First, pandemic or no pandemic…wearing o’ the green – including eye shadow, yesterday (a bit late. sorry, Saint Paddy):
VP Biden is Now the Presumptive Democratic Nominee for President
By Jim Coughlin
We still love Bernie!
With former Vice President Joe Biden winning all three of the recent primaries that were held on Tuesday, March 17th in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, it is a fair prediction that he will be the nominee for the Democrats, having already won 1,181 delegates to the 885 for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
A total of 1,991 delegates are needed to clinch the nomination.
After Iowa and New Hampshire, and even before Super Tuesday on March 3rd, there were many political pundits who were writing off Biden’s candidacy and he surprised everyone by winning 10 of 14 primaries that day.
As history tells us, virtually every winner of either the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary has gone on to either win the Democratic nomination and in many cases, the presidency, itself.
However, this year has changed all of that historical precedence as a result of Joe Biden losing and losing badly in the earlier contests, and then coming from behind to win against all the remaining candidates.
Joe Biden is truly the come-from-behind candidate.
It was not until Biden’s impressive win in the South Carolina primary on February 29th that his campaign began to gather both momentum and delegates which prompted both Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, of South Bend, Ind., to end their candidacies and to endorse him. And then Sen. Elizabeth Warren ended her candidacy after finishing third in the Massachusetts primary on March 3rd, behind both Biden and Sanders.
Bernie’s policies are needed! Now!
Sanders has also begun to re-asses his candidacy in the wake of the this past Tuesday’s string of Biden victories which is another example of the inevitability of Biden’s nomination.
This past Sunday, in Washington there was the first one on one debate featuring both Biden and Sanders that largely amounted to a squabble over their differing political philosophies and past political performance, including different votes while serving in either the United States Senate or the House of Representatives on issues such as abortion, gun control, Social Security and others.
But in the end, those roll call votes and public policy differences really did not seem to matter to the voters. They want a nominee who can solve the problems of today, and are not terribly interested in the long-range goal of a “political revolution” that the Sanders candidacy was offering.
They see Biden as being presidential and as the one who is best able to forcibly argue against President Trump on a wide variiety of issues facing the American people, not to mention the issue on everyone’s mind today: the Coronavirus.
They also want someone who can unify the country.
The debate amongst the Democratic candidates has made Biden not only a stronger candidate but also a better debater and that fine-tuning of his candidacy will undoubedly make him a better candidate as he prepares to debate the President in the November election.
THE W.H.O. – THE BEST info on COVID-19! GO TO THEIR WEBSITE TO LEARN MORE …
First: “self-quarantining” or just slowing down your life a bit now that we are beginning our pandemic???!?!?!? Why not cozy up on the futon, sheltered from the virus, with PETA founder and president Ingrid’s new book, ANIMALKIND? – Rose♥️
Myths and Facts About Meat and the Coronavirus
What’s the link between meat and the coronavirus?
As the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) grips the world, more and more people are isolating, quarantining, and wondering just how we got here.
We have long warned about the health risks associated with eating meat. After all, raising animals for food in filthy conditions is a breeding ground for diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
PETA has answers to common questions about the link between eating meat and the coronavirus:
Can I get COVID-19 from eating meat?
The World Health Organization says, “To protect yourself, such as when visiting live animal markets, avoid direct contact with animals and surfaces in contact with animals. Ensure good food safety practices at all times. Handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care to avoid contamination of uncooked foods and avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products.”
For animals, the environment, and your own health, going vegan is your safest bet. Yes, even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
Is it safe to eat meat during the coronavirus outbreak?
You should stay away from animal-derived foods at all times for many reasons!
They include the following:
Cruelty to animals
The meat, egg, and dairy industries’ damage to the planet
The risk of suffering from heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other ailments
The significant risk of contracting foodborne pathogens such as coli and salmonella
The rampant use of antibiotics in animals reared for food around the world, which contributes to the emergence of superbugs and antibiotic resistance in humans
Saint Patrick’s Day is the 17th of March, and we all know St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world’s most popular saints. Along with St. Nicholas and St. Valentine, the religious and non-believers share the love of these three saints. Many legends and stories of St. Patrick exist, and I have written about him in the past. Saint Joseph’s is the 19th, being Jesus’ father and all. Sunday is a combo of Saint John of Parma, who was born in 1209 and died at a whopping 80 years old in those times!
