Chef Joey keeps it cozy in February with tasty treats!
Text, photos and recipes by Chef Joey
February is that funny month: it is shorter than the others and has a “Leap Year” attached to it. Here in New England there can be a roller-coaster ride of seasonal activity – from mild almost spring- like weather to frost-bite severe. We seem to be mirroring storms that graced us in 2015, not as severe yet, but just as menacing.
Chef Joey’s Vinny and Mikey lounge on the couch. Spoiled babies💙!
Some useless trivia: Because February is only 28 days long, it can actually have no full moons. The last full moon in February was in 1999, and the next gap is predicted on the 2018 astrological calendar.
It also is the host month of Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday,” literally translated), the kick off to Lent by Ash Wednesday followed, for some people, by 40 days of giving up something (albeit excused one day for St Patrick’s Day, March 17). Ironically, Fat Tuesday is the last day of February this year on the 28th, making March 1 Ash Wednesday.
Having grown up in France, this day was a build-up event. Basically eating everything that is fattening for 7 days before the fast!
We in the south of France made crêpes. In the middle country, they made Beignets or small doughnuts, and in Northern France, folks made waffles. All three meals are synonymous with the much celebrated day. Carnivals take place all over France. Carnival is a Latin word deriving from carnelevare, literally meaning “Lift out the meat”!! The following 40 days of fasting were virtually meat-free; butter and eggs were sparse in meals, as well.
In France, February 2 is always National Crêpe day, called “La Chandeleur.” It is a family event that involves Crepes, a gold coin and a flipping contest. My grandmother would make the crepe batter, and we all got a shot at flipping our delicate pancake. Tradition has it that if you flip the crêpe successfully, you won’t have any money problems. Oh, but there is a catch! You hold the coin with the hand you write with and flip your crepe with your other hand. It keeps things fun.
So, for French Crèpes, you make a simple batter:
1 cup flour, sifted
½ cup milk
½ cup water
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp soft butter
Mix the eggs and flour together …
… adding the milk and water slowly. Add the salt and butter and whisk until smooth. In a hot skillet, add a tsp of butter, or cooking oil for savory crêpes coat well. Add ¼ cup batter for each crepe and tilt the pan so the batter swirls out – the back of a ladle also helps to spread it out.
Cook for about 1 minute or until the sides are brown. Lift with a spatula to loosen it and cook the other side. Stack them on top of each other and cover with a cake pan (for height) or a piece of foil.
Crepes can be savory (salty) filled with ham and melted cheese, or sweet, say filled with Nutella or something as simple as strawberry jam.
This is the easiest cookie recipe you will ever need for your entire life! The base is magic! And the fillings are what you want. When you make them from scratch, it takes 20 minutes and costs less than 20 cents a cookie. So bake a batch for your loved ones – they are nutritious and healthy.
You can add cinnamon, raisins, chocolate chips, dried fruit, glazes, frostings. Or you can roll this cookie dough out and get creative with cookie cutters. Or just roll into small balls for the perfect cookie.
You will need:
1 pound of soft BUTTER
1½ cups sugar
2 ¾ cup flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
Mix the sugar and butter until light and fluffy …
… add the eggs and mix well.
Combine the flour, salt, baking soda and cream of tartar. Add flour mix in small batches – mix well.
Use a small ice-cream scoop to form round balls and place dough balls on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 15 mins in a 350-degree oven.
I make these cookies all the time for my foster daughter, and when she says, “Papa, I want a cookie!” I know she is getting good stuff. Tomorrow, when we’re snowed in …
The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World
By Derek Chollet, (2016, Perseus Books, 262 Pages)
Reviewed by Steven R. Maher
Journalism has often been called the first draft of history. With that in mind, former Obama administration official Derek Chollet has evaluated President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Chollett covers an enormous number of issues, personalities, and events in a short 262 pages, a concisely written book and that will be a valuable resource for future historians.
Unexpected foreign events often arise during a Presidency. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, drawing the U.S. into World War II, and changing the Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Soviet Union installed nuclear missiles in Cuba, leading to the missile crisis and John F. Kennedy’s finest hour. 9/11 pushed George W. Bush into being a different President than the one he campaigned as. While Bush’s unexpected event was in his first year in office, two of Obama’s problems came late in his second term: the catastrophic insurgency of ISIS, and the ominous resurgence of Putin’s Russia.
Barack Obama inherited an America facing the abyss. As Wikipedia put it: “The bursting of the US housing bubble, which peaked at the end of 2006, caused the values of securities tied to US real estate pricing to plummet, damaging financial institutions globally. The financial crisis was triggered by a complex interplay of policies that encouraged home ownership, providing easier access to loans for subprime borrowers, overvaluation of bundled subprime mortgages based on the theory that housing prices would continue to escalate, questionable trading practices on behalf of both buyers and sellers, compensation structures that prioritize short-term deal flow over long-term value creation, and a lack of adequate capital holdings from banks and insurance companies to back the financial commitments they were making.”
America hovered on the edge of another Great Depression:
• By January 2009 the economy was shedding 800,000 jobs a month.
