Category Archives: Green Island Grrrl

Face the Changes

By Rosalie Tirella

Can you believe it? The only person to enter our SPIN THE GREEN ISLAND contest and answer all but two questions correctly – adding even more names, more dates to the neighborhood lore – is LORR-AINE LAURIE, the “Mayor of Green Island.” Miss Laurie – who wrote a little history on the old neighborhood as an undergrad at Anna Maria College – not only knew who the manager of the old Supreme Market was (Bill) – she told us Sid owned the Millbury Street hotspot. Lorraine wins the $100 cash grand prize.

20210711_120930
Lorraine, left, holding her favorite newspaper. photo: R.T.

Speaking of hot spots, that’s what my old neighborhood has become: the city’s entertainment hotspot. Worcester’s party mecca. Fun, fun, fun. I drove through the re-branded “Canal District” last night and realized, with a wince, that the branding took: there were THOUSANDS of people drinking, eating, congregating (Delta COVID breeding ground here we come!) in the bars and pubs, attending the Woo Sox game. Hundreds and hundreds of vehicles stashed in over-priced parking lots and jammed into every square inch of street. Everyone was white and had money – except for the homeless people camped out around St. John’s Church, sleeping in sleeping bags in nooks outside the rectory. I saw two Black people – one was a homeless guy sleeping on the concrete outside of St. John’s – and zero Latinos, unless you count the folks working at the restaurants. Back of the house.

I drove through my old stamping grounds last night, dumbfounded. Befuddled. Bummed out. It was a different world from the racially, ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood of my childhood and teen years. All the working-class grit was gone. All the paint stores and fabric shops and kids shoe stores and Catholic school nuns – poof! Evaporated! Not a trace of them and their quirky world views – and pain. And happiness. I saw how definitively Allen Fletcher and his gentrifiers had won – and how badly Lorraine Laurie and I had lost.

No, Lorraine, the neighborhood will never get a supermarket! No, Lorraine, we’ll never get a CVS or Walgreens – a real drugstore where people can by shampoo on sale or get their prescriptions filled. And no, Lorraine, we’ll never get a fully manned, operational bank branch like the old Mechanics Bank on Millbury Street of the 1960s and ’70s, with its polite and professional tellers who gave us kids lollipops when we went with Ma every Friday so she could cash her check from the dry cleaners. Once – long after the bank branch had closed – my sweet and very poor mother had to cash a big check: that big crook GOLEMO, owner of the dumpy mouse-infested Golemo’s Market on Millbury Street, charged her SEVENTY DOLLARS!

So Fletcher and his ilk failed us. I knew they would. You were naive, Lorraine. Duped by their charming manners and endless pointless meetings with dessert and finger foods and hot coffee in cool cafes. You thought you were being heard but your voice was being muffled. You were being hustled by hyper-educated, well spoken millionaire HUSTLERS. So the poor will continue to go unheard and be exploited in our old neighborhood, Lorraine.

Congrats on your $100 prize.

Chris in Rose’s space: On our 20th anniversary🎁🎈🎂🎉🍰

By Chris Horton

Saks-protest-2
InCity Times: 20 years ahead of the curve: now everyone is open to veganism and animal rights.

IMG_20180812_144505
Go, CECELIA, go!!!! CECELIA file photos

Twenty years ago the Telegram and Gazette, despite being stiflingly timid and conservative, was a real newspaper with a substantial team of reporters who would go out and get such news as the editors would allow and get it into print before deadline. Worcester Magazine, an independent and perky, free entertainment weekly, added another dimension, but it was not a voice for Worcester’s regular working people.

Enter Rosalie’s free-wheeling, no-holds-barred InCity Times, or ICT, publishing every two weeks, giving a voice to regular people, and printing the stories the Telegram and WoMag disdained. If you had a story that needed telling – about foreclosures or the workings of city or state government offices or the back-room deals that the T&G or WoMag would only report in prettified form too late to do anything – Rosalie would welcome your writing it and would very likely print it.

Stacks of ICT would stand by the door at restaurants like the Pickle Barrel, the late great Goldstar or the Broadway, and people would pick them up and read them over breakfast. Then they would talk about them! I would have articles in InCity Times and people I didn’t know would stop me to talk about them. ICT was part of the ferment that kept the seeds of democracy alive in our city, “far beneath the driven snows.”

Fast forward to today. The Telegram, then owned by the New York Times, has passed through various hands and is now owned by Gannett, which owns hundreds of newspapers around the country. The Telegram has fired most of its reporters and columnists, so that it routinely misses big stories, and replaced them with canned features. Its news coverage has a formulaic quality, and its daily circulation has plunged from over 100,000 to around 20,000. Gannett also owns Worcester Magazine, which is doing somewhat better but is not an independent voice. InCity Times, rebranded as CECELIA, has gone monthly and is no longer able to catch the news cycle, but it’s still feisty and fiercely independent.

For example, where the Telegram and WoMag basically were cheerleaders for the WooSox Stadium project, CECELIA was a thorn in its side, raising the hard questions about how it was going to pay for itself, what Worcester was losing by pumping tens of millions of dollars into it, and the destruction it was causing to Rosalie’s old Green Island neighborhood. When the Telegram was busy ignoring, misrepresenting or making excuses for the Worcester Police Department after their disgraceful ambushing, beating up and arresting a group of Black Lives Matter protesters, CECELIA gave the victims of the police attack a forum to tell their own story!

Does this matter? We all get most of our news online now, right? And there’s lots of alternatives now – including Rosalie’s incitytimesworcester.org … With all that variety why would anyone still want a paper product?

