Sydney Academy 3

When I was in Sydney recently my sister asked what did I do to ‘hang out’? At the Academy I was fairly active in some of the ‘clubs.’ One was the Junior Red Cross that devoted its energy to raising money – I guess the money went to the Red Cross. One year we sold ballpoint pens with, I think, Sydney Academy & the school logo printed on them. I remember this because I the group bought them from a company my father’s business used for similar office stuff.

If the order was large enough the company threw in an extra bonus: a coffee percolator one year, a wrist watch the next. We also sold raffle tickets for those bonus items. One year there was regional Jr. Red Cross conference held at Riverview (I think). There was a dinner& dance. 

I also joined the Chess Club, even though I wasn’t all that good at it. I barely remember anyone in it. The same for a short-lived ‘Record Club’ where we brought our favourite lps & played a couple of tracks & talked about why we liked them. My selection ‘The King & I’ wasn’t deemed serious enough. The teacher behind the group wanted to hear serious music not pop, show tunes or jazz. The club didn’t last.

My biggest involvement was badminton. We had the gym every Saturday & played round-robin. Singles, mens doubles, girls doubles & mixed doubles. I was a fairly accomplished player & did win a few trophies. There was also competition with other schools.

The best part of this became music! We were allowed to play records, usually 45s, while the play was going on. I quickly gravitated to this & became a sort of dj as mt pop music interest increased. Popular stuff was the Lovin’ Spoonful, The Beatles, Dave Clarke 5. I recall playing The Gates of Eden, which was the flip side of Like A Rolling Stone & being asked to play less serious stuff. When the Monkee’s I’m Not Your Stepping Stone was first played everyone went nuts for it & we had to play it over & over again.

I was pretty serious about badminton though. A bunch of us also played at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, (now home of HAT) which had a couple of courts in its semi-basement auditorium. The space was also used by the Rotary Club for rehearsals & set building. It was great as we got to practice without the rest of the school around us. I was quite taken by one of the other guys who played. He was hairy & sometimes sported a beard until someone at the school would tell him it was time to shave.

The one non-school organization I became involved with was DeMolay, but that’s another post 🙂

The Whitney Pier Museum


is dedicated to the industry of the area

steel workers miners

displays about the various ethic groups

that created the community

Jewish Black Ukrainian

old high-school year books

pictures of teams hockey basketballs

rows of mothers knitting for the war

soldiers returning 

those lost

churches that have come gone

business that survived then faded

as economies rose and dipped

the first black owned store in the city


families in fields picnics outings

Christmas parties in church auditoriums

faces turned to cameras

leaden in front of raging blast furnaces

or smeared with cold dust at a mine entrance

men in groups workers comrades

sometimes everyone named

who’s your father 

takes on a tree of discovery


I sift through these

wonder about the real lives of these men

wonder where is my queer history

I’m assume each of them

had a wife and kids somewhere

they sweated and worked for that classic dream

a house a garden 


no way to find out if any of them

sought out something in each other

no mention that 

this is Jack and John 

who lived happily together 

in this house on Lingan Road

everyone knew but no one cared


I’m happy to know the lives

of famed homos of the past

Radcliff Hall Alan Ginsburg

the list gets longer 

as we allow history to reveal

what some historians once thought 

too sordid to bring to light

the sex lives of heteros are fine fodder mind you


I look at these photos and wonder

what truths are hidden 


no display of the same-sex inclined

it is as if only the famed were queers in history

no ordinary folks

in these little local museums 

of the closeted

every Tuesday 2019


Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors


Stratford Festival – The Crucible


The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C. 

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

Funeral Photos for #NaNoWriMo 16.11


I passed 75K on November 24 and decided to give myself a break, at least for a few days to let my fingers rest 🙂 I pushed, in the last burst, to get the main plot wrapped up. I’ve known how this would end when I started – a face off against a backdrop of carnival rides, calliope music, a raging thunder & lightening storm. Melodramatic enough?snowlamp03


To get there I wrote the actual ending – what happens after the climax. It certainly informed that climax with twists that I hadn’t anticipated. I did a mini-outline for the specific actions that had to happen in the climax – the big reveal of the killer & the motivation behind it all.

snowlamp02I’m not sure how much of the wrap up is a part of Picture Perfect and how much of it is actually the start of my hero’s next adventure but I can worry about that in rewrites. With the three NaNo’s focused on this novel I have over 180K words of rough draft to refine 🙂

This is a continuation of the sample I posted Saturday. When I lived in Sydney I saw open casket funeral pictures. If some of you are thinking – there’s no gay men in Sydney Nova Scotia! Think again. I’ve checked sites like Squirt, Bear 411 and there are quite a few.


