Tag Archives: Rosalie’s blog

“Ma” – always in style, always in my 💗

Photos by “Ma” and her sis

By Rosalie Tirella

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photo: R.T.

I’m having an early lunch, in my big kitchen, in my lower Vernon Hill flat. Looking straight at “Ma” (with me at the park) and thinking back to her big kitchen in her Green Island flat, where I grew up, where Ma used to throw some great birthday parties for us kids.

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Here I am, at the head of our paper-table-cloth-covered kitchen table (the “table cloth” bought special at White’s Five and Ten on Millbury Street for this special occasion!), basking in all the attention. I’m sitting in the “queen for the day” chair, our old needs-a-paint-job creaky, cracked wooden chair taken from our back porch. We had four green wooden chairs in our apartment – to be tucked under our green kitchen table. No dining room – or dining room “set,” a staple in all Mad-Men era homes but absent from poor ones like ours. So there was no dining room table from which to pinch dining room chairs for our guests. So Ma would run to our third floor back porch and grab the late Jaju’s (Grandpa’s) wooden chair, along with a couple of benches he built 10 years before.

It was all very rough hewn! See! I still have the tin cup Jaju made for himself, with the door hook handle. He used to drink his cheap vino from it. He loved to work with his hands. His carpentry projects included: wood swings for our bedroom doors, a long gliding patio swing for our front porch. Most of them made from scrap wood. He even made me pink Play Doh horses with my pink Play Doh!

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photo: R.T.

Jaju, a Polish immigrant who worked his whole life in the textile mills in Douglas and Dudley, felt besieged in his new country, America. He missed the “Old Country” and played sad Polkas on his harmonica in the evenings, from his bedroom filled with the thick furling grey cigarette smoke from the cigs my mother used to roll for him, in his little rolling machine. Unfiltered, of course. I used to have a small package of his cig papers somewhere in my desk drawer – they were so fine and delicate. Tracing paper that left no traces of Jaju … He died of cancer, just an illiterate “Polack” factory worker to most folks… (not to me, my sweet Jaju!)

Back to my birthday party… A fine time was had by all – me and my cousins and my aunts and uncles! Pin the tail on the donkey games! State Line potato chips for the kids! Pickled pigs knuckles in big clear jars – a Polish peasant delicacy! – for the adults! My birthday cake from Widoff’s! My purple, ribbon-trimmed dress from Jack and Jill’s kiddie clothing shop on Green Street!

Ma’s beaming down on me, straddling my kid sisters on her strong legs. The babies are twins! No one can tell them apart, except Ma! Ma LOVED all little kids.

She loved animals, too. Cats, kittens, puppies … dogs, especially. Here’s her fave dog (not any of mine!) – ROCKY, her brave, beautiful and loyal Doberman pinscher from her Springfield days. I wrote about Rocky last year – the beloved, vicious-to-everyone-but-Ma-and-my-aunties Dobie who died trying to get back home to my mother and my two aunts. Rocky had bitten several folks, so he had to be given away to a farmer, miles up north in the country. But he broke free and ran back home to Ma and her sisters. One night they found big old Rock at their door, bleeding from the mouth. He died at my aunt’s feet – he just had to get back to his favorite mistress!

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Here is Ma outside Worcester City Hall, wearing – like all women of the late 1950s/early 1960s – her pretty gloves…

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I still remember them! – will never forget them! – crumpled at the bottom of her closet on Lafayeytte Street, in a box, with her nice jewelry – of no use to her now, living on Lafayette Street, working 60 hours a week at the dry cleaners, a single working woman with three little girls and an ailing mother (Bapy) to care for. When I was a little girl, I used to take Ma’s gloves out of their box and flatten them out on my lap to admire them. They were the epitome of all things feminine! They were powder pink, soft, so pretty with delicate, pale blue stitching along their edges. I’d brush them up against my cheeks and smell them! They’d smell like musty moth balls! I loved that smell! It was of hidden secrets! A special past! Ma’s glamorous days!

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Did you know my new monthly, Cecelia, coming out next Friday, is named after my late mother?💗

Happy belated Mother’s Day, Ma!! I love you!!

Late-afternoon Gaffney musings …

Text and pics by Rosalie Tirella

Hanging with the mutts …

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… and Miss Cece …

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… drinking my java, thinking about local politics – thanking the dear sweet Jesus that former Worcester mayor, city councilor and school committee guy Joe O’Brien is coming out of his new-daddy-hood cocoon to run for public office again. Yeeeehaaaa!!! He’s running for Worcester city councilor at large, which means:  Mayor Joe Petty, who’s running for re-election, will, once again, win the mayoral seat and Joe O’Brien – because he’s well liked and a smart, compassionate and effective public servant – will be second highest vote getter and become the Worcester City Council vice chairperson, KNOCKING COUNCILOR MICHAEL GAFFNEY OFF THE COUNCIL VICE CHAIR PERCH, a perch he milks to no end! YAY! 🙌 🙌 HOORAY! Yipee! Reason enough to REJOICE that O’Brien is running  for public office! We are so sick of councilor at large Michael Gaffney – he’s brought Woo political discourse  to a new,  toxic low! Plus, by being vice chair, he trots out his mayor-in-waiting schtick at every turn. O’Brien’s strong win will make him #2, the new vice chair and …. keep Gaffney off that dias at City Hall! Rip the mayor’s gavel out of the Gaffer’s cold, clammy hands! Take the pinch-hitter title away!

