Category Archives: Green Island Grrrl

Tweaked: Happy New Year, Sad New Year!

By Rosalie Tirella

I suppose I would have to ring out the Old Year and ring in the New Year with this disturbing image … Driving in Worcester’s Canal District, my old Kelley Square, two days ago in my new jalopy …


… I saw this sight: my beloved childhood pit-stop, Widoff’s Bakery, the bakery my extended family pounced on before our day trips to Hampton Beach for our two dozen Bulkie rolls for sandwiches, now transformed into a trendy, expensive, hipster gym! Our old reliable Bulkie roll factory (plain or covered with poppy seeds) that for decades filled the hole in my kid sisters and my stomach as we popped in after school to say HI! to the nice counter girl and buy 3 bulkies – 1 bulkie for each of us – so we could eat a very inexpensive after-school snack – gone, forever. The big, pillowy bulkie rolls so tasty they didn’t need a smidgen of butter or jam! After school, my two kids sisters and I walked down Water Street, crossed Kelley Square, then trotted down Millbury and hooked a right onto our street, Lafayette, eating our warm bulkies, so good, and talking about the nuns at my sisters’ school or the upcoming science fair at my school, Lamartine Street School. Widoffs and one of my kid sisters especially were the two loves of my young girlhood. Now, both gone. I taste the bread of life … it is the bread of my life!

Widoffs, the sweet baker’s shop where my sweet mother, tired from her 60-hour-work week at the sweat-shop dry cleaners down the road would come in to buy her favorite donut – the whipped cream and raspberry filled, powder-sugar-dusted, long, phallic, gigantic Bavarian. GONE. DEAD. Both of them. Forever!

Widoff’s. Always so famous in our city it was known to all Worcesterites as just “Widoffs,” the way everyone knew “Spaggs” as just Spaggs. An immigrant city with immigrant nicknames for the places it loved most. Both gone now.


For a half century, Widoffs was the destination of every Sunday morning church goer in Worcester who drove, walked, ran, or skeedaddled! to Widoffs (and Ledermans Bakery, right across the street), after attending Sunday Mass to buy a dozen of bulkies. For Sunday dinner. For sandwiches for the work week. They were always just-out-of-the-oven hot and maddeningly fragrant! And they were nestled in a crisp, medium-sized brown paper bag that you stuck your face into to get a good, deep, whiff of those fragrant beauties – like the glue sniffers who maybe hung out a few streets down in the old tenements. Always the brown bags. A Widoffs tradition as sacred as the Communion wafers we had just reverently swallowed at St. Mary’s or St. John’s churches.

Rose’s auntie loved her Widoff’s bulkies!

Sometimes we stuck our grubby hands into that hot paper bag, inhaling the warm, doughy aroma, to grab a bulkie to GOBBLE UP RIGHT THERE, IN THE MIDDLE OF WATER STREET, on your way home. You didn’t care! You were intoxicated – drunk with love for your bulkies!

Yeah, we St. Mary’s church or St. John’s church parishoners may have picked up a few brownies or even a birthday cake at Widoffs, but all of us, like brain washed cult members – Hare Krishners but heavier cuz we ate bulkies! – were really at Widoffst for bulkies.

Rose and her kid sisters, just after Mass – bulkie time!!

Sometimes, if the lines were too long at Widoffs (they were so busy you had to go to a ticket machine by the front door and pull a little lever to get a ticket with your service number on it), my mother crossed the street to buy our dozen bulkies at Lederman’s Bakery. Not as yummy, to me. There were known to be many passionate disputes between family members and friends: WHO MADE THE BEST BULKIES? WIDOFFS OR LEDERMANS? The one – or the other?! I was a Widoffs girl!

Now Widoffs has been transformed into A TRENDY GYM! FOR HIPSTERS! COMPLETELY UNRECOGNIZABLE! BOARDED UP with planks of light brown, shiny, fake-wood product! And painted an ugly, drab industrial gray! The topper? An on-trend, stupid, glass garage door – now Widoffs “signature” facade. THE GLASS GARAGE DOOR WILL LET US ALL GAWK AT THE JOCKS who, in turn, can stare at us pedestrians walking down Water Street. (Give ’em The Finger! Watch me!)

