Category Archives: Green Island Grrrl

Ma💕, Presidents Day 🇺🇲 and America 🇺🇲🇺🇲🇺🇲

By Rosalie Tirella

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Ma and her beloved Doby, Rocky, when Ma worked as a maid for the Bishop of Springfield.

An important date: Tuesday, February 22, is George Washington’s birthday – and my late mom Cecelia’s birthday. Ma and her Polish family were very patriotic, and Ma never liked it that Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays were merged into one generic President’s Day holiday. For the three-day weekend, of course. Ma and her generation were not like Americans are today, with all our in-fighting and self-loathing. Ma hadn’t one iota of disappointment or shame in America, even though she saw the injustices around her and her life was hardscrabble from beginning to end. She loved America, the way she loved God: unconditionally. She used to brag to us kids about sharing her birthday with George Washington, our very first President. And he wasn’t some boring stiff to her, relegated to some boring text book at her alma mater, St. Mary’s Elementary School on Richland Street. To Ma, Washington was a hero, a brave military leader, a terrific first President whose presence could still be felt in her life. She seemed very Washington-ian when she often declared, in the middle of our big Green Island kitchen: “Ours is not to reason why!/Ours is but to do or die!” We kids snickered and went back to coloring in our coloring books Often Ma dug up her old St. Mary’s sixth grade notebook, which she kept with other mementos, and read the American poems the nuns had the students transcribe, for instance Longfellow’s CAPTAIN! OH, CAPTAIN! … Ma read the dusty poem with passion to us kids. Oh captain, my captain…! she said dramatically over the boiling pierogi. I think the nuns had the students diagram each sentence in their notebooks because I remember seeing lines in red pencil under the black ink of Ma’s penmanship. Ma’s sixth grade penmanship was in no way girly or pretty: it was severe, hard-edged. You got the sense from looking at the poem Ma had copied years ago and hearing Ma recite it as you watched the Monkees or I Love Lucy on TV that life was an arduous journey and you had to be brave as you sailed towards the craggy rocks and big boulders, holding on tightly to your pen and notebook. My mother was very brave. We kids watched the Monkees TV show.

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Ma on Bigelow Street.

Like President George Washington, Abraham Lincoln was worthy of adulation in our Green Island flat, too. Ma would often tell us kids President Lincoln (“Honest Abe”) grew up in a log cabin and didn’t have a chance to go to school, and he read his books by the fire of the fireplace of his family’s log cabin. This made me feel cozy – and want to read books! Ma would often retell the Washington myth she loved best, never embellishing it, keeping it to two or three succinct sentences. She said, President Washington said: I cannot tell a lie! I DID chop down that cherry tree! Ma declared this “fact” in the middle of our big three decker kitchen, the heart and soul of all three decker flats.

Today, and probably back then, I get/got the point. Abraham Lincoln was dirt poor and never went to school, but he grew up to be one of our finest Presidents. In other words: This is America, people! Aspire! … And Washington told the truth – no matter how hard truth-telling may have been at the moment. So, always be honest.

Ma’s parents, my Bapy and Jaju, were Polish immigrants who couldn’t read or write English – or even speak the language. They lived in a tenement in the Block on Bigelow Street, the heart of Worcester’s Polish ghetto, and didn’t have a clue about anything in their new world and relied on their daughters and son to do things like buy them a washing machine at the local furniture store or fill out paperwork for social security cards or Jaju’s union membership.

Yet they loved America, too! On Lafayette Street I grew up hearing their thoughts spoken in their soft, round-sounding language that wasn’t so much pretty as it was plump and soothing like a potato pierogi. But Bapy glommed onto PBS’s Mister Rogers Neighborhood TV show, watching Mister Rogers daily and learning her few American words from him and Daniel the Tiger… and she learned how to feel more … American. My Jaju had a quiet voice like Mister Rogers and seemed to like silence. Bapy was opinionated, strong-willed and feisty. She was a little ball of fire but the love of Jaju’s life. Jaju said a few sentences in Polish to my mother now and then, or teased Bapy in Polish about how he knew she watered down the glasses of beer she served him. But more often than not Jaju was busy building stuff on our front porch – so we could have the stuff many Americans had but were too poor to buy. He was an amateur carpenter and, after retiring from the Douglas textile mill, he went to town on a million projects, often with tools he made for himself! He once built us kids a big wooden glider swing that took up a third of our front porch – and really glided! He built wooden kiddie swings that he hung between the door jambs in our two bedrooms so we kids could swing inside our apartment! He looked at the daily newspaper – at the pictures – and watched TV commercials and he was inspired!

When Jaju wasn’t doing his carpentry, he was sitting in a big old chair in our living room, smoking his unfiltered cigarettes that he rolled for himself, sucking up all those carcinogens and American story telling. He watched “Gun Smoke,” “Bonanza” – all the American cowboy TV shows – on our old black and white Philco television. There were a ton of cowboy shows in the 1960s: Rawhide, the Lone Ranger, Big Valley… Maverick. This was the real America for Jaju. He loved American cowboys! He loved their horses! The rough and rugged terrain were a “draw,” too. And the do or die-ness of it all “roped him in”! Often I’d sit on his ankle (I was three) as he watched Gun Smoke or the Lone Ranger, and he’d grab my little hands and pump his leg up and down, and I’d be riding my very own horsey just like the cowboys on our TV! My own bucking bronco! Ma would come in and tell me curtly: Rosalie, get off. You’re making Jaju tired. … I would get off because I loved my sweet grandfather so much I would never hurt him! I still consider Jaju to be my one true dad, as he was the opposite of my violent, womanizing real Daddy-o. Jaju died when I was four, yet he showed me more affection than my birth father would ever show me throughout his 75 miserable years. I still think of and miss my Jaju!

