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What a drag, North Brookfield!

By Rosalie Tirella

Former Worcester School Committee member John Monfredo, his wife Annemarie, educator and professor Dottie Hargrove, former Worcester City Councilor Gary Rosen … in costume, ready to perform, to read their favorite stories to WPS students at the ol’ Webster House restaurant! Photo submitted

This being Spencer, we’d have thrown a parade, bookended by East Brookfield and Spencer firetrucks, their lights flashing, horns honking. That being North Brookfield, they (the Town Selectmen) have thrown a wet blanket. Over the DISNEY CHARACTER Drag Show slated to be part of the Rural Gay Pride event scheduled for North Brookfield in June. North Brookfield, the town down the road from us here in Spencer. Smaller … and even more rural than Spencer, if that’s possible. So after voting YES, the NB selectman rescinded their vote – and revoted: Yes, to the gay pride event, NO to the Disney drag show which some townsfolk believe will corrupt the little kids of North Brookfield. You can never tell what will happen if a group of children get a story read to them by a man in a Cinderella costume!! Some townsfolk call it “vulgar” … and What would Florida Governor Ron DeSantis do? (Why not ask: What would Jesus do??) They (stupidly) fear that gayness or drag queen-ness is contagious, like catching COVID. They think if you’re exposed to this “virus” you’ll become a drag queen, too! Worse yet, you may turn gay all of a sudden! Want to have sex with a person of your sex!!!

How ridiculous! You watch an ice skater perform at the DCU Center (many of the male performers are gay): does that make you want to don a pair of sparkly leotards and start figure skating at your local pond? You watch MAD MEN on TV: does that make every husband want to go out and cheat on his wife, deceive his Betty?

What North Brookfield is doing is blatantly anti-gay, pro-discrimination. Un-American. Pro-hatred. Anti-God. Anti-love. So, rightly, the Massachusetts chapter of the ACLU has jumped into the fray. If no one is hurting anyone then anyone has his or her First Amendment right to express their views on the public square. Look at all the KKK marches in America thru the years. Look at Charlottesville just several years ago, with Donald Trump calling the “Jews will not replace us” chanters “fine people”! Look at the Trump/MAGA rallies! The putridness is outrageous! More offensive than any rhinestone tiara some guy may be sparkling in at the North Brookfield drag queen Disney show!

The people spewing hatred can’t be arrested unless they’re destroying property or clobbering someone or killing someone – like what happened at our Capitol in D.C. when Trump lost the election. Just marching and yelling gross, racist, antisemitic shit is protected free speech in America. This is why we’re not China or Russia or any other country on earth whose people aren’t FREE.

The North Brookfield drag queen show stars are Americans. They will be singing All-American Disney classics like “When You Wish Upon A Star … your dreams come true!” – not “Jews will not replace us!” The North Brookfield gay pride event organizers say, rightly, they’ll cancel the celebration before dumping their brothers and sisters in their fabulous Snow White and Cinderella gowns. Drag shows have always been a part of gay culture, they point out…gay men having fun getting all glammed up and singing and dancing. As in Liza Minnelli. Or Judy Garland. Another side to themselves. Really fun and kinda cool, if you’ve seen a drag queen show. Why would North Brookfield be afraid of some guy in a pretty dress hitting the high notes of “New York, New York”? Why not just grab a lawn chair, plant it on the town common and enjoy the show? It’s FREE!

The more serious, flip side to the town’s NO is that every closeted or just-coming-out gay/bi/trans/nonbinary adult or kid in North Brookfield gets to feel a bit more … alone … afraid … ashamed … confused… shunned … rejected … despairing. It’s tough to be different, to be gay, in rural America where viewpoints can be a bit narrower…where there’s less diversity so anything different can feel threatening.

When I was a little girl growing up in Green Island we had a young woman who looked and dressed like a young man. I often wondered WHO was “Ann,” but my mother treated her no differently from anyone else in the neighborhood. Ma was always polite to Ann when we were walking down Bigelow or Sigel and saw Ann walking home or to Crompton Park. “Hi, Ann!!” my kid sisters and I would chirp to her as Ma smiled. Ann gave us a polite little nod, never a smile, and went her way, blue jeans, black belt, men’s type oxford shirt tucked into her jeans. She always wore this kind of outfit, always said hello in this serious way. Yet she was a part of our neighborhood, like Ma working at the dry cleaners or the old Russian lady who owned the three decker next door and kept our kick balls if we accidentally kicked them over the fence into her garden. Or there was the family who owned Ringo, the neighborhood dog I loved best. Or the girl with the long fine yellow hair who lived on Grosvenor Street and played the flute. Ann was a part of our neighborhood. Or so I thought. One day Ma told me Ann had killed herself. Hanged herself. I was shocked. Ann seemed so quiet and unobtrusive. I had never seen Ann happy or joking, but I had never seen her angry or fighting or heard her swearing a la some of our neighborhood toughs.

That was 1968/69 in ol’ Green Island, where to be gay was to be … alone, unsupported – a freak. Back then in America being gay meant being a “fag.” Breaking the law in some states, being denied equal rights in marriage, jobs, parenthood … everything. Ann was all alone in our neighborhood, in our country. Our home wasn’t her home.

Fast forward to 1990s Green Island where the sweetest, cutest little boy is growing up. My mother thinks he – a neighbor – is the best little boy. So sensitive! He adores his mother, too – cries for her when she’s late coming home, makes her little art projects at school. He’s called “clingy” by some adults who observe him. Still, he is a great kid – not a thug like some of the boys in Green Island. He goes to school every day, does his homework, respects his teachers, has career goals…is very artistic. At 15 he “comes out” to his mother and step dad. His mother throws out her perfect son … out of the family home! The boy moves in with his grandmother who loves him dearly and gives him his own bedroom and buys him his first car. The mother never visits her son or gets him birthday presents or celebrates Christmas or Easter with him. The relationship is dead. He is no longer in her family.

A few years ago, my friend’s mom was telling me her son – gay – was not gay. “He’s half Greek!” she screamed at me. “He’s AC-DC!!” This from an 80-year-old woman who was intelligent, well read, wealthy, self-made, traveled the world … one of Worcester’s first female building contractors. But “Lois” hated her son’s gayness. She hated her son’s long-time, live-in boyfriend. She rued the day when her son divorced his wife, a beautiful woman with a great professional job. She saw his life unraveling after his divorce. He saw his life as just beginning. Personal happiness was now a distinct possibility.

Because, in the end, that’s what it all comes down to: Happiness. And in America, in North Brookfield, in 2023, don’t we ALL deserve to be accepted for who we are, especially in our hometowns – the places where we long most to be happy?

🏘️🏘️Common Myths About Homelessness🏘️

By Lorie Martiska

Lorie. photo submitted.