• American families were losing 100,000 homes a week as home values plummeted and entire neighborhoods, particularly in the inner cities, were devastated.
• The banking system seemed ready to implode, with major financial institutions like the Lehman brothers going bankrupt. Hard core conservatives urged the U.S. government to stay out.
• The automotive industry ran out of money. Cash burn was so bad that General Motors told the White House it had on hand only two weeks of money left to operate. The potential loss of jobs from this one problem alone could be counted in the millions.
Mitt Romney wrote a tome in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”, saying the U.S. should not save the auto industry. That the “supply chain” – the subcontractors and factories manufacturing components for the auto industry, located mainly in the “Rust Belt” states that voted in 2016 for Donald Trump – would die and could not be revived, did not worry Romney.
The Long Game
It should be borne in mind that these were just the domestic issues Obama faced. It says nothing about the foreign affairs calamities facing the U.S., including ongoing wars tying up 175,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It is hard to think of a president who entered office facing more challenges of historic magnitude,” commented Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Obama set out to play the “Long Game.”
“The defining element of Obama’s grand strategy is that it reflects the totality of American interests – foreign and domestic – to project global leadership in an era of seemingly infinite demands and finite resources,” writes Chollet. “This is playing the ‘Long Game.’”
Chollet describes Obama as a political version of Warren Buffett, who became a billionaire by buying up companies with a strong market base but which were financially weak. When the economy got better, the values of these investments skyrocketed. Buffett made his billions by looking not at these companies’ value at the time he bought them, but what he expected these entities to be worth over time.
“Games are won by players who focus on the playing field – not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard,” observed Buffett.
Obama believed the U.S. overextended itself by pouring so much manpower, equipment, and money into Iraq, instead of hunting down Al-Qaeda and its leaders. Obama thought the U.S. should shift America’s focus from the Middle East to the Pacific Basin; rebalance America’s projection of power, putting as much emphasis on diplomacy and economic sanctions/assistance as Bush did on the use of military force; and reset America’s alliances with NATO and Russia.
To go into every topic Obama’s administration dealt with would fill up this entire newspaper. We’re going to look at some of Obama’s foreign policy successes, his failures, and draw some conclusions.
Historians are likely to regard the Iran nuclear treaty as a hallmark of Obama’s administration. When Bush left office, Iran was moving full speed ahead on its
nuclear program. Obama convinced the Russians, Chinese, British, and French to impose sanctions that devastated the Iranian economy. Since the July 2015 signing of the treaty, Iran has removed weapons grade uranium, reduced the number of centrifuges by two thirds, and removed the heavy water reactor at Arak and filled it with concrete. For the moment, Iran has been disarmed. That is no small achievement, and may be one a bellicose Trump could build upon.
In August 2013 Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad used chemical weapons against opposition held territory, killing 1,400 civilians, including women and children. Obama had warned Assad in 2012 that doing this would be crossing a red line. The only nation willing to back the U.S. in using military force was France (derided as the seller of “freedom fries” during the Bush era). Britain’s parliament voted against participation, and the American people overwhelmingly opposed involvement in a third Middle East conflict. Congress refused to authorize military action by Obama. The Republican Congressional war dogs made macho denunciations of Assad, but wouldn’t vote to authorize U.S. military action against the Syrian tyrant.
Chollet cited other problems related to using military force to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons. There were 50 sites containing 1,300 pounds of chemical weapons, dispersed around Syria. Neutralizing these would require heavy air and naval attacks along with 75,000 ground troops. There was a danger Assad’s military would collapse under such an assault, and hundreds of tons of chemical weapons fall into the hands of ISIS/Al-Qaeda. After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that the matter could be resolved by Assad giving up his weapons, the crisis was resolved diplomatically.
Chollet writes: “Without a bomb being dropped, Syria admitted to having a massive chemical weapons program it had never before acknowledged, agreed to give it up, and submitted to a multinational coalition that removed the weapons and destroyed them in a way that had never been tried before.”
Obama lost face because he drew the red line and didn’t take military action against Syria. But he achieved the maximalist objective of disarming Syria. Reagan faced a similar situation when 250 Marines were massacred in Lebanon by terrorists in 1982. Instead of doubling down, Reagan prevented America from getting dragged into a quagmire by “redeploying” the surviving Marines to ships offshore. Both Presidents did what was best for their country, even if it meant a personal loss of face.
Bin Laden and the drones
Obama’s Presidency reached its pinnacle in May 2011 when Seal Team Six descended upon Osama bin Laden’s lair in Abbottabad, Pakistan and killed the Al-Qaeda leader. Few Americans knew that Obama had played a key role in planning the mission. The plan originally call for the Seals to go in without helicopter backups. Obama insisted that backup helicopters be situated in reserve not far from Abbottabad. These proved crucial when one of the Seal helicopters crashed while landing.
Obama used the same strategic approach to get America out of Iraq and Afghanistan that Richard Nixon used to get the U.S. out of Vietnam: advance the air power while withdrawing the troops. Nixon used B-52s and laser guided ordinance to bomb North Vietnam into signing a peace treaty. Obama sent American drones on hundreds of missions to kill Al-Qaeda and associated terrorist leaders. Some criticized this because of the civilians killed in the drone strikes. However, by and large, it did disrupt Al-Qaeda’s ability to launch mass casualty attacks on the U.S. homeland.
