Here’s a photo, taken years ago, of my late mom – “Ma”💛💛💛💛 – and Polish immigrant granny – “Bapy”🎵💐🌻🌺🌹🎺 – in their tenement in “The Block,” on Bigelow Street in Green Island.
Here are my late mom’s polyester work vests – bought at the old White’s Five and Ten (and more!) on Millbury Street – decades ago – and worn by my mom, to work at the dry cleaners.
My grandmother never held a job outside the home – her husband, my grandfather, was the breadwinner toiling in a textile mill in Douglas. But my mother and her two sisters, my aunties, were, like all poor girls from poor families, work horses! From 14 1/2 years old to 65 years old they worked as maids, cashier girls at the late great Eden Restaurant on Franklin Street, cooks, counter girls at Oscar’s dry cleaners on Millbury Street. Typical jobs for daughters of typically poor immigrants – young women whose paychecks often helped support a big, struggling Irish-, Italian-, Eastern European- family.
As a kid watching Ma put on one or the other of her polyester work vests I knew she meant business. She was getting ready for a full day at the dry cleaners, where she worked for minimum wage, 60 hours a week. She walked to work (we didn’t own a car). She walked to work pulling a shopping wagon (also bought at White’s) behind her for light grocery shopping at the end of her work day. She carried a brown paper sack that contained her lunch: thermos of black coffee, a sandwich in a baggie and an apple or banana for dessert. Ma was the most disciplined person I have ever known – she never ate more than a sandwich at lunch or a bowl of cereal at breakfast. Never second helpings for her. She was anti-gluttony. She used to say to us kids: “Eat to live! Don’t live to eat!” And she meant it. She was a pillar to no-nonsense, fad-free good health.
She had to be! As a single mom, not on ANY government assistance (which she was eligible for but too proud to accept), it all rested on her small shoulders, the ones on which her little polyester work vests hung. She had our Lafayette Street tenement to pay rent on, utility bills to pay, her three little girls to feed and clothe, a tired old Mama (Bapy) to feed and care for and (usually) a gaggle of my pets to feed and love!: Belle the English Setter mix, Raj the tabby cat, Gigi the mouse, Tommy and Speedy the turtles, Joy the hamster, Horatio the Old English Sheep dog mix, Sally the salamander. Sometimes I had two dogs at once! It was crazy!!! And then there was Ma’s peripatetic husband, my father, “Daddy,” a wild, gorgeous hunk of a man with a red pompadour who swept Ma off her Keds and breezed in and out of her life for years. Looking to get laid by Ma, looking for mothering from Ma, the mother of all mothers!, looking for her pity, her understanding, her quiet, dependable love … We never really could figure him out. He yelled so much. He called Ma such horrible names! Fuck nut! Donkey! He made me cry. But he never made Ma cry – or she never showed us her tears.
Here’s Daddy holding my two kid sisters on his lap:
In short, Ma’s life was BIG, RICH, ROILING, SAD, STRUGGLING and old school CATHOLIC. Mostly, I now see, it was deeply meaningful and loving.
I didn’t always think so. In my early college years I was ashamed of Ma and my life with her – She was, we were, so poor in Green Island! We had no car, no clothes dryer even (as a college freshman a friend had to teach me how to use a dryer in the laundry room!), no vacations, no nice restaurants, no trips to museums outside of Worcester Public Schools field trips. Ma was “ignorant” – stuck in her dead-end job, never even finished 8th grade! A loser! She prayed too much – kow towed to silly Catholic saints on her small dime store prayer cards, like this one, which I have today and keep on my night-table at all times:
All writhing souls in purgatory, inextinguishable flames of a painless hell licking our faces, Jesus’s pierced heart and crown of thorns – King of pain! – blood drip drip dripping on us penitents, now dead, awaiting ever lasting life in a pit of fire … Ugh. Depressing. Guilt-inducing. The brutality of old school Catholicism, the way it KILLED your spirit, killed MY spirit, my need for God – FOREVER. Today I am a Godless Green Island girl! … a card-carrying atheist, if ever there was one!
For a few years (in my early 20s) I didn’t even speak to my mother! So angry was I at Ma for our poverty, her abusive husband – my abusive “Daddy.” I’d lie in the top bunk bed in my college dorm room and think to myself: This room is so much warmer than my bedroom on Lafayette Street ever was – ever could be!
Ma’s beauty slipped away from me …
Then, years after college, when I was helping Ma move into her last apartment, I came upon her work vests. She had retired from the dry cleaners a year ago. I asked her: Ma, can I have them? Maybe wear them around the house when I do chores… She said: Sure.
It’s funny: Next day, when I put on one of Ma’s drab little polyester vests, I felt POWERFUL – like I knightress in shining armor!!!! I could not believe the energy, the happiness … the LOVE I was feeling. I was wearing Ma’s coat of mail, the holy vest that she wore into battle against poverty each and every day. It had chinks in it and was blood-splattered and tear-stained! And here it was – all mine! So beautiful! Years ago I thought it was the ugliest piece of cloth I had ever seen! Its Whites Five and Ten polyester roughness! Its boring color! Its utilitarian un-fashion. No style statement was this vest! BUT IT WAS! All along! I remembered the contents of its pockets, years ago, as Ma readied herself for her work day: a few pens, pencils, a little scratch pad, roll of Life Savers, a scapula or two…
Here is one of Ma’s scapulas she’d take to work each day – in her vest pocket!
Also, she’d have a little dime store Novena prayer book held together with staples – Novena prayers for St. Francis, St. Jude … She would read it, pray her holy Novena prayers during her half hour lunch break at the dry cleaners, sitting in a metal folding chair by the counter, still on the look out and responsible for her customers. No break at all!!
To all the saints – Jude, Martin, Theresa, Anne, Joseph and Mary! – saints who Ma prayed to, average people who helped Ma get through her hard life – I now say THANK YOU to you! Ma’s faith in you was real, life-sustaining! She saw you transcend your pain and suffering – so she transcended hers!
Sometimes in her vest pocket Ma would have a five dollar bill too! – a little fun, a gift for her girls after school. As little kids my sisters and I visited Ma everyday at the dry cleaners, after Lamartine Street or St. Mary’s schools, to say hello! She’d dig into her vest pocket and give us her “pocket” money so we could run down to Pete’s Dairy Bar on Millbury Street to have some fun: buy a small order of french fries, a hamburger, hang with the other kids there after school before going home to do our homework. One of my kid sisters took a few quarters and played the Pete Dairy Bar pinball machines, while my other sister and I sat in our booth eating our french fries and burger – me reading my Tiger Beat magazine, in between greasy bites!
Maybe we heard a Beatles song play on Pete’s juke box. We’d laugh as owner Pete and his waitresses joked with all the kids – the place was always packed with kids after school! We were in kid heaven, thanks to our Ma!
Happy International Women’s Day to all the blue and pink collar moms out there who are making lives for themselves and their families each and every day! You rule!❤❤❤🎺👠💐🎵
The same can be said for Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney – he is just as American-Democracy-hating and truth-twisting as Donald Trump. Gaffney is a lying, combative street fighter, just like his hero!
By Rosalie Tirella
So a few weeks ago we were on the telephone with the Holden police – Turtle Boy blogger Aidan Kearney now lives in the Jefferson part of Holden – and has become that Worcester suburb’s bete noire. I will not discuss why I called the good officers on the bad Turtle Boy, but I was surprised when the Holden copper told me he was familiar with Turtle Boy – that he had been getting phone calls about Turtle Boy-Kearney all week long!
I said: Well, hot damn! So you know how it spins with the Turtle! Worcester’s hater is now YOUR hater! Worcester’s community divider is now YOUR community divider! Worcester’s problem is now YOUR problem, officer!
