Tag Archives: Green Island Grrrl

Molly – a “cut” above the rest!

By Rosalie Tirella

Today, while looking in my “magic” mirror, …

pics: R.T.

… I saw my fingers fussing a little too busily with the grey hairs framing my middle-aged face. So I grabbed one of my cheap dye-job kits, …


… left the touch-up bottles in the bathroom, and went into my pantry to perform a MAJOR DYE JOB – platinum blond on top of the fake auburn, on top of the fake copper highlights, on top of the original mousy brown.  I dye my hair in  my pantry (dishes washed and put away!) because it’s  got two big sinks and a spray hose, making coloring my pixie pretty easy, if not at all pampering (trendy hair salons – with their $75 price tags – are “out” for this blue-collar gal!).

I grabbed my clean, old towels I use specially to dye my hair, the Nice ‘n’ Easy box, and was set to begin the all-too-familiar routine. But even before I opened the box – she, Molly –  came back to me. In a rush!  And I didn’t even have to get a whiff of the peroxide in the toner bottles!

When I was a little girl growing up in Green Island, Molly was our family “hairstylist.” My mom took my two sisters and me to “Molly’s” for our haircuts, and she went to Molly’s for her “perms.”  We always called the hair salon Molly’s, even though Molly had given it a proper name, probably something very glamorous for Millbury Street, where it was located – or should I say crammed into (the space was pretty much a long corridor) – near Kelley Square.

I think Ma called Molly’s Molly’s because Molly had been doing my mother’s hair for a decade  – way before Ma had us kids. They were “professional” friends: Molly took her clothes to be cleaned at the dry cleaner’s down Millbury Street where Ma worked as a counter girl, and Ma took her black hair (I always loved the color – her own) to be cut and given a curly permanent up Millbury Street where Molly worked. They had confided to each other through the years: Molly knew my mom was poor, killing herself at the dry cleaners to put a roof over her three little girls’ heads. And Ma knew that Molly was also alone – a single working woman hustling with her small business (I never saw a customer – I was so proud! It always seemed Molly had opened her shoppe SPECIAL for my mother and us kids!) and caring for her grown son who still lived with her and had “problems” and couldn’t hold a job. Ma never explicitly said anything about alcoholism,  but somehow I got the gist of it  – and was always nice and polite to Molly.

These days hair salons are like movie studios, filled with young, beautiful women with beautiful, long, thick  multi-hued tresses “foiled” ever so artistically. They are cutting, coloring,  practically caressing, their clients’  locks. These women – and men – consider themselves hair and makeup artists and use phrases like “color palette.” They are skin care professionals, too! Life-style gurus, even. To enter many Worcester hair salons today is to be swept up into  tranquil, luxurious worlds filled with lovely aromas, music, people, salon  furniture and shampoo dispensers. Places where stylists coo their flattery, offer you complimentary cups of chai tea  and dry your hair with the fluffiest towels! As if you’re Meryl Streep about to sashay down the Red Carpet!

So unlike Molly’s. As a little girl, even holding Ma’s hand, I was always a little afraid of Molly – of getting my haircut at Molly’s. First, she wasn’t beautiful  –  or even pretty. She looked like Johnny Rotten or Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. She cut her hair with a razor blade – very short and jagged. Then the lurid orange-yellow hair dye was poured on – Molly’s signature hair color. Until her death. Her hair was teased – spiked – out and up!  Laquered in place with a ton of hairspray…defying gravity. The first impression Molly made? She looked as if she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Molly always wore a black plastic robe tied tightly around her waist – if you could locate it on her torso.  Molly was skinny as a tooth pick – her waist would be hard to define. She never glided down her rented corridor on Millbury Street, like she was some beautiful movie star, the way some hairstylists do today.  No, Molly always walked jack-knife straight, as if escaping a bloody car accident. She’d lurch from the sink with stiff towel, to the black no-nonsense barber’s chair you sat on, to her back room, closed off to the public by a heavy gold plastic shower curtain dragged across its entrance … for another pair of shears, or just a time out. It was a stressful affair.

Molly never smiled or made chit chat with us kids when she cut our hair. No “How do you like your new teacher at school?” or “How old are you now? My, you’re a big girl!” Stuff that hairstylists say to kids today to kiss up to their  helicopter moms who hover over the hairstylist with polite determination. Molly – and Ma – had no time for that clap trap. We were little kids – as significant as the  faded posters of the out-dated models with their old hairstyles that Molly had Scotch-taped to the walls.  At Molly’s, the women did the talking. About grown-up things. I shut my mouth and closed my eyes while Molly cut away and talked with Ma.

Molly was a very fast and abrupt hair cutter and occasionally poked you in the eye with one of her bony fingers – or the points of her little scissors. I didn’t want her sharp little shears nicking my face – ouch! It had happened a few times during previous visits to her beauty parlor . So I closed my eyes and listened to Ma and Molly talk – in hushed tones – about their lives. Very seriously. Sometimes I’d open my eyes to see Ma seated on the barber’s chair next to the one I was sitting, leaning forward, looking anxious, as she confided to Molly. Molly, 15 or 16 years older than Ma, seemed to give her advice. Sometimes I’d open my eyes and see Molly in her little side room (the plastic shower curtain was pulled six inches to the right or left),  and I’d see her open a little drawer in her cabinet  and pull out a little flask like I’d  seen at McGovern’s Package Store a block away. Molly would stand stiffly by that cabinet, like a stork, her skinny arms and legs all veiny, and she’d take a few furtive swigs from the flask and shove it back into the drawer.  I once asked Ma about the flasks. Ma looked annoyed…said Molly had a lot to think about. Said Molly was taking care of her only son. A grown man who was sick and depended on Molly to take care of him. Did I say my pretty, sweet mother looked annoyed with me?  I never asked about the flasks and back rooms again and always tried to be extra nice and polite to Molly. My kid sisters sat on the gold plastic chairs lined up against the opposite wall, the reception area, while I got my hair cut. It’d be their turn next!

Ma always  made us get our hair cut at the same time. It was easier that way for her – one trip to Molly’s, one outlay of cash. Ma got her curly perms every three or four months at Molly’s. We kids went along – mainly for the trip to The Broadway restaurant on Water Street for hot fudge sundaes after Molly finished perming Ma’s hair! Sitting on those gold seats at Molly’s, watching her work on someone else, Ma, you got a different perspective – and realized that Molly was as cavalier with Ma’s hair as she was with mine and my two kid sisters’. She must have used the strongest chemicals to curl Ma’s otherwise soft wavy hair because she always lined  my mother’s entire hairline with a thick rope of cotton – to keep the chemicals off Ma’s face and out of her eyes. Still, while Molly worked over Ma in her stiff, fast manner, lips pursed, her black slim cats eyes glasses slipping down the bridge of her skinny long nose, I could see my mother’s pretty face turning a blotchy pink red from the strong chemicals. She sighed and sweated.  Molly ran into her back room for a swig of vodka and two cotton balls to plug up Ma’s ears. That was so the chemicals – of which Molly used a lot – wouldn’t flow into my mother’s ears as Molly rolled Ma’s treated hair into the scores of little curlers. It looked like there were around a million of them – small and medium sized – in her beauty tray. There were no  windows that opened at Molly’s – just storefront ones – so Molly opened the front door to let some fresh air in. Still it stunk to high heaven in that little Kelly Square beauty shop.

After a few hours of what seemed like torture to Ma – the smells, the red skin, the hot dryer over her head that made her face even redder – Ma was “done.” Literally! Molly took out the scores of curlers and combed out the little curls – teasing the front of Ma’s hair-do, over her still red forehead –  quite artistically we kids thought. Then she sprayed about a half a can of Aqua Net on Ma’s hair – and voila! Ma looked beautiful! She looked just like Elizabeth Taylor in the 1950s – or Sue, who worked at the dry cleaners with Ma, and also got her hair permed at Molly’s. Or my Aunt Mary who, now married to my Uncle Mark and living in the nicer part of town (the Burncoat area), was still loyal to her old beautician from Green Island and had Molly perm her hair, too. Like Ma,  Aunt Mary had a history with Molly.

We all had a history with Molly –  one that overlooked the actual hair care. Molly seemed to know only a few hair cuts and styles. She never was “on trend,” unless you want to count her punk rocker look. It was the early 1970s – punk rock was ascendent … maybe she really was trying to look like Ziggy Stardust. All I know is that Molly made my mother and all the ladies who came in to her salon for perms look like … poodles. We kids got the crookedest pixies…she was too cheap to shampoo us. Hair conditioner? We didn’t know what that was –  didn’t  use it at home. Our kiddie hair cuts were supposed to air dry. We were treated rough – like wayward puppies who had rolled in dessicated squirrel and dried dog shit. Fast, fast, fast went Molly’s hands over our little heads – so rough!