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Rosalie loved her Jaju! She and her grandfather used to sit on this back porch and play blocks or make modeling clay cowboys.

Out of my heavy, wet, grey bars of modeling clay Jaju would fashion a little horse for me! No higher than four inches! Then he’d push and pull and roll that grey clay and make a little cowboy that he sat on the little clay horse! Jaju’d even make a separate little cowboy hat for my cowboy. Then he’d give me my little present, which I proudly displayed on the little foot stool he had made for me earlier. The clay would dry, but I never painted my grandfather’s masterpieces.

So from where did Ma’s intense love of the United States spring? She grew up dirt poor in Green Island. She was farmed out as a maid at 14 1/2 years old. Then she came back to Worcester and worked hard as a counter girl at a dry cleaners making minimum wage…for 35 years. Daddy abandoned us; we loathed the loser. But every day Ma lifted us up – every day, never falling, never faltering…always proud she kept her household afloat. Proud to be our mom. Proud to be an American!

I used to think she was nuts!She should have been deeply disillusioned with America.

Just the opposite! Ma sang, she danced. She whistled. She was an inveterate and first-rate whistler! Ma would go around the house whistling entire songs, verse chorus verse! After breakfast, every morning, she’d walk out to our third floor back porch, still in her pink flower print duster she had bought at the Mart, and she would throw the end slices of our loaves of Wonder Bread and stale bread to the crows, pigeons and brown sparrows outside our door. They waited for her every morning. They flew from the nearby telephone poles and three decker roof tops when they heard Ma’s cheerful – and loud! – whistling. About a year ago I was walking my dogs in the park and thought I heard my mom – it was her exact whistle, note for note! But it was a bird chirping. He sounded so like Ma! Or she had sounded so like him, learned his pretty, frantic birdsong, long ago! I cried as I felt my mom in a small, dusty, brown sparrow …

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The birds Ma so loved …

Bye bye, Woo Dems!

By Rosalie Tirella

FILE - In this April 13, 1934 file photo, President Franklin D. Roosevelt smiles as he speaks to a Congressional welcoming committee which met him at Union Station on his return to Washington. (AP Photo)
FILE – In this April 13, 1934 file photo, President Franklin D. Roosevelt smiles as he speaks to a Congressional welcoming committee which met him at Union Station on his return to Washington. (AP Photo)

Love these guys, especially THOMAS FRANK. LISTEN TO HIM AT THE 45-MINUTE MARK in the podcast below. Frank’s right: the Democrats are an elitist group that fails to support the American majority – ORDINARY WORKING people. You have an issue – you call or visit your DEMOCRATIC politicians in the Worcester area, the pols for whom you voted year after year after year … the glib, stupid politicians you, a Democrat, supported and believed in! Now you look to these losers for help. You’re 59/60 years old and never asked any of them for help. Now you, a working class woman who idolizes FDR, JFK and Truman, is in trouble and need help from the government, from social service agencies the Dems throw money at … and you get NOTHING FROM YOUR WORCESTER COUNTY DEMOCRATIC POLS. McGovern, Moore, Chandler, Petty…all pointless! You suddenly realize: THIS IS WHY DONALD TRUMP GOT ELECTED! The Dems used to deliver for the peeps, but now they don’t. They do not care one whit about you, people like you: they are a snobbish, upper-middle class clique who do little but think highly of themselves and hang out with people who are also out of touch with regular people. Your working class needs go unmet. You realize the Democrats are as disconnected from your problems as the Republicans are! More so!!!

Remember when the Democrats actually DID SOMETHING FOR THE POOR or WORKING CLASS? Remember LBJ …FDR … TEDDY ROOSEVELT?? They smashed the ball out of the ball park. They gave GIs homes and college educations. They pushed for affordable housing. Raising the minimum wage to a living wage. Health care … caring for the elderly, preserving our natural wonders through the creation of national parks (TR).

Now, it’s just lip service with the Dems. Most regular folks are ignored by these political poops. The new, febrile Democratic party (since the 1980s, actually) help, connect with, give the favors to their rich, professional pals. To have Holly at Congressman Jim McGovern’s office ignore you. Be rude. To get no call back from Petty. To have Moore’s office blow you off. I have whined to folks, told them: to have Rcap, CMHA, the senior center, elder services of Worcester county, all the Democrats and democratic agencies that get the Dem funding$$$, to see them do so little when they can do so much is mind blowing. They are just money pits. My friends have said: Rose, that’s Worcester. That’s typical. And then they recount their experiences with Democratic politicians in Worcester County – the people, THE PUBLIC SERVANTS, they called for help with their important life issues – and they got nowhere, too! No call backs. No real effort by anybody. No MAJOR CHANGES IN PUBLIC POLICY. Just a bunch of clubby, chubby, lazy losers. So my pals stopped voting. Now I will stop voting, too.

The Dems, like the Republicans, do very little but they get a lot. And they ignore regular folks – the people they should serve, the voters they used to treat with respect – the former lifeblood of the Democratic party! The workers! The working class!

No more. The working class vote Republican.

And this is why 13% of Worcester’s registered voters vote come election time. Why should we? Politicians don’t deliver for most of us. They don’t care about our problems, our lives. They don’t even pretend to … So the Republicans get the vote of the Democrat like me – the one who’s been betrayed by and lied to and feels disillusioned with all the phoney Worcester Democrats.

