Pretty Pictures

On a recent Disability After Dark host Andrew Gurza has a conversation with Kayla Whaley about body image, disability & swallowing. Amongst the many things they talk about is how each has used their appearance as protection or as a way of hiding from opportunity – deciding that people will reject you because of your looks so you do it on their behalf by not giving them the chance.

Lookism runs rampant through our culture & regardless of how one tries to transcend it is inescapable. A friend of mine recently had a make-over to do some TV appearances and posted photos of it – wow! – people flooded the pics with super flattering comments about ‘prettiness’ ‘hotness’ that left me wondering – what did they think of my friend before? 

I don’t deny that I know the power of a good shirt thanks to What Not To Wear. I’ve never known how ‘flattered’ I should be when someone who has heard me perform meets me months  later & all they remember is my shirt. They don’t even remember my name. They don’t even wonder about my body image – would I want them to?

On the podcast Andrew & Kayla discuss the power of body image – how they strive to accept themselves with all their physicality in the face of what is considered cute, handsome or even presentable. They come from a history in which a disabled family member could be restricted to a single room in the house & would never appear in public. Things have changed but I know how the struggle for not only recognition but acceptance continues. There are some who say that they wish queers were back in the closet & out of public sight.


I like to imagine how they will feel when they see Andrew making out with some guy? Now, that’s a pretty picture.

Bed Songs


I am the light that plays

across you at night

as you turn to drift into a deeper sleep

to dream of kisses so gentle

they won’t wake the dark


when I visit friends, strangers

I like to see where they sleep

an intimacy of knowledge

living rooms and kitchens only hint at

that bathrooms are mere prelude to

Fortune Teller

I read beds

like a fortune teller reads palms

mounds folds life lines

the placement of pillows

reveals more than revels to be


are the corners tight 

to pin dreams to sleepers

or untucked all the way round

to free the sleeper to dream


is the bed in the middle of the room

under a window 

or snug in a corner

as far from light as possible


is it still warm from you

April 03 – every Tuesday

June 8-9 – Capturing Fire 2018 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked) 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy ice cream in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr


Nothing To Lose


Working through the  227 Rules For Monks. Who knew the simple life could be so complex. This another of the 92 pācittiyas.

Nothing To Lose

I was sure I left it there

it was there the last time I looked

I haven’t seen it

have you looked in here

have you looked anywhere 

or did you expect me to know

to keep an eye on things

without being asked

I don’t know where it is

I have more important things to do

no I didn’t move it

I didn’t see anyone take it

this is where I usually put it

I can’t leave the house without it

it can’t be replaced

there’s no reason for it to be moved

it has to be here always

it’s the perfect spot for it

it didn’t move itself

did it fall off the floor

is it under here

is it upstairs

did you even bring it with you

did you leave the house without it

you can always get a new one

it was time to move on

time to let go

of the hold of things

free yourself of objects

find a place

where there is nothing to lose

nothing to be looked for

nothing to be hidden

and everything

to be revealed

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

Falling Rocks

Falling Rocks

thinking for yourself

is a good thing

thinking only of yourself

isn’t the same good thing


I appreciate originality of thought

but not of disruption

when it seems

all you are interested in

is disruption


shaking things up

by destroying them

is not productive

not conducive to growth

when we spend more time

repairing or building anew

as opposed to building 

on what we already have


if what we already have

is so unsound

it will fall of its own according

and not

according to your judgement

so you can stop

jumping up and down on the earth

you may dislodge a few rocks

you can’t bring down the mountain

and those rocks 

will only fall on you

I’ve been involved with groups in which someone will come along with a great idea to improve things but only if the group does them without this someone having to take the action themselves. When the group resists or things don’t go as predicted the ‘someone’ blames others & rarely examines their initial suggestion for flaws. There are enough empty apartments, condos, & townhouses in Toronto that no one needs to be homeless. Property value trumps homelessness. Maybe housing isn’t the solution for homelessness.