Many people believe common myths about homelessness. These myths can foster a climate of fear and intolerance for people experiencing homelessness. The reality is that homelessness is not an individual problem – yet these myths tend to lay the blame on individuals. Homelessness is a societal problem and one that communities, providers, cities and states must work together to address.

What are some of these myths?

🏘️1. Homeless people should just
get a job.

According to the Council for the
Homeless, a common myth is that
“these people just need to get a job”.
In fact, many of the homeless living in shelters DO have a job or even more than one. A recent report concluded to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in Worcester, a family would need to earn close to $60,000 a year. For those who are unemployed, living in a car, a tent, or on the street, fnding and keeping a job is a daunting task when they are struggling with day- to- day

🏘️2. People are homeless by choice.

Being homeless can be stressful,
humiliating, exhausting and
dangerous. People would rarely, if
ever choose to be homeless. Some
homeless people do choose to live
outside rather than in a shelter because they have pets or possessions they want to retain and protect. Some people are living with physical, mental health symptoms or addictions that make their lives and decisions more diffcult. Some people became homeless because of a series of unfortunate events – loss of job, loss of family, or other circumstances. Regardless of the reason, it is almost never because they chose to be homeless.

🏘️3. People who are homeless are all dangerous, violent criminals.

Like the general population, the
vast majority of homeless individuals are focused on their own struggles and challenges and not engaged in violence or crime of any type. In fact, homeless people are far more likely to be victims of crime rather than perpetrators.

🏘️4. Housing or shelter should come
with conditions, like being clean
and sober.

The conventional wisdom used to
be that housing should be dangled
like a carrot to entice someone to be treated for substance use disorders frst. Evidence has proven that an approach called Housing First is far more effective. Homeless people can fnd stability and healing when provided with empowering supports focused on stable housing frst. It
is very diffcult to address medical, mental health challenges and/or addictions when living on the streets or in an unsafe and unstable situation.

🏘️5. Most people will cycle back onto the streets and will not stay housed.

Rapid Rehousing and Permanent
Supportive Housing, highly effective strategies that combine affordable housing with intensive coordinated services, can provide needed assistance to help people remain housed. A recent study found that Rapid Rehousing ( quickly housing someone who has become homeless along with supportive services when needed), resulted in 70% – 90% of people remaining housed after a year.

🏘️6. There is nothing I can do to
affect homelessness.

There are things we can do. Be kind. For those who are unhoused, being treated with kindness is a rare commodity. Your act of kindness could be the only sign of humanity they experience throughout
the day. Volunteer to help. Shelters and other programs for the homeless welcome volunteers who donate meals, activities, clothing and their time.

Speak Up. Advocate for person
centered trauma-informed supports
that meet people where they are at.

Advocate for community solutions
and vote for people who support community-wide and evidence-based approaches to addressing homelessness.

🌎🌱This Earth Day, Teach Your Children!🐖🐄🐔🐎🐅

By Rebecca Libauskas

Eating less meat and dairy products is good for you and the environment and helps reduce global warming. Art: PETA

Experts paint a bleak picture: Time is running out to escape climate catastrophe, and animal agriculture is a leading cause. But the crisis is not just an environmental issue — it’s a moral one. We stifle our children’s natural compassion when we teach them that animals are mere commodities rather than sentient beings. So for this Earth Day, and every day, let’s go vegan.

While all species have differences, we’re alike where it counts. And although our dwellings may look different, Earth is the home we all share. Yet humans are destroying the planet for all living beings with animal agriculture.

According to a recent report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world is likely to surpass the 1.5°C warming threshold by the early 2030s. This report is a stark reminder of the urgency to go vegan: If we continue with business-as-usual emissions, the world could experience extreme climate disasters and folks will be unable to adapt.

Think of the children …

We can have a positive impact on the environment by swapping meat, eggs and dairy for healthy vegan foods.

🌎Researchers at the University of Oxford found that we could reduce our diet-related carbon footprints by up to 73% by ditching meat and dairy.

🌎And a study just released in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that vegan foods are much better for the planet and healthier than animal-derived foods.

Vegan foods are also kinder — as our children already know. My little boy’s face lights up when he sees animals because he recognizes them as friends. Recent research published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science shows that, compared to adults, young children are less likely to view animals on a farm as “something to eat.” Another study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that children view eating animals as morally wrong. As a parent, it pains me that we snuff out our children’s innate compassion.

This summer – lots of variety at Trader Joe’s!

Just as our kids enjoy playing outside on a sunny spring day, chickens enjoy basking in the warm sun and socializing with friends. But chickens raised on factory farms never have a chance to do anything that’s important to them. Mother hens, for example, teach meaningful vocalizations to their chicks before they hatch — but they can’t do that when the egg industry steals them. And chicks on factory farms are never allowed to have contact with their parents, let alone be raised by them. But chickens aren’t the only ones abused by animal agriculture.


Imagine how terrifying it would be to lose your child. Mother cows cry out in distress when their calves are taken away in the dairy industry. And on factory farms, after mother pigs give birth to piglets, they’re moved to farrowing crates, which are so small they can’t turn around or build nests for their young. Then the piglets are separated from their mothers when they’re as young as 10 days old.

Are we raising our children to be compassionate or complicit? Going vegan supports our children’s natural wisdom and saves countless animals from miserable lives and painful deaths. And since so many delicious, healthy animal-free foods are on the market, no one has to choose between their taste buds and their conscience. So let’s not leave our children a legacy of environmental devastation and animal suffering. Let’s go vegan!

Happy cows!




📽️🍿🎬Luis! Always in style!

Movie Review
You: Season 4 Review

By Luis Sanchez


Last time I wrote a review I criticized part 1 of the brand new season of You on Netflix. Season 4 of the show was released in 2 parts, and on February 28 the second part of season 4 was released. With the entirety of the season now out, I will be reviewing the season as a whole.

To begin, I would like to address what You began as in 2018. It was about a simple bookkeeper who fell in love with a girl. This bookkeeper grew more interested in the girl, but he became a little too interested. The season developed into a psychological rollercoaster with themes of obsession, stalking, and lots of inner dialogue. The premise of it relied on the girl, the obsessive guy, and some trouble for the guy to get the girl. Overall, the show was creepy enough to leave its viewers interested for the next season. I struggled to understand at first as to how this would be spanned throughout multiple seasons. As it turned out, my worries were correct.

With this new season, there was an extremely low amount of obsessive stalker Joe. Any of the few moments that we got of it were just flashbacks. Besides that, the majority of the season just revolved around Joe trying to get around with his new rich friends. It felt bland, and I did feel like an extremely important part of the series was taken away in this season (except for all of the deaths). The first half of the season was slow; it was mostly just an introduction of Joe’s new life, his new friends, and the murder mystery that he was living in. The first half of the season could have probably been established in 2 episodes. On the other hand, the second half of the season felt much more fulfilling. There was still minimal stalking-Joe, but it ramped up in terms of its signature creepiness. Something that this show has always characterized as is giving viewers this feeling of helplessness and a want for the prisoner to escape. This was absent for the first half of the season (completely), but for the second half of the season we did get to experience that feeling, for a little bit. Even the psychological climax in the second half gave this new season more of a spice than the first half’s boring and predictable outcome. So, how come I still found this season enjoyable?

