Sunday, August 24, 2014

JACK AND JACK: ANOTHER CARPE DIEM EXPERIENCE



L - R: DARREN, JACK AND JACK, SELF
Busking is always a carpe diem experience, simply because you just never know what is going to happen or who you are going to meet.  (Really, this notion is true for anyone and any day can be one of derring-do; however, this is a blog about busking and I’ll express my thoughts accordingly.)

On this particular Tuesday I was joined by my Phantom Tide band-mate, Darren, and his son, Jack.  This was Jack’s first time busking and so we set our strumming to be at the THE ITALIAN STAR DELI on Victoria Avenue in Regina, one of the best spots in the city to busk!

Jack, still salted in Maritime Carpe Diem mode, and sporting a newly stamped tattoo of a blue carrack on his bicep, and donning a black East Coast Lifestyle cap on his noggin, brought along his bongos.  Darren brought his banjitar, and I brought my twelve-string.  What a handsome trio we were!  Jack had been practicing his drumming skills and it showed.  Darren is a guitar master -- he plied his signature style whilst growing up on Cape Breton Island, and I am but a thrummer and hummer, honing my guitar and harp skills mostly when I busk.

My deprecating self-described strum has been for some time the lines:  For every one hundred people who pass me while I busk, ninety-five will think I am an awesome guitarist and harpist, and the other five will have some guitar skills and recognize my real abilities.  Guys like Jack Sample will pass by just one in a thousand.

Well guess who finally passed by this particular busking Tuesday?  Jack Semple, of course! 

Jack Semple is the famous blues guitarist from Regina, Canada.  Jack won a Juno award in 1991 and was the star in the 1994 movie, Guitarman.  Guitarists don’t get any better than Jack!

Of course Jack was gracious enough to pose for pictures, and that is busker Jack sitting on guitar Jack’s knee, thus explaining the JACK AND JACK blog title.  (Also, Jack is a synonym for sailor, which seems apt considering young Jack and Darren had just returned from an East Coast vacation.) 

ANOTHER CARPE DIEM EXPERIENCE in the title, I’ve written about (in this blog) at least twice before: A PLACE IN THE SUN:  AN ESSAY ON BUSKER CARPE DIEM (April 2nd, 2011), and WHERE YOU ARE IS WHERE IT’S AT: AN ESSAY ON CARPE DIEM, ZEN, EXISTENTIALISM, PHENOMENOLOGY, AND BUSKING (December 5th, 2010).

CARPE DIEM has been one of my favorite themes since my university days as an English Literature Major.  CARPE DIEM was first introduced by the Latin poet, Horace in 23 BC.  It has been translated as SEIZE THE DAY, PLUCK THE DAY, ENJOY THE DAY, and GRASP THE DAY.  Allow me to ramble a bit on each.

SEIZE THE DAY, the most popular interpretation, seems too agog for my liking.  Seize the day seems to more express the YOLO (You Only Live Once) notion that has become band-wagon as of late.  Seize the day almost implies that nothing else matters, so therefore be reckless in every regard.

PLUCK THE DAY, as I understand, is the literal translation.  PLUCK, as in picking fruit, suggests that when the day is ripe, pluck it, and put that unforgettable particular day into your straw basket of memories.  This is close to my thinking, but not quite.  The metaphor of moments being ripe and ready for plucking just does not work for me.

ENJOY THE DAY I find anodyne.  Enjoy is rather a weak verb no matter the context.  I just think that enjoy gives a rather mild message, rather than one which is memorable.

GRASP THE DAY I very much like.  And it is beseeming to me because this is what I learned from Harry Dillow, an English Professor of mine, at the University of Regina. 

Hello, Harry, wherever you are! 

Harry was a lover of Carpe Diem; at least he seemed so to me and everyone in his 17th - CENTURY ENGLISH POETRY classes.  Grasp the Day connotes an awareness or understanding, a grasp of the situation.  Grasp the Day suggests that one ought to be aware that our days are numbered, and therefore it seems favorable, even obligatory to find something meaningful in every encounter, to grasp each as an understanding that such an appreciation is finite and therefore to be savored (very much akin to the pluck the day literal translation).

Others, others with big names, have embraced the notion of CARPE DIEM:

  • Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever. (Mahatma Ghandi)

  • Yesterday is gone.  Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today.  Let us begin. (Mother Teresa)   

  • Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.  (Helen Keller)

This week I was asked to thrum and hum at the SHOPPERS ON BROAD Tree of Life hotdog sale, for which I did GRASP for a couple of hours and did so gladly!

