Saturday, April 26, 2014


No, this is not another narcissistic essay on how I run 3.5 miles every morning (it used to be six miles before I included weight-training into my regimen).  No, this is not another narcissistic essay running and positive addiction (throughout my graduate studies I researched the correlations between long-distance running and self-esteem, successfully employing the running metaphor in the defence of my Master’s Thesis).

Rather, this Run for Your Life essay title is in reference to the 60’s television drama, starring Ben Gazzara as a young and handsome lawyer, Paul Bryan, who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  With only a year or two to live, Paul Bryan decides to quit his law practice, hit the road, and do all the things he had never yet made the time for.

Not strangely, when times are tough, people turn to unlikely sources to help them regain a sense of control in their lives.  Some choose religion, some choose dogs, and some jettison their present lifestyles and in their new alterities, seek for meaning in their lives. 

Fact:  It is always important for us to feel in control – even when we are not.  To suddenly become evangelical gives an air of authority.  To master and nurture a puppy helps design stability within an exclusive responsibility.  Running for one’s life on the open road entices both adventure and angst in a most wonderful regard.

Back in the day, Run for Your Life was my favourite television show.  In fact, all those road shows on 60’s television, Have Gun Will Travel, The Deputy, Route 66, represented my favorite life open-road theme when they aired.  (See my blog entitled, PHANTOM TIDE: AN ESSAY ON TELEVISION OPEN ROADS, posted January 19, 2014.)   

Thinking of these shows, alongside my later lettered studies in English Literature, especially those having themes of Carpe Diem, I’ve decided that life is simply a series of experiences; and therefore, a good life is a series of meaningful experiences.

To give life meaning in the sense of meaningful experiences then, is to create meaningful experiences.  An accomplishment of such is simple.  Just take a long walk and ask yourself these three questions:  Who do you like to be with?  What tasks do you enjoy?  What challenges do you enjoy? (Zilka, Finding Your Life’s Purpose, April, 2014.)

Who do you like to be with?      

My most cherished memories have been with members of my family: skating with Natika the youngster -- swimming in Radium Hot Springs with Natika and her youngster (my granddaughter), Eden; cycling with Baron the youngster -- busking on Bastian Square with Baron the adult; skiing with Travers the youngster -- hiking Chamonix-Mont Blanc with Travers the adult; hanging weekends at the lake with Carol Ann, my girlfriend -- strolling the boardwalk at Crescent Beach with Carol Ann, my bride.

I like being with close friends, a couple drinks over an evening dinner.  I like to be among strangers, fulfilled especially when I’m busking.  And I like being with certain people with whom I see rarely, maybe once every month or so – precious moments indeed .

Being with these people, my family, my friends, and my consumers is only meaningful when it is not a commonplace occurrence.  The most meaningful times are likely the rarest of times.  Whenever I’m with my oldest or youngest, going to market and hiking still seems the themes.  (My oldest child lives in British Columbia; my youngest child lives in Holland.)  With my middle child, busking and Americano decafs are the themes.  (My middle child lives in my city, but he's not as into busking as he used to be.)  I like my wife’s company, especially on long walks.  (We long-distance run together and go to the gym together, but long walks are reserved for summer.)  I like to be with close friends just one evening a week at most, every second week is even better.  And those almost imaginary people I see only once a month or so, have unwittingly become my philosophic and joyful conundrums.

What tasks do you enjoy?

I enjoy going to work.  Do I find a certain morbid pleasure listening to other people’s pain?  I guess so.  I enjoy teaching Psychology at the university.  Everyone, generally, in each of my classes is bright, youthful, and effervescent. Busking is always a blast, especially when I embark on summer buskations, usually to tourist hotspots in British Columbia, Canada, and this summer coming, a planned European buskation to Holland, England, Scotland, and Ireland.   

(The enjoyment of being among strangers whilst busking is both glorious and demeaning, ever adventurous, and contributes significantly to including regularly into this blog, my segment subtitle, CHAUCERIAN PARADE.)

The stresses of going to work every day definitely enhance my life, keeping me alert that a world among people is a world of compromise, and that, generally, everyone is going through life with good intentions, everyone really just wanting to get along.  Teaching Psychology keeps me in the academic loop, because were it not so, I’d no doubt be enriching my psychology know-how from the pop psychological magazines on the shelves in drugstores.

What challenges do you enjoy?

