Saturday, December 28, 2013


Yes, that is me on the left lifting the GREY CUP!  In the middle of this picture is Brendan Taman, the General Manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and on the right is my longtime buddy, Brent, from Vanguard, Saskatchewan.  Brendan Taman and I know one another only as familiar strangers.  We live in the same building in downtown Regina.  Brent and I have known one another all our lives.  We grew up together in the village of Vanguard, Saskatchewan.

Brendan knows nothing of who I am.  Brent knows that I am a busker.  But Brent does not know that I am very soon to be a busker with a business purpose.

Over these last few years I have been busking on the sidewalks of Regina, Saskatchewan, and taking summer buskations in British Columbia.  I have strummed my guitar on streets in Victoria, Kamloops, Prince George, Invermere, Salmon Arm, and places elsewhere.  But sadly, as our renowned crisp Canadian winter sets in, my busking always comes to a cold halt.  In fact, at the start of Old Man Winter I become an accursed, frigid fring, a fring being the noise made by a lightbulb that has just shone its last (THE MEANING OF LIFF, Adams & Lloyd).

Weary of this pattern, I’ve decided to take stock of not only who I am, but also who I want to be.  It is time, I have decided, to grab hold of my busking career.  Recently in the Huffington Post (December 20, 2014), five strategies for securing my/anyone’s career have been presented.  None of these strategies are Annie Oakley – all demand sweat and tears.
  •      Strategy 1. Gain Insight 
1      Through a series of self-assessments (simply by counting the coin in my buskpot), I do know my strengths and I know what needs improvement.  In certain geographical areas around downtown Regina, I am in demand.  I have buskspots established at Value Village, Shoppers on Broad, and Mike’s Independent on Broadway, the Italian Star Deli, the summer Farmers ’ Market, and Madame Yes in the Fredrick Hill Mall.  My skillset is thrumming my twelve-string whilst blowing a harpoon.  Amongst Regina buskers I am unique (save for Devon Floyd who busks with these same instruments but in a different sphere).  My weakness is that I play the same twenty or so tunes over and over and over.  Another weakness is that I do not sing much. Both these I recognize as being so simply because … I am too lazy to put in the extra effort. 
  •       Strategy 2. Know and Express Your Value 
 I understand my value to the establishments where I set up my buskspots and my value to the agencies that I advertise.  My busking goal is strictly that of entertainment. The agencies that help to sponsor me (Canadian Mental Health Association and the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan) are not too concerned about my busking strategies, so long as they are never embarrassed by my behaviors.  The vendors where I busk have stated that I add a welcoming ambience to their establishments. 
  •       Strategy 3. Develop and Manage Your Brand/Reputation 
3    Everyone has a personal brand or reputation to a degree.  As a busker I present myself to be a cross between folk singer and singing cowboy.  I tussle my hair, wear a long-sleeved white shirts (or white t’s), faded jeans, and work boots.  If it is chilly, I don either a Stetson or a Brixton Tiller. Lots of self-reflection over the years has determined the garb and persona that I present as a busker.  In the beginning, as a cowboy cap-a-pie with a cowboy hat, cowboy shirt, stiff blue jeans, and cowboy boots, I was never really comfortable.  Posing now, somewhere betwixt anthophilous and cowpoke, I am very comfortable.
  •       Strategy 4. Build Your Network
      I have gotten to know most of the staff in the vendors of my busking haunts.  Some I know by name, all I know by face.  All our smiles to one another are reciprocated, and our chats, both phatic and philosophical, are commonplace.
  •       Strategy 5. Share Your Goals
      At present I have connected with a couple of other performers who may be willing to hit the streets with me.  Presently, under the moniker, Phantom Tide, we (guitar virtuoso and luthier, Darren, and sultry vocalist, Amanda) are rehearsing for a ninety-minute gig of original material for a local brew pub.  I am hoping that after this, together we do more. 

My busking career is entirely up to me.  I have at last realized I need to take full accountability for myself as a busker.  To help in this business, I have decided I need a manager.  Just as the Saskatchewan Roughriders who won the Grey Cup under the guidance of their manager, Brendan Taman (pictured above), I too, aspire to be a success, not as an athlete, but as a singer/songwriter.  I need a manager who is bright, has a strong work ethic, and knows the local entertainment scene.  (As of this Christmas, I have actively pursued a young and bright prospect who happens to fit the bill.  I am keeping my strumming fingers crossed.)

