Sunday, February 24, 2013


It was cold but windless and sunny.  I knew that if I did some didge busking close to noon at Value Village I’d fill my busk pot.  I was wrong.  Nary a nickel got tossed into my didge cage.  I’ve learned a lesson, I think.  People are munificent when it is windless and sunny … but warm.  I can understand this.  We are all gregarious featherless creatures wanting to congregate and chat outside … when it’s warm.

Cold weather days do not encourage phatic chats.  Cold weather days encourage not even a nod of the head, never mind a reach in the pocket for some coin to toss a foolish, hardy didge busker.
I’ve, too, learned a lesson of didge busking.  

Here is my thought.  The quintessential busker slings a guitar.  Nothing beats strumming in the sun while blowing a harpoon.  My didgeridoo is a secondary busking instrument.  A solitary guitarist looks great and sounds the part.  A solitary dooist looks great but … sounds great in duo.  A dooist’s buskspot is definitely enhanced with another musician percussionist on shaker, or djembe, or conga, or bongo, or pan.  Guitarists can strum alone; dooists need to be in duos.  (There are, of course, exceptions. Just look at some awesome didgeridoo players on Youtube!  I do not didge like they doo …  because they are from Mars.)


I’ve created this personal myth about myself and have put ample amounts of introspective time on this buskology topic.  When busking I am cap-a-pie:  hatted when sunny, curtainedly bareheaded when not, devilocked near summer end.  In the heat I sport a tight white t; when not in the heat I don a crisp and collared long-sleeved white shirt.  My pants are either blue jeans boot-cut, or long and heavy hiking shorts with lots of pockets.  For wheels I wear steel-toed work boots, for trolling up and down the strip.  When I know I’ll be stationary, I wear leather hiking sandals.

On request, I dress as the concrete cowboy.  I’ve two or three western style hats – an olive brixton ranch hat my favorite, and a dozen cowboy shirts.  I’m tall, dark, and handsome,  and people say I look like a cowboy.  I look the cowboy because I really am a cowboy (and have the street creds to prove it)!

This cowboyography that I've created is my personal myth.

The Personal Myth is a social therapeutic construct (Sam Keen, 1973) that encourages adults to tell their own stories.  In this regard, any of us or all of us can be self-guided into rationalizing our belief systems, especially in relation to why we are here, in this particular spot of our personal journey through life.  It can happen to me is the wise expression of an adult mantra.

Fact:  Adults generally take fewer risks than when they were younger.  Adults generally become more conservative and thoughtful in nature than when they were younger.  One’s Personal Myth is a consequence of adult life reflections.

The Personal Myth is in contrast to the Personal Fable.  One's Personal Myth is a creation that will prove true.  We can become what we believe we can become.  One's Personal Fable is a belief that will prove false.  We cannot continually cheat death by taking chances that are statistically life threatening.

The Personal Fable has been coined by psychologists to describe adolescent egocentrism.  Adolescents generally perceive themselves as being special and unique, and have the selfish belief that no one else can relate to their experiences.  The Personal Fable is also characterized by exaggerated feelings of invulnerability.  It will never happen to me is the foolish expression of an adolescent mantra.

Fact:  Adolescents and college-age individuals take more risks (than either children or adults), as indicated by statistics on automobile crashes, binge drinking, drug use, contraceptive use, and crime.  As a result, even though adolescents are at the peak of their physical health, their death rate is disproportionately higher than that of any other age group.


  • One very worthy person that marched in my Chaucerian Parade this week was Nathan, the barista. Right after my didge busk I stopped by Atlantis Coffee for a cappuccino.  I observed Nathan as he prepared it.  After he poured the coffee into my white ceramic cup, Nathan proceeded to make a simple star by squirting the steamed milk-foam into a line design.  Next, he squirted six more short lines of foam around the perimeter.  Last, he took a simple wooden stir stick and vibrated it right in the middle of my drink.  Six white seagulls magically appeared, flying around on the surface of my blond cappuccino.