Penn Badgley. Acting on point, and not to mention how he directed the final episode which was honestly the best episode of the entire season. He single-handedly carried all of the emotions of the season. By this I mean that his new love interest is completely bland and expressess little emotions. There were no tears shed, no screaming at Joe, and no feelings of helplessness. Trust me, this season was not what I was expecting at all. Still, Penn Badgley as Joe is admirable to watch. Although the inner dialogue might have been a little too much, when it came time to show some character development Penn Badgley did it right. When it came time to be serious or be as scared as he heavenly could, Badgley did it right. When it came to expressing an internal conflict more than describing it, Badgley did it right. My favorite part in this entire season is definitely the last 10 minutes where we finally saw some real-creepy-Joe action. This new season I would give it a 4/10, and it’s now available to watch fully on Netflix! Feel free to have this in the background while doing some other productive thing; you do not need to give this new season your full attention.

Spencer Parades

By Rosalie Tirella

The David Prouty High School Panthers – triumphant. photos: R.T.

This morning, as I was walking my pups in the center of town, we practically walked right into a Spencer parade. Another one! In less than five months! Spencer, I believe, is hot on parades: big town firetrucks – Spencer AND East Brookfield, police cruisers, tow trucks with long flat beds, all shiny and sparkling, rolling down Main Street. The American flag is painted on the tow trucks’ cabs, ropes of lights are strung along the truck beds, firetrucks all washed and hosed down, loud speakers are attached to the front of the trucks and hard rock ‘n’ roll is blaring out of the speakers. Fire truck sirens are flashing red and orange. Big-ass horns on big-ass trucks are honking. A tremendous cacophony of sound and sight is rolling down Main Street for all of us townspeople to admire, to get excited about!

The parade rolled down Main Street, through the center of town.

I stopped to wave at the people being honored in the parade – kids, high school boys – seated on folding metal chairs, lined up all in a row against the sides of the flat beds of two tow trucks, balloons and streamers in their school’s colors tied to the flat beds, the balloons bobbing up and down in the wind, the streamers hanging on for dear life. One of the boys, at the back, in the second flat bed, was waving a school flag. A few of the kids smiled back at us onlookers. The adults with them – three or four men, their coaches – looked happier than the kids! They were smiling and pointing and waving and just getting a kick out of the parade they were in. In their honor. The David Prouty Panthers – second place winners in the state basketball championship games. The “Dream Team” – the Panthers – being feted by the Town of Spencer for their prowess on the basketball court. For being great athletes. Their team, the only remaining undefeated boys’ basketball team in the state of Massachusetts. They had gone on to the finals, played valiantly against Taconic in the state final in Lowell, at the Tsongas Center.

The parade was small but sweet. Proud, too, and, unlike the last one I witnessed, not so very loud, it being a Sunday morning. I had stopped walking Jett and Lilac as the woman on the street corner waved to me and spoke to me with enthusiasm: Watch out for your dogs! A parade is coming right down Main Street!

IMG_20180106_092011 (1)
Lilac, left, with Cece. Lilac has been given lots of pats and hugs, courtesy of Spencer folks!

She seemed so pleased at the thought that I stood next to her on Main Street and waited with her for the parade to come. She was a nice lady, my age, who introduced herself, then patted Lilac’s head and said nice things to my dog. Lilac was thrilled and wagging her whole wiggly butt, planted herself right next to this lady, leaning smack up against her entire right leg. When the parade, led by a Spencer police cruiser, lights flashing, finally did come by, “Ann” snapped a few pictures with her cell phone and waved. So did I as I smiled at the basketball stars and their coaches. Pointing to the two sets of high school boys sitting on the tow trucks’ flat beds, Ann said, “It’s too early…They should have had it at 1, on a Saturday afternoon.” I agreed. More people would have been around to see them and to wave to the team. Maybe the excellent David Prouty High School marching band would have led the parade.

More of the team: good kids, terrific basketball players.

But I’m no parade expert. Spencer is. There’s another Spencer parade slated for next month – the town’s annual Memorial Day parade. I wonder if the big World War I (or II?) cannon sitting a block away in front of a Vet Post will make an appearance.

The high school kids, in this parade, were all about decorum. They sat politely on their chairs, a bit bemused…a few smiled at us onlookers and waved to us – we were only a handful so early on a weekend morning. There could have been more balloons and streamers in the school’s colors, but maybe the town was going to do more to celebrate the team later on this spring. Maybe the high school would honor them with an assembly in the school auditorium or host a spaghetti supper in the school cafeteria in their honor. The team will probably be in the Spencer Memorial Day parade, a parade when things will probably be a bit livelier … with more fanfare … more fans. I thought: These are good kids. Not loud and arrogant like some kids would be given their accomplishments. Triumphant – but modest.

The “Dream Team”!

This past Christmas there was the annual Spencer Christmas Parade – the big Spencer holiday celebration, which I also saw. It’s a mobile event the whole town comes out for: a long line of fire trucks, police cruisers, a ton of Ford pick-up trucks, Dodge Rams and other big trucks decked to the hilt with ropes of Christmas lights and flashing siren lights. No Christmas carols are sung, no Santa sits at the head of the parade … just lots of big trucks and MERRY CHRISTMAS, SPENCA! MERRY CHRISTMAS, SPENCA! blaring from the loudspeaker on the lead tow truck. Some guy – not a rolly polly Santa in his red velvet Santa suit – maybe the owner of the tow truck? – yells this over and over again to the crowd as the trucks slowly drive by. I watched the whole thing from my bedroom window last Christmas. It felt a little threatening, the BOOMING MERRY CHRISTMAS, SPENCA’s!, like YOU BETTER HAVE A GREAT CHRISTMAS, Rose! And where was baby Jesus, his parents, Mary and Joseph? Obviously, their humble manger wasn’t cool enough for the cool trucks. But I’m sure the parade wasn’t meant to intimidate. At least 30 humongous working vehicles made their way down Main, through the center of town, past this working-class town’s iconic hardware, appliance and catch-all Spags-like store, WHITCO. There were hundreds of townspeople lined on either sidewalk of Main Street, waving at the trucks and a few folks yelling Merry Christmas! Taking up half of Main Street with its three old buildings “hooked” together, sharing walls, Whitco made a depressing back drop to the Christmas parade, yet it has the plum spot on Main Street. A cute coffee shop or funky book store or artisan bakery or trendy clothing boutique doesn’t rest on our Main Street. Nope. Three old buildings plastered with old sale signs, sign after sale sign after sign, yellow and garish, covering all Whitco fronts, are our scenery. Are there Spencer signage rules the owners are flouting? No matter! The store is the heart and soul of Spencer – mobbed with customers every Saturday morning with scores of people rushing into the place to buy outdoor grills or refrigerators or stuff for their backyard chicken coops. I met a young woman who told me all about her chicken, Buttons. Besides laying superlative eggs, Buttons “knows her name. She comes when she’s called!” I told the young woman I wish Lilac would come when she’s called. The young woman stooped to give Lilac a big hug.

