Tag Archives: Rosalie Tirella

The beautiful Broadway and Billy – 100 Water St.

By Rosalie Tirella

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pic: R.T.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s how Billy likes it.

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

Daddy New Year!

By Rosalie Tirella

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Daddy

When I was a little girl growing up in Green Island, New Year’s Eve was the one holiday my father, “Daddy,” celebrated with my mother and my two kid sisters and me. And Bapy, our Polish immigrant granny!

My father was a rover, an Italian Romeo, who my poor minimum-wage-working mother fell in love with cuz she felt the magic with Daddy (lust!), after dutifully going with a dutiful, church-going Pole from the neighborhood for years. “Stan” had loved her, was romantic: he gave my mother an engagement ring. He once took off his coat and laid it over a big mud puddle so my mother could walk on it and not through the puddle!  He was a furniture delivery kid for Millbury Furniture on Millbury Street, who went on to become a school teacher. 

But “Ma” chose foolishly: she dumped good boy Stan for bad boy Daddy, the hot Mediterranean with killer profile – Daddy’s high, red pompadour (his moniker when he was a kid? “Red”!), his long elegant Roman nose! Swoon-time! – and attitude. Daddy came with the complete bad boy package: a big-boned German German Shepherd dog named Heidi (tougher than the American breed), a big dump truck where Heidi sat in the passenger seat and hard, calloused, workman hands that had caressed many a’ ghetto-girl breasts and hot rod tires, and a true rock n roller outsider stance. Daddy was taciturn, even gruff, kept his demons close to his chest. He didn’t talk to us kids, his children! – or any kids, for that matter. What was the point? He was in and out of our lives but always managed to make a pit stop at our Green Island flat when he needed to recover from whatever shit he had stirred up around Worcester.

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Above: one of Daddy’s pitstops; below: Ma’s First Holy Communion pic

I remember: Daddy walking into our Lafayette Street tenement after days or weeks or MONTHS away from home, MIA, looking like the January winds had blown him into our poor flat! His pale hazel eyes red and teary, his now auburn hair wild and swept-up. He had axl grease on his hands and under his fingernails and on the front and back of his blue work shirt. Seeing this junkyard dog of a man, Ma would (to our consternation) … melt!! Like goo. Get all flustered and start running – running!! – to their closet to get Daddy a clean tee shirt, run to another closet to get Daddy a clean white hand towel. And as the Prodigal Daddy washed his dirty face and dirty hands in our kitchen! sink, Ma pulled out the big T Bone steak from the refrigerator (her pretty round ass filling out her snug house coat) she had bought special for Daddy at Supreme Market on Millbury Street. Just for him alone – an entire steak! We kids never got steak! Neither did Ma, who only allowed herself to  gobble up Daddy’s leftovers – the steak’s “tail” – all fatty – after Daddy had finished eating. I remember seeing her eat the tail end by the kitchen stove, stealthily, her pretty mouth shiny with its fat – only after clearing the TV stand on which she had served Daddy his big meal, in their bedroom, where he lounged on their bed, solitary as a lobster. He couldn’t be bothered with or by his three little girls…. Today I make the same special salad dressing Ma once made for Daddy: a saucer of olive oil; add one clove of garlic, finely diced …

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… a teaspoon of vinegar and pinch of salt.  Stir with a salad fork and voila!

We kids would stay in the “front” room quietly watching The Carol Burnet Show on our black and white Philco while Daddy feasted on his steak in the bedroom.  We were 8 and 7 and 7 (twins) and expected nothing. “Good little soldiers,” as Ma used to call us. We kids, Ma  – and, of course Bapy, who got Daddy’s number from day #1 and hated his guts – had grown accustomed to Daddy’s ways: no birthday gifts on our birthdays, no candy Valentine’s hearts on Valentine’s Day, no Christmas gifts during the holidays. Daddy was a cheapskate who kept his money to and for himself; he had zero interest in making his little girls smile during their birthdays or the holidays.

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Rose went to her aunt and uncle’s house for the best birthday parties; above: her cousins, pre-birthday party sugar-and-salt blast!