Because he was so smart and was loved by all, he was sent to Paris at the then budding Sorbonne to be further educated; he started teaching logical thinking at 25 years old, then was certified to teach in Bologna, Naples and Rome! No biggie right, can’t drink on his day.
Please note that the day is shared with Saint Martin of Braga, from Pannonia which is now part of Hungary. He built a monastery in Spain! He is also tied to intelligence, but as he born in 520AD, there was room to share the date.
Not a girl either, he was an Irishman noted for his military feats. His father was a king, and when he passed he took over and was quite the warrior. His sister Fanchea, who is also a saint, convinced him to marry. He wasn’t really the marring type, liking fighting and all, but agreed to do so. His sister had promised him a young girl from the Abby that she was the head prioress of. He later found out his fiancée had died and was forced to view her corpse. He swore off marriage seeing his own mortality and went to Rome and became an ordained Catholic priest.
He went back to Ireland and decided to create a monastery on the Isle of Aran around 484 A.D. A barren island at best – the Monks made their own clothing, grew their own vegetables and basically survived off the land and surrounding waters. Sort of like the popular television show “Naked and Afraid.” But these guys stuck together for a long time. He is credited with being the “Patriarch of Irish monasticism.” Ten other abbeys were built as a result. He died in 530 of old age, single and a religious hero.
☘️So a little but more on the Irish trivia, and being the week of Saint Patrick’s Day here is a classic Irish Lenten joke:☘️
A man walks into a pub and says “I’ll have 3 Guinness’ please. The bartender hands them to him and he takes them and drinks them one by one. The next day he goes in and order’s the same thing, and the bartender says “you don’t have to order them at the same time, you can get individual ones and we can bring them to you!” he replies “I’m good, I just moved here and I have two brothers that live in different countries too and we decided that every day at 4 PM we would all have drinks together!” The bartender exclaims “Tis grand! These are on the house for you and your brother’s!”
So weeks and months go by and in February he goes to the bar and orders 2 beers. The bartender feels a lump in his throat and hands them to him, after a couple of days of this he turns to the man and says “These 2 beers are on the house, I am sorry about your loss of a brother.” The man replies “Oh my brothers are fine, I just gave up drinking for Lent!”
😊☘️☘️☘️And with that I give you my favorite Irish Soda bread recipe!☘️☘️😊
☘️IRISH SODA BREAD☘️☘️☘️♥️
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter softened
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup buttermilk
Optional 1 cup Soaked Raisins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and butter.
Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly.
Soak the raisins in warm water for a half hour and drain them and add to the mixture if desired.
Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet.
In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk.
Brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an ‘X’ into the top of the loaf.☘️☘️☘️☘️☘️
He was one of 30 hooded Norway rats in my friend’s experimental psychology project, some of whom would be poisoned in order to dull their considerable learning abilities. After they were put in an “avoidance box” to see how long they took to cross from one chamber to another — more than five seconds and they’d get a shock — they would be killed and dissected and their spleens and gonads weighed.
Why? To try to guess how low levels of mercury affect human learning.
Joe, though, got lucky. My friend didn’t want to torture animals, so she took him home. Like most rats, he was playful and affectionate. He spent the rest of his life with her, living happily ever after.
That was more than 45 years ago.
This year — the Year of the Rat in the Chinese zodiac — millions of these exceptional animals will again be tormented and killed in cruel, curiosity-driven experiments and product tests in laboratories across the country.
As intelligent as they are inquisitive, rats are natural students with superb memories: They never forget a route once they learn it, can recognize their names and respond when called, and communicate with each other by touch, by smell and through high-frequency sounds. Altruistic and empathetic, they become attached to each other and are willing to risk their lives for their families.