“How are we getting on up here.” Stan said. “You’ve been very quiet.”

“Yes it’s been productive. Turns out my sister went to Riverview.”

“And not Glace Bay. That would have been closer.”

“Do you have much here from the Happy Hippo Carnival?”

“Some of their posters like the one on the wall here. There’s also some of their popcorn boxes. even a few of the prizes. Their new museum in Moncton has the best stuff. It is amazing.”

“Yes I’ve been there.” He put his tablet into his shoulder bag. “But this has a better feel. Less like a theme park …”

“And more like place people like to park?”

“I don’t think I’d put it that way. A place that invites you to take you’re time and explore.”

‘That’s what I said? Or don’t you take you’re time when you go parking?”

“Enough with the flirting Stan. It’s bordering on harassment.”

“Sorry. The mating pool is rather limited here you know. Before you go I do have something you’ll be interested in.”

There were several people in the main part of the museum. One couple was taking pictures of the old kitchen appliances. Another was studying the information on the first African church.

“Actually Jeannie thought you’d like to see these.”

Dan recognized the photo album covers as the one’s his Dad sold exclusively. They were wedding or baptismal photos.

The first one was an album of funeral pictures. A black family standing beside the open coffin, of people touching the hand of the deceased, the flowers, the carrying of the coffin to the hearse.

“I’ve never seen anything like this.” Dan said.

“It wasn’t that unusual in the black community here.” Stan said. “They would give copies of some of the pictures to the pall bearers as a way of thanking them.”

“It’s just creepy.” Dan reached for the next album.

“Not more of the same?”

“Oh no.” Jeannie said. “Though we have inherited a few more like that one. One is of a baby’s funeral. Very sad. I’m not sure what to do with except preserve as best as we can. Like I can’t see us doing an exhibition of them.”

“Funerary Photography and Other Expressions of Grief.” Dan said. “You must have some hair wreathes. My grandmother has two. Kept them in the living room.”

“If you ever need job.” Stan said.

The next album was a set of wedding pictures. In one the bride was standing by herself beside a painting of a sea storm.

“That can’t be a good omen.” Dan said.

The set covered the wedding from the bride getting out of the car. the walk up the aisle, slipping the ring on in extreme close-up. Bride’s hands were typical, the groom’s needed to be washed.

“Is that oil?” Dan asked. “He couldn’t have come to the wedding with dirty hands.”

“Of course!” Jeannie said. “I’ve always wondered about why they were so dirty. I never thought of oil.”

“Professional hazard.” Dan quickly looked through the rest of the pictures. “The storm picture must have been an omen after all as there are no other glimpse of the groom other than his hands.” He laughed “Some of the pictures had been cropped to remove the offending groom then resized to maintain uniformity.”

“I’ve never noticed that before either.” Jeannie said.

“No one has ever said that in fact.”

“They usually ask about the wedding dress?”

“You have e.s.p?” Jeannie said.

“I’m the picture whisperer.” Dan said. “It’s part of my training.”

“No!” she said. “There’s no such thing.”

“There is.” Stan said. “It’s no secret, is it?”

“I’m a certified forensic document examiner who specializes in photographs. I can tell you, pretty much, what exact cameras took what pictures. These …” he tapped the albums, “would be easy and I did work with my dad on weddings. But I could tell you, say, if pictures were taken with a 1950’s Brownie or a Duaflex.”

“You should have your own TV show like the Antiques Road show.” Jeannie said.

“He sort of does.” Stan said. “He’s with the Cold Canada show that’s investigating cases here in the Nova Scotia.”

“Cool. Gotta to work.” she said as a family came came. “Whose yer fadder?” she walked over to them.

“He is!” one of the children pointed to the adult behind him.

“Thanks for everything.” He shook Stan’s hand.