This turn of the Green Island gentrification screw hurts most of all – it is like seeing your favorite older cousin – the beautiful one – walking down the church aisle to seal her fate: marry some dolt because he’s got a great job and promises her the usual trappings: house, nice suburb, Virgin Island vacations, blah, blah, blah. I call it Prostitution. In this case, Ed Murphy, the kid-owner of the Widoff’s building, is the pimp, pimping her out to the highest bidder.

Rose today, with her kitty Cece! She is on a perpetual quest for that perfect bulkie!

I really do not like this guy.

Membership to this Banal District gym is almost $160/month! “CRAZY! YOU CRAZY!” as my Polish immigrant grandmother, Bapy, would say!

Here once lived – LIVED! – my old neighborhood’s shopping district! Open all day … fun, friendly, cheap, delicious, ethnic (Jewish, Polish, Lithuanian), accessible to all! REAL! A haven for outsiders, refugees, laborers and the exploited … the dusty and the damsal in distress. The pious and the predatory. We, our parents or grandparents fled Eastern Europe, the bottom of the barrel for us, and made Worcester our new home. Water Street was our culinary heaven, and it became our adopted city’s cool hangout. The Broadway restaurant, the drugstore that served homemade icecream sundaes, bakeries … Cooks of all ilk – and tourists – welcome!


When my late mother was a little girl, she’d go to the open air markets on Water Street with my grandfather, a Polish immigrant who loved Green Island too. They’d go shopping: buy the family’s bulkies, then vegetables and meat. She once told me of the small, trained monkey owned by one of the market’s vendors – a kind of cruel entertainment for customers, he was chained at the ankle and very nervous as he danced for their pennies. He kept turning around and around, patting his bony little butt for all the customers to see: KISS MY ARSE! he was saying to them! Kiss my arse! He wore a little red velvet vest and matching cap.

Where is that little monkey when you need him most?


The Christmas season🎄 + 🎶

By Rosalie Tirella

If you are a Roman Catholic, even a “lapsed” one, Christmas gets stretched out to a weeks-long Season. Advent: waiting for Jesus’s birth, including the big day when an angel from Heaven flies down to earth to tell Mary: you’re preggo! With THE SON OF GOD! She can’t believe it! … Then Jesus’s birth, Christmas Day. Rejoice! The World is Saved (and it CAN BE SAVED) … Afterwards reality sets in: Mary, Joseph and their infant son Jesus head out and have a normal life. Sort of. Joseph is a carpenter, so he teaches his son Jesus his trade. Some Biblical texts say Jesus had a brother, also a carpenter. But Jesus, even at 12 years old, shows he is special – reveals his spiritual gifts to the community by discussing life and death so powerfully with the local priests that they are blown away! Everyone at the neighborhood temple – and beyond! – is impressed!

The birth of THE SON OF GOD, BORN TO A REGULAR PERSON, MARY, is a MIRACLE, if you are a “believer.” God the INFINITELY CREATIVE is made flesh: a human baby. Something, sadly, I can’t get back … long lost for me. I used to believe … wake up Christmas Day, as a child on Lafayette Street, and with my Catholic mother, old Polish granny and kid sisters go: YAY! GOD – JESUS – plus the HOLY SPIRIT IS BORN today!!! Magic! The MIRACLE MAN who I pray to for all my straight A’s at Lamartine Street School IS BORN! The little plaster of Paris Jesus statue on my bureau that I pray to every morning, before I walk down my street, up Grosvenor Street, to my teacher Mr. Monfredo’s 5th grade class at Lamartine is GOD! I “Bless” myself before the crappy little 25 cents statue my mother gave me one Saturday morning as she was cleaning out her bureau drawer: “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” I say shaking with utter conviction … God is alive and watching over me and helping me live my life. Comforting. Reassuring. I am NEVER alone. God is always watching over me. This fact freaks me out a little, too, but it also makes me, the 10-year-old Rose who is a bookworm and near-sighted feel invincible! So every night, I “bless” myself before my plaster of Paris Jesus statue, and I write tiny notes to my Jesus statue (Jesus depicted not as a babe but as the sage, philosophical 12 year old – holding a book), and I stuff them into its hollow base, all crumply: DEAR JESUS GIVE ME AN A IN MY MATH QUIZ. – Rosalie … DEAR JESUS HELP ME GET AN A ON My BOOK REPORT. – Rosalie … DEAR JESUS I NEED AN A IN MY GRAMMAR TEST. – Rosalie Naturally, Jesus came through for me – I always got all A’s.

