Sunday, January 25, 2015


Saturday is hockey night in Canada and like troglodytes leaving their caves, shinny players from the shacks of every rink galumph onto the ice.  In the lambent softness of moonlight, in the Canadian winter chill, a million skaters glide across the frozen granites of the outdoor skating rinks. With their skate blades freshly sharpened, their heads wrapped in a toque or trapper hat, and wearing a hoodie, hockey gloves, and blue-jeans, the game in the gloam is on.

Shinny is an informal game of ice hockey with or without skates (preferably with).  No referees, no equipment save for skates, stick, and gloves, no real designated positions, no age restrictions and no limit on player numbers, the game of shinny makes for pure Canadian Winter entertainment and exercise.

Aside from the aforementioned accoutrements, the necessaries for shinny are simple.  Instead of a hockey helmet, a toque or trapper, a beanie or a Yukon cap will do, and when it’s really frigid, a head covered in a hoodie or wrapped in a scarf or balaclava is a must.

I can remember, as a kid growing up in Vanguard, Saskatchewan, Canada, the game of shinny being a constant in my life.  Right after school each day in Winter, there would be twenty or so adolescents playing road hockey (skateless) in front of the Puckett house (no pun intended … Puckett is the real family name … and quite a renowned name in our hockey world … both Neil Puckett and his brother, Billy Roy Puckett were standout goalies in the NHL … the Notekeu Hockey League).

Not so strangely, we road hockey warriors battled with a rubber ball until suppertime, after which most of us would lace up our skates and head to the real rink for more shinny.  We loved that game that much.  Fact:  All the shinny players in our village also played organized ice-hockey, from wee wee to senior league, all under the team moniker, the Vanguard Eagles.  The Vanguard Eagles formally played in the NHL (Notekeu Hockey League) whilst all team members were unsigned and also active in the informal outdoor one-team shinny league.  

Rather than be accursed in winter, the cult members of shinny relish in the cold, a kind of on and off again ice amour, depending on the temperature.  Perfect ice for shinny needs to be below freezing temperatures.  Above freezing, the ice is too soft and the game is off.

Ten degrees below freezing is ideal.  With sharpened steel blades the shinny players across the nation are cutting their boustrophedon lines back and forth the cold winter ice, then grinding them into oblivion, into hockey hieroglyphics before the game is done.

Shinny is not highfalutin.  However, this is no reason to fleer.  Factoid:  Shinny players are the hoi polloi and poetasters of hockey, the pelaton of quintessential ice gods, the real stereotypes of the Canadian Winter.  And the hebdomadal hockey night in Canada is really an outdoor rehearsal for the music and euphony of rink entertainment. 

Shinny is frozen ice medicine spewed from the generational fountain of youth.  Shinny keeps me young and ready for Springtime busking. 


December through February, a couple nights each week shinny is my zowie ... erstwhile and presently, I am a shinny player, and I shall continue to be a shinny player until that last puck is dropped!    

Monday, January 19, 2015


SIGMUND FREUD used to be the guy until he fell out of forbidden academic flavor (I mean favor) with the OEDIPAL and ELECTRA COMPLEX.  It turned out that boys didn’t really want to murder their fathers to have sex with their mothers, no more than girls wanted to grow a penis.  (I must mention that some of Freud is still prominent in the medical model for psychotherapy.)

Sigmund Freud still is my guy when it comes to his notions of LOVE and WORK. 

“Love and work … work and love … What else is there really?” (Sigmund Freud)

“Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.” (Freud, again)

LOVE is the experience of interpersonal affection (I love my mother … yikes!  See the Oedipal Complex), the experience of personal pleasures (I love pepperoni pizza with a dash of orgasm … I mean oregano; I love hooking up … I mean hockey!).

The concept of love may simply be understood as a function to keep human beings psychologically and physically together in efforts to battle common enemies, while at the same time facilitating the continuation of the species.  I say simply understood but … LOVE IS COMPLICATED.  LOVE IS AN ENIGMA.

Where there is family there is favor. When there are friendships catching fire there are sparks. Where there is eye candy there can be crush and crave.  And where there is lust there is amour.