Yes, former President Donald Trump was a bigot, a vulgarian and a horrible human being, but often he spoke the truth!! He said the average American was screwed … from all sides. Our cities often sucked. Our lives were hard. Crime and violence were a pall over the nation. China was destroying us. NAFTA was the pits. We worked but never really got ahead. He said the pols in office were out of touch with our challenges, our pain, and he was going to change all that.

But Trump was a freakin’ disaster.

As are the Republicans.

As are the Dems. You can add the DEMOCRATS to the dung hill!

I didn’t vote last election cycle – and don’t plan to vote whenever the next election rolls around. I’ll be doing more important things, like sorting my sock drawer or trimming my toenails.

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THE PODCAST:

https://youtu.be/A7rvNH1jPiU

CANAL DISTRICT TRAFFIC PATTERNS AND MISSING STREET LIGHTS

By Rosalie Tirella

1. In Worcester’s Canal District: I was driving through the PEANUT – the big trucks and 18 wheelers are a disaster! All the gritty, personal charm of the late great Kelley Square is gone. Now we’ve got the impersonal, speedway dubbed THE PEANUT. It blows!!

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The Peanut. photos: R.T.

To me, the old Kelley Square felt safer to navigate: it was more personal and you had to slow down more often as you MADE EYE CONTACT WITH pedestrians or fellow drivers.

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Ugh!

And the new, reversed, flipped, reconfigured street directions of the Canal District MAKE NO SENSE! The new one-ways were solely created to feed traffic to the freakin’ ballpark – nothing more. Forget the Green Island residents! They do not matter! Even local small businesses take a hit. When I was a kid growing up in Green Island, the traffic pattern made sense – it was set up (for years) to accommodate Green Islanders and local small businesses … designed to feed Green Island cars into Millbury Street for work, shopping and school. And Millbury Street emptied into Kelley Square for more shopping and to connect to I 290. Now? Chaos!

2. And what disrespect, courtesy of CM Ed Agustus and crew! The newly manufactured ballpark street – whatever its name is – gets A TON OF FANCY NEW STREET LIGHTS and, parallel to it, my beloved old Lamartine Street has around three old street lights.

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New, ultra-illuminated ballpark street to the left; dark Lamartine Street to the right.

Lamartine – the thoroughfare that does all the work, connects to Grosvenor, Lodi, Lunel, Langdon, Scott and Meade streets and the rest of Green Island (Lafayette, Bigelow and Endicott streets and more), in other words, ALL THE GREEN ISLAND RESIDENTS is hardly illuminated! Very unsafe! Just a few crumby old street lights light up Lamartine – the ones from my Lafayette Street childhood. Yet Lamartine is the street that actually does all the work! It’s the street that’s actually used by drivers! The street that has workaday traffic year ’round. Outside the ball games, the new, ultra-lit ballpark street (to the left in my night photo) gets very little traffic! See the car, to the right, on Lamartine? And the one street light lighting its way? Pathetic.

Canal District ballpark broken promises

By Rosalie Tirella

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Steve. pics: R.T.

Here’s “Steve” protesting across the street from the Canal District’s ballpark – at the new development going up, the one by Lamartine Street, huge, sprawling, neighborhood-altering. Steve, a member of our local iron workers union, says the owners of the development – apartment complexes with business/retail space – are hiring contractors/workers from New Hampshire. Not hiring Worcester workers, guys and gals from Worcester County union shops.

I can back up Steve: I drive by all the construction EVERY DAY and see the New Hampshire license plates on the contractor trucks parked by the project. New Hampshire, New Hampshire, read the license plates. Definitely not local construction etc workers. Probably got on the cheap.

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The humongous development …

Steve wants to know: What about Worcester workers? What is our mayor thinking of? Doesn’t he understand that Steve’s union gives back to the city? Is invested? Steve proudly told me this past Christmas the iron workers union donated $2,500 to the Boys and Girls Club of Worcester, on Tainter Street. The money was earmarked for Christmas gifts and more for the kids. He was exuberant in the cold as he spoke highly of the Clubhouse’s director. She made a big impression on him.

Do the New Hampshire workers do that? Do they go gaga over the Worcester Boys and Girls Club? Do they care like Steve? Live in the area…love Worcester?

Hardly.

Steve said in these challenging times, Worcester needs to make good on its promise and hire local union shops for work being done in the ballpark area. “We’d like to be able to go out to Worcester restaurants…” he said, have a middle-class lifestyle. But if the City of Worcester – which promised ball park area revitalization would mean JOBS, good jobs, for Worcester iron workers and other blue-collar men and women – fails to advocate for them, lies in the papers about giving jobs to our union shops, our minority-owned or women-owned construction companies, what’s the point of being union – and local?

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Steve and friends brave the cold to make a point to city leaders: HIRE LOCAL!

What’s up at RCAP SOLUTIONS on May Street?

By Rosalie Tirella

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Why must Sally scream at clients? pics: R.T.

Wow. Just processing my totally dysfunctional experience at RCAP (Housing) Solutions on MAY STREET, WORCESTER re my housing voucher. SALLY NIEVES, deputy director, couldn’t make our 11 a.m. appointment, so a Melissa did the paperwork with me. Gal pal Vo, a case manager from St. Paul’s Outreach, was there as a witness, advisor.
Melissa approved me…gave me my voucher packet, told me: I WANT TO HELP YOU! I HAVE A DOG – I KNOW!

Gal pal Lee Hall from the City Code Dept was outside minding Jett and Lilac. She’s their godmother.💕🐕

A half hour later my gal pals and I were outside SO HAPPY for me! Finally! LEE was offering advice and congratulations.