I had just moved to Spencer in September, and as I looked out my window that cold December night, my breath fogging up the window pane before me…as I watched the Spencer Christmas parade, the high point of Christmas in Spencer, from my apartment, warm salty tears fell down my face. The dreadful horn honking went on for a half hour. The trucks were nice but not … Christmas-y. There was no Christmas music or Christmas creche or even Santa Claus. I think there may have been a Christmas Queen waving to the big crowd from a big truck, but that was it. It felt like there was no Christmas in Spencer. No town holiday lights were strung along the lampposts on Main Street. No town Christmas tree. No Christmas wreaths hung on the doors of most of the small businesses. And everyone, including the Christmas queen, seemed to be wearing the lightest of fall jackets. And as I looked out my window, roused out of a restless sleep on my bed, startled by all the horn honking and siren screeching, I saw below me Pottersville, right out of the old James Stewart movie, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Before George Bailey (Stewart) wakes up from his nightmare and his town is back to its old sparkly decorated cute Christmas self. Then I saw in the Spencer crowd a little girl (was she four years old? five?) sitting on her dad’s shoulders to better see the Christmas parade. She was wearing a pink fall jacket and watching the parade intently and giggling and having a great ol’ time. She wasn’t wearing a hat or mittens or gloves on this harshest of country winter nights, and yet here she was, waving to beat the band, positively ecstatic. So I cried even harder! She and her father looked so poor! They seemed so nice! Would the little girls’ tiny fingers get frost bitten?! What kind of apartment did she and her family live in? Was it safe and warm inside?

The Spencer PD always leads the parade!

Here it is spring time and I’m not crying over a Spencer parade. I am seeing it for what it is: a town, a poorer town in rich Massachusetts, coming together, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, family member to family member, finding joy in what is given to them, taking part in a community tradition, the town parade … living in their moment in their town, making another memory for themselves in their place, their home, their beloved Spencer.

🔥The threat posed by fires🔥… to wildlife

By Craig Shapiro


Last year, 66,255 wildfires erupted in the U.S., burning through more than 7.3 million acres from California to the Florida Panhandle. It was the most fires since 2017, and those were the ones that were reported. The final count is bound to be higher.

This year, wildfire season has already begun, though the threat never seems to diminish, thanks to a warming climate that turns forests and grasslands into tinderboxes.

And it’s not just humans’ lives and homes that are again imperiled. Springtime is a time to remember deer, birds, fish, reptiles – and their offspring – all the animals who can be killed or displaced by fires.

It’s impossible to know exactly how many. The massive 2020 North Complex fire in California torched more than 318,000 acres, uprooting countless bears and coyotes along with anyone else in its path. That same year, an estimated 480 million animals perished in bushfires in New South Wales, Australia.

The impacts of wildfires on animals are immediate, debilitating and often life-threatening — and familiar to humans who’ve survived a fire. Thick smoke disorients them, irritates their eyes and makes it hard for them to breathe. Larger animals may try to outrun the flames, if there’s time. At its peak, the North Complex fire scorched 1,000 acres every 30 minutes. Small animals may try to shelter under rocks and in burrows. Those with babies or who are trapped by fences or other structures may not escape.

Fish and marine mammals, including manatees and sea otters, suffer, too. Toxic residue from plastics burned by wildfires runs off into waterways. Plants and brush disintegrate into nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients that can create dangerous algae blooms when they’re swept into aquatic ecosystems.

Species that return annually to the same breeding grounds and nesting sites are especially threatened by habitat loss. Others leave in search of food and, when they enter unfamiliar territory, are threatened by new predators and territorial disputes and are forced to compete for limited resources.

Most naturally occurring wildfires are sparked by lightning. Preventing them would likely take nothing short of divine intervention. But every year, more than 19,500 reported fires are triggered by fireworks. Although exploding and airborne fireworks pose the greatest danger to lives and homes, sparklers, fountains and smoke bombs can ignite fires, too.

Fireworks also terrify dogs and cats: they may run into the street after fleeing their home in an attempt to escape the confusing, deafening blasts. It’s not uncommon for panicked dogs to break through windows and screen doors or dig under fences.

How can we help wildlife trying to escape a fire? 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

Resist feeding them so they don’t become dependent.

Don’t chase them away (they’re already scared, so let them rest before moving along).

Keep dogs away from them.

Be on the watch for those who wander into roadways and report injured animals to the authorities.

The starting point, though, is to help protect animals and their habitats by eliminating our role in igniting wildfires:
🔥🔥🔥Report unattended fires, thoroughly extinguish campfires and fire pits, keep vehicles off dry grass, don’t throw lit or smoldering cigarettes from your car or truck and check the weather conditions before burning trash or leaves.🔥🔥🔥

And by all means, leave fireworks in the package.



❤️🎶Miss Avedikian 🎶❤️

By Rosalie Tirella

Rose’s mom work vest she wore to work at the drycleaners on Millbury Street. All thru “Prov” junior high Rose remembers “Ma” wearing this polyester vest – with big side pockets for pencils, a scratch pad or two, and rubber bands – to work. Ma also had a navy blue vest and a beige one, same style. Rose mailed the navy blue one to her sister two years ago. photos: R.T.

“Spring Concert.” The two words that captivated the collective imagination of the entire student body of Vernon Hill’s Providence Street Junior High School, circa 1975. Last week I wrote about the drippy music teacher we kids had at my elementary school, Lamartine Street School. This week I’m here to tell you how my class’s musical fortunes did a 180-degree turnaround at the old “Prov” – now the Vernon Hill Elementary School – in 1973. All because of a 4’10”-inch-tall musical miracle and lover of all kids, no matter how good or rotten, no matter how gifted or just middling, no matter how sweet-smelling or smelly – Miss Avedikian, Providence Street Junior High School’s music teacher. I and around 600 other Prov seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders adored Miss Avedikian. No. “Adore” is too weak a word to describe the feelings we had for Miss Avedikian. We were passionate about her, captivated by her, entranced by her. So much so we never missed her music class – and actually sang for her. Loudly! In two-part harmony! Even the boys who liked to hide out in the boys room smoking cigs never cut Miss Avedikian’s music class. Even the girl who at Lamartine was the school bully and a thorn in this Rose’s side, “Frieda,” was stellar for Miss Avedikian. There she was, Frieda, the school yard slugger of Lamartine, standing outside Miss A’s classroom to get her morning hug from the pint-sized Miss Avedikian who had to stand on tippy toes to embrace the big girl who was a foot taller than she. Frieda had been “kept back” twice but was all A’s in Miss Avedikian’s music class, one of the shining stars. Sometimes things would get serious between the two; I imagine Frieda confided to her favorite teacher, who with arms still wrapped around her student’s beefy neck, spoke quietly, seriously to the girl. Often you’d see them literally tete a tete, big forehead to little forehead, the big droopy eyes of Miss Avedikian looking into Frieda’s beady little ones. Miss A quietly counseled her student in the middle of Prov’s bustling third floor corridor, the rest of us kids swimming around them like salmon ’round a boulder in a stream, rushing to get to our homerooms before the first bell rang. Looking back, I think Miss Avedikian took on the role of mom for lots of Prov students – maybe the kids with abusive parents or no parents all, the kids many teachers were usually neutral about – or angry with.