Except during New Year’s Eve, a time when something magical stirred in Daddy. For two or so years he was a night watchman at the Worcester Country Club. Night time was his time, and he worked the holidays at the country club for time and a half pay. So… Daddy worked his shift New Year’s Eve and, way past midnight, after watching the club, but also watching (or hearing) Worcester’s well-heeled drink champagne, dance past midnight to a local big band, ring in the New Year with party favors that cranked, whirred, buzzed, twirled and honked… After the big ball room New Year’s countdown, after the big night, after all the Merry makers had departed for their nice homes in Burncoat or the West Side, the ones with big back yards and flowers trimming front lawns, so quiet in the moonlight…only then would Daddy stoop and pick up all the spent favors, the discarded tin foil caps, the popped poppers on the dance floor and take them home to us. He’d even take the ceiling and wall decorations off their perches! The big tissue paper silver balls and the big crepe-paper New Year’s bells that hung from the country club’s ballroom ceiling were not safe from Daddy’s nimble fingers!… And the big cardboard New Year’s Babies that had hung from the ceilings and had floated above all the dancers and party goers in their top hats and cute diapers, like the champagne bubbles… floating off to happy land… would float right into our third-floor Lafayette Street tenement, in Green Island!

So much fun to hear Ma yell to us: “Look what Daddy brought you from the Country Club!” It was past 3 in the morning but no difference! Ma wanted us up! My two sisters and I jumped out of our beds and, in our pajamas, ran into our big kitchen where Daddy was gingerly placing (on the kitchen floor) our New Year’s treasures. We squealed and picked up the used party favors and streamers and began running in big circles on our big kitchen floor. We took the white big paper bells and lifted them high over our heads into the air and yelled: HAPPY NEW YEAR! We ran with the streamers – our New Year’s Eve’s kites – all over the apartment! I grabbed a big cardboard New Year’s Eve baby! Tomorrow Ma would help me tape my diapered little prince on my bedroom wall!

Ma made sure silly Belle, our English Setter mix …

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Belle!💜💜

… was on her dog pillow, an old chair cushion bestowed to her by Bapy, her true mistress!, away from all the tinsely temptations!

Daddy’s New Years Eve was as fun to me as another winter tradition in our flat: when Ma hung the laundry to dry in our kitchen! On two long ropes she had strung up from one wall to the opposite one! We were too poor to have a clothes dryer, so Ma always hung our laundry outside on the back porch clothesline. Except for below freezing days like today when she brought the operation indoors and my kid sisters and I would clap our hands and giggle and hug each other as Many hung the big white sheets out to dry. We’d run under them touching them with our hands, our little faces, screaming!, Ma smiling. They smelled so nice, our make-believe snow mountains, drowsy and deep and white in Green Island!

So News Year’s Eve at our house was just as exuberant! Ma smiled as she watched us play and Bapy, sitting in her over-stuffed wooden easy chair at the head of the kitchen table, sipped her cup of Sanka instant coffee and sang a Polish nursery rhyme while tapping our little butts with the palm of her old hand as we ran by her giggling, glitter on the soles of our feet!

Bapy loved music and encouraged us to sing and make joyful noise year ’round! Our house was filled with music 24/7, except for nighttime when we slept. But during the days the radio blared Bapy’s polkas and Ma’s Beatles and Herman’s Hermits and Top 45, Wolfman Jack, baby! On special occasions I cranked up Bapy’s Victrola and played Ma’s old 33s, from when she was a maid in the Bishop’s house in Springfield: Doris Day, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney …

… The Dorsey Brothers, even Al Jolson! I used to love to belt out, with Al: “Hallelujah, I’m a bum again!!”!

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Rose leading her two-kid band (her sisters) in the big Green Island kitchen!

Come January 2, Daddy was a “bum” again, as Bapy sputtered into her cold Sanka, cursing him in Polish (“Dog’s Blood” spoken in her native tongue sounded deadly). He was gone from the flat, our lives, once more. With feeling. He had made his getaway early in the morning, while we kids were still sleeping, as was his custom, usually around 5:30 a.m. Ma would wake up at 5 to make him his breakfast and fresh coffee. See him off!! My sisters and I got to keep our New Year’s Eve paper regalia, but the bells and streamers now sat crumpled in a corner, on the kitchen floor. Except for my cardboard New Year’s baby which still delighted me and, like I said, Ma would help me tape to my bedroom wall later in the day.