Then I went to college and met my boyfriend and his cool philosophy-major best friend – and I lost Jesus. Just like that. All the 17 years of Sunday masses with Ma, weekly trips to that big creepy box confessional booth at St. Mary’s, my prayer books, my nun pals, church folk group in high school! … 14 years of Monday evening catechism class at St. Mary’s … all down the toilet.

I never went to church again.
Rose, left, – her First Holy Communion. Standing outside the front entrance with her two kid sisters of St. Mary’s church at Kelley Square. pic: C.T.

So, while I am not sure about the He-is-God-Almighty part these days, I do celebrate – in my own way – Christmas. I focus on the Christmas Eve Story – something I can relate to and believe in: being poor, being an outcast. An outsider looking in. No money? Then live in a barn – or a shithole tenement! The song remains the same – for eons and eons! But through the ages people have always transcended their mangers of hay! Rejoice!

I love the Christmas story! It was meant for this Green Island Grrrl growing up in a tenement with her poor beautiful sweet mother, Polish immigrant Bapy, fraile kid sisters. So poor, yet so loved! The precious gift. And yet so weary, like the weary, hungry, homeless Mary and Joseph looking for a room at any inn on that special night. No money? Then no roomie!! Into a barn (a crumby tenement) you’re shoved – with the sheep and cows.

The animals’ body heat and warm gusts of breath keep Jesus and his parents from freezing to death. Like a gas log in an old kitchen stove in any of Worcester’s poorer neighborhoods. So the Son of God – THE KING – is born in low, bad circumstances – literally a stack of hay!

I showed you my late Bapy’s baby Jesus:IMG_20191216_092841017

Here is my sister’s. She upgraded – or so she thought – my Mom’s creche when she got her first real job:

It came with shepherds, angels with wings, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Three Kings, even a cow and a few sheep. I just have Jesus. We don’t talk much these days, but her Baby Jesus in the Christmas manger speaks to me through decades – brings so many Green Island Christmas days to me. Memories of her. … All the church going, the kneeling on our kitchen floor, or beside our beds, praying to plaster of Paris Jesuses … HOPE. LOVE. Always LOVE.

Christmas Eve memories … 🎶

By Rosalie Tirella

This Christmas Eve … I remember some of InCity Times/CECELIA/ICTwebsite’s staunchest allies – Worcester men and women who are gone but never forgotten by me, not even for a day. They started out as advertisers but became my family.

Yesterday, driving around Worcester in my new urban special …

new jalopy. pics: Rose T.

… I seemed to see them ALL – as alive as the trees that line Burncoat Street, as tangible as the car coat I was wearing. The advertisers who became my confidantes – the people who made so many of my Christmases special! Plus: their kids, wives, husbands, even their dogs! I saw THEIR businesses, now gone, standing stoicly, on the edge of ice-trimmed sidewalks, in the thin, grey Worcester winter light. They were welcoming me in for a cup of coffee or a chance to chat about Worcester – or bitch about my gnarly personal life! I brought my old scarf to my old eyes yesterday as I remembered:

♥️Jan’s Kitchen

Now gone, but just a few years ago an advertiser and my fave breakfast nook. Yesterday, as I drove by the place, now a nail salon, Jan’s was filled with the laughter of Jan’s manager, the blond, beautiful Amanda and her adoring husband, “Joe.” They were regaling Jan’s Kitchen (named after Amanda’s mom) customers, seated on the “bar” stools of their breakfast place, with tales of their last vacation. How Amanda loved to fish – could sit on a wharf in the sun with rod silently dipping into the water and fish forever – waiting and waiting for a fish’s nibble – and how the sport repelled her hubby, tall, deep-voiced, big chested and with biceps built to reel in whales! Eeew!!! Joe said, laughing, wincing. Amanda flashed her pearly white teeth at her husband – the secret love smile all true mates share, and everyone, (me, the ICT ad rep) and customers laughed.

