|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.
“It’s not cool. You know we are in a buskerhood right. Guitar brothers under the sun so to speak. You agree.”
“Well it’s not cool. You’re setting up right on top of me. I’d rather you set up elsewhere.”
“Anywhere, just not here.”
“There’s an open space here.”
“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|
|NEXT DOOR TO MICHAEL PAYNE'S HYPNOTHERAPY SHOPPE IN LIMERICK, IRELAND|