Thursday, September 29, 2016


Indeed, I am still a neophyte when it comes to didgeridooin’.  I know where to busk and I know how to busk; I just don’t have yet that virtuoso playing style on my didge.

Reflecting as I type, my busking life represents a syncretic impulse of lots of shine and little shoe, and my didgeridooin’ is a continuation of such perfunctory guitar busking to date.  With my twelve-string guitar I’ve acquired the skills adequate enough to busk and gig.  With my didgeridoo I’ve skills adequate enough to busk, but not adequate enough to gig.

With my guitar I continue to compose new melodies and new lyrics whilst I busk, getting ever ready for my next gig elsewhere on the road or sidewalk, or maybe even a bar stage. With my didge, rather than any opus, I still can blow only those sempiternal earth-toned drones, suited only to my buskspot.

FACTOID:  My skills on guitar good are enough to take to the road, allowing me to be romantically nomadic (my delusional personal theme); whereas for now on the didge, my skills are limited to blowing terrestrial drones (my delusional presentation of the earth in song).

I must brag that droning my didgeridoo I’m just short of that grand tucket entrance, just a smidgen of a breath away from circular breathing proficiency.  However, generally speaking in regard to busking, my guitar strumming is restricted to warm and sunny seasons; whereas, my didgeridoo droning should be unfettered from the seasons, tolerable even during the inclement weather of winter.

And speaking of winter, here are some fall photos as I ready myself for the inevitable:


Now is Autumn, and  I love the colored leaves, even though they are a stark reminder that the winter snow is soon coming.   Somewhat sadly and somewhat cowardly, these same leaves metaphorically remind me that I am in the autumn of my life.   

Wascana Lake is the stopover for over 10,000 geese each fall, another reminder of my current stage in life.


Last week Joanne, owner and manager of BOOMTOWN DRUMS, gave me a couple of didgeridoos.  In the meantime, Baron’s didge developed a couple cracks and being ever ready to repair anything (I’m kidding of course … Factoid:  If it can be fixed with a knife and fork – I’m your guy), I took on the job.  I bought some bicycle tape from the bicycle shop and wrapped it around the mouthpiece.  It looks good! 
The pan drum originated in Trinidad and Tobago and the didgeridoo originated in Australia.  Baron and I have decided to live on the bitter winter’s edge – he will tap the pan and I will toot the didgeridoo.  I find it quite fitting that our blistering winter busking will be of an exotic nature.


It was the guitar that helped me discover my deeper self (when I didn’t know I was searching); my guitar elevated me from my day-to-day pedestrian notions of fun.  I do have a history of fun as watching television or going to the bar.  These past years I’ve discovered fun to be synonymous with busking, strumming and socializing on any city sidewalk in any locale.  I suspect the didge, too, will do the same and redefine my notion of fun.

That said, being a busker I am a mercenary (of sorts) with a mercenary mission.  I know that money is evil but … having a guitar case filled with money can be devilishly fun. 


Monday, September 12, 2016


Rain, rain, go away … not really but the constant rain all this week certainly dampens my spirits and darkens my busking clouds (mixed metaphor intended).  And the intended pun in my snappy title has been resurrected (sort of) from some past posts about my playing a didgeridoo, DOOIN’ STANDUP … (November 04, 2012), JUST DIDGERIDOO IT … (October 12, 202), and A DIDGE OR A DOO … (October 30, 2012).

Anyway, this perpetual rain has me re-acquainting with my didgeridoo, and for my busking that is good.  My enthusiasm for my didgeridoo has bees waxed again, and today I’ll extend another olla prodrida on didgin’ it.

First off, I’ll mention, dear readers, that busking with a didge attracts bald guys with bare feet and hippy girls dancing in the rain in the park.  Baron, my favorite buskmate, and I have taken to walking the four kilometer Blue Trail around Wascana Lake while blowing our didgeridoos.  Such a peripatetic activity does attract lots of attention.

Though every time we doo this, from the peloton of people stopping and discussing our didges, two bald men in bare feet especially come to mind.  Stereo-typically they looked like Zen Buddhist monks and behaved as such.  They were quite the pair walking in light summer leggings, bald without shirts and shoes.  They were friendly and curious and talked lots about our didge playing, how soothing it was, and how important it was for guys like Baron and self to be so evangelical, spreading our drones of love along the path and across the lake.

