Sunday, October 27, 2013


The temperature at present being minus two degrees, with a rather brisk breeze to boot, my busking days for 2013 are numbered.
'Tis time, perhaps, to set myself side an ev'ning flick'ring flame, don my Westchester velvet smoking jacket, puff on my philosopher's pipe (see blog entry, THE PHILOSOPHER'S PIPE:  WHEN A FELLER NEEDS A FRIEND -- June 29th, 2013), occasionally pat that English Cocker Spaniel so snuggled at my my feet, whilst I sip drams of Jim Beam bourbon whiskey, and contemplate my mercantile busking accomplishments, all of which in preparation for the coming busking Spring.  

Here is what I'm thinking.

Everybody wants to be somebody.  Everybody is the subject of impression.  Everybody is trying to impress everybody.  In fact, success in social any relationship, be it at work or at play, relies on the art of impression. 

And I am no different.  I am an individual.  There is only one of me.  I want to be like Mic Christopher and Glen Hansard when they were buskers (pictured).  Strumming on the sidewalks, I do realize the value of that first impression.  I do believe the quintessential busker to be that guy or girl with a guitar and harpoon. I strive to be that guy.  I strum; I harp; I sing.  I am not unlike every other busker with the same presentation, and therefore, it is not an easy job presenting a positive first impression that distinguishes me from the other thrummers in the busking nation.

Radical in their time, the early impressionist painters violated the academic rules painting.  Impressionist painters constructed their pictures from freely brushed, short, thick strokes of bright and vibrant colors.  A first glance at one of their paintings revealed bold eye sensations without a lot of detail.   

The impressionist busker can be compared.

The forest is essential, the trees incidental (William F. Reese).  Just as the short and thick strokes of an artist’s brush are quite similar to the short and thick strums of a busker’s guitar, a busker can violate the academic rules of music, just as the impressionist painters did by not putting detail to canvas.

Details to time count and particular notes are not essential to the busker, just as the linear details of subject matter were not essential to the impressionist painter.  It is like strumming rhythm guitar, rather than plucking the strings for lead guitar.  Lead guitarists use few or no chords in any particular song; whereas, the foundation of any particular song is reliant upon the rhythmic chords provided by the rhythm guitarist.  While the lead plays out the melody, the rhythm provides the groove.  The lead produces details, while the rhythmic guitarist enriches the overall quality of the song.  In a band both guitar roles are equally important.  As a solitary folk busker, it is only the rhythm that counts (pun intended).

I strive to be that guy, that quintessential street busker, presenting to be an authentic and attractive individual performer.  To successfully do this, I’ve created five self-mands for myself:

  • First, I must know myself.  Anyone can be a chameleon busker.  Anyone can be vanilla.  On the color scale, I am probably chocolate.  Rainbow, for me, would be too much.  I want to be butterscotch.

  • Second, I must always be thoughtful. Any interaction I have with others while busking, I must focus and imagine my potential consumers’ view.  This means I must make eye contact. If I’ve eyes to the ground, I present apathy or defeat.  If I stare I present arrogance and confrontation.  If I give a long dreamy look, I present sexual interest and flirtation.   Any look, other than that of accepted acknowledgement, will certainly give the wrong impression.

  • Third, I must master my emotions.  Even though I may not be hale and hardy, I must present that I am.  Even when someone heckles, or offers some addlepated cheesy advice, emotional restraint is a must.  Nothing creates a negative impression faster than an inappropriate outburst.

  • Fourth, I must always acquiesce to the busker rules of etiquette, though other may not.  The rules and heuristics of busking are unwritten.  In the downtown square I’ve had keyboard player blow me out of my buskspot with his amplification.  At the Farmers Market, without so much as a nod of respect, I’ve had a country string quartet (The Binder Twines) set up practically right beside me.  During one folk festival two little violinists (accompanied by their parents) set up across the street from me.   Even though other buskers may not comply, I always must.

  • Fifth, I must strive to be dynamic.  I must always exude a positive energy, smile and make a friendly impression.  If I present that I am raddled, I should pack up my bag and go home.

Adhering to my self-mands combined with my empirical evidence, I strongly believe the symbiotic relationship between busker and consumer to be a positive social therapy. Over the years I have experimented with several different alterities.  I’ve been a drugstore cowboy; I’ve been a pan-drummer; I’ve been a didge player; I’m now a folk guitarist.  Whatever persona I’ve assumed, I have learned that a positive first impression is very necessary for busking success.  