BACK ON the ROAD: 5 minutes later I get a call from RCAP, from this bizarro broad on biz card – Sally Nieves. Sally started SCREAMING AT ME: I JUST NULLED AND VOIDED YOUR VOUCHER, Rosalie!!!! YOU NEED TO WATCH A VIDEO!!!

I said, Melissa did not tell me that, Sally. I followed Melissa’s directions just now. I was just there!

Sally Nieves continued her yelling, her tirade …

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RCAP SOLUTIONS – Worcester’s “premier” housing agency – is located on May Street in Worcester.

I called HUD WASHINGTON D.C. AND FILED a COMPLAINT against the abusive Sally Nieves at RCAP on May Street.

Sally’s as incompetent as Christine O’Connell at Central Mass Housing Alliance on Institute Road.

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Central Mass Housing Alliance is located on 6 Institute Road, Worcester.

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CMHA

Would Sally treat a fellow Latina, a senior, that way??

To be continued …

Jim in Rose’s space! New column on JFK!🇺🇸

In honor of President’s Day …

By Jim Coughlin

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Jim☘️🇺🇸

In honor of America’s upcoming President’s Day, I salute our own Massachusetts native, John F. Kennedy. JFK, a president worthy of a state holiday in his honor!

Because JFK was so close to the state of Massachusetts and actually lived right next to the State House on Beacon Hill (at 122 Bowdoin St.) just prior to ascending to the Presidency of the United States, we may have forgotten how special that relationship was. JFK was NOT just “another president,” but rather he was a president who formerly served in the United States Senate, representing Massachusetts where his career in national and world politics began. In short, we, the people of Massachusetts were President Kennedy’s first constituents before he went on to become the most powerful man in the world.

Before JFK galvanized the people of the world and had the people of Germany walking hundreds of miles to see this United States president from Massachusetts, he was our United States Senator from 1953 to 1961 and before that, was a congressman, representing the former 11th Congressional District from 1947 to 1953.

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ICT/CECELIA editor/publisher Rose feels Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke is in the Kennedy mold: intelligent, charismatic, good looking, passionate about government and America, dedicated to bettering the lives of ALL Americans.

For several years now I have been working for the establishment of a state holiday in Massachusetts honoring President Kennedy precisely because of that relationship he had with the “body politic” of Massachusetts. I have established the Citizens Committee for the JFK Holiday, Inc. of which I currently serve as president. The idea of a state holiday for home state Presidents is NOT without precedent because there are currently holidays in three other states for other presidents: Alabama honors Thomas Jefferson on April 13th; Missouri honors Harry Truman on May 8th and Texas honors Lyndon Johnson on August 28th. In addition, a majority of the states in our country have state holidays either separately or combined for Presidents Abraham Lincoln and President George Washington, while others, like Massachusetts, celebrate a generalized “Presidents Day.”

There is a municipal holiday in the city of Yorba Linda, California, the birthplace of President Richard M. Nixon, the 37th President of the United States. He resigned from the presidency on August 4, 1973, in the wake of the Watergate scandal and other corrupt activities when the House of Representatives was conducting an impeachment proceeding against him.

Also, there are several other “Presidential Holidays” celebrated throughout the United States, including one in honor of Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederate States of America! He’s feted in several of the former states of the Confederacy during the Civil War (1861 – 1865). The “Jefferson Davis Holiday” is STILL celebrated in the southern states of Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri and South Carolina!

You may ask yourself, “Why does JFK deserve a holiday?”

JFK was a truly great president because of his record which the people of Massachusetts should be justifiably proud of. I believe that the best way to have his name honored in perpetuity is through the establishment of a state holiday as there are holidays for other presidents.

JFK stands as “a polar opposite” to our divisive and corrupt presidents such as Jefferson Davis and Nixon. Especially when one compares the “presidential performance” of our nation’s 45th president (Trump) to JFK, it is absolutely haunting how Trump denigrated the Office of the Presidency before the citizens of the world. When an objective comparison is made between JFK and Trump, JFK stands as the unquestionable example of Presidential leadership.

Aside from JFK’s most notable domestic presidential accomplishments such as the U.S. Moon Landing Project, The Peace Corps and his victory over Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis, averting a nuclear war, what are some of his lesser well-known achievements?

His first act as president on Inauguration Day, 1961, was to ship emergency food supplies to Appalachia.

JFK established the first U.S. Commission on the Status of Women (chaired by former U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt) that looked at substantial discrimination against women in the workplace and made recommendations for “equal pay for equal work” on account of sex, paid maternity leave and affordable child care. As a result, modern women rights emerged during the Kennedy administration and sent recommendations to the states to deal with these “gender inequities” facing women back in the early 1960’s.

He signed the law building Community Colleges: “The Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963.”

JFK initiated and signed the “Equal Pay Act” for equal pay for equal work “on account of sex.”

If you are an hourly employee, working over 40 hours a week, JFK signed the law guaranteeing you, as an employee, “time and a half pay” when you work more than 40 hours a week.

He initiated the idea of the federal government paying colleges and universities to build what at the time in 1961 was called, “college housing” (nowadays called “college dormitories.) Before 1961, only if you were male and wealthy, you attended college, and very few women went to college. His presidential actions began the construction of state colleges and universities and opened the doors to academically qualified students who otherwise would not have been able to further their education beyond high school.

JFK initiated a pilot program of the federal student loan program for undergraduate college and university students that has evolved into what today is the U S. Department of Education and … doing this on a much larger basis.

He built Graduate Schools for those studying the physical sciences, mathematics, modern foreign languages and engineering.

JFK built hospital facilities for training physicians, pharmacists, optometrists, podiatrists, nurses, dentists and other health professionals.