Well, for one thing, a surprising number of people I know don’t have easy access to the Internet, and others don’t have time to go looking. For another, online news is competing with millions of other sites and doesn’t direct people’s attention to what’s important locally.

And then, a real paper journal is a forum where many voices get expressed, that passes into many people’s hands in public, and people see each other reading it, which stimulates discussion. It gets passed to a friend or will sit in a corner and be there when you think of something you saw that you want to share. It helps make us a community, in a way that the online sites never can!

So here’s wishing Cecelia another 20 years!

IMG_20181009_134903~2
Margaret – a loyal ICT/CECELIA reader! “Thank You!” to all the dedicated followers of our dedicated columnists/writers!

Togetherness

A month ago I wrote our 20th anniversary column; so let’s not waste time … let’s dive into a new column!

TOGETHERNESS

By Rosalie Tirella

IMG_20170928_111626
Ma

20200620_084309
Daddy holding Rose’s two kid sisters

When I was a little girl growing up in Green Island we were very poor, and my father, “Daddy,” was tough and abusive. So going to the other side of town to visit my Uncle Mark, the elementary school principal, and his wife, my mom’s sister, Mary – Aunt Mary to me – in their adorable cottage with huge backyard and our three fun kid cousins was like applying a cool, soothing balm to our raw and crushed spirits: my mom’s, my two younger sisters’ and mine. Daddy never went on any of these family jaunts – in fact, that’s when he stuck around around the flat. He’d have our apartment all to himself to make his cryptic phone calls in Italian … and then leave promptly on our return!

Meanwhile, Uncle Mark would pick us up in his long gold Elektra, always happy and full of corny jokes for us kids and, decades later, when I look back, a real sensitivity to my mom and her plight. My Aunt Mary was a classic 1950s Eisenhower stay-at-home wife and had “the life” (I thought): she never worked at a job outside the house, stayed put in their adorable little home and cleaned, cooked and baked and planted flowers in the garden for her family. For their delight. To their delight. She was chubby and had rosy cheeks and gave the best hugs. She always smelled like Widoff’s unseeded rye bread – lightly toasted and buttered! In the afternoons she’d watch LET’S MAKE A DEAL on TV and pine for the newest models of all the refrigerators and stoves and living room sets behind all those big wrapped boxes/stage sets that game show host Monty Hall showcased with such flair. You had to have a really funny costume for Monty to pick you – but you could furnish your own Eisenhower little house if you won big.

Travel 20 or so miles down Worcester’s battered streets and there was Ma toiling away at the dry cleaners on Millbury Street for minimum wage, then walking home to Lafayette Street in rain sleet or snow to do the mommy things for her three girls like cook supper, set out new clean clothes for the next school day, throw our dirty clothes into the old pink wicker laundry basket and care for her aging and high maintenance Polish immigrant mother Bapy who lived with us and was feisty, opinionated, loathed my father, fed my pet hamster Joy birthday cake and liked to think she ran the show. Which she did. In Polish.

Uncle Mark was an ex-college football player from Fordham and almost went pro – he was talking and thick – built like a brick outhouse with his square shoulders that were so wide they filled our Green Island doorway. He was there for my mom to drive us all for our pediatrician appointments…if they bought a new coffee table, we got their old one …During their cookouts Mom always got the second hamburger off the round domed BBQ – after Aunt Mary’s got her burger first.

But once in awhile we were reminded of our secondhandedness at Aunt Mary’s. By our beloved Uncle Mark. After a successful cookout or after a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner with all of us around him, he’d stride over to Aunt Mary throw his thick beefy arms around her fleshy put pretty shoulder and shout: TOGETHERNESS! For the whole world to hear, it seemed to me. This made Ma and me …uncomfortable. My father NEVER did that – would do that – to Ma. Drape his arms around and shout to the heavens: TOGETHERNESS! It was the opposite! AWAY-NESS! … I could see my pretty mother, in her late 30s, and still pretty look away, grow serious. It was as if Uncle Mark was bragging … and had forgotten that my mom was …alone.

Fast forward four or five decades: I am in trouble. My late mom, Cecelia, her ashes in her urn – a blue biscotti jar I bought at the old Building 19 – has been rolling around in the trunk of my car for two months. I do not have the heart to stick her in storage – nor do (did) I think to reach out to anyone for advice about the matter.

Until one day. I had been on the road, delivering the new issue of CECELIA, when, with all the new newspapers in the trunk, all the riding on all our bumpy Worcester roads …the lid came off mom’s urn and her ashes – dark, granular, heavy – spilled out onto CECELIA the newspaper! And in my car trunk! THIS FREAKED ME OUT. I was repelled by the sight, devastated by the situation my late mom was in …I was showing no respect for the dead who must lie in peace – not all over Worcester County.

I did what any Catholic who had not been to church in 40 years did: drove to the Chancery, the primo headquarters of the Catholic Diocese in Worcester, circled the big Elm Street parking lot and when a fat little priest came out the door, cheerful, ruddy-complexioned ran to him with my mother in her urn and said: “FATHER! PLEASE HELP ME! THIS IS MY MOM. I CAN’T HAVE HER IN MY TRUNK! PLEASE GIVE THIS TO FATHER REIDY. HE AND SHE WERE FRIENDS. Maybe he can hold her until I get settled …on a book shelf …

The fat little priest looked down at the blue biscotti jar I had shoved into his arms and reading my business card I had tucked into its lid, said: “Cecelia.” Then he smiled at me. Yes, he said, he’d deliver Ma to Father Reidy, an important vicar …

“Thank you, Father!” I said and drove away, flustered but grateful.