Amanda died of cancer a few years ago. Suddenly! One day we were talking about the vacation cruise she and her family were going to take … the next week she was in the hospital and never returned home, to Jan’s. She was dead within months. She was around 35.

♥️Leader Sign Company on Canterbury Street – The late kooky, wild, loyal Tony Hmura’s fiefdom – all 1930s and 1940s photos and old office furniture in the front of the shop, which still stands. By the entrance, next to the bookcase lined with right-wing conspiracy tomes and World War II histories: Tony’s old wooden easy chair covered with blankets, covering about five old, over-stuffed pillows substituting for the chair’s now lumpy, spring-filled (hence uncomfortable) cushions. Tony snoozing beneath all the covers – a little bump buried beneath a blue mountain of fleece. Tony kept his sign shop nursing-home warm at the end, and his son, Bryan, who worked with him, taking over the biz when Tony died, used to walk into the nursing home part of the shop and tell me: He should be home. I would say: Bryan, this is home.

♥️Thomas Autobody: Walter Thomas. Old School Worcester: married to the love of his life for 50 years, a pillar of his church, helped with the Grafton Hill neighborhood scholarship committee; a great, supportive Dad and father-in-law. You’d go into Thomas Autobody on Grafton Street to sell Walter an ad, and he would show you his teeny dog – furry and ancient – who kept him company in his shop. And big Walter would hold his teeny dog as gently as you’d craddle a baby (which Walter did plenty of too) … Then the two of us would wax nostalgic about dogs and cats we had owned and loved. Walter would always give me good biz advice – which I never took – and he was always polite, fun, a real gentleman. To me – to everyone. Like I said: Old Worcester.

♥️ Unique Finds … You know how I felt about the late, great Ron and his antique store on the corner of Main and Henshaw streets: I was there every other day! Looking at Ron’s kitchy knick knacks, his used acoustic guitars, the vintage bureaus and bookcases. But mostly: I was there talking music with Ron, checking out his store’s used and new lps: Beatles, Dylan, The Band, the Beach Boys, Elvis (Presley and Costello), jazz, STAX artists … admiring Ron’s old underwood typewriters (too $$ for my wallet), asking Ron about Lucinda Williams (he used to go see her shows when he was young and lived in Texas).

Ron was addicted to opioids – but clean when I last saw him. I never saw him high … Still, drugs caused the end. I miss my friend! I miss his husky voice and build! His handsome face … his bicep tattoos … I miss watching Ron repair, restring the guitars he had picked up. He was always quietly sweet to me, never loud or in-your-face. Loved my two dogs, too. And they loved him.
Jett♥️ loved Ron!

For Ron, a bigger Lucinda Williams fan than Rose will ever be:

Elliott and Worcester’s troubled kids

By Rosalie Tirella

This song, this Elliott Smith video, makes me think of a lot of Worcester kids but especially the homeless kids I saw yesterday hanging out under the Green Street bridge in the city’s Canal District while delivering the new issue of CECELIA.

yesterday: under the Green Street bridge. pics: Rose T.

New Christmas CECELIA

Tragic on a number of fronts: 1. Elliott Smith WAS A MUSICAL SHINING STAR, but he was also an addict. He was addicted to, for most of his life (he stabbed himself in the heart and died at 34): alcohol, heroin, anti-depressent meds, crack cocaine, cutting himself. … They say at the end of his life he was wandering the streets with a comforter over his head, totally disoriented. He was gentle, sweet, strong in his love for making his music – but haunted. He said in a few interviews, obliquely, he had been sexually abused by his stepfather when he was a child. At 14 Smith ran away, moved to Portland, OR, to live with his dad – to escape his sexually abusive stepdad. Smith said, when he left TX, he felt he had abandoned his mom, whom he loved. All of this personal trauma is reflected in his beautiful, melodic songs, often sung by Smith in a range just barely above a whisper! Smith’s beautiful songs, so Beatlesque Rubber Soul/Revolver in their musicality, have lyrics that cut like a knife, often filled with raw despair yet just as often perfect short stories – sung by him:



2. The kids hanging out under the Green Street bridge in the Canal District are not like the late Elliott Smith – even without his musical genius. They are, with their dog-eared poetry books at their feet: without jobs/careers, without knowledge that can lead to good paying jobs (Smith graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst), without material goods/apts (Smith came from an upper-middle class background): couch-surfing junkies nodding off under the Green Street bridge (Smith always had friends and girlfriends to live with). The addict part of the Green Street bridge kids rubs the Canal District small business owners the wrong way – they feel the addict kids get in the way of promoting the city – ugly knick knacks set in a freshly painted room. They spoil the aesthetics. The young Canal District entrepreneurs don’t like the homeless street kids hanging around Water, Harding and Green streets – even though the kids under the Green Street bridge are often cold and hungry – and a lot like them. That is why they are hanging under the Green Street bridge – they naively think they will be welcomed, even embraced, by their peers. (They won’t.) Like the young biz owners of the Canal District, they in their 20s and early 30s, hopeful for their futures, at their prettiest/most handsome looking … and, I believe, idealistic!

The Green Street kids differ from the young Canal District biz owners in that most homeless youth, studies show, are horribly alone – with no real support systems – at least the family/good friends kind. They run away from their homes to FLEE THEIR HOMES. TO ESCAPE sick, violent, negligent and often sexually abusive parents or guardians. Horrible abuse! That can only be if you, as a kid, decide to leave YOUR FAMILY AND CAST YOUR FATE TO STRANGERS, HOMELESS SHELTERS, STREET CREEPS WHO PREY ON YOUTH …TO HANG OUT UNDER THE GREEN STREET BRIDGE.

To be exposed to drug dealers, sex abusers, the lowlifes of the world who will – often for sex – FURTHER TRAUMATIZE THESE KIDS.

It AMAZES ME: Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus and the Worcester City Council don’t really give a damn – they say they do, but the first thing you will notice about Worcester when you drive in to our city is all our homeless people – older, middle-aged and young. We have no BIG CITY-WIDE PLANS TO SOLVE THE ISSUE. Which is: BUILD MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING, CREATE SAFE GROUP HOMES FOR OUR STREET KIDS, BUILD SUPERVISED SRO-TYPE BUILDINGS for the poorest of the poor who are never gonna get shelter in the new, gentrified Worcester.

There are so many sick people in the world. Why expose a scared, on the run, TRUSTING and NAIVE, 14 year old to them? An Elliott Smith without the songs?

CECELIA file photo: Rose T.

“Birches” …+🎶

This poem by Robert Frost is so beautiful. Lately, I always cry when I read it. It is especially poignant now, as I grow old. Me, Rose, a part of nature, hoping to bend, be as pliable, as the silver beauty in the woods! … Read Frost – he is perfect for winter nights!
– Rose T.


By Robert Frost

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust–
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows–
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father’s trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.


I believe, as a lyricist, Elliott Smith is right there with Robert Frost!

Tweaked: Little wallet picture

By Rosalie Tirella

Instagram and Snapchat: social media platforms that are all about taking photographs. Millions of photos, now, fast, full color, full on via your cellphone (usually) and then “sharing” them with the world – really, whomever you like (a few close friends or Obama-millions). Pictures that can disappear in seconds (Snapchat) or often highlight bottles of beer, slices of pizza or exotic locales (Instagram). The first
category: junior high stuff; the second: show-off-y stuff you “share” with your co-workers or peers, people who don’t spend much time with you, or much like you.

No, today I sing the praises of the pictures taken when I and my mom were young. Photographs taken in big, maroon-velvet-drape-ensconced photo booths at Woolworths or with your $10 Kodak “Instamatic” camera – the little rectangular box camera that every American kid owned in the 1970s. It came with “flash cubes” that looked exactly like ice cubes! and made everyone’s eyes red in the color pictures you took.

