The Life of a Travelling Minstrel - The Story Behind The Image, the Person

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I was going to entitled this one "The Story Behind the Images" ... This is the picture which started it all in regards to the street photography bug and where I find myself today. It would be nice to have a few more stories like these by other people - a rough draft, a work in progress, a call out for an Editor. Anyone?

The 2 pictures below were taken right before I purchased a Nikon, I used to use a Konika/Minolta G500... My apologies... However it is fitting as Curly's the one who told me to purchase something more professional... Hence I bought a Nikon, aren't Nikon cameras and lenses the brand all true serious career photojournalists use? ;-)

Do you have a picture with a story to share?

The Life of a Traveling Minstrel

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Curly Reynolds interviewed by The Dude (All text and images copyrighted, released forms, etc, ... signed to me, sooooo...)

This is the picture which started it all, “He looks like a genius who lost his way,” said the person who wanted me to interview Curly. It was a learning experience and very enriching as well, I started writing it in the second person however I soon found out it was both easier to write and to read when written in the first person, what better way than let the voice of the person through in order to tell their life story and wisdom they learned along the way. This is a fantastic man with a rich history and terrific life philosophy, I will let him do the talking as he is in a better position to talk about himself.

At the age of 7 my uncle gave me a set of bagpipes as a joke, he thought it was the greatest joke, well the joke is still going strong. I have been playing the pipes ever since. I don’t remember too much before I was seven, before the bagpipes, I have been playing so long, I am really good at it or I haven’t gotten any better over the three decades I have been playing them.

When in Toronto I stay in the Kensington Market area, I discovered it the first time when I was 14, I was drunk and lost in downtown Toronto and couldn’t find my way back to the CNE grounds. I ended up sleeping in the park, when I woke up in the morning; the fruit stands were being put up, the meat merchant were setting up their shop, carrying quarters of beef back and forth. For a kid from the country who had never seen anything like that, it was amazing. I ended up spending 3 days in the Market, I would play the pipes and people would give me money and feed me.

I joined the Military at 18, and then was posted in Calgary, after which I transferred to the Navy on the HMCS Assiniboine, then it was to CFB Trenton – played pipes and drums in a Military band. I was a government musician, government musicians have it great; they have all the benefit of a government job and you are playing music plus you got the best uniforms.

I was in the army full time for 3 years then part time for ten more years. After which I joined the Veteran’s consul for one year, Army, Navy & Air Force where I taught bag pipes to the younger generation. I ended up being the administrator of the band I played in as a kid when I was in the cadets.

There are differences between military bands and civilian bands. In the military you have one person in charge, he hands you your music and tells you what to play with civilians you get egos and personalities you sit around and argue what you are going to play, when and all that.

After the army I opened tattoo parlors. I had 3 tattoo parlors at one time, one in Kingston, one in Belleville and one in Toronto. And all this time I kept playing; I played in quite a lot of receptions, funerals and weddings.

I am not as busy as I used to be since I don’t have a phone. I once traveled 4,000 miles for a wedding when I had three tattoo parlors, six employees. My wife at the time always kept the books. The tattoo business was great, I am 5’7”, 140 pounds, you have some guy, 6’6” 300 pounds walking in. He sits in the chair to get tattooed, I hurt him doing it, I make him bleed for an extended period of time and if I do the tattooing just right, he passes out. And at the end, he pays you and thanks you for the work done and then sends his friends over to get tattoos.

Everything was in the books; I didn’t have to worry about anything. I would go to Kingston every two weeks; stop in Belleville, there is very little overhead in the tattoo business. As long as you got needles and ink you are happening.

I would still be in the tattoo business if my wife hadn’t screwed it up while I was in Europe. She signed the papers, she sold the shop, split is three ways, one third for my daughter’s College fund, flipped a third to me – because I was 4,000 miles away there was little I could do to defend myself from the charge of abandonment she had already filled against me – she was from Verdun, Quebec. I decided to stay in Europe, she was my bookkeeper for more than 10 years. I had no ideas about the accounting. I was really busy playing the pipes back then.

Back then I lived at 58 Kensington Market – right in the middle of it. Sometimes I’d bring 30 people home for dinner. No wonder I’m twice divorced, I’d call home and tell the wife to put on the big pot, “I’m bringing people home…”

My kids always loved me; they saw me as “adventure dad”. When ever I came back, I had souvenirs and stories. Here is a poem about one of those stories, “Quite the Tale”

From here to there and back again,
I’ve tramped around the world,
And I use the term of tramp,
because I seldom saved or squirreled.