In concert with my business manager, we shall establish some realistic performance goals and do our very best to achieve them.  My new manager should be one who can offer good career advice, and at the same time be inspiring.  My new manager ought to be a bit boulevardier, and one to convince me to embrace even more, a Carpe Diem attitude.

My new manager should effect change to … THE WAY I AM.


Sunday, December 22, 2013


CHRISTMAS -- IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! I chuckled to myself as I crumpled my a-go-go chore list which was longer than Saint Nick’s sled into my pocket.  I had just completed a short gig as Santa, and handing presents and ho-ho’s to the little gaffers in our school daycare program, and now had to race from store to store to get things done!  Rush rush rush because ... it's CHRISTMASTIME! 
As I marched across the parking lot for my first stop I chatted with Myles (busker/drug dealer), his guitar slung on his back over a greasy blue snow suit, attempting to light a cigarette en route to his buskingdom in front of the liquor store.  It is minus 25 degrees!  The sky is cloudless; the air windless; the sun bright … but … it is minus 25 degrees!  It is a typical Canadian Christmastide!

Two more days, he says, and then I’ll know for how long.  Myles knows he’s going to jail (see previous blogs).

From that mall I drove my pearl white ACURA ILX over to the gym to pump some iron.  Entering and leaving the fitness facility, I can’t help but notice the garbage barrels on the walk have runneth over with pizza slices and cardboard cartons and plastic pop bottles.  A twenty-something woman bundled in a brown woolen coat, complete with Canada red and white mittens and scarf, along with who appears to be her adolescent daughter, too, wrapped in wool and wearing a Canada red and white toque, singing Joy to the World a cappello, are picking through the garbage barrel and placing certain items into big and black, plastic garbage bags.
Then at my last stop, a specialty liquor store, I needed to grab some last minute German beers and American bourbon. At the front door, an elderly cadge, donning a thin and long Santa hat, and drips of snot from his runny nose running down his red cheeks. With his both palms outstretched he asked, You have some spare change, sir?

Sorry, Santa, just my debit card, I replied.

Yah right, he says and shakes his head, in a chivvy at my response.

Just as the snowflakes are beginning to fall, I drive into the parkade of my downtown apartment building, and Randy the picker, in the lambent shadows, gives me a wave.  He seems more out of sorts than usual.  This evening, of all evenings, he is bare-headed and bare-handed, his parka open, and his eye glasses off kilter on his visage. The temperature gauge on the dash of my car reads minus 33 degrees -- it is even colder now!  Randy comes around our building every evening to pick bottles from our community disposal bin in the back alley.

Late at home and on the couch in my living room, sipping a beer and licking the salsa from my nacho fingers, my youngest son, TRAVERS, stops in to borrow my laptop.  He’s going to a BIG ASS PARTY and he’s in charge of the world skyping to be set up.  He tells me that as he was leaving the GERMAN CLUB in Regina, some 250 pound ASSHOLE was calling him on and physically pushing him, insisting that he step outside, so ASSHOLE could kick his ass.

TRAVERS is just back from spending the month of November in Afghanistan.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013


There is the theory Robin Henig (Twentysomething) proposes that what people tend to regret most when they look back on their lives, are not the regrets of commission – the things they did, but rather the regrets of omission -- the things they did not.

In my life so far, I do have certain regrets.  On my passions, I did not work hard enough.

Since my high school days I have longed to be a free-lance writer.  When I attended university I was an English major.  I loved poems; I loved plays; I loved essays; I loved novels.  I loved Lord Jim!

When I graduated from university I became a high school English teacher, and I loved that.  I loved teaching poetry, plays, essays, and novels.  I wore sports jackets over t-shirts along with blue jeans and black polished work boots.  I shaved every second or third day, had longer hair and looked to be the cool and hip stereotypical academic. I loved it but … teaching is not writing.  (Nebbishly over the years I’ve scribed some words for pay, a few magazine articles, a couple books, and that’s about it.

FACT:  I am not a professional free-lance writer because I AM AFRAID OF THE DARK.  I have never had gumption enough to quit my phony-baloney jobs to pursue a career in writing.  

Since my middle-aged years I have longed to be a folk singer-songwriter.  I’ve been in several bands and have actually performed hundreds of gigs.  I have never gone solo as a folk singer-songwriter.  I began as a mediocre singer in a mediocre cover band, Sharie and the Shades.  We did several gigs; we were even on television!  Sharie and the Shades faded.  The bass player and lead guitarist exerted somewhat selfish controls, excluding other band members in the process. The dissent among the band members rose, and Sharie and the Shades dis-banded (pun intended).  Two of the dissenters set up another band, the GRAND TRUNK TROUBADOURS (GTT).   From the get-go, the GTT decided to be a community service band.  There have been differences but the band plays on.  The GTT has been entertaining on a weekly basis for over a decade.