I don’t pretend to be a paragon of unbiased virtue & easily see myself on all sides of this dichotomy – wanting change but sometimes unwilling to pay the cost or put in the effort to sustain such changes – particularly in the face of so many others who resist or even deny the need for change. We’ll solve homelessness by criminalizing panhandlers or by refusing to create a social system for them and sending them to where there is such a social system. Then gripe about all the panhandlers in downtown Toronto.

There are those who want the welfare system tightly controlled to eliminate fraud so only the truly deserving get the benefits of their tax money that fund that system, while they have clever accountants making sure they pay the least amount or if possible no taxes. I’ll end here before someone reports me to Canada Revenue to send those rocks down on my head. 


Political events in the USA were in my mind when I wrote this – people voting for Trump because of the smart changes he promised to make in the health system to give people greater freedom of choice that once he got in, they discovered their vote resulted in that they didn’t have the financial ability to enjoy the freedom of choice of accessing the benefits that had been enjoying. Ouch! Falling rocks 🙂

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

Coal Dusters Chapter II

Chapter II

Birk Nelson Gets A New Rake Man

The sun was rising over the steaming mounds of slag coal. The mound never got any smaller no matter how much was carted away to the wash plant. Coal was already being loaded into a rail car to be transported to the dock.

They went into the change room and lowered their work clothes from the overhead hangers. 

“Birk Nelson!” Red Mac, the shift foreman, called to him.

“Yeah.” Birk grabbed for his brass counter. 

“Birk,” the foreman nodded for him to come over to the small office. “This is Clancy Sinclair. He’ll be your rake man.”

“Manny was doing okay.” Birk squinted at Clancy.

Clancy looked to be a head taller than him, a lot wider in the shoulders with blond almost brown hair. 

“Not my say so,” Red Mac shrugged. “Orders from above. Manny’s moving on to the scuttle yard.”

“Fuk,” Birk spat. He had hoped to get that position. Scuttle yard was where the coal was loaded into the rail cars. It was as hard work as being under in the mines but it was above ground. All the miners longed to work above ground.
“I know you wanted it but yer too good. Yer a lucky chap Clancy. Birk Nelson is one the best we got.”

“Yeah sure. Sticking me with this skinny rat. He must disappear down there.”

“Whose yer father?” Birk asked.

“Scott Sinclair.”

“The Bras D’Or Sinclair’s?” Birk said.

“Nah, Stellarton.”

“Main lander?” Birk said.

“What of it?” Clancy replied.

Birk grabbed Clancy’s left hand. Clancy pulled it away.

“What you up to?”

“Checking to see how tough your hands is. Skin’s too soft this job.”

“Least we’ll know when my hair ‘s clean. You black as coal already.” he sniffed the air. “You sure you washed ‘for you came here?”

“Mac, you stick me with puddin’ boy here and I won’t make enough to pay for a pint let alone our tic at the pluck me.”

“Soft! Least I’m full size.” Clancy stood as tall as he could. “Not some half-sized hairy mine monkey.”

“Who you callin’ a monkey, you soft arse.” Birk launched himself at Clancy and landed two solid punches in quick succession. One to the side of Clancy’s head and the other to his stomach.

Clancy staggered back and was ready to punch back when Red Mac pushed stepped between them.

“Nuf of this. You want beat the dust out of each other do it out of my yard.”

“Then stick this soft arse with someone else ‘cause only one of us is coming back up and you know it’s me.”

“Both of you will come back. Listen and listen good Birk Nelson. You have sisters who need what you put on the table. Next time to want to take a swing at someone keep that in mind, ‘cause the next time you take a swing at me you’re out of here. You understand that.”

Birk snatched his lunch pail and rammed it under his arm.

“And you Clancy. You’re new here. You gotta learn to mind your tongue. This isn’ a place to run off at the mouth with guys you don’t know. Some here wouldn’t be as gentle wid ya as Birk here was.”

“No one calls me soft.”

“Who is to say.” Red Mac pulled himself up to his full height – a head taller than Clancy, two heads taller than Birk. “Only a soft arse would let himself get riled up this easy. And that goes for the two of you. Birk you take him down to the face with you. I’ll be down soon enough to make sure you’re acting the way men should and not school kids. Understand.”

