Sunday, September 29, 2013


Busking Saturday morning at the downtown Farmers’ Market, I knew it was autumn.  I knew it was the continuous tale of bildungsroman. Though I pulled my black woolen toque over my ears, buttoned my ankle length black split-leather coat right up to my chin, left only my fingertips sticking out my grey woolen Dickensian gloves, donned my winter-lined blue jeans, and buckled up my all-season Columbia hiking boots, I was still chilly from 9 o’clock until noon.

My neighbor vendors were wearing parkas, having their hoods covering their heads.  The one left of me had his arms folded across his chest in life-saver fashion, standing like a statue.  The pair on my right were nibbling their baking and drinking hot teas.  Across from me, another baker, was sipping bowls of hot soup which he had purchased from the young lady kitty-corner from my buskspot. The crowd was thin, my consumers few and far between.  It was too frigid for the regular Saturday market foofaraw.

Not until early afternoon did those glorious golden rays of sun brighten my guitar case.  Not until early afternoon did my chilly morning busk in the shadow transform into a warm and windless bask in the sun. My spirit lifted, I could at last look around, enjoy my many consumers marching through the market, and contemplate the art and science of my busking.  Up and until this bright and shiny moment, I was benighted miserably in my mind’s eye, about the nature of brutto tempo busking.

Fair weather buskers are faux buskersbrutto tempo buskers are real buskers.  After all these years of strumming on the sidewalks, I am still really a bel tempo busker.  (See my blog profile.)  Gradually and developmentally, I am moving from being a fair weather faux busker, to that of a brutto tempo real busker.

All buskers have their rhythms, their sacred moments, and their challenges.  A busker’s rhythm is determined according to schedule, locations, and particular talents.  Sacred moments are those peak consumer times that the sweetest rewards for those locations.  I, for example, have as my rhythm and sacred moments:  Saturday mornings I busk downtown at the local FARMERS’ MARKET; Saturday afternoons I busk at VALUE VILLAGE; Tuesday afternoons, 4:30 until 6:00, I busk at SHOPPERS on Broad; Wednesday afternoons, 4:30 until 6:00, I busk at MIKE’S INDEPENDENT on Broadway. Other days I just busk on weekday whims.  Some Friday afternoons I busk again at MIKE’S INDEPENDENT, and some Saturday noon hours I busk at ITALIAN STAR grocery.   

My particular talent is simply strumming and harping.  Rarely do I sing; rarely do I frail my banjitar; rarely do I didge.

My main challenge is the weather.  As a busker, sometimes I have to batten the hatches in the winds of summer.  As a busker, sometimes I have to button and wrap coats and scarfs in the shadows of autumn and the damp of spring.  As a busker, I always have to warm my throat and fingers in the icicle of winter.

In summer I am the quintessential guitar-guy and folk-singer busker, complete with a blues harmonica.  In autumn and spring I become the drugstore cowboy, wearing denim and leather for warmth, and donning my favorite hat, the Brixton Tiller (pictured in the header).  In winter I need a toque, a parka, ski pants, hiking boots, and mittens.  (Pray tell, what instrument can I play in such garb besides a didgeridoo?) 

No matter the season, no matter weather, brutto tempo buskers are plying their chosen trade. Brutto tempo buskers have a better awareness and a deeper understanding of themselves.  Brutto tempo buskers are tough.  Brutto tempo buskers are real buskers.

Brutto tempo brings out the worst in me.  Yesterday morning at the Farmers’ Market I alluded to my benighted thinking, until the sun beams at long last, brightened my visage and my thoughts.  In the dark and chilly morning shadow, anytime I spied someone else with a guitar, I imagined that person wanting to set up alongside me, or worse yet, wanting to join me. (Both scenarios have actually happened on a few occasions, usually by buskers who are novice, or just plain stupid.)  On the front burner of my brain I rationalized why I should be elsewhere, in a gym lifting weights, at a coffee shop sipping Americano decafs, somewhere more bon vivant than being here as a bum (ouch, but that was my thinking)!

Betwixt moments then and now, from the time of that radiant noonday sun until my time at my kitchen counter (pun intended, at home counting my coin), did my thoughts toward busking become lucid and golden and positive.

  • Alex, my wine cellar-seller neighbor at the Farmers' Market, yesterday, is a Political Science major at the University of Regina.  He and I chatted most the morning on the Middle East and Al Jazeera news.
  • The Hutterite vendor, next to Alex, delivered free to me at my busk-end, a bundle of washed and cut carrots to take home.
  • And last, the anonymous vendor who complained to Ada, the Farmers' Market CEO, that he didn't like guitar music and that I ought not to be near him next market call ... that BRUTTO TEMPO BASTARD! 
From a buskologist’s point of view …

In spite of the weather, a busker’s identity need not be static.  A busker’s identity can be subjectively fluid; can be chosen to suit whatever whimsy and occasion.  We, as buskers, can always become who we want to be, while sometimes discovering in the moment, our real selves, really our bildungsroman brutto tempo selves.


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