And I must mention that these first impressions are always Aesopian in their nature.  For the consumer, being lightly entertained can only add a positive sprinkle to their day.   
For a busker, adding that dulcet sprinkle to someone’s day … can only produce more dulcet clinking in the guitar case.     


Sunday, October 20, 2013


My weekend began with a Friday night PINK ICE hockey game!  My favorite National League Hockey (NHL) Scout, Brad Hornung, and I went to watch the REGINA PATS play the MEDICINE HAT TIGERS in Western Hockey League action.  For BREAST CANCER AWARENESS NIGHT, the Pats wore pink jerseys and the playing ice surface was pink!
(I'm presenting that I know lots of NHL scouts, and I do know lots of NHL scouts  ... but only because of Brad.)

Rising early Saturday to busk, I was prepared for bleak.  It was +10 degrees with a slight breeze; the sun shone sometimes, hidden among the clouds most times.  This was the last outdoor Farmers Market for the season.  And for this reason alone, I knew I had to thrum there.  I stated I was prepared for bleak, and this is not a story of self-fulfilling prophecy. I cannot control the weather; however, the weather does control the consumers.

As a buskologist I know there is no such thing as bad weather -- there is only bad dress. My attire for the morning was a weather proofing. I wore my heaviest lined hiking boots, my winter-lined blue jeans, a cotton undershirt underneath a thick white turtleneck underneath a long black split-leather coat, overwhich I pulled on a black toque and a pair of grey Dickensian half-mitts. 

Instead of my usual twelve-string I slung my little six-string (nylon) Odyssey, thinking it would be warmer to strum – I was right.  And of course, I packed my harp.

The vendors were few and the crowd was thin.  On the last market day, there was certainly no angst in searching the right buskspot.  I set up in front of the stage in the middle of the City Square Plaza, facing the sun should it ever come out. As last week, I was the only busker on the square.

For the last half hour of my busking, nearby vendors Jordan and Lynne sang a few folk songs.  Jordan strummed and they both sang.  Jordan is the proprietor of SACRED EARTH.  Each market he sells natural home-made soaps, beeswax candles, tea lights, and natural skin products.  I’ve known Jordan for a long time.  In past years he has strummed by twelve-string and my banjitar at the market.  Jordan is a talented guitarist and has the perfect mellow folk-singing voice.

Lynne, I’d just met on Saturday.  When Jordan started strumming and singing, she abandoned her table to join him in sweet harmony.  Lynn is the proprietor of FARMGATE FOOD, selling delicious nutrition from her organic farm, her specialties being eggs, lamb, and pork.

As a pair, their sound was that of professional entertainers.  They looked and sounded the role (see picture).
Saturday evening was the football game, the Saskatchewan Roughriders were host to the British Columbia Lions.  I knew I had to be there because, like the morning market, it was likely my last busk at KINGSWARD, my buskspot near the stadium east gate exit.

As a buskologist, I know there is no such thing as bad weather – there is only bad dress (see paragraph two).  I cannot control the weather; however, the weather does control the consumers (see paragraph one).  I knew that if the Riders won the game, the fans would be ecstatic and generous.  Instead of slinging my guitar in the cold and wet, Baron and I decided on a pan drum and shaker.  Whilst shaking, I would hold up our CANADIAN MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION sign.   

Repeating myself, thrice in this entry, I knew that if the Riders won the game, and thereby earning a home playoff game, the fans would be ecstatic and generous.  I was wrong.  

It was dark and it was wet.  The street lamp over KINGSWARD was not lit.  Unwittingly, we were in ambuscade, startling most of our potential consumers as they marched by.  The wind and the rain did not stop, as did no one in the marching crowd. Of the five football games I’d busked at KINGSWARD, the take this Saturday evening was by far the least.  Twenty thousand people exited the east gate in the dark and the wet and the cold, after the game just wanting to get home.  It is difficult to tip a busker when one cannot see a busker, never mind fumbling about attempting to reach into a pocket that is bundled under a parka and a rain suit.  There was not much maffick in the pedestrian traffic.

Ho hum, live and learn … kudos to the Riders and their victory, and kudos to us for enduring the elements.

