My Favourite Busker

People have all sorts of little signposts to tell them fall has arrived. A change in weather. The fall colours. Just even the feeling that summer has long left and winter’s about to arrive.

For me, it’s the return of one guy, and only one: The Paper Bag Busker.

If you’ve seen him play anywhere other than his usual haunt on the corner of King and Simcoe streets – just outside Roy Thomson Hall – he’s got a pretty cool sound, almost harp-like. Usually you hear him before you see him: the sounds from his artful strumming, emanating from his little speaker, his only other companion …

Then as you get closer, you see the sound’s slim creator, standing on a street corner, guitar case open, playing away. Usually dressed in black. And wearing a crisp-looking paper bag on his head, with holes cut out for his eyes and mouth.

It only jars you for about a millisecond; then you realize you’re in the presence of off-beat coolness.

I’ve taken that route often in the five years I’ve had to commute home from a day of working downtown, and come to think of it, I think he’s been there most of that time.

I’ve also been curious who this guy is. Never out of character, I’ve never seen him talk, or take off his “mask”.

Until today. I happened to be walking from the gym to the subway home, when, way down the street, on the street corner in front of Roy Thomson Hall, was this tall, lanky dude with his guitar case open, looking he was about to set up to perform.

I was still a bit far away, so I couldn’t make out his features. I thought it was my favourite busker, and quickly doubted myself.

Until I got even closer and I saw it. The paper bag.

I only looked for the briefest of moments at the dude. He looked older than I thought he would, and I couldn’t tell if he was going gray or if he had a crazy dye job. I still couldn’t be sure. I didn’t want to sneak another look, so I kept going.

I got my confirmation as I started descending the stairs to the subway and heard the faint, familiar strains of the guitar wafting my way.

I probably won’t see him unmasked again. But it doesn’t matter – I don’t want to ruin the mystique that surrounded my favourite man with the paper bag.