Again, reason enough to be ELATED that Joe O’Brien is running for city council!!! (he’d never run for mayor this election cycle because he’s Petty’s friend and political ally.) But there are other reasons to be thankful for our soon to be new city council vice chair: First, O’Brien will be the antidote to the poison that is Michael Gaffney. Every time Gaffney uses race or class  to hurt one group of folks to win political points with the Turtle Boy brigade or twists the truth in the sickest ways a la sicko prez Donald Trump, O’Brien will call him out. Call out his twisted lies and counter them with TRUTH.  O’Brien is an articulate, progressive policy wonk who went to Harvard. He’s also a regular guy/dad/husband who loves/lives Worcester 24/7. He’ll brook no bull shit from Gaffney. For example, we could have used Joe a few days ago: The Gaffer was on his video channel crying over the fact that our City Council went on record supporting a statewide living wage of $15/hour. His cynical, slimey Gaffney intimation? That the living wage is a nefarious Socialist plot to subvert democracy! My late great mother who worked her whole working life for minimum wage and wanted a LIVING wage for the folks who came after her was NOT a Socialist! She LOVED AMERICA! SHE WAS A PATRIOT. She once told me SHE WOULD DIE FOR HER COUNTRY! Gaffney is no American patriot. He wraps himself in the American flag and sticks a WPD badge on his lapel to create the image of patriotism. It’s all marketing. For votes. Gaffney, like  Donald Trump, is a power-hungry con artist who lies to people to  win elections. Joe O’Brien will, on the council floor, rebut Gaffney’s slick lies.

Second, Mayor Petty, along with most of the other city councilors, is doing an admirable job at keeping Worcester, a Mass Gateway City, open to and PROUD of immigrants…making our public schools strong and the portal to a middle class life, a life of knowledge and a never-ending quest to LEARN MORE. Our parks are beautiful, our inner city ‘hoods need help, but we are all trying. Downtown may yet prove to be our own urban dance party – singing and swinging to a million different voices! I cannot wait! Michael Gaffney is the political thunderclap over our urban dance party. Immigration, refugees, a global multi-cultural Worcester, a Woo struggling with poverty and hunger in many of its quarters…Gaffney, like Trump, exploits all this and plays to people’s economic fears and racial prejudices. O’Brien is just the opposite – he will help lead the city council – and city! – to higher ground. He will help bring people together – not divide, to conquer.

Here are last night’s Bill Maher video clips. Maher, one of America’s most gifted satirists, has Trump pegged. But you can extrapolate and apply his satire to Gaffney, on a much teenier political scale, of course. Spiritually, Trump and Gaffney are identical twins:

Good discussion:

But enough Gaffer talk! On to:

Mike Gaffney’s wife, Coreen Gaffney. She is running for the Worcester District 4 City Councilor seat – a seat her fat patootie will NEVER warm! Not for one milli-second! Once again, the Gaffneys know/show no shame. Coreen, the wife of toxic Michael Gaffney – a politician who gets his political steam from castigating minorities, refugees and Sanctuary Cities – runs for office in Worcester’s majority-minority, mostly inner-city District 4. (And, no, Mike, it is NOT sexist to write in news stories and headlines that Coreen is married to you. IT IS NEWS-WORTHY.  You’re a CONTROVERSIAL COUNCILOR and you GET  YOURSELF INTO THE NEWS every other day. Think of it like this: If Hitler’s lover ran for Vice Fuhrer, wouldn’t you want to know that she was Adolph’s squeeze?) Yeah, D 4 could use better garbage pick up (more often – and street sweeping, too!), but that doesn’t mean we throw the district (my district!) out with the unrecycled water bottle!

Smile, people!

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This November the dynamics of the Worcester City Council are gonna change – for the better!!😄😄😄😄💗💗💙💛

What would be so bad about weekly street sweeping/cleaning in our urban core, courtesy of the City of Worcester?

Text and pics by Rosalie Tirella

Or a daily garbage patrol on the look out for abhorrent stuff like the illegally dumped garbage, pictured below? I took these photos of Millbury and Endicott streets yesterday. Now that the slobs at the slobby Endicott Street house I have been whining about for THREE YEARS have been removed by the authorities (police wearing bullet-proof vests), there are no more heaps of trash in front of the place. But we’ve got other offenders on the street:

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These contractor bags I wrote about last week are STILL “cooking” on Millbury Steet!!:

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That’s why we have a rat problem:
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Cece and Rose’s  rat “sub.” (if you squeeze its front paw, it sings “Little Drummer Boy”😉)

What does all the garbage, blatantly “on display” in our city, say about Worcester? We have better public schools than all the other New England Gateway Cities, but many of these lesser urban hubs look so much cleaner than Woo! Our parks are many and beauteous, but you forget their lush gorgeousness when you have to cede the sidewalk to a mountain of garbage!
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Our West Side homes rival Wellesley’s, but visitors get the wrong impression of Woo – and don’t want to commit to our city – after they do a bit of exploring and come upon sights like this one:

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Our garbage/dirty street problem is deeper than “cosmetics,” and I’ve written about the culture of poverty here. But, on the most basic level, we must treat our trash as a cosmetics challenge! More street sweeping – especially in District 4. More garbage trucks, more often – especially in D 4. ASAP!

A few more reasons for all the trash? There are so many more people stuffed into gerrymandered (extra rooms and apts) three deckers these days. Way more than when I was a kid. And today everyone has his or her own car. And the diversity is truly amazing! So many cultures from all over the world live here! So many people from different countries, each guy or gal or kid with his/her own way of discarding their crap. THE CITY MUST START EDUCATING THE POPULACE! We must all get on the same trash-disposal/recycling page!

Downtown Worcester is coming along …
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Every striving city needs an attractive, bustling downtown. We applaud what CM Ed Augustus and other city bigwigs are trying to do. The naysayers have it wrong: it’s not either/or – either our neighborhoods or our downtown. IT IS BOTH … AND THEN SOME! I hope our reimagined downtown becomes more than a place that houses and caters to the well off. I hope we have all kinds of restaurants and stores for all kinds of people! When I was a kid growing up in Worcester, I loved Denholm’s (window shopping) and the Mart (real shopping)! Class war did not break out between the kids from Green Island and the matrons from the West Side! People in downtown Worcester were not in their silos! People pressed up against each other – the ideal America! You couldn’t say the same thing for Worcester City government or the City workforce or our neighborhoods, but downtown was a mosaic. Even as a little kid, I felt the electricity!!

Reclaim the spark, Worcester!

Worcester City Council, save our inner-city neighborhoods! Say “YES!” to a $15/hr LIVING WAGE!

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Poverty, Endicott Street.  pics: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Where it all began: In “The Block,” on Bigelow Street, in Green Island. Rose’s fave Auntie💛 (again), with the beloved “Bapy.”💗💗💗

Talkin’ trash!!🚨🚨🚨

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

Monday – two days before City of Woo garbage pick up day – I saw this “mixed bag” on Millbury Street, coming home from work:

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pics: R.T.