“If there’s anything else I can help you with …”

“There is one thing,” He pulled his hand out of Stan’s then walked to the front exit. “I’d really like a good feed of cod cakes. Yeah I know cod is not fished anymore but even decent fish cakes would do.”

Stan opened the door for Dan. “There is one place.”

They stepped out into the sunlight. It took Dan’s eyes a few minutes to adjust to the bright light as they walked to his car.

“One place?”

“Not on the tourist maps.”

Dan opened the driver’s door to let the heat out of the car.“Yes? Do I have to guess?”

“I’ll write the address down for you.” He took a business card out of his wallet and write on the back of it and handed it to Dan.

“412 Peter’s Avenue?” Dan read it aloud. “Is it a … oh, fuck am I thick or what … you’re asking me for dinner at your place!”

“Is this meeting cute or what?” Stan blushed.

The light caught his face and Dan recognized something in it. “Your Dad was on the team that won the regional soccer championship in 1986.”

“Uncle. Not Dad. How …”

“The yearbook.”

“That’s amazing. You saw a family resemblance. You must have e.s.p.”

“You’re not the first person who told me that. I still can’t tell you the lottery numbers, now that would be useful. Six o’clock?”

“Make it 7. I’m finished here at 5:30. I usually go to the gym after work but I’ll skip tonight. That’s my cell number. Call me if you get lost.”

“Here’s mine.” He handed his card to Stan. “Call me if you get home early.”

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Cape Breton church

Cheer Leaders for #NaNoWriMo 16.10

nano16picThis sample comes from November 6 and 7. Dan displays some of his photo analysis method so we learn more about it. He’s making discoveries about his family that are in fact seeds for his next adventure. In fact much of the family mystery will not be solved in Picture Perfect. In fact there are few major plot seeds for future ‘books’ in this series.26-lamp2

I did some instant research to confirm my memories of high-schools outside of Sydney. This bussing from small towns to bigger ones to a centralize school was common.

“We usually don’t light the upstairs unless someone wants to see it. We don’t get too many requests for the year books.”

“Motion sensors would do that job.”

“Money would do that job.” He strode to the end of the room and pulled open the curtains to let sunlight into the room. “To answer your other question – top but versatile for the right man. You?”

“Easy for the right man.”


“Let’s just say between engagements. Are you east coast guys usually this forward?”

“Not usually. I’ll back off if you aren’t interested.”

“How could tell I was gay?”

“When I saw the first article about Cold Canada coming to the east coast it was pretty simple to check out your background. It certainly isn’t a state secret is it?”

“I guess not.”

“You did do some ground breaking gay rights work when you were in the RCMP. It made me see that being queer didn’t mean being a queen at the same time. It made a big difference.”

“Thanks Stan. I guess I lack an awareness of that legal tangle as having any sort of emotional impact on anyone but myself. Now about those year books.”

“They are loosely organized in these cabinets according to location, school, year. What we really need is someone to catalogue them. I keep begging for someone out of library sciences to do an internship with us. Any place in particular?”

A shout from Jeannie came up the stairs. “Mrs. Chargill is here.”

“Board of Directors.” Stan said. “You’d think I was spending their money on myself. Let me know when you are done here.” He left Dan.

Dan opens the file cabinet that held the New Waterford years books. There were none of the years he was looking for. He wanted to see his sister’s entries and maybe see if either of the Kevin’s she was dating were class-mates.

He pulled up the two photos on his tablet. Undistinguished handsome boys. On the back wall were rows of framed photos of sports teams. Baseball, curling, basketball, soccer, even some of boxing clubs. The coast guard college rowing team. Some he recognized as probably his father’s work from the lighting and his farther’s method of not arraigning by height. He liked the random rather than the deliberate. It made his team pictures seem more relaxed.

In the back row of a Riverview basketball team  for 1985 he recognized one of the Kevin’s. He took a photo of it, isolated the face and compared it to the one’s he had. Yes it was pretty much a match. He went back to the filing cabinets and found the Riverview year book for that year and flipped through it.

There was his sister in one of the first page. The cheer leading squad leaping into the air with pompoms over their heads and skirts flaring to reveal a peek of panties. Under the photo it said – “Riverview students jump into a another year of championships and bright futures.” There were the names of the girls underneath.

