Sunday, February 23, 2014


1.      A pundit of buskology

1.      A qualitative study of street busking

Other related terms:  BUSKINGDOM (a frequent buskspot), BUSKATION (a road trip specifically for busking), BUSKEROO (a cowboy busker).

5:00 A.M. 
My day begins.  At this time, while sipping an Americano coffee prepared in my Tassimo, I recreational read my morning bookmarks. First, I read the highlights of The Huffington Post, then I choose some blogs of interest from Psychology Today, and finally and sadly I read Al Jazeera News.  Oftentimes, just to get the latest on my favorite Canadian buffoon, ROFO, I read his beloved Toronto Star (I jest) and the Toronto Globe and Mail.

6:00 A.M.
I drive to the gym.  Though each day my fitness routine is specifically different, my pattern generally stays the same.  Lately I’ve been climbing Jacob’s Ladder for my first twenty minutes in the weight room.  Following the climb, I do four rounds of Farmer’s Walks, first carrying a ten pound weight in each hand, followed by a 25 pound, then a 35 pound, and finally a 45 pound (pie) in each.

With a bit of time to spare, I always do either barbell curls or bench presses.  Whatever I do one day, I do the other the next.  For my curls I tend to use only the bar, which is 45 pounds without adding plates.  At the bench, I always put 45 pound plates on the bar (and, therefore, never have to rely on a spotter).  For both sets of exercise I do what I refer to as century sets; that is, I do 100 repetitions of each, before I leave the station.  This could be four sets of 25, or five sets of 20 while curling, or ten sets of 10 while pressing.  No matter how many sets, I don’t leave until I’ve done 100 reps.   

7:30 A.M.
Back home I shave and shower, then drink a small glass of orange juice mixed with ice, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar.

8:00 A.M.
I either do a re-write or begin to draft a new busking song or ... attempt to scriven another chapter in my book, SCHIZOPHRENIA: A SHADOW SUITE EPISTOLARY.  My plan is to seek a publisher for this book starting the first day of Spring.

9:00 A.M.
Before I hit the street, I check the weather for my wear.  I once read there is no such thing as bad weather; there is only bad dress.  Any day it is not too windy, I am game to go busking. Typically, my cap-a-pie presentation is with tousled hair, white tee shirt, faded blue jeans, and boots.  If chilly, I don my Brixton Tiller, and pile on a western style lined shirt.  If it’s sunny I wear black shades.

10:00 A.M.
On Saturday mornings I choose for my buskingdom, the downtown FARMERS’ MARKET.  I have been busking at the FARMERS’ MARKET on and off for several years.  Sometimes I’m politically in, sometimes I’m politically out.  Whether I am in or out depends upon last Saturday experience.  When I’m placed beside miserable vendors I swear I will never come again.  However, whenever I am positioned beside vendors such as Darlene and John at A FUDGE ABOVE THE REST, or Jordan at SACRED EARTH, or Dallas and Annette, the SASK HILLBILLIES, I know where I need to belong in life, right beside heartfelt souls such as these.

Lots can happen while busking at the FARMERS’ MARKET.  Many strangers, both familiar and unfamiliar, and many friends always stop and chat.  And I like when the clickers with their cameras, some being professional, the majority being amateurs, have me pose for pictures.  The FARMERS' MARKET is always a bustle, and my four hour performance there is my often my principal income for the entire week.

12:00 A.M.
If it is a Saturday it is fini for me at the FARMERS’ MARKET.

If it is a Wednesday, I spend my noon hour busking at the ITALIAN STAR DELI.  I was invited to do so by the affable, Carlo, owner and manager of the deli.  One day a year or so ago, Carlo asked me to busk when a film crew was doing a documentary on the ITALIAN STAR DELI.  I remember that day as being a lot of fun.  Every day at the deli at least a couple of hundred patrons stop by to enjoy the finest tasting Italian sandwich on this side of the planet.  At the ITALIAN STAR DELI I busk right in the middle of the brick patio beside the wooden step leading in the deli.  Carlo and his family are very, very gracious vendors.

2:00 P.M.
On certain Saturdays afternoons I strum at the VALUE VILLAGE MALL where Krista and Emma (mother and daughter) from the ISLAND KITCHEN always treat me with a cool drink.  One time, even, they purchased a set of musical spoons for my busking.  My buskspot at the VALUE VILLAGE MALL is static.  Shaun, the mall manager and husband to Krista and father to Emma, decided that I ought to busk right at the front door.  Everyone arriving to the mall via the front entrance has to pass right by me, which can be quite the people-freaking treat.

