Cape Breton Pride

Just over fifty years ago, on May 14, 1969, bill C-150 amend the Criminal Code to decriminalized homosexuality in Canada. Before then same-sex sexual activities between consenting adults were considered crimes punishable by imprisonment. Re-read that.  Not only did I grow up in the 60’s with ‘imprisonment’ looming over me but also a culture in which ordinary citizen could take the law into their own hands & assault queers & get away with it. 

When I attended the Living Library during Pride Week (!) in Cape Breton I was happy to hear about high-school clubs to support lgbtq+ student. Things have certainly changed since 1969 – even then such an idea would never have happened. 

Driving in from the airport with my sister I saw rainbow flags everywhere, though much the sight of them here in Toronto, the show of support is probably more commercial than anything. A rainbow decal in your store window can’t hurt business. The event has grown considerably over the decades. I recall a pride parade down Charlotte St in the early 2000’s during one of my sporadic visits home. It was over in less than half-an-hour. Local TV personality Bette MacDonald was the parade Marshal waving from her convertible. Some baton twirling, a few cars with handmade Pride posters. It ended, I think, in what is now Luisa Gardens, at the end (or is that the start?) of Amelia Street.

This year the week started with a flag raising on August in front of the City Hall followed by a week of events. The parade was the next afternoon ending at the Open Hearth Park. I caught the tail-end of it at the Park. It was too blisteringly sunny for me to stand around watching. Much like Toronto’s Pride there were tables of handcraft rainbow merchandise & a stage with a DJ & a gaggle of drag performers eager to entertain.

The thought of a drag queen in Cape Breton at one time was tantamount to a severe beating. So this was a sign of real growth in the community that goes beyond lip-service compliance with human rights issues. The one event I had an opportunity to take in was the Living Library https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3G7. 

It was comforting to know that any same-sex sexual activities between consenting adults I might have had was no longer a crime but merely me being a slut 🙂

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

every Tuesday 2019

September

17 – Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

22 – Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

24 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

October

15 – Stratford Festival – The Crucible

November

7 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

December

The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

January

23 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

March

March 5 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

April

April 3 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Season 6 finales Buddies andBbad Times Theatre

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

The Past Catches Up

The Past Catches Up

1

 I am from the rusted rain
seeded by steel plant smoke
black pearl grit that fell 

in layers of grey white grey white 

 

when the coke oven exhaust
would blast into the summer air
its thick rank billows
we kids would watch the wind
if it blew in our direction
clothes would be brought in off the line 

or else rewashed and hung another day 

the fine particle dust
would settle on car roofs
still hot enough to fuse with the paint 

white would gradually turn black
then red as grit rusted 

 

no teacher at recess said 

you kids better get inside 

stop breathing it in
we kids never felt
those particles settle 

in our hair 

on tongues 

into our lungs
it was a slightly annoying consequence 

of the industry
that put food on the table

 

food our mothers cooked
while the blast furnace
spewed the air
to pepper the food we ate
at night we’d breathe it into our dreams 

2 

all these years later
I wake from that east coast dream 

coughing
I wonder if this is the price
I still pay for growing up
where paying the rent 

and feeding the kids 

was worth the cold damp steel poison price 

where the spew of commerce
was considered a viable trade off 

for life expectancy

 

a time when they may not 

have known better 

surely there are no buried studies
that showed the ravages
of this blast furnace debris
on the lungs of those who breathed it in 

ate it in the food
drank it in our water 

 

when I cough for no reason
in dry air damp air fresh air
short of breath 

from drowning in iron smoke 

I taste that pollution pulsation
I still call home


This is the last piece in the chapbook and it echos the ‘I am’ from first piece. The incidents are real – bringing the wash is or rewashing it or timing the hanging to avoid the blast furnace dusts. My father didn’t realize how corrosive this dust was until we were washing the car one day and the fused particles were impossible to clean off the roof of the car. The grit used because of its iron content.

Not mentioned here is that in the areas immediate to the still plant families were forced to move because the soil had become poisoned with arsenic & other steel plant effluvia. This poisoning was know & denied by the powers that be. Those homes were abandoned with some compensation. The incidence of cancers, lung infections & birth deformities that radiate out from that area became too significant to ignore.

There was no real concern for decades about how the chemicals from this industry affected people’s health. By the time the steel plant closed areas of it were considered the most polluted in North America. Perfect place for your kids to play, now that the land has been capped in the tar ponds reclamation project.

Although my home wasn’t that close, my school was, my job was, so I did experience some of the damage which results in my slightly dry cough. There is no compensation for that, nor was the compensation to those people who had to move enough to make up for the family members lost to the poison of making a living.

previous Brown Betty posts:

Man With A Past 1 https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3B3

When I Was A Young Boy  https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3By

Home (not of the brave) https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3Cg

Nailed https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3D9

Unmasked https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3EE

The Colliery https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3HG


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Cape Breton Day 6

I like to alternate pure tourist days with almost local days. Today I had one almost local plan – to take in the Pride CB Living Library at the McConnell Library. An early phone call confirmed supper with an old friend, so now I had two plans on an unplanned day 🙂 The Travelodge is close enough for me to me willing to walk to the downtown. The sun wasn’t as relentless as it has been. So the walk took about thirty minutes, with photo & text stops.

The main drag is now in tatters – empty stores, some of which were posh now are dusty vacant remain Lots I did stop in at a couple & picked up some books, trinkets & to ask about obscure east coast music. Stopped for lunch at Flavor – which wouldn’t be out of place one the Danforth. Decent coffee, good service & excellent bacon & eggs with an exceptional in-house sour dough bread. Stopped in at Heritage Museum but nothing much there but it has taken over the superb old Bank of Montreal building.

Hit another souvenir shop for more trinkets. A coffee shop & finally the McConnell. Four members of the lgbt etc community shared some of their coming out – it was like an AA talk without the alcohol. They each brought in focus very different aspects of the queer experience: pan, intersex, non binary, cis, not cis, lesbian experience. Sometime funny, sometimes sad, always real. 

All of them had some sort of community to come out into & found support for their process. I did remind them that as someone who lived in CB the 60s/70s they had a very different experience. Too bad there wasn’t any of the older generation available for the panel to give it a more complete historical context.

Walked back to the hotel, relaxed a bit, showered & out for that dinner with an old friend. Too much food, too stuffy an apartment, but at least she was within walking distance. I find that’s one of the good things about opting for a hotel this visit – I have seen parts of this city that I have never seen before.

Here’s a brand new piece I wrote at Flavor.

Morning Moment

the old home town

not in ruins

yet –

tatters

remodelled for the tourist trade

some shops only open

when the liners are in

cruise ships

with so many passengers

the population is doubled

for a couple of hours

 

I grew up here

before the liners

made this a port of call

escaped when I was young enough

to enjoy my freedom

now old enough

to know

I escaped with my life

I felt then I was in a prison

but didn’t understand

I was under a death sentence

 

the old home town

familiar 

storefronts of abandoned shops

schools burned down

washed away

dead friends

nostalgia not memory

brings me back

 

I don’t want to revisit

as much as reframe

to make new moments

to be what I wasn’t 

once upon a time

maybe to be

what I am not even today

 

so what do I say

to a message

‘dick this morning?’

will I be 

some old guy in a past self

who was a prisoner of shame

or do I let myself

become a man

who takes this moment

to exchange blow jobs

before eight in the morning