Sunday, July 13, 2014



My blog post last week I did not write about sketching people (or their dogs).  This week, too, I will not be writing (much) about portraiture busking – I will be writing about guitar busking. 

It has been a most splendid week for weather, and so every day I’ve been slinging my guitar to my familiar summer sixty minute pieds-a-terre: MIKE’S INDEPENDENT, SHOPPERS ON BROAD, VALUE VILLAGE, THE FARMERS' MARKET, and ITALIAN STAR DELI.

Here are some members of the hoi polloi who marched in my CHAUCERIAN PARADE this week:

  • Get a f***ing job! 

These were the words of a hirsute and shirtless man having his taxi park right in front my buskpot at MIKE’S INDEPENDENT.  With such a warning, he then took a fisted swing at my guitar – I stepped to the side and he missed.  I recalled the words of my PHANTOM TIDE band mate, Darren -- You need only one punch.

  • I’ve actually got a signed written contract to be here.  I might stay until 10 o’clock tonight, just depends. 

This is what Myles the gritty busker told me at two o’clock in the afternoon when I asked if I could bump him in a couple hours.  Hmmm … I realized Myles was attempting to hector me.  Not to appear nebbish, I did then express with a modicum of decency that I would be bumping him.  Thrice since, whenever I’ve encountered Myles at MIKE’S INDEPENDENT, he has not spoken to me, not even looked at me.  Myles has become a buskermonger – so there goes the buskerhood.

  • I used to sketch people’s faces in bars for drinks.  As the night went on my sketches got better and better though the people whose faces I was drawing did not agree. 

This soft-spoken dapper gentleman with the short grey beard and dressed in green and brown army fatigues chatted for at least 15 minutes, reminiscing of his drawing days, which he claimed were similar to mine at present.

  • I used to be a drunk in Vancouver.  I was also a drunk on the Island where I played guitar in front of liquor stores. 

This portly fellow dropped a ten dollar bill into my guitar case at SHOPPERS ON BROAD.  One day at a time – one ten dollar bill a week.

  • Mind if I try your guitar?  I’ve never played a twelve-string. 

One of the rules of busking is that you NEVER let a consumer play your guitar (for reasons obvious).  In my case, a couple of octogenarians, HANK'S POTATOES (his nickname) and AUGUST, play my guitar for a minute or two practically every Saturday when I busk at VALUE VILLAGE.  This fellow, Sam, was friendly and appeared normal, so I let him play my guitar.


  • My you play beautiful music.

Thank-you, LAVAUGHN!  La Vaughn is from Fillmore Saskatchewan.  In my younger days I had worked on a survey crew at Fillmore, and so we had a load of people in common to chat about.  She stood beside Sam whilst he strummed my twelve-string at VALUE VILLAGE.

  • Can I play you a few tunes? 

Another SAM, what are the odds?  This SAM is a Hutterite from a country colony, spending his Saturday in the city to stock up on supplies.  Sam played a number of American ballads from the 40’s and 50’s on my twelve-string, Oh My Darling, Clementine being one example.


  • Hello again!

KAREN and big-brown-eyed CORVUS stopped to chat.  Karen, a colleague of mine, and her son, Corvus, named after the Northern crows, are oftentimes visitors when I’m busking at the Market and Value Village.


  • That's really good!

On my way to busking I had to take my ILX in for servicing.  This is what salesman, Sunny, said after I sketched his portrait while waiting for my car.


  • Cellphones in the classroom are going to be the ruin of public education here in the West. I’ve just signed a two year contract to teach in Beijing, and I’ve rid myself of forty-two years of gluttonous clutter!

WENDY, a former colleague of mine, told me this while I was thrumming at the FARMERS MARKET.

  • I’ve got lung cancer.  How am I going to tell my 90 year old dad I’ve got lung cancer?  And I don’t even smoke, Neil. 

A regular consumer of mine, Albert, told me this over a noon strum at the ITALIAN STAR DELI.  ALBERT goes for more tests on Tuesday.  Is there ever a mot juste for such a disclosure?