4:00 P.M.
Late afternoons Tuesdays and Thursdays, I busk either at MIKE’S INDEPENDENT, or SHOPPERS ON BROAD.  Mike, owner and manager of MIKE’S INDEPENDENT, granted me permission to busk before I even really asked him.  Dana, the manager at SHOPPERS always treats me with the highest level of respect.

At MIKE’S I always busk in the parking lot, and position myself about 30 feet from the grocery entrance.  At SHOPPERS, too, I position myself right at the front entrance.

6:00 P.M.
My busking for the day usually ends.  Rarely do I busk after supper, unless it is the perfect, perfect summer night or … every evening when I’m on BUSKATION (my preference for buskations being in Victoria, Kamloops, Salmon Arm, and Invermere, BRITISH COLUMBIA).

My reasons for being a BUSKOLOGIST are simple.  Being a buskologist brings great joy to my life.  Being a busking participant-observer (the behavioral nature of a BUSKOLOGIST) has added purpose and meaning to my ever searching middle-age, middle-class, mis-adventure question: Why am I here?

Of course there are certain pragmatic reasons, too, for being a BUSKOLOGIST, one of which is HUNGER. This an the issue of sustenance.  If I don’t busk, I don’t eat.  It’s that simple.

And there is another reason, COMFORT.  I like being on the street.  I am in the summer breeze and the summer sun, strumming only the tunes that I choose.

CREATIVITY is also a draw.  Thrumming any tunes I want, and often making up riffs as I go along, is a creative juicy treat.  My preference is to busk with only original material.  Over the seasons I’ve developed a cache of guitar melodies which I strum whilst blowing into my harpoon. None of my songs have been heard before, except those consumers who are familiar.  My preference to perform original material is simple:  NOBODY NOTICES -- NOBODY CARES. 

Every busk offers potential for adventure.  You just never know what is going to happen.  I have had people steal from me; I’ve had people dance with their beer breaths on my folk songs; I’ve had people heckle; I’ve had the police give me warnings and notices.

For me, being a BUSKOLOGIST is CHILD'S PLAY (pun intended).  At first I found busking to be demeaning and stressful and full of angst.  Now, after a thousand busks, I do find it more play than work.  I’ve said many, many times (forgive my adaption of a rather trite cliché), A bad day busking is better than a good day at work!

The ATTRACTION and STATUS of busking are somewhat intangibles.  It’s a profession in which I can do whatever I want. I can dress the way I want and I can strum and I can sing the way I want. To my consumers, most of whom do not know anything about me, I represent freedom and spirit and independence and adventure.  It does not matter that I am just a chord strummer and not that great of a singer.  As a BUSKOLOGIST I know that perfect pitch means nothing if you sing like a stick.

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP has always been the prompt for my busking life.  When busking I always have three signs on display in my open guitar case:  CANADIAN MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION, SCHIZOPHRENIA SOCIETY OF SASKATCHEWAN, and FREE COUNSELLING.  Yes, any passer-by can receive an on-the-spot, Annie Oakley ticket, for immediate and on-demand counselling right there on the street.  

Being a BUSKOLOGIST allows me the luxury of offering pro-bono counselling for significant numbers of addlepated clients. 

BUSKOLOGY is rather Aesopian in its quiddity, when one considers the actually art of busking to be singularly simple in a selfish sort of way; whereas, the science of buskology is somewhat more community complicated, but in a selfless sort of way.  It’s like being in on the argot of busking, being able to recognize the phoney from the frenetic, so to speak.

Being a BUSKOLOGIST, is really having a bully-pulpit BUSKINGDOM, providing sunshine opportunities to expound on the social issues and concerns for those assigned with mentally disorders.

10:00 P.M.
My day ends … SWEET DREAMS Zzzzzzzzzzz

Sunday, February 16, 2014


In wintertime I am a member of a folk-country band called the GRAND TRUNK TROUBADOURS (GTT).  Outside the busking season, we entertain for shut-ins, mostly at hospitals and retirement communities.  We have been doing this every Thursday evening from 7 o’clock until 8 o’clock for the past 13 years.  Our fee for this community service is zeroth. 

