"Still deviant after all these years" - Bruce McDonald

I guess I am finally ready to write more about my buddy Bruce, a buddy of many in the blogging world.  Its amazing that he had made such deep connections with people never physically met, yet he did know so many of you.

Some of the things about Bruce we should know, he wore blue jeans only, loved boots and last night at the celebration of his life here in Toronto and via Skype in Vancouver, I was asked what Bruce's interests in boots were.  Its just not something you can explain to straight folks.   Your secret is safe with me Bruce.  Just wish I was telling you directly that I was asked.

Bruce also wore his hair long in some kind of attempt to appear different, or likely defiant to the norm.  It was also a part of him that came out of his wild youth in Revelstoke BC.  He was a renegade for years.  Then of course having long hair in south eastern BC is still not uncommon for men.  It must be the pot they smoke.

When I first met him in person, Bruce had long hair, living in his very unique ground floor apartment on Queen St East.  It looked to have been a storefront business in the past.  There was a tiny fenced backyard.  Two or three gigantic trees. The yard was a place for the cat and smoking on warm days.  We hit it off right away.  We were small town boys from BC living at the "Centre of The Universe." We spent hours talking about places we lived, the people we knew, and oddly, or perhaps not, the number of times we were in the same town on the same day, knew some of the same people, enjoyed many a drink in the same bars, yet our world never connected until we both landed in Toronto.

Of course Bruce was much older than me.  He was two months, two days older in fact.  A fact I never let him forget.  He often called himself Ricky's babysitter.  I wish it were true though it really was the other way around.  Bruce liked to do things, but not to actually get up and go do them.  He had to be dragged and I was becoming successful in that.

Bruce came to our farm for a gathering of gay men on Thanksgiving.  He had a great time, it reminded him of  his days in Revelstoke, no power, no running water except the creek that ran under the cabin, on a steep mountainside.  There was a wood heater and wood had to be cut and chopped.  I can see him doing it.  He held a romantic view of splitting wood.  Something he had not done in over 25 years.  He asked if we needed any wood split.

The wood here in Ontario is hardwood.  Aptly named.  It does not split well, either dry or wet.  I told Bruce this, yet he was game to try it.  That he did.  A few swings of the axe and he was ready to quit.  I introduced him to our gas fired hydraulic wood splitter.  That was a tool he wished he had years ago.  One of the tools I love at the farm.  Splitting wood by hand is just crazy.

Bruce also helped us take down the water system for the winter.  The line runs from the well to the summer kitchen, to a tank on the roof.  The line lays on top of the ground, so we need to drain it, put the pump away so they don't freeze with water in them.  Bruce and Claude worked at this for about two hours, job complete and time to have a Blue and relax by the fire.   He was smiling, feeling good.

The next morning Bruce decided to make bread.  He had preplanned this as he had the family cook book that his sister Linda put together.  Bruce said it had been 25 years since he made bread.  It was worth the wait.  He made five loaves in all, it was appreciatively devoured by the 20 other gay dudes there for the weekend.

There were fires outside, and again, Bruce said it had been so long since he had enjoyed an outdoor fire, with the cool night air.  Many a wild conversation took place, even a few songs and a sauna later.

Bruce came back up to the farm just before Halloween when my step son and his two young boys were there.  We were there to pick out a big pumpkin for the boys and to carve it.  Bruce and I cooked dinners, we had a great time.  That night we slept in the Tower, the main house.  Bruce marvelled at its construction, noticing many of the intricate details, admiring the craftsmanship.  He talked about it all the way back to Toronto, a four hour drive.

It was a fabulous time.

Over the next three weeks we met for beers a a few times.  He came for dinner on November 21, we had our smart little cocktails. In this case it was Blue.  Eight gay men enjoyed each others company and Bruce shone that evening.  He showed us his cabin, via google, on the mountainside in Revelstoke.  He spent the next hour showing us his haunts and telling stories.  It was another great evening with Bruce.

I called him the next day and we arranged for him to drive with me December 10 to go to Ottawa.  Bruce had never been to Ottawa.  We also were planning a Christmas Dinner for December 17.  He was going to come over early, for Bruce that meant 1 or 2pm, to help put the meal together.  I was so looking forward to it and he was as well.

Bruce had told me he was surprised his phone rang the last few times I called him.  He was expecting Bell to cut him off.  He was having a tough time lately, not enough work.  So when I did call a few days later and it was not in service I thought nothing of it.  The next day I drove over and there was no answer.  I tried calling to see if he had been reconnected, not to be.

I drove over two more times, December 1 and December 3.  No answer.  We all learned on December 6 what happened.  I won't go into what happened here, I will in a blog later on, when I feel ready, discuss some of the underlying reasons as I see them, as Bruce left no good bye.  If you are a regular reader of Canuck Attitude, you may already have a gut reaction as to what the reasons could be. 

So many people got to know Bruce online, through his blog, Canuck Attitude.  He focused on the religious right, bullies and of course the Conservatives.  He would also share his music and cartoons.  Apart from that was Bruce's willingness to read other blogs, offer comments and engage in conversations.  He did this with so many people. 