WORK, on the other hand, is not so enigmatic.  Work, rather, is the employment of a mental or physical activity as a means to earning an income.  No matter the nature of the work, no one has an easy job.  Whether it is a dishwasher or a dermatologist, an artist or aeronautical engineer, a busker or a bartender, a job is a job is a job, and a job is never easy. (I do concede, however, that some jobs are simpler than others, but keep in mind that the words easy and simple are not synonyms.)

The nature of work is quid pro quo.  Everyone wants stuff and in order to get stuff you need to buy it and in order to buy it you need money and in order to get money you need to work.  Granted, in this part of the planet, if for whatever reason you can’t or won’t work, the system will take care of you with a base minimum dollar and cents proviso.  But if you desire more, the more epicurean you want to become, you need to work.

I think lots about work because I am getting to that age.  Oftentimes people ask me, “How long you planning to stick with it, Neil?”

It just so happens that I do not ever dream of having my own popcorn or hotdog stands.  I do not ever dream of managing my own company … for if I were managing my own company I wouldn’t dream at all … because if I did … I wouldn’t sleep at night!

I am lucky.  I love my jobs.  I love being a high school counselor.  I love being a part-time university professor.  I love being a private practitioner of hypnotherapy.  I love being a busker.

Having quality work keeps me engaged.  I am still motivated by my work.  I still have control of my work.  At ninety years of age Picasso still painted.  And all things being relative, until the day that he died, Einstein pursued his theories.

“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.” (Gautama Buddha)

“We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.” (Thomas Edison)

Perhaps I am delusional, but I believe that sixty-five will be the beginning of my middle age. 

Perhaps I am delusional, but I believe that my work is as fulfilling as my leisure.

Perhaps I am delusional, but I kind of agree with Freud’s belief that the goal of all life is death. 

To close with a couple more quotations:

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”  (Erich Fromm)

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”  (Confucius)

Whatever you think of love and work ...
allowing the cement to dry in either can lead only to despair.

And by the way, my Freudian slips presented at the beginning of this blog entry are really just verbal revelations, adumbrating my repressed shadow archetypes, my sexual anxieties. 
Here is a classic example of such mentioned:

How many psychoanalysts does it take to screw in a light bulb? 

It takes two … one to screw and the other to hold my penis … I mean my mother … I mean the ladder!

My CHAUCERIAN PARADE for this week:






Sunday, January 11, 2015


Ah … the romance of the busker! 

Git slung over my shoulder and a double-cream Americano in my hand, each day I stroll down city sidewalks searching for adventure, searching for the perfect buskspot.  Usually by ten o’clock a.m. I am strumming my twelve-string, catching that first wave of morning consumers.

Before the noon hour I'm usually packed up and looking for another buskspot, to catch the second wave of consumers as they crash the market grabbing snack or a sale.

And after the third wave, the cat’s paw one o’clock aftershock, I’ll grab another Americano and strum until three or four, depending on the number of coins clinking into my git case.

Ah … the romance of the busker!

Cap-a-pie I get to wear whatever I want.  And this is what I always wear, simply because I want to.   

In summer I’m hatless.  I tousle my hair to give that windblown look of a free spirit.  I’ve got this notion that the quintessential busker has to have a Kennedy shock of messy hair.  

Sunny or not, I wear the shades, and usually they are black-framed, though I do have white and red frames in my stockpile.  

On hot days I wear a white t-shirt.  And this white t-shirt is likely the reason I lift weights every day.  Hmmm … readers of this blog are certainly aware of my narcissistic nature.

For leggings I’m a worn-out faded blue jeans kind of guy. 

For my feet I’m in boots, mostly steel-toed black or brown, very necessary for my trekking miles of concrete.

Ah … the romance of the busker!

Busking, I can strum and thrum whatever songs I want.  And I always choose original tunes, ones that I’ve written because that is what I want.  Whenever someone makes a request, on existential principle, I always graciously decline.

Ah … the romance of the busker!

My git quits any time after four o’clock.  I grab a bite from a local vendor (one who has treated me kindly that day), get seated on a sidewalk bench or a sward in a park, and enjoy my supper.  Sometimes, only sometimes, will I busk until dusk.