Doing over 300 such performances, I have decided that … I do not want to grow oldnor do I want to live among the aged.  To live is to suffer is the skinny of Zen, and to candidly comment as a GTT band member, I can very much imagine the zombies of tomorrow being a direct result from the senior citizenship of today.  

ZOMBIES.  Their lure began during the United States military occupation of Haiti in 1915, as the American soldiers brought back zombies from the tales of Haitian Voodoo folklore.  Since that time, these tales have waxed into a global zombie infestation, now an entertainment staple of our modern culture.

Precisely from this folklore came the foundational zombie film, George A. Romero’s 1964 cult classic, Night of the Living Dead.  And thereafter, Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Juan of the Dead, 28 Days Later, Fido, Resident Evil, and my favorite, Zombieland.   

These mindless monster-like automatons continue to fascinate and attract movie goers across the world, making it to the screens of England, France, Italy, Spain, Korea, Japan, Canada, and elswhere.

Zombies are those who are the undead, decomposed, mindless, speechless, moaning, guttural, mechanical, emaciated, expressionless, mouth-twitching and drooling, discolored and translucent, having clumps and scraps of hair, torn clothes, and blood shot sunken eyes.  Zombies are dead people revived; they are the living dead. Zombies are mindless, reanimated corpses. They simply stagger about, continually hunger for human flesh, and in particular, human brains.  Though they have difficulty communicating, they do have complete use of their senses

BOOMERS.  They were born from 1946 through 1964.  In America alone, 76 million babies were born in this time frame, and these babies meant business.  The boomers across the world seemed to come of age simultaneously.  Britain had the Beatles, Americans had Woodstock. As a group, the boomers became the wealthiest and most politically active ever.  But alas, as soon as the boomer nostalgia passes, the ravages of age shall begin to takes its toll.

Right now in 2014, the oldest boomer is 67 years old.  The boomers will soon be dying off in large numbers of heart attacks, strokes, and cancer, and this particular group demise shall be in full stride by 2015.

Boomers are now those who are the medicated, brittle boned, arthritic, frail, dental decayed, dry mouthed, constipated, diminished sighted, hearing impaired, staggering, falling, thin haired, dried and wrinkled and hanging skin.  They are the ones with skin tags, liver spots, slow mobility, gasping breathy voices, rapid weight decline, muscle loss, and brain growth at a stop.

The cost of caring for these elderly and infirmed boomers, the nation’s largest demographic group, will be economically and psychologically enormous.

FACT:  ZOMBIES rage as BOOMERS age. 

The ZOMBIE and BOOMER phenomena and cultures can easily be compared, especially when considering the social issues, the retirement patterns into conformity, the loneliness, the lost sense of self-awareness and identity, and eventually the acknowledgment of the facts:

FACT: 1 in 3 seniors will die with either Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
FACT: 1 in 7 Americans age 71 or over has some type of dementia.
FACT:  Nearly 10% of all people over 65 and up to 50% of those over 85 have Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Among those 85 and older, when they fall, one in every ten will suffer a hip fracture.  And twenty-five percent of those who do fracture their hip die within six months of their injury.  And, fifty percent of those who survive having fractured their hip, are discharged to a nursing home.

I do not want to grow oldnor do I want to live among the aged. 

Sadly, statistically, we are all of us going to be zombies.  We will, everyone of us, be staggering about our communities. Already there are two million Americans and 200000 Canadians using walkers to aid in our stagger.

In my CHAUCERIAN PARADE this week I have but one marcher to thank:  EMMA REID for her photograph entitled, DEAD TIRED, which is above depicting the zombie in this particular blog.



Saturday, February 8, 2014


In the book of Genesis, Jacob had a dream about the angels of God ascending and descending on a ladder toward Heaven.  Aside from the many Christian interpretations, I shall add my own secular notions of what this dream could mean.  Jacob’s dream of angels on the ladder rungs could simply be an allusion to the ups and downs of our experiences in life, the continually changing affairs in our lives, be they business or otherwise (pun intended).

The JACOB’S LADDER I am referring to in this blog is the moving, angled, climbing machine, that is a direct reference to Jacob’s biblical stairway dream to HEAVEN.  The JACOB’S LADDER found in fitness facilities packs such a challenge that it ought to be dubbed the stairway to HELL.  This calorie-busting cardio piece of equipment is reported to be, not surprisingly so, a favorite among Army Rangers and Navy Seals.