He initiated and enacted “The Area Development Act” targeting economically depressed areas like Appalachia and northern Kentucky, including those living on Indian reservations.

Thank JFK for “The Manpower Development and Training Act” which developed worker training programs jointly with the states by contracting with public agencies, employers and unions. This law especially targeted the unemployed and the underemployed

JFK initiated and signed “The Mental Health Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act.”

He successfully managed the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1962, thus averting Nuclear War.

On December 27, 2021, The Joint Committee on State Administration voted to approve our legislation, House 3218, for “The JFK Holiday Legislative Commission” to consider the question of a JFK Holiday in Massachusetts. It is now before the House Committee on Ways and Means.

I applaud this approval by the committee of which State Representative Mary Keefe is a member. We are grateful that our message is resonating within the ranks of the Massachusetts legislature. I would like to urge the Worcester delegation to support our bill and for our State Representative James O’Day and State Senator Harriet Chandler, as legislative leaders, to back our bill!

💕💕💕💕💕💕💕💕💕

Cute vintage Worcester Valentine’s Day card, courtesy of the Worcester Historical Museum. KIDDOS! MAKE A VALENTINE AND ENTER IT IN THE MUSEUM’S VALENTINE’S DAY CARD CONTEST!

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What is wrong over at Central Mass Housing Alliance?

By Rosalie Tirella

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Green Street: the homeless congregate near and sleep under the Green Street Bridge. photos:R.T.

What is wrong with Central Mass Housing Alliance case manager CHRISTINE O’CONNELL? Why call me from her office at 6 Institute Road to tell me: Congrats, Rose! You have a housing voucher!

To follow up with: But it could be as long as two months because RCap [another Worcester housing agency] never returns our calls.

Is Christine as oblivious as she looks? A rich, “connected” gal in her early 40s who lacks empathy and sensitivity…and lies to clients and their case managers?

As I get more insistent about getting my voucher ASAP SO I CAN LAND AN APARTMENT and pay exorbitant rent for my very own slum dwelling and gal pal Vo – also the case manager for St. Paul’s Elder Outreach – and a bunch of other folks – try to wring the housing voucher – or some basic information – out of Christine O’Connell, O’CONNELL DIGS IN AND DOES NOTHING. TO PUNISH A NOISY CLIENT – Rose. Rose is so demanding!

Christine O’Connell told me last week: Nope, Rose. Your paperwork is still on my desk.

Rose says: Chris, do you want me to drive over, get the paperwork THAT I FILLED OUT FOR YOU TWO WEEKS AGO, and drive it over to RCap [on May Street]?

Christine O’Connell, in her sweetest, most passive aggressive good girl voice, says: No, Rose. It’ll just sit here.

On her desk.

I am enraged and call EVERY Worcester County politician I know and Congressmen Jim McGovern’s office (Gladys). They spin their wheels, too. Christine O’CONNELL blows them off, too. She just gets more obstinate, digs her heels in…and I’m sleeping in my car in the middle of January. In New England. During a global pandemic.

But Christine O’Connell tells Vo, my pal and case manager: Oh, yes, Vo. We’ve sent the info to RCap!!

Liar.

Then I call Chris and say: you’ve told me one thing and my case manager another. You have not done your job. You’ve lied … I’m reporting you to HUD. In two seconds I get calls that come in from Christine and a person that comes up as Justin on my phone’s caller ID. Nope, it’s not Justin. It’s Pam Ortiz of Central Mass Housing Alliance, Christine O’Connell’s helper, who seemed flummoxed that her work number would come up as a totally different person.

I talked with Pam/Justin on speaker phone yesterday with Vo listening and adding her thoughts when necessary.

Pam to Rose: Yes! You definitely have a voucher, Rose. Now Rcap will be calling you …

When? I ask. Do I get a letter so I can show prospective landlords? Why so late? Didn’t I fill out all the paperwork WEEKS AGO?!!!!!!

Why can’t any of these pointless paper pushers push my paperwork??? … A friend said the answer was clear: They don’t want to give you a voucher, Rose. They played games with me years ago because I had a house. My kids were hungry!

Onto HUD, in D.C., the feds who give these incompetents their funding to file a complaint …

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And … despite the good soul and intentions of the City’s Dr. Mattie, WHY IS WORCESTER SO SLOW WHEN IT COMES TO HELPING THE STREET HOMELESS?

Is City Manager Ed Augustus hoping, stupidly – as evidenced in a few news stories – that everybody just goes away? Picks themselves off Millbury Street, Jefferson Street and Park Ave sidewalks – WHERE THEY ARE SLEEPING in sleeping bags and old sofa cushions – and just trundle off to bed in Holden or Millbury? That seems to be Ed’s wish! This provincial, cruel cruel city manager, who was taken to court by a Worcester School Committee member for trying to ban our homeless from our city streets (Ed lost), says our homeless aren’t even from Worcester!!! They belong to the surrounding towns, and can these towns please, pretty please, take them back, and, you know, help out a little bit?

What dream world is Ed Augustus living in?

That will never happen.

That’s why people move to the country or suburbs – to get away from refugees, immigrants, liberal talk, a multi-racial population, people speaking a million languages AND HOMELESS PEOPLE sleeping on street corners. That’s why the federal government gives cities the big bucks: we’re more complicated, our people need more help, at least in the beginning. The up side is we’re more exciting, fun, entrepreneurial, aspirational, young and attractive!

ED AUGUSTUS, CHRISTINE O’CONNELL, PAM ORTIZ: WE NEED MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING, not less understanding and love. We need MORE RENTAL ASSISTANCE, AS IN VOUCHERS, not more evictions. And we need people who can do their jobs with a modicum of competence.