The Russian Reset, Part I
With all the noise being generated over Trump and Vladimir Putin, Obama’s “reset” with Russia has been widely viewed as a failure. However, when the policy was first implemented in 2009, it did lead to some successes. This was due to the fact that Putin was not the Russian President; Dimitri Medvedev was, and he wanted to work with the United States. With Medvedev’s help, the U.S. organized the sanctions against Iran; agreed to destroy one third of Russia’s nuclear arsenal; supported setting up supply lines to Afghanistan that avoided a volatile Pakistan; and voted with the U.S. during the U.N. debate authorizing the use of military force against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Now, let’s look at some of shortcomings of Obama’s Presidency.
According to the mainstream media, upwards of 500,000 Syrians have been killed in the civil war and millions have fled to Europe. Obama appears to have done what he could diplomatically to stop the carnage. But faced with the obduracy of Syrian President Assad, the lack of allies who supported intervening in Syria, the U.S. had no good choices. If it supported Assad, the U.S. would be siding with a blood thirsty dictator. If Obama opposed Assad, ISIS and Al Qaeda might take control of the country. His critics charged that he could have supported moderate Syrians earlier, but there was a problem with vetting these groups.
What Obama should have done is establish no fly zones in Syria where Syrians fleeing the conflict could be protected. This would also have stopped large masses of Syrians from fleeing to Europe.
When America troops left in 2011, Iraq by and large was peaceful. The emergence of ISIS could not have been foreseen by any American President. It was with a few thousand guerillas that ISIS attacked and conquered huge swaths of Syria and Iraq. In Mosul, with its million residents, stated Wikipedia, “the Iraqi army had 30,000 soldiers stationed in the city, facing a 1,500-member attacking force.” With such favorable odds, the ISIS force should have been smashed. Instead, the 30,000 Iraqi soldiers abandoned their U.S. equipment and fled.
Few were clairvoyant enough to anticipate the total ineffectiveness of Iraq’s armed forces, equipped with billions of dollars in U.S. military equipment. From a few thousand fighters, ISIS grew to an armed force of 30,000 men as wannabe Jihadists from Europe and the Middle East swelled their ranks. They were armed with the American weapons left behind by the fleeing Iraqi army.
In 2011 there was yet another U.S. intervention on “humanitarian” grounds in Libya that turned into a mission to overthrow Gaddafi. After Gaddafi was killed, Libya descended into anarchy as warring factions fought each other. The U.S. was prodded into action on Libya by its European allies; Obama should have insisted on a post-war NATO occupation force from these allies to assist Libyans in setting up a stable government.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates opposed intervening in Libya, saying: “Can I just finish the two wars we’re already in before you go looking for new ones?”
The Russian Reset, Part II
In 2012 Vladimir Putin took back his old job of Russian President. Putin’s animus against Hillary Clinton stems from this episode; Putin apparently believes that Clinton ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to clandestinely block his return to the Russian Presidency. In any event, Obama’s measures to persuade Putin to stay out of Syria and the Ukraine were unsuccessful, and this must be regarded as another Obama shortcoming.
History will give a much fuller judgment on Obama when the facts become available. Since Obama’s foreign policy was set up with the intention of yielding long term benefits, a historical perspective will be necessary to evaluate Obama. The failures he had, particularly in the Middle East, rose from his fervent desire to keep the U.S. out of another war.
Obama may well be remembered by historians for two things that didn’t happen on his watch. First, he kept the economy from imploding. The car industry was saved, the banking system made solvent, and a slow but painful process of economic revival took place. Second, he didn’t get sucked into another quagmire like Iraq. The 175,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have been reduced to 15,000. Yes, it wasn’t a perfect Presidency. But considering the near collapse of the economy in 2008, Obama did well in keeping America from falling into the abyss of a second Great Depression, and from being drawn into another grinding war. History is likely to view Barack Obama very kindly.
I’m the grand-daughter of immigrants… Rosalie and her Polish grandpa many moons ago🌃
All of us Americans, if we look far back enough, or just over our shoulders to our parents, have roots that lead back to other lands, places that often persecuted us, kept us down, treated us like second and third class citzens and worse …
These past few years the blood has flown in Syria – horrible oppression and chaos and war. Maybe President Obama should have sent troops into Syria, U.S. combat boots on the ground, especially after the country’s “leaders” began using poisonous chemicals to kill dissidents, killing the children, too. Horrific. Many Syrian families swarmed into inflatable “boats” to cross the ocean to leave their hellish country for new countries … They had hope. But they were poor…So many of the people, little children!, didn’t make it…
“Turkish media identified the boy as three-year-old Alan Kurdi and reported that his five-year-old brother had also met a similar death. Both had reportedly hailed from the northern Syrian town of Kobani, the site of fierce fighting between Islamic state insurgents and Kurdish forces earlier this year.” The Guardian
When Donald Trump bans Syrian refugees from American soil for months, this can happen…
“A Turkish police officer carries the young boy who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos.” The Guardian. Photographs: Reuters.