The next day I got a phone call from Father Reidy. He left me two voice-mails. He sounded stern and …adamant even though he’s slightly built and has a quiet, gentle voice. … “Rosalie, it’s Father Reidy. Please call me.”

I did not. I was afraid to. I knew I had done something…unconventional and desperate. Father Reidy called the next day:”Rosalie, it’s Father Reidy. PLEASE CALL ME.”

As Catholic…I knew the Catholic church …how stern and unforgiving priests could be. How annoyed the nuns could get if you answered the question wrong during CCD class on Monday nights. That’s why I left the church. Yiu were never good enough. I knew I had to call the Padre. I knew he’d make me feel bad. Guilt-ridden!!! But I steeled myself against all the mean things I thought Father Reidy would say to me and called him about a week later:

Hi, Father, it’s Rose. …

To make a long story short: Father Reidy was so nice! Didn’t scold. Understood. And honored my late mother: Ma is being interred with DADDY!!! at St. John’s Cemetery on Cambridge Street. She’ll be given, with me there, a proper Catholic burial. She will rest peacefully – for the first time ever – next to Daddy in a beautiful, tree-filled space, green and lush…a little urban forest dotted with gravestones. Nature. Flowers. A place where my sisters can visit her. A place where I can plant pretty pink flowers.

I don’t know exactly where in St . John’s Daddy is buried. I brought a huge Jesus statue for his grave two years ago – but couldn’t find him. So I dumped the statue at some old Irish guy’s tomb…and wrote about my illusive father. Again.

But Father Reidy said he’d help me find the grave site…and I could plant flowers and have a place to visit both my parents.

Ma and Daddy, together! TOGETHERNESS.

How strange …

Movie Review: PSYCHO!!

By Rosalie Tirella

20210627_204344
Norman Bates

These past few months have been wicked macabre. Yeah, we’re talking my personal life, but today we’re also talking about the ALFRED HITCHCOCK MOVIE MARATHON ON TCM. MARNIE. THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY. THE BIRDS. DIAL M FOR MURDER. REAR WINDOW. 24 consecutive Hitchcock movies! Heaven. I love Hitchcock! Every frame of every film. Like with Orson Welles, a Hitchcock film can be muted – you can turn the sound off for the entire film – and still get the plot, characters…the feelings. Always real. Always human with “Hitch.”

Hitchcock was a director with obsessions: beautiful, cool, willowy blondes … Catholicism and Catholic
guilt, thanks to his Jesuit upbringing and schooling. … I have watched most of his movies … since I was in my early 20s I’ve seen them at college Halloween film festivals and on teeny smart phone screens. No matter the screen size – they pull you in. This weekend I feasted on three of my favorite HITCHCOCK films: North by Northwest, Vertigo and now: PSYCHO. Cary Grant in NOTORIOUS is my #1 guy in my absolute ideal HITCHCOCK flick, but North by Northwest (also starring Grant) is a close #2. VERTIGO is a sexy gorgeous tale of a man making a woman in his image of her. Twice. Love, lust…the feelings are complexly portrayed in these films thanks to Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. But PSYCHO, based on a true story, is a great horror movie. Seeing it for the first time, a Pycho virgin, …ah to be young again! But once you see the film and know its ending, it’s still great entertainment. A lot of fun to re-watch.

Anthony Perkins is the conflicted wounded trapped Norman Bates. Janet Leigh is the gal he desires – slashed to smithereens in his creaky old motel’s shower – pretty early in the film but it’s not a premature thing. For the next half of the film you are riveted by the riveting Anthony Perkins as innkeeper/ bird taxidermist Norman Bates. The last guy on the planet who should be in the hospitality biz. He’s as frozen in time and space as the dead displayed specimens in his motel sitting room. You don’t give a hoot about the other characters, but you become obsessed with the boyish scary charm of Norman Bates…his gentle, wounded ways attract …

The film opens in a seedy motel. Janet Leigh as Marion Crane is on her lunch break and in bed with her married lover. She wants him to break free from his wife, and so does he. It’s all a bit too tawdry and gets tawdrier when she’s sent by her boss to the bank to deposit a ton of company money and decides to keep the cash, ditch her vehicle for another and then drive away with the $40,000 so she and her boyfriend can live happily ever after.

But as Marion drives through “slashing” rain she has second thoughts …decides to turn back and return the money in the morning. She’ll spend the night at the Bates Motel and deposit the money in the bank and pretend nothing weird happened. At the motel – all cabins empty because the highway didn’t come through – Norman greets her in his folksy corduroy suit jacket and gives her room #1 – the one with the peep hole so he can watch Marion undress. Then he offers her sandwiches and milk – with him. Why should she drive to the diner in the rain for supper?

20210627_204338
Marion Crane

Right away there’s a fight between Norman and his Mother when he walks up to the house to get the milk and sandwiches. Mother starts screaming, tells her son Marion is a slut – GET RID OF HER.

Norman brings the tray with sandwiches and they sup in the back parlor with all Norman’s stuffed birds. He tells Marion: “I bet you never had a dull moment.” Then as if guilty: “A boy’s best friend is his mother.”
Norman seems unhappy. He tells Marion: “We’re all in our private traps and none of us can get out. We claw … but we’re trapped. … but I’m used to it.”

Then this classic line: “A son is a poor substitute for a lover.”