They’re good parents, too. Mother rats have been known to dip their paws in cool water then smooth the fur on their babies’ faces, and baby rats put their arms around their mother’s neck while she’s bathing them.
Not only do rats enjoy each other’s company, they’re also loyal companions to their human guardians, returning as much affection as they’re given. They love getting massaged or scratched behind the ears and enjoy cuddling. They even “giggle” when tickled.
Their diminutive size notwithstanding, rats aren’t so different from the dogs and cats who share our homes. Yet, more than 100 million rats and mice are poisoned, maimed and psychologically traumatized every year, many of them in experiments sanctioned by the government and bankrolled by taxpayers.
In a recent test, experimenters cut out parts of rats’ skulls and injected inflammatory compounds into their brains. They were then forced to climb a 3-foot ladder with heavy weights taped to their tails, subjected to a battery of fear-motivated memory tests and finally killed.
In another experiment that is still going on, baby rats only a day old are put in an ice bath until they pass out from the cold, and then their spines are slashed open.
And in the “forced swim test,” rats, mice, hamsters and other small animals are drugged and then dropped into inescapable containers of water. Panicked, they attempt to climb up the sides, dive underwater to try to find a way out, and paddle furiously to keep their heads above water. Eventually, exhausted, they start to float.
That experiment has been going on since at least the 1950s, and like others that use animals, it’s cruel, costly and generally worthless. That’s why compassionate, forward-thinking scientists are replacing such experiments with in vitro testing, computer modeling, human-patient simulators, and other sophisticated, humane methods.
In her new book, Animalkind: Remarkable Discoveries About Animals and Revolutionary New Ways to Show Them Compassion, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk asks, “[G]iven our newfound understanding of all that is animal, how can we treat them in ways that respect their individuality and talents? Or, in other words, how can we conduct our lives happily and efficiently without having to exploit animals?”
Rats aren’t laboratory tools. They’re unique individuals who experience fear and feel pain.
We can conduct our lives just fine by choosing cruelty-free personal-care products and donating to charities that don’t fund experiments on animals. Let’s make the Year of the Rat a lasting celebration by getting them — and all animals — out of laboratories.
Chef Joey gives us so many tasty vegan recipes/options – even Vegan Gumbo. Thanks, Joe Joe!
America just celebrated Black History Month – February. We all remembered, honored and learned, I hope. We all have family recipes, traditions and stories. However, this famous month may not have existed had it not been for Carter G. Woodson: He founded it in 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. In September of that year, Dr. Woodson, who escaped poverty through education and received a doctorate from Harvard and became a trained historian, collaborated with Jesse E. Moorland, a minister who founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). The two men were dedicated to researching and promoting the achievements of Black Americans and other peoples of African descent.
Black history …
Known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the group sponsored a national Negro History Week in 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
The purpose? To get people’s stories and put them to paper and get them into the history books -that they did not exist in! What we Google today, for whatever reason, is a tribute to them!
To think that this movement was so great and well documented, it inspired our schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs and host gatherings and lectures.
Ironically, the NAACP was founded on February 12, 1909, the centennial anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. He was a precurser to the civil right movement and issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The United States was getting into its third year of the Civil War. The Proclamation declared: “… all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be, free.”
Years later, city leaders nationwide began issuing yearly proclamations recognizing “Negro History Week.” And thanks to the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s, a growing awareness of Black identity emerged. Negro History Week became Black History Month on many college campuses. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month, urging citizens to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
I felt the need to share all this because it was so interesting to learn how one person can make a difference!
Worcester, in 2017, re-erected the CITIZENS OF COLOR WORLD WAR II HONOR ROLL monument – honoring our city’s fallen Black soldiers. file pic: Ron O.
So now we get to the heart of my article: Soul Food.
SOUL FOOD. The term started appearing around the same time as the Civil Rights movement. The origins of Soul Food, however, are much older and can be traced back to Africa. Foods such as rice, sorghum, okra and sorghum (a grain used in more than you think, to make molasses even alcohol – it’s the fifth most important cereal group in the world). I’ll share a great recipe using okra that’s versatile and can be vegan!)
