Brian, Briana, Turbo: Man, Bird and Pit Bull – Busker or Character?

Turbo and Briana in front of Coffee and Chocolate, Knoxville, June 2012

I recently wrote about some of our current crop of buskers who incorporate quite a variety of performance art. We have music ranging from xylophones to bagpipes with bluegrass, old-time, folk and jazz swirling in between. We have magicians, a balloon artist and occasional jugglers. In recent months we’ve added a bronze guy, an Elvis impersonator and a fortune teller.

Katie left the following comment on that blog post:

What about the guy with the dog with the bird on it’s back? Does that guy count as a busker? I’m not really even sure if he asks for money. A few weeks back that dog was looking pretty hungry, and I know people gave him some cash for food for the dog, but he’s filled out a little more of late. And are the dog and bird really “best friends” as I’ve heard the guy say?

Well, that’s a complicated question. I first chatted with and blogged about Brian nearly two years ago. I met him on the street in front of the Hotel St. Oliver (pre-renovation) and took pictures of Briana (the bird) on Urban woman’s shoulder. He told me then he’d served six years in the service, currently worked for TVA at the Bull Run Steam Plant and enjoyed his animals. He claimed that Briana says, “Daddy’s Home” when he gets home every day and that he never clipped her wings, but “love” kept her from flying away.

Brian, Briana and Turbo walking past Krutch Park, Knoxville, June 2012

Brian is intelligent, articulate and very talented with animals. He never asked for anything in that first encounter and we said a pleasant farewell. I’ve seen him off and on in the two years since, but only in the last few months did I really tune in to the fact that he has a serious looking pit bull with him. It’s odd, I mentioned the dog in that post two years ago and then completely forgot everything but the bird.

This spring Brian stopped by my table at Coffee and Chocolate and showed off Briana hanging out on Turbo’s back. I’ve never seen a more docile pit bull. Brian told me that he’s rescued dozens of pit bulls, but he’s learned to only take puppies because he can’t trust that they’ve been trained well if they are older. He acknowledged being bitten once, but said when he paid to take the dog away from a man in Sevierville he had no idea the “dog didn’t like black people.” Ultimately unable to undo the damage, the dog had to be put down. After a nice conversation and a couple of pictures, Brian moved on down the street.

Brian, Briana and Turbo in front of Coffee and Chocolate, Knoxville, June 2012

More recently I saw him on Market Square. In a hurry, I stopped briefly to ask him to remind me Turbo’s name so I could blog about the three of them. Brian kept detaining me, had a pretty strong scent of beer on his breath and insisted on posing for a picture while lying on the ground with his pets. After I’d taken pictures he mentioned that since I was using his pictures for my blog I might spot him a beer. “We’re friends, right?” He suggested I join him for a drink.

Brian, Briana and Turbo on Market Square, Knoxville, July 2012

So, I gave him a couple of bucks. I felt a little used, and didn’t mention that I typically make less than fifty cents on any given blogging day. So, I’ll say Brian shifted a bit in my mind on that day from interesting acquaintance to more of a busker/panhandler. As I said, it hadn’t happened before, so who knows how it will be next time around? I suppose if people want to hold his bird and take his picture maybe it’s appropriate to spot him a couple of bucks.

Looking at it another way, if someone holding a pit bull on a chain wants your money, it might just be a good idea to give it to them.