Dear readers,
All the world's a stage and most of us all desperately unrehearsed ... Sean O'Casey.

In a few days I'll be on my EUROPEAN BUSKATION, slinging my guitar at bar fronts in IRELAND.  

I shall post again on my return to CANADA sometime in early August.  

In the meanwhile ... 
May the luck of the Irish be with you!

Sunday, July 6, 2014


This blog is supposed to be about busking with a social conscience.  When I began this blog in 2010 my main instrument was a banjitar.  However, early on I found that unless I was set up in the middle of a parking lot, the banjitar was too loud for my consumers.   

Then I started slinging my guitar which was much more appropriate when my buskspot was in close proximity to commercial main entrances.  (Adding some blow harp to my guitar busking was a no-brainer.)   

When the winds of autumn froze my fingers I switched to my didgeridoo, which I could play wearing gloves or mitts.  I quite liked busking with my didge, but it did prove to be boring after a few minutes.  There are only so many tunes I can blow on a didge, if one can call them tunes.

Anyway, Carlo, owner of the ITALIAN STAR DELI on Victoria Avenue in Regina, asked me to busk in front of his store. 

You’ve got carte blanche, my friend, he said.  Busk whenever and wherever you want on my property!

And surprise, surprise, Darren my PHANTOM TIDE band mate, brought along his banjitar!

Through the noon hour we played on the front entrance brick patio at the ITALIAN STAR DELI.  The STAR consumers, a constant parade of Italian sandwich-eaters-to-go, proved to be generous, too, to our cause (SCHIZOPHRENIA SOCIETY OF SASKATCHEWAN) too.   

It was INDEPENDENCE DAY, the FOURTH OF JULY, and one lady even tossed American money into my guitar case!  Another very generous fellow, a Regina Police Officer, was wearing a white t-shirt with an American flag waving on the front!  (I remind you, dear readers, I am a Canadian busker, and the Italian Star Deli is in Regina, Canada.  I also remind you, dear readers, that the majority of Canadians LOVE Americans -- ME INCLUDED, though the lunatic fringe of say 15% seem to be significantly vocally against!)

After our lunch-busk at the Italian Star, we rolled into the front entrance at VALUE VILLAGE on Broad Street.  Value Village is one of my favorite places to busk my consumers there are my predictable kith.  I always know how much money I’m going to make and I pretty much know the regulars who always stop and chat.  This day our first guest to stop was Hank’s Potatoes (nickname for my octogenarian familiar stranger who loads and sells sacks of potatoes every day).  And the second guess to stop was Chrysta, owner and manager of the ISLAND KITCHEN, situated immediately inside the main door of Village Mall.

Not wanting this to be a shaggy dog type essay, I shall return to my point.  This blog began as a busking voice of social conscience.  In this specific regard I’ve decided different ways to express this conscience.  Thus, here is my history, my bildungsroman on busking with this social conscience.

First, I approached the executive directors of the SASKATCHEWAN SCHIZOPHRENIA SOCIETY and the CANADIAN MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION, Anita Hopfauf and David Nelson, respectively.

Both Anita and David had my busking signs made to fit into my guitar case for display.  In return, I advertised their website on my blog header (just scroll down the right side), and I also paid their signs whilst busking, the minimum wage a worker in Saskatchewan would earn in an hour, approximately 10 dollars. 

This, however, proved to be tedious.  First, I was busking out there in the weather, my energy and my guitar, both of which wearing after an hour or so, and second then, having to calculate the amount, stuff the dollars into an envelope, and taxi the money to the appropriate agency.

Surely my value to these agencies can be enhanced, I had thought to myself. After all, I am a counsellor with the academic credentials and a wealth of pragmatic experience; surely I can offer more than just money.

And then my epiphany!  I am in the process of revamping my downtown private practice.  Rather than label myself as a counsellor of interpersonal relations, I have decided to sell myself as a PSYCHOLOGY CONSULTANT. 