“Yes sir.” Birk glared at Clancy. “Follow me.”

“I’m not taking orders from him. You’re not paying enough for that.”

“You want to work or not. I git plenty looking for work here me son. Plenty. You can go back to …”

“Christ! I’ll give it a try.” Clancy cut Red Mac off.

“Come along then,” Birk grunted and added under his breath, “soft arse.”

“What you say?” Clancy snapped back.

“I said come along we got a long way to go. Level Ten.”

They got into the cage with a dozen other miners. Adjusted their head lamps as it rattled down the shaft. The shift car pushed the men back and forth. Each time Clancy was forced up against Birk, Birk roughly shoved him away. 

The smell of earth got stronger as the cage descended. Earth and coal. The dampness increased. As the cage passed some levels Birk could hear water dripping, or blasts as new seams were opened. The levels spread out from the elevator shaft. Some for a few hundred yards, others went for miles. Some, such as the one on Level 10 went under the ocean. Birk still expected his pick would punch right through to the sea bed above.

Total blackness quickly enveloped the men but not all of them turned on their lamps. It was better to let the eyes adapt to the dark as quickly as possible. Birk could find his way to the face he was working on without light. 

“Stick close now or yer arse is going get hard fastern than you want it.” Birk said when they got off the cage. He took a deep breath. “Better take a breath while you can. That’s the last of the fresh air you’ll get till we’re ready to head up.”
“Get moving.” Clancy give Birk a slight shove.

Knowing his way Birk moved quickly over the uneven surface to the crease where he was working. He could hear Clancy stumbling behind him. That’d teach the big mouth who was the big man.

“Watch yer head here.” He muttered as they came to the final turn. He ducked down and then up avoiding the staving joist that was holding the ceiling.


“Y’d think y’d never been in the dark before.” Birk chuckled as he heard Clancy bump the rafter.

“Never down this deep.” Clancy was trying to catch his breath.

“Better get used to it quick, as yer going t’be spending most yer awake time in the dark, same as in your sleep time. Day light’ll not be your pal again.” He stored his lunch can behind the upright paling that helped to support the weight of the ceiling.

“Thanks.” Clancy gasped.

Birk stopped and Clancy stumbled into him.

“Watch it.” Birk pushed him back. “Tight nuf in here ya know. Here’s yer rake. You know how to handle one.”
“Christ yeh. I rake, pile and when pile is big nuf we shovel it in into the cart, when the cart is full we get it to the line to dump it into the shuttle.”

“Trick is to keep up wid me boy.”

Birk tied his face rag around his mouth and nose, tuned his headlamp on and starting hammering with his pick axe at his crease. As the shards and chunks of coal loosened he pushed them behind him for Clancy to rake away. 

After a few minutes his shoulder muscles loosened and his mind stopped thinking about anything except what he was doing, how fast he was doing it. Steadily he deepened the vein as he followed it along. He could feel the change in vibration in his pick as hit different types of rock, sulphur, granite, different strata of the vein, even different hardnesses of the coal itself. He had no sense of time but of quantity. Once he had dislodged enough coal to fill the hopper he wriggled out to help Clancy push the cart to the main line. Before they dumped into the shuttle he relived himself on the coal.

Clancy was about to do the same. Birk took Clancy’s free hand and peered at in the light of his headlamp. The skin on the hand was rubbed raw, bleeding along the thumb.

“Just as I thought soft. Piss on it.”
“What?” Clancy tired to pull away.

“Yeh it’ll help toughen the skin faster. Took me a week before m’hands could take it.” He watched as Clancy rubbed his hands in his own urine.

“Christ feels okay.”

“Don’ think I forget what ye called me up there but don’t want you to slow me down any either. You un’stand.”


“Do ya think ya can keep up wid me by?” Birk muttered.

“Nothing to it.” Clancy wheezed.

“You gotta learn to breath down here.” Birk said. “You breathin’ too deep.”

All they could make out of each other in the dim light of their head lamps was their eyes. Their face coverings were coated with black dust.

