Yesterday was Memorial Day. So I visited my ol’ pal Tony Hmura. You know all about him, if you’ve been reading my columns these past 16 years. Tony – despite being a septuagenarian when I first met him – is one of the true rock ‘n’ roll guys, along with the OIF and “Just Joe,” my first serious beau (only 3!😢😢). By that I mean Tony embodied the spirit of rock music his whole life: sex, freedom, an unfettered mind and body. Three-somes? Tony had them! And showed me the pictures! A juicer? Tony was concocting his own health potions years before the hippies mashed their first soy bean. He loved animals – especially cats…
… but he was suspicious of people, society. He was a gun guy. A few months before he died I found a pistol – new, silver, angular, heavy, loaded – under the seat cushion of his Lazy Boy while cleaning his living room. It was hidden under his blanket, next to an old Play Boy magazine. His easy chair (along with his gun) was strategically placed before his TV set – and front door. He watched his Humphrey Bogart movies – and front door – in Boggey style.
Tony did not give a shit what anyone thought about him. He did as he pleased, often living outside the law. He carried razor blades in his pants pocket at all times and once suggested that I do the same. He gave me a lesson in how to use a razor blade – cut up and fast. Like this, like this! he kept yelling at me. “God, Tony!” I said. “Put that away!” He didn’t. He showed me his three-some photos right before Christmas! He always carried them in his shirt pocket. The good old days. “Put them away!” I’d yell at Tony, alarmed. Yet fascinated. So Mick Jagger …
Tony surely went his own way, a loner dancing to his own crazy beat. But he always had – not at all obvious to most folks – his own wild moral compass. I recognized it early on, which is why we became friends. Like me, he grew up poor in Green Island, and his childhood haunted him. Through grit, pluck and smarts Tony pulled his entire family out of poverty – as a kid! He eventually made himself and his sons rich. But he always carried himself like a little sewer rat – same as me.
Rose has baggage galore …
And he never forgot his roots. Giving money to every poor South Worcester guy or gal who crossed his path with a sob story. And, like me, his psychic pain roared unabated. No matter how good things were. We got each other on a deep level – often with just a phrase, or a sigh. I miss that.
Tony, about 12 years ago. He had his WW II plane painted on the back of this leather jacket. Which he wore in all seasons.
Tony was a gunner in a bomber plane in World War II. He was a gunner because he was a little guy and gunners had to be small so they could crouch in the small sides of a fighter plane. Tony flew a ton of missions – the U.S. military kept increasing the number of missions the guys had to fly as the war dragged on. He was shot down twice and survived because he was so brutally smart. A SURVIVOR like I have never known! You felt it buying a cup of coffee with the guy! (no sugar, cream and two ice cubes, for Hmura!) He served his country with a tough grace that most people just don’t have. No judgements. It’s just a fact.
So yesterday, Memorial Day, when I went to his grave and saw his tombstone adorned with just that one classy beige cross AND ZERO AMERICAN FLAGS, I knew I had to get busy! I drove to the Dollar Store and bought a bunch of American flags, stars and plastic flowers – for Tony. For Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
I really did it up for Tony!
Sure, it’s not the most artistic looking tomb in the cemetery, but it’s what Tony would have loved: bold, in your face, colorful, red white and blue and a mess of Old Glories! The gaudiest, freakin’ most patriotic tomb stone in the whole cemetery!!
Just what Tony – a Type A personality all the way – would have loved!
And I put a red plastic rose on his stone so he’d know it was me, Rose.
See? There’s his plane – a perfect replica – etched onto his tombstone.
And in back his birthday. He lied to me about being born on the Fourth of July! But that’s ok – the lie was out of love for country!
I like how Tony’s death date isn’t engraved onto his tombstone… It’s like he hasn’t died! Or refused to go!
Keep rockin’, Tony! Keep flyin’ above the clouds!💗💗💗💗💙🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸
WORCESTER CITY COUNCILORS, PLEASE SUPPORT COUNCILOR Khrystian KING’S RESOLUTION Tuesday night (May 9) and VOTE YES to SUPPORT a STATE-WIDE MINIMUM WAGE of $15/hour!
By doing so, you will save Worcester’s inner-city neighborhoods/urban core.
If we continue on this road, if you do not show your support and VOTE YES to pay the working poor more than peanuts, Worcester will go the way of NYC and Boston: a city where the VERY RICH and VERY POOR live – but no “in-betweeners” because they are priced out of the city. The upper middle class and wealthy will go to their special schools, restaurants, venues in the city; the other class – really the underclass – will live in Section 8/govt subsidized housing and have its own world, sometimes just several blocks away. We see this happening in Worcester now – our urban core these days is not the urban core in which I grew up. The American dream no longer takes hold in places like lower Vernon Hill, Union Hill, Green Island. Our economy does not support it! Instead, we have Section 8 meccas filled not with the working stiffs and stiffettes of yesteryear (like my late mom) toiling their way on/up the economic ladder, raising their kids in a no-bull-shit manner, making them go to school because education was valued as one of the sure ways out of poverty. Instead, these days, our inner-city neighborhoods are brimming with people whose lives are played out somewhere far from the American Dream, a landscape filled with guns, drugs, anger, depression, morbidly obese women, scrawny kids (1 in 4 kids goes to bed hungry in Worcester). They are not part of a world that creates aware, healthy, educated, aspiring Americans.