Loathed in Worcester because of his loathesome Turtle Boy blog Kearney can now be loathed in Holden, a much smaller pond with a much larger collective memory. Like all small towns. We are hoping Holden will do to Turtle Boy Kearney what he has done to Worcester and its minority communities – box him in, marginalize him, stereotype him, laugh at him, accuse him of all sorts of crimes and misdemeanors.
Karma’s a bitch, Aidan!
Turtle Boy-Aidan’s exodus from Worcester makes sense: with his son now almost old enough (or old enough) to be going to school – being part of a school system/community – bully boy Aidan Kearney-Turtle Boy did not want to see the pitch forks turned on his kid. And his growing family. Which would happen here. Because he has trashed an entire city! Made a million enemies with his abusive and stupid blog.
Turtle Boy Kearney, his wife, little boy and baby girl had to pack it all up and … run away.
Now Aidan Kearney belongs to Jefferson-Holden – a white, mostly upper-middle class town where he doesn’t come in contact with the “wangstas,” “hoodrats” and skanks that he writes about in his blog every day and sees EVERYWHERE in Worcester and places like Southbridge, Gardner, Brockton, Lawrence … you know, the state’s Gateway Cities, once great factory towns now struggling to reinvent themselves. Kick a city when she’s down – that’s Turtle Boy Kearney’s M.O.
The Turtle Boy has taken a huge dump on these places, Worcester included. Turned our people into cartoon characters that just sit around in Section 8 housing smoking weed, selling their food stamps, abusing their kids, growing more morbidly obese or scrawny by the second. Turtle Boy has taken poverty, mental illness and poor job prospects for uneducated American workers and turned it all into one big dystopian joke that all the haters in Worcester can laugh at, feel superior to.
And Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney supports it all – has for years and continues to do so by purchasing $$$ ads on the Turtle Boy blog.
Gaffney’s one of the few advertisers left – including a gun seller and a place where there had been a murder. Gaffney is in fitting company!
A peek today at the once porn-ad-choked Turtle Boy blog shows us a gray, square ad with a “click here for a free consultation” typed over it. You click on the ad and you see … Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney! It’s an ad for Gaffney’s ambulance-chasing lawyering business.
Typical Gaffney charade like this one which the media uncovered a few weeks ago …
Up until a few weeks ago, for years, Gaffney had his decades-old photo and lawyer ad on the Turtle Boy blog, plainly visible, with the words “Attorney Gaffney” written for all to see.
Now the Gaffer is ashamed of being aligned with the Turtle (which he is) – now sees the Turtle-Boy-Gaffney-bond as a liability (which it is).
But not quite.
Gaffney still needs Turtle Boy Aidan Kearney and his followers/readers – many Worcester voters. Gaffney still needs his evil cheerleader and mouth piece. So maybe he can be Woo mayor some day!😱😱😱😱 So Gaffney creates and pays for $$$ a Secret Turtle Boy ad. Slippery as always!
So WHAT IS MICHAEL GAFFNEY – a city councilor who is so ravenous to be mayor that he will do or say anything, no matter how nefarious, to accomplish his political goal – REALLY SUPPORTING?
Besides the usual Turtle Boy hatred … this recent Turtle Boy blog post made me especially sad, reminded me of what Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney really stands for:
The recent Turtle Boy Aidan blog post I am writing about today was written by Turtle Boy a while ago. It’s about a little girl … around 7 years old who is identifying as a little boy. AG Maura Healey is supporting the little boy and his family – in the face of the Trump administration’s cruel roll back of transgender folks’ rights (kids will be physically hurt, bullied, deprived of expressing their true voices because of Trump!) Aidan-Kearney-Turtle-Boy, as in the dark on this issue as Donald Trump and his nightmare of a Cabinet are, just had to chime in on the news. The header of his recent post:
“Maura Healey Using This Confused 7 Year Old Who Thinks She’s Transgender As A Political Prop. Is The Most Disgusting Thing I’ve Ever Seen A Politician Do”
Turtle Boy-Aidan’s evil post begins:
“If your 7 year old girl says she’s a boy, what do you do? Pump her up with hormones, feed into the delusion, and give yourself the SJW medal of honor. Tell her that boys have penises and they’re disgusting and then give her a popsicle.”
And more nuggets of ignorance from the Turtle Boy blog post:
” … Trump announced yesterday that he was rolling back President Obama’s executive order that forces schools across the country to allow any student to use any locker room, so long as they declare themselves a member of that gender beforehand. I know, the horror. But the fact of the matter is that in states like Massachusetts the bathroom and locker room rules will not be changed … .”
” … Seriously, this girl’s parents should be ARRESTED. This is sick and twisted.”
” …. disgusting political stunts I have ever seen, Maura Healey brought up an 8 year old girl to condemn Trump for coming after her 7 year old “brother” Jacob, who has a vagina and is in fact a girl. This is really the most vile thing I have EVER seen a politician do:”
“Seriously, this girl’s parents should be ARRESTED. This is sick and twisted. They allowed their eight year old daughter to be Maura Healey’s political prop.”
“Right now we’re here to talk about why it’s important for your sister to undergo dangerous hormone therapy so Mom and Dad can pat themselves on the back for being progressive. Because for you puberty will be a natural part of life, but for your sister puberty is a disease and the only way to prevent this disease is to load her up with puberty-blocking hormones, because science and biology are bad.”
InCity Times was the first newspaper in Worcester to support and write about transgender folks and their fight for civil/human rights – see our story on Jesse on this website. So we come to this issue with a special passion! Turtle Boy Kearney is WRONG ON SO MANY FRONTS here!!!: No one can force a human being to be a certain sex; most trans people ALWAYS felt who they were meant to be – from teenie tiny kidhood! No one forces transgender folks to take hormones! – parents do not inject hormones into their kids! Most trans folks CHOOSE to make hormone therapy a part of identifying. And their desire to be who God intended them to be can be made a living hell by family, community and society if people (like Turtle Boy) don’t understand the issue. Contrary to what Turtle Boy writes on his blog, a kid self-identifying is not pulling some gag to mess up society and invade the “wrong” restroom – it’s a real and true THIS-IS-WHO-I-AM moment. It’s the need to USE THE CORRECT RESTROOM! To be HONEST with society! This can be so difficult in today’s America that psychotherapy is often a big piece of the transgender person’s “coming out.”
The amazing thing for me is not Aidan-Turtle Boy’s usual bashing, cruel and totally stupid, misinformed, DANGEROUS and possibly hate-crime-inducing take on the issue but THAT A BLUE COLLAR GUY, a TURTLE BOY reader!!, actually brought the EVIL of this Turtle Boy post home to me months before Aidan even wrote it … . The guy is a TB rah rah reader but he’s also married to a wonderful woman – a school principal. A year or two ago the guy told me his wife, the school principal, had a boy in a kindergarten class in her school who was identifying as a girl. He was serious when he told me this. Trying to understand. Thinking of what that really meant – for the 5 year old, for her family, for her teachers, for her classmates. How could the girl be supported at school? How could everybody learn? Accept? Love? He was so serious as he told me all this. As a dad with young kids he may have never thought about the issue, but he knows little kids don’t – can’t – lie about something like gender. Now that his wife, an educator, a professional with college and post-college degrees and psychology courses galore under her belt, was grappling with the issue, he was, too. Trying to figure it out. In a real way. This blue collar rough around the edges guy. He made me proud!
The fact that this guy is not getting his “facts” from the fucked up Aidan Kearney-Turtle Boy but from his wife, a pretty wonderful person, a caring human being wanting to do the right thing, makes all the difference. We wish this could happen to all the Turtle riders – including Michael Gaffney!
But it won’t. Turtle Boy and Worcester City Councilor Gaffney exploit the crises, revelations, changes and growth in Worcester. No room for illumination here, folks! Screw a BETTER WORLD! These two guys, each having his own motives that overlap, always muddy the waters, create sadness, perpetuate ignorance and fan prejudice. We’re certain every multi-cultural, diverse American place – WHICH IS EVERY WHERE in the U.S. – has a Michael Gaffney and Turtle Boy to sow the hate. Just as America has Donald Trump and his evil mouth piece and cheer leader, Breitbart editor Steve Bannon. They exploit the fears and prejudices of folks who long for a white, straight Worcester and America …
photo: Worcester Historical Museum
… a place that never really existed.
