Category Archives: Green Island Grrrl

DRONE TIME!

By Rosalie Tirella

Snack time…

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Jett and Lilac. photos: R.T.

… thinking about drones. So it’s drone time around here, too! I’m thinking it’s not enough that our faces, bodies and voices are captured 24/7 on miscellaneous cell phones – hand-held and sophisticated … or mounted store cameras and apartment complex cameras, city hall cameras, motel cameras, hotel cameras and barroom cameras or gas station cameras, traffic light cameras, school building cameras, corridor cameras, car dashboard cameras, public library cameras, college campus cameras, elevator cameras, office building cameras, your roommate’s cameras, your bank’s cameras, your drugstore’s cameras, your supermarket’s cameras, your dog park’s cameras, your next door neighbors’ cameras, your McDonalds and DD’s cameras…let’s bring on the flying kind, too! The real smart ones! The kind that can seek you out to take your picture! Not smart enough to bomb you to hell, like the ones being used by the Ukranian military – American-made and making a difference in the war – but just smart enough, if you close one eye, to take away your last strands of dignity.

Our proposed Worcester drones – which our city manager looks to approve – are supposed to help us. Flying over tree tops or Jordan Levy’s apartment complex, they’re supposed to make our city a better “community”: tracking down runaway boys or abducted girls or the old guy with Alzheimer’s who’s walked away from the nursing home grounds … or a bank robber, gun-wielding and desperate.

But helping the homeless? To scan a dog park or a homeless encampment and to take a photo. Of what? Of a dog shit*ing? Or a homeless person shi*ting? Of a dog chasing a ball? Or a homeless guy scratching his balls? In the woods where he thinks he’s got privacy, like the dog in the dog park. But he doesn’t.

This could get sticky.

What about the homeless lady taking a discrete pee on the outskirts of the homeless camp – or just on the edge of the woods where she sleeps with her boyfriend, wrapped in big comforters, covered in nylon sleeping bags. I once saw a homeless couple greet the day after spending the night on the Worcester Common – yards away from the City Manager’s Office in Worcester City Hall. Would a drone have alerted City Manager Ed Augustus to the two people stretching out from under their blankets, raising their thin white arms in the thin sunlight of dawn, with 40 cents between them? Would the drone have scooted them away from City Hall to a less conspicuous sleeping spot? Or would the drone have given them $5 bucks for coffees?

Would the few rotten apples in the police department or City Hall watch a homeless couple having sex in the woods? Hugging in the woods? Fighting in the woods? When to step in? How do you monitor a relationship between two people on the edge? What right have you to butt in?

I don’t mean to drone on and on, but I’ve seen how City Manager Ed Augustus has handled the homeless of Worcester, without the potential of drone-cruelty: he’s handled our most bereft carelessly, thoughtlessly, cruelly. With garish lights turned on bright in the Green Street tunnel, with manufactured work sites magically popping up in the exact same spots where the homeless are sleeping along Millbury or Green streets. With proposed city ordinances ordering the homeless to stop begging for money on street corners or highway off ramps. Or else it’s jail for you!!! Or simply by placidly sitting on the city’s federal COVID funds and refusing to use the money to build tiny home villages or communal camps for the homeless. To alleviate suffering. The federal COVID money was earmarked for this country’s neediest! It is supposed to be used to help underserved communities in all American cities and towns.

Worcester cops and DPW guys do Ed’s dirty work for him. The cops come to identify the problem, then the City of Worcester QUALITY OF LIFE trucks drive down to collect the homeless folks’ gear, like old sleeping bags and backpacks stuffed with a change of clothing, and the city guys throw them into the back of the old truck like garbage. They call it the city’s Quality of Life team, but they’re not thinking about the homeless person’s quality of life if they’ve just stolen everything that person needs to live their his or her life, fragile and frail and wispy as it is. City Manager Ed Augustus will do anything to push the city’s street homeless out of our city woods, our sidewalks, our parks …

Why give Ed a drone?

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Worcester’s Bell Hill. Make it a real tiny home – with heat!

MOMS❤️

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose and her mom at Crompton Park, many years ago!

Mother’s Day…almost 10 years without a mom – my mom! Truth? The void hurts every day – not just on Mother’s Day. When I was a little girl I felt I had three moms! I felt so lucky! Three wonderful Polish women loved me – good, honest, resilient women nurtured me, encouraged me to read and write, be good and resilient, too. My aunt Mary, at the far left in the photo of the three St. Mary’s girls, was married to a school principal and made sure I got all the older books discontinued from my uncle’s school library: BORN FREE, Christmas song books with beautiful illustrations, books with illustrations of lambs on their cover – wreaths of flowers draped over their chubby necks. I thought the book title read: COME FLOWER ME! when it really read COME FOLLOW ME! (These days I like my first (mis)reading best.)

