Safe Landing DC 2018 Day 1

I must be getting used to flying to DC because this year the airport security stuff was pretty easy – my long term memory is actually working, if though I was up at 5 a.m. to get to the airport in time. The only snag, if I can call it that, was paying for my suitcase when checking it in – the automated machine wouldn’t take either of my cards 😦 so I had to do via American Airlines counter service. Debit card was the issue.

No long waits other than the one to check in my bag – one clerk and fifteen passengers lined up. Washrooms found successfully. Departure lounge had some pleasant eye candy. It was a walk to the plane. a row of single seats on one side & a row of two on the other. Room in the overhead for my large carry on & room under the seat for my shoulder bag. Just enough room in the seat for my ass.

Smooth flight, bus the Regan terminal, suitcase hits the carousel, taxi jumped into & to the hotel by 1 pm. I wasn’t expecting to get there until 2. flight was faster & no delays anywhere. Hotel getting some reno so side entrance. room not ready so left luggage & did a bit of walking. forgot camera though 😦 Lunch at Brick Lane on 17th. nice to relax in a/c with unhurried service. Next stop Safeways for breakfast stuff: kiwis etc & some disposable dinner ware. Back to hotel.Up for room. Called home. Contacted my few DC contacts & set up supper with one of them.

Unpacked, relaxed, discovered I forgot to pack computer cable for my Fuji, luckily I have a back up with my other camera so there will be lots of photos. rested. Showered. Dinner date arrived at 6. Perfection – what can I say that doesn’t sound like bragging 🙂 we finally get to Pizzeria Paradiso at 7:30 on P just around the corner from the Fairfax. Dinner date works at Library of Congress & has promised a personal tour. A full day & I’m glad to be hitting the sack a little early. Maybe I’ll dream of what I’ll do tomorrow: the Zoo or the Library 🙂

Coal Dusters – Chapter X

Chapter X

Birk Meets Lillian

The noon whistle sounded. “Time for lunch.” Mac said with a laugh. “Or you can head for home.”

Birk didn’t see how any one could joke at a time like this. They went to the change room. The men were silent as they hoisted their work clothes above them. 

“No much washin’ up today.” Clancy sighed. “Though your boots could use it.”

Birk tossed his brass tab to the clerk who put it back on its hook. Clancy did the same.

His mother and Maddy were at the gate when they left.

“How bad is it?” she asked. “Any one we know?”

“Not sure yet Ma. Blackie says Geo safe though. But I know that Dave Homolka is gone. Brought him to the infirmary m’self.”

“So young. So young.” His mother dabbed at her eyes with her apron.

“Geo’s okay,” Maggy peered up them. “He’s not …”

“Geo’s fine. He’ll be by tonight I guess.” Birk said.

They walked the lane home.

“Least with the coal damp you don’t have to worry about living forever with lost limbs, broken bones an’ blood.” Birk said.

“I dunno. With blood you know something’s happened. These guys look they’re asleep.” Clancy said. “Guess they don’t suffer much. They die fast.”

“Good thing you caught me when you did. I could a been one of them.”

“You’d’ve done the same for me.” Clancy said.

“Not sure as I would have knew to do what you did. You got more learning that you let on?”

“Remembered what I read somewhere about coal damp. About how deadly and fast it is. said best thing it keep you moving so as to keep your lungs breathin’ it out.”

“Yer not such a bad sort after all. Hope my punches didn’t … ”

The two men stopped at the corner of Pitt St. that lead to the lane Birk lived on. His mother and sister kept going.

“You mean that, don’t you?” Clancy asked.

“Shamed to say I do … I mean I did.” Birk stooped to scrub at his boots with dirt.

“I figured you were playing.”

“Oh no, b’y those punches were meant to hurt. No playing there.” He stood up. He flexed his left hand. “Almost broke my hand on you.”

“I know.” Clancy rubbed his rib. “Still got a bruise there. But if ya think that harsh of me I can work something else out.”

“I meant it when I said you weren’t such a bad sort. That coal damp did something to my mind as I don’t think I’m goin’ to mind you as much as I did yesterday. We can try it out.”

“Excuse me, is the the way to the colliery?” A young woman carrying a heavy basket stopped beside them. She put the basket down. “I was following along Victoria looking for Pitt but there’s no signs.”

“Yes tis ma’am.” Clancy said.

“Father Pat asked me to bring some things for the families. Were you … I … You don’t look …”

“We were there ma’am but it wasn’t a cave in or something where people got harmed.” Clancy explained.