Not Miss Avedikian. She was a huge machine. She didn’t care that Peggy came to school unwashed or that I came to school very poor or so and so’s dad was in jail. All her students in all her classes were BRILLIANT!!! – and she expected us all to behave brilliantly – to sing and learn all the songs for the annual Providence Street Junior High School Spring Concert, to be in the sopranos or altos groups, to memorize all the lyrics to all our songs, to watch her for musical cues as she walked energetically up and down the aisles between our rows of desks making big swooping gestures with her little arms, smiling at us as she sang along, loudly, with gusto. She had a deep, resonant singing voice that, while not conventionally pretty sounding, was note-perfect. None of us students had spectacular voices, many of us were often off key and you’d scrunch up your face as you or your neighbor hit a clunker. But Miss Avedikian was undeterred. She’d correct us and we’d start all over again.


I remember the songs. Very 1970s, very Carpenters stuff. Songs about Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me …or Up up and away in my beautiful balloon…Songs that maybe we kids may not have been enthralled with but songs that our teacher loved, so we loved them, too.

I remember the Miss Avedikian dress code – she always wore these perfect little demure skirt suits. And she looked impeccable in her elegant (I think expensive) suits! Pencil skirt to the knees, colors ranging from a demure sage blue to a vibrant violet … a pretty white, pink or baby blue silk or rayon blouse often tied daintily at the top with a ribbon. Then the smart little matching jacket cropped at the waist to make it a bit formal. Nylons. Always beige. Then the little – size 5? – black, navy blue or beige pumps. Never high heels (and Miss Avedikian could have used their boost!), always the pumps. Some pearl earrings in her rather large wobbly earlobes and a smart wrist watch on her tiny wrist were the final touches. These days, when all of America – including many public school teachers – are living their best lives in yoga pants or outfits that may as well be their pajamas, Miss Avedikian looked like she CARED. Teaching, teaching music, being in front of a classroom of 30 students was serious business to her – and an honor. And you, the student, got the message – you got serious and focused when you entered Miss A’s classroom and saw this paragon of good grooming sitting at her big metal teachers desk smiling her big toothy smile at you, expecting your best, your best effort ever. Her hair was Armenian thick and dark black, but she kept it short, in a cute curly style that kinda bobbed up and down if she really got into a song she was singing with us or played the school piano very passionately.

Miss Avedikian was small but mighty. While she loved all her students, she could turn on a dime and flash that hot temper of hers if someone was smoking in the boys room or fighting in the hallway or sassing her back. An angry Miss A got beet red in the face, her eyes bulged out of their sockets and she yelled. Very loudly. She had the lung capacity for it. … It was traumatic seeing your usually wonderful teacher go berserk on you. So most wayward kids quickly wanted to set things right again and apologized to Miss Avedikian and hung their heads down in remorse. And then it was all over. The storm had gone to sea. Miss Avedikian was quick to “let bygones be bygones” and within seconds she was giving the student a big hug and words of encouragement.

Spring flowers: daffodils.

So, every spring we had our school Spring Concert where all our parents and family friends were invited to our grand, stately school auditorium with its ornate proscenium and heavy velvet stage curtains and framed prints of presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln nailed to the walls on either side of the stage, to listen to us sing a bunch of hopeful spring songs led by Miss Avedikian. She accompanied us on the mini-grand piano at the foot of the stage. Prov had stage lights and, I think, a pretty good sound system. The seats the audience sat in were wooden but it was a gorgeous space, the school built around the Great Depression when America knew how to build schools that inspired our first and second generation Americans (like me) to excel. President Franklin Roosevelt had given federal jobs to artists and muralists. Here, make some money: paint two huge murals in the front entrance way at Providence Street Junior High School in Worcester, Massachusetts. The government will pay you. Where the marble stairs end and the hardwood floors begin, that’s your canvas. The murals – of the Native Americans of the Vernon Hill area – still grace the front entrance of my old junior high.

Rose’s mom’s George Washington calendar print, from 1949, hangs on Rose’s bedroom wall in Spencer these days. Fifty years ago, prints of this portrait hung in every junior and senior high school in America, often next to a print of a famous painting of Abraham Lincoln. This was true at the old “Prov” on Vernon Hill.

Besides a beautiful old school, our parents were treated to concert program booklets specially printed for the occasion, with parts 1 and 2 of the program and an intermission for any mom or dad who needed to use the bathroom or make a phone call in the phone booth outside the principal’s office. Mr. Bohman, our school principal, was a tall bald man who, like Miss Avedikian, also dressed impeccably – he always wore a dark suit and white dress shirt and necktie – he was always serious and polite to us students. He was the one who kicked off our spring concert, standing before a packed auditorium, welcoming the parents with a little speech delivered at the podium. Then Miss Avedikian came out and took the spotlight and led us students up into the stage, then into song, all the familiar we need world peace and harmony now songs we practiced for months. One side of our big stage was home to the altos, the other side covered by the sopranos. Sometimes the boys sang one verse and the girls sang the next. We kids were scrubbed and clean and wearing our best. At the end of the concert one student always gallantly presented Miss Avedikian with a big bouquet of roses – a thank you present for making it all happen. We kids had each pitched in a dollar or two for the bouquet and the designated flower guy or gal’s parents bought the bouquet of roses.

And you should have seen Miss Avedikian’s face at the end of one of our concerts, with her roses, all the parents standing up clapping, giving us a standing ovation and Miss Avedikian, wearing a corsage just like our little prom queen, in tears and taking a bow. Miss Avedikian may not have been conventionally pretty: she had a hang dog face, a few folds of skin under her big brown eyes, a big toothy grin, but to us kids she was beautiful. She never talked about a husband the way some teachers did. She seemed to me to be in her 40s at least, older than some of my teachers. And while her dress impressed us students, it was the hippie ’70s, and some teachers wore mini-skirts or platform shoes or even clogs with colored tites to class. Miss Avedikian wouldn’t be caught dead in a mini-, midi- or maxi skirt! She could have fit into a LEAVE IT TO BEAVER TV episode …

Rose’s father, pictured here holding Rose’s kid sisters, was emotionally abusive, and sometimes physically abusive, to Rose’s mom.