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Rose’s Aunt Mary, far left.

My other aunt, pictured here seated on the roof of The Block during a coming home party for my uncle, her brother, during WW II, was the trail blazer. She got her driver’s license and bought herself a car. She left home and became head housekeeper for the Bishop of Springfield. My mom said Aunt Lilly was a speed demon on the highway – and liked to drive with her shoes off, her right naked foot on the gas pedal, her left naked foot commandeering the brake pedal.

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Rose’s Aunt Lilly.

My mother looked to her older sisters for help in raising me and my two kid sisters since she didn’t have much of a husband, no car and very few resources. My two aunties stepped up! Aunt Mary’s husband, my Uncle Mark, took us – my mom, me and my sisters – to all our pediatrician appointments on Lincoln Street. He was always so wonderful to my mom and full of good cheer for us kids. He told corny jokes and laughed and kidded with my mother in Polish and in English. He too was first generation …both his parents came to America from the “Old Country.”

My mother was the baby sister of the family – the meek one who was underweight as a little girl and hospitalized. Ma used to say: “I can still see Bapy peeking out from behind the hospital curtain, looking at me, so worried about me.” Bapy had also been a good mother.

Often times Ma was clueless about getting us through stomach aches or soothing us to sleep. That’s when Bapy – my fourth mother! – came to the rescue with her block of white lard. Schmarluz we used to call it. Bapy, Ma’s Polish immigrant mother and my grandmother, lived with us and had a million opinions (pontificating in Polish for everyone in Green Island to hear) and a million and one solutions to every problem known to mankind. Her mom died in Poland when Bapy was only five. Her father, whom she loved dearly, remarried. But Bapy’s stepmother was cruel: beating Bapy and making her do all the work on their farm in Poland – including raising her younger siblings.

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Aunt Lilly, left, and Bapy

Bapy had a short fuse – but a big heart. Her love for all animals – my white hamster Joy, Mr. Ed the horse on TV, our cat Jimmy, later our dog Belle – was all encompassing. All our pets loved Bapy best, the dogs sleeping at her fat misshapen feet and the cat drowsing on the left arm of her beat-up old arm chair – parked at the head of the kitchen table where Bapy could see all the action of our poor little household.

Bapy would tear a piece of lard from that big block of lard and smear it all over my naked body – focusing on my stomach. What a relaxing, fragrant rubdown. My stomach ache went away and I smelled like a basted turkey.

Motherhood – the poor kind, sometimes the best kind …

Forsythia

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with the gorgeous forsythia. I have been snapping pictures of them wherever I go, getting out of my car to look at the butter-yellow flowerets up close.

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💕💕

Their yellow is so cheerful and full of zest…makes me smile. The flowers, running up and down strong slender branches are so touchable! A child could have her mother cut five or six branches for her teacher at school, wrap them in aluminum foil for a gift. For her desk, if the teacher has a pretty vase – and they always did when I was a little girl. The walk to school with the flower present, the wind blowing the child’s hair and forsythia, the child’s occasional caress. In the classroom her classmates’ poking them would not disturb the forsythia too much.

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❤️

They are without fragrance, which makes me think: bush or flowering plant? I don’t know. I never bother to Google/ research flowers, as I want to experience them in the moment – the way a child would perceive them. I know that’s impossible, but I try. Too much information stored below my old cranium! I think lots of it is useless and detracts from the important stuff like the ecstacy of flowers.

I love all the forsythia I see on the road, but the abandoned forsythia bushes on the side of the road, by old stone walls where houses once stood – in city and country – these forsythia are the ones I love best! No one has bothered to crop their wild blond crowns with Home Depot hedge trimmers. Or doused them with fertilizer so they grow abnormally thick and fat. No, they are in a pretty natural state…and I love them when they grow wild and free, long slender branches reaching to the sky, the sunlight pouring through the same big spaces between the branches. The forsythia look like a crowd of rowdy concert goers – all arms raised, together, hoping to touch the kaleidescopic lights and meet YES band mates after the concert.