I’ve written a hundred songs over the last ten years, performing not a one in public – save for busking.  I’m getting closer to become a folk singer-songwriter, having my first gig of original materials come this spring, with my friend, Darren, another singer-songwriter.

FACT:  I am not a professional singer-songwriter because I AM AFRAID OF THE DARK.  I’ve had ample time to get songs ready, just never the gumption to go solo on a performance.

I do regret not living permanently in any of my favorite places. When I was young I headed west to the mountains and worked pipelines.  I worked at the Noranda Goldstream mine, just north of Revelstoke, British Columbia.  I stayed in camp, drank and played poker with the guys, and shouted at the bears to go away when out peeing in the darkness.  I worked in the valley of the Coquihalla and Coldwater rivers , east of Hope, British Columbia, below the old Kettle Creek Railway bed, for MacWilliam, Whyte, Gobal and Associates.  We used to grab berries right off the branches and wash them down with water right from the river.  One winter I worked at Rainbow Lake in the North West Territories.  I have never been so cold.

Traveling and working around Alberta and British Columbia, I fell in love with two cities, Banff and Penticton.  Banff, situated in the Canadian Rockies is absolutely beautiful.  Penticton, situated in the heart of the Okanagan, too, is absolutely beautiful.  Banff seems European and Penticton seems Californian.

FACT:  I do not live in either Banff, Alberta or Penticton, British Columbia because I AM AFRAID OF THE DARK.  I’ve never had the gumption to just pack up my family and go.

I AM AFRAID OF THE DARK.  I am afraid to go into the unforeseen.  I have been afraid to abdicate the known. 

Common sense would dictate that I would not go into the dark unless I would have prepared myself.  I could have applied for jobs for which I knew I had the capabilities.  I could have only stumbled in the dark until I discovered the light switch of adventure and confidence.    

I could have been on the qui vive.  I could have split from the pedestrian peloton. I could have been that guy living at a ski resort.  I could have been that guy who skis only on sunshine days, and plays pool on the dark ones. I could have been that guy who strums guitar and sings folk songs in the evening lounges.  I COULD HAVE BEEN THAT GUY, BUT I’M NOT.  I USED TO BE ADONIS – NOW I AM AGED.

FACT:  In 1400 A.D. Chaucer died ... but not before retracting his irreverent and ribbald tales.  (He was AFRAID there just might be a HELL.)  Dear reader, this last bit is not at all a retraction.  In my imaginary alternative histories I could very well have been doing lots of different things in different places.  And even in my present imaginings, my behaviors are sometimes contrary to what they actually are.  Anyone who can do whatever he wants anytime he wants would be considered, at the very least, SELFISH.  As for real life awakenings, other priorities take over those that are personal.  I am talking children, career, and common sense.  I am talking about moving from SELFISH to SELFLESS.

Life, for me, has been copacetic, certainly not as lugubrious as I’ve presented. Being a busker helps me gloze over my past regrets.  Being a busker I am not so much benighted as I was in my youth.  

And being a busker … I am not so much … 

Sunday, December 8, 2013


I AM A FRAUD.  There, I’ve admitted it.  In my last blog entry I stated that I am just a street busker, and not one who is seeking a bigger stage.  With yet another week of minus 30 degree temperatures I am currently practicing for a bigger stage with my folk guitarist friend, Darren, of our newly formed band, PHANTOM TIDE. (We make our debut at BUSHWAKKERS, a local brew pub, March 5th in the New Year.) 

I AM A FRAUD. Such an admission is just another catharsis, of which I’ve experienced many times in my life.  Psychological theorists suggest that all of us continuously question our identity and self-worth.  We question the value our external selves and we question the value our internal selves.  We question our IQ; we question our public persona; we question the behaviors of our private selves.  At the core of our wild being may be a very different person than the one captured by our public audience and spectators hip.  When we are alone our imaginings are savage; whereas, when in a group they are cultivated.  Alone we are true; with others we are false, and yet, sometimes with others we are true and alone we are false.

I AM A FRAUD.  I am a professional counselor.  Once a month I’m formally drawn into a challenging debate with all the other counselors in a system.  The topics we discuss range from peculiar clients to public policies.  Like the other group members, I try to impress.  Am I really that literate critic that presents authority on practically all of the issues we address?