I wondered: Which bags will the City pick up?

A little game you can play here, in the ‘hood, where trash takes on a personality and life all its own!

Yesterday, coming home, I got my answer: everything except the contractors bags!

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Which made sense. The sad part: now those damn bags will sit on the sidewalk – forcing pedestrians to walk in the street! – until I make a flurry of phone calls to the City of Worcester/the Mayor’s Office.

The fault lies with the dunderhead tenant or illegal dumper! WHO PUTS OUT A CONTRACTORS BAG FILLED WITH GARBAGE?! DON’T WE ALL KNOW THE CITY ONLY PICKS UP CITY OF WOO YELLOW GARBAGE BAGS FILLED WITH GARBAGE?

The dumpers were either 1. aware of the rules and flouted them or 2. in the dark and need to be EDUCATED. Whatever happened to those big City of Worcester postcards that were once upon a time mailed to all city residents? The ones on which DIRECTIONS FOR PROPERLY DISPOSING OF YOUR GARBAGE WERE WRITTEN IN ABOUT a zillion languages?! The ones with easy to understand graphics? We need another mass mailing of those gems!

Easy to make this next jump: All the illegally dumped garbage in District 4 is a public health catastrophe.
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My neighbor, the great, brassy lady with a heart of gold and tough as nails moral code, the woman who is always cleaning up and tidying up ALL OF lower Ward Street – with a “Hefty” helping of righteous indignation – was drinking coffee with her sister a few mornings ago. Her sister was visiting from another Woo neighborhood, one sans garbage tsunami. As her sister sipped her coffee, she looked out my gal pal’s kitchen window and saw what she thought was an awefully big squirrel sitting on its haunches in my friend’s back yard. It looked like a giant squirrel … but not quite.

She said to my friend: What’s that?

My friend looked out her kitchen window. Expecting to see a fluffy squirel tail attached to the critter to which she had now turned her attention …she saw a long, thin, furless RAT’S TAIL coiled on her lawn – attached to a rotund bottom, attached to a rat the size of a cat. She screamed A RAT!!!

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A poor rat substitute!

She yelled, bellowed, at the giant rodent. It got scared and skittered into a hole…

Last night, as we chatted on the phone, we tried to determine where the big rat came from, which three decker or building. The list of candidates was LONG.

We decided 90 Endicott Street was the source:

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Then I told her: REJOICE! The neighborhood PIG STY was swarming this evening with undercover cops! 10 at least!!

Drug bust?

A killer tracked down?

We wondered.

The place was swarming with the good guys!!! All of them were wearing their dark blue bullet-proof vests. Bright blue lights now pulsated from their unmarked cars. Confused looking folks, with their heads down were surrounded by cops and cop cars.

This is how crazy all the garbage has made me!

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I was not worried about firearms or shootouts…I was obsessed with, gunnin’ for the guy in the building WHO ALWAYS DUMPED THE DAMN TRASH!

Ha! I said to my neighbor. He and his buddies are outa there! Maybe now the flow of trash will be stanched!

My neighbor was silent over the other end of the phone. She, wiser than I, may not have been as optimistic as this Green Island Grrrl!

Good day to Woo?

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

Jett and Lilac are lovin’ their runs! Yesterday:

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Lilac always finds the streams, ponds, water. She’ll swim after the ducks and geese. Rose will see her brown head bobbin’ in the middle of the pond. Rose gulps hard but trusts Lilac’s judgement. Lilac is the smartest dog Rose has ever had. Still, she has such strong instincts, such heart! What if … ?

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Jett stays close to the edge … Jett a few days earlier:

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The ride home can be wet, as Lilac shakes herself dry …

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… and depressing as we drive up Endicott Street before making the turn onto Ward Street – HOME. This is what Rose saw yesterday heading up the little hill in Green Island:

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Cece awaits at home. She loves to “climb” Rose’s dress.

But before pulling the cat off her sheath, Rose gets mad! Not at Cece. But the slobs in her neighborhood. The trash all over District 4 is dispiriting! While driving, Rose grabbed her smart phone and took photos of the mound of crap, pictured above. So sad to see people (little children three and four years old!!) step off the sidewalk into the gutter to accommodate the trash! – give the garbage a wide berth!! Rose texted these photos to Worcester Mayor Joe Petty. He ususally, personally, responds to the pics and frantic Rose messages loaded with panic-struck/crying emoji!

Rose has been complaining about this dump (actually there are two three deckers on this piece of property) FOR THREE YEARS. The City of Worcester has, because of her scores of texts and phone calls to the mayor/city, stayed on top of this site – picked up the crap and hauled it away (almost weekly!!!), fined the landlord, sent him/her official letters, threatened with court …to no avail. Shit is always piled up! For example: Garbage day is Wednesday for the neighborhood. The shit pictured above has been out since Friday!!!!

But guess what? Possibly some good news. The landlord may have been, thanks to Rose and the City of Worcester, harassed into selling his slum. The realtor sign went up a few weeks ago! Hooray! Very telling: The landlord prefered to sell his rental property before cleaning it up or dealing with/educating his/her tenants. Or just providing a Dumpster (there are several apts – there are 2 three deckers). He/she, true to absentee landlord creed, has decided to dis-engage, let go, sell the dump. It’s all about the greenbacks, folks!

When the realtor sign went up, the site was cleaned up. No doubt to make the property more attractive to potential buyers. The tenants stopped being slobs – out of fear of losing their housing. After all, there are more than enough Section 8-ers to replace them! But they fell back into their filthy routine in 14 or so days.

Rose’s Worcester neighborhood – a ‘hood she grew up in years ago, a poor ‘hood but a place where folks worked their factory or low-paying jobs, their kids attended the same neighborhood schools year after year, many owned the three deckers they lived in and the thuggery was kept to a minimum … her old ‘hood and all the old working class ethnic ‘hoods in Worcester are now Section 8 meccas!! The factory economy that supported these once great neighborhoods has gone kaput! Like the America Donald Trump tapped into, the America (half??) that voted him into the White House OUR PEOPLE ARE FLAILING! THERE ARE JUST SHIT JOBS FOR POOR, UNEDUCATED FOLKS. HOUSING IS SOOO EXPENSIVE/INFLATED. HOME-OWNERSHIP A DREAM FOR MOST HERE. NO FREE COMMUNITY COLLEGE FOR POOR PEOPLE TO LEARN TO BECOME A PART OF THE NEW ECONOMY, the new America and Worcester.