“No, it was the coal damp that killed the men.” Birk said.

The woman paled. Birk reached out to steady her.

“I’ll be fine.” She pulled away from him.

“Haven’t seen you before miss?”

“Ah, no, I’m Father McTavish’s niece. Come here from Boston to house keep for him.” She stooped to pick up the basket.

“I can carry that for you.” Clancy offered.

“No. I’d rather do it myself.” She hoisted the basket, balanced it on her hip and continued down the lane way.

“Those micks. They smell the orange in your blood, I’m sure.” Birk spat.

“Or maybe it was yer feet.”

Birk stepped back and glared at Clancy. He looked down at his work boots and they were still  covered with his vomit he’d been trying to clean off them. He started to laugh. 

“Look as we got some time. Why not bring your stuff from Mrs. Franklin’s to our place. Or do you want one more of her suppers?”

“Fighting over the bread with ten others! No thanks.”

They went to Mrs. Franklin’s. 

Mrs. Franklin had a large three story house that was built as a hotel in the 1890‘s when there hopes Castleton Mines would be thriving industrial town but with more extensive coal seams found in other spots with better harbour facilities the boom never happened. Before Prohibition the first floor boasted one of the most popular drinking spots but since then room and board for transient miners, salesmen was its prime purpose. She also had a washhouse that offered ceramic tubs, fresh hot water and clean towels for those who found the mine wash up wasn’t enough and could afford the cost. 

Clancy’s possessions were already stuffed into two canvas bags stowed under a table in the front hall of the boarding house. He hefted one on his back and handed the other to Birk. “Lead on McDuff.”

“Huh!” Birk almost shoved the bag back. 

“Shakespeare.” Clancy explained. “You can manage. It’s the lighter one.”

“Yeah. I guess after you saving me I can return the favour.”

They walked passing families coming and going to mine. Some were crying others were grim as if being happy that their Dads or brothers were safe would be out of place.

“You got some education?” Birk asked.

“A little schooling.”

“Not yer first time below either is it?”

“How so?”

“To pick up on damp that fast.”

“Yeah … well … I guess … your nose is used to the smells down there you didn’t notice.”

“True enough. In that case you’ll stop noticing the smell of m’feet soon enough.” 

Clancy nearly dropped the bag of his shoulders laughing.

When they got to the house Birk took him up the room.

“Just cus we’re goin’ to stuck in this room together doesn’t mean I have ta care for it.” Birk stretched out of the side of the bed farthest from the window. It was the side Geo always slept on to avoid the drafts. “But as I said I’m willin’ to give it a try. Even though you no kin of mine”

“That’s clear enough to anyone. I’ll make sure no one mistakes us for kin.”  Clancy sat on the free side of the bed. “Thanks for givin’ me the side with a view of the world.” He pushed his heavy work boots off.

Birk sat and did the same. He wiped the vomit off with this work socks.

“What’s that smell.” Clancy mocked. “Yer folks never teach you to wash yer socks. Or is that how yer feet usually smell.’

“Try working, and I mean actually working in the pit for a week or two and you’ll know how a hard-working man smells when he gets home.”

Clancy chuckled and unpacked his canvas bags. The room was barely large enough to walk around the bed. There was a small nook with hooks that filled the role of a closet. He hung a couple of wrinkled white linen shirts on one of the hooks on the wall. A small dresser in the corner had three drawers. One of which held Birk’s socks and underwear. The other two where empty now that Geo was gone. Clancy used those for his underthings, socks and a small jewelry box.

There was space for his two pairs of pants, brown woollen for work the other black tweed for special occasions. He put a silver framed picture on the dresser.

“Yer mother?” Birk asked.

“Yes and my sister Clara.”

“No Dad?”

“He died. He worked on the trains till he slipped under the wheels.”

“I’m sorry.” Birk feared his father passing away. It would make him responsible for his mother and sisters.

“Yeh. He was a drunk. We were better off without him.”

“Sister looks pretty in this picture.”

“I suppose but not as pretty as that gal we saw.”
“Didn’t she say she was the priest’s niece. His house keep.”

“I didn’t hear.”

“What! Was she so pretty you couldn’t hear her talk?” Clancy tossed one of his boots at Birk.

“Nah. But she’s a lady. That much I could tell. Not one of the local girls. Can’t look at them for long either, you know. That’s a good man’s duty.”


“Ma’s been pretty clear ‘bout that with me. Bible says we have to respect those weaker than us. Keep them safe, even from us.”

