Sunday, November 18, 2012


Man I used to love growing a mustache in November.  Growing a stache would cost nothing and took little effort to harvest; and this was such small gesture in the grand scheme of joining my mates in the international rally for the cause and the research for prostate cancer in men.  Movember used to be mod and a la mode.  I loved Movember so much I even blogged about it!  (See my blog entry Sunday November 14th, 2010, The Hirsute of Happiness.)

But now Movember has changed.  Movember has adverted, not only to beards, but to other causes (mental health issues among men being one example).  I am in agreement for raising money for men’s mental health concerns (after all, I do busk, on a regular basis for the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan);  I am just not in agreement  that issues other than prostate cancer be linked to Movember.  Movember has become thinner than Errol Flynn's mustache.  Movember has become abstruce and just another macedoine of causes, all of which I care about, none for which I want to grow a mustache. 

Oh, and I do have a history of growing a mustache!

I had a mustache in the 70’s as I attended university.  There was I, in my t-shirt and jeans and hiking boots, sporting a black and thick mustache, rolling stogies with Shakespeare and Chaucer, and banging around on my black 750 Honda.  

I had a mustache throughout the 80’s.  In fact, my kids those days, never knew me without one.  My stache was the envy of the other dads in the neighborhood (this is how I remember it).  I stood tall with my stache while I mowed the lawn, trimmed the trees, and hauled rubbish to the dump. My mustache added to my roll-up-the-sleeves working man persona   

I had a mustache in the 90’s when I taught high school English.  I cut quite the literary figure with my always-needing-a-haircut do, my sports jacket buttoned over my t-shirts, my ripped Lees recycled from my university days, and my black steel-toed work boots.  By design, I projected the stereotypical English teacher, in similar costume to that of my university days, but certainly more polished in presentment.

When the century turned, I minified my mustache to the bare skin, growing it back only when the Movember movement began.  Each sweet Movember my workmates and I styled and waxed our obligatory staches, transmogrifying and cosmeticizing ourselves into the good, the bad, and the ugly for everyone in the cause.  Man, do I miss that Movember mafficking amongt the other mustachioed contestants!

Alas, but soup-strainer Movember is no mo fo moi, no more experiencing those imaginary sex symbol mustache movie moments, as in the ilk of  Errol Flynn (Captain Blood), Clark Gable (Gone With the Wind), Burt Reynolds (nude centrefold for Cosmopolitan), and Tom Selleck (Magnum and Quigley).  (Australian actor, Errol Flynn and Australian setting, Quigley Down Under remind me that I've kept my self-mand not mention my didgeridoo in this blog:)

And what has all this rant to do with busking?

As a social entrepreneur, the thirty days of stache hath November is personal essay of a common cause that I once shared amongst the mobros.

As a buskologist it is a commentary of a not-so-projected image for one designated male month of hirsuteness.

As a busker this rant is a necessary confession … that these days in this Movember , I am but a nudnik, a cranky busker abrogating myself not to compete and join in the grow-bro cookie-duster camaraderie … abrogating myself only to squinny at the porn Selleck staches of others.     

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Dear Reader,
My father, who fought in World War 2, always referred to Remembrance Day as Poppy Day.  This is a past post --  slightly edited from last year:

I am thinking of getting a tattoo. A tattoo, I think, will add grit and mystery to my busking persona. I’ve got my banjitar, my guitar, my didgeridoo; I’ve got my playlist; I’ve got my buskspots; I need a tattoo.

The first tattoo I ever laid eyes on was on my Dad’s left bicep. It was a portrait, a head shot, of a girl donning a sailor cap. The name, Norma, was printed beneath – My mom's name is Marlene. All my friends and anyone I knew who ever saw that tattoo were impressed. My Dad had guns for biceps, no doubt resulting from the heavy lifting in a Macdonalds Consolidated warehouse where he had labored for thirty years.

My Dad left the village of Vanguard, Saskatchewan, Canada, to join the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War. Overseas, my sailor Dad, got his tattoo while on drunken shore leave at the Port of Barcelona. My Dad served as an Ordinary Seaman on the anti-submarine war ships, the HMCS Restigouche (Destroyer), the HMCS Antigonish (Frigate), and the HMCS Aggasiz (Corvette). Basically, his emerging adult years were spent chasing German submarines in the North Atlantic. My Dad returned home with a war chest of medals.

After the war his namesake nephew, Jackie, too, needed a tattoo, just like his Uncle Jack’s. Instead of getting a Norma, he chose Mickey Mouse. Jackie was fifteen years old. Jackie flexed this tattoo on his left bicep until he was 72 years old. At 72 his newest girlfriend did not like men with tattoos and so Jackie snuffed out Mickey with three laser treatments. Jackie is alive and well at 78, but Mickey Mouse no longer hangs on his arm.

And I know exactly the tattoo I want and where I want it. The very first time I had to officially identify my busking-self, I used the name Seahorse. I am thinking I’ll have a larger-than- life seahorse inked on my left side, starting with the head on my shoulder and ending with the tail on my left bicep. Like Norma, my seahorse will be donning a sailor cap. Unlike Norma, my tattoo will be surrounded by a marshall's star (to exemplify my cowboy busker persona).