So here, in Rose’s beloved Worcester neighborhoods, the ones with the three deckers with amazing “bones” and wrap-around back porches, it is all absentee landlords, people who don’t care, Section 8 … and what the sociologists call the underclass. Folks who, for the most part, live outside mainstream society/Worcester, have no jobs, are hungry (1 in 4 Worcester kids go to bed hungry!), game the welfare system, are angry, depressed, fighters, fucked up … because they are not part of mainstream society! They have not learned how to wake up in the a.m. to go to work, tney don’t know how to: say “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” or cook healthy meals, or care for their bodies, or interact with folks, or know that school is a good thing. In other words: it is all UNCIVILIZED behavior! Most horrific of all? The killers-drug sellers (quite an industry in Woo!) who prey on the despair and confusion in these neighborhoods, who sell killer heroin/drugs and suck our kids (so young!) into their world. Killers who destroy: their girlfriends, their children, their mothers, their neighbors, their friends, THEIR CITY.

DESPAIR.

Will we – urban America/Worcester’s old, ethnic, working class ‘hoods – ever be self-sufficient and healthy again?

The dumped garbage all over Worcester is the tip of the iceberg, the symptom of the illness.

“Saint Dorrie”!👼🌷

By Rosalie Tirella

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photos by Rosalie Tirella

Today, Palm Sunday, as I watched my pets play with each other, I thought of my Worcester gal pal Dorrie Maynard. Not because Dorrie had justed gifted my brats with the dog and kitty snacks they love so dearly, but because it is day #1 of Holy Week – the week before Easter – and Dorrie is, for me, the Easter Story told in 2017.

Let me begin at the beginning: When I first started InCity Times💗💗💗 years ago (can you believe it?!💗), I hit Highland Street in search of advertisers for my brandy new feisty rag. Back then Highland Street was THE artsy, sophisticated, cool, student hot spot of Worcester – a kaleidoscope of restaurants (high- and low-priced, classic and ethnic), funky shops, artist nooks, WPI and Becker student hangouts. I walked into each arresting store determined to sell some of the biz owners ads for my paper. Jewelry, clothing, futons, clam chowder, books, brunch, artists’ prints, bottles of wine … A stroll down just two blocks of Higland Street and you could procure it all! The businesses belonged in ICT!

Back then, Dorrie owned and ran the street’s funky vintage clothing and decor store – Treasures Unlimited. She had bought the little shop on the corner when it was the iconic Shakey Jake’s (as a college grad I used to go to Shakey’s for 1950 vintage boy shirts!) and kept the magic flowing as the new proprietor.  Dorrie re-christened the space and brought her own artistic eyes and sensibilities to her biz: display cases, choice of goods, etc. It was  all so  beautiful!  I loved to visit Dorrie just to see her new arrivals and displays!

At this time, when I first got to know her, Dorrie was at her peak gorgeousness: model-tall, willowy, beautiful face, soft blond hair … the kind of woman lots of women fear because of all that blatant loveliness. And let’s be honest: lots of  beautiful women  are off-putting/can be competitive, manipulative, narcissistic … . Once people get to know them, they hit the road, despite the Venus vibes!

Dorrie was the opposite. She was a goddess wrapped in hard-won truths and down-to-earthness.  A regular person: hard-working, real, open, thoughtful, honest, no games. Never games! I could talk about anything with Dorrie  – discuss family, men, personal challenges … and learn that I was not alone in my disappointments and victories. Life had been rough for Dorrie, starting in Rochester, New York, where she was born and raised, and yet here she was, on Highland Steet, awesome in every way. I immediately glommed on to Dorrie! (and her pals and little dog that she rescued and brought to the shop every day – always adorned in teeny silk scarf collars). Being a good woman who wanted to help out another good woman and maybe give her own biz an extra boost, Dorrie took out ads in ICT. Truth be told, I would have given the space away to Dorrie, so enamored of this cool chick was I.

So every couple of weeks, I’d traipse down funky Highland Street to visit and sell ads to my funky biz pals: the cool Tom Cat at Wormtown Trading (miss you/love you, Tom Cat!💚), the elegant and perfect Elizabeth of the Futon Company (ditto, Elizabeth!💚) and vintage artiste Dorrie Maynard.

Over the first year or two of our friendship I figured out Dorrie had some writerly gifts – and I wanted her to share them with ICT readers. I decided to take her under my zippy writer wings – nurture her talent as she had nurtured my biz.

Dorrie began writing InCity Times columns and then penned a cover story that really knocked my socks off: Dorrie getting pregnant as a kid and deciding to give her baby up for adoption. Then, years later, reconnecting with her son. Dorrie’s baby was all grown up! – and now he was looking for his birth Mom. Dorrie opened her home to her long lost son and shared the whole experience, honestly and gracefully,  with ICT readers.  Our troops loved the read! My respect for Dorrie blossomed.

Then we had a fight. I forget what it was about! It happened about seven years ago…I think it had something to do with dogs and cats and animal shelters. New to social media, Dorrie figured screw InCity Times, FB would be enough.

Obviously, it wasn’t because she’s back in the ICT fold writing good stuff. Animals, of course, brought us together again! About a half year ago – I forget who called whom – but we began to talk about Dorrie’s latest urban endeavor – feeding the cats and dogs of the homeless, very poor, even drug-addicted of Woo.

I was fascinated! Dorrie was always great but she was never Mother Theresa. She was not the homeless population’s biggest champion. When she owned Treasures Unlimited she felt they brought Highland Street down, took a bite out of business and street attractiveness. And, I’ll be honest, Dorrie could be a bit of a party gal and, because she was so damned pretty, guys painted the town with her – always on their dime. Once, home from a trip to Las Vegas with her latest beau, she showed me a photo of herself go-go dancing in a huge cage. The red lights shining on the mini-skirted Dorrie looked lurid. Her go go boots were not thigh high but they may as well have been.