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Rose’s favorite

They’ve struck a chord with me, that’s for sure. I’m remembering how they were all over the Green Island of my childhood – before it became all industrial wasteland or the Canal District, part 2. I remember how they signaled SPRING to me and how fun it was to walk down Lafayette or Grosvenor or Millbury streets and see them peeking out of backyards – or lining the grassy triangle of the City parking lot right outside the dry cleaners on Millbury Street. My mom worked at the dry cleaners for decades, as a counter girl, and I was always a little jealous of her view: loads of tall, yellow bushes just beaming sunshine on an already sunny person. My mom was a single working mom raising three girls and caring for her elderly mother, my Bapy, back home on Lafayette Street. She may have stumbled now and then beneath her heavy load but she was a happy person. She loved her mom and adored her three girls – the lights of her life. So often, after Prov Jr. High or even Lamartine Street School, I’d visit my mom at work and see her lugging piles of dirty laundry or working the old cash register on the Formica counter top or reaching into her vest pocket for her pen and little pad of white note paper to make a note. I’d look out at the forsythia, just a few yards away from Ma, and feel happy. It was springtime. My mother and the forsythia were spring!

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🙂

Worcester, Palm Sunday

By Rosalie Tirella

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Under the Green Street bridge, Palm Sunday. photo: R.T.

Palm Sunday. I remember walking under the now garishly lit Green Street tunnel as a little Green Island Grrrl a week or two before Palm Sunday. Decades ago … We were on our way to that icon of Worcester’s consumer-working class, The Mart department store: me, my mom and my two kid sisters. To buy us kids Easter Dresses! Yay!!! The Mart!! Wowza! Our mother often tried to buy us the best Easter dresses at Jack and Jill’s children’s clothing store on Green Street – and their pretty straw Easter bonnets with blue and white ribbon wrapped around their rims were to die for – but if it was a lean year – and it often was on Lafayette Street – we kids were taken to the Mart for our Easter dresses. They were not the beautiful dresses like the little girl mannequins wore in the Jack and Jill’s storefront window, the ones my mom wanted to buy for us, the pale yellow and pink dresses with butterfly decals sewn on them, all sparkly and robbins egg blue … but The Mart had a small pet section – aquariums filled with little mice, hamsters and gerbils and the cages, boxes of food and fun “supplies” for them like metal wheels that your little rodent jumped into to get some exercise. The mice and other small pets were right across the aisle from an excellent toy section filled with Barbie dolls, GI Joe dolls, packets of Sea Monkeys and baseball mitts. We kids longed for pet mice (which I got in grade 5) and baseball bats and balls (which my sister got in grade 3) and Skipper dolls (which my other sister got in grade 2).

The Mart’s dresses always looked a little rough and cheaply made from shiny polyester. Their pants hung from my skinny kid sisters’ bums, and their pants waistband – wide elastic – made the front of my pants pucker around my chubby stomach. I remember one day, as a sixth grader at Lamartine Street School, I wore my Easter pants outfit to school. I didn’t want to, but my mom made me wear this new outfit she liked. By then I knew the Mart fashion book was not on my classmates’ playbook. Sure enough, the kids began to mock me in the school yard, as soon as I entered: You’re wearing welfare clothes! Ha! Welfare! Welfare! My kid sisters had been transferred to St. Mary’s because my mom felt they were being bullied, so they just wore their school uniforms and missed the … pain. Well, I was ashamed of my outfit – it did suck – but I never told my mom. Back then kids never told their parents anything. You had to try to figure things out back home, as you were playing with your little pet mouse (Gigi) or listening to your Partridge Family record. You loved your mouse and your mom who bought you your ugly Easter pants outfit. You felt your friends’ moms weren’t as smart or special as your mom, who was very very busy at the dry cleaners and working hard at home so you you could eat and have a nice bedroom on whose walls you could hang your David Cassidy posters. So you shut your mouth … you averaged things out and felt … grateful. The opposite of the little kids who will now walk under the garishly lit Green Island tunnel to head to the baseball stadium. They jump out of their parents’ SUV and walk the several yards to the game … and all is well, I guess.

But back then, our Green Street tunnel walk was an adventure! Past Jack and Jill’s with their cute kids-wear, the fire trap ATLAS FABRIC shop where Worcester’s pro sewers got all their material for draperies, lined vests, aprons and wedding gowns … past Molly’s, the alcoholic hairdresser who cut your hair poorly and gave Ma her tight brillo pad curly “perms” in between sneaking out back for a few swigs from her pint of Muscatel …THEN THE GLORIOUS NOTRE DAME church…the first thing we saw that signaled we were in for something special in downtown Worcester – where now these Soviet Union-style apartment complexes stand, as you can see in my photo here. Today you see these cement debacles for rich kids instead of the glorious, hand-built-by-immigrants church – a monument, a tribute to Worcester’s French-Canadian working class, to their God, to trying to do right, to hope … to pray, to be charitable.