By now Marion is a little creeped out…begs off…must retire…she needs to get up so so soooo early. …
She leaves Norman to his stuffed owls and blackbirds and own haunted, maladjusted mind. In her room, Marion removes her slip and bra and gets into her silk robe to shower. Norman sees all this through the peephole and becomes agitated. Hitchcock homes in on the ogling eyeball twitching excitedly. Turned on? Agitated?? Tall and angular the good-looking Perkins sits at the little table chewing his gum determinedly. Trapped.

Marion gets into the tub naked, turns on the shower faucet, adjust the water temp …and showers. Not for long. A tall lanky figure, a lady, buxom, her hair pinned up in a bun, enters the bathroom with a huge turkey carving knife, rips open the plastic shower curtain and mechanically stabs stabs and slashes away at Marion….The film is in black and white. No lurid red blood or blue veiny guts spurting everywhere….just the gurgling circular flow of a grey riverlet her blood of going down the tub drain. The smudge the blood makes on the shower tiles as the stunned Leigh slides down down into the tub …her head against the tiles. She is still beautiful. Her face unscathed. Her lovely eyes open and upturned eyelashes layered with mascara – which has not run. Which unlike her blood did not even trickle down. Hitchcock was amazing – everything ghoulish and terrible about this slaying. …you are rattled! But it is all so artfully staged, our heroine still so beautiful, pristine almost. But “dead as a door nail.”

20210627_205212
Ohhhh!

Norman is freaked out. Mops up the blood in his terry cloth bedroom slippers, wraps Marion ever so delicately in the see-thru plastic shower curtain, drags her corpse across the floor and places her into the trunk of his car …and rolls the car into the bottom of a swamp.

20210627_205721
Clean-up time

Marion Crane is missing – so is the $40,000 she took from work. Martin Balsam is the detective on the case: he’s very 1950s to Perkins’ 1960s sensibility. You can see Hitchcock straddle both styles … Norman answers the questions – but he’s a wreck. The detective wants to look at, check out, all 12 motel cabins. The detective intimates that Norman might be being used by a pretty thief. Norman explodes. “She might have fooled me, but she didn’t fool my mother!” he says. His jaw is strained with tension. Hitchcock shows it from underneath, all in shadows. Detective Abernathy decides to call on Mama Bates at the main house, but she stabs him to death too, as he climbs the stairs to her bedroom, her little bun firmly affixed to her bony head …

The great Vera Miles – Leigh’s sister in the movie – goes to the sheriff with Marion’s lover, Sam. He sets them straight: Norman’s mother’s been dead for 10 year’s. Norman’s a hermit. He’s chewing gum…waiting for the other shoe to drop. He goes up to her room and tells his Ma: I’m carrying you to the dark, dank fruit cellar.

You see him carrying an old lady down the stairs. I won’t give away the ending, just in case you haven’t seen the film. But it’s a doozy of a denouement.

Crompton Park

By Rosalie Tirella

Crompton Park Skatepark is gonna be built. Watch the video, below. Wowza. Big plans augmenting what’s already there: the park’s new basketball courts look great. The new playground looks wonderful. The swimming pool, relatively new, built on former City Manager Mike O’Brien’s watch, is still fantastic. All these amenities for the families of Green Island! Impressive!

I grew up in the neighborhood decades ago and remember swimming in the humble “mud hole” at Crompton and sledding down the nondescript little hill by the Harding Street side of the park with our English setter Belle. Both features gone to make way for better and more better. Still, I had a ton of fun and have wonderful memories of my neighborhood park. Those many afternoons spent at Crompton added sparkle to my impoverished childhood. And by impoverished I mean financially – never spiritually. I had my mom Cecelia and my Polish Bapy waiting for me on Lafayette Street!

20200925_114338_HDR
Rose and her two kid sisters at Rocky Point – a bit more fun than Crompton!!

Sadly, there were lots more people at Crompton Park when I was a kid and it was just another ol’ city park. Rough around the edges. No bells and whistles. Yeah, we were the Baby Boom generation – Green Island kids and their dogs traveled in packs back then, the old three deckers bursting at the seams with us all … but it seems to me people just got out more and really enjoyed sharing public spaces. There was no razzle or dazzle or state of the art anything. You made your own razzle. Endeavored to dazzle the cute boy in your 6th grade class – Mr. Chickarian’s class – at Lamartine Street School by your wit and charm …and for some girls and boys …fisticuffs.

IMG_20171231_145507
Belle❤

Today … Despite the City’s efforts to uplift and beautify, two teens were shot recently at Crompton Park. About 10 years ago, our city’s senseless youth killings began at Crompton: A teen was shot dead in the middle of the park in the middle of the afternoon. Yellow tape was stretched out over the murder scene by the police. I remember driving by my old park, staring at that yellow crime tape, horrified. Now it all feels routine.

Will a brandy new skate-park save us?