“Hang on, Neil.  I’ve got to get a picture of this one.  It’s the best yet today!” he said as he grabbed his camera.  Click ... then glub, glub.

  • Also marching this week was Krista, owner/operator of the Island Kitchen at Value Village.  Krista is always so positive and always gives me the best times to busk.  On Friday it was the busiest in a long while,” she said. “And this morning, they were lined up at the door at eight o’clock!  This afternoon, not so busy, maybe later today,” she offered. 

Maybe not later in the day, Krista, for nary a nickel was tossed into my buskpot!

  • And I must present Christina, my Grand Trunk Troubadour bandmate, who, too, marched in my Chaucerian Parade.  Christina posted the picture of the Grand Trunk Hotel, for which we were named (on the header of this blog entry).


  • Murder by decree in South Africa because

Oscar Pistorius is facing murder charges … and so is the chief detective on the case, Hilton Botha … and so is Oscar’s brother, Carl.

  • Uran, formerly known as Iran, because

 Iranian scientists have announced findings of new deposits of raw uranium and … already … Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has identified sites for 16 more nuclear power stations.

  • Fibre myopics because

Soylent greens are rotting in the Republic of Kenya.  Each week single farmers toss 40 tonnes of edible green beans and broccoli to the rot pile because they are not the right shape, size, or color for United Kingdom supermarkets.  That is 40 tonnes of waste per week for each single farmer!  Each waste compost amounts to 40% of entire crops, which could feed up to 250,000 people per week, while currently three million Kenyans rely on Food Aid.


Monday, February 18, 2013


It was minus 17 degrees and snowing.  He was strumming in front of the liquor store on Broadway Avenue.  I’d never seen him before.  Cap-a-pie in a navy toque and black worn-out looking skidoo suit and scruffy sneakers, he hardly looked to be the quintessential busker.  Going into the store I gave him a thumbs-up, to which he gave one nod, chin up chin down.  Coming out I gently set one of my German ERDINGERS (advertised as the world’s most popular wheat beer) into his open guitar case.

Thanks, man! he said.

Nothing like a warm beer on a cold day, I replied.  My name’s Neil.

Pleased to meet you.  I’m Ian.

How long are you staying? I asked.

Leavin’ right away.  Takin’ my honey to the movie, he said.

Oh yeah.  What movie?

Hotel Transylvania at the Rainbow; movies are cheap at the Rainbow.

Ian did not know that I was a movie critic.  And neither did you, I’m betting.  Hotel Transylvania is a destination resort where monsters and their families go on vocation. Frankenstein and his bride, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, and even a pack of werewolves all take their holidays at the Hotel Transylvania.  Adam Sandler is Dracula.

Hotel Transylvania, a five-star resort, not surprisingly projects to be a two-star movie.  Reading the reviews I’m thinking back to my hockey team wind-up bean suppers and movies, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein; Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man; Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.  You get the picture?  It’s reely black and white.

To every hockey season end, courtesy of the management and coaches of the Vanguard Eagles hockey team of the NHL (Notekeu Hockey League), we players were treated a bean supper and movie night at the Legion Hall.  Those were the number nine days of Gordie Mr. Hockey Howe (Detroit Red Wings), Maurice the Rocket Richard (Montreal Canadiens) and Bobby the Golden Hawk Hull (Chicago Blackhawks). 

Ah ... those were the days … but I digress.

Ian got me thinking about movies, and some especially came to mind:

The Sand Pebbles (1966) starring Steve McQueen and Candice Bergen; Out of Africa (1985) starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep; Quigley Down Under (1990) starring Tom Selleck and Laura San Giacomo;  Groundhog Day (1993) starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell; Lost in Translation (2003) starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson; Kingdom of Heaven (2005) starring Orlando Bloom and Eva Green.

In The Sand Pebbles, sailor, Steve McQueen, assigned to the USS San Pablo, is sent up the Yangtze River on a rescue mission. One of those being rescued, of course, is school teacher, Candice Bergen.
The Sand Pebbles is a rich and dramatic anti-war movie set in 1926 pre-revolutionary China. Steve McQueen is the cool tough guy with the military mentality of doing the job with a focus on getting things done.  Candice Bergen plays the beautiful idealistic schoolmarm who believes that everyone in the world would get along, if they all got along with Jesus.

