Cape Breton Day 8

After all the walking (nearly 10k) I did Thursday I opted not to hike about as much today & took advantage of my sister’s offer for lift up to St. Theresa’s in the morning for the recovery meeting there. Seeing familiar faces after a few meetings now. One is a man who was part of the neighbourhood gang that used to bully me. 

After the meeting he took a few private moments to make an amend. I remembering the bullying I don’t remember the bullies. He told that one of things, for him, was that he was jealous of the family I had. I replied, to the affect, that it was too bad we grew up in a culture where proving our manhood was done with violence to others but we both survived. 

In the afternoon my sister, my niece & I took in the Charlotte Street Fair. Charlotte was the shopping mecca of the region at one time, now it is empty shops & tourist trinket traps. Merchants with booths, some restaurants, a row of food trucks, some entertainment. My niece told me that nearly all the merchants were flea marker regulars, not Charlotte St retailers. I’m not interested in Keltic brass crosses, rings, pendants etc handmade in who know where. It was, to be kind, underwhelming.


We did have a decent lunch at Luoanne’s Cafe. Decent coffee & okay menu. We did one last tour of the street. Next stop, after dropping the niece off, was the Mayflower Mall which has a great store ‘Island Fashions’ in the midst of Foot Lockers, Pendingtons, David’s Teas & other standard mall chains. This is where I spend the most at once & got a great sweat suit, a zipped hoodie & a subtle (for me) tee-shirt.



Back to the hotel to really relax, shower off my clown-white sunscreen, get my blog work done and get to bed by 10 pm for a change. Tomorrow adventures in North Sydney 🙂

Home (not of the brave)

For the summer I’m looking at my Brown Betty chapbook. All the pieces dealt with growing up in Cape Breton. As usual WordPress plays havoc with line breaks 😦

Home (not of the brave)

he lived across the street from us 

mornings I’d peek from the front door 

till he had left for school
then I’d sneak along the maple trees 

make my way down the hill to class


most days I’d avoid him 

his gang 

sometimes I couldn’t

and would come home 

with a bloodied nose bruises 

that disappointed my dad
who didn’t understand
why I couldn’t stand up for myself


after school 

when I was in sight of home 

I’d run like hell to the front door 

where I’d be safe but not secure 

I grew up & spent many years as adult thinking I was a coward. No matter how many people tell me I’m so brave with what I write, in how I present myself – I still thought of myself as a coward. I have another piece about how uneasy I can feel walking past a group of teens because of my memories of being bullied, taunted as a teen by groups of teens. 

Looking back I see the cultural context that I didn’t fully understand: men prove their worth with their fists – simple as that violence = masculinity. I was never very competitive so I also got caught in winner = masculinity. Queers were already labeled as inferior so there were all these contracts in my head that I didn’t even recognized. I felt shame because I wasn’t able, or even willing, to conform to those behaviours that would make me a full fledged boy, man. Like Pinocchio I wanted to be a real boy. 

Part of this shame came from feeling that I didn’t live up to my Dad’s expectations of my masculinity. Expectations that’ like my own, came from not questioning the cultural coding of masculinity. The incidents in this pieces are true. When we moved to the Ashby in Sydney there was a Catholic family across & down the street from us of loud boys, a drunken Dad, an older sister with a reputation. One of the boys was about my age. He smoked, was a tough, had been in trouble with authorities, had a gang of three or four other buys he hung with & got into trouble with – stealing things from cars etc.


I quickly became one of their targets for bully bating, name calling & some physical confrontations. One this picks don my much younger bother hoping it would get me to defend him – how could I protect him hen I couldn’t even defend myself? My dad though I should learn judo at the local Y. There was a clear sense I was a disappointment to him for not being as manly as the juvenile delinquents across the street. 

I wanted to be a real boy but never succeeded.

previous Brown Betty posts:

Man With A Past 1

When I Was A Young Boy

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? 