GIMME SOME BREAD!

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rosalie, left, and her sis. Photo taken at UMass/Amherst.

Bought this double lp in the 1970s – BREAD, GREATEST HITS – because my beautiful talented cousin Jane bought it and I worshipped Jane – and she worshipped David Gates and BREAD. So she bought her double Bread album and I bought mine, the perfect little mimic/groupie, I was! Jane, a senior at the old Marion High School, seemed to be living the BREAD dream: tall and lithe, with dark hair that flowed down her back, she literally stopped traffic when she walked down the street. I was present during a few honking, near-accidents. Her parents called her their “Polish Princess” and said she was pretty and tall enough – 5 feet, seven inches was the required minimum height – to be a PROFESSIONAL model. Jane was always in love with a dreamy college boy and made a new conquest every week by just smiling at the guy. Even though she was only in high school, the handsome guys at WPI or at the bank she worked at on Saturday’s called her “beautiful” to her face and wilted in the presence of her loveliness. A lot of BREAD songs were about romance and the eternal swoon. I’m certain Jane saw herself in all the BREAD lyrics and melodies. I, on the other hand, had zero boys interested in me, and no guy ever sketched me by lamplight after calculus class.

Back then the music critics despised BREAD, calling the soft rock group as musically interesting as … white bread! A loaf of Wonder! Thankfully, I was too young to listen to critics so, even though my Green Island teen years were ghetto- and poverty-infused, more punk rock than soft rock, I still LOVED Bread. Their music was so heartfelt, so lovelorn, so wistful!! I used to play this album over and over again on my Emerson portable stereo system when I was a teen. Dreaming of boys … and horses … I STILL know all the words to all these BREAD hits! They were all so perfect for the teenaged girl on Lafayette Street, lying on her belly, imagining her own prince coming to rescue her from her old grey three decker and nagging Bapy. … I wondered what was true love? what did sex feel like? would the boy who would see me naked marry me? Would I grow up to be even half as pretty as my cousin Jane who was one of the SEWING STARS of the Winthrop House Girls Club? At the clubhouse, in sewing class, Jane used her Butterick patterns to sew beautiful vests and jackets with LININGS!! I could barely put together a little apron, the beginner’s sewing project I was eternally stuck on at the Girls Club!

One of Jane’s admirers just presented her with a sketch of her that he drew during his break from difficult engineering classes at WPI!! It’s a big portrait in pencil and looks just like Jane’s yearbook picture! Wow! Jane shows me the portrait, which she’s rolled up and secured with a rubber band. Her lips are drawn so voluptuously…I know the top – it’s from one of her maxi-dresses! We’re talking about boys – all Jane’s boys – in Jane’s bedroom. It is tiny but girly with its frilly white curtains and big bottle of Jean Nate Body Splash and bottle of green Herbal Essence shampoo. Jane drinks Nuform Milk to stay trim. I want to be Jane but know it’s hopeless. Still, I’m smart – do very well in school. A surprise to Jane’s parents, my aunt and uncle, who tell me I can get a job at the US post office after I graduate from Burncoat Senior High. Fat chance. My mother, CECELIA, wants me to go to college and write a book. She is singing her own love song to me …

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Rosalie’s mom, left, and Bapy, circa WW II.

*******

This “love” song was written by Gates for his father, who died several years earlier:

https://youtu.be/_21cZe2eO_I

This holiday season, a pocket full of memories!

By Rosalie Tirella

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St. Paul’s at night. Photos: R.T.

The downtown Worcester space that I especially love this time of year is not the Ice Oval or the Hanover Theatre or the lit-to-the-max Worcester Common. It’s a much quieter, simpler space located on Chatham Street. It’s the St. Paul’s quadrangle, bounded by Chatham Street, St. Paul’s Cathedral Rectory and the old St. Paul’s High School. The buildings are set around a grassy yard, all fenced-in, but the wrought iron parameter isn’t forbidding – it’s no higher than my shoulders! The yard has trees, bushes, park benches, a stone walkway and statues of the saints. It is all a lovely anachronism. This is the Worcester of the 1940s, my late mom’s beloved city, home to Italian, Irish, Polish, Lithuanian and Swedish immigrants who lived in our three deckers and aspired to be AMERICAN. It is the movie “set” straight out of the Bing Crosby movie GOING MY WAY: deeply Catholic, august yet approachable, priests walking to their nearby Cathedral, brick buildings with leafy vines clinging to their walls, a green space in the inner-city. The benches, set by the statues of the saints, beckon you to sit awhile, calm down, breathe, be prayerful. This Worcester nook soothes me, makes me smile.

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Old school saint, St. Joseph holding the baby Jesus.

I visited gal pal “Vo” today, director of the church’s elder outreach agency, now located in the old high school. I walked Jett and Lilac today around the saints; Jett peed by the Virgin Mary. He is 15 years old. I am sure the Blessed Mother excused his weak bladder … I had never noticed that Mary and baby Jesus stone – new to me, something I had missed during our previous visits.

The rectory – home to four St. Paul Cathedral priests – is all stately brick and set back from Chatham Street. Across the street sits the old Worcester Girls Trade School (now the revitalized Fanning Building). My late mom Cecelia went to “Girls Trade” – and loved it! A pious Catholic girl, she also must have loved going to class right across the street from the beautiful St. Paul’s quadrangle, just yards away from the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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St. Paul’s rectory, left, and the old St. Paul’s High School, now home to church offices and church food pantry and radio station.

