Tuesday, October 30, 2012


 What was to be an adventure of valorous emprise turned, instead, to be an afternoon of welkin clouds, cutting wind, and fat snowflakes.  Baron and I sat on a three by four foot rectangular bit of bright red carpet, busking in front of the Value Village main entrance in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.  Baron pounded on his pan whilst I, in juxtaposed concert, tooted my didgeridoo. 

We were dressed for the weather.  Each of us had on a toque, a parka, ski pants, hiking boots, and lined mittens.  Even so, not even a half hour into our busk the gusts of wind blasted us into the nearest coffee shop for some Americano Decafs.

This is not the way it was supposed to be.  I had imagined people pausing and tossing coins and bills into our busk pot.  Because of the clouds and the wind and the snow, this was not the case.  On sunny windless days the consumers are munificent.  On cloudy bitter windy days, consumers are miserly.

No matter the weather, Baron handles his pan exceedingly well.  Practically every time he plays (save for days like this) the little children gather, and to each and every one, he offers a drum stick for which to accompany him beating on the pan. Typically they laugh, they giggle, they make a hit or two.  And then predictably, their parents stuff coins into their little fists and the children toss these coins into our busk pot.  This is busking heaven.

No matter the weather, I, unlike Baron, do not handle my didge exceedingly well.  (I must mention right here, right now that we in the didgeridoo community refer to our instrument as either a didge or a doo.  And I must confess right here, right now that the members of my didgeridoo community to which I refer are comprised of … moi.)   Every time I play I suck … and blow … and suck some more.  Circular breathing is not yet an integral part my huffing and puffing nature. Even so the fates so far have been kind, for when I doo, I do attract an audience.  I’ve been out droning into my doo just three times and lots of people have stopped to listen … to me … drone my doo.  This is busking purgatory.  I need more practice for more breaths for more beats for more rhythms.  Until then, I shall compensate with some shaky advert measures.

Whenever I am busking solo with my didge I shall bring along a cache of pots and pans.  (We, in the community of auxiliary percussionists, affectionately refer to our rhythmic toys as pots and pans.)  As both kappellmeister and player, I shall rattle my shaker between breaths on my didge, and nary one audience member will notice that I am NOT circular breathing, and nary an audience member will notice that my busking performance is NOT anything but tin-pot.  Learning to circular breathe is my long term goal.  Faking to circular breathe is my madcap mercenary goal.

The generous marchers in my Chaucerian Parade for this week:

The few admirers who offered the following greetings and salutations:  Man, can you play that thing ...  I’ve tried to play like you’re doing, but I haven’t mastered the circular breathing … That sounds so awesome … That is something, it looks like it’s worth lots of money … That is so cool – You are so cool!

The chubby little woman who stated she was bipolar, 61 years old, born on the fourth of May in 1951; who had Ted Bundy for a boyfriend; whose minister continues to sexually molest her; who is currently being stalked by an Afghan named Ray; who thinks she might also has dementia; whose son thinks she should keep taking her Risperidone; and she doesn’t like to talk to people!

The twenty-something picker who rode up to us on his bicycle during the snow storm, while searching waste bins for bottles and cans, and exclaimed that he was so impressed that we were actually Winter busking.  Did I mention he was riding his bicycle in the snow storm, searching waste bins for bottles and cans?

Yes, readers, I have determined plans for my didgeridoo … or as we kool kats call it … a didge or a doo.


Sunday, October 21, 2012


Warm and windy (and sunny)!  It was a perfect day to blow my new red Meinl didgeridoo into the public ear.  And in so dooing, I decided my costume to be a Canadian tuxedo (jean jackets and blue jeans) and a black toque. Getting to this momentous day, I had huffed and puffed into my didge for over two hours to finally achieve that basic drone sound -- Lesson One on any how-to-play-the-didgeridoo on any Youtube video.  Practicing a few more hours on Lesson Two, how-to-wobble, I must confess that I still can only wow-wow-wow-wee.   

No matter.  I fancy myself, not as a milquetoast, but as a buskologist with some mettle.  I took my first step, faced my fear, and my consumers loved it!  Several passers by stopped to ask what it was I was playing.  One (and there’s one in every crowd) knew what it was, and offered that he’d heard a didgeridoo player in Australia and that particular didge player had produced the sweetest music on earth!

The background:  The Canadian Winter is coming and I’m not looking forward to strumming my twelve-string or my banjitar in such frigid conditions.  I’ve tried several experiments to compensate for the cold performances, skin-tight woven garden gloves, miniature pocket heaters, three minute intervals alternating strumming and heating, all of which to no practical avail.  Winter busking is a chilling chore, and that is why I bought my didgeridoo!  One can play a didgeridoo wearing mittens and a body wrapped with a winter parka and snow pants.