Trust Linda to get front page. He flipped through the pages of graduate head shots. Kevin Epstein – “most likely to follow in his Dad’s shoes to become a dentist.”

Another head shot on the page caught his eye. ‘Bazyli Reyman” The face was very familiar. A younger version of someone he had met in the past month. “mostly likely to lead Canada to the World Cup.” He photographed it, sent the image to his tablet and fed it into the aging program. As the boy aged he became less familiar.

His cell phone beeped. It echoed in the room. The called was Baxter. (Go back & do away with the use of Cyr – too gimmicky for prolonged use. He encourages people to call him Baxter.)

“Where are you?” Baxter demanded. “No. Don’t answer that.”

Dan held his phone away from his ear and turned down the speaker volume.

“Location tells me you are In Sydney, Nova Scotia when you are supposed to be here in Toronto, Ontario. Here in the Quintex Productions board room number three for an important production meeting.”

“Production meeting? What happened to the hiatus?”

“That was from location shoot, only. We’ve held production meetings every Friday. No one said they were suspended.”

“I’ll heading back Monday.” Dan said.

“When we have important creative issues to discuss.”

“Such as?”

“The initial cut of the opening and closing credits for one thing. We have a very rough cut of the first episode as well.”


“You thought all I was doing was hanging around those motel rooms waiting them to blow up? I’ve been working with the editors from the very first week getting things into shape. We have to have something to show Quintex beside the raw interview footage.”

“Okay Okay I get that. I still won’t be back until Monday.”

“Flight number please?” Baxter said.

“Baxter I’m doing research here. I don’t have all right in front me.”

“I see. Asst prod is booking your flight as we speak. One moment, please …. Flight 519 leaving Sydney airport at 2 pm. Arrive Halifax at 3:05. Fight 998 departing Halifax at 4 pm. Arrive Toronto 6 pm. I’ll have someone meet you at the airport.”

“That won’t be necessary. I’ll have … Jeremy Moxham pick me up.”

“I’m sure you will. I hope your research has something to do with these cases. You are still on our payroll you know.”

“I’ve been looking into the Happy Hippo shows.”

He took a photo of a Happy Hippo poster that was on one of the walls and sent it Baxter.

“You know how kids love circuses. You never wanted to run away and join the circus?”

“I was more interested in selling Mary Kay. If I’m going to deal with clown make up it has to be more refined.”

“Good bye Baxter.”

He got up from the table, stretched his arms and neck. The window behind him overlook the back of the museum and some of the former steel plant grounds.

So his sister had gone to Riverview in Coxheath. Did she bus there? That was their first year in Toronto. As he remembered it he and his Dad were in Toronto for a few months before his mother arrived. She and his sister had stayed to close up the house. Mother joined them by Thanksgiving. Sister stayed to finish her last year of high-school. Did the family still own the house in New Waterford? He didn’t recall any mention of it being sold. It must have been because it wasn’t in the his father’s estate. Or did his mother own it?


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“Whose yer father?” #NaNoWriMo 16.09


This sample is from November 6. I finally get Dan to my home town, Sydney. I’ve never stayed at hotel there but the view is correct 🙂 I have no name yet for the second hand book store owner. ‘Exiter’ is brand name for Dan’s carry-on. There is a Whitney Pier Museum which does have old high school years but not as organized as I present.

One of the thriller tropes I wanted to play with is the hero that women find irresistible. Is there a female who doesn’t throw themselves at James Bond? So here my hero Dan gets this treatment from Stan. Do they click? Find out in Saturday’s sample 🙂22-keyboard

The next day proved be clear and warm. Dan looked out over the harbour from his hotel room. There were some sail boats moving slowly with sea gulls swooping around their masts. Across the harbour he could make out Coxheath. On the boardwalk beneath his window he watched a pair of joggers dodging people, women pushing baby carriages, tourists taking selfies maneuvering to get the sail boats in the background.

Other than the signed and numbered prints of heather over his bed, the room was corporate hotel. They could have at least tied some tartan ribbon around the lamps. The coffee was passable but the packaged creamer was not. He dumped it down the bathtub drain.