I never judged my friend because, like me, she was looking for true love. Just in all the shitty places.

Right before our fight, Dorrie had just been dumped by the guy I think she truly truly loved and wanted to marry: “Fred” a hippy carpenter/architecture maven. THE ONE. Tall, lanky, thick black hair that framed his lean handsome face and made me go: WHOA!!!!! every time I saw him. Fred was movie star hot. I once spied the two love birds talking together, leaning on the big farmers table in Dorrie’s kitchen: the lust and love between them were palpable. They looked so beautiful together!

I drove away thinking: She found THE guy. I was so happy for my friend! Then Fred fell in love with Dorrie’s best friend – get this – at a party Dorrie threw in her own home.

Oh, shit, I thought to myself when Dorrie told me the horrible news. Dorrie is deep and sensitive. I hoped she wouldn’t do anything crazy and rash the way I would…

She did: To make a long story short, Dorrie fell into about a half million$$ in cash and assets and quit her job and … well, the whole fucking shebang. She drowned her heartache in global travels! She hung out in Paris and  Italy – alone or with a gal pal – where she drank the best champagne, slept in the finest hotels. Art. Food. The world was her oyster. For three years.

Then the half million$$ ran out – heart broken Dorrie burned through it all – to kill her heartache. Only she didn’t – she came home and now had nothing: no life with the dreamy Fred, no business, no future plans…no happiness. All that money, all those great cities with iconic architecture and amazing grub hadn’t made her happy!

Then, back living at her big wonderful Victorian home off Highland Street, no longer the busy owner of Treasures Unlimited, she adopted a couple of street pups – teenie toy dogs with runny eyes and matted fur. She also, a lapsed Catholic, made her way to St. Paul’s cathedral downtown. To help hand out food to the poor. She then hooked up with Abby’s House – a  women’s shelter – and worked miracles with their thrift store. Made it sparkle! Just like Treasures Unlimited – all proceeds going to homeless women!

Dorrie began to feel happy again. Her life grew … meaningful. She began to work more closely with the homeless and the hungry. An animal lover, she began to work wth local animal shelters…Today her paid job is at Abby’s House where she serves homeless women. Then after work she drives all over the city of Worcester giving out free pet food and pet supplies to Woo’s neediest and most downtrodden. Many of them homeless or on the edge of homeless – still good dog and cat owners.

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Dorrie in her SUV loaded to the roof with pet food and supplies … and love.

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Dorrie outside the Mustard Seed in Piedmont, giving out free pet food and other goodies to the poor.

As a super dedicated volunteer of Central Mass Kibble Kitchen Dorrie dives into the ‘hood to hand out pet food to the high, the lost, the struggling, the working poor – anyone who owns a pet and needs food for their “baby.” Through her weekly pet stops at the Mustard Seed soup kitchen in Piedmont and the St. John’s church food distribution center on Temple Street, Dorrie has come to know and love hundreds of Worcester street and poor people – and their pets. They make her smile. She brings them joy. I have never seen my pal so happy and fullfilled! Some of her Kibble Kitchen “customers”:

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Last week I spent an afternoon with Dorrie volunteering outside the Mustard Seed on Piedmont Street…

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I saw the whole Dorrie Kibble Connection scene: the despair, the joy, the greed, the thankfulness, the crappy three deckers, the skinny men and women, the pale little kids, the strung out, the faces flushed from booze – or the cold, the tentativeness of men without jobs, family, home; the women in bedroom slippers and the happy pups who came out with their owners, trotted down Piedmont Street, little happy wiggle butts, to get their dog treats and new chew toys. The angry became less bellicose as soon as they saw Dorrie. Hello, Mama! tney said to her, cueing up for the pet food and supplies at the back of Dorrie’s big SUV – stuffed to the gills with bags of dog and cat food and pet supplies.

A few “customers” took too much stuff. But most were wonderful – took just the right amount of stuff: 5 cans of cat food for their cat, a small bag of dog chow for their small terrier mix, a harness for their pit bull, a collar for their princess pup…Dorrie’s love for these people and their pets, the elegant way she treated each and every one of her “customers” and the respect they showed her, was an inspiring sight to see in the ‘hood where so much sorrow and violence lurks. Tne good manners, the thank you’s, Dorrie’s love mixed with her saleswoman know-how. The little niceties provided by Dorrie. The little special touches. Here on Piedmont Street, with the police cruisers driving by!

Rose to Dorrie: You are blowing my mind, girl!! It’s like you’re running Treasures Unlimited in the ghetto! Aren’t you afraid someone is gonna pull a knife? One bad apple high on drugs, with a gun?

Dorrie to Rose: Rose a few of them are high on K. I swear sometimes I go home high just from standing next to them! It’s the K. But it is OK.

Rose: What the hell is K? My God, Dorrie, who are you?! … What if something bad happens?

Dorrie: No… I’m safe. They’d protect me. They love me. I give them what they need. And I give them the extras. They call me Mama – it’s a sign of respect…

Dorrie was right. After spending an afternoon outside the Mustard Seeed with her, watching her fit Chihuahuas with collars, give huge rawhide bones to families with pitbulls, talk about the fussy eating habits of one person’s cat, ask one lady how her pregnancy is going, give another lady a beautiful bed spread special for her – taken off Dorrie’s very own bed!!…

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…listening to all the polite THANK YOU, DORRIE!s, SEE YOU NEXT WEEK, MAMA!s I became convinced that no harm will ever come to Dorrie on this inner-city street – a street rife with guns and heroin and people on the edge.

Jesus said: Love the dispossessed! … The first shall be last! And the last shall be first! …And the criminal and the homeless and the crazy and the downtrodden followed Jesus, and they loved and trusted him and talked of their worlds of pain and cried to be cured and Jesus made them well again and they threw palm fronds before the hooves of the mule on which he rode into tneir town preaching the Good News, a new way to live…LOVE ….that was/is the answer.