But our neighborhood, our home lives, we’re not Leave It To Beaver. Few of us lived in pretty, single family homes with big front yards and white picket fences. Most of us lived in Green Island or Union Hill or Vernon Hill three deckers, many of which were in great shape at that time, many of which were in shitty shape at that time. Like our three decker flat on Lafayette Street. Ma tried to make it cozy, but the windows were so old… we were always cold during winter time … the floors needed to be ripped out and replaced (never were), and our refrigerator hummed super loud 24 hours a day. We had maggots crawling out of our metal garbage cans in our backyard, and our back yard – at one time grassy with a cute bird bath – now was simply a big patch of dirt. The landlord had pulled out all the landscaping stops for a previous tenant because he was having an affair with her. When she left so did the birdbath and lawn.

So it came as a real surprise to me when I asked Miss Avedikian: Where would you really like to teach? Which school? Prov or Forest Grove, miss Avedikian? I had had the pleasure of accompanying my music teacher to a meeting at the recently built, beautiful, new, modern Forest Grove Junior High School in Worcester’s wealthy West Side. I think Miss Avedikian asked me to accompany her because the schools wanted student feedback on a new music curriculum. Something like that. Miss Avedikian chose me not because of any superior musical ability but because I was a smart, good kid who would be quiet and respectful at Forest Grove – and give my honest assessment of the proposed music curriculum. For me, I was thrilled to be riding in a car!! I mean, what a treat! A new car! With one of my favorite teachers – who was driving it!!! How cool!! My family was too poor to own an automobile, so I seldom got the chance to hop into a nice car and just sit back and let lovely scenery fly by. We – my mom and two kid sisters – walked all over Green Island and Downtown Worcester to shop, eat, go to movies, attend church or school. Worcester was more cohesive back then and mom and pop shops ruled and our downtown was a real downtown. It was fun walking down Millbury Street with Ma to buy shoes at Lisbon’s Shoe Store or a window shade at White’s Five and Ten or to cross Kelley Square to buy a big babka bread and a bag of warm bulkies at Widoffs Bakery on Water Street. It was, however, not at all fun to walk down a half-snow-plowed Lafayette Street in the dark with my mother and sisters after a snowstorm, after Ma finished her day at the dry cleaners. After a nor’easter our Green Island sidewalks were seldom shoveled so we walked in the street, on Lafayette, behind Ma, single file, against traffic. With headlights shining on us, with slush being splattered over us. So, you can see why it was such a big deal for me to ride in an automobile.

Worcester’s East Side used to be home to many blue collar families who lived in these three deckers and hundreds of others like them. The same held true for decades in Worcester’s Vernon Hill, Union Hill and Green Island neighborhoods. Gentrification has changed these great old Woo ‘hoods!

Anyways, Miss Avedikian and I had just finished up our little meeting at Forest Grove and we were heading to her car to drive back to Prov. I had never been to the West Side and was impressed by all the nice houses, their expansive front lawns, and the new modern Forest Grove Junior High School with its connecting, enclosed walkways between parts of the school, big panes of glass that were frosted. As in decorative. Wow. Who wouldn’t want to live here and attend junior high here?

But when I asked my music teacher: Which school do you like better, Miss Avedikian? She said, Prov, Rosalie. She looked at me and smiled and said: I like our kids. Over here they can be – and she stuck her dainty little finger under her rather big nose and lifted it up, pointing it to the sky. Then my music teacher gave me a little hug, we got into her nice car and drove back to our favorite junior high school in all of Worcester.

That day was eye-opening. I lived with a father who hated everything about our Green Island neighborhood, called the people “crippled freaks,” and he hated us, his family, too. He called my mother a “fuck nut” and why were my kid sisters so skinny and couldn’t Ma do anything right?! … To have Miss Avedikian, a real musician and concert violinist in her earlier career, a teacher who wore beautiful clothes and could teach at Forest Grove Junior High School – a beautiful new school in a beautiful rich neighborhood – PREFER to be in Vernon Hill, at Providence Street Junior High School, teaching us blue collar and working poor kids music, impressed me. Made me feel proud and squeeze a little harder when Miss Avedikian and I hugged. She wanted to be with us kids because maybe she knew what it felt like to be the underdog. She was gonna make us the overdog. Because we loved her so.

🌱It’s Easter weekend …

By Rosalie Tirella

Jett relaxing to the music … photos: R.T.

Enjoying THE BAND this Easter weekend. I only have three of their lps but two of them are the great ones. Yesterday I watched The Last Waltz DVD, checked out from the library. Watching the movie I remembered how great these guys ALL were – how American this mostly Canadian band was – what gifted storytellers they were via their wonderfully evocative songs – tales of “Lonesome Susie” and Southern soldiers, downtrodden but defiant … and lights shining West to East/I shall be released (this tune written by Bob Dylan). You enter an earthy, hardscrabble, wistful world whenever you listen to a Band song.

The Band

I saw The Band, without Robbie Robertson, at the old E.M. Loews theater in Downtown Worcester decades ago. Right after Robertson, the band’s main songwriter and “leader,” left the group – I think. I remember seeing Rick Danko on that grungy old Loews stage. He looked a little heavy, the sound wasn’t so terrific, it was drafty in this tired old concert venue that hosted oldie shows like Warren Zevon, whom I saw a few years later at Loews. Once young and beautiful and great, now these guys were simply GREAT. I don’t know if Levon Helm was there. I was around 18 … it was a long time ago. Before heroin took Danko, before Robertson got into Native American music, before I left my mother’s house, remaining close to my mom for the rest of her life but seeing my father only a handful of times after that.

Rose’s mom, left, circa 1945.

I had yet to understand how unlucky I was to be born in Green Island but how lucky I was to be young in the 1970s, a teen in the middle of all this fantastic music coming thru to me and every American kid on FM radio. For free. Sounds and songs and artists extraordinaire getting through to us, as John Lennon once said about the power of rock n roll. The songs expressing our outrage over the Vietnam War/war, our love of nature, our longing for love. And all wrapped up in these beautiful, powerful, intelligent songs. Seeing these great bands in concert – for not a lot of dough – was life changing. To be poor and still be a part of it! How could you not be?! … To be 16 and living in a crumby flat on Lafayette Street, with an asshole of a father yelling at your sweet mom in the background while you’re listening to John Lennon on your record player sing-scream: MOTHER, YOU HAD ME, BUT I NEVER HAD YOU./ I WANTED YOU/YOU DIDN’T WANT ME! That was my world. That was rock n roll back then.