Looking back, I now see that our peripatetic Daddy was almost as poor as we were. Once he was beaten up by a goodfella for a Shrewsbury Street loan shark who didn’t get the dough Daddy had borrowed from him – and still owed him. I remember Daddy coming through our backdoor (of course), sheepishly – so unlike his usual entrances. I remember Ma putting her hand to her mouth, which had fallen open, then running to Daddy to examine his big cauliflower ears…

So, today, I catalog some of the gifts a poor Daddy gave to his poor daughters. At the time, I considered them more his plunder than our gifts, but still… He always placed them on our big kitchen table or big ol’ kitchen floor, like sacred junkyard offerings (when they weren’t too cumbersome):

1. A Frank Sinatra album

2. Two Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons albums (one of them double!)

3. Barbershop equipment – all the mirrors, stand up and wall, which he picked up somewhere in his truck – got paid by the shop owner for hauling them away. I remember running downstairs to see all the mirrors in his truck, glinting in the sun, and helping him lug them all upstairs, to our third floor tenement!

4. A cast iron baker’s rack, which I also helped him lug upstairs! It became my plant and ceramic animal stand. For years!

5. A rusty old Maxwell House Coffee can, filled haphazardly with dirt and in the middle of the dirt: a lovely pink lady slipper, puffy in full bloom! My sisters and I rushed to the old coffee can when Daddy placed it on the kitchen table. We ooohed!! and ahhhed!! at the lovely flower, touching its velvety, prickly hot pink petal. We had never seen a lady slipper in our lives! Not even pictures of them in our school books! I was mesmerized….Daddy had picked it during one of his many walks in the woods up by West Boylston. We didn’t walk in the woods, like our father. And he’d never dream of taking us – especially three GIRLS! – along with him, though I remember one of my sisters, the Tom Boy and his favorite, always pleading with him to accompany him.

I never asked to go along…

And those are all the birthday and holiday gifts my father gave to me and my two sisters. Ma got squat. But she kept her costume jewelry from Springfield, gifts from Stan, in a box lined with purple crushed velvet and wore her twinklers to our schools’ Parent Nights where she was told what good girls she had. And Rosalie! So smart! All A’s again!

My gifts to my mother!

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… I still have a few of Ma’s earrings. She used to let me wear them around the house when I had a cold and was too sick to go to school or play outside. They were a quick pick-me-up! But I never wear them these days – I don’t want to lose them, lose the memory💜.

These days, I live in Green Island, again. I see on my old Millbury Street the new old Millbury Street…today’s poor …

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… walking, as once my sisters, mother and I had walked, sometimes trudged, during winter in the inner city: wearing layers of cheap clothing, heads down, heading home with treasures like a bag of bread, a fish sandwich, a scarf or two from friends more comfortably off…And I look up to see the snowman, angel, snowflake or Santa decals pasted to the frozen-shut crap windows above the storefront windows. And my heart flies straight up to meet those windows’ Santa’s and snowflakes! I love them so much – best of all! I see my Green Island childhood in them: poor families making the best of things, making things Merry and Bright in spite of the fact! The decals pasted up by poor kids or their mothers or fathers or their uncles or aunts. Or big brothers, sisters … cousins. No matter! It’s all done with the same love! And hope!

These Green Island Christmas windows will stay decorated through January, and I will look up at them every time I go by them!

Happy New Year’s Eve!

P.S. We remember Maggie Roche, who died this year. 💜 you, Roche Sisters!

My two cousins

By Rosalie Tirella

Writing my David Cassidy post got me thinking about Baby Boomer teen life and my two favorite girl cousins, Jennifer and Kris. Jennifer was the trend setter of my junior and early senior high school years. The beauty I idolized but could never be.  She was the suburban willowy love-child of the ’70s who caught all the boys’ eyes (once I was walking with her when she literally stopped traffic!), and I was the Polish immigrant nerd living in the ghetto (Green Island) with my face deep in my school books and Bapy’s potato pierogi’s.