They kill community.
They kill people!
I write this because … Years ago, when I was a little girl growing up in Green Island, there was a woman – big, vulgar, brassy, tough – who had two daughters in their late teens. I’ll call them “Betty” and “Jane.” Jane was movie star beautiful – long blond hair, lovely pink 1970s lip-stick-slathered lips, pearly white teeth and beautiful smile. When Jane walked down Lafayette Street in her tight, faded bell bottom blue jeans and pretty blouse tucked in HEADS TURNED. She was always polite to my mother and me and my two kid sisters – fans who ooohed and ahhed at her loveliness like everyone else in the neighborhood – when we passed her on the street walking home from school or from the dry cleaners where my mom worked 60 hours a week as a “counter girl.”
Then there was daughter Betty. Betty was tall and lanky. She wore no make up and had short hair – a boy’s hair cut. Her stride was loping and she wore boy jeans. As a little kid I wondered if Betty was a young man but I never asked Ma. I just kinda followed her lead, which was: She was always nice to Betty – treated Betty exactly the way she treated her sister Jane: with respect, politeness, the same “hello!” and beautiful Ma smile …
Rosalie’s mother had the prettiest smile!
… My mother never lectured us. And she never ever bad mouthed or made fun of anyone. She led by example. Taught us through her deeds. And when it came to people in our already diverse inner-city neighborhood Ma was the Statue of Liberty! A beacon of beauty and hope!
So we kids followed Ma’s lead! “Hi, Betty!” we’d chirp, if we saw Betty walking down a street in Green Island. “Hi, Jane!” we’d chirp if we saw her sister walking down to the park.
The girls always smiled and said “hi” back. Though Betty’s smile was never as wide as her sister’s. She always seemed serious. Day after day. Year after year.
One day, Betty kind of disappeared. We still saw Jane in the ‘hood, but never Betty. She was gone. Maybe I asked Ma about it, maybe I didn’t. But we did learn that Betty had hanged herself.
This shocked me and my sisters. Betty was a part of our world, always nice to us – polite in a rough neighorhood filled with bullies. Now she was gone!
In many ethnic urban neighborhoods different kinds of folks took their lives. We called them “ghosts.” A Polish immigrant who never “got” America, never adjusted to life here on any level, who was always in his apartment and always looking so unhappy. A street person who drank and drank and then collapsed dead drunk in the bushes by the PNI club on Lafayette Street to sleep it off every day. … One day I asked Ma if I could give the guy a blanket. She said “Yes” and gave me a nice clean full-sized baby blue blanket to give to him. I ran out of our flat and walked up to him – he was all tottering disshelved mess, his fly open – and gave him the blanket. From Ma and me. No words exchanged. Just the doing, the deed. He took the blue blanket and went to his bushes behind the PNI, by the fence, to collapse. The boys in the neighborhood saw the giving of the gift, walked over to him, stole his blanket … and stoned him. Threw rocks at him. I never saw the old guy again.
Aidan Kearney aka Turtle Boy and Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney are those Green Island boys today, here in Worcester, in the 21st century.
Congressman McGovern leads Democrats calling on GOP House Budget Committee Chair to protect anti-hunger programs
Congressman Jim McGovern, the Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee Nutrition Subcommittee, led last week a group of 18 House Democrats on the Agriculture Committee calling on House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black (R-TN) and Ranking Member John Yarmuth (D-KY) to protect funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the top anti-hunger program in the country, and to reject attempts to change the structure of SNAP or place additional burdens on those looking to access SNAP benefits.
SNAP currently serves about 43 million Americans in both urban and rural areas, and its entitlement structure allows the program to expand during times of economic hardship and contract as conditions improve. SNAP provides the most vulnerable Americans with a modest nutrition assistance benefit — on average, just $1.40 per person, per meal — to supplement their food budgets. And among those households that can work, the vast majority do in the year before or after receiving benefits.”
In the letter, McGovern and House Democrats write that “SNAP is our nation’s best chance to alleviate hunger across our country. Each year, SNAP provides millions of children, seniors, veterans, and other vulnerable adults with food assistance,” the lawmakers write in the letter. “It is an efficient and effective program that helps families lift themselves out of poverty, and cuts extreme poverty almost in half.
“SNAP improves health, educational, and economic outcomes, and increases the incomes of working families. Recent innovations in the program have encouraged healthier eating and have increased SNAP participants’ consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. An increase in SNAP benefits would likely only improve these outcomes, with recent research confirming that just a $30 increase in monthly SNAP benefits for households could lead to healthier eating and lower rates of food insecurity.”
McGovern and House Democrats write that “Far too many Americans continue to struggle with food insecurity in the United States, and we must preserve the dignity and health of the most vulnerable among us through the basic and reliable food assistance provided by SNAP. We strongly urge you to maintain the entitlement structure of SNAP and reject any attempts to further cut funding or place additional burdens on those looking to access these modest benefits.”
During the 114th Congress, the House Agriculture Committee undertook a thorough review of SNAP, holding 18 hearings, hearing more than 30 hours of testimony from over 60 experts which resulted in 830 pages of official hearing record. Both conservative and liberal experts testified that:
· SNAP benefits should not be cut and the current benefits are inadequate;
· SNAP does not discourage program participants from working;
· Case management and job training programs can help to move people out of poverty and
· These efforts require a well-funded, multi-year commitment.
In the letter the lawmakers highlight how the success of SNAP will create new cost savings:
· Between 2007 and 2012, SNAP caseloads and spending grew as a result of the most recent economic recession, but that was to be expected.
· As the economic recovery continues, SNAP participation has declined in recent years.
· As a result of this decline and other factors like low food inflation, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that SNAP will save over $92 billion over 10 years.
FOOD ASSISTANCE CUT OFF IN STATES
However, the lawmakers point out that the recent decrease in SNAP participation is due in part to the return of the three-month time limit in 20 states for non-disabled childless adults who are working less than 20 hours a week.
The lawmakers write that “this time limit has resulted in over a million people losing SNAP benefits in 2016 alone—not based on whether they still need assistance, but because of arbitrary time limits. Further, states are not required to provide job training slots, so some of these vulnerable people lose food assistance even if they are looking for work, but cannot find a job. That is a problem Congress should be trying to fix, not worsen.”
Joining Congressman McGovern were the following House Agriculture Committee Democrats: Representatives Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Tim Walz (MN-01), Rick Nolan (MN-08), David Scott (GA-13), Filemon Vela (TX-34), Alma Adams (NC-12), Jimmy Pannetta (CA-20), Darren Soto (FL-09), Anne McLane Kuster (NH-02), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Dwight Evans (PA-02), Stacey Plaskett (VI), Al Lawson (FL-05), Jim Costa (CA-16), Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01), and Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE)
Full Text of Letter to the House Budget Committee on Protecting SNAP:
Dear Chairman Black and Ranking Member Yarmuth:
As Members of the Committee on Agriculture, we write to provide additional views to the Committee’s Budget Views and Estimates letter that was considered and adopted by the Committee on March 1, 2017. We appreciate the opportunity to provide these additional views.
One of our Committee’s most significant areas of jurisdiction is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. SNAP is our nation’s best chance to alleviate hunger across our country. It provides our most vulnerable neighbors with a modest nutrition assistance benefit—on average, just $1.40 per person, per meal—to supplement their food budgets. The program currently serves about 43 million Americans in both urban and rural areas, and its entitlement structure allows the program to expand during times of economic hardship and contract as conditions improve. Among those households that can work, the vast majority do in the year before or after receiving benefits.