Out of Africa is set in 1913-14 British East Africa (soon to be Kenya). Robert Redford is a tough-guy big game hunter; Meryl Streep is a rich baroness, owner of a coffee plantation.  This movie is dramatic historic-adventure with beautiful vistas and lots of wonderful wild life footage.

In Quigley Down Under, Tom Selleck plays an American cowboy, plying his sharp shooting trade in 1874 Australia.  Laura San Giacomo plays a betrayed and extroverted beauty, also a transplanted American.  The crux of this dusty blockbuster is the racism directed towards Aborigines.

In Groundhog Day, quirky meteorologist, Bill Murray, is somehow caught in a time-loop, reliving February 2nd (Groundhog Day) again and again and again.  And in so doing, he is in pursuit of his classy and shapely work-mate, Andie McDowell, who he plots (daily) to make his sexual playmate.  I used to think the theme of Groundhog Day was that all of us always get another and another and another chance for redemption.  This very well could be a sub-theme, but for now I am thinking the reel theme of Groundhog Day is that most of us are leading repetitious and predictable and monotonous and uninspiring ho-hum lives.  

Lost in Translation is seriocomedy set in modern Tokyo.  An aging (but still suave) actor in midlife crisis, Bill Murray, develops an intensely generative rapport with Scarlett Johansson, a delicious recent college graduate, in this vibrant Japanese city of night clubs and karaoke.  Impressive and plausible, themes of loneliness and existential ennui are ever present (realistically) disturbing.

Kingdom of Heaven, an adventure swashbuckling romance of kings and queens set during the Crusades in 12th Century, is historically adequate and extremely somber in the depiction of battles royal between Christians and Christians, and between Christians and Muslims for the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

My point of these quick and wry movie reviews is simple.  Motion pictures projected onto a screen can also serve as projected tests in Psychology.  The hypothesis of Projective Psychology is that we tend to put structure on ambiguous settings, in ways that are consistent with our own conscious and unconscious needs. The Rorschach (inkblots), Draw-A-Person, Picture Arrangement, and Word Association are some commonly accepted projective tests. Recipients of these tests attach their personal meanings, oftentimes revealing their personal histories and values when being administered any of these so-called standardized projective tests.

I am inclined to believe that the kind of movie one tends to enjoy, too, can be listed as a projective test, and will, indeed, reveal personal mindsets, admissions, and axioms.  A movie-review self- analysis is necessary to prove my point.

All the movies that I’ve written about today are love stories with cool male heroes serving damsels in distress.  That fact that I’ve listed just the two main stars in each movie, male first, female second, suggests something about my placement of males as they’re depicted in my imaginary order of real world values.

It could be, too, that because in each of these movies I’ve presented depicts both male and female stars of importance, being of a heterosexual nature is of primary importance to me.

It could also be that I liken myself as the blending manly composite of cool ruggedly handsome Steve McQueen, suavely handsome Robert Redford, hunky cowboy handsome Tom Selleck, an angst Bill Murray, and devout Orlando Bloom.  Did I mention the word, handsome? Yes I did.

And it could be that I love to view such projected American buxom beauties that are juicy and luscious and vulnerable?  Did I mention the word, voluptuous? No I did not, but I was thinking it.

Am I really, the complex conglomeration of the reel movie males that I write about?  Yes, I am, and in a very handsome way I might add ... but only when I busk.

And do I really lust after synthesized and debased adulterant on-screen dames and sylphs?  Of course I do … but only when I busk.

The Hollywood projector truly doth depict me. I am a cumulative, delusional, and temerarious sailor- cowboy who is tormented because of my tendency toward lookism.  Employing some inductive reasoning, and judging from movie sales and movie star lifestyles, I daresay the majority of other adult heterosexual males think in almost exactly the same imaginary way. Thus, are the projected values of Westerners.