These ingredients are all common in West African cuisine and obviously came to the USA because of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
These basic ingredients became a major player in our American South, in general. Ingredients like corn and cassava from the states,turnips from Morocco, and cabbage from Portugal were so influential in the history of African-American cooking!
During slavery in America, some of the indigenous crops of Africa began showing up in this country. Slaves were fed as cheaply as possible, mostly with leftover/waste foods from the plantation, forcing the slaves to survive with what they had. Typically, in slave households, “vegetables” were the tops of turnips, beets and dandelions. Soon, African-American slaves were cooking with new types of “greens”: collards, kale, cress, mustard, and pokeweed. Then incorporating lard, cornmeal, and organ meats – not to mention discarded cuts of meat such as pigs’ feet, oxtail, ham hocks, pig ears, pork jowls, tripe – and even the skin. And by adding everyone’s favorite flavor enhancers like garlic, onions, bay leaves etc, new foods were being created in America.
… The use of organs and small intestines, aka chitterlings. Using sheep intestines dates back in recipes thousands of years before the trans-Atlantic slave trade! Because African-Americans didn’t have access to sheep intestines, chitterlings became the norm.
Some families supplemented their meager diets by gardening in small plots where they were allowed to grow their own vegetables. Many fished and hunted. Critters like raccoons, squirrels, opossum, turtles and rabbits, up into the 1950s, were common dinner items in rural and Southern African-American households.
By rendering the fat many foods were fried, and that still is prevalent in today’s soul or comfort food. My GUMBO recipe is a healthier choice and, by eliminating a few ingredients, it can be a nutritious vegan dish as well.
Here is what you need – I’ll write out the vegan version – and list the “meat eaters” additions at the end. Usually made with Andouille sausage, which originated in Northern France, is made with pork chitterlings, onions, wine and seasonings. And just for another tidbit, the name is Latin and means “made by insertion.”
1 cup flour 1 tbsp cajun seasoning
½ cup cooking oil*
½ tsp thyme
1 cup chopped celery
2 tsp Gumbo filet (found in the Spanish section of grocery store)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 large can of stewed tomatoes
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 large onion finely diced
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp tobasco (OPTIONAL!)
1 tbsp sugar
12 cups water 3 tbsp vegetable base (sub Veggie broth as an option)
2 pounds okra chopped, tops removed (you can use frozen okra – thaw it out first!)
… by mixing over a medium heat – the oil and flour in a heavy pan. Whisk until smooth, stir constantly until it starts to turn brown – this can take 15-25 minutes. Be careful not to burn it!
Take it off the stove and whisk until is stops bubbling.
Take your garlic, onions, celery and peppers and add to the roux. If making a meat version, add the Andouille at this point. Place back on a lower heat and stir until the veggies are tender.
Daughter Gigi helps her Papa Joey cook!
In a separate pan, heat the water and add the bouillon (you can use prepackaged vegetable – about 3 quarts needed instead of water, or beef broth if non-vegan). Bring to a boil, and slowly add the roux to the broth.
Reduce to simmer and add everything else except the gumbo filet, vinegar, Worcestershire and okra.
Simmer about an hour stirring constantly.
While that is cooking in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil, add the okra to the pan and add the vinegar. Cook the okra for 15 minutes and add it to the mixture.
At this point, add the gumbo filet and the Worcestershire sauce. Add crabmeat and shrimp if you are using those ingredients, too.
Simmer for about 45 minutes and just before serving, add another couple teaspoons of the gumbo powder. Salt and pepper to taste!
I am re-posting this CECELIA story by Edith Morgan for the families of Worcester …
– Rose T.
The Food Pantry at Burncoat Senior High School
By Edith Morgan
Fresh veggies are good for kids – and their parents! But low-salt canned veggies, found at all food pantries, also hold nutrients. … Frozen veggies are even healthier!
