Sunday, September 30, 2012


Just yesterday we had a death in our family.  My stepfather, having diabetes and cancer and the other infirm symptoms that 84 years of age provides, died in his sleep.  Very soon my wife, my oldest son, and I shall be driving to Kamloops, British Columbia for the Wednesday morning funeral.  My daughter will, no doubt, meet us there, driving from Port Alberni, British Columbia.  My youngest son will stay put (studying) in Amsterdam.

Where do we come from? Where are we going? These questions are asked again and again and again in Psychology, Philosophy, and Kindergarten.  At my Autumn age, the significant questions seem to be more reflective: What should I have done by this time in my life? How can I live a life to feel good about the impact I have on others each and every day?

In my private counseling practice it seems not uncommon for clients to look back on their lives as proof of the things they've done wrong.  I, being likewise, have made a pact with myself. In my next lifetime I’m not having kids – I can only imagine the money I’ll save (though I truly, truly love my children).  In my next lifetime I’ll busk wherever and whenever I want – I can only imagine the fun I’ll have (though I truly, truly love being an educator).  In my next lifetime I’ll not focus so much on real estate – I’ll buy only a broom closet for an abode – I can only imagine the mortgage stress I’ll not have (this one could more true than the statements previous).

We are all just four self mands (see Skinner) from the new beginnings in our lives.  I PLEA you take heed.  (Generally, I laugh at such acronyms because they seem to be contrived, precluding the suggested directions being offered.  However, when I include such mnemonics within my fustians, I attempt to wittingly devise them, gleaning them after my actual constructs.)

Picture your goals.  Oftentimes I see myself as a cowboy busker.  I wear the western boots, the boot cut denims, the western shirts, the cowboy hat.  Other times I see myself as a folk singer, a real Bobby Dylan wannabee.  I wear the work boots, the long short pants, the t-shirt, the shades, all headed with a tam or a toque or nothing at all.    

List a couple associated priorities.  Oftentimes during the months October through May, every Thursday evening I and my music mates gig under the band name, The Grand Trunk Troubadours.  Other times I do the odd solo gig under the performance names of either Seahorse or Friday Harbor.

Energize.  Oftentimes I lift weights at the university gym.  Other times during the fair weather seasons, I run long distances, the minimum being three miles.  Oftentimes I write.  Usually I make a blog entry (this blog) once a week.  Other times I practice my guitar, my banjitar, my harmonica, and soon, my red didgeridoo.

Acknowledge your stressors.  Oftentimes my stressor is time.  There is never enough time, not enough hours in the day, not enough seasons in the year, to just go out and busk.  Other times my stresses are mainly my children (though all are adults and will roll their eyes when they read this).  As a parent, I know when this particular kind of unimagined stress will end – It will end when I end. (And this brings us back to what this blog entry is all about, doesn’t it – DEATH.)

Each of us (and this includes our children) has a destiny to live and to die and to be agog in an a-go-go world.  It very well could be that our destinies lie in the reality that exists beyond our senses and perceptions of time.  Perhaps this is so, perhaps not. 

Just as I am the hero in practically every story that I tell, so too, can you be the hero in all the stories you tell.  Take a look at your funereal life.  Start creating your own exciting and new story right now.  Be the hero of that story, and take the beginning steps for your heroic journey. 

Be the YOU that says hello to life and good-bye to death.

On such a lively note, I wish to acknowledge three especial characters that have marched in my Chaucerian parade this past week:  Gerard, Ann-Marie, and Aleksi Campagne.

Gerard.  Gerard is a local busker with a finger gift for guitar.  The man can pluck and strum.  He is one of three people who’ve ever strummed my guitar on my own busk!

Ann-Marie.  Ann Marie has the sweetest angel’s voice whilst she quietly strums her acoustic guitar.  I first listened to Ann Marie when I was on a long-distance run around Wascana Lake.  I noticed this beautiful folk-bird strumming and singing on the lakeshore and I stopped and I stared … but only for a moment.  I met her again while busking in downtown Regina, and again, just yesterday when she joined me on a busk at Value Village.

Aleksi Campagne.  I went busking a couple times with this violinist virtuoso.  Aleksi is from La Belle Province, Quebec, Canada.  Aleksi and I were a busking duo, first in the Regina Downtown Plaza, then again in the outdoor Fred Hill Mall.  Google Aleksi Campagne and you’ll see and hear some great videos of his virtuosity.  Aleksi is at present, deservedly studying near Paris, France. (His picture is at the beginning of this blog entry.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012


September 21st.

