minutes of busking I had covered the cost of the harmonica and rack, with $8.00 and change to spare.

Busking, however, is more than melody; busking is duende.  When busking with my banjo, cap-a-pie, I always don a derby or tam, a white shirt, blue jeans, and black work boots.  Busking with my twelve-string I’m always under my black stetson MHT, or my olive BRIXTON TILLER RANCH HAT, or my white CHARLIE HORSE RIDER, while wearing a western shirt, and Tom stompin' in my Rocky green leather cowboy boots.  

But now, whenever I take my harpoon out of my dirty red bandana, I’m gonna be a Bobby Dylan wannabe. I’ll wear whatever I want, be-hatted or bare headed, maybe don the shades, sport any kind of shirt, and stand even in sandals.

This Bluesband Mississippi saxophone has truly given me a silver wing with which to flap whilst busking! Though I cannot blow out any familiar tunes, at least not any anyone could identify, I can huff some harmony into my original G tunes on guitar.  This is so, so strange but very, very true.  Alas, I am thinking that this is an example of the truism my Carling Beer representative friend, Pat Casey, used to spout … In the land of the blind, one eye is king!

At noon today I’ve decided to go hatless, wear a pressed long-sleeved white shirt, faded blue jeans, and polished black boots.  I might even wear my sunglasses, which is usually considered a no-no while busking!

'Tis time to mention some of those consumers marching in my Chaucerian Parade this past week:
  • Gus, of course!  This was the first time the retired farmer, cockalorum, octogenarian did not want to strum my guitar.
 I’m going out to shoot and trap beavers, he said.  They’re just getting in the way.
I thought you were retired, I replied.  Oh but I’m just going to help out, he said.
  • My girl, Sarah, can now play C, G, and D on the guitar, stated a familiar consumer from Fort Qu’Appelle. This is the same gentleman that mentioned his uncle had learned to play fiddle and guitar while in a Residential School.  I asked Sarah if she wanted to play something on my guitar.  She shyly shook her head in a No thank-you.
  • What is PSYCHOLOGYBUSKING?  asked a customer who had just tossed a fin into my banjitar case.  
I’m a social entrepreneur, and that’s my blog, I replied.
  • You play banjo; I pick bottles, matter-of-factly stated a scruffy hibeard jumping off his bicycle and onto my banjitar case.  These F****ing C***suckers just throw ‘em away and I am happy to pick ‘em up! said this big-faced, big-mouthed pedaling tramp as he chained his bike wheels to the very lamppost that I was leaning against while busking at SAFEWAY ON 13TH  AVENUE.  It is a good thing that only a few of my consumers are public carpers.
  • I could stand here all day and listen, said a bespectacled middle-aged lady in a long plaid dress.  I used to play guitar, she continued, but not one with so many strings as yours.
At lunch today I’m going with the tin sandwich, and I’ll share it with my consumers.  I do hope they find the sound bites to be delectable!

Epilogue:  (I'm just back from my tin sandwich lunch.)
  • Rock on, brother! said a tall middle-aged man with a grey pony-tail, as he passed and gave me a thumbs-up. 
  •  You got some sweet sounds goin' there, said one of my favorite frequent consumers, Hank's Potatoes, as he stops for a smoke and a visit. Hank still plays a mean guitar, and has even played a few riffs on mine (when I've been on a break).