Well, some folks say I’m shiftless,
and I’ll probably go to hell,
But life has not been boring –
I’ve got quite the tale to tell.

I’ve known pirates in Morocco,
I’ve crushed grapes all over France,
And I even loved a Spanish girl,
that loved to sing and dance.

And then there was the time, oh yes,
while traveling through Marseille,
I was kidnapped, held for ransom –
stolen, spirited away.

I found myself imprisoned,
held captive by a girl,
And my ransom was my stories
of my trips around the world.

No, I wouldn’t want to bore you,
so the details I’ll leave out;
It’s sufficient just to say
she took a week to let me out.

The road’s not always easy,
but I’m happy and care free;
I’d have to say the traveling life’s
the only one for me.

I hope I’ve entertained you,
and I hope our time was fun;
I feel I best be going now,
my traveling time’s not done.

I am allowed to be irresponsible from the time now, when I was a kid I was responsible and now there is no one to bug me about it if I stagger home drunk. Well my neighbor might say, “Need a hand Curly?” Friends are the family you choose, sometimes blood can go bad. Sometimes people that should be there when things go bad turn their back on you. Friends you get to choose.

I have done my bit twice, not only did I go to school and came out on top. I was in the military and served my country, I had a good business and when I was told to bugger off – I did and I have been having fun ever since. I got over my responsible phase before my teenage phase, I started working at 14. My grand daughter is 5. I’m only 44

I play seven days a week, bad or good weather, I am out busking everyday, if it is a slow day I stay out for 4 hours, 4 hours is the most I can play now. Once in Cape Vincent New York we got invited by the legion, to play for them, I played 5 and a half hours – the longest I ever played, I was the only one standing after 5 and a half hours.

Bagpipes musically are extremely limited, they only have 9 notes. You can give the impression there is more happening, nothing else has the presence of bag pipes, a trumpet is louder, a guitar has far more range. It’s got a primal sound, it has four different reeds, 3 drones and a chanter. The drones are tuned to an open harmonic minor. When they are in tune they are all vibrating at the same time, Bass and Tenor, 2 of them ride the sound wave. The Drones cancel out the surrounding sounds, it is like having a good sound generator.

The technique is to keep the bag full at all times. All you are thinking is keeping pressure, unlike other wind instrument you don’t think about breathing, you just think about the pressure in the bag under your arm. It cost $100 for a leather bag, and leather bags rot within 6 months. Bagpipe bags last 5 years now, they are made out of Gore-Tex, they let the humidity out but keep the air in. It is $300 for a new bag, almost zero maintenance Gore-Tex, it is synthetic. They do need maintenance once in a while, once a month I rinse it with Listerine to sanitize it. I could sure use a set of Easy Drones and Clan Rye Medium, a set of each and a new bag.

I was in Europe for five and a half to six years. I went back and forth quite a bit. My wife and I split in 96, it was a nice and equitable breakup. We still get along well. I was attracted to travels a long time ago, sitting down with my parents watching television, those nature and travel programs, and hearing endless, “one of those days… we will go there.” I decided I wasn’t going to say one of those days. Joining the Army was an easy way to travel. There is nothing like the life of a traveling minstrel, endless adventures. The pipes and the kilt, it is a job in a box, all I need is a suitcase and a backpack, drop me anywhere in the western world and I will have a good old time. The kilt and the pipes, visually it is a complete package, something to look at and listen to – instant tourist attraction.

I don’t know of anyone who has tried traveling and wants to stop. You end up having roots in different places. I could walk in a pub in Paris or Amsterdam and someone would say, “Hey Curly, here’s a Budweiser!” As long as there is a population of 100,000 I can make a living. If you stay in one place too long people become complacent. When you leave for a while and come back people ask how you are, where you’ve been and you have stories to tell.

The trip is the important part, the journey. The trip is traveling, not the destination, once you arrive the trip is over. If I was to give one tip, always sort out your accommodation in the morning. Talk to tourists if you see them coming from the destination you are heading to, find out what’s up ahead.

The best looking women in Europe are the Mediterranean women and the women in Spain are fricking amazing! Mediterranean women are beautiful to look at but Scandinavian women have minds like men, no games; they are into it or not and you know right away, no hidden meanings you are suppose to pick up on. Mediterranean woman are beautiful but if you could put the mind of a Scandinavian woman in a Mediterranean woman – you’d have the ultimate woman.