People were attracted to Bruce's irreverent approach to blogging and activism.  Bruce was an atheist and saw religion as one of the prime killers of gay men and others.  Bruce saw and experienced bullying as a boy and as an adult.  His life s not unlike many gay men.  And he made it a mission to expose this danger and our rights to be free of systemic discrimination, bullying and even death.

In a recent post Bruce said ...  "As much as I'm impressed and heartened by Dan Savage's It Gets Better Project and the incredible response it has generated, I can't shake the feeling that all we are doing is patting kids on the head and sending them back to the dungeons while telling them to be patient. I'm sorry, but that's still a kind of tacit approval of bullying."

Bruce was an unapologetic faggot atheist with a flare for design.  In the end he made a decision.  A decision affected by his life experience, an experience not unlike many other gay men.  Some make it too see, "It Gets Better", and some don't make it out of the dungeon.

In closing, here are a few Brucies -

"A smart little cocktail"

"Still deviant after all these years"

"I don't mind straight people as long as the act gay in public"

"Suck it up and vacuum the place, the dust bunnies are giving me dirty looks"

"Stuck to you like glue, My Dear . . . "

Friday, December 10th was a celebration of Bruce's life.  I told some Bruce stories, I cried, I wore a wig to recall Bruce's long hair and a plaid shirt along with a t-shirt he gave me, "Every good Idea I have gets me into trouble" .  Here are a few pictures from that evening...

 Me starting my Brucie imitation...

 Vancouver joins us via the net at Cafe du Lac
 Bruce's "other" best friend!!!!!!  Kathryn knew Bruce for 17 years and hosted the event at her fabulous little "Quebec" Cafe du Lac on Lakeshore in Toronto
 This Bruce's sister Linda in the white tee sweater,
what a sweet woman.  No wonder Bruce and Linda were so close...

More posts on Bruce.  If I have missed any please send the link so I may include them...

Montreal Simon: Bruce McDonald: Death of a Gay Blogger

RIP Bruce McDonald, Progressive Blogger |

Impolitical: Bruce McDonald,

Bruce Mcdonald 1958-2010

He used to say he’d marry me

Blogging Buddy Gone

Farewell to a friend.

RIP Bruce MacDonald of Canuck Attitude

A few of His Favourite Things

Bruce McDonald 1958 - 2010


Simon said...

hi Ricky...Great post. Thanks for sharing the memories and the pics, and for reminding us that behind each character in the virtual world is a real person.
As you know I never met Bruce, I knew him through his blog, and his late-night e-mails. We didn't agree about a lot of things. I said he was an atheist looking for God. He called me a smart ass. I thought his view of the gay world was sometimes too cynical and bitter. That frightened me. But after finding out how brutally he was bullied who can blame him eh?
And he was always very encouraging, and he made me laugh a lot.
Yes he could be rude, yes he could be coarse, but I just LOVED it !!!!
But just when I thought I knew him, I didn't. So thanks for helping me know a bit more about the man he was, and what might have led him to end his life. It's so sad. Such a waste. But he was lucky to have you as a friend.
And I will remember him FOREVER...

Rick Barnes said...

I know he valued his riendship with you, he was rude for sure, but then what the heck, thats waht helped get his point out there. No mincing for that boy!

Linda said...

Ricky, I have just read your entire blog and cried my way through the whole thing. I also read the posts from the other bloggers and cried through them as well.

Bruce never shared alot his pain with me. I knew abit but certainly you and your fellow bloggers actually knew more. The outpouring from the blogging community has really overwhelmed me.

Please be so kind as to pass on my thanks to them. They are great.

Beijing York said...

Hi Rick,

This was a very helpful and touching post. The context of the RL person you knew and enjoyed just adds another dimension to the Bruce we knew in the cyber world. It's comforting to know that he had such moments of joy despite the pain he might have suffered for so many years.

I thought I would add a link to 900ft Jesus' beautiful tribute to Bruce:


Rick Barnes said...

Thank you BY! I saw that, bookmarked it and I just plain missed it! Sheesh!

sassy said...

Thanks Rick, for this post and the pics of Bruce. (and of course for the toast on Friday evening)

skdadl said...

Thanks for this wonderful history and reflection, Rick. I'm like a lot of bloggers who met Bruce either because he came over for a virtual visit in a most friendly way on particular topics or because I noticed one of his delightful personal posts going by on the feed. I only knew the friendly, generous voice -- we tended to connect on happy topics, when he had just been struck by something great about ordinary life.

I've learned so much more about him from you and the other friends you list above. It hurts very much to know that such a decent and delightful man had to struggle so hard. I will cherish my memories of him.

JJ said...

Ricky --

Thanks so much for this wonderful post about Bruce. Reading commentary from his friends & family in the real world is so enlightening and endearing. My saddest condolences to all.

Oh Brucie. My heart will always hurt when I think of him... he probably wouldn't want it that way, but that's the way it is.

Mark from Slap said...

Great post, Rick. It sounds like you two had some great times together.

Like a lot of bloggers, I didn't know Bruce personally, but exchanged emails now and then. I was completely shocked to hear he's gone; you're very lucky to have been able to create such wonderful memories with him. I'm sorry that he left all of us too early.