My father lived with us all thru my junior and senior high school years, adding very little money to the household kitty, basically sponging off my mother who killed herself at the drycleaners to keep it all going, to give her kids good food, clean clothes … stability. My father, who had a rickety old truck back then, never once picked her up from the drycleaners. Ma always walked that stretch of Lafayette Street home, alone, in the dark, sometimes pulling a wagon filled with groceries she had bought for the family at Supreme Market on Millbury Street…us kids running down the stairs to help her bring up the groceries, Daddy sitting on their bed reading the classifieds in yesterday’s newspaper. Why is Daddy still living with us? I wondered. Why doesn’t he take his bad feelings and just go away from us – again? We were happier without him! Without a father!

But Daddy didn’t go away.

And yet to be HAPPY whenever I cranked my music! FM radio or my Beatles albums! Spinning them on my cheapie Emerson “stereo” and feeling these seismic shifts in … possibilities. I started writing poetry. My mother bought me a used acoustic guitar. A few times “Daddy” rose to the musical occasion – like the Frank Sinatra records he brought home instead of the loaf of bread my mother had sent him out to buy one evening. Or the way he could sing a Frank Sinatra tune, emotional but still kinda poking fun at it while singing the lyrics. My father came from a musical family. His brother Al (my Uncle Al) had a jazz band in Worcester during the 1930s/40s and his brother George (my Uncle George) was a terrific banjo player. One summer day – I think I was in the 8th grade – Daddy hit a yard sale and walked away with 50 albums and scores of 45s. Good stuff that he lugged up three flights of stairs – a couple of times – to our apartment. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The Supremes. Gladys Knight and the Pips. Donovan. Simon and Garfunkel. I mean, the old man had struck gold! As soon as he laid the used albums all out on the kitchen table, I grabbed them and began playing them all, one after the other, on my cheapie record player in my bedroom – to my father’s delight.

The Last Waltz captures the beauty of ’60s + ’70s rock ‘n’ roll.

The Last Waltz, the Scorsese classic film, brought it all home to me last night: the Green Island flat, the hopes, the tangled feelings, the fear, the disappointments, my angel mother, our canary in her cage, all our cats and dogs and little turtles and newts and gold fish … and Daddy. The perennial fish out of water. The movie also made me cry: for my youth, for the singers’ youth. All gone now. And for the music, so beautiful, so all encompassing in the ’60s and ’70s. These days nothing compares to it. In the film: Joni Mitchell svelte and strong limbed; today in a wheelchair. Neil Young’s wife died of cancer a few years ago, after he left her for a movie actress. Neil Diamond so cool with his sunglasses in The Last Waltz has Parkinson’s Disease today. My old beau, who took me to so many concerts great and small, venues where I saw Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Loretta Lynn, YES, the Moody Blues and many more, walks haltingly with a cane these days. His back operation was risky … I remember driving to Boston with him years ago to an oldies rock concert – maybe the Monkees? – and glancing over my shoulder to see him driving but turned to me and smiling at me, his long platinum hair blowing in the wind, falling all over his aviator sunglasses, looking so cool and free… I snapped a photo of him with my cellphone camera and it came out looking so ’70s! My hippie guy, his long platinum hair streaming in the wind, the open highway before him, the sun ricocheting off his aviator sunglasses…he used to own a motorcycle. I had wished we were on one then. He looked so full of himself – and handsome! I kept the photo in my phone for years.

We talked on the phone yesterday and wished each other a Happy Easter. His girlfriend is making the traditional Easter Dinner – baked ham with pineapples, mashed potatoes and all the fixings. This old vegetarian hasn’t eaten meat since she was 19, but the old beau wasn’t all in when we were together, despite my nagging. I said: So, you’re going to have ham this Sunday. He said, in his quiet, but sexy deep voice: “No. The poor animal.”

I was stunned by the … emotion, the goodness. He had made my Easter! Then I wanted to be with him all over again. But now, we’re old and he made his choice years ago. He chose her.

My wrist has a wrist plate after the surgery and my fingers are stiff. Just yesterday I dropped a whole jar of tiny Vitamin D caplets on the floor when my fingers couldn’t hold the little bottle right. I got very upset. I felt old. But then I listened to MUSIC FROM THE BIG PINK and THE BAND and talked with the ol’ beau and heard him say “No. The poor animal” and then I saw a pig, clean and pink and rotund, walking before my eyes, very quickly on its piggy legs, happy and free in a rolling country meadow, and I felt … hopeful.

Happy Easter🌱


Easter bonnets, not Easter bunnies!

By Donna Albergotti

And try to buy vegan candy for those Easter baskets! Trader Joe’s on Route 9 in Shrewsbury has a great selection of vegan treats – and main dishes, side dishes … everything you’ll need for your Easter dinner. Art: PETA

I recently adopted a rabbit. Olaf had been passed from shelter to shelter for more than a year. He has holes in his ears and eyelids from a severe mite infestation he endured while struggling to survive alone on the streets of Northern Virginia. Fortunately, a good Samaritan scooped him up and took him to the local animal shelter.

I imagine Olaf ended up homeless the same way so many other rabbits do: Someone gave him to a child for Easter without having thought about the commitment involved. And then the reality of caring for a rabbit set in. Olaf despises being picked up — which is more common than not in rabbits — so I’m sure the child got frustrated with him. Eventually, someone abandoned him outdoors, perhaps wrongly believing that he could survive, but being left alone outside is actually a cruel death sentence for a domestic rabbit.

It happens all the time. About a month after the holiday, shelters start bracing for an influx of unwanted rabbits. Many of them are found in parks or backyards or under buildings. They’re often starving, sick, injured from attacks by predators, ravaged by parasites and scared stiff.

I’ve been volunteering to help homeless rabbits for more than a decade, and I’ve seen it all. Some rabbits are confused or frightened when they’re first rescued. Some are angry and put up a fight. Some have simply given up and sit quietly. All of them have pain in their eyes.

I share my passion for rabbits with others and love teaching people about how smart they are and what wonderful companions they can be. But I wish I had a nickel for every time someone recounted their tale of having a rabbit as a child. It inevitably ends badly, with the animal’s horrible death. My own parents got rabbits for my brother and me when we were very young. They were kept outdoors, behind our house, in a small hutch with a wire grating. I remember that one of them used to scream every time we approached. We didn’t know any better, of course, but I’m haunted by that scream and burdened with the knowledge that I made those animals miserable.

It’s a misconception that rabbits are “easy pets.” They have special needs that often come as a big surprise to people who acquire them on a whim. Rabbits require specific foods as well as stimulating, indoor, “rabbit-proof” environments and specialized veterinarians. They need lots of hay, they poop a lot and they love to chew on anything, from electric cords to baseboards. They need just as much attention as a dog or a cat.