These once amazing old neighborhoods … where the original owners have died and their kids, detached suburban dwellers who want no part of the inner-city scene, sell their inheritances for top dollar to absentee landlords and developers who buy the buildings and make them Section 8 so they can make steady, good money, courtesy of the federal govt. These new landlords do very little or nothing for their properties; they couldn’t care less about the situation – even the law breakers and drug dealers they often rent to. As long as they get their Section 8 checks – a lot of $$ – every month – like clockwork – from Uncle Sam.
Section 8 housing – Endicott Street
Their tenants? Well, the working poor are priced out of these places! If you work full-time at minimum wage, you can’t afford these apts! Instead, the places are rented to people who have a Section 8 voucher for LIFE. This guarantees the absentee landlord (or slumlord) top rental dollar for LIFE. The tenants add nothing to the economic or cultural or educational fabric of Worcester. They usually bring drugs, violence, ignorance and zero respect for teachers, police, the rules of society into their new abodes. It’s the world of the under class – an entire swath of our population that cannot function in civil society. They are, for the most part, unemployed folks who game the WELFARE system with a kind of insolence that stems from knowing they’ll never be called out and the gravy train just goes on and on. It’s not a lot of $$ but just enough to keep you afloat and in housing. Then you can abuse the system to get extra $$/perks. Folks have no desire to get off welfare and become self sufficient BECAUSE BEING ON WELFARE IS JUST AS OR MORE LUCRATIVE THAN WORKING A 40 HOUR MINIMUM WAGE JOB! For lots of folks, it’s a better deal!
Which is why we need to raise the state minimum wage to $15/hour.
WE NEED TO WIDEN THE $$$ GAP BETWEEN the working poor and the scammers. We need to make WORKING 40 HOURS A WEEK AT AN ACAP AUTO OR CVS worth more $$$ than sitting on your ass in your Section 8 apartment becoming depressed or agoraphobic or morbidly obese or a pot head or a junky – all the while collecting the welfare package: free or low low rent, free utilities, free food, free health care.
This federally subsidized package – which should be a temporary leg up and not a permanent hand out/way of life – should not be worth as much money as a PAY CHECK. From a 40 hour a week job – or from 2 or 3 part-time jobs.
WORKING FOR A LIVING – no matter what you do – should mean YOU CAN PAY FOR YOUR LIFE. Not a fancy one, but a stable, basic, healthy one – with a few perks thrown in, like a vacation at the shore, a jalopy that you drive around town to work etc – or to the Cineplex or the Olive Garden on a Saturday night. Certainly digs you can afford!
Welfare scammers should see that being a part of the legitimate American economy – on any level, even at Wal-Mart pushing a broom – IS VALUED by our society.
It gives folks pride and hope and spending money, which they WILL spend, boosting the economy, boosting neighborhood biz. Worth WAY MORE THAN SITTING ON YOUR ASS IN YOUR SECTION 8 APARTMENT SMOKING WEED, the way my downstairs neighbor does. Or renting a room out to a boarder and getting cash under the table and using your Section 8 apartment as a kind of business/rooming house – the way my downstairs neighbor does! Or bringing in your girlfriend, who collects welfare $$ because she had your baby and you do not marry her so she can move all her free govt benefits$$ into your apartment so you can afford to buy a shiny silver Acura! The one you zip around in with such absurd pomposity. I am describing the violent little tenant-turd at 48 1/2 Ward St. I guess that’s what babies are for!!
The madness must stop!
The cheating is almost universal in the urban core. The ingenious ways folks have of gaming the system here boggles the mind! And its done with TOTAL INSOLENCE. People feel it is OK to pull this crap – cheat the American taxpayers who are the ones SUBSIDIZING their lifestyle, if you wanna call acute dysfunction a “lifestyle.”
This is why Donald Trump was elected president. Lower middle class and working class resentment.
Enough is enough!
Time to support WORKING PEOPLE. In our hoods they used to and still do bring: a work ethic, stability, respect for property, respect for the rule of law, respect for teachers and public education, respect for all public servants. I grew up in a minimum-wage household years ago on Lafayette Street, in Green Island. I know first hand how tough it is to PLAY BY THE RULES and keep a family afloat on minimum wage. But my single working mom did it. She paid our bills by working for minimum wage at the dry cleaners down the street: 40 hours regular time, 20 hours under the table. Accounting for the cost of living/housing back then, minimum wage was worth about $10/hour in the 1970s. Still, my mom, my two kid sisters, “Bapy” and I lived hard lives: We never owned a car – or even a clothes dryer; vacations were the stuff of dreams (though we kids did have a lot of fun in the hood and cousins’ houses!); we – or at least I – wore a knit hat to bed during winter because our tenement was drafty and always cold in Jan and Feb, and we had to keep our gas bill down. Our only source of heat: the gas “log” in the kitchen stove. Meals were basic but healthful, Polish peasant food: lots of cabbage, potatoes, beets, onions and the cheapest cuts of beef – the meat more as a side dish or even a garnish. Looking back, my mom was feeding us well but, if you were a fussy eater, you might not like what was on the Mrs. Tirella menu. I was not a fussy eater – I was a little Hoover vacuum cleaner who sucked up all the food Ma put on my plate. My sisters were picky – and pretty skinny because of it.
