Category Archives: Green Island Grrrl

WHY NOT MAKE COLUMBUS DAY “ITALIAN HERITAGE DAY”?

By Rosalie Tirella

I get it: We must ditch Columbus Day. Let’s forgeddabout the Nina, the Santa Maria and the third ship Christopher Columbus sailed over from Italy in his global quest for rare, exotic spices (that’s what we were taught as students at Lamartine Street School while we colored our paper plate Columbus ships for Columbus Day). And no, the guy in colorful tites, with that big plume stuck in his puffy silk hat did NOT accidentally discover America. The Mr. Magoo cartoon we Baby Boomers watched on TV every October, before the Peanuts Great Pumpkin Halloween TV special, got it wrong. It was all a lie. Or confusion. Or fantasy. Or a revisionist retelling of the history we wanted to believe. Myth making at its most desperate.

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We Italian-Americans are proud of our artists – some of the greatest in the world!

More damning, once in the New World, Columbus, like all the European explorers of his time, embraced slave labor and genocide. All in the name of acquiring new lands for Queenie Isabella or King this or that – and personal riches. Columbus was the beginning of the end for native peoples in the Americas and pretty much the beginning of All Things Beautiful and Horrific from Europe. So, yes, there was horrible horrible death…but there was life, too: Herman Melville, John Coltrane, Neil Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, the Pilgrims, the US Constitution, Teddy Roosevelt, Jane Austin, Nikki Giovanni, Sylvia Plath, Mark Twain, JFK, Richard Wright, The Band, MLK Jr, Chuck Berry … and Frank Sinatra. And Dean Martin. And Frankie Valle. And Bobby Darren. And Tony Bennet. And Mario Cuomo. And Martin Scorsese. And Al Pacino. And Joe Mantegna. … And my grandmother Maria, from Northern Italy, who settled with her no-account husband Sabino (my grandfather) in Worcester’s “Summit” neighborhood. Maria gave Sabino 10 kids, and he gave his mistress up the street presents. Sabino, a ladies’ man extraordinare, was a traveling Italian grocer. Every day he’d drive his little food delivery truck to Boston’s North End to pick up terrific Italian sausages, cheeses and breads; then he’d drive back to Worcester to sell them fresh to his Italian customers. He beat his kids – especially my father – and during Prohibition he was a bootlegger. He wore spats.

But Maria was a loving person. She put her heart into her big brood, had a garden the size of a city pocket park and cooked and baked Italian food from scratch, most of the ingredients coming from her ginormous garden. She sent two kids out of the 10 to college – and one to Hollywood where he painted movie sets/scenery. One son, Al, had a swinging jazz band in Worcester during the Tommy Dorsey craze. And her youngest, the small Georgey, around 5 feet tall and a City of Worcester mechanic (he worked on the City garbage trucks and called them “honey wagons”), played the banjo and was the sweetest husband in the world, according to my Aunt Rita, who still misses her long passed soul mate.

We Italians can be wild, dramatic…even violent. But we can love like crazy: our kids, our dogs, our cats, our soul mates, our soul food, music, church and art. My grandmother Maria was no Sophia Loren, and I don’t know if she could carry a tune. But she PERSISTED. In America. She raised her children in Worcester, Massachusetts. She was self-sufficient and had a ferocious work ethic. As did Frank Sinatra’s mom, I imagine. And Mario Cuomo’s. And Martin Scorsese’s.

Italian Americans don’t know who the he*l Christopher Columbus is and we really don’t care. But we came to America and put the work in – we deserve a little credit. We, like the Irish, like the Brits, like the Africans, like the French, like every immigrant rag tag band of bounders poured our hearts and souls into this freakin’ place. Contributed. Big time. Our history, our lives, in America shouldn’t be demonized.

We can make November Native American Month and learn, mourn, celebrate, improve … grow as a nation! But let’s keep the real meaning behind Columbus Day, what the day and the parades and the homemade marinara sauce really mean to us Italian-Americans – a day to celebrate US in America! Not Columbus! But my grandmother Maria! And Mario Cuomo!And Frank Sinatra! And millions of proud Italian-AMERICANS. Just rename it: ITALIAN HERITAGE DAY.