When I got older, say 11 or so, I began to develop my own sense of fashion. If  you’ve been reading me, you know as a tween I had a mega crush on the ’70s teen heart-throb pop singer David Cassidy, lead singer of The Partridge Family. I wanted Molly to give me a shag – just like David Cassidy’s – like all the kids were wearing! I went into Molly’s with Ma and, shyly, tried to explain to Molly, the look I wanted: the bangs, the layers, the length. I even said: “David Cassidy” and “Partridge Family”! Molly frowned, put me in her stiff black barbers chair, draped a big black plastic cape over my front and went to work – feverishly. I expected the worst and shut my eyes to protect them, and my psyche, like I always did. When it was all over, Ma gasped. I opened my eyes to see my mother … smiling! At me! I looked into Molly’s big wall mirror and saw me … looking very cute!!  Like a mini-David Cassidy! Or the beautiful Karen Carpenter of the Carpenters! Or Paul Williams, the little pop singer I just watched on the Odd Couple TV show with my sister the other night!  I  looked so cute in my shag!! ….My bangs softly framing my face, my hair flowing softly, roundly about my ears, then gently cascading over my shoulders, very feathery! JUST LIKE DAVID CASSIDY’s coif!

Molly smiled when she saw my beaming round face. She took the big black cape off me and, with a flourish, shook it so my light brown hair wafted to the floor. Ma, still smiling, paid her for my haircut and we walked home. I floated down Lafayette Street! A few days later, our class photos were taken at school – individual ones now because I was in seventh grade. I still have one of the wallet photos. I am smiling broadly. I’m wearing a silver band around my neck, from which dangles a delicate silver heart. I’ve got on a thin, bright yellow orange sweater – almost as bright as Molly’s hair! All the cool kids were wearing sweaters like that. And the color was so “in”! And I’m sporting – modeling! – the shag haircut Molly gave me just a few days earlier. Perfect!

Newsrooms in their heyday! I was there, at the “tale’s” end!

By Rosalie Tirella

Watching this 60 Minutes interview, thinking about the new Tom Hanks/Meryl Streep movie, got me thinking about American newspapers and writing for a “daily,” The Springfield Union News, pre-social media – say, the early 1990s. Back then I was a cub reporter for the Union News, just an hour and a half westward ride down the Mass Pike from ol’ Worcester.  I had made the wise decision to move to Springfield to immerse myself in the city – and its news.

I had been a “stringer” for the T and G here in town, back when the T and G – like most daily newspapers in America – was the only show in town and hence lucrative, and hence able to hire all kinds of writers. Back then the T and G reporters filled an ENTIRE building on Franklin Street! Three floors of writers! And there were all kinds: columnists,  lifestyle reporters,  cooking writers … travel, features and even music (classical AND rock n roll!) reporters. Today? Just the bare-bones news and sports writers , throw in a columnist here and there. It’s the formula for most second/third-tier city dailies in America today.

But back in the day things were so good$$$ for mid- to big-city daily newspapers that their reporting staffs overflowed into the many small towns and burbs around them. That was true of the T and G and Worcester County. We called them “news bureaus” – publishers rented small offices in the surrounding towns to “cover” them, too. Report their news. These news bureaus had a managing reporter/editor type in charge of two or three town reporters, plus a couple of stringers who covered the teeniest town meetings that were deemed to insignificant to be covered by the reporters. These  town meetings were usually sparsely attended and run by town officials – big fishes in miniscule ponds who loved the sounds of their parochial voices. Their egos were huge. Many were stupid and/or corrupt. I loved it!!

This was my entry into the writing world: Chasing a Spencer police chief who turned around and chased me out of his police station – his cane raised over his head, swiping away at me!  Limping and waving his cane over his head at me – Rosalie Tirella, not just a girl Polak from Green Island, but a REPORTER who demanded the TRUTH  –  to see the town’s police log – public record! I was a real threat to this guy! I had power! The truth, the law, was on my side! Intoxicating!

Reporting totally appealed to my feisty, right-makes-might, writerly Catholic girl self! I was in heaven in that stinking little police “headquarters,” being chased by the proverbial racist, sexist small town, good ol’ boy top cop! I knew, at that moment: This is the life for me!!

Flash forward three years… I’m still a stringer at the T and G. News editor Leah Lamson doesn’t want to take a chance on me and hire me as a full-time reporter – for a T and G bureau. “Our reporters have masters degrees from the Columbia School of Journalism, ” she tells me. Haughtily.

I think: Right, Leah, and you got your  entry level reporting job here because your family used to go to the same summer camp as the old editor.

But I was more polite back then. So I held my tongue. Faced with her snobbery – and mediocrity (Leah couldn’t write for shit!) – I smiled, thanked her for her “time and consideration”  and shook her hand. Goodbye!

Then the magic happened: I was hired as the Enfield, Connecticut, reporter at the Union News in Springfield, the same kind of newspaper as the Telegram – a small city’s major rag. They had just opened their Connecticut bureau but weren’t renting an office in Connecticut. The money folks weren’t sure how their CT experiment would unfold. So they kept their five newly hired CT cub reporters – my four colleagues and me – in THE CITY ROOM in Springfield. WHERE ALL THE GREAT REPORTERS WERE! WHERE ALL THE ACTION WAS! The big, beautiful, sprawling, fluorescent-light lit city room!

Did you look closely at the Washington Post’s city room in the above video clip I posted? That’s the way it was in Springfield. That’s where I worked four glorious days a week!

Picture this: Rose begins her day at the Union News hub, in the middle of a diverse, challenged and challenging city… the doors open…the news room beckons: row, after row, after row of desks…each desk with a reporter typing on the chunky keyboard of his or her gargantuan desk top computer – the early ones. Atop their metal desks: notebooks, thick, bound reports, file folders of  “clips” they’re referring back to for info and context, dinky paper cups filled with bad  coffee bought for just 50 cents out of the big coffee machine in the utilitarian (let’s face it – ugly) break room off to the side. The computers are as ugly as the break room. Big  plastic television set jobs – the size of a Lazy Boy lounger. The computer screens are ugly too: no beautiful screen savers, no fancy bells and whistles…just the black background on which you typed your deep and beautiful thoughts  in ghastly green letters, in a basic, no nonsense font. Paragraph, after paragraph. It was really all about the words back then. Nothing was Instagramed, touted on FB, publicized to death in a fast, streamlined, slick manner. No one sat on cool ergonomically designed desk chairs, no one drank lattes or spring water. People drank Coke and many reporters smoked cigarettes – in the city room.

The desks were big clunky metal jobs – like the ones your high school teachers sat at. Nothing was saved in “the cloud”  – we each had tall or short metal filing cabinets in which we saved our new clips – the ones we cut out of papers and periodicals. We created different file folders for different subjects: the dog pound, the shooting at the park, the restaurant with the roach  problem. Our file cabinets also looked like the ones you’d see in your high school – your principal’s office.

And yet the writing was terrific! The reporters smart and intellectual – and hard nosed – and idealistic! We talked poetry and music when not writing our stories. We shared notes, sidled over to each other while sitting in our beat up metal chairs – with wheels.  Told a joke, flirted …

The desks were arranged in subgroups, according to the reporters’ “beats”: the cop reporters sat at their clump of desks; living had their row, schools and education theirs, features theirs, sports on the other side. Editors and copy editors were stationed in the middle of the long room – big enough to host a wedding – but the nerve center of the city room, the entire newspaper, the desks from which all the orders and decisions floweded, the people we reporters went to for guidance, advice. The (mostly) men to whom we “sent”  – emailed I guess you can could say – our “budgets” – the list of stories we were working on and would have for them at the end of the day – usually around 11 p.m. , as we were a morning newspaper. Budgets had to be in to our editors around 4 p.m.  You had to produce stories at the Union News. You had to always be working on a story. You had to be fast.

This was exciting.

Your daily deadline made it  exciting.

Here you were – you and 100 or so other newshounds – up against the clock. Out in the city or your town or  police station (your beat) in the afternoon hustling for the facts, reporting, then coming back to the city room with your notes and typing up your story. There were no cell phones back the, so you made your follow up phone calls around a million people, at your desk phone – a big clunky black job with a receiver on which was attached a plastic or rubber cradle so you could type your interview subject’s answers right onto your computer screen while cradling the receiver in the crook of your neck. All the cool reporters wrote like this. I did. It was like being in a movie – you and a 100 other people talking into phones and typing. Still, some of the great ones used only pen and notebook. I had a crush on a senior reporter who did both. Sometimes I’d look up from my computer across the room to look at him working – and catch him looking at me! City Room Lust!

You had to write – or I had to write -beautiful prose within this world-wind of people and phones ringing and keyboards clicking…this cacophony of slamming of desk and file cabinet drawers, munching and lunching! Heaven! At least at the Springfield Union News where all the reporters we’re so respectful and friendly. I don’t know if this is true for all city rooms but, while being hyper-competitive – all reporters want front page, above the fold! – my colleagues in Springfield were always proud of each other’s good work, catches and scoops. We all read each other’s stories – kept tabs on our bylines. We knew each other’s strengths like the covers of our slim, reporter notebooks: one guy was a brilliant writer! Another guy super sleuth reporter. Another was a brutal but accurate political scribe – after one of his investigative pieces was published, the politician he wrote about killed himself! Another person wasn’t much of a writer but a great guy who was good with sources and a total work horse. One gal got cheated out of the cop beat cuz she was a girl – but the cop reporter (a guy) was so good to her, so nice, so wanting to share his beat with her (he felt guilty for getting the job she deserved) it was … a little heart breaking.