In Europe I am a traveling musician in Canada I am an unemployed musician. Who do you know that’s as broke, fallen down on the downside of a crack? I have seen 20 countries in the last 10 years. You don’t need money to travel; you just need to travel, to travel. But you got to hand it to me; as soon as I draw my empty pocket – someone says – we can’t have that! I have been trying for years to cut down my alcohol intake but everybody buys me beer.

It is easy to live within your means, if you live simply. I haven’t owned a car in over 15 years; when I need to go somewhere I always know someone who has a car. It is the same with my space, it is small but it suits me. If you eliminate your needs the wants you can deal with, it is an easy thing to deal with. That’s where people screw up – they want too much and don’t end up having any fun.

If you are going to spend 75% of your time making a living that 25% you got left you better be enjoying it. You have to balance it out. At the end of the day if you don’t have any fun you messed up. You got to enjoy what you are doing or you are doing it wrong of course I see the world through an idealist, deluded sort of angle, you got to remember I don’t work I play, work is for people who don’t have enough imagination and too much sanity.

So you are thinking of hitting the road. Take a good look at my face and have yourself a nightmare. It is good to have roots somewhere but not too deep.

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Joined
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south of France
Hey Dude (I've always wanted to say that, without sounding a prat!), great story.

I enjoyed your other street photo's, and remembered you had been commissioned to write this piece. Nice!
 
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Marvelous, just marvelous
You are a fantastic writer and photog as well.

Had to laugh when you said photjournalists use NIKON.
Well I met such a PJ. Said he had been one for over 40 years. He shoots now for AP.
I asked him what he liked to shoot just for pleasure, besides he job. His answer was , I am doing what I love.
Super man. I enjoyed the short time I had to spend with him one day.
Yes I have pictures also. His name is Phil S.
He carried 3 Nikons, all nikon glass, one a 600mm with a TC was converted to fit nikon. He had used that peice of glass forever:>))))
Yes , if I were young, I would prob be a PJ. Had I known then what I know now at 65.

Thank You for your work
 
Joined
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Terrific story! I've seen this guy around the city and always wondered about the 'background' of him... where he came from.... why.... Thanks for sharing this!
 
Joined
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Tripping the light fantastic
Thank you

Hey Dude (I've always wanted to say that, without sounding a prat!), great story.

I enjoyed your other street photo's, and remembered you had been commissioned to write this piece. Nice!

Thank you Steve. You remember this commission from where exactly? He he he... Small world :wink:
 
Joined
Oct 22, 2006
Messages
5,701
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Tripping the light fantastic
Thank you

Marvelous, just marvelous
You are a fantastic writer and photog as well.

Had to laugh when you said photjournalists use NIKON.

Yes , if I were young, I would prob be a PJ. Had I known then what I know now at 65.

Thank You for your work

You are most welcome, my writing needs polishing however I am working on it. Curly did the talking I just put it together, this was easy.
 
Joined
Oct 22, 2006
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Tripping the light fantastic
Well Actually

Acutely observed and truly humbling work.................

Many of us will never meet anyone that interesting.............. more's the ptiy........

Graeme,

Thank you. It is not humbling just acute and concise. What is humbling for me is the great feedback and reception some of my pictorials have received. I didn't think they were that good, I knew they had potential. Humbling? Maybe however to use your sig quote, "We should all smile as we are fortunate to know what it means to truly see with our eyes." I do not stop at the eyes, I let the image sink in as deep as the ocean to the bottom of my heart.

I would like some of the images I see to make the viewer feel something,to get something more out of it. A little like listening to a great musical piece.

Today at the symphony I was moved by Camille St-Saens Piano Concerto No.2, well first and foremost The OSM was conducted by Claus Peter Flor and the pianist was Stephen Hough. Just a great emotional Piano Concerto.

By putting words to the images, I am trying to entice something more than just what the eyes see, I try to see beyond the image and get something a little more out of it, but then again I do take the "voyeuristic" candid "babe" pictures once in a while, it is not my fault - I swear! They just walk in the frame! :rolleyes: Okay so I balance it out... :Crunk:

G. just stop and talk to people -I have met many interesting people, just as or even more interesting than Curly - just ask about them and who they are, about their life. People love talking about themselves.
 
Joined
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Thank you Steve. You remember this commission from where exactly? He he he... Small world :wink:


Quote:
"This here is the picture which started it all - taken with the Konica/Minolta G500. Justin, a guy in California, a true gentleman saw it on the Internet and asked me if I would do an interview with the Bag Piper, gave me a budget and the rest as they say is history in progress. One of the few pictures of people I took with the Konica. (This is the only picture taken with the Konica in this series.)"


In one of your previous threads!
 
P

phatnev

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I loved the story, just great.
 

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