During the 114th Congress, the House Agriculture Committee undertook a thorough review of SNAP. We held 18 hearings and heard more than 30 hours of testimony from over 60 experts which resulted in 830 pages of official hearing record. We learned from experts—conservative and liberal—that SNAP benefits should not be cut, and that current benefits are inadequate. We also learned that SNAP does not discourage work, and that case management and job training programs can be successful in helping to move people out of poverty, but those efforts require a well-funded, multi-year commitment.
Each year, SNAP provides millions of children, seniors, veterans, and other vulnerable adults with food assistance. It is an efficient and effective program that helps families lift themselves out of poverty, and cuts extreme poverty almost in half. SNAP improves health, educational, and economic outcomes, and increases the incomes of working families. Recent innovations in the program have encouraged healthier eating and have increased SNAP participants’ consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. An increase in SNAP benefits would likely only improve these outcomes, with recent research confirming that just a $30 increase in monthly SNAP benefits for households could lead to healthier eating and lower rates of food insecurity.
Between 2007 and 2012, SNAP caseloads and spending grew as a result of the most recent economic recession, but that was to be expected. Indeed, the program worked as it was intended and expanded to respond quickly and effectively to an economic downturn.
As our economy continues to recover, SNAP participation has declined during the past several years.
Because of this decline in SNAP participation and other factors like low food inflation, recent projections from the Congressional Budget Office estimate that SNAP will save over $92 billion over 10 years as compared to baseline projections used to write the 2014 Farm Bill. We caution the Committee, however, that some of the caseload decline is attributable to the return of the three-month time limit in 20 states for non-disabled childless adults who are working less than 20 hours a week. Indeed, this time limit has resulted in over a million people losing SNAP benefits in 2016 alone—not based on whether they still need assistance, but because of arbitrary time limits. Further, states are not required to provide job training slots, so some of these vulnerable people lose food assistance even if they are looking for work, but cannot find a job. That is a problem Congress should be trying to fix, not worsen.
Far too many Americans continue to struggle with food insecurity in the United States, and we must preserve the dignity and health of the most vulnerable among us through the basic and reliable food assistance provided by SNAP.
We strongly urge you to maintain the entitlement structure of SNAP and reject any attempts to further cut funding or place additional burdens on those looking to access these modest benefits.
Thank you for considering our additional views. We look forward to working with you and with Members of the Committee on the Budget on this critical issue.
I’m the grand-daughter of immigrants… Rosalie and her Polish grandpa many moons ago🌃
All of us Americans, if we look far back enough, or just over our shoulders to our parents, have roots that lead back to other lands, places that often persecuted us, kept us down, treated us like second and third class citzens and worse …
These past few years the blood has flown in Syria – horrible oppression and chaos and war. Maybe President Obama should have sent troops into Syria, U.S. combat boots on the ground, especially after the country’s “leaders” began using poisonous chemicals to kill dissidents, killing the children, too. Horrific. Many Syrian families swarmed into inflatable “boats” to cross the ocean to leave their hellish country for new countries … They had hope. But they were poor…So many of the people, little children!, didn’t make it…
“Turkish media identified the boy as three-year-old Alan Kurdi and reported that his five-year-old brother had also met a similar death. Both had reportedly hailed from the northern Syrian town of Kobani, the site of fierce fighting between Islamic state insurgents and Kurdish forces earlier this year.” The Guardian
When Donald Trump bans Syrian refugees from American soil for months, this can happen…
“A Turkish police officer carries the young boy who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos.” The Guardian. Photographs: Reuters.
And this …
Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney has sunk to a new low, and his toxic political shell game could have brought our city to its knees. But instead the people were glorious and rose up and rallied! – HUNDREDS IN A JANUARY SNOWSTORM OUTSIDE OUR CITY HALL! Where, in the snow and raw New England cold, they shouted, NO! NO! NO! NEVER IN OUR CITY! Refugees and immigrants ALWAYS welcome here!
And then, inside Worcester City Hall, people whose roots extend to countries all over the globe got up to testify – tell their family stories. Armenia. Vietnam. Central America. Italy. Ireland. Africa. They were saying: Listen to our stories. The refugee and immigrant stories of today are our stories! AMERICAN stories!
The Gaffney resolution went down to defeat tonight. So will City Councilor Konstantina Lukes’ miserable proposal. A toxic after-thought cobbled together by – get this! – the daughter of Albanian immigrants who owned and operated a diner in Connecticut! (What would your father think of your shit-sandwich, hold the compassion, Konnie? You were the apple of his eye!)
Worcester is not Trumpland! We are not a police state where people are bullied into doing what our impetuous, vindictive, dangerous new president wants them to do! As Worcester Mayor Joe Petty said to the peaceful, yet ebullient (cuz they were on justice’s side😇) crowd before the City Council meeting: He – WE – will not allow WALLS TO GO UP BETWEEN GROUPS OF PEOPLE. In Worcester, the walls COME DOWN!
Go, Mayor Petty, go!!!
No one, no child, should fear that he or she will be forced to leave Worcester, their home: friends, school, church, work, sports teams, a routine they call their own … a place where they’ve begun to realize their unique American Dream!
Power to the people! We, the people, can do amazing things! We did, here in Worcester, TONIGHT!!!
Tonight I’m holding tight my late mom’s George Washington calendar from the 1940s (above). Like many young poor folks of the Great Depression and World War II – kids who knew they were lucky if they were eating a square meal a day – my mom was resourceful. For example, she collected her own “art” from the free or inexpensive advertising lit all around her: With trusty scissors in hand she cut out and saved grainy black and white photos or colored illustrations (often muted – not very colorful at all!) from school and church calendars, Hollywood movie fan magazines and sheet music cover pages, church prayer cards – even Polish Christmas wafer wrapping paper – anything that captured her young imagination. My mother loved music and drawing. She was very good at sketching! She used to draw pictures for me and my sisters when we were little kids. We’d sit and watch Ma as she quietly created her art for us with an old number 2 pencil: a little girl with pigtails, a little kitten with ball of yarn, a cherub perched on a cloud … the cliches of her day, beautifully rendered. I remember in our Lafayette Street flat, in a closet – now lost forever! – the huge poster Ma drew in pencil of one of her beloved Boston Red Sox batters in mid-swing! She was 12 – a total baseball freak! – when she drew it and it was a fine sketch! But I have none of my mom’s big sketches – usually made for a St. Mary’s School project – only lots of her “clipped art” – all in pretty ok shape for gussied up scraps of paper three quarters of a century old!
Ma made good use of her finds, like the sleek, smart crow who weaves bits of shiny gold ribbon into her cozy nest … She taped some of the art to her bedroom walls, used some pieces as book marks for her prayer books and sent some pictures to friends, instead of store-bought greeting cards. But mostly she saved her paper jewels – a poor girl’s dreams – in a small, wooden brown chest in her family’s Green Island Bigelow Street tenement and later in our Lafayette Street flat. The contents became mine when Ma died. I gave the small painted brown chest (painted by my grandfather) to one of my sisters.
The chest, I believe, was a kind of hope chest for Ma, a love song to America in which she kept all her American dreams. America was new to her family – her parents were Polish immigrants who experienced the promise – and ugliness – of America. My grandfather worked like a slave in a textile mill in Douglas and, to relax once he got home, played the harmonica and smoked the unfiltered cigarettes he rolled for himself using his own little white square smoking papers and little cig rolling machine, a funny looking little contraption that Ma used to work in the mornings, to roll her Dad’s cigs before he went off to work. Cigs he could smoke during break … My mother’s mother, my “Bapy,” raised five kids, cooked everything from scratch, prayed every hour on the hour, went to mass EVERY day, but outside her Catholic faith and family, was lost in America. If not attending church or friends and relatives’ Polish weddings she stayed home. Praying and cooking.
Ma was the baby of the family, and the apple of Bapy’s eye. So she grew up an optimist and focused on the bright spots: special memories from her Polish immigrant church by Kelley Square, like her First Holy Communion prayer book which I have! (below), …
A photo of Rose’s mom with her First Holy Communion children’s prayer book! (Cece got a hold of its back cover and Lilac ate it!)