Jennifer was the Ali MacGraw to my Mr. Magoo (I was near-sighted as a kid, and my mom bought me thick-lensed eyeglasses at the optometrist on Millbury Street), the Cheryl Tiegs string bikini to my White’s Five and Ten polyester pants. And the whole family knew it. When her parents, my sweet Uncle Mark and Aunt Mary, spoke of her, their only daughter, the word “model” popped up in lots of their sentences. As in Jennifer was beautiful enough to be a model. She was tall enough to be a model – 5′ 7″.  She had an oval face – the perfect face all models had. Plus: Jennifer made her own groovy clothes that looked like they came right out of SEVENTEEN magazine. She sewed like a demon (linings? No problem! Zippers? a snap!) and could knit or crochet anything.

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Jennifer could knit sweaters like these pom-pom bedecked doozies!

Once she crocheted herself a beautiful blue hotpants jumpsuit with a red apple on the bib (which her parents never let her wear in public). It involved following a pattern, creating pieces, putting them together…so intimidating to me!

Jennifer loved going to the beach and sunbathed in the pretty two piece bathing suits she sewed for herself. She slathered on the Coppertone sun tan lotion (SPF 0) and smelled like a coconut. 

For me, the whole Jennifer package was amazing! No one ever stared at me – a gawky 13 year old with thin hair and a gap between my two front teeth, which my mother, too poor to outfit me in braces, kept promising me would come together as my wisdom teeth grew in. (never happened). No one ever told me I had model potential. No one ever cared what I was knitting. I was in Jennifer’s knitting class at the Winthrop House Girls Club on Providence Street. Everyone in class knew I was the worst knitter at the Girls Club; in a million years I could never crochet a blue hot pants outfit with a red apple on its bib! The club knitting teacher, was a tough old Irish broad who had plenty of ability but no heart. She fawned over Jennifer and her work but sneered at me as I sweated bullets over my paltry scarves or “slippers” for Bapy. Scraps to her. She never tried to teach me anything new –  never really even acknowledged my presence. She just kept me knitting those damn scarves and slippers – both the easiest beginner projects entailing knitting/crocheting row after row after row after row…I hated the teacher and class but my mother wanted me to learn “home economics” so I took all the classes at the Club: sewing class, knitting class, cooking class. I soldiered on in knitting for three years while  Jennifer soared –  graduated to sweaters with pom poms, halter tops! and hotpants jumpsuits. She bought and  followed patterns, three-page directives that told you when you knit, purled, dropped a stitch etc.

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Jaw dropping. I never  owned or even followed a pattern, which you could buy at Woolworths on Front Street. I couldn’t even “read” them. So I became the Madame Defarge of the Girls Club – knitting and knitting and knitting my  scarf in a corner of the room.

Jennifer wore platform sandals and shoes that we’re pretty and on trend – but never slutty. She drank NuForm 1% low fat milk because she was tall and willowy and watched her figure, like a real model. She wore just the lightest touch of makeup (pink lipstick, a bit of mascara) because she was a natural beauty, like a model.  And like all models in the 1970s she wore her long, chestnut hair parted straight in the middle, straight down the back, a la Ali MacGraw.

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pics: R.T.

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Jennifer even knit herself those knit hats Ali MacGraw wore in the movie “Love Story,” co-starring  ’70s heartthrob movie actor Ryan O’Neal.

My aunt would say, “That’s my Ali MacGraw!” My Uncle would say, “That’s my Polish Princess!”

And we’d all nod, grinning.

No one ever called me a Polish Princess! But I knew I was loved by mom. For different reasons. I was up to something a little different – Ma picked up on it, knew I was wicked book smart, an all-A student.  She knew I loved music and enrolled me in violin – and accordion! – lessons at Lamartine Street School. She pushed me to be in the WPS orchestra – at 7! She’d bypass Jennifer altogether and compare me to the boys in the family. Race my intellectual prowess against that of her sister’s two whiz kid sons’ – Walter and Jim.