Below: One of Rose’s kid sisters, goofin’ on their 3rd floor back porch, in Green Island. Many moons ago!
But we survived. It was rough and tumble, but we had good shoes, good to nice clothing, went to the movies, bought records and portable record players… I grew up adoring my amazing mother, valuing work, family and God, enjoying healthy competition, getting up with a bounce in the morning to go to Lamartine Street School to study hard and get those all-A report cards for Ma – a lady who admired resourcefulness, competence and drive because she had it all in spades.
“Ma” (left), sharing a laugh with her fave sister (and Rose’s fave Auntie) in the Lafayette Street flat.
Councilor King’s Worcester City Council colleagues – Konnie Lukes, Michael Gaffney, Gary Rosen, Moe Bergman and Tony Economu – should support his resolution just like Worcester City Councilors Candy Mero-Carlson, Kate Toomey, Sarai Rivera, (mayor) Jos Petty and George Russell have. We need more Mrs. Tirella’s. But we need to pay them a living wage because, without these urban stalwarts, our inner-city neighborhoods will never wholly rebound.
Where it all began: In “The Block,” on Bigelow Street, in Green Island. Rose’s fave Auntie💛 (again), with the beloved “Bapy.”💗💗💗
Childhood Hunger Rate in Worcester Higher than the National Average
The Boys & Girls Club of Worcester Serves Kids a FREE Dinner 5 Nights a Week
Steve “Tank” Tankinow, the Kid’s Café Director💜💙💛
We don’t need to search very far for statistics on childhood hunger:
1 in 4 kids goes to bed hungry in Worcester.
That’s higher than the national average of 1 in 5.
Childhood hunger is linked to lasting effects on our kids’ social development, physical health, and academic performance.
In fact, 93% of educators are concerned about the long-term damage hunger can have on our youth.
When children are hungry:
88% are unable to concentrate in school
87% struggle with lack of energy or motivation
65% exhibit behavioral problems
84% have overall poor academic performance
Often times, the foods they have access to pose no nutritional value.
80% of our Club members live at or below the poverty level, limiting their exposure to fresh, healthy foods. The financial limitations on our families force parents to serve fast food or processed and packaged meals.
Our Club is the only place in the city where kids can receive a FREE, nutritious dinner 5 days a week.
Kid’s Café provides approximately 300 youth a day with nutritious meals.
Steve “Tank” Tankinow, our Kid’s Café Director, has been cooking home-style meals for our members for over 17 years, dedicating himself to serving the hungry children in Worcester.
Eating good food at the Club💜💛
If you’re interested in helping our Club provide dinner 5 nights a week for our kids, please consider making a donation!
How it all Began:
“I’ve been a member of the Boys & Girls Club since I was a kid. To me, it was a safe place. I always felt at home. When I came back as an adult, the sounds and even the smells were the same as I remembered as a kid.
I was inspired to start Kid’s Café as a way of giving back to the community. Because my career has been involved in nutrition, I wanted to do something that provided good, healthy food for kids. I worked with the Worcester County Food Bank and the Boys & Girls Club, and formed a non-profit organization. We started by making supper for a handful of kids 17 years ago; now we feed about 300 kids a hot, nutritious meal 2 days a week (3 days a week we are provided meals through the Federal Government). We’re helping keep kids healthy. It’s an important part of the mission of the Boys & Girls Club.
I’ve been fortunate that so many people have volunteered to help, or responded when I called. We’ve had everyone from executives to high school students contributing food or money to buy food. They pitch in as teams to cook and serve. It’s a lot of work to feed 300 kids, but with the community support we always get it done.”- Steven “Tank” Tankinow (excerpt from alumni profile in 2011 annual report)
Fallon Health Opens Food Pantry at Our Club
We’re thrilled to provide our kids with nutritious food while at the Club, but we also want to ensure their health at home.
Fallon Health has opened a food pantry at our Harrington Clubhouse to help our organization further fight childhood hunger.
This crucial addition to our case management department will provide Club families with food and resources during tough times and emergencies such as a death in the family or unemployment.
Several Fallon Health employees volunteered their time to set up the pantry and stock the new shelves with non-perishable items such as canned vegetables, pasta, and cereal.
The pantry will be restocked throughout the year to ensure we can continue assisting our families. The generosity of Fallon Health has enabled our staff to help our families in a new and pivotal capacity.
If you’re interested in donating to our food pantry, please contact Liz Hamilton, Executive Director, at:
Boys & Girls Club of Worcester
65 Tainter Street, Worcester, MA, 01610-2520, United States
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!)