Jesus came to them for them and their histories and stories. Jesus offered them hope and compassion. Knew their lives were hard but didn’t play the blame game like society did. HE LOVED THEM. AND CAME FOR THEM. TO SOOTHE THEIR WANTING AND  PAIN. Just like Dorrie does in Piedmont and on Temple Street …

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… Dorrie is up to her neck in suffering…She is digging in her SUV (KIBBLE KITCHEN, a 501 C nonprofit, NEEDS A VAN!) for love, a big bag of high protein dog kibble!  For one man’s pit bull – he always gives her a little gift back! – an old dog collar his pit bull has outgrown, a box of Entemann’s chocolate chip cookies. Dorrie loves their gifts. I see Dorrie’s smile, I see tne joy spread over her face! Her love radiates out of her finger tips and the points of her running sneaks!

I tell her as she digs in her van for bags of cat food and three cans of special cat food for some lady who lives in the hood – she brought an old empty baby carriage to load up – Dorrie, I don’t understand! You’ve changed! In such a big, deep way! In a way I can’t understand! But it is AWESOME!

Still, I am made slightly uncomfortable by the people outside the Mustard Seed. I am no Dorrie! She is serving them – like some high end Macy’s personal shopper! I wanna go home! Dorrie wants to interact with her precious customers. She knows what kind of pet food to give each person! She also gives folks goods they have requested: a pair of blue jeans, size 32. A pair of ear buds. She gave one homeless guy and friend her VERY OWN CAMPING TENT!!

Rose: What are you doing, Dorrie?! Giving away all your stuff!!

Jesus said: If you want to be with me, leave your house, mother, children, wife, husband. SHAKE THE DUST OFF YOUR FEET!

Jesus was one unique dude – the powers that be in Jerusalem saw him swimming in poor/crazy people, society’s rejects, and thought he was totally bonkers! An enabler and rabble rouser. But when Jesus preached to the thousands they CHANGED. At the end,  the crowds that came to see him were HUGE – thousands gathered at his feet. That’s why the Roman’s crucified him, they feared this weird guy who owned nothing – not even the robe on his back – was changing their world, their society. They would lose their grip on power and wealth.

Jesus said: Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me…

Dorrie gives a poor lady an extra bag of cat food for her kitten. She has so much to give…the donations come to her and Kibble Kitchen by the scores …bags and bags of Purina cat and dog chow keep on coming …

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Did you know at Christmas time Dorrie made 30 “Blessing Bags” for the homeless and poor who meet her every Wed at the Mustard Seed/Kibble Connection? Dorrie’s mom helped her pay for the new blankets, new hats, mittens, scarves, boxes of cookies, bars of soap, bottles of shampoo and conditioner, pairs of socks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc that Dorrie lovingly put into each holiday gift bag. She gave to the Piedmont folks who no one remembers during the holidays – many have no family.

They have Dorrie!

So do I! Last week she made me a special blessing bag: She filled it with cherry jam and high-end chi chi soaps I love …

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… and facial moisturizers, too, knowing I can’t splurge on cosmetics and facial care products even though I covet them! She gave my pets – Jett, Lilac and Cece – beautiful gifts, too!

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Jett, before eating some high end dog food Auntie Dorrie gave him and Lilac.

When Dorrie met Cece …

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… she was moved. She said I was giving all my rescued critters “a good life.” I felt so proud!

At the end of my little trip to the Mustard Seed, I turned to Dorrie, looking a bit anxious because folks outside the soup kitchen were starting to get boistrous. Dorrie was busy, all smiles, in her Dorrie Zone, still passing out pet stuff to street people!

Dorrie! I shouted. It’s getting late!! Let’s not push our luck…I wanna go home!

Dorrie looked at me and began to pack things away…

Once in her SUV, driving down Pleasant Street, she said: It always feels so good to get home…to my clean bed.

Funny, after Dorrie drove me home and I collapsed on my big bed with my dogs, I felt, for the first time in a long time, GRATEFUL. Despite my problems and challenges.

I still cannot wrap my brain around my friend’s transformation. Lots of her friends don’t understand her epiphany and her new life. Her mom calls her Mother Tneresa and tells her she finally, in middle age, found her TRUE CALLING. But she worries about her daughter’s safety. So do I. Hundreds of thankful, nice and polite people at the Mustard Seed and St. John’s food pantry … but all it takes is one high on drugs crazy guy. One rapist. One knife blade. One bullet.

Dorrie couldn’t care less what we all think and say of her mission, her new loves, her goals, her looks … She is beyond it…this world we greedy losers jockey through…For what end?????

This Palm Sunday I see my friend walking with Jesus, not a casual follower, a woman who came to hear him preach. No. I see Dorrie walking side by side with Jesus, one of his apostles…the Mary Magdalene to his Peter and Paul…the beautiful party girl who lay with the rich men and pleasured so many…and now it is different.

Jesus and Dorrie are both so good looking and fearless! I am in awe as I watch them walk handin hand through Webster Square, to Coes Pond. Jesus dips his toe in the water and reaches out for Dorrie’s slender hand. Dorrie takes it again, her other hand is waving free against the sunset. Then Jesus and Dorrie do a little hippy dance by the water, kinda sexy too as Jesus dips her…Dorrie’s blond hair is wet. No matter! Appearances mean nothing! They don’t have a stitch of self-consciousness – or a stitch of clothing on! Tney threw their clothes off on the shore of Coes Pond. Now they are skinny dippin’ wiggling under water, over and under the cool currents like a couple of little kids! Or fish!

Then Jesus stands up in the water and places his high-arched foot on the pond’s surface and stands upon on it. He looks around, 360 degrees. Dorrie wants in! Beautiful in her nakedness, she gets up onto the surface too, and Jesus and Dorrie walk on the water. They are holding hands. They are both laughing …

Happy Palm Sunday!!!

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

By Rosalie Tirella

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

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pics: R.T.

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

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

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

… the ranters and ravers…

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

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

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

But that’s changed.

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

Bang bang …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. The Kid in the Worcester Dumpster.

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

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

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

Surreal. In my city, Worcester.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. The Plant Girls

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

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

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

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

Ronny Stultz – a Unique Find!