I enjoy keeping fit (a daily challenge) and I enjoy writing (a weekly challenge). 
Each morning, when the weather is tolerable, I run around Wascana Lake.  I used to run an average of 60 miles a week.  Then, when I began to lift weights I cut my running to just 20 miles per week.  At least three times a week I pump iron, my preference being the Olympic weights at the university fitness center.  Though I enjoy running and lifting, I do both mainly to stay physically healthy.

Writing this weekly blog, too, is a challenge, and so are continually researching and re-writing my latest book, and writing one song a week.  When I began this blog (thank-you, Jenna Pilot, for creating the initial temp-plate some years ago), I used to write and publish at least two essays a week.  In the beginning, these essays I created were lengthy, wordy, and a severe challenge to complete.  Oftentimes I would even sacrifice some exercise time to complete them!

Those genesis days are long gone.  My present blog format, which seems to work (having a readership in 146 countries to date), is simply a thousand-word, recreational discursive weekly essay, having one or two picture inserts.

It seems I’ve always a book on the go, my imaginary best-seller delusion.  So far I’ve had two books published, A Wishbone Epistolary (University of Toronto, Guidance Centre), and The Creek (Publish America).  The book I am presently writing is SCHIZOPHRENIA: LIVING IN THE SHADOW SUITE, which I hope to complete and send to a publisher before summer.

Writing one new song a week is my greatest writing challenge.  It is tough to keep up with my PHANTOM TIDE band mate, Darren, who is a prolific song writer.  PHANTOM TIDE performs only original material, and we, Darren and self, are the only songwriters.  Because Darren plays guitar much better than I and sings much better than I, attempting to keep up the song-writing pace keeps me credible in our song-writing department. 

(Fact:  Darren’s song, Never Going to Leave, is currently my favorite song.  To listen to it, and some of our other original songs, just go to the top of this blog header, and click on the YouTube account at the right hand side of this essay.)

Life is what you make it.  It could be an ambuscade, a donnybrook, or a gambol.  Or, as Zilka states, life may be a jigsaw puzzle.  I’m suggesting that if life is a jigsaw puzzle, answering the above three questions will help make all the pieces in your jigsaw-puzzle-life fit together.

Having meaning in your life is important.  Searching for such meaning makes for an intentional life.  Each person’s search for a life meaning is unique, and people will rarely draw the same meanings from the exact same things (because there are no exact same things for people and their unique perspectives).  Some life experiences evoke powerful senses of purpose, while other experiences evoke zeroth.  The key to finding meaning in your life is to reflect on your past behaviors (an adumbration for sure) and then introspect your present aspirations.

To start ... take a long walk and then finish the rest of your life with a marathon run of meaningful experiences!


  • Shannon, while I’m busking at VALUE VILLAGE, insists that my original songs and singing style reflect that of Jello Biafra, vocalist for the Dead Kennedys.  Shannon, though young, has that long-hair 60’s style and look.  He is a guitar guy, brand new to Regina, in search of a good guitar shop.  I direct him to B SHARP on Albert Street.

  • The little old blue-haired lady, while I’m busking at the ITALIAN STAR, after dropping several two-dollar coins into my guitar case. Everybody has to make a living, she says. Thanks, ma’am!

  • The middle-aged bespectacled man in a three-piece suit, who walks up to me while I’m busking at SHOPPERS, taps my shoulder, hands me a twenty dollar bill, and apologetically states, I’m sorry I can’t give you more.





Friday, April 18, 2014


The temperature outside is 1 degree with rain showers.  This is another non-busking day.  This is another day of writing, not about busking, but of life.  Though, dear reader, I know that for me busking with my twelve-string and harpoon is life, but for others life has, just a tad, more meaning.

To be able to explain our life on Earth is a powerful human need, and this need manifests itself in our adhesion in mainly two areas:  religion and philosophy.  To make sense of our existence, each of us in our addlepated manner, tends to create a narrative for our own position on the planet, a value of our own life.  These narratives, designed to provide personal harmony, often provide a cognitive and complicated dissonance.

All of our narratives, I believe, are based upon four kindergarten questions:
Who am I?  Where do I come from?  Where am I going?  What is the meaning of life?

Though the questions are simple, the answers are complex.

  • Who am I?