I AM A FRAUD.  I am a university professor. Once each week I’m formally drawn into challenging debates with the members of my Adolescent Psychology class (my current assignment).  Like the students in my class, I try to impress.  Are the stories that I tell of past clients and their experiences really true?

I AM A FRAUD.  I am a busker.  For sixty days each summer I mess my hair, don a tight white t-shirt (my Black Cat smokes tucked in my t-shirt sleeve), pull on my loosely faded jeans, flex my muscles, and strum my twelve-string and blow my harp on city street corners and downtown sidewalks. These chilly winter days I thrum in my warm living room.  Am I really that carefree, so windswept, and so footloose busker that I present myself to be?

I AM A FRAUD.  Though discussions around a room with seasoned counselors feels far different from discussions with third and fourth year Psychology students, most everyone present is there to please.  The group think amongst colleagues is oftentimes politically necessary; whereas, the group think amongst students, not so much.  Complying with the consensus of either is always simpler and expedient, far less complicated than standing firm and alone in rage. Knowing this, most times I go with the flow.  Even when busking … I usually go with the flow (of the crowds).

Generally speaking, people in the public eye tend to present their best selves.  Specifically speaking, people presenting privately to confidants are more prone to expressing their worst selves.
As our public bastion selves we are always the prisoners of our experience  Our behavior in public is typically constrained by convention and bound by chains of propriety. 

As our private selves we can more easily be the sum of our experiences.  Our behavior in private, as long as it’s legal and besmirching to no one, gives us freedom to do whatever we want.

We are all vessels of fragmented identities, most times sailing most smooth waters, sometimes sailing waters algid, sometimes frothy and burning.  Some of these identities are quite likeable; this is especially true of our public selves.  Some of our identities are well-defined, and this, too, is especially true of our public selves.  And some of our identities are desirable, and this, too, represents more in our public rather than private, selves.

Some of our identities are not so likeable; this is especially true of our private selves.  Some of these private identities are not so well-defined; in fact, they could be disgusting, yet not necessarily undesirable.

In public I am important.  I am an important counselor.  I am an important university prof.  I am a not-so-important busker.  In public I am nobby and namby-pamby.

And in private I am ordinary.  In private I can be naught(y) and be bandersnatch.  Who knows what I really do in my garret dark and drear on the sixth floor?  Right now whilst blogging I could be multitasking.  I could be drinking; I could be sexting; I could be picking my nose.  (I am blogging.  I don’t Wiener – I’m too Tony for that.  I’m not a dipsomaniac – except when I barbeque. I do not pick my nose … much.)

On my world stage I like to be baronial, I like to be cordial, and sometimes … I like to dally. Do I feel shame about my public self?  Not usually.  Do I feel shame about my private self?  Yes, sometimes. Need I feel shame to be healthy?  Yes.  Need I shame myself to be healthy?  Yes.

The more one becomes depleted the more one is likely to feel shame.  And getting depleted is always easy.  It is always easy to drink lots and do drugs lots and be socially inappropriate, especially when surrounded by those drinking lots and doing drugs lots and being socially inappropriate.  (Choose your friends, wisely.)

It is okay to be a fraud and present a false-self.  We are all olla podrida, multifaceted and complex.  We all have expectations, some low and some high.  It is okay for us to be at times, desirable, and at other times, undesirable.  It is okay to become at times disconnected.  It is okay to be disassociated. 

Fact:  We are gregarious creatures gifted with the abilities to become what we are supposed to become.  And whatever we are supposed to become is entirely up to each us, for we are accursed in the sense that we have to make choices.  What we present in public is oftentimes our false self.  What we present in private, too, is oftentimes, our false self.

Fact:  Only in slumber and in crises do we ever present our true self.

  • I've only one marcher in my Chaucerian Parade this week -- Myles.  Myles, a cadge busker, has been strummin' and singin' every day in front of the liquor store.  Myles is going to jail next week.  Myles is in crisis this Christmas season.  Busking these past weeks, Myles is not a fraud.



Sunday, December 1, 2013


This week a music student sat on my guitar, my twelve-string Simon & Patrick.  The soundboard, the rosette, the bridge and the saddle … all BUSTED!  And this got me to thinking … about myself … about my foibles … my sins so to speak.

The SEVEN DEADLY SINS (pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust) were a Christian classification of vices that was especially popular during the 14th Century.  (I remind the reader that Chaucer, for whom my weekly CHAUCERIAN PARADE is named after, died in 1400.)