My Aunt Mary would brag to my mom: “Jim is number two in his class.” My mom would hit back with: “My Rosalie is number 1.” My aunt would crow: “Jim’s teachers love him.” My mom would retort: “Rosalie’s English teacher took  her and five of the smartest kids in class to the art museum on Saturday. Then they  went to McDonald’s for lunch!” If Walter was reading a hard book for his book report at Burncoat Junior High, I was reading a brain-cracker for my book report at Providence Street Junior High. If Walter was going to college to be a doctor, I was going to college to be a veterinarian – a job my mom believed required more intelligence.  Animals did not talk and therefore couldn’t tell you where they hurt or what their health issues were!

The competition was intense, and soon I felt I was on a different path than Jennifer who wanted to go the more traditional route. She wanted to be a school teacher, get married in a beautiful wedding gown …

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… with the band playing BREAD songs for all to dance to at the wedding reception.

My cousin loved BREAD and bought the above album, The Best of Bread, and convinced me to do the same. I did. When we had our sleep overs at her house we’d get into our jammies, talk boys and true love and she’d put her BREAD album on her portable record player and together we’d softly sing all the songs on it (I knew all the words by heart, still do). We’d sing high and melodramatically in the gentle moonlight that suffused her little pink bedroom, with the swing set in the back yard, my aunt and uncle in the kitchen having a final cup of coffee of the day,  together …

A few years ago I heard “Everything I Own” on the radio and cried. Not for what the music critics would call its saccharine lyrics (the critics slagged BREAD, gagged over BREAD, their entire career) but for what the band once meant to two innocent girls in the little moonlight-imbued bedroom off Burncoat Street, the swing set in the backyard by the big tree I’d sometimes climb… . Two girls who believed in all that bad love poetry with all their hearts!

“I may be climbing on rainbows, but here goes…”

“… I really wanna make it with you!”

Jennifer’s husband would be handsome and straight-as-an-arrow loyal, and – a must – he’d have a great paying job.

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They would live in a big house in the nice part of town and have a family…Jen was losing this Green Island Grrrl.

Into the breach stepped Kris, the teenaged daughter of my mother’s older sister, Helen. Kris was another beauty but very different from Jennifer. Helen, like my mom, her little sis, had married stupidly – got hitched to a physically abusive carpenter who would hit her and drink whenever he wasn’t working. I remember him at our kiddie  birthday parties, walking around the room and popping the balloons with his cigar. A total asshole. Like with my father, I was afraid of the guy. After running away from him, kicking him out of the house, getting a divorce and their house in Webster Square, my auntie became the tough, single mama survivor raising her two teenagers during the 1960s, the Vietnam War … working three shit  jobs  to keep the house and send  her kids to private schools. She eventually became a professional, an accountant, while raising Kris and her brother, Peter. She was the auntie who had a lifelong love affair with Doberman pinschers, owning one after another, huge canines built like brick outhouses, all named delicate, pretty names like Sparkle, Serena and Tatiana. Any one of them could have killed a man.

Like I said, Kris was a beauty. Wavy long auburn hair, huge melt-you eyes, pretty figure, full sensuous lips – so fetching in her blue jeans, peasant blouse and loafers. But where Jennifer was confident and exuberant, Kris was tentative and sad. Where Jennifer sauntered down that beach, Kris walked stiffly past the wavelets, her shoulders up, square and rigid like a soldier’s. She could have looked amazing in a bikini, but she wore a no-nonsense, nylon navy blue one-piece.

Still, we connected. Through our mutual love for animals. When visiting us – and my Aunt and her two kids often did visit us to escape the flying fists of my uncle – Kris never chatted about boys or music or hinted she could be a model, though, years later, I see her in my mind’s eye and she is a kind of ravishing, exotic beauty that Jennifer never was. But she was emotionally squelched by a dad who was a drinker and hit her mother with her hair brush. No. Kris was not young the way Jennifer or even I was. She was serious – until she was given our cat Rajah to pet or our English Setter mix Belle to hug. Then she smiled her toothy white grin and talked about her cats at home or their latest Doberman pinscher. …

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Kris would have loved the playful and mischievous Cece!

… But mostly Kris was quiet, “reserved” my mom called it, just connecting with our pets. She would get right on the floor with them, lying down next to them and play fight or cuddle. It was primitive. Bewitching! I’d just sit by her and my pets, watching. They were having fun. My cousin was turning into a feline! A pup!