“So you didn’t take a true look at her?”

“Not me. You best not let Ma hear you talk that way. She don’t allow coarse talk in the house. I have sisters you know.”

Clancy shook his head in dismay.

“Speaking of which, time you met Sal. She’s been ailing for the past few months but there’s hope with warm weather she’ll be better soon.”

They stepped across the narrow hall to the room on the other side of the stairs. His sisters’ room was slightly larger than his. There was room in it for two small beds and a large dresser.

“Hello Sal.” Birk said gently. “Meet Clancy Sinclair, our new boarder. He’s taking Geo’s place our my bedroom.”

Sal looked up from the tattered book of A B C’s she was reading. 

“Hello,” she smiled up at them. “Clancy … that begins with a C.”

“That’s right. Sal begins with a …. K?”

‘NO! Silly … an S. S a l l y. Can’t you spell at all?”

“C l a n c y” Clancy pointed to himself. “B i r k” then pointed to Birk.

“Mama says I might go outside today. Sunny enough, isn’t it? There was some fuss down at the colliery though and she had to go there. She’s back now. I heard her come in. Some men died didn’t they?”

“Yes.” Birk answered. 

“Not Geo!!” Tears welled up in her eyes.

“No, he’s fine.”

“Good.” she yawned and put her book down. “Think I’ll rest till Mama comes for me.” She pulled well-worn blanket around her shoulders as she lay back on the bed.

“I’ll let Ma know yer ready to go out.”

They went down the stairs. 

“You boys got nothing better to do than hang around the house?” his mother asked.

“We wasn’t planning to take the afternoon off Ma. You know that.”

“There’s lots of work to be done around here. Never seems to be enough time to keep things proper. We’ll need staves for the tomatoes when they sprout, and the sweet peas as well. That back fence needs mending. Branch fell on it over the winter. Good thing it missed the shed though. The bench needs a new a leg. You might want to get at that first to give me someplace to set with Sal when she’s outside.”

“She seems better today.” Birk said.

“Yes. Praise the Lord.”

“Pretty little thing.” Clancy said.

“Tools in the shed?” Birk pushed the back door open.

“Should be ‘less Blackie moved them.”

“Follow me.” Birk nodded to Clancy.

“Lead on McDuff.”

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?

Sea Green Nina Hagen

By Great Big Sea I have the stand-alone Up that I picked up back in 1996 after seeing them perform Mari-Mac on TV. An east coast band they bring me back to my r’n’r days. Strong Celtic songs to great Cape Breton fiddle music. High energy and tender moments too. But you know one of these was enough to & still is enough to satisfying my yearning for this sound.

Next to it is Green Green Grass Of Home – another collection of nostalgic song such as This Is Your Land, We’ll Sing In The Sunshine – performed by The Fireside Folksingers choral. No fireside sing-a-long I ever experienced sounded this good 🙂 Its a Reader’s Digest release that I never ever would have bought. It was my in my Dad’s collection & when he passed I sort on inherited it on one my visits home to the east coast. When it comes up in rotation I enjoy hearing it even if some of the songs are banal.

From the opposite end of the spectrum is this sand-alone by Nina Hagen combines two eps: Nunsexmonkrock and TV-Glotzer. This is my sort of sentimentality 🙂 It brings me right abaft to my first years in Toronto. I rocked out on the dance floor whenever African Reggae was played. Nina was such a force of nature no one really knew how to deal with her energy. Too aggressive for mainstream popularity she certainly inspired many female performers – Madonna, Lady Gaga – with her wild fashion.


Her music was cutting edge then & even today these early tracks burst with an energy that hasn’t been matched. I have seen her a few times on stage & the shows were intense & high energy. I have much more of her scattered thought my collections but this is the one started it.


‘We don’t know anymore than I’ve just told you.’

‘As little as that?’


The wail of the ambulance cut through the fog. It pulled away slowly.

Jack looked out the window as the police cruiser’s lights faded into the mist. His wife, Sue, lay on the stretcher. Barely breathing. Her face covered with a clear plastic oxygen mask. A medic held one of her hands.

‘She will pull through?’

‘Sir, I just don’t know.’

He must have seen the look on Jack’s face.

‘But I’m sure she will. I’ve seen people survive worse. much worse.’


Jack wasn’t really listening. The moments before the accident played over and over. He had to talk to keep that replay from starting up again.

‘How about the other car?’

‘Don’t know. Didn’t look too bad though. Hate this fog. Almost as bad as booze for accidents. Worse.’