… postcards, prayer booklets and stamps from her 10-year stint in Springfield as a housekeeper for the Bishop of Springield, pretty little gifts that her big brother – my Uncle Mark – brought back from Japan after he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. I especially love the calendar cover my Uncle Mark gave Ma (from his ship – probably taped above his bunk): a sexy Miss America hanging from a huge American flag. A gorgeous but stern Lady Liberty wearing an oooh la la blue diaphonous robe that showed her perky little breasts and “mound”! My uncle was pretty good looking and a bit of a ladies’ man. Ma teased him when he came home from the war with blond hair. She believed he dyed it – he said the tropical sun bleached it. This Lady Liberty was right up his alley! – worth fighting for! I ended up with the picture and crudely framed it a few years back. Saint Lady Liberty – the patriotic pinup gal proudly wearing her Virgin Mary-blue sheer gown over shaved pussy! AMERICA = #1!!!😄
But I digress! Back to GW! My mom was a huge George Washington fan because she was born on his birthday – February 22! And because he was America’s first President – perfect to her – America’s God, back in the days when the ideas of America and God were entwined in complex, beautiful, dangerous ways. My mom, true to her generation, and I, like all Baby Boomers, grew up hearing the George Washington grade school lessons/myths, almost Biblical: George Washington at Valley Forge in the winter, leading his troops …they wore torn boots, their frozen feet wrapped in cloth…The young George Washington chopped down the cherry tree when he wasn’t supposed to but said: I CANNOT TELL I LIE! IT WAS I WHO CHOPPED DOWN THE CHERRY TREE!
Ma and I were getting the boiled-down-for-the-plebs American history lesson: George Washington had a TON OF INTEGRITY. What we didn’t know: When some of the colonists clamored for him to be King of America for years and years – because he was such an outstanding military leader and first President and the times were so chaotic – Washington said: No way! That’s not what this country is going to be about! There are no kings here!
At the bottom of my mom’s George Washington calendar picture, it reads: “The love of my country will be the ruling influence of my conduct.” – Washington
Can you imagine these words coming out of the mouth of our new President, Donald Trump? Can you imagine the IDEA even blooming in that narcissistic, almost insane brain of his? (Neither can I!) He is someone who wants to buy America’s love, on his terms only. LOVE DONALD – OR ELSE!
For me, Trump’s inaugural speech was Hitler-esque. Dark, foreboding, fist-pumping, military might-extolling, self-aggrandizing, self-idolizing … maniacal. I’d never read or heard an inaugural speech where America, the land of George Washington and Mrs. Tirella!, was painted in such ugly terms – “American carnage” and “tombstones” stretching from sea to shining sea! No wonder wife Melania chooses to live in NYC – and keep her little boy safe by her side. To live with such a sick man always peering into the abyss (or is it just a pose, a con so that Trump can trash America only to lay claim that he saved her? ), a husband with such a soul-shrivelling world view, dipped in Trump gold!, is too much! I predict Mrs. Donald Trump will be a sexed-up version of the late Mrs. Harry Truman: No thanks, White House, I pass! I’ll live somewhere else. Mrs. Truman was the epitome of post-WW II frumpiness; Mrs. Trump is the epitome of 21st century foxiness. But they’re cut from the same cloth: at heart, small town girls freaked out by the prospect of living in the hub of the world’s Super Power. War. Peace. Laws of the land. It all begins with the stroke of the Presidential pen. Scary, for some people.
Funny, but here on Ward Street these past couple of days, it felt like the kind of America Donald Trump painted in his inaugural speech. Very different from the Ward Street my mom walked down as a young girl with her Polish mother as they made their way to their Polish church, Our Lady of Czetchowa, a church that still stands and which I can see from my kitchen window …
These days Ward Street is Heroin/drug Central of Worcester. Last year I wrote about the big drug bust next door (complete with confiscated cash – 40K! – and weapons – machine gun!!!) But we’ve got the low-level drug runners, too, here in our ‘hood: Kids (usually boys) 15 and 16 years old who hop on to their beat up bikes to pedal to our inner-city backyards to do drug deals. In like 5 seconds! These kids don’t live in our houses, just use our backyards as office space! – out of the way, hidden places to sell packets of heroin. A quick sale. Money exchanged for smack. Then they put their ear buds back into their ears and hop on to their bikes and pedal away wicked fast! The deal goes down in seconds!
A few days ago I saw such a speedy transaction occur in the yard adjacent to ours. The kids, both boys, about 16 or 17 years old, were there during school hours. They had come on their bikes and I had come upon them! They looked and acted hard and business-like in a way many of our neighborhood kids don’t look and act. Lots of kids in my neighborhood are sweet, skinny, sad, fun loving. They’ll smile at you and tell you about their little adventures or pets. But these two kids? Uh uh. It was so easy to see.
One of the kids looked surprised and miffed to notice me at the periphery of his deal. The other kid, scrawny and tall, looked frightening in his hardness. When he saw me, he unzipped the front of his thin jacket and his hand went to a shirt pocket. I thought: He’s going to shoot me now.
So I chatted him up. Played the un-hip, oblivious middle-aged lady. The box that society puts you in.
“Don’t be afraid of my dogs! They’re friendly!” I said, smiling.
With a cold, dead-already face, making perfect eye contact with me, he said, direct and serious: “I’m not afraid.”
A day later I saw the same kid, his pale ghoulish face smiling as he rode away lickety split on his bike, being chased by a police cruiser in the middle of our downtown. The cruiser’s siren was off because it was the middle of the afternoon, but all its lights were pulsating.
The kid was in the middle of a gang of kids – 20 or more youths – all on bicycles! Three or four of them wore Halloween masks, pale, scowling ghost masks that covered their entire faces. Lurid and other worldy… Four or five of them wore cotton bandanas over their faces – right up to their eyes – so you couldn’t see their features. They looked like they had rolled straight out of some sci-fi Western! But they weren’t galloping through Dodge on horses – instead they were riding, herd-like and hard, on our Main Street, yards away from Worcester City Hall, on ramshackle bikes! Laughing! Free! Most likely – at least a few of them – armed!
I was mesmerized by this dystopian image coming straight at me (I was in my car driving by the Hanover Theatre), straight out of the Donald Trump playbook. I pulled over and the group of kids – they filled the entire street – rode past me. They were laughing and talking easily among themselves, as the police cruiser chased them. I saw and heard my ghoulish kid barking out something to the other youths. He was smiling. High on an adrenalin high. He felt safe – and cocky – in the herd.
Had they just robbed somebody? Mixed it up with another bandana-, mask-wearing group of kids? Or were the cops just pursuing one kid? – a definite challenge when he’s in a large pack of kids, all on bicycles. Bikes are the perfect getaway vehicle – they can easily go up and down one-way streets, go off and on sidewalks, sail through back yards and city parks, be carried up flights of stairs and stashed in apartments …
As I watched this wild little spectacle, I saw how these kids showed ZERO fear. They acted like outlaws! And like their Wild West counterparts, they were indeed misfits – unhealthy outsiders, bedraggled and maybe unloved – still riding to their next adventure. With a few firearms thrown in for good measure.
The herd sailed right by me, then the police cruiser.
I found myself rooting for the kids. Their nihilism was so honest! They were America … America’s underbelly. Her lack of love for her poor, especially her poor children. One in five kids go hungry in America! That means Worcester, too. … The Worcester factory jobs are gone for their un-skilled parents – men and women who read at the third or fourth grade level. Minimum wage jobs don’t begin to pay all the bills. Parents feel trapped, go MIA. Our public schools sometimes become holding pens for these kids, a safe place to eat govt funded, free breakfast and lunch and, sometimes, a place to rest or sleep, if there’s violence/drugs in the family.
Trump’s America! The one he says he wants to save! Here in Worcester! Here on our Ward Street and Main Street!