I wanted to reach out, have Kris be my best friend cousin, just like Jennifer had been, but there was a wall. Kris was only a few years older than Jen but everything about her seemed far away, distracted.  The only emotional connection to my clan? My late mom. Kris loved my mother, who in her 40s then, had a husky, sexy voice that no one else in the family has or ever had. It made her so unique! Everyone remembers her voice, so Las Vegas, Frank Sinatra, dry martini  – even though all she did was work 60 hours a week at the dry cleaners to support me and my two sisters and come home to cook and care for us. When she saw her, Ma would always give Kris a big hug and a kiss on the cheek and … unlike her mom, leave her be … the pressure was off. Kris could play with our pets to her heart’s content. My mother would offer her a cup of Delmonte’s fruit cocktail – something Ma loved to do when we had guests over. Kris accepted the cup of syrupy soft pale fruit and then Ma’d go back to the kitchen table and sit with my aunt. They’d have a cup of freshly brewed coffee Ma made special for my aunt and chat. Ma and Auntie would never talk about my uncle or the physical abuse in front of us kids – maybe they never did, even when we weren’t around. Maybe Ma just sensed it all, Auntie telling her a few things here and there, painting a picture of alcoholism and domestic violence without using the words or even knowing that alcoholism is a disease and domestic violence follows a cycle. It was the ’70s and all of the research was just coming out. Blue collar women like Ma just did not have the knowledge at the time. They relied on their instincts, tried to reason with folks.

There was one night when Uncle Joe did not want Helen and her kids at our place. He drove to our Lafayette Street three decker and got out of his car and started yelling for my aunt, his wife, to come home with his kids. Kris’s face got beet red and tears fell from her eyes. Auntie looked flustered… . Ma went to our third floor window, opened it wide and through the screen said, gently: “Go home, Joe. Go home.” Uncle Joe kept shouting. He sounded off balance, drunk. Ma, still in that gentle voice, said: “Go to bed, Joe. Helen will come home tomorrow.”

That seemed to satisfy Uncle Joe and he drove home. My aunt and cousins spent the night. They got our beds. We kids doubled up. The next day they left early in the morning – so early my sisters and I were still sleeping. I don’t even think they had breakfast. I was sad that I missed saying goodbye to my Aunt, cousin Peter and pretty cousin Kris, who I later learned was a bigger Beatles fanatic than me! She had all the Beatles’s records. She even had the original Beatles dolls!

Tonight, I am decorating my shack for Christmas …

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pics: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

… but feeling less twinkly since I heard the news. R.I.P., David Cassidy! They say your liver shriveled up! Caused by your decades-long battle with alcoholism. Your early dementia made things harder.

Some say you were nothing but a sad has-been who never quite recovered from teen idol-hood. Well, tonight, as you sit high above this crazy spinning world on your fluffy purple cloud in TV heaven, take stock. Rest assured. Hear this gal’s prayer to you: David, you will always be the candy-coated, shag-sporting, bell-bottom-wearing, long-lashed heart throb to me and millions of Baby Boomer gals (and thousands of the guys). You were the boy that taught me and all the BB girls how great it was to have … periods! Cuz that meant we had the hormones to go crazy over you – all cute boys! Junior high school was more than just getting my “friend” for the first time. It was more than zits and blackheads, crying in my pillow, wanting to break the rules but school and Ma keeping me tethered to routine. It was more than Midol in its weird blue plastic bottle, Kotex pads that slid all over the place if you weren’t wearing the elastic “belt” right. Nope. The hormones brought lust, too. We didn’t know the word back then, so we called it “love”:

“Last night, I turned out the lights, lay down and thought about you … .”

And … you got this once 12-year-old girl (was I ever that young?!) moving, joyful – singing, jumping and dancing on her old metal bed in her run down Lafayette Street bedroom that the landlord had just painted a lurid lime green (ick!)… She was playing your record on her red portable record player! She was now interested in songs – interested in singing her song! She started to write little essays and began showing them to her mother and teachers at Providence Street Junior High School.