Autumn.  And we are all brothers and sisters under the sun.  Animals, vegetables, and minerals (those ingested by humans) all rely on the sustaining rays of the sun.  Our particular sun has been presiding over our planetary system, cycling resources such as air and water, literally, since our earth was born.  Nary a bubble of oxygen nor a droplet of water has ever exited our solar system. Since we, as humans, crawled out of Africa some six thousand years past, we are still breathing the same air and rinsing our gullets with the same potable water that sustained life, rained over, and quenched the thirst of dinosaurs inhabiting this same planet millions of years before our arrival.  

Our nurturing sun has been burning brightly for 4.6 billion years, and our learned astronomers have given it its burn notice.  Just 6 billion more years, they say, is when our sun shall burn itself out.  If this is true, then our sun is in the salad years of its shining life, in human terms, emerging adulthood.  Perhaps such a theory adumbrates my own existance. For 61 years I have been breathing regularly, and my life insurance actuaries have given me my burn notice.  At 78 years, they say, and my live long days shall be fini.  I am in the autumn of my inspired life, in western jargon, a senior citizen.

Our golden red sun lords over an entire dairy colored galaxie that includes a red planet, a blue planet, seven seas, and a silv’ry moon.  As for me, I lord over a one hundred-seventy pounds of dairy pinkish skin, ruby red lips, grey-green eyes, type A+ blood, all topped with a silv’ry sheen.

My favorite characters marching in my Chaucerian parade this week:
  • The zoomorphic who instructed me to Take this cart if you want some money while I was busking in the Extra Foods parking lot.     
          To which I treacly replied in milquetoast fashion, No thanks
  • The malevolent beggar who was unceremoniously escorted from Shoppers on Broad, and after seeing me busking with my guitar, in his drunken maxixe, pirouetted and  pounded on the store glass yelling, How come he gets to stay! (Forsooth, buskerhood and beggarhood are not a brotherhood.)

Whilst our sun continues to burn, the physicists have postulated that our universe is forever expanding, both physically and metaphysically.  Whilst I am breathing, my physician has postulated that I, too, am expanding, both physically and psychologically.

Autumn in Canada has just arrived today. Soon, the mornings will be crisper, the verdigris leaves vividly vermilion, and sun drenched moments shorter by the day. As the fervor of the sun fades ever so slowly, my life, too, doth fade.  Even so, death doth not affright me ... yet.

It is common knowledge that our sun controls our seasons with its bi-annual solstices. It is not so common knowledge that I, too, control my seasons, or at least can stretch them out, because there is no such thing as bad weather -- there is only bad dress. Very soon my autumn attire shall be my woolen Brixton ranch hat, my Canadian tuxedo overtop one of my assorted brightly colored cowboy shirts and neckerchiefs, my Levi jeans pulled outside my green leather cowboy boots, while thrumming my guitar or banjitar and blowing my blues harp.

Come Winter, perchance you may find me on some snowy sidewalk on a chilly day in December, creating an endless summer for my be-mitten busking self, blowing hot air into my new red didgeridoo.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Yes, we’ve created three busking videos and have linked them to this blog and to Youtube (scroll on the left side of this header to click and view).  During the shoot they did seem spontaneous; viewing them a second, third, and fourth time, they seem corny.  And they seem corny … because they are so obviously contrived!

The players on screen from left to right: Trent on guitarlele (a guitar-ukelele hybrid); our bongocero, Baron; me on the twelve-string and harmonica; Ben on guitar. Behind the camera is Michele.

The audience members:  Eric, who is doing the dance; Robert (wearing the neck brace); Susan, who is waving; Sugar, a sweetheart standing beside her bicycle; a group of teenagers from Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
We shot the videos in the Fred W. Hill Mall in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.  It was a perfectly windless bluebirds chirping kind of a day, and Michele and Ben just happened to be in town.
Michele is a professional singer of international acclaim – she sang for Hillary Clinton and her entourage at a lounge in Calcutta!  Ben, a world traveler hailing from Washington, D.C., is that kind of guy that has the duende to be whatever he so chooses. Having an adhesion to social causes, Ben had chosen to spent eight years in India as a social entrepreneur. It was there, in India, where Ben met his true love, the very urbane and quintessential jazz singer, Michele. Both were moving to Toronto immediately following these video shoots.  Eric is my friend from White City and … father to Michele and her brother, Robert.  Robert, the sometimes reckless adventurer, too, is a traveler.  His neck brace and arm cast are the result of a motorcycle accident just a week ago.  Susan, who just happens to invite us in with a grand wave, is the owner and manager of my favorite clothing store, Madame Yes. (Scroll down the header of this blog, left side, to see her shoppe advertisement.)