I certainly hope so!

https://youtu.be/y6JT4X346yE

Movie review …

SHALL WE DANCE

By Rosalie Tirella

20210606_080504
Fred Astaire

20210606_080312
👣👣👣

When the going gets rough, I’ll always have Jett and Lilac … and Fred Astarie and Ginger Rogers. Now watching the black and white classic SHALL WE DANCE, dancing courtesy of Ginger and Fred, music a gift from the Girshwin Brothers. Astaire singing THEY CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME to Ginger – so heartbreakingly beautiful. … Astaire was no Sinatra – he could carry a tune the way your favorite uncle might – but he’s effective. And his face – kinda homely, definitely goofy … feels American. Wouldn’t it be too too much – too perfect – if Astaire looked like Cary Grant AND danced like a god? We’d all jump ship! … Astaire never liked his hands – complained that his hands were way too big for the dance, which is why there are all these hand flourishes worked into his dance numbers. Fred’s trying to hide his big old inelegant hands. I love them …

20210606_082126
All that jazz …

The plot is thin as broth – the flimsiest excuse for all those gorgeous dance scenes. Our stars are on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean during the Great Depression. Fred’s a ballet dancer who yearns to tap dance, but that’s scandalous: tap dancing and jazz belong to the Black world. The swinging Black jazz band that Fred hooks up with to dance free and unfettered toils in the art deco bowels of the cruise ship … Dance company owner Jerry berates Fred, his primo ballerino, for wanting to ditch ballet to “shimmy.” No matter. Fred and Ginger may be awash in tuxedos and top hats; spanking, spangled evening gowns; scintillating repartee … white phones, white baby grands and white supremacy, but they are Yanks on the move – dancing to jazz, ditching (almost) the Russian ballet of the upper classes for tap dancing and a new kind of American swing – music for the masses. And they fall in love. Ginger rebuffs Fred at first, but he’s cute and pushy …AND HE’S A DREAM TO DANCE WITH ON THE BALLROOM FLOOR …

Love the scene where all the rich people are walking their pooches on the deck, and Fred rents a Great Dane to bump into Ginger as she walks her teeny bichon mix. Fred’s cheeky style … a hustler in top hat … he aspires to Ginger – who’s pretty but not beautiful the way the WASP-y Katharine Hepburn was – the girl you’d see behind the notions counter at Woolworths – wins the day.

20210606_083056_1
Puppy love …

20210606_083156

And this bon bon of a movie ends in another lavish dance … as another American turns the street corner and enters another Hooverville …

20210606_082216
💃🇺🇸💃

The losing game …

By Rosalie Tirella

This Memorial Day I’m wistful for my loved ones who’ve died. The older you get, the more loved ones you lose! A sad fact of aging you’re never told about in the ladies beauty magazines, during the Botox commercials on TV or in the WARNINGS printed on the millions and millions of tubes and small bottles (all so beautifully packaged!) of anti-wrinkle creams and serums you buy. You’re in your 40s and surrounded by your crazy posse – all that love!!! – and you think it’ll last forever. So you home in on what the media tricks you into believing about aging: saggy breasts and jowls, crows feet above your eyes, lines across your forehead and down your cheeks. Aging means age spots on your face and hands, the commercials tell us! OH, NO!!!! WE CAN LIGHTEN, ERASE … FIX IT ALL FOR YOU!

The advertisers never tell you aging means losing your posse! One by one, sometimes in clusters, THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE YOU FEEL ALIVE – YOUNG! These losses will make you feel like a jaded and tired survivor. A warrior whose steed’s gone awol. OLD. And all the tubs of cold cream in CVS, or even MACY’S, won’t smoothen away the wrinkles on your heart.

20210531_121110
Nope. pics: R.T.

You’re not “gone” (yet!) but a big chunk of you is! The nurturing side of you (Ma), the salty/punky side of you (Tony Hmura), the fearless side of you (Auntie Mae), the wild child in you (Bapy). Especially today it feels lonely out here in the universe, looking into the stars at night and wishing on them, missing my late mother’s gravelly, sexy voice and veiny hands. Tony Hmura’s short stature and little hitch in his walk, left side. My little Polish tough! Auntie Mae’s LOVE YA! LOVE YA, Rosalie! and her big hug and sloppy, jowly smooch before and after each encounter – from childhood right through to my late 40s. My Auntie was the only girl in her family who learned to drive and owned a car – a long brown Elektra, black hardtop. She drove her big, bada*s car right foot on the gas pedal, left foot on the brake pedal. A sight to behold!

20210531_095802
Rose’s Mom (left) and Polish immigrant grandmother, Bapy, World War II.

Here I am, in the infinitely dark and mysterious universe, in old
Worcester, without all that love, all my great people. Now they’re stowaways in my heart! Forever! Strong-willed immigrant voices who taught me, entertained me, inspired me. Daily. Their personalities and values embedded in the mundane stuff: talking on the telephone with Auntie; sitting at Bapy’s feet when I was a little girl, watching Ma braid her long, fine silver hair in our Green Island kitchen; popping over at Ma’s for a cup of coffee and “sweet”; meeting Tony at Breen’s Cafe on Cambridge Street for a bowl of cheap but excellent home-made soup.

20210531_095901
Tony Hmura at a birthday party.

20210531_095704
Tony as Leader Sign’s Polish Santa: on Canterbury Street loading up his “sleigh” with Christmas toys for kids at a local elementary school.

Missing Tony Hmura, my World War II vet/ace gunner and his old bomber jacket – the one with his WW II plane painted on the back. He wore it fall, winter, spring and even summer. It grew smelly of Tony’s b.o. – miss that smell! I picked up some fake posies for my old friend’s grave site at Notre Dame Cemetery …

20210531_095909
🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺

… but never got around to sticking them in the grass by his humongous, big, gold-lettered, front-row head-stone. All his egotistical choice! Tony had picked out the massive stone and designed its engraving (his World War II fighter plane with him in it, poking his head and machine gun out its rear window). Tony chose his gravesite (first row, right in front, practically on Webster Street!) He chose where his gravestone was to be erected and its in-your-face font: HMURA painted big and bold and with real gold leaf. Old Tony – full of himself even in death! He showed the gravestone and site – all ready for his little corpse – to me when he was alive, five or so years before he died. Standing with him at that grassy spot, sun shining on us, I listened as Tony bragged that he paid thousands of dollars for the whole package and that everyone who drove by into Auburn could see it. He asked me to write a column on him and his gravestone. He wanted me to take a photo of him standing next to his big monument to himself. I said: NO, TONY! THIS IS TOO MORBID! LET’S GO TO BREENS! I didn’t understand that to Tony, my old sign maker (Leader Signs, Canterbury Street), his tombstone – designed by him – was the last cool “sign” he’d make!

