Buskers Have It Tough During Carnaval Du Quebec

Some of my fellow urban sketchers have chided me for being a sissy because I won’t go out sketching this time of year.  “Cold…I remember the time when the water froze on my palette and we were still….”  Well, you get the picture.  After I heard that enough times I actually put my palette out on my porch with a wash mixed up on it.  It took all of two minutes for ice crystals to start forming and within ten minutes it was frozen nearly solid.  I brought it back in for fear the cold would damage the paints.  I was right; they were wrong.  It’s just too darn cold to paint in Quebec in February.

But yesterday, it “warmed up”, a term I put in quotes because only someone who live here would think of the word “warm” and yesterday’s temperatures together.  And it was Carnaval du Quebec; the time of year where god awful horn sounds are blown to the tribute of the many people selling these sinister souvenirs (remember the soccer horn sounds that made news?).  It’s a time of snow sculpture competitions and spreading maple syrup on snow, rolling it onto a stick.  It’s a time for crazy guys to race in large canoes across a partially frozen St. Lawrence Seaway and for people to brave the cold by drinking Screech (a horrible concoction similar to backwoods corn whiskey) to keep warm.  And, of course, it’s a time when parents wear themselves out hauling their kids up the hill for another ride down …just once more dad.

And even I got up from my hibernation and went outdoors.  I was “warm”, all the way up to 6F for goodness sake.   And it wasn’t too windy.  I bundled up with the required 20 lbs of clothing and pointed my walking shoes towards the old city.  I spent the next couple hours walking fast enough that I didn’t get cold.  It was a good day to be me.  Did I mention how warm it was?

Anyways, I came across this busker, who demonstrates the resilence of Quebecers when it comes to cold.  It far exceeds my own.  I’m an Arizona boy, after all.  Bundled up and wearing big heavy boots, this busker stood outside the information center in the old city (a walled city officially founded in 1608 and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site).  As anyone attempting to play a saxophone in these temperatures would freeze their fingers in minutes and possibly permanently attach them to their metal saxophone, he had an interesting solution… don’tcha think?

And no, I didn’t sketch him.  It was too cold.


5 thoughts on “Buskers Have It Tough During Carnaval Du Quebec

  1. Great post, Larry. The busker sure came up with a very clever solution! Of course, living in a sub-tropical climate, we have to think of ways to stay cool as we don’t have air-con in this house. 🙁

  2. Larry, what a smart man you are! Why go out in that kind of weather if you don’t have to? Last week was the coldest day in memory here in Burgau. It was down to minus three (Celcius). When I decided to be a street dog and spurn the offers of a roof over my head I wasn’t planning on that kind of cold. Luckily, being the ruggedly handsome and charming fellow that I am, I weaseled my way into a friend’s warm home for the night. But I digress. I’m familiar with that saxophone contraption. A friend of mine has one for his alto sax. It’s used so that one can play anywhere, anytime without disturbing the neighbours. A microphone is attached inside the case and the player listens to himself over a set of headphones. What your clever Canuck has done is plugged a speaker (possibly an amp + speaker) to the headphone output. It’s a great solution to playing in the cold – as long as his mouth doesn’t freeze to the reed. To avoid such a fate he needs to keep both lips and reed lubricated with rum or scotch – a solution I suspect he has already employed.

  3. Thanks for writing, Ruca. It’s currently -17C here and most dogs are smart enough to stay indoors. It’s only humans who can’t figure this out. But I have to say that dogs in Portugal must be smarter than dogs here in Canada. I’ve never met one that knows so much about playing saxophone. I was curious about whether the guy had made or bought the contraption he was using. Now I know. Thanks.

    Cheers — Larry

  4. Being a native Iowan now living in South Dakota, I understand exactly what you mean by “warm” … lol … you can sketch him from the comfort of your nice warm home though since you have a picture 🙂 … winter is too cold for me to be taking pics outdoors most of the time too!!!

  5. Thanks for stopping by, Barbara. I bet you do know cold if you live in South Dakota. You probably also know about tires that are hard, with flat spots when you leave for work in the morning, and how they go clunk, clunk along. You probably also know about those days when your breathe freezes in the air in front of you on those particularly cold mornings.

    I agree with you about the picture-taking too, though our winter has been more “mild” than usual so I’ve taken some this winter. Mostly, though, when I got interested in sketching, back in October, I started taking photos with abandon and have a considerable stash of them in my cave with me as I grumble over the cold and await the arrival of spring.

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