Friendships formed, people hooked up and moved in with each other, a bunch of guys and gals would go on a celebratory bar crawl every Friday night – after the work week. I wasn’t a bar gal but I became  friends with three or so reporters – all guys, all helpful with ideas, sources, you name it. One turned out to be a total keeper – handsome, an elegant writer – and as crazy as me! His desk was next to the reporter I had a crush on. The guy I lusted over had a cute way of typing – eyes half closed, his long bangs brushing over his forehead. While busy typing, he never brushed his hair off his handsome face, just shook his head back. Very sexy. From across the city room I’d stop typing my school board story only to see my kooky buddy sitting next to him – doing the  same thing. Typing the same way my crush did. I’d laugh out loud! He would too. … I’m sure the object of my affection thought my buddy and I were both nuts! But we were good writers – sometimes my friend had written the most elegant news story of the day. Once I walked by one of the top editor’s office during one of his meetings with other top editors, and I heard him say “She’s one of our up-and-coming reporters.”

My God! Grab this girl’s ankles! Pull her down from scribe heaven! Wipe the star dust out of her eyelashes!

I floated over the ugly yellow linoleum city room floor for an ENTIRE day!

Back then there was a true mix of reporters – not everyone, as Lamson has stupidly crowed to me, had graduated with a master’s degree from the Columbia School of Journalism. Some great reporters came with no fancy pedigrees. After all, reporting started out as a career for blue collar smarties, society’s misfits and frustrated poets. That’s what made it such a great profession. At the Union News, the guy reporter I had a crush on had gone to a first rate liberal arts college, and there was a Yale grad, too. But there was a first rate gal reporter who had once been a social worker. There were Westfield State College grads – and a New York Times burnout at the copy desk. My editor was a very savvy reporter –  and an alcoholic. As in reeking of booze when you went to talk to him about your stories, blood shot eyes, greasy hair … stumbling as he walked over to you. Born and raised in Green Island, I had seen plenty of this before … and looked past it. One reporter, she was my least favorite , called him a booze hound, laughing . I never called him out. Was loyal to the guy. Liked him and his ol’ smile and his takes on the news. Today the editor would be fired, I’d be called an enabler and we’d both be in psychotherapy – and AA for him and Al-anon for me, to boot. But it was different back then! He kept his job, I kept my sweet editor who, in his tipsy state, still managed to do his job. Lots of reporters in the good old bad old days were drinkers. It kinda came with the territory.

Often I yearned for more…to be on the city staff writing about city people and city issues – the racial and ethnic stew from which I had sprung. It was a  drag covering the drippy (white, homogeneous) town of Enfield, Connecticut. So I’d propose stories with more oomph to my editors.  Stories with a wider scope. Big picture pieces. Investigative  juggernauts…but they never happened, or maybe a few did, but I don’t remember them. Mostly, people liked my feature writing and personal essays –  what I’m doing now for you.

In a year or two my city room dream died. The Enfield bureau wasn’t generating enough Connecticut ad revenue – so the Union News stopped printing a CT edition. None of us were laid off – but I was offered a job all the way up in no man’s land Greenfield. In their little bureau in a little town north of Northampton. I had graduated from UMass/Amherst, so I was familiar with the town. Like hell was I going there! A small town with no big exciting city news room where the piles of books and file folders were a fire hazard, where my drunk editor gave me silly grins, where I could go to the city room library and read The New York Times just for the hell of it. Or any major American paper. The city room, where all the ideas, arguments, note books, copy editors, editors, cans of Coke, cookie crumbs, photographers, affairs of the heart and words, words words that moved, changed a CITY sloshed about like a big gorgeous gold fish in a small gold fish bowl.  No. I was NOT going to the dinky Greenfield  bureau after the City Room!

Watching the clip, above, made me cry. To see all that beautiful junky clunky office furniture again. To see disheveled, dissipated looking, BRILLIANT editors  again! To see hundreds of work horse reporters who live and love their job. So NOT fake news, as President Trump bellows. And three cheers for all the young hungry reporters who are TODAY relentlessly pursuing  the TRUTH. Their writing isn’t as strong as the guy and gal scribes who preceded them…but they work just as hard – haven’t given Trump a second to catch his gassy breath. They are relentless! And that’s gangbusters!

Still, I cry over the death of most American city newspapers (even the T and G) and the shrinking of most city newsrooms. It’s the end of a glorious era. Glad I had a chance to experience the rukus and the romance!
Rose today: still crazy for writing, after all these years!

We feel your pain, Melania!

By Rosalie Tirella

First Lady of the United States Melania Trump, the butt of late night comedy shows and their wickedly wonderful hosts and guests …


FREE MELANIA!!!!! is the clarion call throughout our fair land! Some say the First Lady’s a victim: of emotional abuse, low self-esteem … her own greedy, materialistic self.

But don’t all grownups, including FLOTUS Melania Trump, make their own decisions? Are we so suggestible and air-headed that we marry or commit to someone just because someone else suggests it?😉 Or because our future mate-for-life looks good … is rich, powerful and/or drop dead beautiful? … aphrodisiacs that often fade with familiarity. Bargaining chips of the rich.

No, Melania stars in her own shit show. She gets little pity for being the Donald’s putty. Yeah, she keeps her distance, slaps his hand away, uses separate cars and bedrooms, but there’s never a clean break. Just more degradation, courtesy of her husband, President Donald Trump – and, sadly, herself. Donald fucked porn star Stormy Daniels directly after Melania had given birth to their son, Barron; he practically gropes his daughter ice princess (there’s that word!) Ivanka, he STILL wants to fuck – and probably does – every gorgeous piece of ass that crosses his crass path.

If Melania divorced Donald she’d be a national hero! Earn global accolades! And get cool millions in alimony! She could begin anew with shell-shocked son Barron. BE HONEST with her boy, grow him right – and maybe find a real prince! of a guy who will really, truly love her.

But something keeps Melania glued to her philandering, lying, sleaze ball husband, President Donald Trump. It’s Melania and it’s happened before. So many of our Presidents were total shitheads when it came to their wives – just look at the Bill and Hillary Clinton debacle! But the First Ladies stayed with their loser guys because our princess dreams die hard, horrible deaths…refuse to die! (Didn’t I just type “prince” a few paragraphs ago?!)

I still have the Cinderella Princess statuette my mother gave me when I was in the first grade!!

pics: R.T.


It is broken from years of my travels!

It came with a pink Timex wristwatch. For little girls.

For my mother’s very own little Princess!

I also keep my late mother’s white shoe polish, too. “White Scuff Cover” by Kiwi. So I never forget.


We were so poor… When Ma worked at the dry cleaners, she couldn’t afford new shoes, so she kept wearing the same old white nurses shoes she had bought for herself at the Mart in Main South. She had bottles and bottles for the 35 years she worked at Oscar’s. But my pretty mother had a truckload of pride – she always wanted to look professional and presentable for work (60 hours a week). She loved her job as a “counter girl,” working with the public! So she went crazy on the white shoe polish.

My mother must have watched this movie a hundreds times, The Sound of Music. It was her fave film! As a little girl growing up in Green Island, sometimes I was prodded into watching it with her. Ma believed wholeheartedly in this dream. Prince meets his future Princess and, after getting through some bad scrapes, a few romantic glitches, they finally hook up forever – marry and live happily (if a bit too chastely) ever after!

Yet like so many women living on Lafayette Street, Ward Street, Bigelow Street, Millbury Street and the other byways in our neighborhood, my mother hitched her trusting heart to an asshole husband – an abusive man, physically and emotionally. A philanderer extraordinare. My father. … Without the Trump money or brand. Not that it really makes a difference in the long run.

I like looking at the Sphynx-like expression on First Lady Melania’s face. It tells me nothing – and everything. So many of us women can relate to the truth buried beneath the lies.

The beautiful Broadway and Billy – 100 Water St.

By Rosalie Tirella

pic: R.T.

Rose on her daily drive down Water Street, where she gets her yummy wraps and sometimes coffee at The Broadway Restaurant and Catering at 100 Water St.

Did she tell you she loves this place? The idea of this place? The people of this place? The look of this place? The love wafting over every cup of coffee (bottom-less!) in the place? The INTEGRITY in each and every Broadway French fry?

What gives the B-Way its Best Ways? The Isaldakli family, of course! Owners for decades, after Billy Isaldakli realized his engineering degree wouldn’t make him as happy as or rich as owning the Broadway, the Isaldaklis bring a love for each other, their kids, grandkid and community that has fueled the Broadway’s success … for decades. Billy and Betsy, his wife and work partner, bring a magical Old World affection, unpretentiousness and moral code to the little corner eatery in my neighborhood that never fails to uplift and inspire me in this crass, narcissistic Trump world. The Canal District’s trendy bars, eats and people may come and go – I’ve seen these places open with such fanfare and then a year or 2 later, poof! gone! – but the Broadway endures. Like the turning of the earth, like the salt of the earth … like an epic Broadway Hot Fudge Sundae!