I can easily imagine the perceived mystery and grit of being one who is tattooed. I shall represent that sense of alterity that many of us so desire. Being tattooed I shall no longer be just another button-down busker pounding out tunes in the parking lots. A tattoo shall surely enhance that ever present busker charisma. A tattoo demonstrates one who is doughty, not pouty. And finally, I can finally be that desired doppelganger of me, myself, and I.

Today is Remembrance Day. When I was a kid we used to call it Poppy Day. My Dad’s pop (George Child, my Grandfather) is buried in the Veterans’ section in the Regina Cemetery. I never met my Grandfather. He died in 1931 when my Dad was just ten years old. I’ve seen pictures though, one where he is on horseback and armed with a rifle, when he was a cavalryman of the British Dragoons in the First World War.

Fittingly, my Pop, Jack Child, is buried in the village from where he went off to war, Vanguard, Saskatchewan, Canada. Beneath a sketched sailor cap on my Dad’s headstone it reads:
Home is the sailor, home from sea.

Jack Child sailed home on Valentine's Day, 1994.

And, of course, I wrote a busking song about him:

D                                 A
Jack was every inch a sailor
Sailed with Columbus to America
On the Nina and the Pinta
A7                  D
And the Santa Maria

D                                 A
Jack was every inch a sailor
Sailed to Galapagos on the Beagle
Sailed to the North on the Arktika
A7                                     D
Sailed to the South on the Fram

D                                  A
Jack was every inch a sailor
Scrubbed ol' Rusty Guts at seventeen
Chasing German submarines
A7                                 D
And blowing them to smithereens

D                                   A
Jack was every inch a sailor
He met his mermaid Norma
At the Port of Barcelona
A7                                 D
Had her tattooed on his bicep

D                                A
Jack was every inch a sailor
A North Atlantic Able Seaman
Jack was every inch a sailor
A7                                         D
He sailed away on Valentine's Day [x2]

Saturday, November 10, 2012


The other day I was in attendance at an educational workshop where the presenter reacted, as a put-down toward an audience member, with the response, all kids are smart.  And then she proffered that all kids are really smart.  

Ah, such chutzpah and grandiloquence! Ah, such rhetoric!  Too bad the presenter's employer does not acknowledge this titbit of insight, ever unbending in policy to even pretend that all kids are smart.  Loyal servants of public education are constantly reminding teachers of this campy all kids are smart epithet. Such a phrase lacks scholastic value. In fact, such a phrase is pragmatically nonsensical when considered in a school setting. 

As if teachers do not really know that all kids are smart in some regard.  Ironically, edicts from school boards rarely allow for any smarts other than those designated as academic, to be measured on company time.  In almost military fashion, school systems keep dispatching soldiers to march down teacher street and deliver their collectivistic dogma to the masses.  If the notion that all-kids-are-smart were true, teachers would continually be assigning A's for effort on every learning occasion. Teachers are not allowed to do this, just as they are not allowed to flunk everyone on every learning occasion.  

Everyone, including teachers, knows that smarts do exist elsewhere than academia.  Everyone does know that Dick is really street smart and that Jane is really intuitively smart and that Zeke is really mechanically smart.  

Such all-kids-are-smart epithets delivered by school system servants definitely lack sincerity, especially when one considers that schools measure success specifically in only an academic way, the way of percentages.  This system of teacher measurement is scribbled thrice per semester on every student's report card, and is adhered to at year end in a student's grade level placement, which in turn, is determined by percentages.  Any student receive a failing grade in a high school English class, for example, (a grade lower than 50%), must repeat that class. 

Most students pass their classes. But there are some students who do fail.  If school board members and players truly believe that all kids are really smart, then it is also true that we reward really smart students by having them repeat certain classes.   

The fact is we value competition.  We value it in sports (for in every contest there is but one winner), and we value it in the workplace (where only a chosen few become the boss). And we value it in school, where the assigned valedictorians and award recipients have reputations for having passed their classes with high percentages. Perhaps this is a bad thing, perhaps it is not.  Whatever it is, it is what it is. 

Right from the pre-kindergarten get-go until grade twelve graduations, students formally compete with one another. The bluster that all kids are really smart  hypocritically delivered yearly at teacher conventions and workshops does not change anything.  Though teachers are obligated in spirit to adhere to the nature of that particular philosophy (as evidenced in their subjective and student-centered teaching methodologies), they are contractually and contrarily obligated to be totally objective in their specific marking policies.    

Our school systems endeavor in earnest to have teachers travel both roads, the philosophic all- kids-are-smart super paved-with-good-intentions highway, and the pragmatic all-kids-are-not-smart gravelly grid road.

Oh, East is East and West is West, and the twain shall never meet. Despite the parallax, students in our school systems are taught to pursue their dreams of becoming movie stars, medical doctors, professional athletes, and presidents.  Teachers ever encourage children to become these dreams, whilst teaching them to exhibit politeness, respect, and cooperation in the process.  But at the end, all the real life events and challenges, both in and out of school, have a way of tempering such glowing passions into sometimes dim realities.