It seems almost incomprehensible to me that there could be large
numbers of American families
whose members are going hungry,
skipping meals, or unsure where their next meal is coming from – or are filling up on unhealthy but cheap pastas and rice (white, not the whole grain stuff which is more costly). But when I went to Burncoat Senior High School to write about their food pantry (one of several in Worcester), I discovered that even here, in the heart of my neighborhood in the Lincoln-Burncoat area, hunger stalks homes and families.
And so, about five years ago,
the Burncoat Food Pantry was born:
I spoke with Assistant Principal Jean Stone, and a guidance counselor who filled me in about their activities to relieve hunger among some of their students. As a retired school teacher, I know very well how hard it is to learn and concentrate on an empty stomach – and how much energy it takes just to get through the morning till lunch time …
Like most of the food pantries
in Worcester, in churches, neigh-
borhood centers, and other schools,
Burncoat operates during school
hours: as the big sign outside the school’s front entrance says, the pantry is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Nonperishables, like canned
goods and staples, can be donated
during those times and should be
left inside the front door.
Do you make Chef Joey’s easy peasy recipes at home? Healthy – and inexpensive! pic: Chef Joey
While Burncoat has a large percentage of students on free and sub-sidized lunch, about 5% of the student body of around 1,000 is really suffering from hunger. It is these students who came to the attention of staff and counselors, and for whom the pantry was established.
On Fridays, they can select cans and staples to take home, from the rows of donated goods in the pantry. In its first year, the pantry distributed 19 turkeys with all the trimmings; the following year 36 bags were distributed; two years ago there were 50 bags of turkey and other Thanksgiving goodies given out.
Getting donations, doing all the work to keep up this effort, is, according to Mrs. Stone, a coordinated effort, with many generous people pitching in: Each school department is assigned items they are to contribute, and I was told of examples of different ideas being implemented for raising money and donations – and both staff members with whom I spoke repeatedly praised the great generosity of everyone in the community. Assumption College, some
local businesses, neighbors – everyone gives. The Language Honor Society, under Mrs. Friedman, for example, did a food drive; Life Skills students help to organize the donated materials, etc… Cooperation among schools also was mentioned: Before establishing this pantry, Burncoat staff visited South High School, which also has a successful pantry.
I came away from my visit to
Burncoat impressed with the caring
atmosphere and the attention to the
Anyone who lives in the area (or
anywhere around), is welcome to
contribute, or help out. Favorite
items for the year-round needs are:
pasta, rice, beans, soups and the
perennial favorites – PEANUT
BUTTER and JELLY!
As we approach the period of Lent for the year 2020, we often hear people declaring what they are giving up. Or perhaps you fast during this 46 pre-Easter day count down.
Lent always starts on Ash Wednesday. This year it happens to be soon – February 26. Lent lasts for 46 days, 6 of them being Sunday and those are exempt (you can eat treats and such on Sunday)! Fasting helps us remember that Jesus had spent days in the wilderness fasting. We nowadays can reflect while we plan for Easter.
As I said Sundays are exempt from fasting, so it really makes for a 40-day liturgical period. That being said, many people turn to the dreaded “Fish for Friday Dinner” period, or generally abstain from eating something that is a luxury, like chocolate, or giving up the drink. However, Saint Patrick’s Day gives you a “day off for free drinking” – so whoever makes up the rules has say!
Many Lentin dishes, breads and snacks come into play depending on the ethnicity. And that being said, it’s not so bad to take this time to get rid of excess weight and keep a low profile and eat healthier.
I happen to love fish. I made Tahini-style topping the other day because I had a craving – it’s so easy! You just get a jar of Tahini (sesame paste) from the market. With this goodie you can make hummus or Baba ghanoush or shawarma topping – it really is the bomb!
Yum! pics: Chef Joey
For the dinner you need about ¾ cup tahini, thevjuice of 2 lemons, 2 cloves of garlic chopped fine and water. This is dependent on the tahini – some are thicker than others.
You want to mix your ingredients and have it spreadable like mayonnaise – not runny. So between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of water.
Mix it all together.