Miss you, Tony! Love you, Ma, Bapy and Auntie!
IMG_20180304_110521
Rose’s favorite aunt, on the roof of The Block, Bigelow Street, Green Island, many years ago …

20 YEARS!

By Rosalie Tirella

20200626_170310
Rose’s Lilac helping deliver CECELIA. File photos: R.T.

20 years of CECELIA/INCITYTIMESWORCESTER.ORG/INCITY TIMES. Wowza. Our 20th anniversary issue comes out first week in July. I remember issue #1 of InCity Times: ace art director Nancy (Davis) Crockett, stellar printer Boston Phoenix-owned Mass Web Printers, photo lab: the CVS photo dept, Webster Square; the first cover story written by me on the Green Island/Kelley Square businesses I loved. Now gone. … I especially miss Green Street Market and owners Charlie and Izzie Golub who were so sweet and fun to visit. Prifti’s Candies was a gem, too. The old Worcester: chit chat, neighborhood and political gossip, a free sub or candy, along with advice. You spent a half hour soaking up urban eccentricity. You learned to be true to yourself. You heard the immigrant success stories – and the horror stories. … A slower time. No one seemed as obsessed with money and stuff the way people are now. It was: WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY??? WHAT DO YOU THINK???

1621524898233_IMG_20170920_130542
CECELIA fans!

A few issues later Jack Hoffman jumped into the fray and became our p. 4 columnist for several years. We took photos on old school cameras, websites weren’t around, social media was for kids inside Harvard Yard. PEOPLE READ NEWSPAPERS! You saw your competition at the mini mart down the block – a handful of rags. All locally owned and run. Not a million FB pages and Instagram posts to contend with. Real stories written by real people, Worcester reporters with deep roots in Worcester County. And, yes, sometimes we sounded provincial, but that’s because we were head over heels in love with our gritty ol’ city.

InCity Times was 10 to 15 years ahead of the curve on: veganism, circus animal rights, banning circuses from the city, the evils of factory farming, cruelty-free clothing and accessories/shoes, hiring minority teachers in the WPS, keeping our city pools open, embracing our transgender brothers and sisters … People laughed at us. We held firm. We knew we had staked out high moral ground: God’s territory. Today, we feel the same about the necessary transfiguration of Worcester’s abusive/racist police force and our city’s inequitable public schools led by a school commitee with NO district representation: THINGS NEED TO CHANGE. 20 years and the city’s power structure still hasn’t shifted much let alone toppled over: the Timmy Murray brigade is still the fattest hog at the municipal trough – giving each other and their pals/family members the best jobs, the best deals, the most treasure – all way low below the radar. All done with a sunny smile. Because they think we’re stupid.

We’re not.

This past year was a brutal year. The global pandemic, George Floyd murder, cop brutality, BLM, the storming of our Capitol, the vitriolic Trump and his lies … And the ineffectual city council and city manager of Worcester – all oblivious. I give the City an A on COVID but a D on most other fronts. The SEISMIC AMERICAN CHANGES … A ONCE IN A CENTURY CHANCE TO TRANSFORM OUR COUNTRY, OUR CITY. DEMOCRACY FOR ALL. … Instead our Worcester cops still bully and kill, our city manager placates us with eloquent speeches but does crap. City Manager Ed Augustus and the Worcester City Council still enable abusive cops, perpetuate a racist public school system…gladly give the green light to a two-tier city – the Canal District gentrification yahoos vs the struggling, straggling blue collar neighborhoods where half the city lives. Most people pretty poor. If our mayor lived for a month on Ward Street, Blackstone River Road or Canterbury Street he’d see the poverty and the ignorance that Donald Trump tapped into and exploited. Roughly half the country is on Trump’s side! But that’s ok with Worcester leaders: we have a shiny new baseball stadium and Kelley Square is a peanut.

🇺🇸⚾🍺Play ball!!⚾⚾⚾

By Rosalie Tirella

Photos. Taken today, a few hours before “the opening game” at Woo Sox-ville. The Canal District. The up and comers have up and come: Can you say “gentrification”?

20210511_122544

20210511_122630

This is all very nice, but I’m wistful for what’s lost, forgotten, buried and dead. I adored the old Green Island/Kelley Square – my old neighborhood and my mom’s and my Polish immigrant grandmother’s (Bapy), too.

Here are some old Kelley Square/Green Island photos: unpretentious, steeped in aspirations, immigrant dreams, the dreams of Polish dyers, Russian cobblers, Armenian dry cleaners, Irish mechanics, Italian furniture movers, Jewish tailors and deli owners … My grandfather raised rabbits on his Lafayette Street back porch for food. My Baby cooked them in her stew in big pots on her black cast iron stove. My late mother remembered going to the outdoor markets on Water Street with Jaju, my granddad from Poland, when she was a little girl to buy vegetables and treats and to watch the little chained monkeys dance for pennies at the market. Some of them were trained by their owners to turn around and around to show you their little butts; they’d slap their protruded back ends as if to say KISS MY A*S! KISS MY A*S! My Jaju got a big kick out of those poor bawdy little monkeys.