Years ago Billy bought the Broadway biz from the old and soon-to-retire Sam, a Green Island legend in his own right. Every Sunday morning Sam would be at the front entrance of his Broadway in a suit coat, shaking hands with and greeting each and every one of his (steady) customers as they walked through his front doors! When I was a little girl growing up in Green Island my mother, like half of Worcester, would take  us to the Broadway for breakfast after Sunday Mass. And there stood Sam, gate keeper to my sisters’ and my burgers, fries and Cokes, smiling seriously. (Ma had breakfast – always a cheese Western omelet and coffee💜.) Rich, poor, in-between – Sam treated ALL his customers with the same Sam brisk-but-attentive courteousness. It was a whirlwind Sunday! Sam was a king atop the Broadway hill!

Billy brought a more fun vibe to the place. Chatty, given to giving you unsolicited advice (usually spot-on. “Rose, you’re too deep into your life to adopt kids!”), political, smart and philosophical, Billy could have been a great politician – or Pope.

But it has been the Broadway where he’s built his life and flourished. I chalk much of his success up to his smarts, cooking skills but mostly Big Greek Love – for family, customers, Worcester – everybody. To experience the Broadway is to be swaddled in a warm world of connections, smiles, banter, family, integrity, homemade ice cream, hard work – the American dream slathered over your cheese burger, don’t hold the pickles!

Billy has owned his culinary icon for years and never ceases to impress folks with his family affair at 100 Water St! Billy, wife Betsy, daughter, son, soon grandson, all work at the Broadway at some point in their lives. They all seem to gather there, in the back dining room, for their informal Greek dinners. Often with a waitress, just off her shift. The room radiates clan, LOVE, family first, good food. AND…respect for every Woo girl and boy!

To visit the Broadway is to visit a more no-nonsense, honest time in America where rules and rituals mattered: Billy and Betsy married for years and still flirting with each other over the feta, still respecting each other’s points of view, admiring each other’s skills. The cute Billy cheat on the pretty Betsy? Never in a billion years! She’s the whipped cream on his Belgian waffles! And, besides, more important, it is WRONG to cheat on your wife, your life’s helpmate and best friend.

… Billy grinning to himself over the French fries when Rose tells him his three-year-old grandson has his mom’s – Billy’s daughter Daniella’s – smile. Rose can see Daniella’s exact same smile, the exact same mischievous little curves in the two corners of the little boy’s mouth when he grins. This amazes her. She tells Billy so. A quiet, contented grace washes over Billy’s gently lined face as he accepts the compliment. No words spoken.

Giving to the community is first nature with this crew. Every Thanksgiving, Billy and family and a few staffers cook ALL the turkey dinners for Worcester shut-ins for the Bishop’s Catholic Charity Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels. At the Broadway! For 17+ years! Under the radar, sans self-promoting Instagram photos or press releases. That is how the Isaldakli family spends – and celebrates – their Thanksgiving. Sweating and (Billy) swearing over hundreds of scoops of their homemade stuffing, scores of Butterballs (the Bishop supplies the turkeys – Billy cooks them) and cans of cranberry sauce. Community service, totally out of the public eye.

That’s how Billy likes it.

Rose is thinking of Billy today. Billy, a middle-aged guy (he married young) surviving in a Facebook world. Billy, a guy with a moral code that rivals Lincoln’s, a guy who doesn’t know what Snap Chat is and couldn’t give a fuck. Slinging grape nut pudding, joking with the dish washer and the kid at the counter. Billy knows that inside the rules is where you are absolutely free! No one else in America seems to get this any more. In this crazy country, folks (kids!!) post pictures of their boobs, butts and trendy meals on Instagram. Fake loves, too. For everybody to see … curated, manipulated, cropped and colorized. Billy Isaldakli will have none of it. Billy runs around the Broadway kitchen sweaty and stressed, yelling over the assistant cook. Betsy calmly grabs a fish platter and throws a reassuring glance at her husband, her beloved. Waitress Cathy makes fresh coffee…friends/customers come in. The Broadway world spins on, a cozy delight.

Ma’s little red book and Trump’s America

“Ma”   photos: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

When my late mother was around 14 years old she got the How To Pitch Baseball book by Lew Fonseca lots of American kids (mostly boys) owned around that time (World War II) and pored over after school, during school, before baseball practice and after a game (sand lot, park or school yard) – kid-arenas where your team either won or lost and a million stories unfolded between the first and ninth inning. All of them were dusty and dirt-beneath-your-fingernails hardscrabble, especially if you played them in Green Island!

The slim red book is small and light – a teenaged boy could have held it in the palm of his hand easily.


It was published in 1942 as part of the Little Technical Book Library and belonged to Ma, a baseball lover from impoverished childhood to impoverished nursing-home death. But most likely it first belonged to her big brother, Walter, who played baseball on his high school’s b-ball-team. So it was a hand-me-down, one of many that came my mother’s way because she was the youngest of five children in a Polish immigrant family and it was the Great Depression . She did things like walk the railroad tracks with her Polish father, my “Jaju,” looking for “coke” – bits of scrap coal that had fallen along the railroad tracks – to take home for their little black stove my grandfather had set up in the corner of their big kitchen in the Lafayette Street tenement. To heat the cold water flat up in winter.  Ma and Jaju would wander the Worcester fields, too, picking wild blueberries and mushrooms to take home to my Polish granny, Bapy. Bapy would  cook them in soups or breads. She was a great cook, made egg noodles, stuffed cabbage – everything they ate at dinner from scratch. She kept (illegally) rabbits in a hutch on the back porch for stew. Jaju slaughtered them for Bapy and occassionally made Ma a lucky rabbit’s foot key chain from the scraps. Ma said the rabbit stew was delicious and, even though not all mushrooms were safe to eat, Jaju was an expert mushroom picker, and knew the safe ones.

Like I said, Ma’s big brother Walter played baseball and was on a team in high school. They didn’t have baseball teams for girls. I know Ma would have joined one if they had them, especially if they were St. Mary’s school- or church-affiliated. She was tiny and skinny but always active, a great walker, walked all over Green Island – up Millbury Steet to buy sausage at Biehler Brother Polish Market – or up Richland Street to help the nuns with decorating their classrooms at St. Mary’s School. Ma whistled when she walked – so much so that Jaju nicknamed his skinny legged, whistling daughter “scrovonik” – Polish for Little Sparrow. St. Mary’s school cum church was Ma’s, all Woo Polish folks’, cultural and educational nexus. A bridge to  America, a new country, a place mysterious and grand and scary.

Baseball was another bridge to America! For Ma and Walter and so many kids of Italian, Irish, Lithuanian, Greek, Portuguese and Polish immigrants of the first half of the twentieth century. They found their parents flaying about – out of their deeply religious countries of origin and thrown into the great wide open moneyland that was America. They would do better than Ma and Papa. They would be fluent in English. They would be rich. They would live in houses, not tenements.  They would go to baseball games and the movies. They would play ball!!!

When Ma died, her little red baseball book became mine. It is sweet looking and fine to the touch, but I like my baseball book best of all because it’s a window on America that is no more: an America that encouraged – practically forced – first generation kids and their immigrant parents to get with the American program! Become a part of the best country on the planet. No one called it “assimilation” back then or felt sorry for or psychoanalyzed anybody who was struggling to get with the American program.  Our great land was serious and striving, even though it was brutally racist and loved its booze, vaudeville stars and strippers… For every illegal dog fight in Green Island there was a little paper American flag taped on a tenement wall. Right next to the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Rose’s Bapy’s Sacred Heart of Jesus picture hung on her kitchen wall in her Green Island tenement for decades. Now it hangs in Rose’s bedroom.

Patriotism is the subtext of Ma’s/my little red baseball book!


This late morning, as I turn its pages, I connect with the “late” America: one that paid lip service to equal opportunity for all but was dead serious about work ethic. Believed in dreams, infinite possibilities, the act of self-creation ane recreation. Embracing intellect, too – even if you were just a kid from Green Island you could be smart! In so many paragraphs the book is telling kids: The KEY TO SUCCESS IN AMERICA IS THE SAME AS IN BASEBALL – dream, work like crazy for your dream, and if you can’t realize your dream and you’ve had to settle for another position on the American team, that is great too! You’re playing the American game with gusto! Fonseca (or most likely his ghostwriter!) says this straight up in his introduction. He writes: “Pitching without a doubt is baseball’s citadel. … More often than not, however, he [the wannabe star pitcher] will find his forte is elsewhere.”


No matter your position, in America, you can still shine! It’s the effort that counts!

I love this caption, printed under the photo, you see below:

“Run out every batted ball.”

“Never assume you are out till umpire rules.”

Be tenacious, kiddos!

And our American love of science, math, Hard Facts, is on display, in several diagrams like this one:


Very “Technical” – just like the book’s cover says! There is a science to great baseball!