I shall close as I began, with Ian the busker, who was off to see Hotel Transylvania. Imagine on a big screen this perfect mise-en-scene:  It is cold and it is snowy. An adenoidal singing busker is blurting his last song so he can catch his honey in time to attend a monster mash. What the hell is projected here?


The characters marching in my Chaucerian Parade this week are the many people who ask me each and every day, Are you going busking?  (I love you guys!)

  • It’s a swell season …
The surf’s up in South Korea where it’s cold and it’s snowy, and the surfers are riding the waves right now as I type.
  • Out of this world …
A meteor storm in the Ural Mountains of Russia, injured 1200 people while traveling 54,000 kilometers per hour blowing out windows in more than 4000 homes. (Nationalist leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, told reporters in Moscow that this catastrophe was not caused by a meteor, but was rather a new weapon being tested by the Americans.  Comrade, Vladimir, you've been watching too many episodes of American television shows, specifically  Fireball XL5 and Star Trek.)
  • An eye for the future …
And speaking Star Trek, Lieutenant Geordi LaForge’s visor has been re-invented. Argus II is a video camera mounted on special sunglasses that sends a wireless image to a grid of 60 electrodes surgically implanted in a patient's damaged retina. This could be the first bionic eye. 
  • Burning rubber in Aleppo ... 
Because of the bloody war, the oil and gas prices in Syria have skyrocketed.  Residents are burning army boots as fuel to keep themselves warm.
  • Tea Hee-Haw -- Donkey Con
In the United Kingdom, where beef consumption is symbolic of Englishness, the consumption of horse meat is considered culturally scandalous.  Brits, you can relax, some food officials have speculated that some of the unpalatable horse meat that is mentioned on the front page of every newspaper is not even horse meat -- it is donkey meat.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


 Dear Readers,
Still it is winter and still I am, not a busker, but rather a confined functionary scrivener.

Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away as I purchased two bottles of beer from the local liquor store, a Taj Mahal Premium Lager (product of India) and an Affligem Abbey Ale Blond (product of Belgium).  Now one would think that since I’ve highlighted and italicized these splendid beers that I shall continue to scribe along this thirsty trail – but I’m not.  My story begins just as I entered the liquor board store.

Outside strumming and singing his heart out in the cold was Brian, a regular in the busking community.  It’s still wintertime and he was dressed in big boots, big parka, and big wool toque. His fingers were bare.

Brian is the real thing – he is the stereotypical cadge-like busker.  The first impression of Brian in summer is that he is poor, poor, poor.  He’s balding and the few hairs that he has are unkempt, save for his combed dundrearies.  He is always hirsute, his five day beard framing his yellow and decayed front teeth.  Brian’s t-shirts jeans are dirty and stained with grease blotches, and his shoes are scruffy.   

All of this busking persona could be Brian’s pity me busking strategy, but I doubt it.  Brittany, who works the gas bar next door, has told me that Brian busks only until he has the coin enough to buy smokes, which he buys at the gas bar.  This liquor store location is Brian’s primary buskspot.   

We chatted (I hadn’t seen him since last autumn) and he mentioned he was playing his winter guitar.  I guess that really meant his winter guitar was an old guitar for which he was not concerned about the weather damage.  (This is quite unlike me, for I’m a guitar busker in only fair weather, and in winter I busk only with my synthetic weather-proof didgeridoo.)

As his competition I’ve conceded that Brian can have this location.  One of my preferred buskspots is close by, in the middle of the parking lot at the grocery store next door to the liquor store.  I’ve busked in this parking lot hundreds of times – I’ve never busked in front of this liquor store.

Busking in front of a liquor store is not beneath me – it’s just not me (in my imaginary self).  When I search for a buskspot, I always march to the market-like settings, where lots of people mill about.  Right downtown is ideal, especially at noon.  Early Saturday afternoons at Value Village Mall the coin are fat, and any day after four o’clock at Shoppers Drug Mart the rewards are bankable. These are my sweet spots. I own these buskspots.