Alas, adhering to the educational argot, if ever the twains did meet we’d be living in a button-down world of e’er-do-wells, a world where anyone showing up would be a winner, a world in which a a prize or trophy would no longer be considered a valued possession.

And what does all this have to do with busking?  Just as school systems attempt to allow for individualism in an environmentally collective sort of a way, those persons choosing to be buskers display, too, their individual talents in a collective setting.  But buskers are loners.  We strive to strum, toot, or sing, standing alone among the masses. We unwittingly by social design, co-exist among the barons and beggars, performing on that median betwixt the pavement and the gravel.

When the final bell has rung and the last transcript has been delivered, being educated means not letting someone else determine what we cannot become; selfishly, being educated means realizing what we wish to become we can become.

Fellow buskers, we are among the privileged few who recognize that richness and reward can either be money or metaphor; and we are among the privileged few who recognize that the scholastic line between the e’er-do-wells and ne’er- do-wells is a blur, duller than it is bright.  


Sunday, November 4, 2012


Dear Readers, 
It has been a miserable winter week for busking. And so here I've sat, all the days long, seated on my hiney, writing my latest university lessons, writing my next best seller, and, of course, writing this blog.

While writing, I need to sit, though droning the didgeridoo whilst squatting on my haunches does not work (at least not for me). As a busker, I need to doo stand-up, like a trumpeter heralding the morning or afternoon or whenever time I'm out there on my busk. Dooin' stand-up was for me serendipitous. A couple of busks ago, because my butt was sore, I decided to stand up. Dooing so, I suddenly I had wings, just by raising my earthy prosterior off the pavement! At long last, I finally had the freedom and licence to evangelically blow and show off my red Meinl synthetic didgeridoo. In that moment, I went from vagary beggary to trumpery trumpetry, and just by standing up for myself!

Dooin' stand-up is like doin' stand-up comedy. And here are ten to doo tips that will raise you from being a two-bit performancer up to an uber dooer.
    Tip #1. A didge busker, as does a stand-up, needs about five minutes of original material. Once you've mastered the drone, it's a matter of practicing stating all the vowels, AEIOU, over and over again until they're discernible. Or, you could even start singing into the didge, while you drone, of course. Whatever you do, doo for at least five minutes.

    Tip #2. A new comedian needs to find a comedy club that offers an open mike. A didge busker needs a buskspot. Though I'm a stranger on the didge, I'm a stager on the busk. My five buskspots are tried and true, and I visit each on a regular shift/pattern.

    Tip #3. Comedians need to rehearse. Didge players, too, need to rehearse. Fortunately for busking didge players, they get paid to practice. Just like I got paid to practice my guitar, my banjitar, and now my didge.

    Tip #4. Make sure your audience members can hear what you want them to hear. Dooin' stand-up, you can rotate 360 degrees while you're root-a-tooting. Dooin' such a rotation will include everyone within your droning range.

    Tip #5. Stick to an allotted time. After 90 minutes, the merchants from whom you've received permission to busk, will be tired of, not you, but your tunes (if you can call didge drones tunes).

    Tip #6. Keep a schedule of your gigs. As expressed in tip #2, I frequent all five of my buskspots on a regular weekly basis. Tuesdays I'm at Shoppers. Wednesdays I'm at Extra Foods. Fridays I'm at Safeway. Saturdays and Sundays I'm at Value Village. Any other days I could be anywhere.

    Tip #7. Comedians continue to re-write anything they think could be made funnier. Didge players ought to change beat tempos and rhythm patterns, add auxiliary percussions, stridulations, and continue to ululate from gig to gig (buskspot to buskspot).

    Tip #8. Stand-up comedians always must make nice with the audience, and so must didge buskers. Whenever someone tosses you money, nod a thank-you.

    Tip #9. Be prepared for hecklers. Stand-up comedians have pithy and quick response lines and are ever prepared the cat calls. Buskers, you too, get ready. Though they appear infrequently, when they arrive, hecklers are a pain in the butt (more so than when I was dooin' while squatted on my haunches). When someone gives a heckler, turn your butt cheek and toot the other way.

    Tip #10. Stand-up comedians learn to just be themselves. Dooin' buskers, just be yourself. If you're a clown (a real clown, not just one who is dressed as a clown), or a cowboy (a real cowboy as I am with my guitar or banjitar, not just one who is dressed as a cowboy), or a seriocomic, remember ... Just. Be. Yourself.

    And being myself, yesterday as I was walking to the bank, droning my doo, I met the marcher in my Chaucerian Parade for this week (e'en though I never did busk)!
    •  Hurray to the sailor from Halifax who asked what I was playing.  A didgeridoo, I replied.
    You play it often? he asked.
    Usually only when I busk, I replied, but now I'm just practicing.
    Well then here's some money! he said while attempting to hand me a fin.
    Thanks, but no thanks, really.  I'm just practicing.  
Hear ye, hear ye! It pays to doo stand-up!