Here is my reasoning:  Good counsellors NEVER ADVISE ... NEVER GIVE ADVICE.  Good counsellors interview/question/interrogate their clients until the solution to their clients’ problems come from WITHIN the clients.  This is good counselling, having the professional expertise to elicit good strategies that seemingly come from the client.

Here is my quarrel with that sense of reason.  Most of my clients do not have the insight nor the focus to really come up with sound strategies to improve their situations.  Yes, yes, they can come up with solutions, experience these strategic solutions back in their workaday worlds, then discuss the positive and negative outcomes of each during the next counselling session, which is typically scheduled a few weeks later.   

All clients, with good counselling, will eventually experience positive outcomes by their designed strategies from within, but … this takes time.  And … time is money for the counsellor.  The more sessions it takes, the more money to begot (for the counsellor).

This is good.  This is win-win.  I’ll not begrudge any counsellors their livelihood, nor will I begrudge any clients their participation in their recovery.  I am not suggesting counsellors abrogate their ethical notions.  For me though, as a PSYCHOLOGY CONSULTANT … I see things differently.

When a client goes to a consultant in any other field, the client expects some advice.  Should I buy?  Should I not buy?  Should I move ahead with this idea?  Or should I hold back and creatively procrastinate?  What, what, what should I do?  I repeat … clients approach consultants for their supposedly sage advice based on their expertise and experience.  And most clients will acquiesce to paid-for-suggestions.

As a PSYCHOLOGY CONSULTANT I’m thinking I’d feel OBLIGATED to ADVISE -- I WILL GIVE ADVICE.  This would be especially true when the clients are bemused and confused.  Most of my current clients are either addicts in recovery (somewhat shaky with a low self-esteem), or clients who could soon be consumers of government mental health services (such clients are never confident in their abilities).   

Every way I ponder this, I see it as offering a more expedient approach to my counselling practice, rather than dilly-dally and molly coddle through the traditional four to six sessions as suggested by most employee assistant programs, with more sessions requested through formal letters of appeal.   

Though I must confess I am not an expert in any regard, I am confident that my professional and experiential credentials exceed those in most, if not all, of my clients.  And I must also confess that I could easily become a counsellor who is pedextrous, one who could walk on the path of either counsellor or consultant.

My NHL friend thinks I should charge 260 dollars a session for such a consulting service.  My band mate thinks I should charge 190 dollars per session.  My complicated friend thinks I should charge 140 dollars.

(Hmmm … whatever my rate, for those clients referred through either the SASKATCHEWAN SCHIZOPHRENIA SOCIETY or the CANADIAN MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION, the fees shall be PRO BONO PUBLICO!)

And speaking of my complicated friend, click on to my YouTube account top right second box of this blog header, who inspired my lyrics in our latest song, AFRAID TO FLY.

Though this song reads like a billet-doux (it could be I suppose), she is really more in the role of my nemesis, a preferred critic in my every social and professional regard.  Here are the lyrics and chords ... but click on my YouTube to have a listen!


VERSE 1     
D                                  A                     D                         G
She doesn’t like to dance … she doesn’t wear a dress
D                               A                           G         A        
She says she’s in a life she can’t escape
D                                  A
She says her life’s a mess
D                         G
And I must confess
D                A                   G                    D          
She is my dark cloud hanging over me


D                      Bm          A
I am old and afraid to die
D                                 A                       G
She’s still young … and afraid to fly
D                                   Bm                                        A
Afraid to spread her wings above the stormy sky

D                                  A                        D                              G            
She says I think too much … as she drives her Chevy car
D                                                  A                 G        A       
The top rolled down and her dog in the back
D                               A
She never gets too far
D                                        G
Gets distracted by the stars
D                A                   G                    D
She is my dark cloud hanging over me


D                   A                            D                    G
My fantasy friend with her minor league dreams
D                                                 A                             G          A        
She’s the beer pong champ and the wrestling queen
D                                      A
Says she’s got big plans
D                                                     G                                     
But that dark keeps her in the rain
D                 A                 G                     D          
She is my dark cloud hanging over me