And this …
Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney has sunk to a new low, and his toxic political shell game could have brought our city to its knees. But instead the people were glorious and rose up and rallied! – HUNDREDS IN A JANUARY SNOWSTORM OUTSIDE OUR CITY HALL! Where, in the snow and raw New England cold, they shouted, NO! NO! NO! NEVER IN OUR CITY! Refugees and immigrants ALWAYS welcome here!
And then, inside Worcester City Hall, people whose roots extend to countries all over the globe got up to testify – tell their family stories. Armenia. Vietnam. Central America. Italy. Ireland. Africa. They were saying: Listen to our stories. The refugee and immigrant stories of today are our stories! AMERICAN stories!
The Gaffney resolution went down to defeat tonight. So will City Councilor Konstantina Lukes’ miserable proposal. A toxic after-thought cobbled together by – get this! – the daughter of Albanian immigrants who owned and operated a diner in Connecticut! (What would your father think of your shit-sandwich, hold the compassion, Konnie? You were the apple of his eye!)
Worcester is not Trumpland! We are not a police state where people are bullied into doing what our impetuous, vindictive, dangerous new president wants them to do! As Worcester Mayor Joe Petty said to the peaceful, yet ebullient (cuz they were on justice’s side😇) crowd before the City Council meeting: He – WE – will not allow WALLS TO GO UP BETWEEN GROUPS OF PEOPLE. In Worcester, the walls COME DOWN!
Go, Mayor Petty, go!!!
No one, no child, should fear that he or she will be forced to leave Worcester, their home: friends, school, church, work, sports teams, a routine they call their own … a place where they’ve begun to realize their unique American Dream!
Power to the people! We, the people, can do amazing things! We did, here in Worcester, TONIGHT!!!
Tonight I’m holding tight my late mom’s George Washington calendar from the 1940s (above). Like many young poor folks of the Great Depression and World War II – kids who knew they were lucky if they were eating a square meal a day – my mom was resourceful. For example, she collected her own “art” from the free or inexpensive advertising lit all around her: With trusty scissors in hand she cut out and saved grainy black and white photos or colored illustrations (often muted – not very colorful at all!) from school and church calendars, Hollywood movie fan magazines and sheet music cover pages, church prayer cards – even Polish Christmas wafer wrapping paper – anything that captured her young imagination. My mother loved music and drawing. She was very good at sketching! She used to draw pictures for me and my sisters when we were little kids. We’d sit and watch Ma as she quietly created her art for us with an old number 2 pencil: a little girl with pigtails, a little kitten with ball of yarn, a cherub perched on a cloud … the cliches of her day, beautifully rendered. I remember in our Lafayette Street flat, in a closet – now lost forever! – the huge poster Ma drew in pencil of one of her beloved Boston Red Sox batters in mid-swing! She was 12 – a total baseball freak! – when she drew it and it was a fine sketch! But I have none of my mom’s big sketches – usually made for a St. Mary’s School project – only lots of her “clipped art” – all in pretty ok shape for gussied up scraps of paper three quarters of a century old!
Ma made good use of her finds, like the sleek, smart crow who weaves bits of shiny gold ribbon into her cozy nest … She taped some of the art to her bedroom walls, used some pieces as book marks for her prayer books and sent some pictures to friends, instead of store-bought greeting cards. But mostly she saved her paper jewels – a poor girl’s dreams – in a small, wooden brown chest in her family’s Green Island Bigelow Street tenement and later in our Lafayette Street flat. The contents became mine when Ma died. I gave the small painted brown chest (painted by my grandfather) to one of my sisters.
The chest, I believe, was a kind of hope chest for Ma, a love song to America in which she kept all her American dreams. America was new to her family – her parents were Polish immigrants who experienced the promise – and ugliness – of America. My grandfather worked like a slave in a textile mill in Douglas and, to relax once he got home, played the harmonica and smoked the unfiltered cigarettes he rolled for himself using his own little white square smoking papers and little cig rolling machine, a funny looking little contraption that Ma used to work in the mornings, to roll her Dad’s cigs before he went off to work. Cigs he could smoke during break … My mother’s mother, my “Bapy,” raised five kids, cooked everything from scratch, prayed every hour on the hour, went to mass EVERY day, but outside her Catholic faith and family, was lost in America. If not attending church or friends and relatives’ Polish weddings she stayed home. Praying and cooking.
Ma was the baby of the family, and the apple of Bapy’s eye. So she grew up an optimist and focused on the bright spots: special memories from her Polish immigrant church by Kelley Square, like her First Holy Communion prayer book which I have! (below), …
A photo of Rose’s mom with her First Holy Communion children’s prayer book! (Cece got a hold of its back cover and Lilac ate it!)