Then take your fresh fish and top it with the paste and bake – 350 degrees F, for 15 mins or so.
This can be topped with sautéed onions, pine nuts, or you can add some fire to it with tobasco or a chili pepper. Some people add parsley or cilantro. Your options are endless.
Served with a nice fluffy rice and a vegetable, and you have some healthy eats! And the sesame paste is nutrition in itself!
This is not limited to fish. You can modify the mix and use with chicken or even a plant-based meat flavor product. Just adjust your garlic to your liking!
It’s only right that black folks are leading the vegan revolution
By Zachary Toliver
“Vegan — isn’t that a white thing?”
For longer than I care to remember, this was a common response from anyone who learned about my vegan lifestyle. When hearing the word “vegan,” they probably thought up images of hip, white people eating $10 avocado toast with a side of raw kale rather than me, with my natural locks and melanin existence, cooking up jerk tofu with a side of black-eyed peas.
Thankfully, these stereotypes are fading fast. New data about the changing American diet show that it’s folks who look more like me that are ditching meat.
Recent Gallup findings revealed that while 19% of whites reported eating less meat in the past 12 months, 31% of people of color stated that they had reduced their meat intake. Only 5% of nonwhites from the study claimed to have eaten more meat in the previous year. Nonwhite Americans are also three times as likely as white Americans to describe themselves as vegetarian.
I can’t speak to why my brothers and sisters of color outside of the black community have cut back on eating animal flesh. Maybe they’ve seen shocking footage from slaughterhouses, where sensitive animals suffer every single day in dank sheds before their throats are slit. Perhaps they’ve listened to warnings from United Nations scientists who have cautioned that meat consumption must decrease by as much as 90% in order for us to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. After all, there are plenty of reasons to treat fellow sentient beings with respect and dignity and to go vegan.
However, I’m not surprised to see more of my own people going vegan when the same Gallup study found that nine out of 10 people who reduced their meat intake said that they did so because of health reasons.
Black Americans have a lot on the line when it comes to what we eat. According to the American Heart Association, we are disproportionately affected by obesity and more likely to have diabetes than our white counterparts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that African Americans have nearly double the risk of dying early from heart disease or strokes as whites. Study after study links these ailments to eating animal flesh, eggs and dairy.
Living vegan is a revolutionary act for black people. It’s the process by which we decolonize our diet and resist habits that have destroyed our well-being. Numerous vegan staples, like tofu, rice, quinoa and seitan, originated in communities of color. I look forward to a day when “slave food” — things our ancestors had to eat for survival — like chitlins (animal intestines) or hog maw (pig stomach), lard and pigs’ feet are left in the past, where they belong. True soul food is the nourishment that will improve our health and expand our own compassion.
It certainly helps the vegan movement grow in the black community when cultural icons like Jay Z, Beyoncé, most of the Wu-Tang Clan, Ava DuVernay, Jermaine Dupri, Angela Davis and Colin Kaepernick (just to name a few) promote the vegan lifestyle in one way or another. It’s pretty hard to justify white vegan typecasting when Jadakiss and Styles P — some of the hardest hip hop artists ever to do it — run all-vegan juice bars across New York City.
Everyone can join in on the vegan revolution. You’ll save nearly two hundred animals from a horrifying death every year, and your body will thank you. But best of all, if you’re black like me, you’ll also dismantle some unsavory stereotypes.
Boy, with my old neighborhood, Green Island/Kelley Square, being gentrified up the yazoo …
… I am really itchin’ to go and patronize … the old THE MART of Main South! Right now! Even though it went out of business decades ago and is now a neighborhood grocery store. I want to buy things like: Bengay arthritis cream!, ladies polyester underwear briefs (white, medium)!, Vicks Vapo Rub!!, a beige pet mouse and mouse supplies!!, a packet of Sea Monkeys!!!, a pair of flannel pajamas!, a small pot and a big pot!, gold spray paint!, a Kinks lp or, most likely if we’re talkin’ The Mart, a Kinks knock-off lp. And a bag of Baby Ruths!