Our take for the evening consisted of a twenty-dollar bill, a few coins, and a packet of cigarettes, a buskapade that was hardly worth the night hike.  (I have one big opportunity to redeem myself – the Grey Cup is to be played in Regina on November 24th.  On that day, snow or shine, I shall be busking with my guitar and harp at KINGSWARD.)

This Saturday, for reasons of common sense and my weather-smitten consumers, will be my last day of busking for the season.  Particular moments on this day shall be forever gone, just as this day shall be forever gone, just as this past season, and all seasons and years previous forever gone … forever lost.

Saying thus, I can still find comfort in knowing that even though these past times are lost, the generally actions and trends specifically attached to any of these particular times will be replicated.  Though in the coming times there will be different names attached to different faces, the actions and the circumstance of events will be pretty much play the same.  And when these actions and events are replicated, there are certainly epiphanies to be found from those lost in those past days, seasons, and years.

When I was in my 50’s, for example, a general glance backward in my time spent reveals epiphany upon epiphany upon epiphany.  I’m thinking the very revelation of such backward glances really reveal that even the epiphanies presented are not that important; or rather, whatever you want to be important … is important.

When I was in my 40’s, I know I was delusional.  Thinking that I’d chosen the right paths in my life was reasonably gratifying.  I now realize that any paths I’d chosen could be or could not be, or would be or would not be … gratifying.

Am I being too abstract?

Then let me remind you of my 30’s.  In my 30’s, like everyone else welcoming and then becoming Corporate America, I had committed to being a working stiff, while at the same time selling my soul to the company store. Like all my neighbors in the burbs, I had the world by the tail, of which circumstances would grab and drag and swing me about with my kids, my mortgage, my car payments.  Fittingly, we had a couple of summer chairs on the front stoop, and a gas barbeque on our deck in the back.

In my 20’s I was looking for that perfect phony baloney job.  I had a university degree. I was tall, dark, and handsome, I had beautiful and loving wife. I had three adorable children who excelled in everything they partook, including school and sports.  We were the Hollywood family, complete with the Hollywood attitude.

In my teenage years I was the typical participant victim of sturm und drang.  Of all things relating to attracting members of the opposite sex, I was too skinny; I was too shy; my my marks in high school were too high (peer pressure you know); my adequate athletic abilities were not high enough (peer pressure again).  All this inadequacy and confusion changing ever so slightly with the walking down those lilac lanes in summer, holding hands with my latest crush who would allow me to feel and squeeze just a tiny bit, allow me those exquisite and delicate, juicy and squishy moments, first above the waist, then after a few fumbles and devil-hot breaths, below the waist.  (I still get excited reliving those sexual and angst filled moments strolling the summer lanes, and then later stretching in the back lanes, in the backseat of my car.)

Ah, but if I could only go back … knowing then what I know now.  I’d be that Roman hands and Russian fingers teenage sex machine.  I’d be that twenty-something corporate executive who had climbed to the company top.  I’d be that frugal thirty-year old who knew enough to save for the future.  I’d be that forty-year old who had scriven with tireless pen, that best seller that helped to save the world.  I’d be that fifty-year old sage, an ever wise and altruistic gentleman of renown.

Regretfully, dear readers, it is apparent in my ghost ramblings that I've found nothing from my lost past, save that I am now still suffering the deadly sins of greed and of lust.

Regretfully, dear readers, had I grown socially and psychologically over these past decades my epiphany ought to have read:

Ah, If I could only go back … knowing then what I know now. I’d get my doctorate in a discipline that I loved (probably English Literature) and then become  ….  a BUSKER ...
a BUSKER without limitations, a BUSKER strumming not just for the weekends!


The characters marching in my busking parade for this week include:

  • The skinny and scruffy cadge who sat just fifteen feet up from Baron and myself on KINGSWARD, with his New York Yankees ball cap held out upside down begging for alms.

  • The know-it-all leonine, Myles, who busks regularly in front the liquor store on Broadway Avenue.  Myles always feels compelled to give me tips on how to busk, tips to which I politely nod and dismiss immediately when he departs from my company.

  • The lovely and enchanting, Rubenesque Robin, a welcome blast from the past.  Robin is a sweetheart who is presently employed at a granite shop.  Next week, she begins her new trade as a welder.  In high school Robin was a guitar slinger, and strummed in our school band.  One time, I remember very well (Robin does not remember at all), she baked me a cake on my birthday.  Robin is now 22 years of age.