Notre Dame church was what we kids and our mom always saw at the end of the Green Street tunnel, after our 25-minute trek from our Lafayette Street apartment. It was so beautiful. It felt like Heaven … long, elegant steeples glinting in the sun, the huge gold Virgin Mary statue – Notre Dame, Our Lady – standing before its entrance saying hello to us, the church’s arches, framing its front doors, one arch over another over another reaching up into the sky. … Now that I look back, I think our poor little family purposely walked by Notre Dame church’s high entry way to see those high arches, to be physically close to this beautiful home of God, to brush the cheek of our Blessed Mother with our chafed hands.

Now? A red, blue and green carnival light show for this Worcester Palm Sunday! A pulsating show for the masses designed to shoo away the homeless that used to sleep there at night – Jesus’s people, if you’ve read the Bible.

The real real

By Rosalie Tirella

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Me time … Rose, April 5.

Tap tap tap go the raindrops on my car’s windshield. In car tonight. So want to be in bed in a nice apartment. Or just in an “ok” apartment. A small boy tapped tapped tapped on the door window of the motel I stayed at last night. He woke me up with his tapping and faint calls to be let into the building. It was 2 a.m. My dogs got agitated; I had to take them out to pee. I pulled a pair of long shorts on, tucked in my night shirt, threw on my jacket, leashed up Jett and Lilac and went downstairs. I saw the branch someone had placed in the side entrance door so it wouldn’t lock, so the little boy could enter the building. So he could sneak upstairs and sleep in a warm room in a warm bed. He had a mom and sibling. They sneaked up with him. He was their advance man. A little boy! At 2 a.m. Living this kind of life! I walked over the wet tree branch with my dogs.

WHY CAN’T WORCESTER HOUSING AGENCIES CREATE NEW PROGRAMS SO LITTLE KIDS DON’T HAVE TO GROVEL FOR A PLACE TO SLEEP AT 2 A.M? Why must we be so cruel to our poor?

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Lilac solves the food puzzle.

Let’s FUND THE NEW PROGRAMS WE CREATE WITH COVID MONEY… LET’S HELP PEOPLE BRIDGE SOME OF THE GAPS WHILE BEING HOMELESS. I HAVE A VOUCHER. RENTS IN WORCESTER ARE AROUND $2,000 per month. No one is interested in my piddly lil’ voucher! There are scores of people like me who can’t secure housing in the city because Worcester is no longer blue collar but … something else. Something new. But for only half the populace. The other half (my half) is left out, struggling, often “food insecure” (euphemism for HUNGRY), a paycheck away from homelessness …

Solutions, Worcester! Let’s think OUTSIDE THE BOX, as the times require novel thoughts and bravery and so much more compassion!

Can we create villages of tiny houses with communal kitchens and bath houses for tenants? This is supposed to happen in Worcester, but the paperwork and funding process is tedious and time-frames too expansive.

Old csx railroad cars, any railroad cars … can they be converted into tiny homes? It’s happening in California!

RCAP and CMHA in Worcester… Can they rent efficiencies at these extended stay places in Worcester and Worcester County? Just for a month or two while homeless people and families continue to look for permanent housing. These efficiencies in these big complexes at the edge of towns and cities are little studio apartments in what’s really a mammoth apartment complex. Each efficiency has a living area with sofa and chair … a kitchen with nice stove, refrigerator, microwave, small table and two chairs … a bedroom area with bed, night tables, closet area … My space was more tasteful, cozier, than the apartment I saw last week!

Can we use COVID funds to bridge the rental gap$ at these places, as voucher money$ will not cover the monthly “rent.” Can HUD strike a deal with these huge places, for let’s say 10 percent of their units? For Massachusetts? America?

Bottom line: Worcester needs more housing. All kinds. And not necessarily the kind branded “affordable.” Just having more housing units period would be a godsend … would make things easier for people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder because rents would go down in the ghettos as the upper-income renters rent the nice places in our nice neighborhoods – and pay the higher prices. The city’s below-average housing stock would become less attractive, have fewer and fewer takers. Landlords would have to get real and lower their rents to entice people to live in their dumps. Most Worcester slumlords have done nothing to their apartments during our city’s hot real estate boom, but they raised their rents exorbitantly just to keep up with the Canal District. Just because they could. Greedy ba*tards.