THE POLAR OPPOSITE of the Canal District boutiques and shoppes that have now moved into my old poor world and would never sell things like suppositories, ladies girdles, Q Tips and “dusters” – those polyester/cotton-blend snap-up house coats you bought for your granny every Christmas. You know, clothing, supplies, items and personal care products that REAL PEOPLE NEEDED AND USE – still need and use! – every day. But the Canal District is a kind of upper-middle-class fantasy land, streets where everything – greeting cards, shoes, sweaters – is in such good taste that no one would ever need to use a suppository! The Mart and the Green Island/Kelley Square stores and shops of my childhood and teen years were gritty reality-based. Driving down my old Green Island streets, once criss crossed by winos, kids, dogs (no leash laws), cops, slumlords, Mrs. White with her 1-foot-high black-dyed bouffant hair do, an old sunbaked window washer/popcorn salesman, drunk hairdressers, Polish immigrant Bapies now feels surreal! Everyone these days is usually female, young, attractive, artfully dressed, middle-class and white! The meals at the eateries are so aryfully arranged – they look like paintings! $90 linen blouses. Locally sourced carrots! $8.50 artisan loaves of bread. Artisan. It’s like passing through a Julia Roberts movie … the ones where she has great gal pals, journals, does yoga, finds her better self.
At the old Mart we all wore pink polyester Mart pants and vests – hot pink. Everything was made in Hong Kong!! Sometimes we farted! Sometimes we Mart shoppers were ahead of the curve and bought Mart shoes that were “vegan” – not made of leather (a cruel industry) but a kind of shiny black heavy vinyl material. My uncle wore his big black shiny Mart shoes (with white cotton ankle socks – also bought at the Mart) to church every Sunday morning. Then he’d drive down to Widoff’s Bakery on Water Street to buy a dozen of bulkies. At Widoff’s many of the workers were also wearing Mart shoes with white ankle socks – reflections of our city’s once modest, hardworking and thrifty working class. A working class that owned or was saving up$$ for their own three deckers!
Everything BOUGHT FOR A SONG at The Mart brought you closer to home ownership! Snatched from one of the scores and scores of Mart sales bins parked smack dab in the middle of the store, contents changing every week. Bin after bin after bin filled with sale items like: navy blue or black knit winter crew hats, dishwashing liquid, facecloths, Kotex pads, writing pads, shelf paper. … Remember shelf paper?! … and the sometimes decorative trim that came with it, self-adhesive tape at the top? If you wanted to, you could use thumb tacks to really secure the trim – thumb tacks also for sale at The Mart. White or red. Lined up in 10 rows, punched in a white notepad sized piece of cardboard.
The Mart! The sprawling downtown/Main South icon bargain store my family used to walk to practically every Saturdat! You walked in the store, just past the Aurora Hotel …
… and let your imagination run wild! You only needed $5 or $10 to buy your treasures. The handwritten sale signs written in red or black magic marker font and plastered all over the store’s utilitarian beige walls pointed you to stuff that was NEW. CHEAP. LAYAWAY AVAILABLE, if you needed it. And I loved it all: board games like TROUBLE, CANDYLAND, CHECKERS or LIFE in their big toy department downstairs, across from the pet section: golden hamsters, white mice, turtles, gold fish, yellow canaries, blue and violet parakeets … all so colorful and lively, beautiful and innocent, chirping, eating, sleeping under those harsh Mart fluorescent lights.
And The Mart ramp – that little stretch of bumpiness you felt as you walked down a kind of grey carpeted ramp down to yet another Mart section, but on the same floor – the first floor. The Mart had just one floor – the first floor. But it was long and winding, making left and right turns. Then there was the basement, home to the toy/pet department. Maybe the lamp section, too.