I am a busker; I am a guidance counsellor; I am a university instructor.  
As a busker I label myself a social entrepreneur, since most of the money I make busking goes to either the CANADIAN MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION or the SCHIZOPHRENIA SOCIETY OF SASKATCHEWAN.  In seasons past, I used to pay the sign of either, whatever the minimum wage.   For example, the minimum wage last summer was $10.50 per hour, and so if I busked for one hour, $10.50 of the proceeds was donated to one of the sponsoring agencies.  This season I’ve designed a different formula for support.  This season I plan on scheduling pro bono services for clients referred by either agency (CANADIAN MENTAL HEALTH or SCHIZOPHRENIA SOCIETY).  I think it will just be a simpler calculation and more beneficial to the consumers.

Who am I on a grander scale would indicate that I am just one of seven billion beings presently inhabiting the planet.   Such an answer certainly reduces the importance of my self-aggrandizement of being a busker with a social conscience.  As one human being in habitation on the planet, I’ve done completed my procreation duty of continuing my species.  I have three children.

  • Where do I come from?

As Neil of the Child family, I come from Jack Child and Marlene Sanders.  I am their only son.  This information, I’ve known my entire life.  I have met my parents; I have met their parents; I’ve met most of the spin-offs of their siblings.  I’ve met my people. I’ve got the family photos to prove it.

Where do I come from on the grander scale is a search for how humans happen to be walking the face of the Earth. According to the Christian Bible (Christianity being the most popular religion on the planet), we came from Adam and Eve who frolicked in the Garden of Eden.   According to humanist scientist, Loren Eiseley (The Immense Journey), we began as such all things begin – a snout in the ooze of unnoticed swamps, in the darkness of eclipsed moons, with a strangled gasping for air. According to the astronomer, Carl Sagan (Cosmos), the Cosmos is all there is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us – there is tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height.  We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.

  • Where am I going?  

Most of us fear dying, and that is where all of us are going.  Only astronauts get off this planet alive.  Do I know where I am going – of course not!  I only know that wherever it is, I hope to get there before my children do.  Any thought otherwise makes me sad.

Christian belief dictates that we are going to either Heaven or Hell.  We get to pass through the gates of Heaven if we have been good on Earth, serving our neighbors while spreading the word of Jesus.  We get the wrath of eternal fire and brimstone if we are bad asses.

Scientists (and some religions) believe that after we die, our personal energy dissipates elsewhere on the earth, transferring to either to the further development of floral or fauna.

I’m thinking Carl Sagan, if he were here for the discussion, could be convinced that when the sun, our nearest star (93 million miles from here), finally fades (five billion years from now) into nothingness, we humans, would have been long gone.

This begs another question:  To answer the previous questions, we rely mostly on faith.  Our scientists have scoured the planet for details and hints, but we are still left with conjecture framed within religions and philosophies.  Since this is the case, then could we not have arrived on our Earth, from beings in a faraway galaxy, whose sun, too, happened to burn out?

And this begets yet another question, one of creation.  I get it that we could have come from a god who can create life.  I can create life; I’ve three kids to prove it.  However, most of the gods in most of the religions have that super ability to grant everlasting life.  That power I do not have.  That power I do not want.  We are living longer, but will there come a day when we can choose to live forever and forever?

And the last of the kindergarten questions:   

  • What is the meaning of life?

According to Jaggi Vasudev (Sadhguru), most of us are searching for solace, security, and fulfillment of our desires, thus our lives merely being expressions of greed and fear.  I’ve heard Sadhguru state that our personal lives have no meaning, and to think thusly, is pure arrogance. And according to Sadhguru, to live and operate in the world, you may have to identify with something.  Play with your identifications – don’t let them rule you.  

I shall play being a busker.

Existentialists insist there is no real one meaning to any of this, and to survive positively in the world, we must be the Kapellmeister, and create our own meaning, attach to life our own purposes, and then live our life accordingly.

Hedonists believe that pleasure is the only good, and that the pursuit of pleasure is our only purpose.   

According to the Christian bible (Hebrew), sin is pleasure only for a season, the understandings of our design and existence liminal, and there is an omniscient god watching over the master plan.

And what do I know and believe?  I believe we are all living in a shadow suite; the mysteries of life being locked up in archetypal and unconscious thought, all due to our fear and loathing of death.  I believe that each of us delicately chooses to maxixe upon this blue orb, which is spinning ever throughout the universe, in the hope of dancing in joy for our entire lives. 

Dear readers, right now I do know one thing for certain:

The temperature outside is 1 degree with rain showers.  This is another non-busking day.  This is another day of writing, not about busking, but of life.  Though, dear reader, I know that for me busking with my twelve-string and harpoon is life, but for others life has, just a tad, more meaning.