‘Yeah.’ Jack stroked Sue’s leg gently. It felt so thin and frail under the blanket.

‘Couldn’t see a thing. I was driving slow.’

‘Can’t do much when it gets like this.’

‘I … we should have waited till morning.’

‘Couldn’t be helped.’

Sue moaned under the mask.

‘You’re okay . Your husband is right here.’

Her eyes flickered opened. A thin dribble of blood came from the corner of her mouth.

‘I’m right here honey. You’ll be fine. We’re on our way to the hospital now. You’re in good hands.’

Her eyes closed. Jack leaned against the edge of the stretcher and bent to kiss her.

‘We get this sort of fog a lot this time of year. Comes in quite sudden. Haven’t seen it this thick for some time though. Not a good sign.’‘


‘Yeah the worse the fog the worse it’ll snow in the winter.’

Jack nodded. 

‘Snow’s worse even than fog. Slippery. Makes the roads very slippery.’

‘We were …’ Jack stopped. He didn’t want to  explain. He’d been through it with the patrol man. He rotated his arm. It ached.


‘Yeah, but I’m fine.’

‘No, no. Better check you out while we have a bit of time here. Turn around.’

Jack turned and faced the back window. He couldn’t see beyond the glass. How did the driver see? He felt the medic’s hands as they pressed along his shoulder.


‘It’s alright. Nothing broken. This gash should be looked after.’


‘Guess you didn’t notice. Shock does that. Strange the way it takes away the pain.’

Jack felt something wet dab his shoulder.

‘You’ll need some stitches.’

every Tuesday

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

September or Oct – to be confirmed – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

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


June 2018 Sneak Peek

Time flies when you blog every day 🙂 Here it is June already. The big event will be Capturing Fire in Washington DC. So there will packing – I’ll probably blog pics of my undies & shirts 🙂 There’ll be a ripple of change in that I won’t be doing all my routine posts in DC so I can give you up to the minute travel commentary & pics from my day trips there.


Not only will I be doing a piece at the launch of Stoked Words I’ll also be emcee for a Saturday open stage: “Before iPhone & Facebook: Queer Poets Over 40 Reading & Open Mic.” When I think of Tolstoy writing the original draft of War and Peace by hand this Internet thing is even more of a miracle. 

Who wants to do coffee with me while I’m in DC?

I will stick to music post on Monday; Cold Dusters on Tuesdays. There may a few days of 2 blogs if there’s enough going on. New location for Fire events means new territory to cover on my walks. Except for the week in DC pics for the month will be Monday: transportation; Wednesday: ; Thursday: whatever 🙂 Friday: doors: I like the symbol of old openings being abandoned as new openings are put in place. 


There’ll be at least one Stratford review as we are going to see Long Day’s Journey Into Night later this month. By Long I mean long, as the play runs about three hours. I hope I can stay awake for the whole thing. It’s a good excuse to munch on Stay Awake caffeinated chocolate.

every Tuesday

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

September 25, Tuesday – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

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


Objectify Me, Please

While listening to a recent Disability After Dark in which Andrew Gurza talks with ‘AJ’ Murray I appreciated their wish to be sexually objectified. Both have experienced enough respect for their minds, their ‘bravery’ that they like to be seen as a sex object. Having had enough men tell me they don’t like me ‘in that way’ I have wondered what it would be like to objectified as opposed to objected to 🙂

By objectified I don’t mean body part specific either – there are enough guys into just dick, or bubble butt ass while the only body part they are really into is their own dick or ass. Getting themselves off is what turns them on, not enjoying the other person’s body except as a come receptacle.

Until I passed 50 my sex life was fairly quiet. Opportunity was limited to bars which were geared to drinking, drugging & dancing. Dancing I could do but the other two were not a part of of my life. I wasn’t willing to hang out until 2 a.m. hoping for the best. Then along came the internet saving guys like me the need to on the prowl at 2 a.m. I could be on the search at 2 p.m, if chose to. I learned the lure of the picture, the power of the right camera angle.

I realize that I experience a social context distancing & not the literal physical disregard Andrew & AJ live with. One of the focal points of Andrew’s mission is to make people realize that everyone has sexual needs – that it is time to stop thinking disability neuters people. Dismissing those sexual needs as the least of the disables’ concerns, he wants to be seen & treated as fully human. Plus being as objectified as, say, Chris Hemsworth.