I remember being in the 7th grade and walking into the lamp department – three aisles of lamps, stacked on shelves that practically reached the ceiling – and picking out a huge white ceramic lamp, its base the shape of an old fashioned country milk bottle – a big rooster painted on it – for my mom. It was her birthday. I bought it for our used living room end table, given to us by my aunt, my mother’s big sister, after her husband, my Uncle Mark, an elementary school principal, bought his wife a brand new matching living room set from O’Coins. The rooster lamp, huge and probably meant for the kitchen, was proudly placed on that two-shelved, glass-water-stained, slightly wobbly maple, hand-me-down end table by my mom. Then we walked into the kitchen where we sang HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU around the candle-lit Duncan Hines Cherry Supreme cake my mother baked for herself a few hours before – knowing that was my favorite cake! Then I shouted – couldn’t help but crow to Ma – “I bought it for you at The Mart, Ma!” We all smiled.
Yesterday, I took my dogs out to the country for a run. Foggy ride up the hills, foggy meadow at the top. I tried to watch my ghost dogs … couldn’t see them. But a shout or two or three from me, and out of the mist … Lilac, front paws outstretched and muddy and snow-covered … still carrying her winter fat, but wanting to RUN REALLY FAST, despite her layer of chub. Jett running, too, wearing his relaxed Husky “smile,” as I shout “HOME, JETT!” He’s in love with me and I him.
Yesterday: fogsville. pic: Rose T.
❄️In my car it is all Elliott Smith all the time these days on my CD player … So, for the ride home, I pop in his first solo CD: “Elliott Smith.” Songs Smith wrote when he was 17, 19. His songs are BRILLIANT. ALL OF THEM. Not a dud in the bunch – and he was prolific! Smith’s songs are wonderfully melodic … my brain unreels, gets cozy, when I listen to them. But his lyrics are brutal, mournful, angry, witty, wry: PURE PUNK. So … yesterday, driving home, down the big hill in New England-winter time, white fog and mist enveloping my jalopy, struggling to follow the disappearing curve in the road, my feelings raw, I HEARD – FOR THE FIRST TIME – his “Southern Belle.”
And I got it.
Got his story – to me: the Southern Belle = his mom (he was born and spent his childhood in Texas). The killer of the Southern Belle = his stepdad. The narrator of the song = Elliott, a youth, the once upon a time little child who was sexually abused, molested, by his step dad. Elliott is adding it all up AND EXPLODING. In his song he nails his step dad’s – a preacher – personality. A screamer who makes others feel like crap. “You give people hell/It’s what they expect from you …” A preacher preachin’ , a sick f**k who ruined the Southern Belle’s (Elliott’s mom) life. Elliott sings: Aren’t you “sorry that you’re the one she got?”
He hates his stepfather for doing secret, terrible things to him – this hypocritical pillar of the community: “How come you’re not ashamed of what you are?” … “I wouldn’t have you how you want”
Elliott doesn’t want to be around his stepdad – he leaves home, runs away, at 14 to move in with his psychiatrist (biological) Dad in Portland, Oregon. “I don’t want to walk around/and breathe the air you breathe” he sings to his step dad. Softly. Enraged. He wonders HOW CAN YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF after what he did to a little kid – him? “How come you’re not ashamed of what you are?” And for wrecking his mom’s life: “and sorry that you’re the one she got.”
The sick secrets of a child molester, Elliott nails them: “Aint nobody looking now. Nobody about to shout …” Seeing “red” – the community doesn’t see red, the alarms don’t go off. The predator’s a phony and his prey are quiet, helpless children.
In the song, only when I play the CD in my car CD player, can you really hear Smith’s devastation – which, I believe, he never overcame, stabbing himself twice in the heart at 34 and killing himself. …
… “But I wouldn’t have you how you want,”(me to be) Elliott sings angrily but with such intimacy. YOU MADE ME YOUR VICTIM – I WON’T BE YOUR VICTIM! And he isn’t when he’s singing and writing and performing to show, figure out and transcend his pain. Even for only a song. … You hear: Elliott shredding his guitar strings – this sounds, on his acoustic guitar, positively percussive! Loud without the volume! … Shaken, struggling to drive thru the fog, I had to pull into someone’s driveway yesterday to regroup and whisper … WOW.