The hippy girl in Victoria Park, tossing helicopter leaves and dancing on the grass, could not resist joining me on the park bench, sitting right next to me and asking about my didge whilst I droned.  She used to be a school teacher and decided that tutoring was a higher and more worthy calling (for her).  Woodstockish in apparel and phatic chat, she was in the process of selling her “gas guzzling car” and moving into her mom’s, to save money and stay closer to downtown Regina. 

Groovy huh?  Not really, really heavy, but … man … feelin’ groovy for sure.

The didgeridoo is an instrument of joy, being the instrumental metaphor and synonym for meditation.  Blowing guttural raspberries while walking a littoral path or while seated on a park bench are the perfect venues for the pure and ethereal resonating rhythms of the didge, an individual expression enchanting joy to all those within listening range.

Knowing how much we love and play our didgeridoos, JOANNE CROFFORD of BOOMTOWN DRUMS, gave us two didges (for free) just last Saturday, one wood and the other synthetic.  (A couple summers ago while busking at Regina Beach, Canada, Joanne presented us each with her new-style quivers, hand-sewn specifically for our didges.) 

If the earth could speak it would sound like the didge.  The haunting hums of the didge can transport across water and rise above trees and can attract … bald men with bare feet and hippy girls dancing in the rain in the park.

My love for the didge is a direct repercussion (pun intended) of my love for busking.  I LOVE BUSKING.  Being a Canadian, for the sake of body comfort and convenience I am restricted to being a three season guitar and harp busker.   A few years ago I decided I could be a four season busker.  I mean, really, I could pull on my toque and parker, my snow pants and snow boots, and holding a didge with my mittens, I could drone all day.   But first, I’d have to get a didge and learn how to play it.

Getting a didge was easy; I bought a synthetic red Meinl from Long and McQuade.  

And then Baron bought one from Joanne at Boomtown Drums.  Being a professional busking percussionist, Baron had been a regular consumer at Boomtown Drums for years.  

It took about an hour of self-learning to blow the raspberry drone sound.  Three years later after viewing a hundred YouTube videos I’m still learning to circular breathe.  I can huff and puff but can’t quite blow your house down yet but … I am getting it … learning to breathe in through my nose … breathe out through my lungs … then puff air out my cheeks while inhaling through my nose … continue the cycle.  It could be delusional thinking but I’m now good enough to didge busk this winter.  

I won’t be strumming; I won’t be thrumming; I will be humming.

My CHAUCERIAN PARADE this week:  Baron and Yatri on the Cajon ... NHL Scout, Brad Hornung and his mother, Terry Hornung listening to the beats!



Monday, September 5, 2016


Steeped tea, whole leaf tea brewed to perfection, from Tim Hortons is the best.  Every day in my workaday world begins with a medium steeped tea, two drams of milk and single sugar from Tim Hortons in the Cornwall Centre, Regina, Saskatchewan, CANADA, en route to my office right next door. 

(I feel immensurable joy every time I sip a TIM HORTONS steeped tea.)

My busking was quite limited this summer because of the surgical wound on my guitar-slinging left shoulder.  I could have sat myself on a picnic stool and strummed strapless but … I’m never one to sit and strum … I think it looks beggar-like rather than busker-like.

All is past and I’m back busking and that is the main thing.  After clearance from my cancer doctor I am good-to-go, which includes slinging my twelve-string over my left shoulder and doing some stand-up guitar strumming.  This week I managed to be out there busking four times, three times with my guitar, and yesterday with my banjitar!

(I feel immensurable joy every time I sip a TIM HORTONS steeped tea.)

Yes, I guess this last statement could be a subliminal advertisement for TIMS (the Canadian nickname for Tim Hortons). 

FACTOID:  In this blog entry I am going to write about my summer buskation experience at several Tim Hortons franchises in cities in British Columbia, and connect this notion to the state of the current Canadian buskerhood (which I find disconcerting, to say the least).  

First off, a busker in a good physical and mental state can lead an almost amaranthine existence just by being a busker.  (And if you don't believe me, just ask me!  Note my narcissistic pic on this blog header -- keeping in mind I am 65 years of age!)   

Think of this.  Busking is so cool is it not?  I mean really, being known as Neil the busker is far more intriguing than being Neil the counselor, or Neil the university professor.  Neil the busker connotes mystery and adventure and free spirit; whereas Neil the counselor or Neil the university professor connotes a kind of cool Corporate America, but not nearly as cool Neil the busker.