Presto. Now, that’s Italian!

We “slipped” up!

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose’s slip

You know America is falling apart when you visit a major discount department store in Worcester, walk into the ladies “intimate” section and ask the pretty young sales clerk: “Where are your half slips? Or slips?” and she says, “What’s a slip?”

You say, incredulously: YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT A SLIP IS?!!

She says: NO.

You say, it’s something silky women wear under their skirts and dresses so the sunlight or a car headlight doesn’t reveal the crotch area when you’re walking past the light …it’s made of thin material, usually nylon or polyester.

She looks flummoxed.

I say: Don’t you wear a slip when you wear a dress or skirt?

She sweetly stares at me.

It’s like I’m talking to a box of dog biscuits.

So I move onto the next pretty sales clerk in the discount department store and ask her sweetly, because I think the other young sales clerk is the exception to the rule, WHERE ARE YOUR SLIPS?

She says: WHAT’S A SLIP?

Disoriented, befuddled, I walk to the underwear racks and rifle through ALL their intimate apparel: bras, panties, thin “shape wear” – today’s girdles – and their sporty camisoles … several long racks of ladies intimate apparel. No slips. One of the store managers walks by me, curious. I shoot him an angry look but do not ask him for help, ask him if he has any slips. He’s a guy.

I leave the discount department store and drive to another discount department store in Worcester to buy my two half slips. Being on the road means my slips (most given to me by gal pal Dorrie who knows what a slip is and has given me some very pretty ones through the years) are in storage or were chucked in some motel room or pal’s place as my dogs and I search for an affordable apartment in Worcester and Chris Orcutt at SMOC shuts his building down on Chandler Street because he has COVID. This development after his week-long vacation. So my search for housing – and hundreds of other folks’ – is interrupted because Chris is a pointless paper-pusher who doesn’t serve SMOC’s clients. Chris probably doesn’t know what a slip is either.

But I digress. Like I said: It’s been an interesting journey! I’ve lost a lot these past months – antiques, a fake fur coat I planned to send to my sister who has Parkinson’s, a ladies electric razer kit, a bottle of witch hazel … and my half slips. Dorrie’s stepped up but is exasperated. BUY THEM! she texted me, when I texted her: Dorrie, I NEED SOME SLIPS! Large!

So here I am at Marshall’s looking for half slips. Everything looks so classy and put together here. Surely, the attractive young sales clerks will be able to help me. I walk over to one and ask her: WHERE ARE YOUR SLIPS?

She says: WHAT’S A SLIP?

I tell her and she is still stumped. I say: Just point me to your intimate apparel section. She does. It’s the same story here: nylon body shapers, bras, bikini panties, hip hugger panties… but no slips. I decide to buy some panties: cotton, high waisted. Basic. Functional. No go. Everything is polyester! I want cotton! Cotton breathes! Everything is way below the belly button. I want waist-high panties! Fuming, I tear through the five long racks of underwear and, finally, land on some thin cotton hip hugger panties. Large. There are five panties artfully hanging from little clear plastic hangers. They are ugly. I buy them anyways and leave Marshall’s where you can purchase gorgeous on-trend rugs, poofs, furniture and even exotic coffees BUT NO SLIPS.

Dorrie suggested that I go to Good Will. They’d probably have slips there. Just wash them before you wear them! Dorrie instructed me. A new day, a new hunt. I drive to Good Will on Park Ave. I throw caution to the wind and run straight to the Latino kid working the cash register and ask him: Where are your half slips?

He says: What’s a slip?

I crumple on his cash register. Practically in tears, I say: Why don’t you kids know what slips are?! What is wrong with this country?! Your mom probably wears them! Or your older sister! This is unbelievable!!!! This is too much!!

The Good Will kid was a guy but he was sympathetic. I explained to him what a slip was and told him of my quest for TWO FREAKIN’ HALF SLIPS IN THE CITY OF WORCESTER and almost cried. “PLEASE!” I pleaded. “I am so tired!! I just want to buy two half slips. I don’t care about their color. I DON’T EVEN WANT TO GO LOOK FOR THEM!!!