His solution to a deep, generation-spanning societal ill, often sealed with depression, PTSD or other mental illnesses? More police. Good paying jobs.
I don’t think two – or even three – Worcester police cruisers chasing the masked kids through our downtown would have changed the narrative. Saved the kids.
Maybe good paying, WPA type infrastructure jobs would help. Young people or their parents working on rebuilding our bridges and highways a la Franklin D. Roosevelt for good pay … Yes, that may make things better. So that our families, instead of developers or investors, can buy and live in the three deckers in our old blue collar neighborhoods. Like it used to be on Ward Street, Perry Ave, Endicott and Sterling streets – all over lower Veron Hill and Green Island! Homeownership 101. The rhythm in all our Gateway Cities for most of the 20th century. The American Dream!
Trump is right: The global economy has left behind thousands and thousands of neighborhoods like mine. Millions of working-age adults who live in them! I don’t believe in all the Moral Majority crap: poor families are Godless and gone to pot – that’s why their neighborhoods are “bad.” Most parents in my neighborhood try to love their kids – I see their love displayed daily, despite the harsh circumstances! – but the pressures keep mounting on them – from all sides… . Families implode.
Good paying jobs for our people will help. Tremendously, to use a Trumpian word!
Maybe the Donald is onto something. If only he’d drop all his nefarious baggage…
Rose’s late mom’s creche – just waiting for the swipe of Cece’s paw. pics: R.T.
By Rosalie Tirella
So, it’s been two months of Cece, the homeless, half-starved kitten I was given as a (dubious?) reward for helping find homes for a pitbull mix, two cats, an assortment of hens and one elusive, hiding-in-the-nearby- woods rooster.
This has translated into:
… my Polish immigrant granny’s Christmas creche she brought to America almost 90 years ago, along with all her hopes and dreams, SMASHED beyond Elmer’s help …
Most of my pretty potted plants that I nurtured and loved all spring, summer and fall …
Dug up and dug into … possible peed into…
And here lies the culprit, on my chest, giving my boobies a good clawing if she feels herself slipping off …
… She’s washing herself with that endearing little pink sandpaper tongue of hers while purring loudly …
The havoc that this 7-ounce feline creates wherever she sets her dainty little black paws – which is everywhere in my apartment, including refrigerator shelves after I shut the door! – is forgiven by her smitten owner …
What is it about this furry little demolition derby that sets my heart a flutter?
Is it because Cece looks like the little Black kitten – “Blackie” – that my mom and her two sisters (now all deceased) took in off the mean streets of Springfield during World War II when they were farmed out by my grandparents to work as maids for the Bishop of Springfield? (My mom left their Green Island tenement when she was 14 1/2 years old). They were the original cat ladies – but also pup lovers. Soft hearted and crazy cuz they were young and didn’t know any better, they convinced the good Bishop to buy them two Doberman pinschers – the pitbulls of their day. Which my mom and her sisters adored. Powerful dogs that you’d think would make dessert out of Blackie the kitten. But that never happened. The dogs – Rocky and Bridgette – loved my mom and her two sisters – and, like all dogs, lived to please their mistresses – and, like all good Dobbies, protect them to the max. Rocky jumped on a visiting nun and broke her arm. He also bit a few people – a scary and acutely painful experience for the person at the end of the large canine’s large canines – getting his mistresses into big trouble. They were forced to give Rocky, to whom they fed horsemeat they bought at the butchers, to a farmer in the country. But Rocky loved them and escaped and weeks later came to their doorstep, haggard and bleeding at the tongue. He had cut himself bad trying to get at the milk in milk bottles – and died at my auntie’s ( his fave mistress) feet.
Here’s one of my aunts with Blackie:
I love how she holds Blackie’s paw! In most of my late mom’s Sprinfield photos my mom and aunts are always holding some pet’s paw! Such sweet Catholic girls! So unprepared for my dad and uncles, all (except one!) killers.
So my Cece makes me think of my late mom and my two aunts during happy days of their lives – housekeeping but also dancing to Tommy Dorsey music in Springfield dance halls when big band music was the craze and dance halls were ubiquitous in this huge country of ours and all Americans – every last one! – could dance. I mean REALLY DANCE. They knew and got rhythm. They bought sheet music and learned how to play the songs if they were musicians or learned ALL the lyrics, if they werent. … My mom and aunts were no different. They had a Victrola – which I now have in my kitchen – and 33s that played Doris Day, even AL Jolson ( “Hallelujah! I’m a bum again!”) …
When Cece first came into my life I burst into tears as she ran sideways into Lilac, my hound/shepherd mix! Not because I feared for her life (she could fit into the palm of my hand she was so small – not even weened!) but because of her just born-ness. Her newness in this mean old world. Her innocent recklessness in a world that could squelch her in a second. Her beautiful virgin confusion. I ran to her, scooped her up, still crying and thrust her to my chest! THERE THERE BABY GIRL! I blubbered. I’LL TAKE CARE OF YOU! I LOVE YOU!
And so I did and so I have. I taught my Cece (named after my late mom) how to lick drops of canned kittens milk from my finger tip – and then how to lap it from a tiny bowl I made for her out of an upside down instant coffee cover.
I scooped her up and kissed her little face when the dogs got too rough with her – and scolded the dogs for treating her like a chew toy with an edge they’d never seen in me. To their chagrin Cece liked their big dog water bowl better than her teeny one! And Mommy did nothing to keep her from defiling the waters!!
The pure joy with which Cece attacks life moves me! Makes me forget our mortally dangerous soon to be President Donald Trump. The pain and hatred he’ll create fall to the wayside as Cece races through my kitchen. Guns pop out daisies as Cece makes a virgin dive from the table in my bedroom to my bed! And low and behold!!! I am young again! Tying a long strip of peach ribbon to notebook paper I’ve crumpled into a ball I run like a teenager in my apartment, yelling IT’S CECE! IT’S CECE! HERE COMES CECE AROUND THE BEND!!! And my little kitten is under foot going wild with the paper ball, pouncing on my ankles and giving them some good little bites. Ouch!!!
All babes do the same! Make joy out of nothing. Just last week I saw a poor family walking down a Worcester inner-city street. Mom had the usual clear plastic covering zippered up over the baby stroller she was pushing. Sometimes you just see cheap blankets thrown over the stroller giving warmth and protection to months-old babies in freezing New England weather. You worry about the babies’ little toes and fingers. You stare at the pain…no room at the inn. It’s still true, so many Christmases later! But then you see the Christmas miracle – or Christ himself – the six-year-old girl in her cheap autumn jacket that is out of season but mom wisely undergirds with sweater and shirt. Then there are her mittens and jaunty little yellow knit cap. So little girl is playful – pulls a Cece! As they cross the street, the little girl walks on tip toes – only in the white lines in the cross walk! Stretching her little jean clad legs so her feet won’t touch the gray cement of the street – just the white painted lines of the crosswalk. She is smiling to herself. Her secret game with rules she made all by herself for herself!
A month before, in South Worcester, I saw another little girl doing pretty much the same thing in her cross walk but adding a little dance to the game. Then the little boy in Main South who did the same in his crosswalk – only he would clap his hands every time he stepped onto a yellow painted line! And he’d smile! Tickled at his trick. Poverty was something to be leapt over, clapped to, danced along…
Then you remember how you, as a little girl walked these same Worcester city streets, behind your sweet, very poor single mom. It was wintertime. Ma was always carless – didn’t even know how to drive. … You’re walking home on Lafayette Street after Ma and you and your two kid sisters have gone grocery shopping at Supreme Market on Millbury Street. It’s after a big snowstorm, and the snow plows get to the poor neighborhoods last. No matter! Your mother walks in Lafayette Street, against traffic, against and into the dirty soft snow. She’s pulling her grocery wagon behind her. It’s filled with groceries covered with plastic wrap that she got from the drycleaners she works at 60 hours a week – 40 for minimum wage, 20 under the table. She just got paid this Friday night. You giggle along with your sisters cuz you found the big tire tracks made by the big trucks going down Lafyette Street and now you have a game going home! You’re trying to walk only inside the tire tracks the big 18 wheelers have made in the snow! The tracks are wide and long. Be careful! It’s slippery! You and your sisters are trying to slide inside the thick tire tracks! The street lights give the Green Island night a pleasant yellow glow from above and make the darkened snow sparkle diamonds. Stay inside the lines! you yell to Pat and Joannie.