Very American!

Even the President of the United States plays ball!! Fonseca tells his young readers that none other than our PRESIDENT throws the first ball of the first game of the baseball season! Every year! Right onto the diamond!

An American tradition!

In the book there is a photo of FDR throwing the first ball …


The kids probably didn’t know President Roosevelt’s polio-ravaged body would never allow him to “play ball.” He couldn’t even stand up! “Standing” for the photo – to throw that baseball was a herculean effort on FDR’s part. It was in fact an optical illusion that the wheel-chair-bound Roosevelt and his team worked hard to create: Before the baseball game, a big ramp was built so that the President’s car could be driven up it. Then hidden behind a ton of bunting and banners the president’s team propped him up, held him tight while he gripped a railing or his son’s arm with one hand and threw the baseball with the other. Sonetimes FDR just sat in his car and pitched – the roaring crowd didn’t know the difference. Sometimes the President’s car was driven on the field and he watched the game from the sidelines. No one knew the difference!

None of this is mentioned in Fonseca’s little red book. After all, FDR embodied everything that Fonseca preached in his little red book!: high spiritedness, optimism, intelligence, competitiveness, most important, control. Without control, Fonseca tells his young readers, your pitching is no where. Without self-control, you can never be a great pitcher! FDR was a great pitcher for America! He was the Babe Ruth of presidents!

Flash forward to today.

President Donald Trump TOTALLY OUT OF CONTROL. absolutely undisciplined. Today. Trump would probably make fun of FDR and his physical handicap – just like he did that New YorkTimes reporter.

Or the many other folks on the campaign trail (U.S. Senator John McCain. A Gold Star mother). The way Trump still treats his fellow Americans is appalling! Most recently, NFL players (he called kneeling NFL football players “sons of bitches”) and the folks of Puerto Rico (he intimated they were lazy and a drain on the mainland).

Now Las Vegas. A mass murderer with a ton of money but no soul. A big empty hole inside he filled with evil. What were Paddock’s motives, America wants to know?

What are Trump’s motives?

How is Trump making America great again???

My mom, like every kid in America, went to the movies religiosly. There was an A picture screened, preceded by the B, preceded by cartoons and shorts like this: 

Baseball was Ma’s fave sport! She must have loved this video when it came up on the big movie screen!! There were two or three movie houses in Green Island. They gave away dishes, so people would keep coming back. To make an entire table setting! American generosity and salesmanship!

Aa little kid, Ma listened to ALL the games on the big family radio in their “front room,” talked baseball with her big brother whom she watched play rough and ready pick up baseball games in the Green Island “big yard” – the sand lot down the street. Ma even grabbed her #2 pencil and, because she was a good artist, drew big sketches of her fave baseball players mid-swing or mid-catch. The hard, stitched balls only her mind’s eye could see…sailing through time and space … sateliltes of love. She gave her sketches to her teachers, the nuns at St. Mary’s school on Richland Street (still standing and operating!). They gave her little prizes for her skills: penny prayer cards (pretty picture in front, prayer in Polish on back), or little plastic statues of the Blessed Mother or Saint Joseph. 

Paddock worshipped winning money – an unhappy addict. A brutal killer who didn’t see, like I did on YouTube news, that pretty girl with long hair in short denim jeans and sexy cowgirl boot go down mid run to safety. She was hit with a bullet in her middle but like a young beautiful deer in shock got up and holding her stomach, ran, kept running. In shock. Would this lithe beauty die???

Trump never mentioned her or the others who were in the madman’s shooting gallery. Gun control? Not a peep from Trump on universal background checks, something most Americans want.

Trump is a demagogue, a slick, creepy divider of Americans, not a healer like FDR or Obama…

… but a killer, like Paddock. A killer of America, Ma, the immigrant’s dreams, science, good sportmanship, baseball’s highest ideals …

Donald Trump, our murderer in chief.

Jesus blues lady!

By Rosalie Tirella

There is so much music to revel in … the music of life!

CDs for sale at Rose’s friends’ shop … pics: Rose T.

And I’m a real revelator! I try to listen to EVERYTHING:

For me, the blues is my late mom … her pain, her music, so deep, dark, God-focused and yet transcendent – BEAUTIFUL, like my mother’s deep brown eyes!

Rose’s mom – a Worcester teen at a Worcester County lake…

Being my mother’s daughter, being in her life as a little girl and teenager, was like singing the blues with her every day:

Watching Ma walk to work at the dry cleaners (we never owned a car), her back slightly hunched from the years of toil…her back growing more bowed through the years…

… Ma trudging, almost marching!, home at end of her 11-hour day at the dry cleaners.

Home in Green Island, home from work. Ma has three little girls to feed, to help with their homework, to put to bed…her husband, my father, Daddy, with the pretty hazel eyes, red hair dolled up in a pompador, looking handsome, looking at Ma’s small hunched shoulders and shouting: “Hey, fuck nut! Hey, donkey!”

But Ma always looked so cute!! What was Daddy thinking? And she was so smart and had such pride in herself and her children.

Rose’s mother, at her sister’s house

… I see my mother walking to work, carrying in one hand the cheap pocketbook that she bought for herself at White’s Five and Ten on Millbury Street. In her other hand: her lunch in a brown paper bag, which always contains one sandwich, one piece of fruit and her Thermos (also purchased at White’s) filled with Maxwell House coffee, a little milk and sugar – the meal that would carry her through her work day.

Back home, on Lafayette Street, more name calling courtesy of our Daddy and a quick hard loud slap to the face for Ma. Daddy, of course, jealous of some imaginary lover/interloper. As a little girl, I watched Ma force herself not to cry as my father’s hand left her soft, rounded cheek.

But there was Salvation! ALWAYS SALVATION! Plus: Comfort, love and peace… Every day, every hour. On Sundays especially!

One of Rose’s mother’s prayer cards.

… Every day of Ma’s life – up until the last few months when her Alzheimers got worse – and then she HELD her little yellowed dog-eared penny prayer cards and prayer books tight in her hands – Ma prayed. Big time. To a Big God. Who kicked ass and took names. The Old Testament Yahweh.


My mother’s God could take on my asshole father, rough and tough Green Island, a minimum wage paycheck, physical exhaustion. No sweat! He was older than the stars!

Throughout the day, no matter where Ma was – she was checking in with God – praying to him in whispers, chanting to him, sometimes singing to him in her not so pretty voice (though she was a tremendous whistler). Sometimes she would make a loose fist with her right hand and repeatedly, gently, strike her heart, her breasts, with it. While praying. Lost in time. Very dramatic to a little kid like me!

With God on her side, of course Ma and her three little girls and old Polish Mama, Bapy, would endure!

In the a.m., before breakfast, Ma would pray. Before eating one slice of toast. Before waking us kids up for school. Before anything. … It is 5:30 in the morning, and I am in bed but peaking out from under the covers to watch my mother start her day. Our day. She is kneeling on one of the rickety wooden kitchen chairs at our old green kitchen table. In the brightening kitchen she is whispering to God – not reading from a prayer book – but talking straight from the heart. Her arms are raised, her head lowered. She is serious but looks calm. I find the sight of my mother praying comforting. I smell the morning coffee percolating. Mmmm!

It is time to leave our third-floor tenement for school and work. The letters K M and B? – in honor of the 3 kings who visited the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem – are written in chalk above our apartment’s front and back doors. The Christmas story is retold to us every day as we start our day, head out into the world. I watch Ma make a little cross on her forehead with the back of her thumb as we leave the tenement.

After school, when my two kid sisters and I drop into the dry cleaners where Ma works to say hi to Ma we may see her off to the side, sitting on her metal chair, her eye glasses sliding down her nose as she prays, reading from one of her prayer cards. This takes only a few minutes, but the act connects her to God. A shot in the arm for Ma. A shot of love.

At home, after supper, before we go to bed, we may say the rosary together, with Ma leading the prayers. Just one section – not the whole rosary, thank goodness! Just one Our Father, followed by 10 Hail Mary’s and One Glory Be. I’m into it because I am praying with my new white rosary I just got for First Holy Communion at Saint Mary’s. Plus the nuns gave us girls a cool white taper candle and a pretty white pocketbook with a pink little rose embossed on the flap. I got all the goodies just for going to CCD class at St. Mary’s! Definitely one of the few perks of trudging to catechism class every Monday at 5 p.m.

Then it’s time to fall asleep! I am in my bedroom, under the covers. If Daddy is with us – he sometimes goes MIA for months – I hear Ma and Daddy talking, sometimes laughing, in Ma’s bedroom. Then there’s a lot of groaning and moaning, and Ma’s bed springs are squeaking like mad, which keeps me up. But it all stops soon enough and the flat goes quiet.