Ah ... the romance of the busker! 
If I’m not pounding empty sidewalks by nine o’clock in the morning, I’ll not get my perfect buskspot.  I need to rise with the sun, go for my workout, have breakfast, and hit the street by nine.  And I do need the sun!  Grey cloud-filled skies are adumbrate for a busker, for consumers are especially munificent only on windless and sunny days.

Ah ... the romance of the busker!

If I do not vacate my perfect morning buskspot by noon, other buskers will be annoyed, and decidedly vexed, too, will be the vendors with whom I’ve strummed in close proximity.  After a couple hours they need a listening break, a new sidewalk artist to entertain them.

During the noon hour, I need to be set up in a good location.  It is during the noon hour that my second wave of consumers, actually the biggest wave, walks by.  I need to be at my very best both physically and mentally to cope with the rush.

Just past the noon hour, the cat’s paw crowd makes for an easy strum.  The crowd has reduced and my passing-by consumers are but a trickle.   This seems relaxing but really is just another endurance test to get me to my four o’clock stop time.  I usually pick four o’clock because that’s when I’ve met my imaginary dollar target for the day.  In the heat of the summer I pick seventy-five dollars as suffice to shut down.  Late spring and early autumn I pick fifty dollars to be sufficed.  My busking acme is any day that I meet my quota before four o’clock!

Ah ... the romance of the busker!

I need to be the constant martinet, continually work on my guitar strumming and my singing, to show respect for myself and those of the merchants whose permission I seek to solicit on their storefronts.  Bad strumming and bad singing makes for bad, rather than best, practice. 

Ah ... the romance of the busker!

I need to keep in mind that my busking presence is fifty percent talent and fifty percent expression.  If people like the way I look, if they like the way I present, they become consumers.  To keep my day-to-day duende, I need to always play my best and look my best.  If the people passing by do not like my talent or looks, they become my critics.  And becoming a critic is as simple as not tossing a coin into my open guitar case.

Ah ... the romance of the busker!

If you’ve ever experienced stage fright with a band at a gig, this fright pales in emotion when compared to solitary street busking.  Street busking is a singular adventure.  I am on my own, totally.  Compliments I receive as an individual are highly rewarding, as much so as the catcalls are highly demeaning.  It takes more than talent to be a guitar busker, it also takes grit.

Ah ... the romance of the busker!

Though the art of busking does add value to most everyone’s downtown shopping experience, there are exceptions.  And those exceptions will mention that you are out of tune, they will challenge as to why they should be giving you money for nothing, they will sing alongside you, they will want to strum your guitar; and some even, will attempt to steal the coins from your guitar case.  

(Fact: The social benefits of busking are rare and rich. For example, supposed friends I know in my own locality will nary evoke a simple thank-you in kind for gifts, and yet I've a bond with people from Russia, Slovakia, and Ireland, just because I'm a busker.)

Ah ... the romance of the busker!

If I take a sick day I don’t get paid.  This does not mean that I strum and sing even when I’m sick, but it does mean that I am always conscience of my mental and physical health.  Privately, I need to lead a healthy lifestyle.  Buskers who are constantly sick will eventually starve (metaphorically).  From the consumer perspective on the dreg continuum, unhealthy buskers eventually decline to be dudgeons of panner or a picker.

Ah ... the romance of the busker!


[This picture atop this blog entry consists of Darren, Mark, and me in my alterity, BLACK BROOK TIDES, performing in winter at the BUSHWAKKER BREW PUB in Regina, Canada, on the eve of BLACKBERRY MEADE, the coldest night of the year.]

Sunday, January 4, 2015


Have Gun Will Travel reads the card of a man ... a soldier of fortune is the man called Paladin.

Every prospect needs a calling card to get drafted into the NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE (NHL).  So sayeth my NHL scout friend, Brad Hornung.  For any junior player to get drafted, that player needs to be the best at doing something.  Besides having skating skills and hockey sense, every junior prospect wanting to get drafted by an NHL team needs a calling card.  It could be that the player is the top goal scorer, the best penalty killer, the smoothest skater, the toughest fighter.  Whatever his skill, he just needs to be the best at what he does.