Monday, October 14, 2013


The cow, the turtle, and the frog on the hill  

Laying together, talking to Eden only

And not her Mommy!

Gleena has to be careful because the frog might get her.

Watch out!  The cow might bite!

(by two-year old Eden)

“So that is her story, inspired by the stumps at the top of the hill,” her Mommy, Natika, says, “where the cows were let out to roam the trails.” The picture at this blog header is the mise-en-scene, on a mountain trail in British Columbia, Canada, the exact setting where all this cow and turtle and frog action takes place.  Eden and Gleena and Natika hike this trail every day!

And why would Eden, who is just two years old, be telling such a story?  She tells such a story because storytelling is in her nature, central to all of our human existence.  Common in every culture is the symbiotic entertaining exchange between story teller and story listener.  Storytelling has a constant social value; storytelling is an expression of feeling; storytelling is a constant reminder and affirmation that we are not alone in our struggles. 

Sharing stories brings people together and gives perspectives to our lives.  In storytelling and listening we commune with one another and also with the characters involved; and in so doing, we relate these characters to our present and existing conditions.

According to William Glasser (creator of Reality Therapy), each of us has a story to tell.

One of my clients, Calvin, (not his real name) just recently told me the story of how he ended up in the psychiatric ward.  One hot August night the rain began, and not resisting the urge, he stripped off his clothes and ran naked into the middle of the street.  He howled at the gibbours moon until the police arrested him.

Each week I tell a stories in my blog entries – one of which you are reading right now.  My stories are always about busking.  In my stories, I present myself as a certified buskologist, a self-proclaimed status of authority on busking.  In my stories, I am this busker who moils and thrums daily on the summer sidewalks; whereas, anyone who follows my blog knows that I am really a faux busker, having the not-so-secret urge to become a brutto tempo busker.

This past week in every Canadian paper was a headline on storyteller, Marc Nadon.  Marc Nadon, our newly appointed Supreme Court Justice, told the story that he was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings (National Hockey League) when he was 14 years old, and that he chose to give up hockey to pursue a higher education.  This story, researched by every sports writer in hockey, quickly proved to be a lie.

All stories have themes. Nadon’s story is a theme of sacrifice.  He presented that he could have been a professional hockey player, but instead took one for the team (Canada) and became a lawyer, and now a Supreme Court Justice.  Simply, Nadon’s story is that of a bloviate, a story of deception.  In that one line, Marc Nadon expressed that he chose to be a liar and not a hockey player.

My busker themes are always that my busker alterity is really one of altruistic enterprise, when in fact, I just really love busking.

Calvin’s story theme is that of a delusional superpower.  Calvin was convinced he could transmogrify from human to werewolf with a few simple howls under the midnight moon.  Calvin has been in the psychiatric ward several times over the past few years, most times because of his delusional symptoms of Schizophrenia.

Eden’s story has, simply, the theme of innocence.  Eden, herself, represents the fountainhead of storydom, for in psychological development, this is the age where her story and all of our stories begin.  Eden’s story is one of enjoyment, and contentment, and her love of nature and all things surrounding her.

Yes, each of us has a story to tell; in fact, many stories to tell.
Our stories start when we start -- Our stories end when we end.


En route to KINGSWARD and slinging my guitar, I passed the usual canaille, with all their hats out and upturned, begging for money.  (KINGSWARD is where I busk after every Saskatchewan Roughrider home football game.  KINGSWARD is so named because my long-time best friend, GARY KING, suggested that this be my buskspot after each game.  The KING in KINGSWARD is obvious; the SWARD, just another of my puns.)

Anyway … en route to KINGSWARD beneath a grey and smalt sky, my hiking boots crunching the grassy floor of fallen vermilion and jasper leaves in Victoria Park, did I pass the outdoor vendors battening down the hatches in the brisk and bitter wind.  Walking up Albert Street to the tunnel beneath the train track I did pass the canaille, wailing with hand outstretched. And just around the first corner, thirty-one steps heading west toward the east exit gate of the football stadium, I did set up my buskspot at KINGSWARD.

That game day at KINGSWARD, three inebriated marching members deserve mention in my CHAUCERIAN PARADE for this busking week.