Neal Pire, an exercise physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine and president of INSPIRE TRAINING SYSTEMS, says that in fitness centers, "The tougher the machine, the more seldom you see it  … I haven’t seen many seniors hop on [Jacob's Ladder]."

I am a senior, and I hop on it a lot.

I can speak for seniors.  Yes, it is painful to let go our smooth skin and the attention that comes with having a youthful appearance.  Yes, it is painful to have our eye sight diminish, our metabolism slow, and our muscles sag.  Yes, it is painful to get aches and pains and having to let go of physical strength.  And yes, this is the usual melancholia of being old, chronologically speaking. 

However, chronological age does need not always to be misery.  This Adonis busting misery is true only for those whose CHRONOLOGICAL AGE directly matches their REAL AGE (which is SOCIALLY-DETERMINED).  

FACT:  For only a very few, statistically speaking, does REAL AGE appear to be much younger than CHRONOLOGICAL AGE.    

And this fact poses the question: Other than a number, what value does our chronological age provide for us?  For certain it does not provide the aged truth. 

I see the truth (and answer) to this question as being quite simple.  Our real age is determined, generally, by our behaviors.  Real age is also determined by how we feel about our age and the expectations we assign to our age as being the most important.  B. F. Skinner said that if you want to be old, simply act like you are old.  Letting people open doors for you, letting others offer you seating, and letting others listen to you whine are just a few examples of this.

FACT:  The average age for Americans retiring today is 61 years.

FACT:  Many baby boomers, including me, are rethinking old notions (pun intended) and are planning to work well beyond age 61.  (Personally, I plan to never retire, for I’m not sure what I’d be retiring from.  Would it be counseling, or writing or busking? These are not just my working pleasures -- these are my life pleasures!

Life is uncertain.  Life is finite.  Life is evanescent. To live is to suffer.  Once we realize this, we can begin to treat our time with more kindness.  We can begin to take the time to listen and look at each moment, to be mindful of all moments.  Our lifetime is precious.  The way of Zen is to savor life and savor the moments offered.

No matter your chronological age, there is still time to set your priorities.  The majority of us lead plebeian lives.  We are all the Kapellmeisters of our own songs.  Over our lifetime we choose to conduct ourselves to sing long or to sink early.

Just because the majority of us are acephalous and thoughtless for significant stretches of our lives, there is still time to have a greater sense of life participation and a greater sense of happiness. No matter our chronological age or our real age, there is still time to drink tea, light a candle, and to relate with the people we love.

Appreciate people as they are, for each offers a certain unique flavor and sweetness.  Doing thus, is really (in both a selfish and selfless way) taking care of ourselves, while offering satisfying certain cravings and sensualities unto others.



Saturday, February 1, 2014


It is chilly at minus 13 degrees with a 10 km. wind.  Strangely, today is balmy compared with all the other days this week being at minus 25 degrees or colder.  This is winter in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.  I am looking out my sixth floor window at a cold and grey-sky day.  Over my balcony I see the contrails rising, as the cars below me slowly maneuver the icy and snow-filled streets.  I see the Saturday shoppers walking briskly on the downtown sidewalks, hunched over and bundled in parkas and scarves and toques, clouds of condensate breaths coming from their mouths.

So far during these past frigid couple months I’ve noticed only three people busking in my neighborhood, all of which doing so in front of the liquor store on Broadway Avenue.  

Myles, the carping know-it-all busker, was there until January 21st, until he went to jail.  Busking in the cold Myles always wore jeans and a grubby sewer parka with a hood covering his head.  Hanging forever from his mouth was a lit cigarette clinging to his bottom lip.  On his strumming hand Myles wore a winter glove, but kept his chording hand bare.  

And there is Kathy, just back from her home province of Newfoundland. Kathy, a panner, decided to return to Regina and thrum with her busking guitar.

Better to busk here because the people are poor on the Rock, she says.  

Kathy seems always warm, under her puffy and patched-all-over snow suit, with a woolen scarf wrapped around her head.  Because she keeps gloves on both her hands her strumming sucks.  No one seems to mind though, because her voice is so angelic.  

And as of just last week, there is Harold, the new guy who huffs his harmonica.  It’s in the key of E flat, and he told me he found it.  Harold wears a brown and black bomber hat with ear muffs, a heavy winter working shirt, dirty blue jeans, and noticeably unpolished cowboy boots. Harold is extremely gregarious, but his harmonica screeches are adenoidal.  