Whenever I think of calling cards I think of Paladin in the television series, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL (pictured above and from which I blatantly copied for the title of this blog entry).  HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL was the calling card of the seemingly dandy San Franciscan, who was really a soldier of fortune, who would, in every episode, ride the dusty trail dressed in black and a silver colt in his holster. Paladin was a sophisticated gunslinger.


Back to hockey.

It doesn’t just so happen that I know a couple of guys who had calling cards that were enough to get drafted and eventually play in the NHL, LARRY HORNUNG and BILLY LESUK.  Both Larry and Billy were from my hometown.  Both played together on teams as youngsters; both played together in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League for the Weyburn Red Wings (1965-66); both played together professionally for the Winnipeg Jets (1975-76).

And both played approximately 400 games for various teams in the National Hockey League (NHL) and the World Hockey Association (WHA). Larry played for the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, San Diego Mariners, and St. Louis Blues.  Billy played for the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Washington Capitals, and Winnipeg Jets.

LARRY (dependable type defenseman ... steady)

Larry played alongside Doug Harvey (considered the best defenseman until Bobby Orr came along), Glen Hall, Bobby Hull, and his coaches included Al Arbour, Freddy Shero, and Scotty Bowman.

BILLY (grit and muscle and good for at least 15 goals a season)

Billy played alongside Phil Esposito, Bobby Clark, and Bobby Orr.  One of his coaches included Harry Sinden.

Larry’s calling card was a “dependable depth type defenseman … steady.”  Billy’s calling card was “grit and muscle and good for at least 15 goals a season.”

A calling card is descriptive of a quality or achievement that gives someone an advantage. Everyone needs a calling card for some degree of self perseverance and social success.  This was even true for Larry and Billy whereupon their return to the comparatively quaint lifestyle from whence they came (both had humble bug-tussle beginnings).  Their pedestrian calling cards became simply … They played in the NHL.   

I should mention that after their playing days, both Larry and Billy continuously crossed paths in their hockey careers as NHL scouts.  Larry scouted for the Winnipeg Jets (Billy, too), Arizona Coyotes (Billy too), and finally the Toronto Maple Leafs until he passed away.  Billy scouted with Larry for the Winnipeg Jets, and with Larry for the Arizona Coyotes, without Larry while scouting for the Chicago Black Hawks, and the Boston Bruins until he retired just a year ago.

(I should also mention that Billy, during one of his last visits while Larry was in hospital, said to his lifetime friend and hockey team mate,"This is just another example of the forwards having to come back and help out the defense," to which Larry smiled.  I know this ... I was there when he said it.)

I, too, have calling cards.  At work I’m the only counselor (an adequate calling card at best); as a therapist I am a Hypnotherapist (somewhat more intriguing than a regular therapist); and as a busker, I’ve been abroad, busking in Europe (my fifteen minutes of fame to date).

Such calling cards as mine are drams, but they calling cards nonetheless, and they pale in comparison to some of the extraordinary things achieved by everyday ordinary people elsewhere.

Take for example Chinese artist, Liu Bolin, who practices invisibility; or Laura Hames Franklin who invites people out to dance with her in public places; or Shantanu Starick who is traveling the world without any money; or Diana Nyad, 64 years old, who became the first person to swim the treacherous 100-mile stretch of ocean between Cuba and Florida; or Kyle Maynard, without arms or legs, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.   

These folks are not supernatural heroes.  These are just real people with real principles who are helping the disenfranchised wherever they may be.  Do the cook’s tour and Google 100 People Doing Extraordinary Things for the stories of this fore mentioned five and … 95 others!    

(I repeat) for self perseverance and social success everyone needs a calling card.  The only thing stopping any of us from creating an extraordinary calling card is ourselves. Over the course of our lives, most of us will choose money and comfort instead of taking risks, the necessary requisite for a calling card of notoriety.

One can have calling card of historical apotheosis (Abe Lincoln); one can have a calling card of amour (Bill Clinton); one can have a calling card of warmongering (George W.); or one can have a calling card of claque and callithump (Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto). 

For the rest of your one precious life, 
what will be your calling card?