The room service menu did offer cod cakes. Would they be like those fish fingers his mother used to fry up. He could taste the orange crust on them. Did they make those anymore. There had to be a Sobey’s to try.

After a quick shower he bundled his dirty clothes and took them with him down to the lobby. At the front desk he handed them over to be laundered, not dry cleaned. All of them smelled of smoke from the fire. Dry cleaning would not take that scent out. The clothes in his Exiter were tolerable.

As boy he hadn’t spent too much time in Sydney. Usually he accompanied his father to pick up photographic supplies. Then he yearned for it as a big city though. As he walked the downtown core he saw that it more a big town than a big city. The entire population of the Sydney could fit into the Eaton’s Centre at one time, with room to spare. There were probably more people living in Toronto’s St Jamestown than lived on the whole of Cape Breton island.

Not as deliberately quaint as the popular tourist spots like Baddeck, the city seemed caught between a decaying past and what? The new buildings he saw lacked anything beyond functionality.

The owner second hand book store suggested he check out the Whitney Pier Museum while he was in town. It was a short drive that passed through where the steel plant one was. He was shocked to see hardly a trace of the towering chimneys that would spew blast furnace dust over the city. That dust was the prime reason they didn’t live in Sydney.

The Museum was in a converted Synagogue. As he walked in a young woman greeted him.

“Whose yer father?” she asked.

“Richard James.” He answered laughing. “I’ve been  on the east coast for over a month and that’s the first time anyone has asked me that.”

“You sound a little disappointed.” she said.

“I guess I am. I half-expected the concierge at the hotel to ask me that or ‘did’ja eat yet?’”

The girl laughed. “You accent is spot on. Richard James? The name is familiar. Don’t tell me …”

“Need a hint?” He tapped his camera.

“Mother of God!” she exclaimed. “The photographer! Man he took pictures of nearly every school kid on the island for years.”

“The one and the same.”

“And those amazing calendars. We have a near full set you know. We’d love to get permission to reprint them. Do you know who owns the rights to them?”

“Hold on I’m just here to look around not do business.”

“Oh right. It’s just that … Stan …” she shouted over her shoulder. “Come out here.”

“I’ll be here for a couple of days.” He said.

A muscular man about 5’5 strode out of the office behind her counter. His shirt and jeans were clearly tailored to show him off to his best advantage. But what sort of advantage did he expect to have here?

“Yes Jeannie.”

“It’s … I forgot to ask your name … he’s Richard James’ son … the calendar guy.”

“Cool.” he shook Dan’s hand.

“Daniel James.”

The man’s hand was solid, firm without exerting pressure. He put his other hand over Dan’s as they shook.

“I am pleased to meet you. Don’t mind Jeannie. She’s been doing a research project on the changing views of our island as seen via the tourist lens, or something like that.”

“The filtered dialectic of the past as posited by the lens to create a distance between reality and idealization?” Dan asked her.

“Mother of God, you said it better than I ever could.”

“You can stop with the localisms Jeannie.” Stan said.

“Hard habit to break. It’s part of the training to give visitors a sense of what has been lost.” Jeannie explained. “Who’s yer fadder” Is one of those expressions that had nearly disappeared. I tell what generation a visitor is from by the way they react to that question.”

“Now days they ask what’s your handle.” Stan said. “Or what are you into.”

“Into?” Dan asked. Was this man flirting with him? “As is top or bottom?”

“Exactly?” Stan said.

“Now you’ve lost me.” Jeannie said.

“Doesn’t matter. I’ve been reading about you in the Post.”

“Me? I haven’t looked at any news for weeks.”

“Not exactly you, but the motel explosion outside of St. Peter’s.”

“You were there?” Jeannie said.

“That’s right and now I’m here.”

“I think he wants to change the subject Jeannie. Are you here at the Museum just to look or to look for something in specific.”

“Owner of book store said you had a collection of high-school year books?”

“That we do.”

“It’s on the second floor. I’ll take …”

“That’s alright Jeannie. I’ll show Mr. James around. You can hold the fort down here.”

“But …”

“I won’t be keeping you form anything?” Dan said. “I’m sure I can manage on my own.”

“Fund raising report can wait.” Stan gestured to the entrance. “Stairs are just to the right.”

The top of the stairs was unlit. Stan leaned across Dan to turn on the light.


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