Kids want to hug and cuddle them, but rabbits generally shun that kind of hands-on interaction. From their point of view, we’re giant predators, and earning their trust is both a challenge and a joy. But it takes a lot of patience and selflessness, two things young children shouldn’t be expected to have.

So if you’re a parent vacillating over your child’s plea for an Easter rabbit, please say no. The great thing about this season is that there’s no shortage of adorable stuffed toys available. They’re easy to care for, and no one gets hurt.


And remember, Trader Joe’s soaps, hand lotions, shampoos, facial creams and more are all cruelty-free, as are the personal care products/cosmetics listed below. R.T:



By Rosalie Tirella

Rose’s new digs. Photos: R.T.

Relaxing with my critters. Just took an apple tart outa the oven – gotta try baking this breakfast treat with peaches, plums … different kinds of apples. If I have the $, next time I bake an apple tart I’ll add walnuts, raisins, maybe even a handful of almond slivers.

Apple tart, hot out of the oven!

It’s a weird turn of events…baking apple tarts in a gorgeous loft-style apartment after snoozing in parking lots – for months! Hatching this new life out of my cracked old one…going from urban decay to rural renewal! Feeling content here in the country … while feeling repudiated by the city I once loved, Worcester, my hometown. I mean, come on, if the Worcester city manager or any one of the City politico phoney baloneys found their 60-year-old sister or mother or Irish auntie homeless, do you think she’d be writing out her Christmas cards in her car, during a December snow fall, in the church parking lot across from St. Paul’s Cathedral? Would she knock on the door of nearby Abby’s House rooming/apt building for low-income women and ask to use the ladies room and be met with: NO!!!! GO AWAY!! YOU CAN’T PARK YOUR CAR AND SLEEP HERE!!! … and then to have to walk over to the Abby’s House shrubbery and discreetly take a pee on their sleeping tulip buds. The flowers will pop up in all their pastel glory in four months or so, but there is no promise of spring for you!

If this were your experience, how long would it be before you hated Worcester’s guts?

How long would it be before you realized: these City Hall fakes will never think outside the box and have the guts to solve Worcester’s homeless crisis. BECAUSE THEY DON’T WANT TO. They will never get their people off the sidewalks of Millbury Street or Main Street or Vernon Street because they are ok with having not enough affordable housing units or enough housing vouchers or seeing human suffering right under their noses. They will talk the talk but never walk the walk. They want the city’s poor and vulnerable to move out, to relocate to the hinterlands. Or to just die! Disappear. Worcester’s new motto: If you don’t build it, they won’t come! … And new rich people from Boston will supplant the vulnerable locals. Worcester city leaders love the humongous crappy new apartment buildings that are now all over the city, with their $3,000 rents and Boston renters. City councilors don’t care if the rents in other blue collar, even downtrodden Worcester neighborhoods, top off at $2,400 – because that’s what gentrification is all about. A kind of fascism. A kind of economic and even racial cleansing. But Worcester city leaders call it a “renaissance.” Half the city population is in a slow, undignified unraveling…emigrating to Orange or Warren or some other rural area in Worcester. But they call it a RENAISSANCE.

There are crappy new Worcester apartment buildings sprouting up every other month all over Woo – not just in the Canal District, my old childhood neighborhood that we used to know and love as Green Island. Nail guns and planks of pine are their hallmark, but the junk edifices lure the Boston renters who don’t give a hoot about architecture or history and think the $3,000 Worcester rents are a steal compared to Boston’s $5,000. And the trains and Mass Pike are near enough…and the amenities they want are now in Worcester – dog parks, upscale coffee shops, fancy artisan wine kiosks. We finally look like Providence! Tim Murray’s wet dream has finally become our hideous reality!

But as Worcester grows more congested, more car-clogged, more gun-happy, more murderous, more impersonal, more physically ugly and plastic … small towns like Spencer, my town, grow more attractive. The one-on-one friendly, easy conversations I have here with perfect strangers are so nice! The miles of forest and open space I see through the WRTA Elder Bus window as I make my way to my excellent occupational therapists at my excellent rural hospital, Harrington Hospital, are a visual tonic. The way people interact with my dogs Jett and Lilac is … healthy. Every other person here owns chickens or cats or dogs or horses, so they love animals – including mine! The town library is in a historic Spencer building and staffed by gracious, always helpful and knowledgeable librarians. You can have conversations with them – and not be blown off the way you are sometimes in Worcester. The town high school is slated to be totally renovated after the town’s young parents with their small children got a referendum rolling and got a question on a town ballet and voters went to town hall to vote YES or NO on the renovation question. The young and progressive types out numbered Spencer’s old and cheapskates. These types are dying out and Spencer is beginning to take on a luster all its own. A true renaissance as people rethink their futures, not just clamor for some stupid, trendy, expensive clothing shoppe. It’s more real here. The values feel different, more basic: families, animals, the natural beauty of the natural world, conversations, crafting, cooking … backyard farming. Spencer is also becoming racially and ethnically diverse, without a lot of noise, a lot of crazy meetings at City Hall with the accompanying histrionics and false promises made by politicians – a la Worcester. Spencer, my town now, is the place where I’ve seen more biracial couples than I’ve ever seen in Worcester! Not just the kids or the young but the middle-aged and older. A white guy in his 50s and a Black woman in her 40s walk to their car after a meal at the restaurant downstairs from my apartment. They are holding hands in the Spencer moonlight …

I was all smiles when I first drove into town and saw all the young moms with their kiddos outside my old New Leader newspaper office on Main Street, by the traffic light and one of Spencer’s few busy intersections, waving to me and other motorists – and waving their placards: VOTE YES! VOTE FOR THE IMPROVED HIGH SCHOOL! I smiled at the young moms and waved back and thought: Things have changed here. I have got to go to town hall to register to vote.

And that’s really the good news – young locals with young children, young couples from different cities and towns – with the women (they look like girls to me!) pregnant with their first babes – all embarking on an adventure – their new adult lives in a town that is changing and beginning to support young families, young readers at the library, young students as they ready themselves for college and career. The fancy schmancy amenities may not be here. Yet. But they will be. The old timers, political and otherwise, are dying out. Hopefully, this next generation will shape their town in new better ways. For example: the Worcester Community Action Council is in the middle of counting the town’s homeless to help and support them. The town senior center has a director who is trying new things and offering us old timers more than the same old same old … There’s a yoga class and a writing class and a friendly coffee klatch chat all offered at the library…
And the school department’s official website proudly calls Spencer a Gateway Town and welcomes new students into the fold. The town high school’s parking lot is filled with cars AN HOUR AND TWO AFTER SCHOOL HAS BEEN DISMISSED. Monday through Friday. You see the high school marching band practice playing their instruments and marching in this same school parking lot. You are impressed by the students. You are amazed at their teachers’ commitment. You feel the small town love and cohesiveness – and want to be a part of it.