The first time my didgeridoo arrived for pick-up at the music shoppe, it was a false alarm.  The sales person had inadvertently ordered the one made from bamboo, lovely to behold, but not practical (I had ordered the synthetic one, the guaranteed weather proof edition).  Not strangely, both the bamboo and synthetic versions are the same price, with the same hand-painted designs.  Both are beautifully designed, and both sound the same (at least to me they do).  However, the bamboo didgeridoo is but a gimcrack, compared to the synthetic one, an instrument of high pragmatic value.  Alas, with my new didgeridoo, I can now take control of my winter busks.

Of the hundreds of times I’ve been busking, yesterday was the first day I went stringless.  Everyone knows the quintessential instrument of busking is the guitar, and yesterday I had neither my guitar nor my banjitar.  I had only my new didgeridoo.  I knew from my busking experiences, that to conquer this fear of the unknown instrument, sitting at home and thinking and practicing and thinking and practicing wouldn’t work.  I had to get out and doo it!

To master a new skill takes time.  I’ve read that it takes a dozen years to develop proficiency. Some researchers have strongly suggested that it takes 10,000 hours, or 600,000 mind-minutes to become professionally proficient.  But so what; there is certainly no need for a 12 year or 10,000 hour fuss plan to get out and busk with any instrument.  One of the reasons I love to busk is because … I get paid to practice!     And besides, on this particular huffing busk, I was empirically abiding a self-fulfilling prophecy to my busking advantage.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief that comes true just because we are willing to behave in a way that suggests it (whatever it is) is already true. I left my home yesterday believing that I would, as usual on any busk, meet a new bunch of people, and make some money in the whole social process.  I also imagined that I’d be seated sideways on the sidewalk (so as not to interfere with the pedestrian traffic), and wobble guttural drones from my new didgeridoo.  I knew that I could fake it ‘til I made it!  And I did fake and make it, with a public joy through the entire afternoon.

I love being a buskologist – I love to gallivant and gather grist to write about busking.  To be a master busker means to always improve.  To improve means to change, and the goal toward busking perfection (or anything perfection) is to change often.  To be the hyphenate buskologist, I have to be fearless, embrace change, and … 
Just didgeridoo it!           

Monday, October 8, 2012


THE BUCK STOPS HERE is the inscription U.S. president, Harry S. Truman had on his desk back in 1931.  THE BUCK STOPS HERE meant that responsibility was not passed beyond this point, beyond President Harry’s desk.  He didn’t originate the phrase, but we would never have heard it had Harry not adopted it.

For me, 81 years after Harry, THE BUCK STOPS HERE still retains its political and pragmatic value. THE BUCK STOPS HERE reminds me to take the responsibility for managing all of my busking, from the signage, to the buskspots, right through to performance.

Managing my avocation as a Buskologist takes concentration, commitment, and a certain amount of time off the clock.  By concentration I mean conscious thought; by commitment I mean continual street practice and performance; by time off the clock I mean temporal economy, those segments of time I can afford to steal from my day.  (Because of our lifetimes being a finite condition, even minutes in life are precious.  Whatever moments and things we decide in our lives to be precious, then so too should be the time we set aside for these decidedly precious moments and things.)

Managing my busking avocation meant that I had to first, seek permission from certain agencies to display their logos, and second, find the right busking locales.  Seeking permission from agencies took some thought; and getting permission from these same agencies was both simple and easy.
My very first sign for display in my guitar case was created (crafted really) by Lynn Hill, front office manager of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).  This was right after she introduced me to David Nelson, the Executive Director of the CMHA, Saskatchewan Division Inc. (who seemed more than pleased that I would busk for such a cause).

My second sign for display in my guitar case was created by both Jackie Just (Program Coordinator) and Anita Hopfauf (Executive Director) of the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan.  Both these ladies offered to jump aboard my busking bus with open arms.

Other signs/logos that I hope for future display are those posted alongside the CMHA and the SSS logos on my blog header:  The Phoenix Residential Society - a community based health care organization providing psychosocial (psychiatric) rehabilitation services to persons with psychiatric disorders, concurrent disorder of problematic substance use and mental illness, and persons with cognitive disorders and acquired brain injury; and SEARCH – the acronym for Student Energy in Action for Regina Community Health

To acquire these signs I must seek and receive the blessings of Carole Eaton (Phoenix Society Executive Director) and either Lionel T. (SEARCH Past Chair) or Nikolina V. (SEARCH Programming Committee Chair).   