Courtesy of Skyler, SHOPPERS photographer
Other CARPE DIEM moments in my CHAUCERIAN PARADE for this week:

CAMILLE -- CONGENIAL AND STUNNING
(FRENCH EXPAT LIVING IN AMSTERDAM WITH FLATMATES ALINA, MARIO, AND TRAVERS)

JACK SEMPLE TRIBUTE TO LIGHTFOOT (ALBUM)

 Another soon-to-be CARPE DIEM experience:


 
My business card shall read:


  • STOP SMOKING

  • LOSE WEIGHT

  • CHANGE YOUR LIFE

HYPNOTHERAPY

NEIL CHILD 
(306) 591-7131


Suggestions ... anyone ... anyone?
Pun intended ... everyone ... everyone!

     

Monday, August 18, 2014

BUSKER WARS: A COOK'S TOUR



ON THE SHANNON RIVER BOARDWALK IN LIMERICK, IRELAND

This last Saturday morning I was guitar busking at the Regina Farmers’ Market in the Downtown Plaza.  My buskspot was smack in the middle and on the north side of the gauntlet of vendors.  The weather was hot and muggy and the patrons slow and stingy.  My consumers were not munificent.

Bad enough.  And then a tall and dark and slim fellow unpacking his guitar and amplifier begins his set-up directly across from me, just twenty-five feet across the walk lane.  Let’s call him Stunned Stu.  As Stu looked me in the eye, I raised my hand suggesting he should stop.  He didn’t stop and I walked over to him.
“Not a good idea,” I said.
“Not a good idea what,” he replied.
“Why not,” he replied.
“You see me here busking right? I said.
“Yah.”
“It’s not cool.  You know we are in a buskerhood right.  Guitar brothers under the sun so to speak. You agree.”
“Yah.”
“Well it’s not cool. You’re setting up right on top of me.   I’d rather you set up elsewhere.”
“Where?”
“Anywhere, just not here.”
“There’s an open space here.”
“Move okay.”
“Where?”
“Anywhere away from me.”

I did not smile and Stu packed up his amp and guitar and left.

Regina, a city of 200,000 people situated on the Canadian Plains, is my demesne, my home strumming ground.  The state of the buskerhood in Regina I find not in harmony, but in discord.

A few posts ago I wrote a bit about this buskerhood, and mentioned busker Myles as an example.  Myles, a guitar busker, had recently decided he owned the buskspot at MIKE’S INDEPENDENT on Broadway Avenue.  He had a signed and written contract to be there he said.  Not only was Myles refusing to move (said he had planned on being there all day and even into the evening), he also lied about his status.  Knowing full well he was self-aggrandizing, I stated firmly that I’d be returning in two hours to bump him.  When I returned he moved, but has not spoken to me since.

I shall give you the seriocomic COOK’S TOUR of the buskers I know plying their wares in downtown Regina.  I’ve changed the names to protect the guilty.

Myles I saw again just today.  He’s scruffy and is always seated on a folding picnic chair.  He has all the gadgets, a portable amp, a microphone and stand, a music stand, and his music sheets attached.  Myles just looks too busy for my busking liking (though the European trend is now having an amp and microphone – but the sheet music is still a no-no).  When I saw Myles this afternoon he was shirtless and had a lit cigarette stuck to the corner of his bottom lip as he sang Johnny B. Goode.  Myles did not even nod as I stood by his side.  He just puffed and sang.

If I stopped writing right now and took a three minute walk to Scarth Street I would bump into Dave the Fiddler.  Dave always wearing a cap and with his long sleeves rolled up to just past his elbows, sitting forever crossed-legged with his fiddle case filled with very few coins open at his feet.  Cockalorum Dave always makes lots of money (wink nudge to you, readers).  Every time I’ve chatted with Dave over the years he always says, “I am going soon.  I’ve made a couple of hundred dollars and I’m moving on.”

There is another regular fiddler, Fat Frank.  Fat Frank, ever disheveled and slobby with his too-short pants held up by his skinny suspenders, carries a plastic milk crate on which to sit, and plays mournful tunes the entire time he busks.  Frank seems friendly enough but, like the others, has no sense and respect for the space of other buskers.  Frequently I’ve had to move the ho-hum Fat Frank along to greener patches.  A couple weeks ago I noticed Myles yelling at him.