“I’ve been keepin’ a bit slow. Two more of these and we take a wee break for eatin.” He began to shove the cart back to where they were working. 

“Oof.” Clancy bump hard into the low rafter.

“Listen an learn. Not goin to warn you every time m’boy.”

“I’m not yer b’y.” Clancy snarled. “Keep goin’ ya damned monkey.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy ice-cream in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

Chubby Emitt Blossoms

Picture this – your lead singer is such a drunk your label fires him after recording your first album, the album is a smash, you have hits with songs he wrote. But you can’t get him back because he committed suicide after being fired. Hollywood fiction? No, this is the story of The Gin Blossoms. The album was New Miserable Experience. I still have a review & write up about the band that was published in Entertainment Weekly.

With all that drama I expected Experience to be dark & brooding but instead it was light, cheerful. Songs were about breakups & romantic difficulties. Their sound was very Byrds – sweet guitar, strong harmonies. Comfortable. They followed it up with ‘Congratulations …I’m Sorry’ & later ‘No Chocolate Cake’ They’ve released other lps but these 3 are all I needed. Later albums are solid pop music, easy to listen to & lyrically they remain in that angsty sweet romance territory.

Also on this mp3 collection is music from the late-60s Emitt Rhodes. The Merry-Go-Round Live: the band he started with; then 3 of his solo lps Emitt; Mirror; Farewell To Paradise – by solo I mean he does everything. Plays every instrument. This was a thing back in the day & it was done without GarageBand 🙂 The group album is another Byrds/Cyrcle sound of radio friendly pop. 

I had the first two solos as lps then eventually replaced them with mp3. He sounds a like Paul McCartney (who also did a couple of I-play-everything lps). The songs are sweet, full of domestic playfulness. More a curiosity than compelling music. This I-play-everything has been taken up by Stevie Wonder, even Prince.


To span decades & styles I also have The Best of Chubby Checker here. He’s before my time but I do enjoy this r’n’b James Brown lite stuff that sold millions. He was part of the dance craze craze with songs here like The Fly, The Twist & even the Mashed Potatoes. Finally to bring things into this decade is some Nosaj Thing: Drift – fun electronica. All music you can dance to so – everybody do the peppermint twist.

Party in Pink

‘Do you think it’ll work? I mean does it suit me?’ The woman stood in front of the mirror holding a shapeless, pink lace blouse in front of herself.

‘Looks great. Good colour for you. What do you think David?’


Tracy always called on him for these final moments with a customer who had been worrisome. The woman had been in the story for about thirty minutes. The longer they took the less likely it was they would buy.

‘It’s for a party I’m going to. It isn’t too, you know …’

‘It’s fun but formal.’

‘I don’t want to look like a … ’ her voice dropped, ‘slut. You know what I mean.’

Dave wanted to laugh. Slut. It would take more than a blouse to make this mousy woman look like a woman let alone a slut.


‘I’m not sure. Let me look at that other one again.’

Tracy handed her a shiny silver pull over with small mirror beads sewn around the wrists and neck.

Dave went to overcoat section where a man had been taking coats down.

‘Can I help you, sir?’

He had been reluctant to go over as overcoats was Mr. Oaks speciality. No one sold these overpriced, dead weight coats as well as he did.

‘I was wondering …’


‘Are these waterproofed?’

David pulled a tag out of the sleeve of one of the coats.

‘Yes. It says here the wool has been treated to be water resistant.’

‘Water resistant is not waterproof.’


‘At this price I would expect it to be waterproof.’

‘Not in wool.’ Mr. Oaks joined them. His cologne was stronger so Dave knew he had been off for another visit to the facilities. 

‘Top quality is never waterproofed. You know what that does to the fabric. Destroys it. Absolutely. Oh, it looks fine but after a few rains you’ll be sorry. Stretches out. Looses its shape very fast, it does. Thanks to the waterproofing. Now these are the finest Alpinea wool, naturally water resistant. 

‘You know what that means? Water resistant? Water beads and rolls off. Simple.