PRIDE is thought to be the original and the most severe transgressions of the seven deadly. Essentially, PRIDE is the belief that you are essentially better than others.  This, for me is true, to a point, especially when I’m compelled to work in a group.

I’ve been a swimming instructor and a scuba diver.  I still love to downhill ski in the mountains.  I’ve run a few marathons and dozens of half-marathons.  I’ve had magazine articles published (on scuba diving and downhill skiing), and two books published, one fiction, and one non-fiction.  I’ve a Master’s Degree.  I teach at the university.  I am tall, dark, and handsome.   

I could go on … but I won’t.

ENVY is to feel jealousy toward someone’s traits, abilities, and rewards.  I know there is always someone better looking than I; there is always someone better talented than I; and there is always someone making better coin than I.  

Am I envious of these others?  Yes I am. I used to be jealous of the hockey skills of my brother-in-law, Larry Hornung, who played in the NHL (NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE), and those of my friend and line mate, Larry Hopfner, who played in the NHL (NOTEKEU HOCKEY LEAGUE).  I am now jealous of the guitar skills of my new band mate, Darren of PHANTOM TIDE, who is a guitar virtuoso and a GUITAR LUTHIER!

WRATH is to express feelings of rage and anger.  I’ve got this one under control.  Even when that G^##&*% bull-in-a-China-shop student sat on my Simon & Patrick, I had this one under control. 

SLOTH is usually defined as physical laziness.  This is NOT me.  And like the sin previous, I’ve got this one under control.  I’m up at five o’clock every morning reading blogs; I’m in the weight room around six o’clock; I’m in my counseling office before 8:30.  Every Monday evening I teach at the university; every Thursday evening I gig with the GRAND TRUNK TROUBADOURS (a community service band). On every sunny summer day I go busking (for a cause).

GREED is the pursuit of material possessions, money included.  I will admit that I like nice things. I like my upscale downtown apartment.  I like my Acura ILX.  I like to buy expensive white shirts, long-sleeved with collars. I like to buy expensive black shirts, cowboy gothics.  I’d like to purchase a $600 SEAGULL twelve-string guitar. I am greedy and I know it … clap your hands.

GLUTTONY is the over-indulgence and over-consumption, excessive desire for food.  This is NOT me, save for JALEPENO & CHEDDER NACHOS or RED LICORICE or VANILLA ICE CREAM or THAI food or ITALIAN SANDWICHES or AMERICANO COFFEE (decaf).

(Attempting to suppress, so far, six deadly sins, I shall remind myself of the EGO DEPLETION THEORY.  The EGO DEPLETION THEORY is the suggestion that self-control (willpower) is drawn from a limited oasis of mental resources, and when one has drunk the oasis dry, one’s self-control will, too, be drained.  The EGO DEPLETION THEORY suggests that the harder we work to suppress our desires, the less likely we will succeed at suppressing further desires.  In other words, the energy it takes to refrain from one deadly sin makes it more likely to succumb to the next deadly sin, and the energy exerted to refrain from that deadly sin makes it more likely to succumb to the next … and so on down the line. Resisting temptation after temptation after temptation proves difficult and, therefore according to the EGO DEPLETION THEORY, the next deadly sin, LUST, should be tough to resist.

LUST is the intense desire for amours. Yes, dear readers, by the time I’ve resisted the previous six sins (to a point), LUST will be the ultimate test.   

According to song-and-dance Parisian, Maurice Chevalier, I should never lust over someone under half my age plus 7 … but really … what does Maury know? 

Should I ever succumb I would want someone zaftig.  I would want someone juicy, luscious, and voluptuous.  I would want a bomb girl, a bomb girl who is chary.

According to DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY, such thoughts are not unhealthy, as long as these thoughts are not in excess. 

According to SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, acting on such thoughts will no doubt create a difficult social scenario.

According to 14th Century Christians, we all have our inner angels and demons guiding our conscience. 

According to EGO DEPLETION, the more times we follow the bidding of our inner angels, the more tempting it is to follow the bidding of our inner demons. 

Alas … re-reading this introspective essay of my sinning reveals that I am delusional.  In reality I am but an aged, addlepated busker ... 
and there is nothing wrong with that! 

  • To close, I've but one person marching in my CHAUCERIAN PARADE this week. My son, Travers, has just returned from Kabul, Afghanistan, where he'd been studying the effects of war these past thirty days.