IMG_20190322_144138435_HDR
❤photos: Rose T.

🇺🇸Then – back then – would have been the perfect time for a ball park. Built in a real immigrant neighborhood where “Play ball!!” meant “Be an American!!” You were a foreigner in a strange land, but if you learned baseball, you were all right, you were getting there, learning how to be an American: fast, smart, willing to take a chance and “steal” a base. You worked on a team, but you could be a shining, one-in-a-million star, too. And doesn’t everybody want to go HOME and be cheered for doing just that?

IMG_20190511_111439457_HDR

Didn’t great baseball stadiums get built on immigrant soil in the early 20th century, in the slums, one even built on what everyone called “Pigs’ Field” because pigs were raised there and it smelled of their sh*t? Didn’t baseball mean gritty, cheap, elegant and crooked, rounded out by little kids’ dreams and Babe Ruth’s big cigars and hookers?

IMG_20180304_110448_1
Ma in Springfield, at the Bishop’s house. She and her sisters talked the Bishop into buying them two Dobies. Here’s Ma with the beautiful “Rocky.”

My late mom, CECELIA, loved the Bambino, Ted Williams and Joltin’ Joe – she loved the great Popi, too. She listened to every Red Sox game on the big radio in the kitchen at the Bishop’s in the late 1930s/early 1940s – the Bishop of Springfield where she was a maid/cook with her two older sisters – farmed out at 14 1/2 years old during the Great Depression to make money to send home, to eat well and to have a roof over her head. Baseball got Ma through hard times – she would have the radio on broadcasting the game while she and her sisters, my aunts, washed scores of dinner pots, pans and dishes in the big kitchen, and the Bishop would call out from the dining room where he’d be polishing off the dessert my auntie had cooked special for him: WHO’S AHEAD, CECELIA?! He always asked my mom for the score – not my two aunts – because he knew my mom was obsessed with baseball. A skinny, 15-year-old girl from Green Island, away from home during the Great Depression when so many people had nothing, thousands living in tents in Hoovervilles, Ma lived in a beautiful rectory but missed her parents, school and neighborhood. So she read lots of baseball books …
IMG_20170928_103823
One of Ma’s baseball books.

… sketched with her number 2 pencil her baseball heroes swinging their bats, in uniform, on beige poster paper. She prayed for the Babe, she worshipped his spindly calves and loved his big barrel of a torso that those spindly calves carried home, again and again. For many years she had her favorite sketch on poster paper. I saw it when I was about 7 – Ma kept it in her closet, rolled up and secured with a thin rubber band. She was a good artist! As a teenager, Ma always wanted to go with her big brother Stan to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play, but Stan never took her to a game – he went with the guys. When she was in her 80s, suffering from early dementia, Ma still wanted to go see a Red Sox game. My boyfriend at the time told me: Rose, we can’t do it. Wheelchairs, Depends … I agreed with him. We’d ask: How about the Tornadoes right here in town? She’d frown and wave us off angrily. “They’re not even Triple A,” she’d say. She still wanted to go see her beloved Red Sox, and I’d appease her with a “Maybe, next week, Ma” and she’d forget we made the promise. If Polar Park was around 10 years ago and Ma had told us: “I want to go see the Red Sox!” we would have bundled her up, packed up an extra seniors diaper or two, pulled out her wheelchair, gotten her into the car – and driven to Kelley Square, our old immigrant neighborhood.
IMG_20170928_111626
Ma – Cecelia❤

Wah Wah Sisterhood

By Rosalie Tirella

20210424_150823
Rose, April 2021.

So here we all are: Me, Rose, and all those familiar GIRLY feelings – Together! Again! Just like in Burncoat Senior High School! Just the way it felt back then, with my BFF gal pals in Mr. Labelle’s sophomore biology classroom or in homeroom, right before first period. During cafeteria break, too … during gym class, smelling of SECRET deodorant and B.O. Me and my GAL PALS!!! Fun times, sharing secrets, helping each other, caring, laughing, admiring … shoring up each other … being competitive, too. THE AWFUL GIRLY GIRL FIGHTS – THE EMOTIONAL SLUGFESTS. Girls being girls. Only now it is 40 years later. And just as painful.

Things have not really changed in the world of female friendships. I’m not talking about the breezy, easy text-you-when-I-am-free “friendship”s, or the slick Instagram pictures posted more for the world than gal friends. No, I mean real world real female friendships: the I-wanna-know-you, I-am-sorta-fascinated-by you!…see-your-specialness friendships. YOU have a lot to offer friendships. Non-sexual … yet your souls are smitten!

My new friendships with my two new gal pals rushed up to me – embraced me and my troubles. Two 58-year-old Worcester women … all this empathy, so willing to help … a stranger. They were sent to me by God! Guardian angels – one on the Pill! One a power walker who makes her own power smoothies every morning. They came to help me move out of my old apartment and into a new one – AT 59. NOT 29. OR 39. OR EVEN 49 years old. Me. 59 years old. To move as a senior, during a global pandemic, is to look mortality in the saggy face … and wince. My gal pals were sent to me to keep me strong … to pack up my books, sweaters and boots and Dollar Store dinner plates … to smile and kid me with: Rose! You really are a clothes horse! To be at my door, with a bag of pretzels or a pretty new cat carrier from Walmart for Cece – to look serious because they know the seriousness of my situation. To see the strained look on one friend’s slim face, knowing – and loving – that she is feeling my pain, my loss, my harried-ness, too. To see her throw stuff willy nilly, last minute into contractor bags. For me. When she has got two sons and a boyfriend – the good life – waiting for her across town. That’s love. I look at her face. It says: THIS SUCKS. I concur …

And there they are, still, being wonderful. Helping me over and over again. Me. Rose. The writer. The newspaper gal. Poor. Idealistic. So on the lam, again; on the road, again. Nomadic, but too old to be nomadic.