Soon old Bapy, wracked with her arthritis which wrecks her sleep, will be up making noise in the kitchen. Going to fetch a little piece of golden cake to feed to my hamster Joy, also nocturnal, and up and running on her little squeaky hamster wheel. I have told Bapy: NO, BAPY! DON’T FEED JOY CAKE! SHE GETS SPECIAL FOOD – HARTZ HAMSTER FOOD! Bapy is super stubborn and doesn’t listen to me and keeps feeding my hamster cake. Joy is obese for a hamster – even with all her running on her hamster wheel! Ma tells me not to worry: Bapy lived on a farm in Poland before she came to America and took care of chickens, dogs, cats, even a horse on her farm. And she raised her kid brother and sisters when she was 12 because her mother died, and her step-mother wanted no part of the brood. Bapy knew how to love things.

Joy did live a long life, for a hamster – almost four years. And she always stood on her tiny pink feet at the front of her little cage when the dumpling shaped Bapy leaned over it and called to her, cooing ever so gently. Joy was just waitin’ for that cake!!

Bapy, 18, on her wedding day.

Woo news for you🍒… and …our thoughts on Trump and Woo’s Trumpistas!😱


We did it – thank you!

With your help, we were able to raise a grand total of $5,040 and earn a $5,000 matching gift from the Cahn Fund for Social Change to help support our move!

Thank you so much to everyone who helped to spread the word and made a donation – every dollar has a tremendous impact on our students!


Join us for our Annual Meeting and Open House on August 30th!

We are thrilled to let you know we have finished moving into our new office space – Suites 350 and 355 of the Denholm Building in downtown Worcester.


We would like to invite everyone to our Annual Meeting and Open House to be held from 6-8 pm on Wednesday, August 30th.


Join us for our Annual Fall Fundraiser on October 12th!

Tickets are now on sale for our Annual Fall Fundraiser to be held from 5:30-9 pm on Thursday, October 12th at UMass Medical School.

The evening will be filled with African food, drumming performances, inspiring speeches from our students and alums, and, of course, silent and live auctions filled with items including African art, jewelry, pottery, and much more!

Purchase Fall Fundraiser Tickets!
Thank you for all of your support during these busy and exciting times. We are so grateful to have so many generous and thoughtful proponents of ACE. We look forward to seeing many of you soon!

All the best,
The ACE Team

Our mailing address is:
African Community Education
24 Chatham Street
Worcester, MA 01609





Go, badass women, go!💐🌺🌻


Impeach Trump! Worst POTUS eva!!!!!!😱


Trump and Woo’s alt-right brigade

By Rosalie Tirella

Pres Donald Trump is a blip on our political scene, a big fat, dangerous transitional figure in American politics. The world has changed. America, too! The global economy has raised some up – but hurt others (read: under-educated Americans). The world grows more diverse – in 20+ years America will be a majority minority country. Lots of Americans can’t embrace these seismic economic and cultural changes! Out of fear, confusion and ignorance, they embrace  and endorse racist acts, classism, hatred for refugees, free speech and a more diverse and egalitarian America.

On the Worcester front, we don’t have a Mayor Trump, but we do have our alt-right figures:

Worcester City Councilor and mayor wannabe Michael Gaffney;

his political (but keeps it a secret) clone, wife Coreen Gaffney, District 4 councilor  wannabe;

local rogue lawyer Margaret Melican;

and Melican’s social media BFF, Turtle Boy hate blogger Aidan Kearney;

and Paul Collyer,  FaceBook pages “owner”/author of CHANGE WORCESTER and WORCESTER’S DIRTY SECRET.  

This group of peeps may think itself forward looking, but with all their blogging, comments, repostings and postings you get THE MOST RACIST, Worcester-harming political rants and political strivers this side of Steve Bannon’s office.

They are Worcester’s alt-right movement and Breitbart News rolled into one! Far right strivers hawking ideas that do not fit the Worcester of 2017.

But fear not! Like Trump, they are political flukes, too. Look around you! Don’t you see? This bunch cannot get any kind of political traction here, in Worcester. They are leaving our city/disappearing. Worcester is too racially and socially progressive for them…too willing to bring EVERYONE UP. We don’t traffic in their welfare queen and prince cliches, their “Petty” bashings etc.

Out they go!

For instance, by trashing our recent Worcester City Common anti-racism rally a la Donald Trump, Collyer, Gaffney and Turtle Boy show us how they have outlived their ability to thrive in Worcester. They have been called out by Worcester, they have been put on notice: they are Woo’s political old guard uttering their last, desperate syllables.

Like Trump, their “ratings” in Woo are low:

Paul Collyer has lost clout ever since his buddy former City Manager Mike O’Brien left his job, after HE realized he was no longer a good fit for a diverse, challenging, wonderful Worcester. Collyer is moving to the beautiful Hudson Valley in New York – miles and miles away😄 – with Susan to run a bowling alley. This permanent move will be good for Collyer and GREAT for the new Worcester!😄 Truly evolving cities go way beyond the installations of beer gardens and the scarfing down of fancy food and patronizing over-priced boutiques. That kind of economic development is just a small piece of the Woo puzzle, focusing on and catering to our upper-middle class. What we and most WORCESTERITES are talking about is SOCIAL JUSTICE, THE LIVING WAGE, POLITICAL MOVEMENTS WHOSE ARC BENDS TOWARDS OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL – not just the moneyed or politically connected.

City Councilor Mike Gaffney is, for Woo, a political anomaly. He is smart but duplicitous and a fraud. He will never become mayor of Worcester – even though he’ll try any DIRTY trick in the book to win, which usually entails lying about present mayor, Joe Petty, and shredding our community to bits as he throws wedge after wedge into sensitive city issues.

His wife Coreen knows how to be polite, but she’s dead in the political Woo waters, too. She’ll be another Mike Gaffney vote on the city council – no one will go for that. She has no chance of winning in majority minority, ever complex District 4. The best Coreen can hope for is a job with the DPW on its grounds maintenance crew.

Turtle Boy has moved to Jefferson because Worcesterites loathe him so passionately – and he’s got two kids to raise. They would be pariahs here – just like their daddy Aidan is. Aidan’s toxic Turtle Boy blog can no longer handle local stuff, so he Jerry Springers all of New England. It’s an emotionally ugly ride – his Turtle Boy blog. No one will publicly come out in favor of this racist, far right wing nut and his blog – except for Collyer, the Gaffneys and Melican who push the TB toxicity out into the community via their FB pages, etc…

It was great to see Mayor Petty and City Manager Ed Augustus at the anti-racism, anti-white-supremacy rally on the Woo Common a few days ago! They stood with the good folks at Charlottesville – not the Neo Nazis. They stood on justice’s side! Former CM Mike O’Brien would have tried to shut the rally down! Social justice is too messy and un-pretty for O’Brien, Collyer and crew. That’s why O’Brien’s gone, and his compadres will soon follow in his footsteps …


By Rosalie Tirella

Hello again?
Yesterday Cece spied someone outside my apartment window.      pics: R.T.

It was former ICT scribe Ron O’Clair, in the St. Mary’s church parking lot, in a red convertible, with white interior! Ronny was wearing his big black hippy sombrero and (I think) sporting a beard. He was looking up at me, while I parted the curtains in my fourth-floor shack to admire the sight and snap a pic. Then he gave me a wide smile and a big thumbs up and sped off! Quite the sight!


Ahhh, Ronny! On a high! Feeling good with the sun shining on his sombrero and a new shiny red toy! Here’s a guy who’s been knocked down by life from day #1 (childhood poverty, death of a parent when he was a little kid, then foster homes, depression, the murder of his brother, discharge from the military, alcoholism) and come back from the brink so many times (STILL brilliant and articulate, a TERRIFIC writer, in recovery for 30+years, a cool street social worker who’s helped hundreds of people find food, solace, housing, AA meetings as the live-in manager of a Main South rooming house ) that “resilient” is too weak (and serious) a word to describe Ronny. “Come backs” doesn’t fit either because the phrase makes Ronny seem old – which he sorta is, at 55!❤ – and a has-been, like a member of the Herman’s Hermits🎵 – which he is  most definitely not! (Sorry, Peter Noone!)

For me, Ron O’Clair is more Dylan than Noone. More Byron than Seuss. He never goes out of style … But his bipolar illness makes him disappear from the scene now and then, leaving his friends worried and sad. His condition makes him see things so intensely! The perfect writer for ICT! Ron can be deep – deeply sad, deeply wise, deeply sensitive. He can also be deeply wound-up, loud, revved up,  ecstatic. Manic.  Ronny has always offered his friends his kaleidoscope of feelings – and experiences –

… often powerful. When in his emotional “troughs,” though, Ron  pretty much hunkers down in his two rooms in Main South – for weeks. This breaks my heart. You can call it mental illness. But why put a complicated brilliant person like Ronny in a box? Still, his emotional vales break his momentum, whether it be his running for Woo City Council or following through on a marriage proposal that he made to a lovely – I mean lovely both spiritually and physically – hooker that he rescued outside his Main South building. … I think back to that time: Ronny was in love! But his complicated brain waves brought it all to a halt! It made me cry! I was rooting for the pair: Ronny bought “Sandy” a beautiful ring, rented a car one Christmas eve so she wouldn’t have to sit in his crap-cluttered vehicle on the trip to his brother’s house for Christmas dinner – to meet the family.❤ Ronny got Sandy clean and sober, took her to the doctors, the dentist, NA meetings. A gal pal gave Sandy bags of cool  vintage clothing. I planned their wedding with our gal pal: she would provide the vintage wedding dress and I’d dress up my apartment. I’d make the mostly veggie meals, served on my late Mom’s china, turn  my dining and living rooms into an inner-city chapel with all my candles placed on an altar I’d fashioned from headboards I had found on the side of the road. I’d board Jett for the day… Then boom. Ron shut down, so did Sandy  …

… and that was the end of that. Ron dismisses the whole love affair as a non-love affair. A pain in his butt. But I know he’s lying.