The young Latino kid smiled sympathetically at his distraught customer and walked out from behind his cash register and went into the miles and miles of Good Will clothing racks and knick knacks and electronic shelves and shoes on stands and came back with TWO HALF SLIPS! Nylon. Large. One was black, the other white.

I said, “WOW!!”

He said, “My grandmother buys hers at Walmart.”

Thanks.

When did American ladies – with slips in their hospital overnight bags – give birth to babies who would grow up to wonder aloud: What’s a “slip”?

When hospitals kicked you out hours after you gave birth! When America got cheap and plastic and distracted and half slips were lost to plasma TVs, a 7 dollar minimum wage, MCAS tests, empty churches, millions of guns and not enough unions!

When my mom had me she spent one week – ONE WEEK!! – like all new moms – at Memorial Hospital on Belmont Street recovering from childbirth. For one week she was spoiled by the nurses, visited by her obstetrician. She was served breakfast in bed. Wore pretty pink quilted bed jackets. Visitors came to her bedside with flowers. AND SHE HAD A SLIP FOR UNDER HER DRESS WHEN SHE WAS DISCHARGED FROM MEMORIAL HOSPITAL!

America has changed since I was a kid – the days every girl grew up learning what a slip was! And wore them! Worcester moms bought our slips – and theirs – at Woolworths, Denholms, The Deb Shoppe, The Mart, depending on your economic class. And we girls wore them under our First Holy Communion dresses, prom dresses, school uniforms if we went to Catholic school, first date dresses, Easter dinner outfits for Uncle Mark and Aunt Mary’s …When we took home the leftovers in TUPPERWARE MADE IN THE GRAND USA!

When did we slip up?

DESTROYING GREEN ISLAND’S LAFAYETTE STREET

By Rosalie Tirella

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This summer: the upper part of Lafayette Street is a bit more residential than the strip that runs into Millbury Street. That section is car-clogged thanks to an autobody shop run amok. Pic: R.T.

My beloved Green Island Grrrl – as in Girl – street: Lafayette Street. The street I grew up on years ago before it all became the Canal District. My Ma’s street. And Bapy’s. And my kid sisters’. And Rich Gedman’s childhood stamping grounds, too! A five-minute walk to the old Lamartine Street School from our three decker; a 10-minute walk to Millbury Street and its scores of mom and pop shops. Today – I should have snapped a few photos as City workers slapped lime green warning stickers on a ribbon of cars – Lafayette Street has become the personal street of an African autobody business that treats the street like its personal garage/junkyard. These guys have taken over half of Lafayette Street – a pretty long city street! Literally! The neighborhood has the look and feel of a chop shop on steroids, thanks to these morons.

Yes, Lafayette was always zoned residential and industrial but this is nuts: every day 30 or so
cars – in varying degrees of disrepair – all illegally parked onto Scott Street, too – hog every square inch of Lafayette Street streetscape. Engines rev. Car doors open into the middle of the street. Smashed Caddy’s wait in the wings on Scott Street. To drive down Lafayette Street is to think like a trapeze artist whose tight rope is frayed…all the African car guys and their customers walk boldly in the street going from car to car chatting and you drive down your tight rope …fuming.

They talk cars, you quietly curse in your vehicle and wonder why the City of Worcester – Code is on Meade, the next street over – enables these neighborhood polluters and defilers. The source of the street’s ugliness, noise … selfishness.

I grew up on Lafayette Street – it’s what inspired me to start InCity Times two decades ago. Memory upon memory…the people, the pets, the shops, the school teachers…the collective unconscious for so many Eastern European immigrants and their offspring…our ghetto…our American story, rich and instructive and inspiring.

Today? Forget it, kids! You can’t even walk down your own street because the African business guys – immigrants with no respect for other newcomers? – are so greedy, so oblivious, they’ve trashed an entire city street! Its residents deemed worthless by guys who’d brook none of this is their “nicer” Worcester neighborhoods.