‘Water proofing causes the fabric to hold water on the surface longer, it doesn’t just roll off but rather clings and drips. You have to hang to dry. Water resistant – once quick shake and its as dry as it needs to be.’

‘What do you think, dear?’ The man called over to the woman who was looking, once again, at the pink lace blouse.

April 03 – every Tuesday

June 8-9 – Capturing Fire 2018 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked) 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy ice cream in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr


So Over the Rainbow

I recently watched a History channel series on Frontiers’ Men about the exploration of the American west. It was, as expect, rah-rah about these intrepid men but also was unflinching about how the aboriginal peoples were mistreated, exploited and the degree of cultural genocide was disgusting – yet somehow the white immigrants are seen as civilizers of these savage tribes.

The features & slammers at the season 4 finale for Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam made it very clear the ways that that cultural genocide continues. I was grateful that Hot Damn! has provided a safe space for very complex layers of racal & gender cultural repression, to be exposed, expressed & appreciated. I was more than entertained I was moved & educated.

The Hot Damn! season ender slam at Buddies played a packed to the rafters – mean packed, the balcony was full, extra seating had to brought out – enthusiastic audience. After acknowledging our debit to the natives who occupied this land Charlie Petch.

The show opened with Mahlikah Awe:ri Enml’ga’t Saqama’sgw (The Woman Who Walks In The Light) drum talk poetic rapologist who did a powerful set about the racial imbalance in the justice system. Mahlikah was emotional, impassioned & without expressing their anger allowed us to feel our own. ‘they are tracking us’ ‘you can’t see what you don’t understand’ ‘seeking their own power/ looking for home’ ‘150 years of being acquitted by your peers.’

Witch Prophet (an evolution of Toronto based, Ethiopian/Eritrean singer/songwriter Ayo Leilani. A soundscape of vocal layers, loops and harmonies on a bed of hip-hop, jazz and soul-inspired beats) gave us a music set that gave us a taste of their up coming album. The first piece was a freshly multi-tracked piece – voice was layered on itself & on itself to create that vocal soundscape. A solo piece but for dozens of voices. The DJ added interesting beats to the other pieces with sweet variations, more complex vocal interplay. Touches of pop, jazz, and hip-hop created a fresh sound. ‘What if I told you who I was/ would you be more fearful’

After a break the slam proper (or is improper the right word?) got underway once Charlie played ‘Over The Raindow’ the queer national anthem on the saw. Lines from round one: ‘tempered by hot sand’ ‘one first bite I know I am stubborn’ ‘death is just another word for resistance’ ‘my emotions fluid like my gender’ ‘a generation where we can’t express ourselves so we cat out’ ‘I like to think I am fine’ ‘this books haunts me/ it took place in my home town/ a dozen murdered women’ ‘this book is too heavy for my heart’ ‘the graveyard were the bodies were disposed of’ ‘I thought my feelings were love’ ‘I’m told to find comfort in being uncomfortable’ ‘a mirror whose only task is to tell me how lonely I am’ ‘smelling of something I can’t quite remember’ ‘hear the heart break of all of us at once’ ‘we are no more than the pain they throw to us’

After too brief a breather round two; ‘saggy baggy jeans’ ‘she took me to places others were scared to’ ‘the ears of lady justice plugged by the screams of white men’ ‘I find it hard to breathe when I think about the future’ ‘how much space does nothingness take up’ ‘the object of disconnection devalued your voice’ ‘this is just a voice’s journey’ ‘this art is not a luxury’ ‘don’t ever forget what your voice looks like’ ‘you are what I thought impossible’ ‘everyone ends up leaving anyway’ ‘their eyes said what they could not’ ‘we already labeled as little criminals’ ‘killing us while our hands are up’

If I’ve misquoted keep in mind I’m listening, making notes & getting my score ready. Many of the slammers lost points by running past the 3 minute 10 second limit, so some of the final scores were affected by those deductions. Defending 2017 winner D’Scribe won the trophy once again.

