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!


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