The tunes you sang, David – their melodies and lyrics were so easy to learn. Because of you, my brain was primed for bigger and better. In a few years it was a hop, skip and jump to the Beatles, me first falling for their cuteness, just like I had with you. But then, slowly, discovering they were … WOW. They were, and still are for me, a life-long trip.

I loved your “shag” haircut. I wore one all seventh grade! – in my “year book” picture I look like a mini-David Cassidy! (looking for the pic…) I even bought a paperback about you – a 50-page tell ALL bio – from the Scholastic Book Club. My reading teacher was ashamed of me …

Watching your TV show, The Patridge Family, was one of the highlights of my junior high week!

Like me, you didn’t have a dad. But, like me, you had a great mom! Yours, however, seemed freer than mine. And you didn’t live in the inner city. You lived in the suburbs where you had a big house and a garage, the place you, you mom, your sisters and brothers all played music together and solved each other’s problems.

Solve this problem, Dave: How can you stop all the people you’ve loved in your life from dying?

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Ma’s little red book and Trump’s America

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“Ma”   photos: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Run out every batted ball.”

“Never assume you are out till umpire rules.”

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Be tenacious, kiddos!

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

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

Very American!

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

An American tradition!

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

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

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

Flash forward to today.

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

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

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

What are Trump’s motives?

How is Trump making America great again???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donald Trump, our murderer in chief.

City Councilor Michael Gaffney drops another bomb


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A few days ago: Rose walking her mutts. With the leaves turning color, her thoughts turn to the fall city election … pic: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

No, it is not the usual City Councilor Michael Gaffney political hate bomb, right before this Tuesday, September 19, the last date all Woo city councilor candidates at large must officially declare their intent to run for mayor. No, this time, it’s not Gaffney: demonizing minorities, refugees or immigrants; accusing the editor of a local paper of being a sexual predator after the paper runs A FEW PARAGRAPHS! on him that he doesn’t like – Gaffney does this to cost the editor his job and stop the stories – not to help women; lying about and twisting the intentions of present Worcester Mayor Joe Petty; cynically thinking he’s smarter than every one else in the room so he boldly obfuscates and manipulates his way into the voters’ psyches.

No. It’s not the usual Gaffney scheme, taken straight out of the Donald Trump Shit on the Other – Prey on the Weak Handbook. No. This is something new: Gaffney’s declared that this fall, this election season  – when he runs for mayor of Worcester for the second time – HE WILL NOT BE TAKING ANY QUESTIONS FROM THE MEDIA – pertaining to his mayoral run!

That’s right: He will be answering zero Q and A-where do you stand on the issues? candidate surveys. He will be participating in zippo candidate profile pieces, shunning any kind of forum hosted by any paper, radio or TV station  … saying NO to any media-sponsored forum that will help voters make informed decisions in the voter’s booth this November. 

A guy who runs for mayor of the second largest city in New England but refuses to tell the voters what he is gonna do, if elected mayor! That’s Gaffney!

Endorsements? Screw ’em! The Gaffer, who never shuts up when it comes to spreading falsehoods about his perceived political enemies, is clamming up when it comes to talking facts, ideas and goals for Worcester! Unless he is planning to spend $40,000 on advertising, like he did last election cycle, so he can control his message, totally. Because he’s got the dough. … Very presidential candidate Donald Trump! Money money money.

Boycotting voter education, while doling out a ton of voter miseducation on Turtle Boy!

Even though Gaffney thinks he’s merely poking a thumb into the local media’s eye ball, grabbing control of his message, he’s  hurting himself. You wonder: What is Mike Gaffney so afraid of? What is Mike Gaffney trying to hide, ashamed to admit, unwilling to own? Why can’t he be a part of this very American tradition? What doesn’t he want to discuss?

Obviously, quite a lot. Basically the way he does politics – his political m.o.

For starters:

Gaffney’s Sanctuary City lies/race-baiting debacle that messed up Worcester for weeks;

his vindictive political style and bashing of poor people a la his political supporter CHANGE WORCESTER FB PAGE ANONYMOUS AUTHOR PAUL COLLYER – a guy who is so NEGATIVE about Worcester it hurts!