Memory Itch

he stopped  clouted the man beside him

I heard them swearing 

from across the street

I wanted to walk faster 

slower at the same time

to find out what the anger was about

before words could be made out

the smack flashed out

a back of the hand slap

with enough force to stagger the man hit

what the ….

He didn’t have time for reaction 

when he was hit again again

hitting back while falling to the sidewalk 

kicking up and out

people dodge around them

pissed at the nuisance

I wanted to go over   stop things

someone else stepped in

I’ll call the cops if you keep this up

go ahead buddy the one hit laughed 

go right ahead

why was he laughing

blood dribbling on his chin

someone had a cellphone 

were they calling or taking pictures

I kept going 

my hands fists in my coat pocket

darting looks on either side of me

strangers cold and determined

I longed to be one of these indifferent ones

but I wasn’t

their hands didn’t sting itch

with memory the way mine did

every Tuesday

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

September  or October TBA – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

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


Only Real After Midnight


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

Only Real After Midnight

he didn’t understand

that too late is too late

that too late had nothing to do

with my desire for him

with my affection for him

it was about my desire for sleep

my affection for walking up

clear headed and well-rested


he insisted that it was proof 

of my lack of real interest

that midnight wasn’t that late

only boring guys

went to bed that early

gay life didn’t get into full swing

until it was moonlight


I recalled my disco days

when getting to a bar before eleven

made one look desperate

the place would be empty

filled with loud music

get there at midnight

and the crowd was starting flow

by 1 a.m. it was a packed house


that was the gay life

I left to those that enjoyed it

just because I was man enough

to take it

didn’t mean I had to take it

like I didn’t have to take 

his definition of desire

being only real after midnight

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

Mystery in the Dust


Mystery in the Dust

dust on the box 


the dark of the shelf

the seclusion of the resting place




since it was put there

out of the way

sealed for protection

until its contents was needed

on that rainy day

it never rained enough


now some ten years later

that need went unfelt

the dust undisturbed

the contents a mystery


keep it

open it

discard it without a look

let go of the unknown

gift it

sell it


the space it takes

isn’t needed for anything 

why hold on

does it hold back

does it lead

to other unopened

forgotten pieces of the past

whose past

no writing on the box

no indication of who

put it there

or when

except for the dust

There is real life experience behind this piece. There was a box on a shelf in my basement that went unopened for more than ten years. It had no marking but one gentle shake reminded me what was in it – dishes – cup & saucers & such that were part of a dinnerware set. Mugs not tea cups in this house. And by mugs I mean venti not tall. 

I did not open it to make sure I was right. I donated them without looking. It was part of a shift to me holding on to less. I did a major flush of books, tee-shirts, knick-knacks many of which didn’t even have any sentimental hold me. Even those that had emotional resonance for me I let go. I realized I’d rather miss something than hold on it in such a way there no space for new.

I am more of a sentimentalist than I realize but not for objects but for smells or sounds. Hearing Jimmy Gilmer’s Sugar Shack recently (thanks to America on Coffee) I had a wave of non-specific memory from my teen years when this was a big hit. ‘Non-specific’ in that I had no moment to recall but a sense of me hearing it, enjoying it while wearing penny loafers and bulky saggy socks & feeling pretty cool.


Similarly the lilies of the valley are in bloom in my front & back gardens. The scent is my Mother – I want to say personified – a memory not tucked away in a dusty box. These things bring back more vividly people places & time than things do. I have some San Francisco mugs but they merely testify that I was there rather than take my mind back to being there.


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

Coal Dusters – Chapter IX

Chapter IX

Clancy Saves Birk 

By the end of the week Birk’s hand wasn’t as stiff. He was relieved that it hadn’t slowed his work enough for Clancy to notice. It took all he could do to be civil with Clancy. He didn’t want Blackie on his back again about fighting even when it wasn’t him who started things. Anything Clancy said was to him a challenge so the less he said to Clancy the less they would rub each other the wrong way.

In the change room they avoided even looking at each other. Which suited Birk fine. He wasn’t sure what it was about the other man that riled him this easily. Clancy had turned out to be a good worker. He didn’t have to told or shown anything a second time. Didn’t chatter constantly the way Manny did about his important relatives. 

He did wish Clancy would stop humming and singing. It was enough to hear his mother singing hymns in the morning. But Clancy’s tuneless scraps of words were getting harder to take. If it wasn’t ‘shovel and pick, pick and shovel,’ it was, ‘rake and bustle, bustle and rake.’ To Birk work was something you did not something you sung about.