… postcards, prayer booklets and stamps from her 10-year stint in Springfield as a housekeeper for the Bishop of Springield, pretty little gifts that her big brother – my Uncle Mark – brought back from Japan after he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. I especially love the calendar cover my Uncle Mark gave Ma (from his ship – probably taped above his bunk): a sexy Miss America hanging from a huge American flag. A gorgeous but stern Lady Liberty wearing an oooh la la blue diaphonous robe that showed her perky little breasts and “mound”! My uncle was pretty good looking and a bit of a ladies’ man. Ma teased him when he came home from the war with blond hair. She believed he dyed it – he said the tropical sun bleached it. This Lady Liberty was right up his alley! – worth fighting for! I ended up with the picture and crudely framed it a few years back. Saint Lady Liberty – the patriotic pinup gal proudly wearing her Virgin Mary-blue sheer gown over shaved pussy! AMERICA = #1!!!😄
But I digress! Back to GW! My mom was a huge George Washington fan because she was born on his birthday – February 22! And because he was America’s first President – perfect to her – America’s God, back in the days when the ideas of America and God were entwined in complex, beautiful, dangerous ways. My mom, true to her generation, and I, like all Baby Boomers, grew up hearing the George Washington grade school lessons/myths, almost Biblical: George Washington at Valley Forge in the winter, leading his troops …they wore torn boots, their frozen feet wrapped in cloth…The young George Washington chopped down the cherry tree when he wasn’t supposed to but said: I CANNOT TELL I LIE! IT WAS I WHO CHOPPED DOWN THE CHERRY TREE!
Ma and I were getting the boiled-down-for-the-plebs American history lesson: George Washington had a TON OF INTEGRITY. What we didn’t know: When some of the colonists clamored for him to be King of America for years and years – because he was such an outstanding military leader and first President and the times were so chaotic – Washington said: No way! That’s not what this country is going to be about! There are no kings here!
At the bottom of my mom’s George Washington calendar picture, it reads: “The love of my country will be the ruling influence of my conduct.” – Washington
Can you imagine these words coming out of the mouth of our new President, Donald Trump? Can you imagine the IDEA even blooming in that narcissistic, almost insane brain of his? (Neither can I!) He is someone who wants to buy America’s love, on his terms only. LOVE DONALD – OR ELSE!
For me, Trump’s inaugural speech was Hitler-esque. Dark, foreboding, fist-pumping, military might-extolling, self-aggrandizing, self-idolizing … maniacal. I’d never read or heard an inaugural speech where America, the land of George Washington and Mrs. Tirella!, was painted in such ugly terms – “American carnage” and “tombstones” stretching from sea to shining sea! No wonder wife Melania chooses to live in NYC – and keep her little boy safe by her side. To live with such a sick man always peering into the abyss (or is it just a pose, a con so that Trump can trash America only to lay claim that he saved her? ), a husband with such a soul-shrivelling world view, dipped in Trump gold!, is too much! I predict Mrs. Donald Trump will be a sexed-up version of the late Mrs. Harry Truman: No thanks, White House, I pass! I’ll live somewhere else. Mrs. Truman was the epitome of post-WW II frumpiness; Mrs. Trump is the epitome of 21st century foxiness. But they’re cut from the same cloth: at heart, small town girls freaked out by the prospect of living in the hub of the world’s Super Power. War. Peace. Laws of the land. It all begins with the stroke of the Presidential pen. Scary, for some people.
Funny, but here on Ward Street these past couple of days, it felt like the kind of America Donald Trump painted in his inaugural speech. Very different from the Ward Street my mom walked down as a young girl with her Polish mother as they made their way to their Polish church, Our Lady of Czetchowa, a church that still stands and which I can see from my kitchen window …
These days Ward Street is Heroin/drug Central of Worcester. Last year I wrote about the big drug bust next door (complete with confiscated cash – 40K! – and weapons – machine gun!!!) But we’ve got the low-level drug runners, too, here in our ‘hood: Kids (usually boys) 15 and 16 years old who hop on to their beat up bikes to pedal to our inner-city backyards to do drug deals. In like 5 seconds! These kids don’t live in our houses, just use our backyards as office space! – out of the way, hidden places to sell packets of heroin. A quick sale. Money exchanged for smack. Then they put their ear buds back into their ears and hop on to their bikes and pedal away wicked fast! The deal goes down in seconds!
A few days ago I saw such a speedy transaction occur in the yard adjacent to ours. The kids, both boys, about 16 or 17 years old, were there during school hours. They had come on their bikes and I had come upon them! They looked and acted hard and business-like in a way many of our neighborhood kids don’t look and act. Lots of kids in my neighborhood are sweet, skinny, sad, fun loving. They’ll smile at you and tell you about their little adventures or pets. But these two kids? Uh uh. It was so easy to see.
One of the kids looked surprised and miffed to notice me at the periphery of his deal. The other kid, scrawny and tall, looked frightening in his hardness. When he saw me, he unzipped the front of his thin jacket and his hand went to a shirt pocket. I thought: He’s going to shoot me now.
So I chatted him up. Played the un-hip, oblivious middle-aged lady. The box that society puts you in.
“Don’t be afraid of my dogs! They’re friendly!” I said, smiling.
With a cold, dead-already face, making perfect eye contact with me, he said, direct and serious: “I’m not afraid.”