*[Darren and I (PHANTOM TIDE) are working on some original songs.
Check them out by clicking on my YouTube account top and right of this blog header.]

Sunday, April 13, 2014


It is minus 4 degrees.  This lingering spring chill in Regina is, indeed, a force majeure that deters my busking -- alas, prompting another written expression of woolgathering!

When I first began to busk, I ALWAYS took a stand; now when I busk, I NEVER take a stand.  I do believe it is a matter of principle. I remember busking for the tunnel tourists waltzing down Main Street in Moose Jaw, SK, and for the ship passengers scrambling Bastion Square in Victoria, BC, always with my music stand.  No matter where I busk now, be it the bowl in Prince George, or beside the squirt pools at Riverside Park in Kamloops, or even among the market garden vendors at Invermere-On-The-Lake, I never pack one along.

When I first began to busk I needed EVERYTHING.  I needed my two binders filled music sheets, the black one for the top 40 cover songs, and the red one for my cowboy songs.  I also carried on my back both my twelve-string and my banjitar.  I wanted always to look good and convinced myself I needed a supply of cowboy hat and caps, an extra t-shirt, and an extra jacket.  I needed sandals.  And, of course, my music stand – I never left home without it!   

All of the above, save for my instruments, I stacked into a black canvas luggage bag on wheels, which I pulled from buskspot to buskspot.  Because of all this baggage, my entire first season of busking preparedness was clunky, clunky, clunky.  Now I busk clean.

There is a busker who oftentimes plays his saxophone across the street from the Cornwall Center in Regina, SK.  Anyone listening to his tunes quickly identifies this sax guy as a virtuoso instrumentalist. Anyone watching him blow, however, sees a comedic farrago, the wind tugging and tearing his music sheets that are fastened with wooden clothes hangers and paper clips to his music stand, at the base of which, is a chained scotch terrier barking in dissonance to the harmonies of his saxophone.  Such self-abasement I have avoided now for a long, long time.

Such ponderous efforts I have completely ditched for the unfettered salvos of spontaneity, playing whatever notes by my own design and whim.  Dragging my buskbag on wheels was really to thole, and not only that, I was a shining and laughable buskeraster on parade!

Over the seasons, divesting of such clutter has made me a better busker! Such a sea change has served the perfect anodyne, transforming me from a former standophile, to finally becoming an unfettered wayfaring stranger, slinging my guitar (or banjitar -- never both), from town to town downtowns.  I am not yet representing the anthophilous connotation of the 60’s, but I am close.

When it comes to busking --- DON’T TAKE A STAND.
When it comes to gigging --- TAKE A STAND – DON’T TAKE A STAND.

There are gigging times when music stands are more acceptable, and times when they are less acceptable.  Some musicians think they look tacky, while others don’t think about them at all.
Some musicians think music stands to be unprofessional and cheating, yet most audience members could care a less, because to them, it’s only the entertainment value that counts.  Some musicians think the appearance of professionalism declines with the presence of a music stand.  

Fact:  Michael Stipe of REM has one always by his side during live performances.

I’ve been to hundreds of gigs performed by professionals, and I must state that when sitting in the upper balcony in our local show lounge, most bands use either a teleprompter, or have sheet music (giant sheets of music) spread across the very floor they strut upon.  To take a stand or not take a stand depends entirely up to the musician.  A folk singer will often take a music stand; whereas a death metal growler would never consider doing so.

And now the skinny of my essay from the bully-pulpit, my only command on music stands:  
Buskers, never take a stand.  Giggers, even if only for the playlist, take a black Manhasset.


Leaving my laptop on the kitchen table, I pack my guitar and head to VALUE VILLAGE.  Cap-a-pie I am hat-less, a thick red plaid lumber jacket over-top my Canadian tuxedo which is over-top a white t-shirt.  I’ve on my ripped Vegas blue jeans; cuffs rolled up once revealing my freshly polished black steel-toed work boots.  (See picture at the beginning of this blog entry.)

Ten minutes into my busk I have to warm my hands, first rubbing them together, then exhaling into them, similar to that of a pitcher in Major League Baseball.  I strum for two songs, approximately six minutes, then rub my hands and blow into my closed fists for five.  This action I do this continually for my entire ninety minute busk, and then decidedly stop to have an Americano Decaf with my new best friend, Mike, who has delivered it in person.

Dear reader, during this brutto tempo busk ...