April 03 – every Tuesday

June 8-9 – Capturing Fire 2018 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked) 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy ice cream in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr


Buffering Season 2

I don’t binge watch TV shows but sometimes I do binge listen to podcasts. In this case I’ve been pushing through the archives of Buffering The Vampire Slayer by listening to one day to get caught up to where it is now. Currently it’s coming to the end of season 3. I’ve just come to the end of season 2 on the podcast. 

My actual watching has me part way through season 4 – I just watched Hush. Which is one of the better episodes of season 4 – the first university year. All I’ll say about season 4 is that the writers, for the most part, started out lost but things are finally coming together. The militia subplot was/is tedious but the return of Spike is welcome but I hope he stops being used as a comic foil soon.

I’ve enjoy the way the podcast has grown. Hosts Jenny Owen Youngs & Kristin Russo, remain engaging, insightful, funny & their love of the show is contagious. I’ve enjoyed the interviews with past cast members. Season 3 wraps with an interview with perhaps their biggest cast member: The Mayor. I have been tempted to go back to a few episodes with their comments in mind. I love their attention to detail & would like more of that. Back ground extras who only appear but do so in several episodes are always a joy to me.


Their episode songs are fun – my fave being Blue Goo. The jingles for the characters are also a nice addition that grows more in their discussion of season 2. But I can’t see myself using one as my cellphone ring 🙂 Season 2 podcast include a great  interview with Armin Shimerman, who plays Principal Snyder.

In their season 2 wrap up they talk about favourite moments, characters etc. For me it was the introduction of Oz though I feel his werewolf persona was never fully utilized in his story arc until season 4. It felt more like ‘oh hey lets have a cute werewolf as Willow’s boyfriend.’ He does get some of the best lines & Seth Green’s delivery is great, frequently better than his cool shirts. 

Is this the best season of Buffy? I found season 3 to be stronger. I lost interest in Buffy’s original broadcast run during season 4 so I can’t compare this season to subsequent ones. 

previously on Buffy:  Buffy Buffy Buffering 

Psycho Zombies in the Rain

it was raining ballerinas

you know

rain so heavy

each drop created a splash tutu

as it landed

on its one toe

to join the corps du puddle

a literal rain dance


wet ragged gene mutated zombie

staggering down the street

skin stinking in the rain

crumbling for the lure of brains

grabs a light pole

flings aimless decaying arm

drops into the gutter

eyes washed but not cleaned

lightening strikes

the unlucky char

sluiced down the sewer drain


the rain not a sheet but a curtain

a shower curtain

lightening cuts through it

an electrified knife

stab stab after stab

screams drowned out by the rain

rain so heavy

we can’t see across the street

can’t see 

through the car window

wiper blades not cutting it

smearing rain like blood

on a steamy bathroom tile

HotDamn! It’s A Queer Slam

every Tuesday another chapter:

June 8-9 – Capturing Fire 2018 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked) 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy ice cream in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr


Cast Aside


Working through the  227 Rules For Monks. Who knew the simple life could be so complex. This another of the 92 pācittiyas.

Cast Aside

I take the picture

I point the camera

that’s it

the subject is usually in focus

it remains as I found it

I resist the temptation

to get it into better light

resist the temptation

to add to the scene

or take away from it

I don’t seek perfection

but let things

fall where they will

stationary in a context

that I didn’t create

the broken chair

the mattress still wrapped in plastic

never used

cast aside 

I take the picture

the subject tells the story

the picture tells you

nothing about me

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

Taking Sides

Taking Sides

it is a matter

of what is relevant

of what I think

I can bring to the situation

without creating
even more a divide

when neither party

is willing to hear the other


they are each so invested

in the rightness of their opinion

of their interpretation of things

each sees the other

as an attack of fundamental values

of their personal wants & needs


in fact each side says things

that I once said & felt

but didn’t see the value in holding on to

harmony became more important

than forcing things to my view point

compromise was a sign of willingness

to change


which why I was willing

to keep my mouth shut

neither placating or explaining

people who don’t listen 

aren’t worth my time


Part of my past was the need to prove my ‘depth’ but getting caught up in arguments – or were they heated discussions – to demonstrate my insights, my articulate precision & also how right I was. Often these were issues that meant nothing to me – hockey violence – who really deserved that Oscar. 