Susan graciously offered her storefront for the setting of the shoot.  Susan also agreed to come out and supposedly wave us in during one of the songs, which she did in ever so melodramatic fashion.  A group of teenagers in Regina for some shopping agreed to happenchance stop for a listen, which they did after an obvious head nod from me.  Eric just happened to be dancing in and out of Madame Yes.  Robert just happened to request Knocking on Heaven’s Door.  And the most obvious and contrived, Trent and Ben coincidentally, sitting on the sidelines complete with their stringed instruments, willing to join on a spontaneous whim request from moi.  Yes, we were all in cahoots in the making of these videos.

Sadly, the sweetheart Sugar was our only surprise guest -- (the Fred H. Mall is not a busy station on a Saturday afternoon.)

When I watch the videos I see me nodding my head to the Swift Current teenagers, and indicator for them to join us.  This was supposed to be Eric’s job.  I see me shouting Eric! and Susan! which is really me reminding Eric to get Susan and remind her to wave us in!  I see me smiling and nodding and smiling and smiling.  One need not be a cryptographer to detect the discernable nods and command codes. This being the case, our videos were in declension, really, before they began.  When I watch the videos,  I see me, the unlikeable and interminable me, spoiling all on the screen.

For the next video shoot I think I know what to do, the formula being:  More choreography means less perception of being contrived.  Maybe.  Or maybe I shouldn’t plan anything, just gather the players and go with the flow! No matter, I do not want to create another unintended comedy because of one unlikeable character.  I do need to winkle that guy out, and allow a sincere one to enter.  

And I know what I want it to look like at the start.  I’ve had an epiphany, so to speak. Someone, one of us, will be smoking a cigarette (yikes!).  This shall be in the cinematic and winsome style of my favorite busker video, Glen Hansard and Mic Christopher singing Bobby Dylan’s, You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.  Glen Hansard is an Academy Award winning songwriter and a famous member of the Irish rockers, The Frames.  Mic Christopher, a noteable singer-songwriter, has sadly passed on.  Both were buskers back in the day.  Google them and You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere – I promise you’ll be impressed!

To continue, it'll likely be either Baron or Daussen Cassell smoking the cigarette.  (Daussen and I have done some busking together -- see my blog, The Fiddler on the Pith, July 23rd, 2011.)  As the camera starts rolling, we’ll be waiting for either one to finish his smoke, which he will then flick to the pavement, and snub with his grinding heel.  And then whoever we happen to be, in the quorum, will start the song.  In the Hansard-Christopher video, Mic is smoking and Glen is waiting.  Later in the video, Glen has a guitar string break, which is a glorious moment in the video because Mic, who is singing, casually takes the guitar while handing Glen another, and proceeds to remove the broken string.  Once we’re started in song, I’d like the person behind the camera to keep panning us, the performers, along with the crowd members, of which all have randomly arrived.  Once the song has ended, the camera ought to shoot us bowing, and the crowd members clapping.  I’m thinking the song shall be again, You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.

Characters marching in my Chaucerian Parade for this week:

*Tom & Jerry.  Tom convinces Jerry, who is packing an axe, to pick alongside me.  Jerry is humble, Tom is not.  This was an agonizing three minutes of fake smiles and fake sincerity on my part.

*The Man Handler & Pan Handler.  There’s a new sheriff in town!You want a piece of me! are just a couple of the several threatening taunts issued from the store manager toward the panner in front of the liquor outlet.  Suited, the manager was raffish; his quarry, the panner, was ragtag.

*The Assayer.  Do they know you have this sign?  I work there you know and I want to know if they know you have this sign.  She is referring to the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan sign I had on display in my guitar case.  Anita and Jackie made the sign for me, I reply. I’ve been in that office several times and have never noticed this mentioned lady.  And she contributed nary a farthing, nary a smile for our cause.

The characters for our next video shall surely be of those marching at random in my Chaucerian parade on the day of the shoot.  Ah, the vagaries of videos!  But I want to be a-go-go in the blogger world of busking and connecting to Youtube just seems hip!  Future video shoots shall not be so risible as the current ones that are posted. I shall winkle out the wrinkles, so to speak. Our only strategem shall be the weather and ... we shall only pick another windless and bluebirds chirping kind of a day for our Youtube instauration.