Poor little kids. Poor old broads.

The Worcester Public Schools and Mr. Monfredo and U.S. history

By Rosalie Tirella

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American slaves and owners. In Mr. Monfredo’s 5th grade classroom, we students learned the truth!

I’m watching the new Ken Burns pbs documentary on Benjamin Franklin tonight! Are you? Passionate about American history! The catalyst for my love dates back to when I was a Worcester Public Schools student decades ago at Lamartine Street School. I learned a lot of American history there – for instance, the genocide of the American Indians, the horrors of slavery. All at the long gone Lamartine on Meade Street, now the City of Worcester Code Dept … in my fifth grade classroom – Mr. John Monfredo’s classroom! Our former Worcester School Committee member and ol’ Belmont Community School principal was a young teacher back then, right out of teacher’s college – 50 years ago! And he was excellent! Cutting-edge! Our sixth grade teacher, Mr. Chickarian (sp?) was cool, too. I still remember seeing my 6th grade classmate, Mary, reading BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE for her book report! She was super smart. It was the ’70s, and the times were different, more open, less racist…there was no MCAS test, FOX NEWS … no Eric Trump, no cancel culture. We were a more humane, open America. Our teachers weren’t afraid of teaching the truth to our public school students.

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At OSV. An interpretor – a doctress! Mr. Monfredo took his entire class to Old Sturbridge Village at least once every school year. A fun class field trip where we students piled into a big ol’ WPS yellow school bus for a bumpy, giddy ride to Sturbridge, to a living museum, an early New England village in action. I loved seeing the artisans plying their trades in real time!

Things got boring and flat at Worcester’s Burncoat Senior High School, years later – when they should have gotten really exciting and cool. Our 11th grade history teacher, quiet and polite (I forgot his name), had us memorize all these dates and facts out of a big blue boring US history text book. No fun. Bleh. Meh. I don’t remember a thing! We kids forgot it all as soon as the chapter tests were given to us by our serious, low-key teacher, always in blue suit in tie …

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Black history is American history! We learned that in Mr. Monfredo’s classroom!

Mr. Monfredo wore colored velvet vests to go with his cool suits! He was so handsome – all of us girls had crushes on him! In Mr. Monfredo’s class he let us choose and read books outside our history text book, to go down that special path that intrigued us … We did art projects to accompany our book reports … we drew and painted and watched videos on slavery or American Indian crafts … and we discussed the texts, the information in an open and honest way. Still my fave history class!

Amanda Gorman photographed in LA on January 29, 2020.
Amanda Gorman photographed in LA on January 29, 2020.
I know Mr. Monfredo would have had us students reading and reciting the young Gorman’s poems.

Mr. Monfredo was years ahead of his time – his school was located in my neighborhood, Green Island, one of Worcester’s poorest neighborhoods. He had Lamartine declared WORCESTER’S first inner-city school – which made us impoverished students and our families eligible for all sorts of federal and state educational programs, materials etc. He tailored classes for all kids … kids like me and Mary, kids like the older boys who were practically teens but were “kept back” and were struggling to read our class books and uninterested in class work and maybe a bit “rough.” They went to special WPS programs for part of the day and came back for art, music, movies, plays etc. I mean, everything we should be doing now for our WPS students TODAY, John Monfredo and many of the Lamartine teachers were doing a half century ago, with support from Mr. McFeely, our school principal and, I assume, WPS administration. Our WPS teachers were grand! They had no MCAS to teach to, they were given the freedom to close the classroom door and run their own classrooms, they collaborated, they were creative, they worked with families, many African American and Puerto Rican … they were EXCITED to teach us poor kids, many of whom would go on to be the first person in their families to go on to college (like me, for instance!)

Now?

Ridiculous squabbles. At the expense of ALL WPS students.

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970:  Photo of Maya Angelou  Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1970: Photo of Maya Angelou Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
We read I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS IN MRS. NEDWICKS PROVIDENCE STREET JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL’S Honors English class. Our Worcester Public Schools were grand!