Winter 'tis the season to bestir oneself.  Winter is the season for woolgathering, creating new guitar licks (usually I-IV-V American ballad chord progressions), practicing different strum patterns (including techniques with percussion and muted guitar), deciding my cap-a-pie garb for spring (hmmm ... will I be a singing cowboy or a folk singer), and writing songs (NOTING).

In Shakespeare’s day, NOTHING and NOTING were homophones, words that are pronounced the same but not necessarily spelled the same.  However, for my blog title today, NOTING and NOTHING is simply employed as a pun.    

Winter, too, is my season for reflecting marketing strategies.  What signs shall I display from my open guitar case?  My CANADIAN MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION sign?  My SCHIZOPHRENIA SOCIETY OF SASKATCHEWAN sign?  (I know I’ll show both!)

I am seriously considering adding the sign, STREET COUNSELING … FOR FREE.  I’ve thought about doing this for a long time, but have creatively procrastinated up until now.  I feel this summer will be my summer for providing free street counseling services.

I am also considering selling some CD’s.  To do this is rather simple, just record some original songs and burn them onto a disk. The cost for such an enterprise amounts to approximately one dollar per after burn disk.  My research suggests that many, many fins will fall freely into my guitar case should a free CD be in the offering.   Ah ... such thoughts in these arctic times are very ergogenic and will for sure to enhance my spring and summer busking.

My summer cathexis: 

It is a warm sunny day -- consumers are munificent when the sun is shining bright.  I am standing on a corner sidewalk blowing my harpoon and thrumming my guitar.  Every now and then I sing one of my original folk songs. 

Cap-a-pie I am standing in my hiking boots, of which my thick socks are rolled over the top.  I am in faded blue jeans, ripped and torn by my design. I’ve a thick leather brown cowboy belt with a large, golden cowboy buckle, perhaps the symbol of a U.S. Marshall badge.  I’m wearing a white t-shirt, size Medium, even though I really take a size Large. I’m not a young man, but am fortunate still to not have any body sags – keep touching iron! And of course I am wearing cool black shades because … it is sunny! 

And every twenty or so minutes I stop strumming, sit on the curb, sip my Americano Decaf, and stuff the fins and ten dollar bills from my CD sales into my jean front pocket. 

Now to noting.  Marching in my CHAUCERIAN PARADE this week are two of my clients, a mother (a single parent) and her daughter (a used-to-be fitness freak). Mother and daughter are 42 and 22 years of age respectively.  Just this last year, they have started spending time together.  Now, every week they spend a couple hours together doing either yoga or zumba, and afterwhich going for a coffee.  Because of the daughter's bizarre behaviors, it's been a number of years since they have resided under the same roof, and as a result, became quite disconnected.  Though a behavioral concern throughout her adolescence, the daughter was not diagnosed with schizophrenia until the age of 18.  The mother and daughter have asked me to tell their story in print.   

The book I have agreed to write about them has the working title, THE SHADOW SUITE: LIVING WITH SCHIZOPHRENIA.

To begin their story I needed a hook, an early moment to snag reader interest, to grab reader attention.  These opening lines are from Christmastime, 2013. The story is going to be written mainly from the mother's point of view, though I plan to include some sane and salad monologue and dialogue quotations from the daughter.


The phone rings.  I pick it up from its usual place, the night stand right beside the bed, for in the night the phone rings often.


I need smokes. 

Do you know what time it is?

I need smokes.

Do you know what time it is?

I need fucking smokes, Mom.  If I don’t get smokes I’ll die!


The phone rings several more times during the night.  I don’t answer.  Christmas Day she does not call.  I decide that she’s finally sleeping.  In the evening I deliver her some left-over turkey.


The phone rings.  I pick up.


You expect me to eat this shit, this shit poisoned by my own mother!


My daughter resides in a 300 square foot apartment, and for reasons of the darkest truths, I refer to this as her shadow suite.  Ironically, even though it is she who has schizophrenia, I, too, have been residing in a shadow suite. After many years of having a rather turbulent relationship, both she and I are finally willing to candidly discuss the oftentimes gritty details of our real situation.  We have decided to emerge from our shadow suites to shed some therapeutic light upon our complicated lives, complicated because of the social stigma associated with both of us having to cope with my daughter's schizophrenia.