Bicycle Bob has busking skills similar to mine.  He’s a guitar strummer with a C harmonica.  Bicycle Bob tends to busk near the Cornwall Centre.  When he moves along, he always rides his bicycle.  I like Bicycle Bob.  He tells me his favourite spots are his secret spots, and that is where he goes when he rides out of the downtown.  Bicycle Bob always wears a tattered black cowboy hat, complete with the stamped strings cinched under his chin.

As far as the state of the buskerhood in Regina, we are not a coterie, but rather an imaginary clique from a consumer’s perspective.  (Brad, my National Hockey League scout friend, jokingly insists that I should start up the BUSKERS’ UNION!  Brad knows about hockey, not about huckstering.)  I’ve really no enmity towards these other local buskers; however, my egoism is necessary to maintain my status and my buskspots.  For the most part, each of these aforementioned buskers has considerable mettle, even though they are clochards.

Being a busker in Regina is not easy.  And not having a buskerhood, as the real tourist destinations have, can frustrate a real busker.  (This I know from my numerous buskations over the years to places in Alberta, British Columbia, and Europe.)  But I am but a faux-busker, and such nit-picks are welcome story treats for this self- appointed and arrogant buskologist.

The characters in my CHAUCERIAN PARADE this week shall keep marching in these snap shots:
ANGELINE PASSING THROUGH REGINA



LIMERICK, IRELAND
  
NEXT DOOR TO MICHAEL PAYNE'S HYPNOTHERAPY SHOPPE IN LIMERICK, IRELAND
ON THE PATH TO THE CLIFFS OF MOHER ... KILLARNEY, IRELAND

ON THE PATH TO THE CLIFFS OF MOHER


TRAV AT THE CLIFFS OF MOHER (NOTE THE CRUISE SHIP 200 METERS BELOW)


SELF AT THE CLIFFS OF MOHER

Hmmm ... 
Methinks to close with this CLIFFHANGER!
STAY TUNED (pun intended)!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

THREE CITIES, THREE GUITARS: MY EUROPEAN BUSKATION

SELFIE

Yesterweek I was on a European buskation, and this blog entry is about my guitar strumming in Amsterdam, Limerick, and Dublin, with three different guitars borrowed from Alina (from Russia), Michael (from England), and Peter (from Slovakia).

Alina is a Russian ex-pat living and working and studying in Amsterdam.  She is as breathtakingly beautiful, as the original songs she sings while playing piano or strumming guitar.

Alina is one of four flatmates (she from Russia, Mario from Austria, Camille from France, and my son, Travers from Canada) renting a two-story house in posh downtown Amsterdam.  Their house is just a three minute walk to the HOUSE of ANNE FRANK, a twenty minute walk to DAM SQUARE, thirty minutes to VONDELPARK, and a thirty-five minute walk to RIJKSMUSEUM.

ALINA
I took Alina's guitar down to DAM SQUARE (simply known as THE DAM).  The DAM is one of the most popular spots in Amsterdam.  Over ten million visitors a year saunter across this square lined with coffeeshops (where you can legally purchase marijuana or hashish), cafes, little shopping malls, and souvenir shops. 

BUSKING WITH ALINA'S GUITAR
At the DAM the very first person to approach me was ROQUE ANDRES from Regina, Canada.  (When Roque was in grade nine I was his English teacher!  This is the first time Roque had been abroad!  What are the odds!)

ROQUE AND SELF
From Amsterdam I flew Aer Lingus to Limerick, Ireland.  And no I was not tempted to write … There once was a busker from Regina ... (Regina rhymes with vagina.)

In Limerick I chose a spot on a side street next to a pub to strum.  The guitar that I borrowed belongs to Michael Payne, an ex-pat from London living in Limerick.
MICHAEL PAYNE -- HYPNOTHERAPIST
I met Michael by chance, after asking directions from two tippled individuals sitting and smoking on his front stoop right in front of his HYPNOTHERAPIST shop.  Michael had stepped out of his shop and completed the directions after disclosing to us that the two gentlemen could hardly direct anyone off the block, never mind to where we were wanting to go (the GAP, a hike near Killarney). Unbeknownst at that time to Michael, I was a busker in need of a guitar.  And unbeknownst to me, I would be chatting in Michael’s office the very next day (I’ve a strong interest in HYPNOTHERAPY --- Michael please, please be my mentor when I open shop in Regina) and would be borrowing his guitar
BUSKING WITH MICHAEL'S GUITAR
And then I was off to Dublin, where by this time I had determined, that pubbing is the Zeitgeist of Ireland. Again, the guitar fates were exceedingly kind, for in the TEMPLE BAR I met Peter Pisar, who happily lent me his guitar.  TEMPLE BAR is the cultural quarter and tourist hotspot in central Dublin, a place that that has preserved its medieval street patterns, every street being narrow and cobbled.  When I met Peter, he and his band mate, Ivica Nechalova, were being noisily winkled from their buskspot, by a fellow yelling at them from an upstairs office window -- 
No busking allowed until the shop closes in a couple of hours!