Blackie didn’t mind Clancy much either and his Dad was a good judge of men’s reliability. Yet there was something in Clancy, besides him being a mainlander, that made his blood boil. Something in the the way he’d laugh as if he was laughing at Birk because he believed he was better than Birk because he was taller, not as dark or because he wasn’t as hairy.

As they approached the cage Clancy said. “Tell your folks that I’ll be there in the morning. My week at Mrs. Francis is done and I haven’t paid her for any more.”
“Never too late to find another spot. I can help.” Birk was almost crushing his lunch can under his arm as his fists clenched and unclenched. 

“Not with a family though. Sharing a room with another person, even if it is a …. you …. is better than four other guys. Some of whom don’t know how to sleep without snoring or coming in drunker’n hell from Dan’s and cursing us who is sleeping for telling them to hush.”

Dan’s was a bootlegger at the edge of town who’d let the men hoist a few in his home because most of them didn’t have homes of their own. For the right price a man could also have a wife for of his own an hour or so. 

“Ma I’d kill me if I came home drunk.” 

“Yah I know. Suppose I miss my own ma more than I knew.”

The cage rattled up.

“Don’t get used to her. If you can’t pay she’ll put you out if Blackie doesn’t.”

As the first into the cage they were squeezed into the back of it. As it went down Birk began to feel dizzy. He’d spent a restless night knowing that his time to enjoy the bed and the room alone was coming to an end. He was getting used to no complaints about him ‘shedding worse’n’ a cat’ or how his feet stank. He didn’t smell any worse than Geo did most of the time. Geo didn’t care much about his personal stink till he took up with Sheila. The smell of the scented water he’d started to use made Birk feel as dizzy as he felt now.

The cage bumped to a stop and the first miners stepped off. They walked a few steps and collapsed.

Birk stumbled forward to help them. Clancy gabbed the collar of his work shirt and pulled him back hard.

“Gas.” he shouted. “Get us up. Up.”

The operator collapsed as the door began to close. Clancy reached though the other men and pushed the lever to get the cage moving back up. He hit the alarm and it got louder as they came to the surface. Birk’s vision blurred and he was gasping to breathe. 

He leaned heavily on Clancy as they stumbled up the slope to the surface. There were men milling around. Someone helped Clancy carry him away from the pit entrance.

“Get them to air.” Red Mac shouted. “How many’s down there?”

Clancy put Birk’s arm over his shoulders and pulled him further away as more unconscious men were brought up and out of the mine.

“You gotta keep breathin’ b’y.” He leaned Birk against the wash up shed wall. 

Birk was dazed. His eyes remained unfocused. He threw up on his work boots. He gasped for air.

“That’s right. Deep breathing.”

“Wanna sit.” Birk weakened, as if he had been suffocating.

“No! Birk keep moving. That’ll get air into ya, keep the blood flowing.”

Wives and children were arriving at the colliery gates.

Red Mac stood on a box to talk to them.

“There’s been a gas leek into levels nine and ten. The mine is being evacuated as quickly as possible.”

“How many are dead?” a woman called out.

“It’s too early to tell.”

“My Larry was on the night shift. He isn’t home. He was level nine.” Another woman began to cry.

“Try to be calm and …”

“Calm.” Someone called out. “It’s not your kin down there.”

“My son is down there.” Red Mac said quietly. 

The crowd became quiet.

More men were brought up from below. Wives pushed through the crowd to greet their husbands, mothers greeted sons. 

Birk breathed deeply. His vision cleared.

“Here drink a bit of this.” Clancy offered him some tea from his lunch pail.

Birk sipped it. “Tis sweet.”

“Mrs. Francis always has sugar for us. A pinch of sugar is cheaper than strong tea she says.”

“Where’s me lunch can.” Birk looked around, patting his pockets at the same time. His mother had baked some little meat pies with the rabbits he had trapped earlier in the week. He’d been looking forward to them for his supper.

“Must a dropped it coming up.”

“How many lost?”

“Don’t know. Dave Dance and Frank stepped off at our level and went down fast. The rest got brought back up. Some of you caught a whiff.”

“The Draeger men here yet?”

“Haven’t seen ‘em. Takes a while for them to suit up.”

Birk stepped away from the wall. He wasn’t feeling as unsteady on his feet. “What can we do, I wonder?”

Three Draeger men came from the Infirmary behind the boiler shed. Walking clumsily in their heavy gear. Each carried his helmet under one arm till they got the cage to go down.