The Value Village Mall is managed by Shawn.  Shawn’s wife, Krista, owns and manages ISLAND LUNCH, a fast-food outlet within the mall, and their daughter, Emma, has become by best weekend friend.  Working with Shawn is Allan, with whom I have quick and philosophical chats on my busk breaks.

At Shoppers Drug Mart, all the staff have welcomed me.  Dana, the manager, is a business delight.  Globe trotter, Fahim, always stops to chat; Rhonda is always requesting songs (Last Kiss is her favorite).  Helen is a hoot, and Louise is a laugh a minute.  Jagger, Jessica, and Amanda, always offer greetings and Skylar, the Shoppers photographer, placed my picture in the staff calendar.  Thanks to Skylar, I AM THE MONTH OF MAY -- SEE PICTURE TOP LEFT!

Brian and other buskers (Dylan on guitar, Baron on pan drum) are frequent performers in front of the liquor store.  My niches are downtown, Value Village, Shoppers on Broad, and lately, the ITALIAN STAR DELI (Victoria Avenue), owned and operated by the very gregarious Carlos and his family. 



Marching in my CHAUCERIAN PARADE this week are some worker bees for which I have great respect: 
*Rhonda from SHOPPERS … who insists that I drop by February 16th and sing Last Kiss because … it is her birthday!  (She’s turning 60.)
*Carlos from ITALIAN STAR DELI … who yesterday gave Baron a free colossal and delish sandwich and referred to him as family.
*Skylar from SHOPPERS … who placed my picture in their staff calendar.


Here are some headlines this week from around the world (the blue planet).

  • Royal Bones to Pick:    British researchers have confirmed that the skeleton with a cleaved skull and curved spine, found underneath a parking lot in the United Kingdom, is Richard 111, the last English king to die in battle.   

  • A Celebration of Cuban Democracy:  Ailing ex-revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, appeared in Havana to cast his parliamentary vote.  A claque of about 8.5 million Cubans took part in the parliamentary polls – that featured no opposition candidates.

  • Bandersnatch into Space:  President Ahmadinejad gasconades that he’s ready and willing to be the first Iranian in space, confirming his status among Westerners that he really is a space-cadet.

  • The Devil in Papua New Guinea:   Sadly, the 17th Century Devil in Massachusetts has re-ignited in the 21st Century Papua New Guinea, where bystanders watched, as a young woman accused of witchcraft, was stripped, bound, tortured, and burned alive.  This is just the latest of sorcery-related killings in the locale.  Of this, I cannot decry enough!

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Cap-a-pie I am bundled in a winter toque and parka and heavy boots, plodding over the sastrugi.  I yearn for spring. However, it is what it is.  Being a busker means battling the elements, and in winter the only enemy to battle is the cold.  And of all the musical munitions to take into winter combat, my choice of weapon is my synthetic didgeridoo.

Where’s your cowboy hat? asked my first consumer of the afternoon.  This consumer, especially, doesn’t seem to know that in minus degree temperatures presenting a cowboy persona is difficult.  But what would he know?  He is bare-headed! 

Larry is a regular.  Oftentimes when I’m busking, he’ll stand beside me and smoke two or three cigarettes while chatting.  I like Larry.  His black hair is curly, curly short; he’s a tall sturdy fellow, perhaps twenty pounds overweight; and he likes to laugh – he likes to laugh a lot.

Like I said, today he is bare-headed and wrapped in an army green sewer coat (sometimes referred to as a garbage jacket).  He’s in tight jeans and running shoes and his fingers are shaking in the cold as he tries to light his cigarette.  Larry is the kind of smoker who keeps his cigarette hanging on the side of his mouth while he talks, while keeping both hands in his pants pockets.  Larry is always redolent of cigarette smoke mixed with strong aftershave.

He keeps at me.  He asks a second time, Where is your cowboy hat?   I try to explain that it’s just too cold for cowboy hats.   

You’re becoming a wussy, he says and laughs.

I guess so, I reply.

He tosses a fin into my buskspot while hitting me on the shoulder. 

See ya later, Neil, he says.