Girls Trade was also right down the street from the back entrance of the iconic Denholms Department Store, and it was a 10-minute walk from the gorgeous Chancery of the Catholic Diocese of Worcester and the WASPY old boys Worcester Club on Elm Street. It was who we were back then – not vulgar or money-grubbing or artisan beer-slurping. But religious, industrious, serious, with good fashion taste! Those few city blocks reflected our early- to mid-20th century values and dreams. The buildings are all beautiful and meant to be permanent, just the way God, education, home/family life were meant to last …

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The old Worcester Girls Trade School is now the revamped Fanning Building

It was a city space for everybody: Catholic church goers, poor Worcester girls like my mom learning a trade so they could cook or sew or keep house for a living. My mother worked for the Bishop of Springfield as a housekeeper/cook during the Great Depression – her pots and pans and housekeeping know-how all sprang from her Girls Trade classes. She was a poor girl when she was a student at Trade, but she could visit the iconic Denholms just like anybody else could. And when my mother started making money from her full-time job at the Bishop’s house, she became quite the fashion plate and visited Denholms whenever visiting Bapy and Jaju in Green Island. Now she was a young woman – and a Denholms patron buying her Elizabeth Arden makeup at the Denholms makeup counter.

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St. Paul’s quadrangle is located right in the middle of downtown Worcester, on Chatham Street.

In the wonderful film GOING MY WAY you see Bing Crosby, as Father O’Mally, walking his church’s quadrangle, which looks a lot like our St. Paul’s… These church quadrants must have been all over the country: a little Catholic church, the “heart,” and all the veins and arteries that pumped life into the community: the little church school building, the church rectory, the nuns’ convent, too … an immigrant’s haven, her touchstone.

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Jett and Lilac sniffing by a few St. Paul’s benches.

In GOING MY WAY you see Father Bing eating supper at the rectory with the old priest he is supposed to prop up … You see the grand old church, hear the youth choir practice for their Christmas Mass concert, you see the rectory’s housekeeper carve the turkey … and it’s my old Worcester, too – St. Mary’s church on Ward Street five decades ago! With its pretty young nuns and strict unsmiling middle-aged nuns, our youth choir, our Polish organist, our church picnics and May processions down Richland Street … a whole world.

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A beautiful stone honoring the birth of Jesus and the Virgin Mary can be found nestled in the middle of the inner-city!

I know the times were racist back then, and smart women like my mom had few career choices … The guys ruled. Catholicism, unlike Jesus, could be unforgiving! Cruel even! But Worcester’s factories were plentiful and hummed, and the old man from Poland who lived on Lafayette Street and only spoke three or four sentences in English was so proud as his son entered Holy Cross college (to become a high school history teacher) and his daughter bought the family’s first ever modern washing machine! America!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

By Rosalie Tirella

We’ve all watched this Christmas classic…some years we’re more attentive than others. This year I am paying very close attention:

The movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE was released in 1947 and was directed by the Italian-American great, Frank Capra. It begins with prayers for protagonist George Bailey, Jimmy Stewart. The prayers are whispered to God in the depth of a winter’s night right before Christmas. They’re murmured by George’s wife, whispered by his mother and his long-time friends, blurted out by his distraught little children. They are praying for George’s life. He’s in trouble, he’s done something terribly wrong, he sees no way out of his terrible trap and despairs. …He plans to kill himself – alluding to his life insurance policy, he says, “I’m worth more dead than alive!” – thus throwing away, as the head angel explains, God’s greatest gift: life. His life.

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James Stewart as George Bailey.

Enter “Clarence,” George’s dimwitted guardian angel – wingless, clueless, hanging on to the original copy of Tom Sawyer and extolling Mark Twain’s “new” novel, he’s more goofball than godsend. But as anachronistic as he is, Clarence is the perfect angel for George: he’s as innocent and open to life as a child. He will help George realize IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Plus, it’s the assignment that could earn him his angel wings! Finally! It’s been a few centuries already!

The childhood scenes of this movie are quaint and show that George Bailey is outstanding, even as a little boy. He has a strong moral code, he’s wiser and more sensitive than his friends. He saves his kid brother from drowning in a frozen pond, bravely dives into the frigid waters and loses his hearing in one ear as he rescues his kid brother. In another heart-wrenching scene the young George saves another life when he refuses to deliver the prescription pills that druggist Mr. Gower mistakenly fills with … poison. Mr. Gower has been drinking, upset at the telegram he just received: his son, a soldier in the US Army (it’s pre-World War II ) has just died of influenza. When Gower gets the telephone call that the pills weren’t delivered to the customer by delivery-boy George, an enraged, inebriated, violent Mr. Gower slaps George in the face over and over again. It’s a harrowing, realistic scene: the enraged old man pulling the child into a back room to do the unspeakable: physically abuse him. George, around 12 years old, begs Gower to stop hitting him, his “bad ear” is bleeding. He screams: The pills were poison! “Poison, I tell you!” Gower breaks open a capsule and gingerly places a finger in it and brings a smidgen of the white powder to his tongue to taste. He immediately realizes he put the wrong chemical in the capsule – and George has saved his life (ruined biz, possible jail time for the unintentional death of the customer) – and the customer’s life.

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Mr. Gower realizes he made a big mistake.

George does the noble thing again after his father dies of a stroke. He yearns to go to college, travel, leave his hum drum hometown, Bedford Falls, behind him … but he knows evil banker Mr. Potter will suck up his late dad’s Bailey Building and Loan Company and the tone and future of the entire town will change, for the worst. So George stays in Bedford Falls to shepherd the family business through a crisis. … He does the right thing again.

George’s life isn’t all self-sacrifice. He meets and falls in love with the pretty Mary (Donna Reed) who takes one look at the tall and lanky Stewart, with his beautiful open face and wide toothy smile and … knows … she will marry him, give birth to his children, live with him in love forever and ever in Bedford Falls.