Along with that was a need to be a placater – someone who could smooth things out between people & in the process show each side that neither was really right. The result was usually that I was sticking my nose in where it wasn’t needed. Which of course allowed all of us to feel unappreciated and giving us targets to vent our intellectual scorn upon.

I know that if I have to convince someone of anything then I’m wasting my breath. I can tell when someone isn’t listening, or open to listening. I see this in the ‘real’ world a lot – the teens against guns movement in the USA makes for good press but the people who need to listen already have fortified themselves against hearing anything with ‘these teenagers don’t know what they are talking about.’ Wanting to go to school without the risk of a massacre is seen as just a youthful, anti-capitalist folly caused by listening too much nasty hiphop.

I have an acquaintance who is pro-Trump. Pointing out the press about his actions – actual news footage that shows him saying thing he denies saying they just look at me as if I’ve been deluded. Last time she brought up Trump I changed the subject saying ‘We differ and there’s nothing to be gained.’ I become the one with closed mind because I don’t agree. Such is life. It isn’t worth my time trying to open it.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

Coal Dusters Chapter 1

Chapter I

Birk Nelson Enjoys His Bed

Birk could hear his mother downstairs in the kitchen. Singing “Bringing in the sheaves” as she clanged the stove top covers. This was how she would wake them in the mornings. “The sheaves” was her favorite hymn and she would sing the same four words over and over. Her voice reaching as high as her rusty soprano could go. On Sundays she would change it to “We shall come rejoicing.”

He rolled onto his back into the sag in the middle of the bed and stretched his arms and legs as far as he could on either side. There was no one there with him. He had the entire bed all to himself. This had only happen once before when he sick with the measles and his brother George had been forced onto the small couch in the living room.

A bed all to himself. He didn’t want to get up. For the first time in his eighteen years he had slept alone. He didn’t have to pull the covers back on himself, didn’t have to push an elbow or a knee from his back. He’d dropped off to sleep quickly without Geo struggling to get comfortable in the bed because of his sore back or some other excuse.

The bedding still smelled of George though. He’d have to wash them himself to get rid of that. His Ma had enough to do without washing sheets on his whim. Would she let him air the mattress on the back fence?

When George had told them he was marrying Sheila his folks weren’t happy. It was hard enough for them to keep the family fed on what they earned in the mine. One less pay meant everyone would have to work harder, do with less. But Birk didn’t mind a little extra work as it also meant he’d have more in the long run. A bed of his own, a room to himself. His folks wouldn’t put either of his sisters in with him. That he knew for sure. A room where he could shut the door and be by himself. He could get accustomed to that.

“Birk! Birk!” His mother shouted up to him, the sound of his sister’s bare feet pounding up the stairs underlining the call for him to get out of bed.

The bedroom door was thrown open and Maddy leapt onto the bed.

“Where’s Geo?” she pulled the blanket off him. “Where he hiding?” She looked in the shallow closet.

He pulled her nearer to kiss and she shoved him away. “You too scratchy.”

“Geo’s not here anymore, Maddy. Remember.” Birk grabbed his clean shirt and overalls and put them on. “He’s married now. He’s living at Sheila’s house now.” Living there because the rules said to keep procession of their company house a man working in the mines had to live there. Geo was now the man of that house as Sheila’s dad had been killed in an accident last month.

“Oh,” Maddy frowned. “I didn’t think that’s what that meant. Why couldn’t he live here.”

“Yeah and where would I sleep? You’d share your bed with Sheila’s sisters? And brothers?”

“Don’t care.” Maddy ran down the stairs and Birk followed. His two sisters were always fonder of George than him. Even after a hard shift in the mines Geo always had time to play with them. Birk was glad to leave them to his brother.

“About time you got yer lazy legs outta bed.” His mother slopped the thin oat porridge onto a plate for him. “No sugar today. None for the rest of the week.”

“Yeh. I know.” The remaining supply of sugar had gone into the wedding cake. “Not bad without.”