There Was The Word

Specific first words escape me but I recognized the power of certain words in my early teens. Swear words – fuck, cock, tits and cunt; as well as the insulting words: fairy, gearbox, tramp, fruit. I can recall my sense of pride at being able to say these swear words with my friends for the first time but also knew the fear of having my folks, or any adults, know I knew or even said these words. I knew automatically that I couldn’t use them at home or even make oblique reference to the knowledge they intimated: sex. I knew the words long before I knew the actions.

newsNOW! style on ice

The insulting label words told me who I was and how people felt about people like me. This was a shame I knew was deeper than swearing, one that I had to hide yet one my peers recognized even if I wasn’t willing to admit to it.

gate composition in red yellow blue

One memory from high-school: I had watched a pop group on Ed Sullivan and talked my mom to making me a shirt similar to one the drummer had worn. Solid color with a patterned fabric on the cuffs and collar. Our TV was black and white so the colors we ended up with were solid blue with a red, yellow & blue paisley for the trim. I was so pleased with that shirt and wore it school as soon as it was ready. It got a few glances during the first two periods and by then I had sort of become used to it. I was changing rooms between periods when some guys began to mock me with those powerful labels: ‘You fruit’ ‘Only a fairy would wear something like’ that and so on. My inner physical reaction was fear, of not wanting others to hear these guys mocking me. My outer reaction was to be indifferent, to just get to my next class. I continued to wear the shirt occasionally, as often as I wore any other shirt, but that first wearing had completed the job of labelling me. Not that I cared about fitting in but those labels pushed me further into acceptance of my basic differentness. It gave me something to think about as I withdrew deeper into my own world. Those names pushed me to write, to paint, to express things in a less public way that I couldn’t communicate to anyone.

mural trippy obscured by trees

Another word that I caught was ‘psychedelic.’ It represented a life of color, music, experience, clothing that was worlds away from where I was trapped. The image of that trippy world kept me brave through years of taunts. I see now the power of those words to bully, to impress, to hide and know they don’t have that power in my life today. As a writer they taught me to the secret power of language, showed me that how you say something will change the content of what you say, that the same things can be said in ways that are comforting or confronting or insulting or so on till you have a whole book. When I look back at these memories it’s a miracle I survived as intact as I am. I also know there were no words that could have spared me that past but how it speaks to me and how I speak of it today frees me and sometimes frees others too.



Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy more music – sweet,eh?


Nuncle John

‘by the quivering tits

of the unfucked mother of je-sus’

I’ll never forget Nuncle John

he was a friend of my Dad’s

not an uncle

so we called him Nuncle

but no nun he

he would remind us kids

‘not by the quivering

all-smooth nut-sack

of the unsucked dick of K-rist’

I could never tell if people

were more shocked

than amused by Nuncle John

when he’d launch into a stream of cursing

he would often be muttering

‘fucking fairy’

‘useless bitch’

‘dumb cunt’

‘call that driving you fart fucker’

when he drove

glaring at other drivers

‘you using that stick shift on your pussy lady’

my mother would leave the room

the house

if he was coming over

his wife Mildred

would look simpering and apologetic

when Nuncle John

got caught up in a tirade

usually about ‘the stunned cunt Leafs’

or some ‘asshole licking mayor’

he swore without thought

it rolled off his tongue

as easily as good morning

ask him how he was doing

he’d reply ‘better than a hand job’

not that I knew, as a kid,

what half the stuff meant

but it lead me on my own voyage of discovery

‘there’s no such thing

as useless cock sucker’

he once said

‘if you’re horny enough’

I did figure out

the mother of christ

and the virgin birth

the immaculate conception

that complex vulgar blasphemy

it was a useless bit of knowledge

but his lesson on the use of cocksuckers

has proved it self to be very true

so even if he was ‘a pussy munching

unwiped asshole of a jerk off’

he did lead me to

more than few colorful turns of phrase

bulge I wanna wrestle with this

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love to show him I wasn’t useless