Monday, May 18, 2015


Let me set the record on my status as a BUSKOLOGIST.  In order to study the art of busking, I feel it necessary to become an ETHNOGRAPHER, a participant observer so to speak, specifically in relation to busking.
And in so doing, I’ve unofficially attached myself to the SCHIZOPHRENIA OF SASKATCHEWAN, my preferred choice of agency to offer not just dollars, but counseling and hope for day-to-day client cures.  

My busking began as another whim for my social entrepreneurial self, evolving rather quickly to the rank of faux busker and now to real busker.  Having preferences for clear azure skies and Zephyr sweet winds, I am not yet a brutto tempo busker, but I’m working on it. 

When I think about busking I think about adventure, that is, adventure in the sense of being a self-inflicted adversity that forces one to think bigger and beyond that of normal activity.

Adventure means having the willingness and confidence to embrace a challenge, but adventure and challenge are not necessarily synonyms.  Saying thus, methinks challenge has lost the connotation of adventure. Challenge used to mean going over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel. (Pictured below is Annie Taylor on her 63rd birthday, as she became the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel.)  Challenge now of refers to practically everything that is new to a person, to even just changing jobs or locations.  Adventure, on the other hand, is hardly such a paid package experience.  Adventure connotes excitement, even dangerous excitement.  The outcome of an adventure is never certain; whereas, the outcome of a challenge is almost always predetermined.

Though not as Promethean or valorous as the likes of  Annie Taylor or Marco Polo or William Beebe or Edmund Percival Hillary or Yuri Gagarin  (no, I am not ever going over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel; I am not ever setting sail on seas of total uncertainty;  I am not ever plunging deep into the ocean depths in a bathysphere; I am not ever climbing Everest; and I am not ever leaving earth and going into space), I do consider busking to be an adventure nonetheless, knowing quite very well that my life before busking was a rather middle-aged and middle-class misadventure. 


According to Matt Walker (2015), adventure has certain elements:  high endeavor, total commitment, and great companionship.  I shall examine Walker's required elements in the context of busking.

High endeavor means imagining an activity quite beyond that of any day-to-day routine.  My day-to-day routine is pretty much counseling.  By day my clients are always adolescents and in evenings they are adults.  One night each week I teach a university Psychology class, the student members mostly being emerging adults.

Busking forces me beyond the mode of counseling, onto the concrete sidewalks to strum and sing among strangers who, not by any particular design, just happen by.

The sense of total commitment that I apply to my counseling job, my private practice, and my teaching is very necessary in order to keep my contracts and clients.  My total commitment to busking is similar but not nearly as urgent.  Total commitment to busking is simply preparing the technical skills (strumming and singing), dressing the part, and actually showing up for the selected stage on the street.  Having the confidence to be there playing the part (pun intended) is all that is necessary to under-gird any successful busk. 

Great companionship is probably the biggest draw about the joy and art of busking.  Being a counselor in a high school, a few of my colleagues are great companions, but most are not.  There is a certain camaraderie amongst high school staff mainly because we are all sharing the same pedagogical ditches. Bracketing clients and students as companions is nonsensical and unethical.  Though making-a-friend is the first rule of counseling, it is hardly a literal reality.  Friends can be great counselors, but you get what you pay for.  Relating to the students in my university classes is another thought that needs to be reckoned with.  My last class of 23 students was comprised of 22 nubile females, and one non-attending male.  Hanging with these students I can imagine being erotically alluring, but in reality a lecherous and most unethical activity.

Whilst busking, on the other hand, the great companionship refers to the people that I meet moment-to-moment, a very necessary and mercenary aspect of the occupation.  On every busk I meet the malaperts and pippins, the tonies and the troglodytes; these are my consumers and I learn to love them all!  (Make no bones about this --- having no moment-to-moment companions means having no coin.) 


Marching in my CHAUCERIAN PARADE this week, for the very first time is myself.  I now
sport a shock of platinum blond hair, thanks to my colleague, Nadine and my band mate, Judy.  Ladies, thank you very much for such a hair-razing experience!

Surf's up, reader dudes ... gotta boogie and busk!

Sunday, May 10, 2015


 Yesterday was 10 degrees (C) or 50 degrees (F), windless and sunny, albeit somewhat chilly for a faux busker, I grabbed my harp and slung my guitar and thrummed for some coin.  Buskapades so far this supposedly merry month of May have been few but I decided to carpe diem in spite of the weather.