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George and Mary fall in love at the high school dance

The screenplay may sound a bit preachy to you, but the actors and Capra make it all magical. James Stewart exudes warmth and romance and moral stamina. He’s sexy and earthy, too. The mid-20th century American man. Heroic. Beautiful. When he walks Mary home from the high school dance he is flirty and fun – and deeply romantic. My favorite lines of the movie? Spoken by Stewart: You want the moon, Mary? I’ll lasso the moon for you! And you’ll swallow it and moonbeams will shoot out of your face, your hair and your fingertips … Mary and George are looking into each other’s eyes as George speaks his American every man poetry. We feel his dreamscape … You can watch that scene a million times, and every time you’ll be slayed by it.

Stewart was Capra’s (and director Alfred Hitchcock’s) Every Man. In IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE George is you and me. Just regular peeps. He doesn’t go on to do great things, become an astronaut and swim among the stars, become a Carl Sandburg and write Chicago. He doesn’t become a scientist who creates the polio vaccine. He’s rejected by the army because of his bad ear and holds rubber tire drives in town. At one point he declares: “We’re broke!” Yet, like all of us, he’s given the opportunity to carve out a life, a most excellent life consisting of family, friends, community, love of spouse and children. Mundane – but it’s where we meet God!

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George and his father at the supper table

The close up of George’s face when the Building and Loan’s board of directors head tells him: IF YOU LEAVE, GEORGE, THEY’LL VOTE WITH POTTER!!! Heartbreaking! You see, writ large on George’s face, the guilt. The awareness. The entrapment. The responsibility, never ending. George knows his window of opportunity grows smaller by the minute, and yet, as his life becomes more circumscribed, George becomes truly heroic.

Give Capra credit: Everything in Bedford Falls and George’s life is so earthbound, so touching … his chat with his mom when she encourages him to “call on” Mary even though she’s dating the loud mouthed, coarse Sam Wainwright … such a sweet scene, as she points her son in the “right direction” and sends him on his way, with a gentle push, to Mary’s house.

Mary is home from college and waiting for her beloved. But George is balky: she’ll become just another tie that binds, another symbol of his inability to escape Bedford Falls, to realize his dreams of becoming a great architect, traveling the world as a free spirited explorer. But then the phone call happens. Boyfriend Sam Wainwright calls his gal back home (with a blond dame smooching his flabby cheek in Indiana), and Mary tells George to join the conversation about investing in plastics made out of soybeans. As George and Mary share the receiver end of the 1920s telephone, plastics is the last thing on George’s mind! The two young adults are literally face to face over the telephone receiver in a tight closeup but softly focused … dreamy looking. You see George smelling Mary’s hair, staring at her big brown eyes, eating up with his eyes the curve of her forehead, the tip of her nose, the waves of her chestnut hair. His lips long to touch hers! It’s a love scene, not a telephone conversation! Finally, George drops the phone, shakes Mary up and down begging No! No! No! all the while covering her face with passionate kisses – and accepting the inevitable. They marry a few weeks later.

Of course, their honeymoon to Paris and Barcelona is kaput after George takes their honeymoon money and uses it to stop a run on the Bailey Building and Loan. George loses the trip to Europe but saves his late father’s business and dream. It is so cute, the way Stewart and the other good do bees at the building and loan dance around their counter with their last one dollar bill after closing up for the day at 5 p m. On the nose!

Another great Capra scene: Bert and Ernie coordinating George’s ride home to his honeymoon where Mary waits for him, their new old Victorian … The guys singing in the rain, the bit of sleight of hand as Bert’s “tip” is rain water from George’s fedora. They serenade the newlyweds and Ernie smooches Bert. Funny. Sweet.

Some call it Capra-corn. As in corny or cornball. I call it dreaming, art, magical filmmaking … wrapping harsh life in fairy tale to entertain, to point the viewer in the right direction: LIFE. BE OPEN TO YOUR WONDERFUL LIFE.

Of course, the evil Mr. Potter almost ruins it all when he flings George to the nadir of his professional life. Potter keeps – steals – the thousands of dollars George’s distracted Uncle Billy plans to deposit in their bank account but stupidly leaves in Potter’s newspaper. Potter takes the money, George faces disgrace, jail, loss of EVERYTHING. HE WANTS TO ESCAPE HIS LIFE OF TRIAL AND TROUBLES. HE WANTS TO DIVE INTO THE RIVER ON A SNOWY NIGHT HOPING TO LEAVE IT ALL… But then Clarence the angel appears and dives into the river first. Good hearted, noble George rips his coat off and dives in after him to save the hapless little angel …

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The miserable Mr. Potter

Then the film grows darker as a depressed George is led through the Bedford Falls that might have been if he never existed. Uncle Billy is in an asylum, Mary is an old maid, his mom is the rough hewn owner of a decrepit boarding house, the adorable Bedford Falls is an ugly, pornographic POTTERSVILLE.

Stewart is tremendous as a George looking at life without George. It’s frightening. It’s surreal. Not at all corn ball.

But then George declares I WANNA LIVE! TAKE ME BACK, CLARENCE, TAKE ME BACK. I WANT TO SEE MY WIFE AND KIDS, CLARENCE.

And just like that George is dropped back into his all too human Bedford Falls life. HE IS ECSTATIC! HE SHOUTS YAY! as he runs by the old movie house, the old oak tree, Mr. Potter sitting behind his ugly desk in his ugly office. A Wonderful Life, if we stop to think about it!
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George and his beloved Uncle Billy