The physical company is located in a small two-bay garage – what used to be the old Murhall Sign shop of my childhood. Decades ago it was always neat and self-contained (work never even spilling out onto the sidewalk!) with the sign guys – three or so – going about their work inside. We kids walked to school or church and sheepishly looked inside as their big garage doors were always rolled open. The guys inside quietly went about their sign making- the lettering easy to read – the font basic and often fire engine red. Murhall, along with Leader Sign, was one of the first sign companies in the city. Tony Hmura of Leader knew and respected the Murhall guys.

Now it’s all dirty, noisy…the new workers and their customers are bold. They’re dismissive of the laws, common courtesy and common sense – most important, the people in the neighborhood! They think they own Lafayette Street – a public thoroughfare! They’re living proof of an America dumb-downed, greedy and garish.

Enter Donald Trump.

CANAL DISTRICT FUTURE, PAST

BY Rosalie Tirella

Late last night – I should say super early this morning – I drove through my old stamping grounds, Green Island, now dubbed “The Canal District.”
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pics: R.T.

All the gentrifiers were fast asleep – it was 2 a.m. – but THERE WERE HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE OUT – AND IN A CELEBRATORY MOOD! SCORES AND SCORES OF YOUNG PEOPLE OF COLOR OUT ON MY OLD STREETS. Hispanic kids, Black middle-aged ladies, Black men, Asian-American girls, most exquisitely dressed. Their gatherings were just getting started! On the corner of Harrison and Water streets a hundred or so 20-somethings, all impeccably coiffed, were hanging out in the street and parking lot; the autumn breeze was chilly to me but the kids were just chillin’: laughing, flirting, chatting. I drove into the scene smiling … Down on Millbury Street the old PNI Club was hosting a party with celebrants just heading out to their cars with gift bags. All folks of color. All looking lovely. A wedding party? A birthday bash? As a child my Polish relatives and their friends had held their wedding receptions at this PNI, at the end of our old Eastern European neighborhood, Green Island. The Polish bride was always pretty and wore white like she meant it! The Kielbasa was home made – smoked in a shed in Chicopee by her uncle. The pierogi were plenty and varied made by the chochi and Bapy’s who taste-tested a batch for lunch before bringing down their huge Tupperware containers filled with potato, blueberry, cheese, mushroom and meat pierogi. We danced and danced like the peasants we were – all polkas. And we sang Polish drinking songs, too. “MAY YOU LIVE ONE HUNDRED YEARS!!” It was a scene right out of THE DEER HUNTER.

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Rose’s old neighborhood

But last night, looking at the PNI, peering into the door way and seeing the Hispanic crowd all happy and danced-out with their trays of homemade food, I thought: HERE IS A NEW MOVIE. THEIR MOVIE. And I felt great about it.

Over on Harding Street, behind 3Gs sports bar, another group gathered. A bit more raucous than the other two …but I drove through it feeling safe. A hundred or so kids of color. It was their night, not this old lady’s.

The Canal District scene in day light is youngish blond bland girls, isolate, catty and hard. The boys their knights for the day with no fashion sense. This scene is difficult to take because Worcester is a majority-minority city, and there are usually two people of color in this Canal District day scene. You need money to attend most of their parties. They drive up the rents in my old ‘hood, and the old factories all have new windows. Their spacious, high-ceilinged, high-end apartment lofts now, not my Polish grandfather’s – Jaju’s – sweat shop.

I had a weird experience: an old biz pal put me up in his converted CD factory building. Now lofts and stained hardwood floors and painted beams. Beautiful. My pal is living proof of HANDSOME IS AS HANDSOME DOES. He said my plight moved him, so he gave me respite, shelter from the storm. Simple as that – but oh the world to me!! His assistant showed me downstairs: WE HAVE A COURTYARD! she gushed. But as she opened the big glass door and I walked out into this cobble-stoned yard inside the factory with four high brick walls and no ceiling – just a square of sky – all around me – I winced. The building’s five stories high – and windows all lined in a row…heavy doors across the way. It felt like prison. I thought: THIS WAS THE SHOE FACTORY WORKERS’ “BREAK ROOM.” How awful. Jaju had one like this, I bet, in Douglas, at the textile mill he worked at. … A soft-spoken man who never questioned his lot in life, Jaju was stoic, but his son, my uncle, worked a summer off from Holy Cross college with his dad in the Douglas mill and told my mom: IT WAS LIKE WORKING IN HELL.