Ron has shared many of his experiences with you in ICT. Like the time he was a boy in foster care in rural Maine and bonded with a buffalo on the farm he was living on. The buffalo was like a big pet for Ronny, and he visited him in the field next to his foster parents’ house every day. But one Christmas Ronny unwittingly ate his best friend in the world. The buffalo was the main course for his foster family’s Christmas dinner! Ron tells the story with a chuckle, but you hear the real pain in the story he wrote for InCity Times. ICT – the conduit for Ronny’s dreams and schemes – realized and/or crumpled. If you meet Ron in Main South or at any of his haunts in Worcester – at a Worcester diner eating a killer breakfast, at a junk-yard buying parts cheap for his cars that he collects like jewels – you would think he’s kinda glib and … a jerk. Incapable of the stories he writes. But if you read his columns – which I have with so much joy, through years  – you’d soon realize Ron’s the brightest guy in the room. But his poverty, his living on the edge in the rooming house in Main South, his sometimes too enthusiastic emotional style, his physical SIZE! have left him the perennial outsider, here in Worcester, the hometown he adores. You all discount him and his intelligence and goals. It’s  a kind of prejudice. Not racial. But economic. And maybe just maybe your version of mental well-being skews a little to the left or right of Ronny’s state of mind! Shame on you!

In this life: so many people crossing each other’s paths, so many good people shunted to another road or handcuffed into silence by the in-crowd, the money crowd, the politically connected crowd. The hit brigade wallowing in their version of Wasp happiness.

What about WOP happiness?


Wikipedia says: “WOP stands for WithOut Papers. Many Italian immigrants had no papers to identify themselves and were branded as WOPs.”

My grandfather Sabino was a WOP.

He was also a NANG: Not A Nice Guy!


I’ve told you all about him: Unlike Ron, Sabino took his outsiderness, his otherness and used it to become a pretty successful entrepreneur. But he was an asshole in every other aspect of his life: cheated on his wife who gave him 10 children, beat her, beat my father, was a bootlegger. I mean, the guy was BAD!

Ron – and this WOP! – aren’t bad: we WRITE, we try to do the right thing for our city and this makes us happy and proud! Forget about moi for a second, let’s focus on Ron. Over the years Ron has:

given me a million rides when the jalopy I am driving breaks down.

delivered gallons of gas to me when I’ve run out – usually at night in the inner city. How comforting it was to see my friend pouring the gas into my gas tank, wearing his fake-lamb-skinned-lined bedroom slippers. In the middle of a Woo winter night. He wasn’t smiling, made no small talk and walked away with a huge huff after he finished his AAA call, but he ALWAYS came, always came through for me.

driven tons of people from his rooming house to the food pantry to get food so they could eat.

driven tons of people from his rooming house to AA, Al Anon, NA meetings – often joining the group as he is in recovery and never gets complacent about the fact!

helped strangers when they needed help

befriended lots of Woo characters – including this one! I remember the night Ronny came to my house with an old ex-boxer from Boston who just got a room at Ronny’s place. I had called Ron frantic – my late Mom’s cat April had just become diabetic and I did not know how/was afraid to use the needles to inject the insulin into April. Well, Ronny brings the boxer over to my house to help – the guy is BALD, HUGE, covered with tattoos, standing at my door, with Ronny. It is close to midnight. I am distraught. April needs her medicine. I don’t want her to die. I say…OK, come in. The boxer comes in, fills up half the entry-way but … picks April up, talks oh so softly to her, takes one of the skinny needles out of her needle box (filled with about 1O0 needles), shows me how to poke the needle into the little insulin bottle (always shake it beforehand), measure the amount of insulin. Then he lifts a bit of April’s fur on her shoulder, making a little tent, and gently gives her her shot. Then the boxer gently massages the spot where he inserted the needle. He told me and Ronny his grandmother had been a diabetic and, as a little boy, he used to give her her insulin shots. Every day. He said it all so beautifully. I could tell he had really loved his grandmother. Maybe she had raised him… I felt like shit for having been afraid of the Boston boxer and hesitating to let him into my home. As he turned to leave, I hugged the boxer – and Ronny -and said THANK YOU, GUYS! They lumbered down the stairs that lead up to my 4th floor apartment. Noisy as hell. I loved them both!

A night I will never forget, courtesy of Ronald O’Clair.

Lilac and the late, beautiful April

Ronny has also:

supported his landlord who was overwhelmed with his rooming house.

worked with the Worcester police for years to make his neck of the woods – the corner of Main and Charlton streets – much safer and quieter and a little less heroin-infected, especially when the PIP wet shelter was still open (across Charlton Street!)

So naturally it enraged me to see my friend’s hopes dashed when he applied for a slot on a City of Worcester Board/Commission and  was turned down by a City Manager toady. Not the commission who does the vetting but by one of former CM Mike O’Brien’s (an ICT detractor for sure) employees. This was about five years ago, when Ronny was on a huge UP and had all his i’s dotted and t’s crossed. He had applied to sit on a City of Worcester health or zba board – for no pay, as the job is a volunteer position. I had encouraged him to apply. Ronny, living the life he’s lived, KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT INNER-CITY HEALTH ISSUES. And what he doesn’t know – he’ll read up on. He’s a brilliant guy! Also, so compassionate! Hell, he’d be down in the trenches with Dr. Mattie at a homeless camp, talking to the folks, driving them to job interviews! I mean, he would be all in – give 100%. But CM O’Brien hated ICT, so Ron got screwed.

A few days ago I called Ronny. We were talking about city boards and commissions when I urged him to take another crack at the HEALTH commission. “The city needs lots of people from District 4! On lots of city boards!” I said.

Ronny was hesitant. I said: GO FOR IT, RONNY! YOU WILL BE GREAT – on that city board or any city board!

He laughed. Then I asked him to cover an inner-city health clinic’s health fair for me, to run in the next issue of CECELIA. Ronny said YES, attended the event for me and sent me some pics he took a few hours later. Here is one for you!

Ronny O’Clair: gotta love the man!!
Baby in Piedmont. photo by Ron O’Clair

Trump’s “Real Dump” comment sealed his fate!! IMPEACH PRESIDENT TRUMP!

By Rosalie Tirella

Rose walking her dogs.   pics: R.T.

Let us Impeach President Donald Trump. Be done with Trump!, America’s big, bloated megalomaniac – our orange-headed, toxic buffoon! He has turned us Americans into a global punchline! He has destroyed millions, globally and locally – humans, fauna and flora! From the refugee, the young woman – really, just a girl – who flees her homeland and runs straight into America’s arms to escape gang rape, stoning, starvation for her children … to our Appalachian streams and their quicksilver fishes: Trump has hurt us all.


And he’s only been in office for eight months!

Impeach Donald Trump!

If enough Dems win the House in 2018, it will happen – but not soon enough!

I say: House Republicans, put your political careers into the buzz saw and do the RIGHT thing: Cut Trump out of the White House the way you would cut a bruise out of a beautiful apple with your pen knife! That beautiful apple is America!

Do it after summer recess…

Comedian Dave Chappelle nailed it when he said: Trump’s a bad DJ at a great party.

That GREAT party is AMERICA!!

I am exhausted – the world is exhausted! – emotionally, spiritually, psychologically – by this pathological liar who is squatting in OUR White House! The people’s house!!

The LAST STRAW, for this Green Island gal???

A few days ago, as reported in Sports Illustrated, President Trump called the White House, the people’s house, “A REAL DUMP.”

“A real dump.”

Would you put up with some asshole calling your apartment, condo, ranch, Dutch colonial or room “a real dump”?

Didn’t think so!

Early Americans chose NOT to call our president YOUR HIGHNESS. They chose the every-man title “Mr. President.” They chose NOT to attach a fancy name to his abode or build him a castle. No castles for us Americans! No moats, moors or parapets for us! Our head guy (or gal) – the person who served/represented WE, THE PEOPLE, would live in a house, just like most Americans did. True, it would be a big house and have nicer china, but it would still be a house – a white house. So we called it the White House!

If you visit Washington, D.C., for the first time ever, you’ll be a little surprised when you first see the White House!❤ I know I was! It is not really all that big a house! It looks like a huge estate on television, but it is not in real life!! … Cool!!

Apparently, the White House is not grand enough for Donald Trump, the king of opulent crud.

The White House is just not ostentatious enough for the King of the Moneyed.

Or gold-plated enough.

Or gaudy enough.

Or bloated enough.