The first time Birk has seen the men in their body suits he wondered how heavy the suits they were. He got a chance to try one on, as did all the miners, to understand what was involved. The body of the suit was heavy canvas, water-proofed and air-tight so anything in the air couldn’t get in. The helmets had been fashioned after deep sea diving gear and would be clamped on with secure seals. On their backs they wore canisters of oxygen to breathe while they rescued downed miners. A single canister would last for about twenty minutes. As one was emptied they could switch to another. The empty canisters would be left to lighten their load as they worked. But the time they had was limited. 

He and Clancy went back the the slope to see what assistance they could give. When the cage came up empty another three of the Draeger team were ready to descend. Clancy darted past them and onto the cage and then off again.

“Here” he thrust Birk’s lunch can at him. “Don’t say as I didn’t do you a favour, b’y.” he laughed.

Birk was recovered enough to get active helping move the men injured in their panic. 

When the cage came up with the first of the downed miners he and Clancy got the victims on stretchers and took them to the infirmary. Some were breathing shallowly. At least one wasn’t breathing at all.

“Don’t seem much point bringing them here.” Dr. Drummond, the mine doctor, shook his head. “Can’t bring them back to life.”

“So what are we supposed to with ’em?” Birk asked. “Leave ’em for the rats?”

“No, no. This is the right place for them. We’ll see that they get sent to the right mortuary. Father McTavish will be here shortly.”

“Reverend Brown is already here.” said one of the doctor’s aides. “He’s taking to some of the wider’s now.”

Birk and Clancy returned to the cage exit with the empty stretcher for the next man.

“Jez it’s Dave Homolka.” Birk said. “Lives up the lane from us. His missus pretty far along.”

“Lodge’ll look after her.” He turned and his dad was there. “Your bother Geo is fine.”

“I was fearful.” Birk said. “Didn’t want get too washed with worry though. We’ve been doin’ what we can.”

“Glad to see you doing fine.” Blackie nodded. “Best go to the gate and let yer Ma know. Seems we get nothing but weddings followed by funerals.”

“You men get a move on.” Red Mac called to them “Blackie you best be keeping an eye on them boilers. Gotta keep the ventilation system working to clear that gas as fast as we can.”

“It’s under control Mac. I have as much right to check on my sons as anyone here does.”

“Yeh well keep in mind no tonnage, no pay.”

“We’ll see about that.” Blackie muttered. 

“Guess you boys’ll have the rest of the day off once they get everyone out.” Red Mac shrugged. “Can’t let anyone down till the inspector comes to give the all clear. Should be ready for work tonight’s shift.”

“How many did we lose?” Father McTavish walked over to them.

“About a dozen I’d say. We’ll know when all the tabs are turned in. You men better turn yours in too.” Red Mac said to them. 

Each of the miners was assigned numbered brass tag about the size of a twenty-five cent piece. He picked it up when he went down into the pits and put it back when he was leaving. They’d know who hadn’t been brought up.

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Khachaturian & Debussy


My introduction to Aram Khachaturian was an MHS lp of his piano concerto. Russian romanic & emotional. I later added, thanks to merge of my collection with my partner’s, his sprawling 4 lp Spartacus ballet suite (some of which was included in the film soundtrack). The ballet suite I now have as an lp to cd transfer that covers 3 cds. The music is interesting enough but without the actual ballet loses a little of it emotional directness.

To round the 3rd cd out I added some of Max Steiner’s music for King Kong (sublime & fun); some orchestral Gershwin; and Penderecki’s music from the Shining. All have movie contexts. Else where I have the entire King Kong music & even without the film it is dramatic & engaging.

More recently I added some new to me Khachaturian to an mp3 collection that includes his Masquerade & Battle of Stalingrad Suites. I’ve been expanding my collection with more by composers of whom I only have one or two big hits by. These addition works are Soviet modernism & are pleasant with some patriotic swelling to body them up.

 Also on this mp3 cd is Claude Debussy’s Complete Orchestral Works as performed conducted Jean Martinon. I had some of these as lps on Philips label. It was an 8 lp series that I began on the east coast but never did complete. I had some these also on MHS & imagine my pleasure at getting the whole set for $9.99 on iTunes. LaMer is the pinnacle of imagist music but everything else is a delight as well. Now historic recordings they are as good sonically as any recently released. 


Judy walked along the viaduct, up and over the bridge. She had walked this way many times in grade school. Life was so much simpler then. No one making life impossible. She couldn’t figure out what she had done to those girls. She had never seen them till that day when they stopped her at lunch to tell her to stay out of their end of the cafeteria, to stay out of their sight.

