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.


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