“Get use ter that. Without the bit from George we’ll be pretty skint for special, you know.”

“Yeh, I know. I know. Blackie gone?” He rubbed at his chin. He’d have to give it a shave after his shift. He’d learned that doing it before a shift would cause bumps to start where the coal dust settled on his freshly scraped skin.
“Yer father was up and out here ages ago. No snoring away and getting up when he pleases. He cares more ‘bout those boilers than he does ‘bout us. Here’s yer lunch.” she dropped his lunch pail on the table.

Maddy opened it up. “Doesn’t eat as much as Geo does he. Guess he doesn’t work as hard either.”

“You little … ” Birk wanted to smack her.

“Watch yerself,” his mother glared at him. “There’ll be more come pay day.”

Birk shrugged. He knew that at eight Maddy didn’t know what she was saying. 

“How Sal?”

“She sleepin’ ” Maddy stuck her tongue at him “I’m the big girl now who gets to help Ma in the mornings. I packed yer lunch.”

“Fair.” his mother sat opposite him. “Company doctor says all she needs rest and fresh air and better food. Thinks we can afford better food on what the company pay. Besides them pit doctors don’t know what to do when there isn’t an arm or a leg to cut off.”

Sal was a year older than Maddy. The two girls were often mistaken for twins and loved to wear their thick red hair in similar braids. Both the same size they swapped clothes often, sometimes during the day at school so the teacher never was sure which of the Nelson girls they were talking to. Sal had developed a fever during the recent cold, wet spring.

“You better get goin’ Birk.”

“I know Ma.”

“Can’t afford t’have you docked for bein’ late or worse not get yer shift.”

“They won’t dare dock me Ma. Even Blackie knows I’m the best they got on the face.”

Being small for his age allowed him to fit in spaces bigger miners couldn’t work in. One of the few benefits of his size. When he started in the colliery five years ago they didn’t think he’d last but he did. 

Birk grabbed his lunch pail and stuck it under his arm, pulled on his cap. He folded the rag he used to cover most of his face from where it drying in the window. He put it in his back pocket. 

“I’ll say Hi to Blackie for yer.” He kissed his mother on the cheek and leaned to the same with Maddy. 

“I told ya too scratchy.” She gave him a playful slap. “Get that ugly away from me.” She pulled away.

“Yer loss.”

The back door shut quietly behind him. The dew was still on the grass and he headed to the lane to the mine. He waved to a couple of the other men on their way to their shifts.

Jake Malone who lived in the house opposite walked with him.

“How’s yer Da?” he asked.

“Blackie’s doing fine. Sal’s still poorly though.”

“Pity,” Jake coughed and spit a thick gob into the ditch. “One of our little ‘uns much the same. Nothing much we can do bout it though.”

“You’d think what they dock the pay for medical would help some. But not a bit. Jim Spot lost a hand last week, yer hear bout that?”
“Yeh. Ma says those docs only know to cut off. Anything other that that they always nod and say feed’ em better.”

“True. They coudda saved the hand if they had the right medicals. That’s what I heard. Damn union can’t do much for him. Almost bled to death.”

“Gotta be careful. All the time.”

“Sometimes can’t be careful enough when the time it takes to make things safe cuts into the time you get to work and they only pays by what we digs out. Not what we makes safe.” Jake coughed and spat.

They walked in silence the rest of the way. The lane branched into Pitt St.

“I always thought this was called Pit, wid one ‘t’.”Jake said.

“Tisn’t?” Birk looked at the tilted street sign. “So tis.”
“Yeh ‘cause we take it to get to the pit ya see. But Pitt is some prime mucky-muck in Britain.”

“At least it got a name. Mudside don’t have many street signs.”
Over the years Castleton Mines had become divided into two areas. The side closest to the colliery, where many of the miners and their families lived had become known as Mudside. It was separated from the rest of the town by several business that were on Chestnut Street. 

Chestnut backed along the waterfront. The docks there were used for loading the coal, some fishing boats and the Dingle Dandy, a ferry that stopped at several of the small towns along the coast.

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