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Old Green Island factories: brandy new for the kiddos!

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Newly installed new windows …

The factory in the Canal District was built in the 1860s, pre-union, mostly exploitative piece work, pre-OSHA, too. Hundreds of men – immigrants from Europe like my Jaju – toiled all day in the room I had slept in! And now I stood in what I felt was a perpetually dark space, a controlled space, a trap, not a courtyard. It was where the guys smoked a few of the cigs that their daughters or sons had rolled for them the night before for work. Then it was back to toiling …

At the Millbury lake: soldier’s gone fishin’!

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose, Jett, Licac…with open hand.

What were the odds of our paths crossing? … Mine and the soldier dad’s. The day after the Kabul suicide bombers detonating themselves in a blood bath of body parts so that the ISIS-K gunmen could feel empowered and plunge into the swelling crowd of US soldiers and thousands of Afghani people to finish the job. To aim the muzzles of their AK47s willy nilly, blowing up babies, tearing toddlers’ arms off, ripping old men’s faces to the bone, shooting out the hearts of young women, virginal and some beautiful. And killing our American military men and women – American soldiers, USA warriors and protectors … “Kids” to me, an old lady.

Our American “kids” were doing all the right things at the Kabul airport: cuddling babies, offering bottled water to young women in ankle-length dresses overcome by the garbage, dessert heat, desperate pleas all around them …sitting dazed in the desert sands. Some American soldiers were photographed by the news agencies holding young boys’ hands as they led them inside the airport to the planes, planes that could hold an entire Afghan village!

Maybe this Millbury soldier had held his little boys’ hands as they embarked on a plane to fly to Disneyland … perhaps. I’m in Millbury, sitting on a rock at the edge of a pond, looking at the soldier dad, a US soldier – active duty – imagining … He is teaching his two little boys to fish at the muddy mouth of the little pond this August afternoon. He’s with HIS Dad, who’s 67 and a Millbury native, a blue collar guy recalling when you could buy a cup of coffee in town for 50 cents and none of the gourmet bakeries with their $5 cupcakes had yet moved in. He’s the gentle hand, smiling, pulling out his smart phone to take pictures of his grandsons with their catches dangling from their fishing rods – the rods are kiddie sized but totally functional. I wince as I watch the kivers flap listlessly in the sun, their green-yellow scales twinkling in the sunlight.

I notice the soldier son has bulging, well defined calf muscles and biceps; his shoulders are wide and lightly sculpted. He wears his shorts, tee shirt and sneakers like a uniform. His shorts are perfect, with creases in front; sneakers spotless, tee shirt smooth and pristine looking. His baseball cap is not soft and faded like some guys’ – it’s stiff and white looking. A bit nerdy. His cap hides the top half of his face – so he seems expressionless as I continue to search for his eyes.

“They [President Biden] thought this [withdrawal] through their third [hole],” he just said. He sounded disgusted. Fed up. You could tell he hated President Joe Biden and probably voted for Trump (both times). You could tell he expected only incompetence from Biden and cabinet. He was curt to me, dismissive of my small talk. Earlier he had said: I’m regretting the move back. I was away for ten years. We should have stayed in Colorado. But I’m back. In Massachusetts.” He said “Massachusetts” like he was spitting out one his sons’ earthworms.

“Too liberal for you?” I said. Then, making things worse: “You know, I’m a liberal Democrat and I run a little lefty paper in the city, but even I think Biden screwed up! And I support our soldiers! You can be a progressive Democrat – a liberal- and still support our troops!”

The soldier dad was unimpressed with my patriotism and continued to bait the fish hook at the end of his older son’s line…the boy wasn’t putting the hook into the worm right. The soldier seemed unhappy. He was sharp with his boys – giving orders to them, judging them for just wanting to loosen up a bit and goof off fishing. But he made them stand at the end of the lake with purpose…they didn’t dare leave their fishing posts. I sensed he loved them but was demanding a seriousness that three year olds lack. His littlest boy seemed sheepish. The soldier dad didn’t raise his head once to look at me, but he did mention something about “this end of the lake getting crowded” and maybe they should decamp and move up a ways.