A day later I saw the same kid, his pale ghoulish face smiling as he rode away lickety split on his bike, being chased by a police cruiser in the middle of our downtown. The cruiser’s siren was off because it was the middle of the afternoon, but all its lights were pulsating.
The kid was in the middle of a gang of kids – 20 or more youths – all on bicycles! Three or four of them wore Halloween masks, pale, scowling ghost masks that covered their entire faces. Lurid and other worldy… Four or five of them wore cotton bandanas over their faces – right up to their eyes – so you couldn’t see their features. They looked like they had rolled straight out of some sci-fi Western! But they weren’t galloping through Dodge on horses – instead they were riding, herd-like and hard, on our Main Street, yards away from Worcester City Hall, on ramshackle bikes! Laughing! Free! Most likely – at least a few of them – armed!
I was mesmerized by this dystopian image coming straight at me (I was in my car driving by the Hanover Theatre), straight out of the Donald Trump playbook. I pulled over and the group of kids – they filled the entire street – rode past me. They were laughing and talking easily among themselves, as the police cruiser chased them. I saw and heard my ghoulish kid barking out something to the other youths. He was smiling. High on an adrenalin high. He felt safe – and cocky – in the herd.
Had they just robbed somebody? Mixed it up with another bandana-, mask-wearing group of kids? Or were the cops just pursuing one kid? – a definite challenge when he’s in a large pack of kids, all on bicycles. Bikes are the perfect getaway vehicle – they can easily go up and down one-way streets, go off and on sidewalks, sail through back yards and city parks, be carried up flights of stairs and stashed in apartments …
As I watched this wild little spectacle, I saw how these kids showed ZERO fear. They acted like outlaws! And like their Wild West counterparts, they were indeed misfits – unhealthy outsiders, bedraggled and maybe unloved – still riding to their next adventure. With a few firearms thrown in for good measure.
The herd sailed right by me, then the police cruiser.
I found myself rooting for the kids. Their nihilism was so honest! They were America … America’s underbelly. Her lack of love for her poor, especially her poor children. One in five kids go hungry in America! That means Worcester, too. … The Worcester factory jobs are gone for their un-skilled parents – men and women who read at the third or fourth grade level. Minimum wage jobs don’t begin to pay all the bills. Parents feel trapped, go MIA. Our public schools sometimes become holding pens for these kids, a safe place to eat govt funded, free breakfast and lunch and, sometimes, a place to rest or sleep, if there’s violence/drugs in the family.
Trump’s America! The one he says he wants to save! Here in Worcester! Here on our Ward Street and Main Street!
His solution to a deep, generation-spanning societal ill, often sealed with depression, PTSD or other mental illnesses? More police. Good paying jobs.
I don’t think two – or even three – Worcester police cruisers chasing the masked kids through our downtown would have changed the narrative. Saved the kids.
Maybe good paying, WPA type infrastructure jobs would help. Young people or their parents working on rebuilding our bridges and highways a la Franklin D. Roosevelt for good pay … Yes, that may make things better. So that our families, instead of developers or investors, can buy and live in the three deckers in our old blue collar neighborhoods. Like it used to be on Ward Street, Perry Ave, Endicott and Sterling streets – all over lower Veron Hill and Green Island! Homeownership 101. The rhythm in all our Gateway Cities for most of the 20th century. The American Dream!
Trump is right: The global economy has left behind thousands and thousands of neighborhoods like mine. Millions of working-age adults who live in them! I don’t believe in all the Moral Majority crap: poor families are Godless and gone to pot – that’s why their neighborhoods are “bad.” Most parents in my neighborhood try to love their kids – I see their love displayed daily, despite the harsh circumstances! – but the pressures keep mounting on them – from all sides… . Families implode.
Good paying jobs for our people will help. Tremendously, to use a Trumpian word!
Maybe the Donald is onto something. If only he’d drop all his nefarious baggage…
MLK delivering his I HAVE A DREAM speech to America … and the world.
By Rosalie Tirella
Something happened to Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy when the school teachers got a hold of him (and us). The teachers – that is most of them – were well meaning but hopelessly naive (and fearful?) when it came to the murdered civil rights leader and his legacy. Maybe they got stuck on one speech – only watched or listened to his “I have a Dream” speech and none of his other speeches and sermons, all fiercely political, tough minded and demanding … demanding America to change. In a deep, fundamental way …
Maybe they heard the part in his I Have a Dream speech – a history-making sermon he delivered before 200,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. in 1963, before his March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – and got stuck on one image in the speech – the part when MLK says he dreams of the day little black children can hold hands with little white children in peace. Being school teachers, these words plucked at their heart strings, the image moved them. And so they unwittingly turned MLK into a kind of sweet nursery rhyme character. Milquetoast for the masses – masses of school children who grew up never knowing, hearing the real Martin Luther King Jr.
MLK’s I Have a Dream speech is not, in my opinion, even one of his greater “sermons”! Go listen to MLK on fire!! – go find and listen to his many sermons and speeches on You Tube and YOU WILL BE BLOWN AWAY. You will be awestruck by this tough, courageous, political, loving, religious, funny, brilliant, charismatic, REVOLUTIONARY, ERUDITE preacher man!
For me, MLK was as great an orator as Lincoln. And, miraculously, he was part of our world – the second half of the 20th century! If you’re a Baby Boomer (like me) or older, you remember him: you got to see, experience his presence on the American scene. And he was Olympian! I remember watching the TV, just a little kid, mesmerized by this Black man with the sonorous voice who could bring thousands of people to their feet – listening to him, singing with him, marching with him. My late mom revered MLK – and Bobby Kennedy. Through the TV news, their speeches to her, to all Americans, made a difference. These two men, both highly educated, both wealthy, one Black, one Irish American, spoke to my poor single Polish mother in Green Island. They were a balm to her emotional pain, her family’s poverty, the difficulty, sometimes brutality, of her life. Their words, along with her Catholic faith, gave my single working mother strength to keep working those 60 hours at the drycleaners for minimum wage – never getting overtime, always making the extra money under the table. They helped give her the fortitude to make sure her three little girls were well cared for and going to Lamartine Street School EVERY DAY and studying hard and getting those As on their report cards so they could go to college on scholarship! They helped her keep her dreams for a better future alive. At 45, 55 … 75 years old she would tell me: My Rosalie, I liked the Kennedy’s but Bobby better than Jack [Kennedy]. Bobby was more emotional. He was with the poor. He felt for the poor. …..My Green Island mini history lesson! Besides the hard life lessons I was living/ learning each day!
Rosalie’s late mom…
MLK and Bobby Kennedy were so special to the poor, the disenfranchised of America! Not just Black folks. These two men knew – KNEW! – how hard it was! They loved us, were fighting for us and we knew it!
But white suburban middle class teachers sometimes don’t get it or maybe these days all Americans – out of complacency or intellectual laziness – don’t get it. Have forgotten the guts, the raw nerve, the visionary goals, the tough messages of MLK and Bobby K. These men were so outside the box they were perceived a threat by the rich, the powerful in this country … the people who called the shots in our small towns and big cities. South AND North. I believe MLK knew he was going to be killed (listen to his sermons!). He just didn’t know when. Which gave his life urgency: SO MUCH TO ACCOMPLISH – so little time to do the work! he must have thought to himself. Genius that he was, he crammed 1,000 lives into his cut-short one. He was just 39 years old when he was shot dead on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel!
Just like Jesus, another revolutionary, who also took the bullet, via crucifixion. Jesus too was tough, political, pro poor folks and outsiders. Hence: Dangerous. He preached about a New World Order, like MLK. Through nonviolence and love. An even bigger threat! Now how do the nefarious Nixons and Romans wrap their heads around that???
Jesus and MLK threatened the status quo on so many levels: racially, politically, economically, and yes, even sexually (remember Mary Magdalene?😉).
Of course, America killed MLK.
And we are killing him still. – today!
On the local front:
Where are the Black school teachers in our lilly white Worcester Public Schools? Many of our elementary schools have 100% all white teacher staff. Have for decades.
Where are our African American librarians in the Worcester Public Library and her branches! Remember: Worcester is becoming a majority-minority city, yet her “public servants” in no way resemble, reflect her public!
Because white people just don’t wanna give it up. Share the perks and the power. Just like in 1965.
Shame on Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus for all the lip service but failing to walk the walk!
The Black Lives Matter movement and their peaceful protests here in Worcester? Squelched. By City Manager Augustus. Backed by police with guns and the threat of jail! Just like in 1965.
Worcester police beating the crap out of African American men and city leaders are still just thinking about body cameras for cops and for their police cruiser dash-boards. And where’s our civilian review board? How serious are Worcester city councilors taking police brutality? Do they really want to stop police brutality? ….Just like in 1965.
What about the high-ranking City of Worcester employee who called a black person, as the person was driving into the Worcester City Hall parking garage and he was exiting City Hall, a “Fucking Nigger”? Was he ever fired from his city job? Put on leave? Was the public even allowed to see the city records on this very public city incident by this public employee whose salary is paid for by the public? Nope. Hush, hush!
Compared to the cities of Hartford or Springfield, cities where I once lived and got to see a TRULY racially integrated city workforce, Worcester is woefully, shamefully behind the times.
But there’s plenty of blame to go around. One of the Worcester people who could have righted some of the injustices, or at least the ones in our public schools, was Stacey Luster. Luster, a prominent city African American, is the former Human Resources Director for the Worcester Public Schools. She was responsible for the hiring of our public school teachers and could have changed Worcester’s school teacher landscape in an important and city-shaping way. Truly diversified the Worcester Public Schools teaching staff! But she didn’t. I learned this early on, strangely enough, not at a public hearing or public meeting at City Hall but outside my old pal, the late Tony Hmura, outside Tony’s sign shop, in his driveway! On Canterbury Street, in the middle of the ‘hood! Stacey and her husband owned a building on Canterbury Street near Tony’s shop and (I learned later from Tony) Tony made a sign for their building.
So…I was driving into the Leader Sign parking lot to visit Tony and I see Stacey’s husband leaving the shop. An unexpected surprise, in light of the fact the City of Worcester had just hired her to be the new Worcester Public Schools Human Resources Director. Its first African American one. I say to him, right off the bat, because I’m so enthused and happy: HI! ISN’T IT GREAT?! ISN’T IT GREAT THAT YOUR WIFE IS HEADING HUMAN RESOURCES IN OUR SCHOOLS?!! NOW SHE CAN REALLY BRING IN BLACK TEACHERS AND REALLY DIVERSIFY OUR SCHOOLS!!!!
Her husband looks at me and says: We’ve got a mortgage to pay. When she was in public office, but not now.
Translation: His wife wasn’t going to rock any Worcester status quo boats. She wanted to keep her City of Worcester job and her HUGE City of Worcester paycheck. Screw advancing her people, exposing minority kids to important role models …Screw bringing Worcester out of 1965!
Which should remind us all HOW GREAT Martin Luther King, Jr. was!
He died for his people!
He died so black teachers could teach in Southern schools.
He gave his life so Stacey Luster could have a high status, high paying job in the Worcester Public Schools!
Forget the losers!
Honor, MLK! Celebrate, MLK! But most important, LISTEN TO HIM!!!
His message is UNSTOPPABLE!
P.S. Can you imagine? MLK just stopping by to give a little talk to your junior high school?! Wow.
We’ve been in the fight for wild animals for 15 YEARS!
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has been abusing wild animals for almost a century and a half!
Now it’s all over for them!
AMERICA HAS CHANGED! It’s not 1871 – when Ringling started out – several years after the Civil War!, an era when Black men, women and even little children were sold in manacles (the babes had theirs on their little necks!)! Mere beasts of burden to American society – one shirt for a man per half year, children went naked – even in winter – women were raped by “masters,” disease ravaged families … unimaginable suffering. America faces her ORIGINAL SIN – slavery – every day!
Back then wild animals in Ringling were shackled, too! Slaves, too! The slavery continued…
Until this past Sat. nite when Ringling told its workers…NO MORE.
An AMERICAN IDEAL becoming A FACT OF LIFE every day!
We embrace it, in spite of president-elect Donald Trump and his henchmen!
Americans saw and UNDERSTOOD the plight of tigers, lions, elephants, chimps – all feeling and knowing “mystery achievements”! – in circuses, road side zoos, zoos … and our hearts were broken! We boycotted Ringling, didn’t take our kids to the circus but instead educated them.
Vegetarianism (low, low meat) is the hip way to eat! Tofu is mainstream! (Farm animals suffer, too!)
InCity Times has been at the vanguard of a new, more compassionate America for ALL animals … and Worcester County! FOR 15 YEARS!
So, I’m proud, proud, proud to write this:
FINALLY! RINGLING CIRCUS SHUTTING DOWN! THANK YOU, PETA, CONCERNED PARENTS AND KIDS AND CITY AND TOWN LEADERS throughout the land! On the Worcester front, Thank You, Steve Baer, Deirdre Healy, Deb Young and all THE TERRIFIC INCITY TIMES WRITERS (including moi😉) who’ve educated Worcester County and Worcester about the horrific lives wild animals live in circuses! Story, after story, after story! We’ve worked so hard!
I will always love our animal rights writers!!! For being so kind! For being so fearless! For being so selfless! For being so political! … And for being such kick-ass writers!
Rose and her rescued lil’ girl, Cece. (3 days ago/pic:R.T.)
It’s been an HONOR TO PUBLISH your circus, circus elephant and wild animals cover stories, columns and photos!
WE DID IT!
TEARS OF JOY!!!
WHAT A GREAT WAY TO BEGIN 2017!
All other animal circuses, roadside zoos, and wild animal exhibitors, including marine amusement parks like SeaWorld and the Miami Seaquarium, must take note: society has changed, eyes have been opened, people know now who these animals are, and we know it is wrong to capture and exploit them.
Concussion education is the first step in creating a safe environment for all of our children!
Concussion Workshop – Wednesdays, January 11 and 25
Time: 5 pm
Place: YMCA OF CENTRAL MASSACHUSETTS,
766 Main St.
Open to ALL!!!
Jessica Gravel PT, DPT Outpatient Concussion
Dr. Robert C. Cantu Concussion Center
Matthew White MEd, ATC, PES Head Athletic
Trainer, Dr. Robert C. Cantu Concussion Center
Attorney General’s Monthly Office Hours
Are you not being paid at least minimum wage or overtime?
Disputing a purchase or return of a faulty product with a business?
Do you need help resolving an issue with your landlord?
Are you facing discrimination?
Talk to the Attorney General’s Office!
Come to the Attorney General’s Monthly Office Hours!
As the People’s Law Firm, our staff will be ready to assist you and answer your questions!
The 3rd Wednesday of each month at the
Worcester Connections Family Resource Center of YOU Inc.
Next Date: 1/18/17 from 11:30 am-1 pm
Office of the Attorney General Maura Healey
Questions? Call (617) 963-2313 |
Please note: Though attorneys from the Attorney General’s Office can advise people generally of their rights, the AGO cannot represent individuals, nor can attorneys from the AGO provide legal advice to individuals.