************

https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/benjamin-franklin/

Millbury Street – Worcester’s new homeless shelter

Text+photos by Rosalie Tirella

Just drove by Worcester City Hall. Wondering: Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus is leaving us before his contract ends. Why is that? I think this year and the next year and the decade even will be the years Worcester has to grapple with all the stuff Augustus wrought: a gentrified city … a city where locals can’t afford $2,500 monthly rents … A HOMELESS CRISIS ED CAN’T AND WON’T WRAP HIS BRAIN AROUND. The Canal District’s Millbury Street this past month. More homeless camp than business corridor. Heartbreaking.

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Millbury Street …

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😢

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Also: a majority minority city whose leaders refuse to treat as such. All our City Diversity Czars have quit in disgust. Now the usual way of Worcester bringing up the new city manager has changed – now that there’s a Latino guy who may actually head our city. The good old boys way was good enough for former Woo city manager Mike O’Brien and soon to depart Ed Augustus. The city gave lip service to a national search but had their boys already chosen …and groomed. Now with Mr. Batista, a Latino professional who’s worked in the upper echelons of City Hall for a decade and has an impressive city resume, a professional poised to be our next City Manager, everyone cries FOUL. LET’S STOP THIS NOW. Of course, the city leaders are freaking out: a minority city manager? Possibly coupled with a minority Worcester Public Schools superintendent? Coupled with new majority minority school voting districts? This is just too much for the old guard to digest.

But it’s the new Worcester reality. The Woo times, they are a changin’! I, for one, rejoice over these seismic shifts!!!

WE NEED EQUITY. FAIR PLAY. EQUALITY. NOT MORE B.S. FROM OUR CITY GOVERNMENT.

Quality staff at Worcester’s Quality Inn hotel

By Rosalie Tirella

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Worcester has a homeless crisis. Photo: R.T.

I read with great interest the T and G story about the recent “clean up” of upper Lincoln Street. How the area was recently cleared by the City of all its nasty homeless folks and how now all the wonderful Lincoln Plaza and nearby LS strip mall businesses can flourish once again! Thank God! And thank God the City of Worcester professionals went into that big homeless hotel on Oriol Drive – Quality Inn and Suites – and gave a seminar or two, EDUCATED, the people who work there: the manager, the front desk folks, housekeeping etc. Thanks to the City of Worcester, the Quality Inn staffers can now do their jobs properly. They were taught how to deal with the hotel’s drug users, domestic upheaval, homeless intruders, microwave fires, unruly guests etc etc.

What bull sh*t. If anything, the staff at this humongous hotel on upper Lincoln Street should educate City Manager Ed Augustus and the Worcester City Council and SMOC, THE SENIOR CENTER, RCAP on how to deal with the homeless of Worcester in a compassionate, humane, realistic way!

I, being homeless, have been everywhere – including the Quality Inn that so many in the newspaper article consider notorious. The Quality Inn was a place where I spent three or four weeks off and on this past summer. Yes, I saw all the problems that were outlined in the news article, but I – along with all the other hotel guests – was always treated with respect and warmth. The young Quality Inn staffers are truly Quality People, displaying competence, smarts, humanity and professionalism! – often under the craziest of circumstances. The pretty Dana, the Jamaican guy at the front desk, the African guy at the desk during nights and the handyman are all wonderful people who truly deserve the gold stars of the hospitality biz! To dismiss them as not knowing is wrong.

The Quality Inn hotel is HUGE, several stories high, with around 130 rooms. Many of these rooms – all clean and spacious with amenities – are rented by the Red Cross for fire evacuees, the church for its needy, women fleeing boyfriends with fists and guns, little kids fleeing with their abused moms and grannies, all of them traumatized … and temporarily homeless folks.

One night as I was checking in and chatting with the Jamaican guy who mans the front desk and takes reservations – he’s about 26, always handsome in his short braids (gold trimmed) and clean shirt and slacks – this old guy rushes through the hotel lobby. He’s carrying a big dirty paper bag. He starts screaming at the Jamaican guy behind the front desk: MY ROOM’S TV DOESN’T WORK!! I need to cook this fish!!

The guy runs to the other side of the desk and leans into the kid, who stares back, totally unflappable. I am two feet away with a hyper Jett and Lilac. The guy screams: I OUGHTA TAKE MY KNIFE AND CUT YOUR FACE!!!

The one thing I’ve learned this past year when on the periphery of dicey situations such as this one is to SHUT UP. Just shut up! So I shut up and acted like this was all normal, praying this guy didn’t have his knife in his paper bag …

The Jamaican kid then did something totally disarming: he smiled a loving smile AND LAUGHED. LAUGHED as if to say: Come on, bro! Stop the kidding!