We are all in our late 50s, with decades of life experience behind us. Behind the not so beautiful smiles (wrinkles etched around our lips), we are jaded! I say to one: REMEMBER WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND WE REALLY LOVED A BOY AND WE’D WRITE HIM A POEM? A POEM! I say, dumbstruck.
Our lithe bodies (one on Estrogen Therapy “to keep the juices flowing”) and one chubby (me) getting some sun in the dog park as Jett and Lilac lope over the April grass. Happy.

My gal pals “Gretchen” and “Jen” – two Type As with great jobs/careers … super smart, super cute women who went to college, grad school and still read books. They do not act old the way our mothers did at our age. Nor do they look old like our moms used to look in their 60s, with their tight, curly perms and five and ten dusters. My friends are out before their jobs running the track or they are taking weekend trips to Florida with a sexy boyfriend or they are chasing big dogs that dug up their yards. Bikini-ready moms – and future grandma! Family deaths, husbands long gone … water under the bridge. New marriages, foreclosed homes, eviction notices, dogs loved and lost, boyfriends, too … the backdrops to our friendships. So, no, it’s not the junior prom at Burncoat, the most popular/coolest girl contest, the cute boys and who wins them contest … BUT IT IS! Still! Sometimes! Four decades later!

The fight: The looking-at-a-car-for-me afternoon. THEN IT IS ME SCREAMING TO Jen: Great! That opportunity blown BECAUSE YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO BE THE BELLE OF THE BALL!

Jen: I DON’T NEED TO BE THE FU*KING BELLE OF THE BALL, ROSE! I WAS TRYING TO BE FRIENDLY TO MAKE THINGS GO BETTER FOR YOU!

Rose: BULL S*IT! YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO BE THE BELLE OF THE BALL!

Jen: YOU’RE NEVER NICE! YOU CAN GET MORE WITH HONEY THAN WITH VINEGAR!

Rose: MY MOTHER USED TO SAY THAT ALL THE TIME AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO HER!

Jen: SHE GAVE UP HER POWER. PEOPLE WALK OVER YOU IF YOU ALLOW THEM TO!

Now I am REALLY screaming at Jen and she is REALLY screaming at me, in her vehicle, zipping down the street, Jett and Lilac still hoping for that drive to the dog park, still wagging their tails and Lilac still trying to lick Jen’s face.

Then, out of nowhere, knowing her daughter died young – either of a drug overdose or suicide – and her husband died of drugs, I say: SOME PEOPLE JUST KILL ALL THE HUMANS AROUND THEM!

Jen: ROSE! ROSE! YOU DO NOT KNOW PEOPLE’S STORIES! IT’S NOT JUST YOU! EVERYBODY HAS THEIR STORY!

Everybody has their story.

One big ugly heart-rending girly fight continues, on the road: YOU’RE BOHEMIAN! … YOU HAVE A BIG NOSE! … YOU DON’T PLAN! … YOUR FACE IS ALL WRINKLY! … I get out of my pal’s car feeling pummeled; she is small and wiry and tough. She seems primed for more girly combat. I think: This has to end. Why did she ever want to get tangled up in my life anyways?

I say to her as I get out of her car to put the leads on Jett and Lilac: Well, once I am settled, I’ll make sure to send you a Christmas card! Every Christmas! Code for: We both know we can never recover from this fight.

Later I think: I destroyed a terrific friendship over competition for some old fart guy I don’t even like! TO BE THE BELLE OF THE BALL! I lost the who’s prettiest girly girl battle. Just like in high school. WHO CARES?! We are 60! … Why did Jen want to win so badly? Being so flirty! Hugging him for minutes on end! … Why did I want to win so badly, too?

Welcome to Girlsville.

My BUILD ROSE UP AGAIN gal pals – helping me, sharing with me. Maybe gone. Rose. Disaster City. I’ve always been a bit of a calamity – and always had great female friends who put up with me. For years. For decades! I could never figure out why. But eventually they leave. After 20 years … 30 years of Roseville.

So now my heart is broken. I am crying over the destiny that is MINE ALONE. And eating a big slice of plain cheesecake. I am reading O – Oprah’s magazine: perusing all the self-help articles, skipping over the best-bathing-suit-for-your-body-type stories I typically glom onto, looking for answers from OPRAH: Treat your fears like lions crouched in Africa’s high grass, says one article! Reach out and touch your lion, tame your fear! Write your future – DREAM BIG! WRITE A HAPPY ENDING TO YOUR STORY. Your stress hormones will ebb immediately! Be good to yourself: take a walk, drink calming teas…take a warm bath. Face your angst. All that figuring and self-flagellating. A man would just find a woman to f*ck.

Will I lose my gal pals? The ones bringing me groceries, giving me books written by cool female Polish authors?
The ones complimenting my skin, offering advice, driving me to see apartments, picking up my dogs and me for playtime at the dog park? The long talks in the car – real, open, honest. The sharing of hopes and dreams – and regrets. Bathing in the glow of each other’s cool personalities: Rose, the bohemian writer. Gretchen, the good Catholic girl/jock.

Jen, the Queen.