The gold-leafed toilet to puke or shit into is missing!

So he calls the people’s house – belonging to you and to me! – to just regular folks (the millions who voted for him and made him president!) – “A Real Dump.”

Trump’s possible very own collusion with Russia to turn the 2016 U.S. presidential election in his favor, for me, at this moment, this early Saturday eve, August 5, 2017, means ZIPPO. Nothing. Nada.

I, Rose T.,  caffeinated, swingin’ at the ceiling, my Lafayette Street childhood cold-water tenement existence haunting me more than usual…my husky mix Jett yippin’ at God’s lilly white robe while wearing his Yankee Doodle hat …



Enough is enough!!

Impeach President Donald Trump!!

Shut the Trump Reality Show, in all its vulgar, crass, ghastly Day Glo “glory,” off.

Vice President Mike Pence is this liberal’s nightmare, but I’ll deal with his neanderthal political agenda when Trump goes, probably resigns, like Nixon did, to avoid impeachment. I’ll sleep ok at night knowing Pence sucks on climate change, women’s rights, saving the American working and middle classes but HE IS NOT DONALD TRUMP. That he won’t start a nuclear war with North Korea – or Russia. That America  – and the world – won’t know nuclear holocaust because Trump has a hair across his fat arse. That President Pence will shut his pie hole and not say asinine things 24/7. Pence will at least give lip service to the American ideals and building blocks: human rights, truth, artistic, religious, sexual and political freedoms, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Yes! to fledgling democracies, YES! to freedom of speech, Yes! to freedom of the press, YES! to sending EVERY GIRL ON THE PLANET TO SCHOOL and eradicating global diseases … goals and ideals the world connects to America, or the idea of America. The shining light in that city on the hill!

It’s so easy: TRUMP HAS TO GO because HE IS MENTALLY ILL.


Trump is Unwell. Can’t You Tell?!

He called the White House, home to some of the greatest American thinkers and leaders in the history of America – Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eisenhower, JFK – he called their home “A REAL DUMP.” Great Americans who filled his “dump” with grand, ahead of their times IDEAS, IDEALS, KNOWLEDGE, POETRY and SCIENCE … trips to the stars and back! Not midnight-trips-to-the-toilet Tweets!!

Who amongst us would say something so awful about THE BRILLIANT SIDE OF OUR AMERICAN FAMILY?! Who would diss their home – the people’s home – the White House – this way?!

I grew up in what most people would call a “dump” in Green Island years ago! For example, on Lafayette Street, in my childhood “dump,” we had: A tub that leaked onto the ceiling of the tenement below us every time you tried to take a shower. We had one crappy gas kitchen stove with a gas “log” to heat a three-bedroom flat where three little babes (my two sisters and I) lived. We had a perennially cracked window pane in our back door that the January winds always whistled through. Every winter my mother taped clear plastic wrap over all our windows to better keep out the cold and wind. Still, the snow sifted down, light as sprinkled sugar, and I would run my small finger through the little slanted hill of white snowflakes that formed inside our kitchen window sill, smiling at its pure, pretty whiteness. As a little girl in winter time, I slept in my bed wearing an ugly navy blue seaman’s knit cap but I dreamed of those beautiful white sugar snowflake mini-mountains…and wrote poems to them on my Saturday afternoons! And my mother told her sisters, my aunties: My Rosalie is so smart she is going to college someday! To maybe be a veterinarian because she loves animals so much! My mother gave birth to her and MY American Dream in that “dump.”

I guess a person today would call my childhood home in Green Island “a real dump.”

But, for me, today, whenever I drive by that Lafayette Street three decker (yes, it’s still standing!), I feel proud. It’s a shrine: A shrine to my immigrant Bapy from Poland who couldn’t write two words in English and wore my sisters and my knee-socks on her arms, in layers – the socks she cut the toe tops off of – to keep warm and soothe her arthritis. That “dump” is a shrine to my late, beautiful mother who not only persevered and raised (single handedly) her three little girls but INSPIRED us to be the best!

Don’t you see?

Donald Trump is the “Real Dump.”



TC! TC! (Or: So go the bikers, so goes the city)

By Rosalie Tirella

A motorcycle guy gets his chest blown away on lower Chandler Street this past Saturday night. His soul is thrown off his bike and floats to Heaven like some inner-city feather. And that is the end of his dream called life. His Saturday night, all Saturday nights. No more bodegas, pizzerias, BBQ chick, cell phone shacks, dreamy sunsets, kisses, or cold cheap beers with friends on a summer night.

photos: Rosalie Tirella

The beauty of life in the here and now, in Worcester, gone forever. Poof. Like magic it disappears from him just as mysteriously as it came to him.

His 46-year-old body, however, is no feather. It dies a horrific death from massive internal hemorrhaging, crushed bones … the blood must be washed from the cement … physical and emotional shock. The pain keeps coming no matter how hard the EMT kids work on him.

A Honda plows into him on Chandler Street, and he plows into a Nissan. 2,000-pound hunks of moving metal.

What could he do? How could he win?

A slow motion dream for the dying man, this accident on the corner of Wellington and Chandler streets, but not for the gawkers. The witnesses know it is over – in seconds – at one of Worcester’s most deadly intersections. An urban space where many cars  often speed up as they race to the tony West Side of the city, drivers pretending not to see all the poor Latinos, Whites and Blacks who live in the crummy three deckers and apartment buildings that line the street. They criss cross it every day – at all hours. They walk, run, stagger across the wide 4 -lane Chandler Street. Sometimes they’re on bicycles or pushing baby carriages or holding the hands of their little kids – the 5 year olds holding on to Papa or Mama tight with one small hand and covering their ear with their other soft little hand.  The traffic is too loud for them!

The poor cross their busy street to get to the  street’s local restaurants, Chandler Elementary School, the Family Health Center inner-city clinic/urgent care, Community Health Link mental health center, a homeless shelter, the several storefront Pentecostal churches, friends’ houses. As a driver, you have to go slow, you have to be AWARE at all times cuz life comes out at you from all angles on Chandler Street. Four or so years ago, I was the center of mayhem as I rescued a stray cat at the exact intersection where the biker was killed. It was a young cat, really an older kitten like my Cece (black too!),


and I almost got us both killed running out of my car into traffic, scooping up the kitten and running back to my car with the kitten clasped to my chest. But it was OK. The neighborhood folks – the community – were good and had my back as I navigated the stream of cars.

If only I could have saved the biker – but how?

They called him T.C…. Family, friends, the community, prayed TC did not suffer long. Of course, he did. A bunch of biker kids and men and their friends rode up to the site of his death a few days ago to mourn …


… They left their not so pretty neighborhoods to gather at the not so pretty intersection of Wellington and Chandler streets to say GOOD BYE, TC!  To pay tribute to a fellow biker. To connect with him – and each other.

If you read my columns, you know I love these outsiders, inner-city bike guys and gals who cobble together these unlicensed, unloved sometimes kooky sometimes cool urban motor babies. They take their lives into their hands when they ride them. But it’s all they’ve got on a lovely summer day in the ‘hood. They want to feel free like the wind. Can you blame them? You were young once too! Their motto? Bikes Up! Guns down!

The bikers are loathed by Woo’s conservative crew … people like Paul Collyer (the Somerville-based political gadfly who runs FB pages CHANGE WORCESTER and WORCESTERS DIRTY SECRET where he posts Turtle Boy/City Councilor Mike Gaffney racist rants) and his toxic political allies, the always race baiting Woo City Councilor Mike Gaffney and Turtle Boy-Aidan Kearney who always gets the ugly ball rolling with a post that fires up people’s racial and socio economic prejudices and fears. Collyer, Turtle Boy, Gaffney AND PREZ DONALD TRUMP, cannot accept a global, often poor, always multicultural America, Worcester…a world that is messier than they’d like to see. These guys want to shut voices down … or they do not understand…know how to listen to the new global urban landscape.

The Worcester Police force knew how to listen to the TC crowd! The Worcester police officers who went into the big crowd on that summer day and talked softly and dispersed the group without so much as raising their voices understood the community’s pain. They did not fan the Collyer/Gaffney/Turtle Boy flames of hatred, racism, ignorance. Nope. THEY WERE OUTSTANDING police officers who did an excellent job of keeping the situation from blowing up. They got traffic moving again, kept everybody calm and, best of all, respected the bikers’, outsiders’, pain, feelings. They smiled, chatted, WORKED smart so the situation did not escalate…THEY DEFUSED THE SITUATION. Kudos!

Watch the videos. They make me sad. A bunch of bikers, people of color, mostly poor, mostly cut off from the mainstream…scores of them gathered  at lower Chandler Street and riding their bikes up and down where TC died. They did “burns” in his honor and chanted TC !TC! TC! and made more videos on their cell phones to share, to tell the world TC MATTERED – ALL LIVES MATTER! In a video you see one big black guy looking choked up, confused, softly muttering TC, TC … and shaking his head. Not the face of violence.

Not at all.

The TC “wake” was political, was peaceful, was REAL. It was a statement. It was a love song. Like a bird on the wing.