The guy, who rents a room every Friday night, smiled back at his friend and started chatting, and the front desk kid gave him an extra towel or two… and the old man was no longer distraught but walked quietly and calmly back to the elevator, back to his room.

One night at the Quality Inn on Oriol Drive there were several fire alarms. At 3 a.m. All of us guests had to evacuate the hotel in our night clothes – little kids included – and wait for the WFD fire trucks to come roaring in, sirens blaring, lights flashing. I’d been through this several times at the Quality. All false alarms. It was summer so I was ok with being out in my nightie and shirt and waited patiently with Jett and Lilac who glommed onto a little girl wearing a purple tutu. She twirled and gave Lilac a kiss on the forehead, tickled to see her. Lilac was all happy now. A game to the both of them! I cried and looked away to wipe my tears away quickly, discreetly.

Well, false alarm. Again. A kid guest in one of the rooms didn’t know how to use his room’s microwave oven. He kept putting stuff into it to cook, and the aluminum foil kept smoking up.

The next day the Jamaican kid told me he explained to the kid how to use the microwave properly. Next night, I was there …another fire alarm. Three WFD fire trucks came racing in. The firemen looked exasperated. Same problem, same kid.

The next night, after a day of CECELIA/ work, I booked a room at the Quality, which I became oddly attached to. I walked to the Jamaican guy at the front desk and said: I hope there are no false fires tonight!

He said: No, there won’t be any. I went into his room, removed his microwave oven and threw it in the Dumpster.

Genius.

Staffer Dana spent an hour trying to fix the TV in my room so I could relax with an old movie on Turner Classic Movies cable network. I told her I was struggling and watching Frank Sinatra or Doris Day made me … happy. So she tried to accommodate …

The African guy at the front desk who worked the graveyard shift was fearful of my pups, but he always gave me my extra coffee pods, my extra tea bags and hand towels. A good, serious person working in a tough environment. A Quality Person!

All these young people at the Quality Inn are dealing beautifully with traumatized, hurting, sometimes strung out guests! The opposite of staffers at our Worcester social service agencies who are complete morons. They’re supposed to help the homeless, but the “professionals” at RCAP, CMHA, Elder Services, SMOC and the Worcester Senior Center are the sh*t show. They often let us hang out to dry! The dismissive MSW Linda Moore of the senior center …the screamer Sally Nieves of RCAP or the pointless Pam Ortiz of CMHA. All useless. All pushing paper, if that.

The Quality Inn staffers up on Oriol Drive are the hands on social workers of Worcester, the true case managers! The City of Worcester should be paying them for alleviating Worcester’s homeless crisis!!! – not acting as if they’re part of the problem.

Praying🙏 for Peter Stefan’s speedy recovery!💙

By Rosalie Tirella

I met up with Peter Stefan’s girlfriend yesterday outside his Main South funeral home. She said, “Peter’s a very sick man. Peter is very sick.” She looked serious, depressed. She told me, Yes, Peter had his gall bladder removed at the hospital. Yes, he’s out of the Boston hospital and back at Graham and Putnam in Worcester, but he’s just not well. He is not rallying.

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Peter always helped and advocated for Worcester’s poor. photos: R.T.

I knew it. When I call the funeral home, Peter’s always in bed, resting. Can’t come to the phone. I miss Peter’s feisty, determined “GRAHAM AND PUTNAM” phone pick up! He always answered the phone, often way past normal business hours, like a boxer ready to enter the ring, the fight. This tall, tough, COMPASSIONATE funeral director was ready for anything! Picking up a dead person on Worcester train tracks, getting into his van and driving to the site of death…sifting through the charred remains in a train box car … giving a salty, radical quote to a Boston tv reporter who called for that tough, controversial but true quote … talking with an old person who called Peter asking for help paying for his prescription meds.

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Peter ran Worcester County food pantry ads in ICT and CECELIA for years, ending each ad with: “GOD MUST HAVE LOVED THE POOR BECAUSE HE MADE SO MANY OF THEM.”

Peter was the Main South social service agency that the City of Worcester used when it was in dire straits but never truly appreciated. Or thanked. Peter was the junkyard dog looking into City Hall windows, looking for scraps of appreciation and help from our City Council and other Worcester ”leaders.” City Manager Ed Augustus and company ignored him, never threw Peter that bone, patted that old, grisly head …

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Peter was always a part of CECELIA – and InCity Times!