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Unique Finds new, improved and BELOVED (by Rosalie!) music section!❤❤❤❤

By Rosalie Tirella

Yesterday, despite the impending blizzard; the previous Friday’s police raid that unearthed guns and a massive pharma-copia of illegal substances of all sorts, sizes, shapes and mind-bending capabilities;  the newspaper stories; the comments section where I was called a money-launderer for a drug biz and the pitchfork-stabbing-into-the-sky crowd demanded LOCK ROSE UP! LOCK HER UP! … I calmly drove to Unique Finds Antiques and Vintage gift shop at 1329 Main St. with the radio blasting  my beloved White Stripes looking for – hoping to find – my pal and Unique Finds store owner, Ronny Stultz. My gentle giant. I had something to give him. He was a friend and an advertiser who was always courteous and respectful to me, never said a harsh word to me, always gave me the run of his place, always let me have a bit of fun. Once a week I’d visit Unique Finds to take pics for Ron’s ICT ads, hundreds of photos, many of which were posted on this website. Pictures of Ronny’s LEGOS collection, his cool vintage toy trucks, dump trucks and cars, Ronny’s Batman and Superman action figures, his furniture, his tableware, his funky rusty industrial equipment salvaged from Woo’s factories and industrial past…

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…  his fun barroom neon signs and airplanes …

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… his used guitars – electric and folk …

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… – and – my favorite – the TERRIFIC UF RECORD section.

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I was always always always! checking out their lps – never stumbling upon an errant pill, bag of heroin, gun or drug deal. Everyone, a little rough around the edges, was always nice and polite to me! Last month I was tripping over carpenters at Unique Finds, regular guys who were building Ronny extra shelves for an expanded record section, dividers to keep all the lps straight and in order, borders to make their presentation look neat and trim. The store’s aisles were being widened as items were rearranged; Ronny was also getting a new, bigger office. The guys, happy for work in these lean times, were doing a good job!

Knowing my pal’s past challenges, I said: “You’ve come a long way, Ronny! You’re making this biz your very own! Looking good!!!!”

Ronny had a Jack White album – new, his, not for sale! – blasting on his excellent Unique Finds store stereo system. He just smiled at me. He was into listening to Jack White. I began to listen to tne lp, too. I was floored – actually catapulted into heaven – when I heard at that moment my FAVORITE MUSICIAN/SINGER SINGING OVER SUCH AN EXCELLENT SOUND SYSTEM! Wow! INCREDIBLE!, I said to Ronny. Wish I had this at home! Jack sounds UNBELIEVABLE! Ronny took my compliment with a shrug of his beefy shoulders and let me photograph him holding the album.

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Mint singer. Mint songs. Mint speakers. Mint Ronny. That IS what Ronny Stultz was about to me. Not a drug pusher! Not a drug taker. But a vintage guy, a Rock n Roll connoisseur! Someone to talk rock and folk music with.

Did you know Ronny used to chat up LUCINDA WILLIAMS years ago, in Texas, after her shows, before you all even knew her name?! Ronny loves her music. Ron knows where Jack White is headquartered and his cool take on vinyl – Jack has his own record factory! Ron still travels to New York City to catch a fave band. A few years ago he hung out with the long gone but eternally iconic rock radio station WBCN’s iconic DJ Mark Parenteau, now unwell and living in Worcester where he grew up. Ronny bought much of Mark’s record collection and music biz memorabilia because Mark too had lived wicked hard and now he was sick and needed money badly.

Ronny Stultz, to me, was – IS – the cool kid at UMASS Amherst that I’d skip a class to hang out with to listen to music …to learn, to get ideas, talk poetry. I did this often as an undergrad at UMASS – with pals John and some pre-med genius freshman, who – ha ha! – had his own robust mary jane-selling biz. “Fred” would have his scales out, weighing the weed – and the WHO’S LIVE AT LEEDS would be blasting and about 10 of us would be listening, hanging on every screech and sigh – discussing the music! John would be making me an audio cassette of the lp, and his eyes would close and his smile turn beatific when it got to the musical parts he especially loved. There was a brilliant kid in our group who walked with crutches, crippled very badly, looked all herky jerky when he walked with his crutches down the long corridor of our floor- but he was perfect when he talked Roger Daltry or the Beatles! His father worked at an embassy in some exotic country. He read about 10 books a week – not on any class syllabus. The kid was a writer! Outcast in our dorm. Lonely. Heavy drinker. But accepted and loved by our gang! He KNEW rock n roll. Made it into our family. It was a mid night gathering…I was the only girl. No sex. Just one of the guys – even though they thought I was cute. I was accepted purely on brain power and because I was as passionate about the music as they were. Most college girls at the time didn’t want to do what I did – get deep into sounds, riff on the poetry of Janis or Cougar or Lennon. They were, like they are today, mostly into relationships, being the tea cup looking for the matching saucer… My boyfriend was a rock n roll lighting guy – an older returning student at UMASS – who did lights for Bruce Springsteen! Billy Joel! He wasn’t looking for the fake girl friend pressure bull shit – he was a pothead who planned on lighting Marvin Gaye’s upcoming concerts! But that gig fell through when Gaye’s father, high on drugs, brutally, stupidly killed his son!

I was an outsider. The UMASS rock music guys saved me. Ronny Stultz reminded me of those UMass music guys. Ronny, like my college pals, respects rock enough to play it right – on vinyl where it gets to you. 

When I look at Ronny, I don’t see a drug seller – I see a vinyl lover.

Ronny Stultz, my cheerleader! Along with his sweet, funky and wise girlfriend – a tough, cool Mama who was my cheerleader, too! We always gave each other a big hug when I entered Unique Finds and away we’d start! Gossiping about guys and how they done us wrong! Wicked fun! And she taught me about life! I remember one of our conversations:

Rose: If you moved the business to Shrewsbury Street you’d get more customers, a BETTER clientele. Sue: Na, I like it here. I don’t wanna be around those people. And what’s the difference between them and the homeless? They’ve just got a place to shit!

Sue was 100% right! The difference between the upper class and the lowest class: toilet-access! All people were equal. No one was better than anyone else.

Then Sue let a poor kid from the neighborhood take a  puppy knick knack home. For free.

I left Unique Finds that day feeling Sue was the new Ghandi.