Those photographs of my youth and my mother’s young adulthood feel worth more, maybe because film for your camera cost money and you had to put 50 cents in the front slot of the Woolworths photo booth before you could pictures. Years later, they look GREAT! Intimate! Real! Candid! True feelings revealed – blatant, out there. Or really really suppressed – inadvertantly out there!, exposed, just like the film.

These old photos seem more genuine than today’s billions of Instagram public relations pap, pictures that feel staged, are disposable, forgetable. Photos of my old Green Island neighborhood after the flash flood, my sister’s First Holy Communion photo – in front of the red dump truck … my father with his big Italian-bread belly hugging his old white Fruit of the Loom tee shirt. My mom, her hair in bobby pins so it would get curly, looking right at me, annoyed as hell because I am TAKING HER PICTURE! Today is her day off! Me pouncing on my cousin’s big sun-yellow Tonka Truck on Christmas morning! I want his toy! I never get great toys from Santa on Christmas morning!

Loves. Really. The moments in that photo booth with your boyfriend. Being hugged, kissed, smooched even! Or you were alone in that photo booth at Woolworths making a statement in your nice top or suit jacket – making/taking those two or three rows of tiny black and white photos of yourself for your true love, maybe fiance. This was about commitment. You were creating something – a keepsake of you for your love. A tiny black and white photo your honey would put in the photo section of their wallet – a little wallet picture. A little wallet picture of you that they would always have, that they carried with them pretty much everywhere they went. You would be with them. At all times. With a flip of their wallet’s plastic photo gallery they could see you – or show you off to friends or family. Or if it were really serious about you, your little photo would be slipped into that plastic frame next to the spot where you displayed your drivers license. No flipping – there you were, next to his license, for him and the world to see – at all times.

Somehow, I don’t know why, but I have the little wallet pictures my mother and father made of themselves: just three, teeny and fragile. One is of my father, Daddy, when he was 12. He looks so adorable – big smile, and his curly hair, cut in a bowl-shape by his dad, my grandfather Sabino from Italy, frames his face. I think I spy a few freckles! The second photo: of my mother when she was about 14 – a student at the old Worcester Girls Trade School. She is also smiling – her big pretty smile – all her teeth perfectly aligned and white, no orthodontist needed. God’s gift to her! Or curse?: Daddy used to say he married Ma for her smile, her perfect teeth – and I believe him. He was a shallow person who scorned my mother’s natural goodness/sweetness – and he had lousy teeth! They were all pulled out by the time I was a teen – just gums a flappin’ but he was still handsome and charming (when not abusive).

Up until a few years ago, I used to put these two little wallet pictures of my parents – so mismatched in marriage, so wrong for each other in real life – TOGETHER!! Like they were happy together! Really and truly happy! On my refrigerator, that is. Overlapping each other, a refrigerator magnet keeping them together! Stuck together. STAY! STAY!

So opposite of Daddy, a womanizing free spirit, who disappeared from our Lafayette Street tenement for weeks – or months and months! – at a time. As a little kid, I needed to look at pictures of my father just to remember what he looked like. And that I had a father. Somewhere out there, past Green Island. But now he was MISSING! Like the little kids in the pictures on the half gallon milk carton on our kitchen table! Would I get Daddy’s photograph put on milk cartons, too?!

Then there is the third one – and a fourth, if you count another little wallet picture – but not taken in a photo booth. It’s a bit larger than the little wallet pictures taken in drug stores or coffee shops. These two little wallet photos are of my parents taken 15 or so years later, after the first set, when they are in adulthood, in the middle of parenthood, jobs, homelife. They are serious pictures now. Ma fake smiling and Daddy unsmiling. Both are looking straight at the canera’s lens … . Even though married to each other, they look lonely.