The 20 years of Peter Stefan ads in InCity Times and CECELIA said it all, reflected the real Peter we knew and loved: His basic goodness, his love for the poor, his dedication to the homeless, his stepping up for the city’s hungry and forsaken, his remembering and honoring the dead that Worcester families had abandoned. Peter was a force of nature. He is a Worcester gem.

We pray this good man, Worcester’s Guardian Angel of the Poor, makes a full recovery!

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Peter’s first love: his Main South funeral home that he ran like a Worcester social service agency.

Kathy Sullivan’s Quinsigamond Village Community Center

By Rosalie Tirella

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Greenwood Street: outside the QVCC, right, a few years back. Photo: R.T.

The long-gone Quinsigamond Village Community Center on Greenwood Street: Kathy Sullivan’s real neighborhood center – so unlike the City of Worcester neighborhood centers we have today. It was years ago … the opposite of the South Worcester Neighborhood Center, the Worcester Senior Center, the Green Island Residents Group … It was 30 years ago. I’d just returned to Worcester from Amherst and Springfield. I had decided to move back to my hometown and wanted to make a commitment to my city. So I joined my local neighborhood center as a board member. It was the Quinsigamond Village Community Center, a few blocks from the apartment I had just rented on nearby Kosta Street. The center’s now a Black church with a food pantry.

Back then the City of Worcester funded and operated the center, and Kathy Sullivan, its executive director, had turned the Quinsigamond Village Community Center into a neighborhood powerhouse. She took what essentially had been a dead space, poorly run by the late Jane Petrella of Greenwood Street, and turned it into a busy, fun, people-focused, open-to-all REAL NEIGHBORHOOD CENTER that actually improved people’s lives. Kathy, who passed away years ago and became a friend of mine (I still miss her!), MOVED INTO QVCC BIG TIME after her stint at the city’s Main South Neighborhood Center, now, like our public library branch there, gone. At QVCC Kathy started an after-school program that was always attended by 20 to 40 neighborhood kids of all colors. She opened up a real food pantry that kept food on the tables of scores of neighborhood families. Kathy put on monthly Saturday night spaghetti suppers for the community. For $2 you got an entire Italian meal – meatballs made by Kathy – cooked by us board members. At these old fashioned neighborhood get-togethers, you met your neighbors, joked around, gossiped. Fun times!

We had a little library book nook in our neighborhood center for the kiddos. We had an information table with pamphlets for all. We had plays and punk rock dances for the teens. We had a long table overflowing with donated, gently used clothing and shoes – free to those in need. We had monthly board meetings to plan ahead and discuss our progress – I was the secretary who took notes.

And in her office, Kathy sitting behind her desk covered with referral forms and donated boxes of cookies she gave out to everybody, actually counseled people. Spent time talking with folks, reassuring them, guiding them, asking: HOW CAN I HELP YOU? She was a true people person, loved helping and caring for folks. Just being in a busy rambunctious neighborhood center got her to laughing and smiling that terrific smile!

Kathy was so different from the morons manning our city neighborhood centers and agencies today – doing next to nothing and collecting a City of Worcester paycheck.

Kathy would make phone calls for you – really work the phones. She’d fill out the paperwork and stay on the case. Plus, she was pretty, fun, real – and had a great laugh that I still hear when I drive by my old neighborhood center, a former church. Kathy’d go out for drinks with folks and QVCC board members at local dives. Her gal pal from years back, also a single mom, would meet us and the vino would flow and the talk would get loud and a tad raunchy. Girl talk!

Kathy lived in Vernon Hill, in a cute blue house that belonged to her late mom, a nurse at the old St. V’s hospital, right across the street from Kathy’s little blue house. Kathy lived in her house with her teenaged son and a teen who had had it rough with his family, a friend of her son’s. Kathy took the boy in, gave him a home, made him her second son. Oftentimes she’d tell me about the challenges she’d have with this kid, his struggle with trusting people, sometimes his anger … but Kathy, a single working mom, always fed, clothed and encouraged him – loved him.

Kathy was a true Worcester gem. She made everyone around her smile. She made us all feel loved and cared for – Quinsigamond Village Community Center board members, neighborhood folks, family, the guy on Greenwood Street with just a nickel in his pocket. She gave former drug addicts a second chance at her center… made one of them her super volunteer secretary! Kathy didn’t judge – she just loved. And because she was so smart and so caring her neighborhood center was … amazing.

We don’t have a Kathy in our Senior Center. We certainly don’t have enough Kathy’s running our City of Worcester neighborhood centers – or what’s left of them.

I miss Kathy.