At the top of the bridge she looked down to the dirty, shallow water that ran underneath. One year after a heavy rain there was a dog stuck on the grill. Dead and bloated. Ugh.

She went to the grade school yard. It was fenced in. Signs said ‘No entry after school hours.’ She pulled the skip rope out of her coat pocket. She remembered when she got it – bright red and yellow – real nylon cord in a twist like a snake. The first few times she used it got dirty and that wouldn’t do. She wanted it clean and perfect.

She skipped with it. Swinging it smooth and easy. If only she could skip back to those years, skip back in time but she couldn’t. She stopped and headed home. She had to make sure dinner was ready. Tonight was her turn. Tomorrow night would be her turn too.

If only she could sneak up on those girls and get this rope around their dirty necks she could give it a tug and kill them before they killed her. They would. She knew that. One of them had a knife. Jabbed at her after school.

‘You’ll be seeing more of this very soon.’ The others two laughed. 

There had been kids around when that happened. They laughed too. No one cared. So she laughed too.

‘What you laughing at bitch.’

She got away as fast as she could then. Better to run and hide than face them. She couldn’t face up to them any way. She couldn’t tell. The last kid who ratted had to leave the school when the kid he told on was let back into the class.

No she’d get them with the rope and fix them. She’d written it all out for her Mom so when it was done  she would understand. It wasn’t her Mom’s fault. No one’s fault.

She stood at the bridge again. One handle of the rope slipped around the steel rail fast and tight. The other fit through a quick slip knot and the loop was big enough for her head. Yes, she’d be free of them once and for all. She stepped on the parapet. Posed a moment and jumped into the air. Fell.

The rope held, knots tightened. A grinding snap.


every Tuesday

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

September or October, Tuesday – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

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Limitless Limitations

As I’ve aged my sense of my physical limitations has increased though I haven’t always attached an age to  to those changes. For example this winter I accepted that those extreme cold alerts  say ‘children & elderly’ I am the elderly they refer to, even if I don’t think of myself that as ancient. As a result I drastically reduced my night time activities. 

I was fine in my many layered dress for the cold in the daytime – but if it was going to take me as long to get bundled up for the cold as I was going spend when I got somewhere I’d think twice if it was worth the effort. Plus most places don’t provide space for all that extra garb.

Night was worse thanks to slippery sidewalks, people didn’t shovel, or salt the black ice in front of their house, on top of city plows that delighted in mountains that made corners impossible to get over. I’d tackle them in daylight but at night I didn’t want to risk a slip & breaking anything. 

So while listening to a recent Disability After Dark in which Andrew Gurza talks with Scott Jones I appreciated their admissions of grief over their limitation. Although I’m sorry I can’t do winter walks after dark I am grateful I don’t have to negotiate their challenges. But as I get older the things that I used to do that were a part of my self-image have changed that self-image. Knee issues mean they can no longer take the stress of dancing so there goes my dream of So You Think You Can Dance. Issues with my back mean I can’t physically manhandle Andrew, as much as I would like to. 

The episode pushed me to think of how easy it is to discount our actual limitations in the face of what we want to do & then berate & take fault with ourselves. Things change & as they do I move better with those changes as part of progress not as an erosion of the good way things used to be. Dancing with the right man in bed has proved to be more satisfying than dancing in any club.


The Mystery

A man on his knees

on a downtown sidewalk

just out of the way

yet where he could be seen


mutters words of supplication

eyes open

looks out from himself

into the world around him


on the next street three women

on their knees pray

people in restaurants

slide to their knees

poets in coffee shops

after getting their double double


whisper prayers

in different words

in different languages

call to different entities


they are unafraid

of being seen as ones

who are willing to pray

when the feeling comes upon them

pulling over cars to get out

kneeling in buses

in movie theatres

with pop corn and soft drinks

balanced in their hands

reaching out for a moment

feeling the touch of something

sharing the touch of something


those that can’t pray turn away

as if seeing something

that should be done only in private

so as not to remind them

that some people have faith

those that pray often don’t know

what they have faith in


they feel the tickle of it in their blood

savour the taste of it

as they utter sweet words 

once they stand

some don’t recall the moment of prayer


they know that even if the pause

can’t change the world

can’t end war in our time

for the moment of prayer

they can be changed

in the chaos

in the peace

in the lives around them

and that’s the mystery

every Tuesday

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

September or October, Tuesday – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

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