Though the air is brisk, business is not.  The consumers, today, are few and far between and I have loads of time for reflection.  I have loads of time to think about my cowboy hat and other western looking accessories. For readers, new to my blog, oftentimes I am a concrete cowboy when I busk. Being a cowboy busker means being the sidewalk iconic symbol for honesty, hard work, and straight shooting.  Everybody in the West seems to love a cowboy, especially one playing a guitar or a banjo or an accordion.

I busk in two perfunctory personas, folk singer and concrete cowboy, and I can switch one to the other on a dime (or dollar).  I doff one and don the other on a daily basis.  For both, I strive to be the quintessential busker, slinging my guitar on most of my busking occasions.  Sometimes, though, I need to switch it up by packing my banjitar, or my accordion, or like today, my didge.

Ah! Do I ever yearn to be that spring concrete cowboy.  Come spring I'll be back as a singing cowboy, donning one of three cowboy hats, a 71/8 black Master Hatters beaver blend (too small), a large white Charlie House straw (too big), and my favorite, a 71/4 olive Brixton tiller (just right).   

Come spring I’ll also be strumming in my long-sleeved snap button western shirts with the brand names Iron Fist, Fender, and Route 66.  

Come spring the blue jeans I'll wear will typically be Lee or Levi boot cuts. 

The WB leather belt cinched around my waist is a gift from my cowboy long-ago friend, Wolfe Bear, and the attached Road Runner gold buckle I bought from a cowboy shop in Kamloops. 

For wheels and heels up and down the sidewalks come spring, I'll pull on my green and brown Rocky Long Range cowboy boots.

As either a cowboy or a folk singer, sometimes I’m clean shaven, other times I’m hirsute.

And come this spring I’m looking forward to sporting three brand bolo Christmas gifts, two (an ivory and azure) from my best friend, the other (a gold) from my counseling colleague.  Until this past Christmas, I hadn’t thought of a bolo since my salad years in Medicine Hat, Alberta.  There, in the Hat, I’d bought many a string tie (bolo).  My best friend, Gary, bought the ivory and azure bolos in the 70’s.  Dawne, my colleague, had the gold bolo given to her by her dad, and he died when she was ten!

The spring debut of these bolos will be sure to make me a happy busker … I think.

And why do I think this?  First, I’ve been there, been on that sidewalk, slinging my guitar, strumming and singing for the passers-by and for the most part, being happy.  Second, I know how to achieve happiness, and to enlighten my readers, I shall present the latest principles of happiness according to Russell Grieger (2013).

Principle 1:
This is it.  All that we have is right now.  This is all that there is, my friend.  Not to suggest that we bring out the booze and have a ball but …  our time here is finite.  Enjoy it while it lasts.

Principle 2:
If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.  That’s right.  Nobody has been put on Earth just to make you happy.  Since adolescence, your happiness has been your responsibility.  Own it.  It’s yours and only yours to accomplish.

Principle 3:
Decide to be happy.  For the most part, being happy is a decision.  Seek happiness at every opportunity that is socially appropriate.  When you’re feeling down, cheer up!

Principle 4:
Attitude is everything.  No matter your money, your power, your physical attributes, a negative frame of mind will always make you a miserable person.  If you’re bitter, your attitude needs to be better.

Principle 5:
Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work, work, work we go.  Being happy is a life-time and full-time job.   Being indolent you’ll reap what you deserve, a life of discontent. 

Characters marching in my Chaucerian Parade this week include:

  • The twenty-something cadge carrying the sign, Talking To Me Won’t Make You Poor.  I did talk to him and he was right -- I did not get poor.  However, his conversation did nothing to enhance my philosophical richness.

  • Skylar, the Shoppers Drug Mart photographer.  Skylar took my picture, when I was busking in my black Mad Hatters cowboy hat and included this pic in the Shoppers Staff Calendar.  He claims I'm really part of staff because I'm frequently there, busking right in front of the store.  I am the month of May – the month of my birthday! 

Thank-you, Skylar … I have arrived -- I am one happy boloed buskaroo!