… or may be it’s Gaffney equating – like his buddy Aidan Kearney, owner and writer of Turtle Boy – minorities and poor people with crime and stupidity, an America on the cusp of moral collapse

… or, like Aidan Kearney, like Donald Trump, it could be Gaffney’s stoking the prejudices of people who fear a changing Worcester/America – and refusing to admit to the fact in order to keep feeding the red meat to  his political “base”

… or, coordinating hateful stories with Turtle Boy … and Paul Collyer’s FB page, Change Worcester, becoming an echo chamber – though Collyer has often been the original source from which some of the puke was first puked up.

When you think about it, every puke-y, ugly Worcester political  hate-storm, every nasty Woo political scream fest, every depressing headline about one Woo group pitted against another can be traced to City Councilor Michael Gaffney. Or, if not the source, the Gaffer’s fanned the flames of misunderstanding and prejudice. For political gain. To win.

Now why would we want a guy like this to be Mayor of Worcester?

Worcester is the second largest city in New England. A complicated, diverse, growing metropolis! We deserve better! Incumbent Mayor Joe Petty is better – he is a BETTER man than Gaffney will ever be. He’s a bigger man, a man whose heart is not capable of hatching all the shifty, soul-shriveling political schemes of a Mike Gaffney. And, for this Woo voter, that’s what it comes down to: Petty is perfect for my city of 2018 and beyond not just because he’s a guy with the smarts and collaborative instincts to create a Woo on the move but because he’s got Modesty and Grace. Grace: a quality the spiritually vacuous Gaffney knows nothing about. Being a good person who never exploits the OTHER in our society, the weariest and weakest among us: refugees, the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the men, women and kids struggling with drug addiction. Mayor Joe Petty works hard to make our city a millennial playground, but he also keeps his eyes on our kids in our schools, our families in our inner-city neighborhoods, our workers who need good jobs and job training … even our pups in our dog parks! He is a GOOD PERSON WHO DOES RIGHT BY EVERYONE. In a multicultural city, with a minority-majority public school system, a lot of poor folks who the global economy has abandoned … during these awful Trump Times in which cities are gut-punched daily, courtesy of our insane President, we need Grace in City Hall. We need Joe Petty.

We don’t need schemer, never-dreamer Mike Gaffney!

Jesus blues lady!

By Rosalie Tirella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rose’s mother, at her sister’s house

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

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

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

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One of Rose’s mother’s prayer cards.

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

Yay!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bapy, 18, on her wedding day.

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

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We did it – thank you!

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

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

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

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

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

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RSVP to OPEN HOUSE!
Join us for our Annual Fall Fundraiser on October 12th!

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

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

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

All the best,
The ACE Team

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

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❤BE THERE! SO IMPORTANT!❤

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Go, badass women, go!💐🌺🌻

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Impeach Trump! Worst POTUS eva!!!!!!😱

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Trump and Woo’s alt-right brigade

By Rosalie Tirella

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

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

Worcester City Councilor and mayor wannabe Michael Gaffney;

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

local rogue lawyer Margaret Melican;

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

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

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

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

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

Out they go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ronny!

By Rosalie Tirella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about WOP happiness?

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

My grandfather Sabino was a WOP.

He was also a NANG: Not A Nice Guy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

helped strangers when they needed help

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

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

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Lilac and the late, beautiful April

Ronny has also:

supported his landlord who was overwhelmed with his rooming house.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose walking her dogs.   pics: R.T.

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

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

Impeach Donald Trump!

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

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

Do it after summer recess…

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

That GREAT party is AMERICA!!

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

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

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

“A real dump.”

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

Didn’t think so!

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

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

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

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

Or gold-plated enough.

Or gaudy enough.

Or bloated enough.

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

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

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

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

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… I, Rose T., say: SHUT THE TRUMP DEBACLE DOWN!!

Enough is enough!!

Impeach President Donald Trump!!

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

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

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

MENTALLY UNFIT TO BE ARGUABLY THE MOST POWERFUL PERSON ON THE PLANET.

Trump is Unwell. Can’t You Tell?!

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t you see?

Donald Trump is the “Real Dump.”

SAVE AMERICA!

IMPEACH PRESIDENT TRUMP!