For me, Unique Finds wasn’t a drug front – couldn’t be! – it was a safe space where Sue, Ron and I, all about the same age, discussed, sometimes with emotion, ex-lovers, love, disappointing fathers, the deep and disturbing connections between parents and kids … sibling rivalry. Ronny, a super intelligent guy – his sister Deirdre just yesterday told me (again!) his IQ is 140-something –  a sensitive soul, knows a lot about love interrupted, maybe lost forever. He’s the son of the late Sonny Stultz of Standard Auto in Vernon Hill. Sonny abused Ronny – emotionally. A good business owner but a bad father. Hurting his son. Making a sensitive kid believe he’s shit. And then Ronny’s motorcycle accident when he was 18. He was, for the intense pain, put on opioids. Sis Deirdre believes Ronny hasn’t been “right” since – that his stretch of legal drug-taking after the accident altered her brother’s body chemistry, made Ronny want opioids FOREVER. Factor in depression. Hurt. Abuse by Sonny. Some people have the psychological and physical template all set up for addiction, thanks to their families. Good people, even great people…set up to fuck up.

Addiction is complicated.

Ronny and Sonny’s history is complicated.

When Sonny died a few years ago, he left ZIP$$ – ZERO – to son Ronny. Left the Standard Auto business to his wife. Deidre runs the biz now. A few years back she read me Sonny’s will re: Ronny. She did this because I felt bad for the way Ronny had been cut out – left with absolutely nothing. She wanted me to understand. She read the pertinent paragraphs to me – they said: I LEAVE NOTHING TO MY SON RONALD. He gets nothing and must have nothing to do with Standard Auto. Ever.

Wow, I said to Deirdre, THAT IS COLD.

She said her dad was doing the right thing. Ronny had fucked up before. Sonny believed Ronny would lose it all – Standard Auto – to drugs.

I said: Maybe not. He’s clean now! He’s a good person. He’s Sonny’s son! Every son deserves a second chance.

Deidre screamed: ROSE, Ronny’s had a million second chances! We’ve cleaned up his shit before … supported his kids. No no no!!!!!!!! NO! Her voice was frayed, tattered.

I tried to understand. … And so Deirdre runs the business these days, is rich and lives in a beautiful house with her family, and Ronny says to me this summer… I know he’s doing the right thing –  going to Spectrum – going to his AA meetings … working HARD TO STAY CLEAN AND SOBER …Ronny says this to me: We have a family house at the Cape and they never once invited me for the weekend this summer. For a day at the beach with my kids. That big heavy handsome face of his dropped. I wanted to cry. Outsider. Interloper. Black Sheep. A guy who wanted to be loved and accepted by his family.

Deirdre  – her parents’ princess … she could do no wrong in dad Sonny’s eyes. Brother Ronny,  the dark prince …

Prince! Did I tell ya Ronny had some great Prince albums at Unique Finds?! And Bob Dylan too – he gave me the double Blond on Blond a few months ago! Dylan always lives on the cusp – so does Ronny. He lives on the edge in a warehouse, on a long dirty dark Worcester street in the ‘hood – where the trucks rumble up and down the roads and sometimes there are drag races …

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… and definitely no manicured lawns.

Ronny gave me my lovely fake-sheep-skin-lined denim jacket so I could deliver InCity Times in the cold without feeling cold.

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I LOVE my Ronny jacket!

Ronny used to give the street people who latched onto UF because they instinctively spotted Ron’s soft heart – knew that he would be a soft touch – food. He bought them their Cokes, fries and burgers at the fast food places across the street, when they walked over to buy him his snack. Gave them cigs and rides. I remember a confused old guy hanging around the office, saying he would be in tomorrow with a loving cup! … Ronny placed the tip of his finger onto the tip of the old guy’s nose and smiling gently said…OK.

Loving cup …

Ron, with his lady Sue’s blessings, gave me cute jewelry to give to my gal pals as thank you gifts – he was a guy who also gave me great relationship advice. Who sat with girlfriend Sue in his office and let me cry – on both their shoulders!

Ron. A guy who, when I said, clutching my Unique Find – an album from the store’s music section that I JUST HAD TO HAVE – I NEED THIS ALBUM! – would give it to me. I have a bunch of UF lps! If the album wasn’t new and could fetch top dollar and I wanted it for free, it was mine. Sometimes I’d be carrying my latest greatest UF album find to Ron’s office to ask for it before I took it so I could add it to my pretty ok lp, 78, CD and audiocassette music ❤❤❤❤collection and there Ron would be … sitting by his desk, stringing a guitar or opening up a STAX CD set. Wow! STAX!, I’d shout, bright eyed and bushy tailed. … NOPE, Ronny would say, looking serious, sensing my coveting his STAX find. Nope, Rose.

Two weeks ago Ronny accidentally gave me one of HIS Elvis albums …

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I had brought it home and was enjoying it when I got the call from Ronny: MY ALBUM. MY ELVIS ALBUM. PLEASE RETURN TO ME.

Oh, boy. Ronny didn’t exactly sound mad – just urgent. I understood. I’d feel the same way if he had my fave Beatles album – the one with “Rain” on it! So I carefully put his lp back into its sleeve – it was a double album too and brought it down to the car with me when I headed to work. It had been in my car for four days … I forgot to give it to Ronny when I visited UF last week and Ronny gave me another lp for the Elvis lp I was gonna return. Which was still in my car.

So when the cops moved in and the guns and drugs were confiscated and Ronny disappeared all I could think of was: I DON’T WANNA LET MY FRIEND DOWN – HAVE HIM THINK I STOLE HIS ELVIS LP! I HAVE TO GET THIS ALBUM TO RONNY!

So yesterday I drove to UF with Elvis in the passenger seat and the White Stripes blasting on my radio. But Unique Finds was closed. I tried the front and back doors. Both locked. Lights out. I felt a wave of loneliness wash over me. I walked back to my car sort of crying.

I drove to Standard Auto and talked with Deirdre and gave her her brother’s Elvis album. I sounded emotional: DEE! PLEASE MAKE SURE YOUR BROTHER GETS THIS album! It’s his Elvis double album! – I don’t want him to think I took it!… He loves this album! Deirdre looked upset too and confused, but she took it. She said: No one knows where my brother is.

I think we both thought: Good.

“Ma” – FOREVER in fashion! … Happy International Women’s Day!❤!

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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 …

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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…

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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!❤❤❤🎺👠💐🎵