‘The Fire of My Body’

I’ve seen Lydia Lunch on stage a couple times in the last century, once co-featuring with John Waters. This was my first time in this one. I do have some of her Lps in my collection: Queen of Siam, Dagger & Guitar, and Big Sexy Noise. I wouldn’t call myself a die-hard fan but I do dig her history.

Capre Breton sky
Capre Breton sky

She appeared at The Steady on Bloor. The back room was an intimate, if unheated, space that was the right size for the packed house for her show. She read from her cookbook The Need To Feed – why a cookbook – because ‘she can fucking do anything.’ Plus performers like to reinvent themselves every now and then.

Cape Breton church
Cape Breton church

She read several of the chapter introductions that combined food history, her history and her sharply aimed comments on the state of food in the USA. All marked by fun sexuality: of cayenne she says ‘anything that hurts I like to put in my mouth.’; of pasta puttanesca pasta ‘the whore’s pasta: unlike most things that are cheap and easy this one is good for you.’

coal trams
coal trams

She started the show inviting us to warm up to ‘the fire of my body,’ but the unheated room never did warm up. I can’t say anything about the kitchen at The Steady. My escort & I had the cheese board & the tapas plate – the only things on the menu other than the prix fixe meal, which we didn’t know had to be ordered in advance. The cheese & tapas were as good as any I’ve had.



Coal Dusters Sample

(55,000 words already written, set in Cape Breton, mid-1920’s, Birk 19 – Clancy 20)

Birk woke with a start. Clancy was at the foot of the bed, shaking the frame gently until he woke.

“Strike’s over b’y.”

Birk pushed himself up, not sure if he was dreaming. “Wha?”

“Union settled for less than we were getting afor.” Clancy tossed his russack on the dresser.

“I knows that.” Birk sat up and put his legs over the side of the bed.

“You sleepin’ like there’s nothing to do.”

“I’m sleeping like someone who don’t have to share his bed with someone who tosses like a … a shirt on the line on a windy day.”

“And smells as fresh.”

“Yeh, freshly fished out of a net.” Birk tossed his pillow at Clancy. “So you’re back?”

“Nothing better to do?”

“I was getting use to having all this bed to myself.” He pulled his pants on and pushed his feet into his work boots. “Been a while since I wore these. Kinda stiff.”

He stood facing Clancy. He’d forgotten how blue Clancy’s eyes were. He grinned not know what else to do or say. He thought of grappling with Clancy, wrestle him to the floor but reached out and mussed his hair instead.

“Time’s awasting!” A shout came from the bottom of the stair.

“Yer Ma hasn’t changed.”

“Good things never do.” Birk laughed.

Their first two days in the pits where spent making sure the shafts and stavings were sound enough for being worked. After the weeks of inaction it felt to good to be back at the work but at the same they would only get paid for the coal they produced. There was no pay for replacing, reinforcing the hoardings, for doing all the maintenance work that had gone undone during the strike. Work that the managers had groused being supposedly forced to do while the miners were lazing about fishing.

“You’d think they’ve cleaned out the carts at least.” Red grunted as they went down for their first shift.

No one was happy about the way the strike had been settled. Everything forced on them by the management, the government, neither of whom did seem to care about the miners but only about their taxes and dividends.

Birk was too focused on getting things ready to be bothered talking much with Clancy beyond quick grunts of agreement as they did their tasks. When he got back at night after their shift he was too tired. Sometimes they both fell asleep during dinner. But he could sense Clancy’s restlessness.

Even as he tried to keep his distance in the bed their shoulders or hands would brush briefly in the night.

By the third day the shafts were ready to be worked. Birk found that he and Clancy were back into their old routine. Joking in the mornings and focused when they started to work. Birk was happy to hear Clancy singing behind him as they got back to the grind of hacking the coal out of the seam. He slipped back into his physical digging and everything that had happened in the pat few months vanished as he sweated.

“Com’on by. Time for a slurp of tea.”

“Wha?’ Birk pushed himself out of the crevice he was working in.

“Can’t make up for lost time that way Birk.”

“Feels good though to be doing sumthin’ ”

They scuttled along to a level spot on the floor to sit.

“Where you get to?” Birk asked even though he knew the answer.

“Back to my Ma’s. “I figured your family had enough to do keepin’ fed without an extra face to feed. Not much to do here without getting pulled into that spineless union’s foolishness. Ya can’t trust them.” Clancy slurped his tea. “Still smells the same down here.”

“No more ‘an you can trust the owners.”

“That’s for sure. I hear you kept yourself busy in a pretty way.”

“Wha?” Birk nibbled at his bread.

“You and the nun.”

Birk could see Clancy smirk in the dim light.

“That lass’s been trying to teach me how read and write proper. Don’t see as I’m going to do much with that. I could read figures well enough. But now I can sign my name pretty good. But …. ”

“She’s getting to you, isn’t she?”

“Yeh but not in the way some seems to think.” Birk was eager to have someone to talk to about Lillian. There were things he didn’t he could tell his mother. “Everyone thinks I’m …. sweet on her. But tisn’t so. Sure she’s pretty and that, but she makes it hard to breathe when she’s around. It’s like she’s trying cover me up with whatever scent she’s wearing. Always looks at me as if she wants something more than an answer to what the numbers add up to.”

“She must have her eye on you.”

“Well I wish she didn’t. Ma gets so burned up about her being a Catholic girl. She thinks Lillian wants to turn me mick too. I wished I knew what she was after.”

“What most women want Birk m’boy. To land a decent man who’ll look after them. So I don’t know what she sees in you.” Clancy’s laugh echoed in the shaft.

“Yeh. I’m glad to … that … fuk Clancy I never had a mate I much took too … like m’brother”

“Yeah. I missed you too monkey.”

Birk resisted the temptation to reach out and touch Clancy somehow.

Back at the face they were working he was happy to hear Clancy singing the familiar ‘shovel and pick, pick and shovel,’ then, ‘rake and hustle, hustle and rake.’ Clancy stopped mid-word.

“Hush,” Clancy whispered. “Stop for a minute.”

Birk leaned away from the wall. “What is it?”

They stood holding their breaths. A distant rumble could be heard. Then the ceiling over them groaned and a large flat strata of it shook free and fell with a dusty thud.

Birk pushed Clancy toward the wall. “We better high tail it.”

“Right. That’s what happens when you don’t wait for the inspectors to come.”

They made their way to the main shaft that was crowded with the other men on the shift. They were grousing about how hastily the management had get things started and how the union didn’t make any difference or even seem to care about the possible unsafe conditions. Another heavier rumble overhead stopped their nattering.

“At’s a big one.” one of the miners said.

Part of the ceiling collapsed ahead of them.

(for more see my NaNoWriMo posts in Novmember 2012)

Cape Breton icons

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