And it was worth it.  The first four consumers tossed a fin into my guitar case.  Every time I’ve been busking I’ve received at least one five dollar bill, but never four in a row.  Such a pecuniary pattern is memorable; one time I received three twenty-dollar bills in a row from my first three consumers, and at the same buskspot as yesterday, VALUE VILLAGE MALL. 

Whilst thrumming, of course I was wool-gathering (this is my shtick) and I was, in usual narcissistic fashion, thinking about me.  I do fancy myself as the quintessential busker and here is my annotated (three reasons) spin thereof.

Firstly, cap-a-pie I present not as a clown or a clochard, but as an American middle-class worker.  I do this by having a messy shock of hair, cool shades, white t-shirt, faded jeans, and polished work-boots. 

My hair is thick and I like it messy; in fact, I have not combed or brushed my hair in over thirty years.  When I leave the shower I simply knuckle rub my hair until it is almost dried, and then I leave it at that.  My hair is always clean and always messy.

I prefer to busk on sunny days because my consumers are more munificent than on cloudy days.  And since I prefer the sun I always don a pair of cool shades.  The shades are I wore yesterday with the red frames and black lenses, I purchased from a sunglasses shoppe on the Dam when I busking in Amsterdam last summer.

My white shirts I like to keep white-white, or even better, blue-white.  (Isn’t blue-white the cleanest white?)  However, when I’m in a white t-shirt I like to be buffed, and so the couple months leading into summer, I always hit the weight room super, super hard.  I do not want to be the busker with a paunch.

There is something about blue jeans that I’ve always loved. 

Diktat:  Only jeans allowed. 

Factoid:  I’ve been wearing jeans all my life.  In my adolescence I wore blue jeans.  In my emerging adulthood university/pipeline years I only had blue jeans.  During my professional counseling years I wear new/er blue jeans.  When I teach at the university I wear new/er blue jeans.  In my private hypnotherapy practice I wear new/er blue jeans.  And when I busk I always wear old and faded and tattered blue jeans.

On my feet, since I tramp around lots when busking, I always wear work-boots, and my boots are always polished.  I’ve three pairs of work-boots, two black and one brown, all of which having steel-toes.  There is just something about t-shirts and faded jeans and work-boots that have mass appeal bonhomie to pedestrian America.   

Secondly, my chosen buskspots are well-thought out.  I busk usually on the city sidewalks and usually in front of vendors.  Never am I in any vendor doorway (unless the shop is closed), and I’m never thrumming there without permission from the store owner. 

Places that I never busk are coffee house outdoor patios, movie theaters, fast food lines, Sunday church or any day funeral services.  I consciously choose never to be intrusive while busking.  I prefer people to have the option of continuing to walk by, rather than to be stuck listening to music of a genre they may not prefer.

The Crave Kitchen and Wine Bar patio is right next door to my apartment.  The Atlantis Coffee patio is but a one-minute walk from my apartment.  The Metropolitan Knox Church is a two-minute walk from my apartment.  Never ever would I consider busking at these places because the patrons at Crave and Atlantis are in a fixed sitting position until their coffee sipping is fini, and strumming for a chorus line entering or exiting a church just seems too obsequious for my existential sense of busking etiquette.

Thirdly, my playlist consists only of original ditties (no opus) that I have personally scribed.   Though every time I’m busking there is always a particular song request, never do I acquiesce and play a cover.  This is my rule.  I have a half-hour set list in my head, which I play three times at any of my preferred buskspots.  Once I’ve been through my set list three times, I move on.  When I’m not at one of my preferred buskingdoms (VALUE VILLAGE, SHOPPERS ON BROAD, or ITALIAN STAR), and am instead at a random street site, it may be that I strum my song list only one time, depending on the generosity of the passers-by.

And to close my argy-bargy on busking ...  
An Rx Americana persona ought to be frequently punctuated with an Americano decaf, two cream, one honey.

NHL scout, BRAD HORNUNG, this morning sent me this picture that marks the 45th anniversary of Bobby Orr's most famous goal.  Bobby flew right after his goal won the Stanley Cup for the 1970 Boston Bruins.  I shall add that my friend, long-time NHL player and NHL hockey scout, BILLY LESUK (friend, too, of Brad), played on that same team that year with Bobby.