And to give the appearance of COOL, my accoutrements, cap-a-pie, is mainly my garb:  ‘Neath my shock of thick and messy platinum blonde hair, a pair of cool red and black shades that I purchased while busking in front of a sunglasses shop in Amsterdam, a crisp and collared white long-sleeved shirt (one of several purchased in Barcelona), wearing faded blue jeans, and standing in my polished black steel-toed work boots.  Enough humble-bragging.  I am what I am and this is my signature style of dress.

Meanwhile … back to sipping at TIMS. 

(I feel immensurable joy every time I sip a TIM HORTONS steeped tea.)  

Baron, my favorite buskmate, tossed his cajon box drum into the back of my Acura RDX (more humble-bragging) and we drove to Fernie, British Columbia for a week of serious busking.  The day we left Regina it was sunny and windless and I’d imagined the same munificent weather to be the same when we arrived at Fernie.  I had imagined wrong.

It rained the whole time our stay in Fernie.  To make the best of a bad buskation, we did a little hiking, a little biking, and a lot of beer drinking (but nary a sip of suds until suppertime).  Each day began with a healthy breakfast provided by PATRICK and JO-ANN BURKE (THE NURSES RESIDENCE BED AND BREAKFAST), followed by a couple hours of weight lifting at EVOLUTION (Scott, the owner and manager was very accommodating – he seemed to love the SASKATCHEWAN buskers, giving us a great deal on our daily payment).

After a few days of non-busking, Baron and I decided to hit the highway, drive east through the Lizard Range of the Canadian Rockies on Highway #3 (the CROWSNEST Highway), then through the south-western Canadian ROCKIES of the CROWSNEST PASS, and indulge ourselves in some small-town busking.  We decided to busk only at TIM HORTONS locations, and we decided to do it for free.

Hmmm … and hence my snappy blog title … STEEPED IN PURITEA:  A SACHARINE SPIN ON THE STATE OF BUSKERHOOD, an intended pun employing my loving for steeped tea and my loathing for the current state of the guitar buskerhood.

I abhor being within the vicinity of amplified buskers!  Actually, I abhor amplified buskers in general.  Every week at the Regina Farmers Market I am surrounded by cover songs dis-enhanced by an amplified guitar.  I should also mention that I loathe cover tunes at farmers markets, especially when most farmers markets are completely disconnected from SOCAN (the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada), and apparently so are those buskers.  Anyway, my conceited notion of being a purist busker means simply that my style of busking is in adherence to some traditional rules and structures long related to busking, but as of late have been let go (it seems).
(Albeit I must concede to the factoids that lots of a-go-go buskers carry portable amps and are selling CDs out of their guitar cases.) 

Cover songs offer a window of insight to a busker’s creativity.  Those buskers who play only covers lack creativity, and are just as not creative as those, like me, who play only original tunes.  (How arrogant am I.  Factoid:  I compose lyrics and riffs whilst I busk and get paid to do so!) 
And besides the covers, those buskers who amplify their guitar licks, have little or no consideration for the purist members of the buskerhood, drowning out the thrums and songs of the real (the purist) buskers in the vicinity.

(I feel immensurable joy every time I sip a TIM HORTONS steeped tea.)

Well we pulled out of Fernie and rolled along the towns of the Crowsnest Pass, busking in the coal town of Sparwood, the cowboy town of Pincher Creek, the North West Mounted Police town of Fort Macleod, the university city of Lethbridge, the land of sugar beets and corn, Tabor, and ending our buskation at Gas City, Medicine Hat.  We began every busk with a steeped tea and sour cream glazed donut.

(I feel immensurable joy every time I sip a TIM HORTONS steeped tea.)

Hmmm … we busked for free ... you say.  Are we crazy?  No, Baron and I are certainly not meshuggeners; rather, we are busking purists!  Our appeal is the joy we deliver in song to the ruck that gathered in the parking lots of Tim Hortons.

Admittedly this essay, as most my essays, is quite Aesopian in nature, plugging for readers the idea and argument of unplugged selfless busking as compared to amplified selfish busking, whilst appealing along the left to right continuum (from selfish to selfless) to other purists of my ilk.

And here marching in my CHAUCERIAN PARADE these past few weeks: