Tag Archives: childhood poverty

Driving with a friend through Worcester’s inner-city neighborhoods …

By Rosalie Tirella

… my pets, back at the shack, waiting for me …

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pics: R.T.

… my pal and I running my errands in all the old familiar places … zipping back and forth over the inner-city Worcester streets I know so well … I got it. Fresh. Like I did the first time. Because on this day I was playing tour guide and seeing my spaces through my friend’s “tourist” eyes. On this day I saw just how “HARD HIT” half of “balkanized” Worcester – my side of town💗 – really is! Grafton Street, South Worcester, Webster Square, Main Street, 4 Corners, Piedmont, Green Island, lower Vernon Hill … once sturdy, blue collar neighborhoods that provided poorer/immigrant Worcesterites with a boost up the first rungs of the AMERICAN DREAM ladder, now engulfed in poverty, the Section 8 cheats, the drug takers and the drug pushers, …

… malnourished little kids, the morbidly obese, the rampant garbage-dumping …

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in the front yard of an Endiott Street multi-family – shameful!

… the ranters and ravers…

It was all there for the two of us to see as we drove around paying bills, buying milk. Not to mention the unseen but simmering-just-below-the-surface shit: the guns, the assault rifles, the bags of smack, the used syringes. In my years of living in Worcester, after returning here from sojourns in Hartford and Springfield, I’ve come up against all these devils. It’s funny: the Worcester of 2017 – in the old neighborhoods, at least – now reminds me of the Hartford and Springfield of the mid-1990s – the mid-sized cities I fled: dangerous, impoverished, dirty, gun-infested.

Which is why I left those cities in the first place and headed back to my hometown!

Worcester! The city that works! More working people here – purposeful folks adding to community life – fewer folks living dangerous, alternative lives on the periphery.

But that’s changed.

The poverty and despair of the Springfield and Hartford of my younger self have caught up to Worcester! At least on my streets! The many good jobs of yester year for the average joe and jane are NO longer in Worcester – in all the mid-sized and small cities throughout the land! The economy has changed, despite what Pez Prez Donald Trump, wants us to believe. Often times, our smart and resourceful but “uneducated” kids shun the McJobs here and figure out they can make a great living selling drugs! And they do just that until the authorities – or gang bangers warring over turf – catch up to them. And maybe kill them.

Bang bang …

I know, I know, I sound negative, doom ‘n’ gloom. According to the Worcester Police Department, our crime stats show that homicides are down in Woo, the murder rate plunging. But it feels like the violent crimes are up! It can feel so dark and foreboding here!

In the cold, gray afternoon light with winter’s rawness still engulfing the city and the now dirty snow still clinging unmelted to sidewalks and our souls, I found myself making excuses for my part of Worcester to my friend, who lives in one of Woo’s well-heeled suburbs.

Well, you know, I said to her, it’s the snow, the tail end of winter … that’s why things look so rough. The city is bound to look a bit bedraggled, frayed at the edges …

Or: Let’s get out of here – I don’t wanna get us in the middle of a deal… (I did not say the word “drug” before “deal”!)

The Misfortune Parade was overwhelming! The old alcoholic guy in the liquor store, the panhandler with cardboard sign, stumbling …

“He doesn’t look so good,” my friend said, as she reached down into her pocketbook for loose change for the panhandler.

Yes, I was making excuses for my city’s poverty and all the sad, violent social ills that get toted along with it. I didn’t want this suburban gal pal – of course, she knew! – to see the Worcester I see every day. I didn’t wanna make us both wince! And yet I wanted to tell her stuff, recall the scenes that make me feel this city isn’t “home” at all:

1. The Kid in the Worcester Dumpster.

Yep. As I was illegally throwing my little bag of crap into a dumpster in the ‘hood I came upon – in the dumpster! – a 10-year-old boy wading in the garbage.

A kid, who should have been in school learning, chest deep in shit – expressionless as he was making his way through it, looking for receipts, possibly with credit card numbers on them…??? There was a man sitting in a car a few yards away waiting for the boy. He obviously deposited him in the big dumpster to look for receipts and goodies. The boy was in the middle of doing his “job” when I stumbled upon him.

The man just sat in the car waiting, as I stared at him and back at the boy. They most likely had other dumpsters for the boy to dive into. They probably had a route. This was income-generating.

Surreal. In my city, Worcester.

2. The Kid Being Pushed Out of a Van to Sell Lollipops:

Then in Greendale, on West Boylston Street in Worcester: A guy pushing a little boy – another little boy! – out of a van with a bouquet of stale looking big round lollipops. To sell to people. Two bucks a pop, according to the little sign stuck amid the big jaw breakers. The kid looked positively miserable yet robotically did what was expected of him. I watched him as he entered each store in the strip mall – lifeless, on task – so unlike your average 10-year-old boy. He would go to the person at the cash register, asking if they wanted to buy a big pop for 2 bucks, like his little sign said. There was no non-profit or worthy cause he was plugging. Just himself. He looked pale, hair unwashed … jeans hanging from his skinny waist. He sold a few pops. People felt sorry for him. The few donations came his way – just like his boss, the creepy guy in the van, had expected.

I called the Worcester cops after witnessing this city scene: IT’S SLAVERY, I TELL YOU!!!!! I screamed into my cell phone, totally bent out of shape. IS HE MOLESTING THE BOY??? I SEE STUFF LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME!!! I yelled at the police officer, screaming into my cell. I sounded unhinged because I was unhinged! I had connected the dots and I was terrified for the boy – all little boys!

PLEASE! GET DOWN HERE ASAP! I yelled at the police officer over my cell. Please!

The WPD police officers, I imagine, have seen it all. So maybe they thought: YES, THIS DISTRAUGHT BROAD IS ON TO SOMETHING. Or: HERE IS A POOR GUY, A POOR DAD, USING HIS SON TO MAKE SOME EXTRA DOUGH – THE WRONG THING TO DO, BUT TIMES ARE TOUGH. This broad is over-reacting.

I chose to believe the officers took down the information I gave them over the phone and investigated the incident.

Or maybe the cops just thought I was … nutsville. Which I was, at that moment! Because I saw the pain in that little boy’s wan face!

And I remembered the 10 year old boy I saw wading in the dumpster not so long ago.

And I had had an epiphany: THIS SORT OF THING IS HAPPENING TO LITTLE KIDS ALL THE TIME! In my America!

3. The Plant Girls

Then there are the girls walking outside Worcester strip malls selling small, anemic plants to anyone who’ll buy … but maybe selling more than their half-dead plants. Some of the “girls” look older than 18, some really look like girls – about 14 or 15 years old. I remember, I told my friend while driving around with her running my errands, seeing a guy every week sitting alone in a car in a Worcester strip mall parking lot, facing the street, looking straight ahead, as if waiting for something … just as the plant girls were making their rounds selling their half-dead little plants.

It upset me to think that I had just “figured it out” then, at that moment, in my friend’s car, as we drove around: that blow jobs were what was selling those days – way faster than little plants.

You see Worcester’s future in our kids. You see the country’s lopsided economy that has left so many parents behind. And yes, if you’re young and rich and educated and fueled by the Internet, the new Worcester and American economy is for you. But if you’re not – like half of us here – it’s very hard to survive.

It was all so clear to me on a gray March day, running errands with my friend.

Worcester needs a REAL FOOD HUB!

By Rosalie Tirella

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I love my city, but we have to deal with our hunger problem …

What Worcester needs badly!!: a TRUE FOOD HUB! Just like they have in Greenfield! A store in the city open 7 days a week, 9 – 5, a building, a physical place to shop like Price Chopper or Shop Rite … only filled with locally sourced produce that typically wouldn’t be sold in supermarkets. A food hub is just like a supermarket, only it sells local farmers’ less-than-perfect produce – for way CHEAP! Way way less $$ than the supermarkets and our high-end farmers market, here, ironically, in our inner city – by Kelley Square!!! Kelley Square – home to so many poor people, refugees, immigrants – DIVERSITY! The Worcester of tomorrow! You don’t see our future at this boutique farmers market by Kelley Square. You see … gentrification. It’s an affront to the real neighborhood and its people!

Did you know…Farmers throw away veggies that aren’t ready for prime time! These “rejects” are still amazingly tasty and healthy – fresh from the good earth! FOOD HUBS answer the question: Why not give our working poor, our immigrants a chance – a place! – to buy these homeless, kitchen-less vegetables and fruits? The working poor and immigrants are not patronizing the high-end farmers market any ways, and they often live out of walking distance from produce-selling supermarkets … so no one loses customers. It’s an entirely different customer base – the people in my neighborhood! The folks in all of Worcester’s inner-city neighborhoods!

Let’s do the right thing!

We can’t let politics or a fake, self-obsessed pretend little girl/real-life bitch (I’ve asked around! no one in the city seems to really like her, despite her relentless p.r.) kill this project! Get in the way of A REAL PHYSICAL FOOD HUB FOR WORCESTER! Our kids – all kids! – need to grow up healthy and strong!

20160730_155547-2 photos: Rosalie Tirella

******

…until the FOOD HUB IS A REALITY (staffed/run by REC???)…

Farmers Market 1-1-1

Mobile Market-1

Farmers Market 1-1-2

Something more than pretty trees and sidewalks …

By Rosalie Tirella

… needs to happen in Worcester’s inner-city neighborhoods…

Here, in Union Hill, we have the newly planted trees, newly poured sidewalks …

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photos:R.T.

A few days ago I saw all the pretty new trees all in a row, straight as an arrow, planted down Providence Street …

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Paid for by the federal government. Also: a new municipal parking lot. And new programs for neighborhood families stressing healthy choices. And … a stronger community police presence.

I am not too hopeful.

A few folks may get it. Most won’t.

The INTRACTABLE problem?

The poverty is still here!!! The kids undernourished, their parents outside of society. Hence our trash dumping problem, our heroin problem, gun violence, hopelessness … even in creating more attractive Worcester inner-city neighborhoods.

Some folks, like poopy diapers Paul Collyer and Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney (Collyer’s political mentee) clamor for the Trump solution: KEEP ‘EM OUT! We can’t build a physical wall like Trump is promising, they say, but we can build others – invisible ones! –  just as impervious! No more section 8! No more low income housing!

They turn away from the people who come to cities to start life in America!

But Worcester, like New York, Boston, Lawrence or Lowell,  will always be a Gateway City!

LOCKING PEOPLE OUT IS NOT THE ANSWER!

GOOD PAYING JOBS for the undereducated is the answer – just like our factories provided our people decades ago.

They’re mostly gone now  …

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… and with them the leg up the poor and uneducated needed to achieve the American Dream: homeownership, security, safe neighborhoods. BELONGING. HAPPINESS.

All you needed was to work hard, like my Polish grandpa did in Dudley’s textile mills. The day he joined his Union was an IMPORTANT and CELEBRATORY day for his family!

His daughters thought they were the bees knees! They had hope!

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My mother (on the left, hugging my fave auntie) was whip smart; she was offered the opportunity to attend a junior college on scholarship! A terrific, impressive achievement for the daughter of a poor Polish immigrant mill worker in the 1940s! Most women did not attend college back then – especially poor ones like Ma.  But she had to work to help support her family.

She worked so hard, she deferred her dreams!!! … later to dream them through her daughters, through me: The fact that I am a pretty ok writer was never ever lost on my late Mom, who before her illness at 80, read every one of my stories and had something wise to say about each and every one of them. From the time I was 10!!! A life time of nurturing her daughter! Her American dream!

My mom had two doctor nephews (the sons of the above auntie!), one engineer neice (a trail blazer!) besides a daughter with a community paper! I’ll never forget: My old Ma in that wretched nursing home, in her wheelchair, with copies of InCity Times on her bony legs. Ma rolling around the east wing of the nursing home with ICT bouncing in her lap, giving out copies of InCity Times to the distracted nurses – actually pressing them on the LPNs and nurses aides! So pushy for my little rag, just days before her death! So proud of her favorite daughter!

It used to take a few generations to make it the way you wanted to make it in America, be it financially, artistically, whatever you chose to be. Now we Americans feel stagnant, stuck and anxious about our futures. Hence, Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left.

Candidate Hillary Clinton needs to make US BELIEVE!

Clinton needs to make good on her promises:

PAID FAMILY LEAVE

UNIVERSAL PRE-K

FREE TUITION AT OUR COMMUNITY COLLEGES

A HIGHER MINIMUM WAGE

A REVISED NAFTA and other global trade pacts

PAY EQUITY …

Hubby Bill says HILLARY CARES FOR US! Loves us strivers! The daughters and sons, grandsons and granddaughters of immigrants! The strugglers in poor inner city neighborhoods, working poor Americans! OF WHICH THERE ARE A LOT!!

WE HOPE THIS IS TRUE!!! BILL CLINTON SO INSPIRED US at the DNC! He gave a speech all right! MADE US WANT TO BELIEVE IN HIS WIFE!

We will need to believe – and have all of the above opportunities – like all of Western Europe has had for decades! – to make up for our lost factories, an America that worked for so many people.

America cannot be tweaked!

America needs an economic and social overhaul!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Trees and flowers in inner-city neighborhoods are beautiful – and always welcome. But the real work needs to happen … NOW!

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Congressman Jim McGovern named a Children’s Champion (Go, Jim, go!!!)

The First Focus Campaign for Children, a national bipartisan children’s advocacy group, recognized today U.S. Representatives Katherine Clark and Jim McGovern for their leadership on issues important to the health and well-being of children during 2015.
 
“Lots of politicians talk about kids’ issues, but few back it up,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the Campaign for Children. “Congresswoman Clark and Congressman McGovern delivered for kids.”
                                   In selecting Champions, the First Focus Campaign for Children noted leaders who introduced, co-sponsored, and voted for legislation to meet children’s needs.

In addition, the organization considered Members who demonstrated extraordinary initiative by spearheading activities such as sponsoring hearings or garnering the support of their colleagues to improve the health and well-being of children.
 
The advocacy organization recognized as “Champions for Children” 50 Members of Congress for their extraordinary efforts to protect and improve the future of America’s next generation.

An additional 50 Members were recognized as “Defenders of Children” for their support of policies that advance the well-being of children. The 2015 Champions and Defenders are:
 
2015 Champions for Children
 
Senate
 
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Bob Casey (D-PA)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Al Franken (D-MN)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Mark Kirk (R-IL)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)
 
House
 
Karen Bass (D-CA)
Judy Chu (D-CA)
David Cicilline (D-RI)
Katherine Clark (D-MA)
Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Danny Davis (D-IL)
Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
Suzan DelBene (D-WA)
Ted Deutch (D-FL)
Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Chris Gibson (R-NY)
Gene Green (D-TX)
Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ)
Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL)
Richard Hanna (R-NY)
Mike Honda (D-CA)
Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
Ann Kuster (D-NH)
Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM)
Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Doris Matsui (D-CA)
Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Jim McGovern (D-MA)
Gwen Moore (D-WI)      
Charles Rangel (D-NY)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
Steve Stivers (R-OH)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
 
2015 Defenders of Children
 
Senate
 
Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Chris Coons (D-DE)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Dean Heller (R-NV)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
 
House
 
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Tony Cárdenas (D-CA)
John Conyers (D-MI)
Rodney Davis (R-IL)
Susan Davis (D-CA)
Charlie Dent (R-PA)
Bob Dold (R-IL)
Donna Edwards (D-MD)
Eliot Engel (D-NY)
Elizabeth Esty (D-CT)
Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
Derek Kilmer (D-WA)
Jim Langevin (D-RI)
Sandy Levin (D-MI)
John Lewis (D-GA)
Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY)
Patrick Murphy (D-FL)
Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Jared Polis (D-CO)
Mark Pocan (D-WI)
Dave Reichert (R-WA)
Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Bobby Scott (D-VA)
Jackie Speier (D-CA)
Mike Thompson (D-CA)
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Juan Vargas (D-CA)
Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)
Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
John Yarmuth (D-KY)
                                                  
This is the Campaign for Children’s sixth annual class of Champions for Children. For more information about past honorees, visit www.campaignforchildren.org.
 
The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit campaignforchildren.org.

For the babies and the children!!!

From Congressman Jim McGovern’s office. – R.T.

On House Floor, McGovern Calls Hunger a Solvable Issue Key to Supporting Healthy Families
 
For 49 Million Americans,
Struggle with Hunger Can Bring Serious Health Challenges
 
Congressman McGovern Highlights Worcester County Food Bank, Community Harvest Project, Community Servings, Other Massachusetts Efforts to Help Hungry Families
   
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Jim McGovern spoke today on the House floor to highlight the connection between addressing hunger in the United States – impacting 49 million Americans – and supporting healthy families. McGovern recognized Massachusetts organizations like Worcester County Food Bank, Community Harvest Project, and Community Servings for their efforts to treat hunger as a health issue and help families in need.

The full text of Congressman McGovern’s floor speech is below.
 
As Prepared For Delivery:

 
“Supporting healthy families and strong communities starts with access to healthy food, but for many families, it’s a struggle just to put food on the table. And a growing body of research shows why we should all be concerned with hunger as a health issue.
 
“For the 49 million Americans who struggle with food insecurity – or hunger – access to nutritious foods – and enough ­ healthy food — is a real challenge that can have serious negative health consequences far beyond just a growling stomach.
 
“Hunger can exacerbate underlying medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease and cancer and can result in life-threatening complications. Not only that, hunger can result in more trips to the emergency room and more hospitalizations which only increases health care costs across the board.
 
“A recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that households with low food security had 49 percent higher health care costs than those who didn’t have to worry about where their next meal was coming from. And, health care costs were an astonishing 121 percent higher for those with very low food security.
 
“Similarly, a 2014 article in the journal Health Affairs reported that hospitals saw a 27 percent increase in hypoglycemia cases among low income individuals at the end of the month as compared to the beginning of the month.
 
“You might wonder why that is. The sad truth is that these cases of hypoglycemia – or low blood sugar – are likely more prevalent at the end of the month because this is when SNAP benefits run out for many individuals and families.
 
“When families don’t have enough to eat, their health suffers. We hear time and time again that the current monthly SNAP benefit is inadequate. That families must scramble to cobble together enough to eat from food pantries and charities.
 
“Seniors are especially vulnerable to hunger as a health issue. Many seniors live on fixed incomes and are often faced with the tough choice of paying for their medications or paying for food. For seniors, taking medication on an empty stomach can be especially dangerous and may land them in the hospital.
 
“It is astounding that some of America’s most vulnerable families must face these challenges month after month, year after year.
 
“But the good news is that hunger can also be one of the most “treatable” health conditions. Hunger is solvable. We have the resources. We just need to muster the political will to end hunger now..
 
“One organization that has for years been doing incredible work to reframe the paradigm of hunger as a health issue is Community Servings, a Massachusetts-based non-profit that delivers free meals to homebound individuals and their families. Their meals are “medically tailored” to meet the specific dietary needs of the recipients..
 
“The Community Servings model addresses two of the biggest barriers that low income individuals who are dealing with extended illness face: shopping for food and preparing meals. Community Servings takes care of that so patients can focus on getting better without worrying about where their next meal is coming from.
 
“The Community Servings model shows great promise in not only fighting hunger but also in saving money in our health care system. A survey last year of doctors and nurses who care for Community Servings’ clients found that 96 percent said the meals improved their clients’ health and 65 percent said they believed the meals had resulted in fewer hospitalizations.
 
“We also need to do a better job of connecting our hospitals and community health centers and VA hospitals with farmers markets.
 
“Organizations like Wholesome Wave are effectively expanding their Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, where doctors can write a “prescription” for fruits and vegetables that individuals can then immediately “fill” at a farmers market that might be set up on the hospital grounds one or two days a week.
 
“Boston Medical Center has addressed hunger as a health issue head on with its Preventive Food Pantry permanently located in the hospital itself. Here, low income families can work with a dietician to choose foods that meet their dietary needs with an emphasis on fresh fruit and vegetables.
 
“And food banks and food pantries are finding innovative ways to partner with local farms to provide more fresh produce to low-income families. I’m proud to represent one such forward-thinking partnership in my congressional district. Every year, the Community Harvest Project, run through a local farm in Grafton, Massachusetts, donates hundreds of thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to the Worcester County Food Bank.
 
“And finally, we ought to do a better job of educating doctors and nurses about what hunger looks like. I’m always surprised when I talk to medical students that they only take one or two – if any – classes in nutrition.
 
“That’s why I’m proud to be a cosponsor of my friend Congressman Tim Ryan’s bill – the ENRICH  Act – which would provide grants to improve nutrition education among health care professionals.
 
“As Members of Congress, we talk a lot about finding ways to save money in our health care system. In that same conversation, we need to do a better job of understanding that food is medicine. That we can’t just address hunger and health as two separate issues. They’re two sides of the same coin.
 
“Hunger is a health issue. And it should be treated as such.
 
“We can and should do more to end hunger now.”
 

The Boston Globe ran …

… a terrific series on ALL THINGS FOOD: the politics of it, the fads … Get the “scoop” here!

Is farm-to-table just a fad?

Amid this resurgence, it’s easy to forget that farm food was not always a luxury item but something fundamental.

By Kathy Gunst

A YOUNG MAN with a slightly wild beard, wearing a blue and black flannel shirt, makes his way through the crowd of partygoers. In his hand he carries a silver tray. “Would you care to try a French breakfast radish?” he asks the guests dressed in white pants and designer dresses. “They were picked just about an hour ago.”

I’m at a farm-to-table dinner on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a gorgeous summer night, the sky streaked with shades of fluorescent pink and orange. Close to 50 people are gathered outside the weathered barn. Despite the mud and dirt in the barnyard, many of the women are wearing heels, while the men soil their Topsiders. These farm-loving friends have each paid $125 to attend this dinner.

The radishes come with no sauce or fancy sea salt. A diminutive woman standing next to me looks at the tray of radishes as if she’s falling in love. “Is that the most precious thing you’ve ever seen?” she says to no one in particular. “What an adorable little radish.” And with that she pops the little baby right into her mouth. …

CLICK HERE to read the entire article and the several others that comprise this excellent series!    – R.T.