From me, I guessed.

Which made me clap enthusiastically as his three year old caught his first ever kiver. YAY! YAY! HOORAY! I said. GOOD JOB! And I clapped my old veiny hands and clapped and clapped. This pleased the little boy to no end who now smiled at Jett my cute lil’ Husky mix. Jett was excited, too – he couldn’t take his eyes off the semi-circle of a fish flapping on the end of the little boy’s fishing hook. Jett had caught and killed a snake in the Millbury Dog Park the day before; the hunter in him was roused.

The little boy seemed to bask in my praise – over-the-top because his Dad had treated him so like a little soldier – scolding him for muddying his sneakers by the water’s edge, directing him to walk away from the water so he could clean off his sneakers and re-tie the laces, even though they had never come undone.

As I turned to focus on Jett, the little boy squealed: I WANT A WORM!!! He shouted mightily into the summer sky. Dad put one on his hook and the little boy giggled at me – he had gotten my attention! I watched him, with the help of his strong soldier Papa, pull the rod back and then flick it forward so the little plastic ball that acted as a buoy landed out a ways in the lake. Everybody watched it – the fish hook wasn’t far off – to see if a fish would tug at the worm. Grandad had taken a photo of the little boy and his first catch of the afternoon. Seeing his pretty fishy hanging lifeless from the line, the little boy, worried, sweet and good hearted like all babes in the woods, yelled to his father: “Can we put him back?” I wanted to hug him and shout: YES! YES, WE CAN! LET’S! But I knew Dad would be against it – and be angry with me for softening his son. So I shut my mouth.

The soldier dad’s tightness stayed there with us all at the lake. Not even his good sons could make him smile. Maybe he was hiding his pride and happiness. Or was it marital strife that made him act so determined at the pond surrounded by kivers, kids, silly Jett? Military training? Massachusetts? All of the above? I loved his little boys but wanted to leave. He was too oppressive. I said goodbye to the boys and grandpa. Soldier son went right on baiting his sons fishing hooks, ignoring me. I could tell he was thinking: Chatty, opinionated, liberal old broad. FROM MASSACHUSETTS.

But his 3 year old looked back at me and gave us a weak smile. I could tell he still wanted Jett, me and Lilac around, but he’s got to be the brave soldier … and eventually learn to have fun on his own. Maybe he’ll grow up to be a vegan.

Kelley Square Field of Dreams

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose, this week: driving by an “American tune”

Baseball can be so corny.

I guess that’s why we love it.

No matter how much teeth-grinding I engage in over the Kelley Square stadium being the final nail in the gentrification-coffin of my old beloved neighborhood, Green Island, I love driving by the ballpark just before game time and seeing the dads, uncles and big brothers leading the little boys in their lives into the stadium … down Green Street, up Madison Street, across Harding.

The little boys are four and five years old, and their tiny hands are engulfed in Dad’s big, reassuring paws because there is a ton of traffic. The boys are walking all jangly, half running!, as they strive to match the pace of the man-heroes in their lives – pops, big brothers and granddads taking them to their first baseball game! Invariably, they are in classic little boy uniform: soft blue jeans, sneakers that you can hold in the palm of your hand, a small cotton tee shirt (blue, green – often older – ready to catch the mustard and ketchup from clumsily held Coney Island hot dogs ). A baseball cap, often on askew, “caps off” this all-American picture as the little boy hustles down the street with the tall grown-ups, part of the baseball parade – women, teenaged girls and their beaus, old timers – that is winding its way to the baseball park.

Always, as I watch this scene from my car (idling in traffic on Green Street), I smile. I’m oblivious to the traffic jam I’m in! A few times, a few tears have rolled down my cheeks.

Baseball …

https://youtu.be/Ug4bsd4LqqM

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.

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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

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

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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!

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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

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Ma

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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

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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?

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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.”

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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.

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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.