IVICA AND PETER
Ivica and Peter, from Slovakia, are members of the band, GREMMY.  Ivica and Peter are in three words as people and as entertainers, AWESOME ... AWESOME ... AWESOME!

(Check out their website, GREMMY.SK)

Upon returning his guitar, Peter reached into his bag and gave to me a Jew’s harp (sometimes referred to as Jaw harp or Ozark harp) as a gift.

Later on in the day after having several Irish beers in several Irish pubs with Travers, I stopped by to listen to Peter and Ivica who had the crowd dancing and clapping to their Cranberries set of songs.







IVICA AND PETER (GREMMY) BUSKING IN TEMPLE BAR
MY SON, TRAVERS, AND IVICA


BUSKING IN TEMPLE BAR WITH PETER'S GUITAR
Then it was back to Amsterdam and back to Alina and back to borrowing her guitar.

Back at the DAM, my last buskapade in Europe, I met with Claudio.  Claudio is a self-described networker, thinker, doer, and dreamer.  Italian born, Claudio was raised in Germany and is now studying in Amsterdam.  I must mention that Claudio is a really good guy!  

CLAUDIO BUSKING WITH ALINA'S GUITAR
SYNCHRONICITY, PHENOMENOLOGY, even EXISTENTIALISM. Call it what you like.  That notion of making sense of the many coincidences on my European buskation must be mentioned.

What are the chances that Roque Andres, who has never before been to Europe, steps off the tram in Amsterdam and walks straight into Dam Square in the heart of Amsterdam, and the first person he connects with is me, his long ago-grade-nine English teacher!  And what are the odds that Roque is in Amsterdam to visit his friend, Sara, who with her boyfriend, has just moved here from Mexico City, and who just happens to be rooming in the same house where I am staying, the house rented by Alina and her flatmates, Camille (from France), Mario (from Austria), and my son, Travers (from Canada)!  At the time I was chatting with Roque I did not know Sarah, who through a friend of a friend had made arrangements to move into our same house the very next day!

What are the odds that the very gracious hypnotist, Michael Payne, steps out of his office right after I’d taken a picture of his Hypnotherapy sign, and right when receiving garbled directions from two drunken stair dwellers!  What are the odds that Michael invites me to chat about his practice (I’m about to open a HYPNOTHERAPY practice very soon) and he also happens to have a guitar on a stand right beside the very chair in which I’m seated sipping his delicious, delicious tea!  And what are the odds that Michael is a devout weight lifter (like myself)! 

What are the odds that Peter and Ivica, when they busk, sing mostly songs of the Cranberries, of whom the bass player, MIKE HOGAN, just happens to own the SAGE CAFÉ  in Limerick, where I had just had eaten lunch the day before!

Yes, call it SYNCHRONICITY (the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but are not) or PHENOMENOLOGY (the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience) or EXISTENTIALISM (that individuals are free and responsible agents who determine their own development through their own acts of will), the very IDEA of making sense of coincidence seems to always work for me.

Some random pictures:
 
THE GRACIOUS MARIO (FROM AUSTRIA)

TRAV STUDYING IN A LIMERICK LOUNGE

 
PORTRAIT OF TRAV STUDYING IN A LIMERICK LOUNGE


TIM: A QUIET AND WEARY TRAVELER FROM NEW ZEALAND

DANIEL-RYAN SPAULDING:  A CANADIAN STAND-UP LIVING IN EUROPE
 (CHECK OUT HIS VIRAL YOUTUBE ... 1.8 MILLION HITS!)


DINNER WITH TRAVERS AND HIS FRIENDS (SARAH, SCOTT, TRAVERS, JULIA, SELF, ALINA)
 This picture (taken by my wife, Carol) says it all!

AMSTERDAM, LIMERICK, AND DUBLIN:  ALINA, MICHAEL, AND PETER ... 
THREE CITIES -- THREE GUITARS.

And ... the title waiting for my next book … 
ONE HUNDRED CITIES – ONE HUNDRED GUITARS!