You don’t want to slip and lose the game – even though you do. But that’s ok because you don’t have far to go if you fall! You see it all! The snowflakes in the snow, the flowers in the dirt! Whoppee! What a game! In the snow! With Ma!!!!!!
Cece joy! If she were human – a little girl and not a little kitten – she’d join in! Back home in our third floor flat we have our own tabby kitten – Rajah! She likes to play, too! And drink from the saucer of milk our Polish granny, Bapy, sets on the floor for her. Bapy feeds her yellow pound cake, too, even though Ma scolds her and tells her not to! The cake will make Rajah sick! But it never does.
I know there are three little bags of cashews Ma bought for me and for each of my two kid sisters in Ma’s purse. Lightly salted. I smiled at the rummies at McGovern’s Package Store on Millbury Street as Ma paid for our bags of cashews. She looks so pretty in her blue wool coat and red lipstick! Just like a princess!
So lucky to be a little girl, a little kid – a Cece in this world!
Rose and her mom under the Christmas tree, many years ago.
One of my late mom’s fave tunes! She used to dance to it in our Green Island kitchen! (I love the video!)
In our last issue I told you my ol’ friend Tony Hmura died at the very ripe old age of 93. I explained how this alt-right Worcester character was in truth a pretty compassionate guy who, for years, ran his own little nutty social service agency out of Leader Sign Co., his small business (and love of his life for 65+ years) on Canterbury Street.
Tony never dug deep to find the reasons for people’s addictions or problems because he didn’t spend time analyzing himself and his own pain. He was a working class guy who made signs! His motto? JUST DO IT! Neon, paint, corrugated plastic, saws, hammers, drills – you name it. Tony loved the physical, loved to be out in the elements, subduing them. The little guy – he was about 5′ 3″ tall and skinny – was happiest working with his son Bryan, in their huge company truck/crane, running up ladders, running on roofs…fixing, building. He was into …
… not …
Tears were a waste of time, for Tony. Life called for ACTION!!!!!!
So Tony had his hands-on solutions to problems Freud would have psychoanalyzed to death. Tony’d take hookers out for hot dogs at Coney Island, so they’d have a “square meal.” He’d give the emaciated neighborhood booze hounds 10 bucks, knowing they’d run straight up the street to Rendell Package store to buy their vino, not once thinking about eating. For years he’d buy 5-pound bags of Purina cat chow and dump a bunch of cat food in the bowl outside his shop for the feral cat colonies he cared for. Tony loved cats – thought they were beautiful – and did a great job of feeding and watering (every day) all the wild kittens and cats who, like the wild inner-city people, made their way to Leader Sign’s door step. But he was never interested in trapping/spaying/neutering them. Or having them vaccinated for rabies. He didn’t understand the feral cat issue – or even knew what a feral cat colony was. I called all my animal rights gal pals and got them ready to go with traps etc to Leader, but Tony never got behind the effort, wasn’t there at the shop to help them – or approve of them on his property. Maybe a group of Tony’s feral cats were “fixed” and vaccinated. Maybe not. He didn’t really get the point. For him, he had beautiful cats at his door step looking for food. So he fed them.
Tony used to brag about his furry kitty visitors – he told me their colors and described their markings with a smile. A tone of wonder. He was a nature freak, but didn’t admit the fact. For instance, he also left cat food and scraps outside the front door of his Auburn home. Often I’d visit to see a styrofoam take out carton filled with spaghetti or bits of bread or pizza crusts to the right of his WELCOME door mat. The Auburn feral cats, along with some very fat happy squirrels, were also cared for by Tony. The swans in the pond behind his house were counted – babies especially. The geese weren’t as lovely – but Tony liked them, too.
Christmas was the time of year Tony tried to make life better for poor kids and people in the ‘hood. For many years he was the “secret” Polish Santa – in an Irish-WASP-dominated city! This was Tony’s way of promoting his ancestry and saying Screw You! to Worcester’s movers and shakers, who always managed to keep Tony out of the loop. Always the narcissistic self-promoter, Tony marketed his Santa brand – had a ton of special Polish Santa silver dollars minted, in his image (a scrawny Santa that looked exactly like Tony), which he gave out to any body and every body this time of year, dressed as the Polish Santa, of course.
Every Christmas the Polish Santa would hit many of Woo’s seedier bars and night clubs to give his Polish Santa silver dollars, along with a $50 bill, to the rough but always very grateful waitresses or “show girls” – some offering themselves up to the Polish Santa for more presents … Oh, Santa BABY!
Tony might have nibbled but never committed himself – he was too rich for a girlfriend/second wife. He wanted to keep all his money to himself. Women were mostly for sex.
Often, with a just-visiting-for-the-holidays gal pal from Naples, Florida, (Tony bought a sexy Mrs. Claus red suit for her) he would fill a sack with cute stuffed Disney animals and plush toys and hand them out to school kids – usuually at St. Mary’s – way before today’s asshole pastor took over the little Polish school and neighboring church.
One year, his gal pal didn’t visit – so I got the call. I said: Yes, but the Christmas toys have to be given to a classroom of little kids at Canterbury Street School.
I told Tony the kids were needy and would love the presents and seeing Santa (Tony paid a lot of money for an amazing Santa outfit). And NO, I wouldn’t wear the sexy Mrs. Claus outfit with go go boots.
Tony had aspirations but he was, at his core, a pragmatist: OK, he said.
So the next day Tony and I went to a nice big box store and bought 15 cute little girl toys and 15 cute little boy toys, a ton of wrapping paper and red and green ribbon. We went to Tony’s house where he turned on America’s Most Wanted and I slaved over the gifts. Wrapping THIRTY Christmas presents in one go – complete with ribbon, red for girls, green for boys – is not really fun in one sitting. Especially with America’s Most Wanted blasting on the TV. Old Tony sat in his Lazy Boy and drank a glass of Moxie (yes, I was surprised they still make it) and annoyingly cracked open and ate pistachio nuts, his favorite snack.
Finally, I was done and annoyed. I told him: LOAD THE GIFTS IN YOUR CAR TRUNK YOUR SELF! Pick me up tomorrow and we’ll go to Canterbury.
Tony, in between sips of Moxie, said, Yep.
Next day Tony picked me up. As the Polish Santa. We drove to Canterbury Street School. He was told: We have two kids who are Mormons. You can’t bring in presents because it’s against their religion.
Tony walked back to the car, tear-assed. WHAT THE FUCK! said the Polish Santa. And added: Put the Mormon kids in another room!
Shit! said Santa’s exasperated helper. They can’t. You have to respect all families’ religion and you can’t discriminate. Especially in a public school. Even one filled with poor kids who would have loved getting Christmas gifts from Santa (even the Mormons).
This was the kind of politically correct explanation that was anathema to Tony. He hated hearing stuff like this – stuff that was right and true but still deeply fucked up. The new America. The America that he didn’t understand. The America that had left him behind.
That’s bullshit, Santa said to me.
I know, I said. And sighed. Then I suggested we go to St. Mary’s school where he could still have fun giving gifts to kids dressed as Santa.
Tony said OK. We drove to the little school on Richland Street, met the nun who at that time was school principal, walked down perfectly spotless, silent corridors and entered a third grade classroom whose students promptly rose to their feet and said GOOD AFTER NOON SISTER…
The good nun explained what would happen. Tony passed out the gifts. The kids sang a song for him as a thank you. The nun lead us out, thanking Tony profusely. I think he gave her a Polish Santa silver dollar.