  • The bongo player who grabbed Baron’s bongos and wouldn’t quit pounding upon them until he fell over and stumbled away.

  • The sidewalk singer who uploaded lyrics to a few of his favorite songs, and between cacophonous belts and cigarette puffs, would holler and intimately insist to others in the exiting parade to give me money or else.

  • The not-so-mobile scantily clad nubile who slowly and sultry danced to the hoots and whistles of the other marchers.

And to close ...  
A devine and mesmeric little girl and her ever faithful dog 
were sat on a mountainside sward and ...   

Sunday, October 6, 2013


I am a busker.  And even though I have given sidewalk performances with my banjitar and didgeridoo, I do believe the quintessential busker to be a Dylanesque/Donovanesque guy with dundrearies sideburns, belting lyrics of basso profondo protest while strumming an acoustic; or to be some sylphen, folken figure of a Mary Travers, with her long and golden windswept hair, trilling out dulcet marching tunes of rally.  (See picture left:  Bobby and Donovan and Mary)

Rather than conceding to the stigmatic stereotype of me being a beggar with a guitar, I consider myself as a self-employed street performer, whose doppelganger alterity chooses to thrum my twelve-string and blow my harpoon, outside the boxes of office and convention.

Remove the art of busking and any significant joy the marketplace has to offer would cease to exist.

Outdoor markets attract vendors and buskers, and busking is a mercenary vendor-like business.  The enterprise of busking is a tough one, because product and service cycles are short in season and limited in location, never mind that the busking market is capricious and fluid, unreliable and unpredictable. The art of busking is like any other venture in business.  The art of busking needs structure, needs creativity, and needs consumers.

All of us have desires, and the desire of buskers is simply to own the rewards of their individual labors, and the desire to exchange these labors for possessions. 

The desires of the consumers are no different. They, too, are highly promiscuous in their wishes and wants.  I must mention that the consumers of busking are the hoi polloi of the downtown daytime neighborhood.  The consumers of busking are NOT the mercantile panjandrums, the hoity-toity sliver who strut among us, who upon the slightest whim would abrogate the business of busking with a finger snap.

Wherever there is a busker there is a buyer’s market.  If the buyer does not like, the buyer can walk on by.  If the buyer does like, any appreciation on the spectrum of acknowledgement is appreciated.  It could be it smile; it could be a hello, it could be the toss of a coin. (Yes, a busker’s primary motive is to be paid!)

Busking can be lucrative for anyone having a little talent, a lot of luck, and a strong work ethic. Rather than being just a beggar with a guitar, being a real busker requires courage and confidence, creativity and stamina.  A real busker has to be communicative, disciplined, self-motivated, patient, and persistent. A real busker must enjoy people.

Solitary buskers, especially, are important members of the marketplace, for even solo, they can offer flavors sweet and colors bright to the downtown climes that are typically barter bitter and commercially dreary.

The strategy of busking is simple: open venue -- open pitch.  Buskers offer entertainment that is cheap in price, offer an atmosphere where there is no dress code and no advance tickets are required, and oftentimes offer backdrops for photo opportunities.

The idea of Busking challenges the commonly held perspective that music belongs on a concert stage, or on a floor in the middle of a barroom.  Busking does raise the awareness of a certain social issue, mainly that everyone needs not to work crisply in an office or under a hardhat on a rig or in a ditch.

People who support buskers do so because they recognize that the music they are listening to, is an integral part of their shower singing lives; therefore, representing the artistic instincts in most of us. 
The art of busking is an honorable pursuit because it inspires creativity and social entrepreneurship through a public self-expression, really being deeper and natural projections of our usual sublimated selves.

The art of busking preserves our history, for busking is a cultural anachronism that has been around for hundreds of years. Buscars, Spanish for seekers, were commonplace among the Gypsies (Romani), who eventually brought their art of busking into England.  In Chaucerian times (the Middle Ages), buskers were referred to as minstrels.

Nowadays the business of busking is in perfect harmony with our love affair of performance management.  A busker can thrive in the freewheeling milieu of the marketplace, as a provocateur and social entrepreneur.  Not being seditious, buskers, in business actuality, symbolize the readily accepted pay-per-performance microcosm, the essential cog in our spinning economic wheel of Capitalism.

Yes, I am a busker – Yes, I am here to live loud!