To further manage my busking affairs, I’ve assigned certain times for my bread-and-butter buskspots. Tuesdays and/or Wednesdays I busk at Shoppers Drug Mart on Broad Street in the afternoons from 4:30 until 6:00.  Months ago I sought and received permission from Dana, the manager at this Shoppers location, to arrive and busk at random a couple times a week.  Busking there, I always set up near the customer entrance, performing always with my twelve-string and harmonica.  Never do I play my banjitar there because it is too noisy for such close encounters with the Shoppers customers.  This month Shoppers Drug Mart across Canada has chosen to support Canadian Mental Health as its awareness theme.  Knowing that I frequently busk for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Dana has asked me, personally, to show up and display my CMHA sign. (When I busk at Shoppers, I usually display my Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan (SSS) sign, because the SSS office is within song distance up the same block.)  Dana has even enticed me to do so with home-baked dough (goodies not dollars) to comply.

Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon between 1:00 and 4:30 I busk at Value Village.  Like Shoppers on Broad, I busk right at the front entrance, the very place where Shawn, the Mall manager, suggested.  And like Shoppers, I’ve permission to arrive at random to Value Village and busk a couple times a week.  And again, like Shoppers, I strum and thrum my twelve-string whilst blowing my harmonica, because the banjitar is just too intrusive for the customers entering the front gate.

Between the hours of 4:30 and 6:00 in afternoons of Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays is when I busk in the parking lots of Extra Foods on Broadway Avenue, or Safeway on 13th Avenue. Because I stand in the middle of the parking lots at these venues, I always bring my banjitar.  And, like Shoppers and Value Village, I’ve permission from these managers, respectively, Randy at Extra Foods, and Kevin at Safeway, to arrive at random and busk at these locations.

And last, one noon hour per week I’ve taken, at the invitation of manager Carlo, to busking at the Italian Star on Victoria Avenue. Sometimes I show up twice a week. At the Italian Star I tend to thrum my guitar, rather than my banjitar because of the limited patio space.  I think the word, rudeness, would apply should I pick and frail on my banjitar while others sitting near are munching on the Star’s signature sandwiches.

In summertime outside these self-prescribe busking hours, I saunter downtown and busk either in the outdoor Fred Hill Mall, or the new downtown Plaza, or Victoria Park.  Sometimes I busk in the mornings at these locations, and other times in the early afternoons.  On the rarest of occasions, I’ve even busked on the evening sidewalks.  No, I do not have permission from anybody in particular – I just know that having read the municipal bylaws, there are no restrictions on busking anywhere in the city of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.  And I must mention my summertime wanderlusts, my buskations, usually to British Columbia, Canada.

All of these above mentioned managers of my preferred buskspots have traits that are common with one another.  Dana, Shawn, Randy, Kevin, and Carlo all have polished and approachable personalities.  These managers are ever genuine and friendly to me, and somewhat surprising, impress upon me that my busking is important to them (and their business, I suppose).

Managing my busking business also requires that I continue to reinvent myself on an ongoing basis.  Yesteryears my busking began with my twelve-string, and I thrummed and sang.  Yesteryears I bought my banjitar, and kept that as my main instrument, with very limited singing.  Yesterseason (just this past summer) I’ve attached a harmonica to my sidewalk acts, only to discover the harp goes better with the guitar than with the banjitar.  Yesterweek, I started to sing again between harpoon huffs.

Yesterday I purchased a Suzuki Tremolo Harmonica ($13.) and, at the same time, ordered a Meinl Red Didgeridoo ($32.) to keep me busking throughout the winter.  My public wish:  Tomorrow I want to be a temerarious busker for all seasons, rather than the vanilla fair weather busker that I am today.

Managing my busking business also requires that every time I go busking, I treat every encounter, every conversation with anyone as though it were an interview.  I know that every person with whom I communicate, judges me.  This is true in any encounter anywhere and at any time. Because this is the case, I keep all of my conversations, phatic as they may sometime seem, in an infotainer perspective.  The consumer hoi polloi appreciate banter with a pippin, rather than chatter with a starch.

Which reminds me of my favorite mortals this week marching in my Chaucerian Parade:
  • Tracey, the security officer from Shoppers, who brought me bottled water and told me a personal story of her beige and carmel colored melodica.
  • Sweet Emma, from Island Lunch at Value Village, who told me the story of her pink guitar.
Managing my busking business also requires me to focus on my strengths.  My busking hours, minutes, and moments are spent practicing, performing, and practicing while performing.  Weather permitting (soon to be all weather days, save for rainy ones), I do attempt to get out every day and practice, perform, and practice while performing. 

And the skinny of all this buck stop and busk spot stuff?  As a registered Buskologist, I consider myself to be a Social Entrepreneur, one who employs innovative solutions to recognizing pressing social problems, all the while being the constant ambassador for the art and craft of busking.

As a buskologist, I have to be continually good at what I do and get good at what I want to do because ...   
I know the buck stops here at 
the buskspots here!