The class sent Tony a cute homemade thank you card.
Next year I pushed Tony into donating toys for Chandler Elementary, another Woo inner city school filled with poor kids. I called the school to explain. They said no thanks to the Polish Santa but they would take his presents. Well, back Tony and I went to the big box store to get toys. Back to his house did we go where I slaved over gift wrapping again.
We drive to Chandler a few days later. No we can’t enter a classroom and no, the gift will not be given to grade 4 but to the special needs teacher for his one on one work with special kids. I thought that was nice. Tony did too. The principal shook Tony’s hand and thanked him.
Tony never got a thank you card or a call to come back, though I said the Polish Santa would love to adopt a classroom.
Yes, we did it all on the fly. But…so what?
Back at Leader Sign Company, a disappointed Polish Santa and his feisty elf sat, trying to make sense of the world we lived in. Yes, it was good to help. But it was bad to run with your feelings. Just do it. There were forms to sign, CORI checks to be run, fingers to be printed…everybody was equal but nobody was alike. There were all these trigger points ready to trigger off at any second. If anyone could trigger … panic, it was right wing Tony Hmura. Even as the Polish Santa!
It’s Ok, Tony. I said. Next Christmas we’ll do it right.
I was lying to my friend. The world didn’t work the way it used to. Tony was part of that violent, weird, old America. He didn’t have the keys to this new one. He didn’t know how to start the dialogue. Couldn’t understand.
But now the Polish Santa is buried in Notre Dame cemetery on Hope Ave., hopefully making merry with bare-assed cherubs and Jesus Christ himself, who I believe has forgiven the Polish Santa his main sins of cupidity and lust. Now for Tony it’s just peace and looking down on Leader Sign and Canterbury Street and wishing he could be a part of the chaos again.
Dorrie says dropping off clean, warm clothing and blankets at the Mustard Seed soup kitchen on Piedmont Street is the giving thing to do this Christmas!🐺🐶🐕🐺🎄🎄🎄🎁
By Dorrie Maynard
Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, Merry Christmas, Meilleurs Voeux, Felices Fiestas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, and any others that I may have missed!
As we all go on about with our busy preparations for the festivities this season with family and friends, please take some time to remember and acknowledge those who don’t have people to spend the holidays with. There are many out there who don’t even have a safe and warm place to sleep at night.
I know there is a fine line between enabling and helping, but just for this season we can all try to not judge others until we have walked in their shoes or know their battles. Some are out there because they are drinking and/or drugging and choose to continue to do so, and others are out there because of circumstances that they may have contributed to or had no assistance to handle.
A place like the Mustard Seed on Piedmont street is a great place to start giving back to your community! You can drop off gently used, clean, warm clothing, groceries, toiletries, sleeping bags, blankets, pairs of socks, or even offer to prepare and serve a meal to the sometimes more than 100 hungry people who visit daily.
The Mustard Seed is open Monday through Friday, 4 pm – 6 pm.
Other local places to consider: Abby’s House, the Veteran’s Shelter, St. John’s Feeding program, your local senior center, the Boy’s & Girls Club of Worcester, the Friendly House, the Salvation Army, just to name a few.
Children at the Friendly House Annual Christmas Party, held this past Sunday at FH, 36 Wall St., met Santa, got a holiday gift, had fun and were treated to entertainment because of the efforts and love of volunteers – and FH Executive Director Gordon Hargrove! Donations of gently used (or new!), warm, clean clothing and blankets are always needed this time of year at the Friendly House!
I don’t like to give money to pan handlers, but I do try to always have some granola bars in my car to hand
out. There was one man on a corner I recognized from working at a local food pantry, and I offered him a bar.
He said, “No thanks. I don’t have any teeth.” And then he smiled at me.
I didn’t have have anything else to give him, but he was gracious when I offered something.
I also try to have on hand: a pair of gloves, mittens, hat, scarf this time of year to give out to folks on street corners. I know it might be their attempt to look cold, thus making people
feel more sorry for them, but at least I feel better knowing they have something warm as I drive off.
If you are more into helping animals, as some are, for various reasons, another suggestion is to give to your local animal rescue league/society. They are always in need of used, clean blankets and towels, rolls of paper towels, bleach, cat litter, pet food, etc. You can always call ahead or look on line at their wish lists to find out what they truly are in need of, as things change daily, depending upon what they have or have run out of.
Help animals who may need food, shelter or a forever home!
I always believe it is best to donate to small local rescues, as they help animals in your area. I don’t like to donateto the places that you see ads for on TV as they are paying for those ads, and those “free” t-shirts or bags
that they are willing to send you for your donation aren’t “free” either.
Something else that people can do this holiday season and throughout the year: Volunteer!!! Pick a passion! Get involved in your community! It may take some time to find the perfect place where you feel like you belong, but there are plenty of places out there
that are in need of regular volunteers.
So with all this said, I would like to wish everyone a very warm, safe, happy and healthy holiday season. All the best in the coming New Year! In this very difficult world that we live in, try to have a little compassion in your heart and empathy for others. Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards All!
Central Mass Kibble Kitchen:
Helping Feed Fido during Hard Times
By Dorrie Maynard
“Who feeds a hungry animal, feeds his own soul.”
– Charlie Chaplin
Many families in Central Massachusetts are struggling to maintain a stable household, be it due to a tough economy, domestic abuse, health conditions, substance addiction, or other unplanned life circumstances. The pets of these families are often on the short end of the sacrifices these families must make; stressing an already strained shelter system, and leaving an emotional hole in a family in need of stability. Other families opt to keep their pets, living with them in their cars or tents, or perhaps camping out on a friend’s sofa, while they struggle to find permanent housing.
Seeing this problem and no available solutions, Kim O’Konis established the Central Mass Kibble Kitchen in January of 2015.
Kim, CMKK’s fearless leader! photos by Dorrie Maynard
“No one should have to make the decision to turn their pet over to a shelter because of temporary hardship. These are the times families need the comfort of a pet the most. My goal was to help take the burden from the families and keep pets in their homes,” she says.
Food for your babies can be picked up at the MUSTARD SEED, in Piedmont.
In just less than two years, with the help of donations from individuals and pet supply companies, CMKK has distributed more than 400,000 pounds of pet food through live site distributions, home deliveries and food pantry deliveries! The organization has also been able to supply donated collars, leashes, coats, litter, and other supplies to hundreds of families and their pets. Through partnerships with local veterinary organizations, hundreds more pets have been spayed, neutered, or received life-saving medical treatment at reduced or no cost to owners.
Still more pets have been helped with temporary fostering while their owners sought addiction treatment, were hospitalized, or dealt with homelessness.
Operating out of the basement of her home, O’Konis then expanded her operation into a rented space attached to the Worcester Animal Rescue League. A small army of volunteers has formed to help transport, bag, and distribute food and supplies. Despite the network of organizations and volunteer support, she still personally distributes food and supplies from her van each week at the Mustard Seed and St John’s soup kitchens each week. “It’s all about building relationships. My clients trust me and know that I too care about their pet(s), that they can depend on me to be there every week, always offering pet food and sometimes a shoulder to lean on. Having personal contact with families and their pets means everything to me. It motivates me to continue doing everything I can to help them and their pets stay together,” she says.
Cherish your pets!
As word of the Central Mass Kibble Kitchen’s has spread through the local community and with the cold weather, demand has grown.
Kibble Kitchen needs:
canned cat and dog food
dry cat food
Donations can be dropped off at at 139 Holden Street – the Worcester Animal Rescue League. In the3rd garage bay.
Arrangements for pickup of large donations can be made by calling 978-496-9364.
Monetary donations are extremely helpful, and can be made securely via Youcaring.com.
More information is at centralmakibblekitchen.org, or on their Facebook page.
CMKK is 501-c3 organization, so all donations are tax deductible.