These little wallet pictures make me sad, send me searching for reasons, feelings … My father is in a suit, a heavy tweedy one guys used to wear in late autumn, with dark, clip-on necktie. He looks handsome with his Roman nose and his thick curly hair styled high up in a pompador, but he also looks menacing. Bitter. Alone. And he is only what? 29? 30? 32 years old? Married to my sweet mother! My sisters were just born. Twins! I am only 1 1/2 years old – at my cutest. I still remember my mother sitting me up on her and Daddy’s big bed, up on the nubby pink bedspread. Daddy is whistling a tune and smiling and patting my chubby leg! Ma took a picture earlier – I looked so cute, like a little doll. She had even entered me in a baby photo contest. And I had won first prize!!

That’s when Daddy took off for about three years! Good! No more Daddy slapping my mother’s pretty cheek! Hooray! No more Daddy calling my pretty mother “Mule”! or “Fuck nut”! Yipee! Stop all the clocks! Freeze time – PEACE ON EARTH. Or at least in our third floor Lafayette Street tenement … Ma holding me on her lap as we sit on the sofa watching the Red Skelton Show on TV together … or Ma taking out her special speckled box and letting me play with her fancy jewelry – her big pink stone necklace, a gold snake bracelet, with slit snake eyes and gold rattle tail! I have put the snake around my little neck and am parading around the kitchen, in front of Bapy, my old Polish granny, who is sitting inher delapidated old easy chair at the head of our kitchen table. She is wearing layers of flannel nightgowns to stay warm and doesn’t take baths like the rest of us. She smells … fecund♥️! Bapy old and arthritic stays nestled in her nest and tries to tap my lil’ bum as I run in front of her giggling, wearing Ma’s snake jewelry! Bapy is laughing and singing an old Polish folk song for me – her fave grandchild – to dance to. I oblige!

Then Daddy will return, years later, and after a brief honeymoon period with Ma, will be just as shitty! Scream just as loudly! Disparage us all, red-faced, lunging at the front door, banging it! Bapy throws her hardboiled egg sandwich at him and calls Daddy: “RED DEVIL!” I am scared! My little sisters are in their bedroom, holding each other and crying!

WHY DIDN’T DADDY LEAVE FOR GOOD? Hook up with one of his whores, for good?

Who knows … little wallet picture #4. Of Ma, at her big sister’s house off Webster Square. It is Christmas day. She is standing in front of my aunt’s big Christmas tree. She is smiling, but it is a stiff forced smile. Perfect but more brave than happy. Her hands are folded at her waist. She is dressed for the holiday: wearing her jewelry, a nice skirt and blouse. Still, to me, she looks sad beneath the perfect smile. Like something serious is happening somewhere: which it is – her husband is now Nowhere Man, gone, a loss, an adult man in the male-dominated early ’60s who does not have a job and therefore does not provide for her and their three little girls. Ma lives with her mother in an old flat on Lafayette Street – not in the cottage of her dreams, with the husband of her dreams. Daddy has, in actions and words, jilted her. Us kids, too. She is now and forever a single working mom, RESPONSIBLE FOR IT ALL – working at the drycleaners down the street, 60 hours a week, for crappy minimum wage. No car. Pulling groceries home, with her three little girls running and giggling behind her, in a rickety shopping wagon. Even in the pouring rain, her plastic five and ten rain bonnet tied tight under her chin, even in the pelting snow, her snow boots soaked, making squishing noises in the slush. Her life. Her hard little diamond of a life, and her three little precious girls the rose gold band it is set in! The little wallet picture, sealed in plastic, now frayed at its edges, meant to be carried in her husband’s wallet, in the space right next to his driver’s license! But for years it stayed on her dresser, propped up against a little statue of Jesus.
Little wallet picture #4. pics: Rose T.

Ma, AD – After Daddy

P.S. This song was the inspiration for above column.

Skatepark plans, Steve column … South High’s Andy’s Attic🧥 … 🍎Soup’s on! + 🎶

So many of our city kids – WPS students – could use warm winter coats and jackets this holiday season!❄️🎄♥️ At WORCESTER’S SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL – ANDY’S ATTIC: DONATIONS OF GENTLY USED/NEW WINTER COATS, JACKETS, hats, sweaters, scarves, mittens and more needed! A few years ago ICT writer Edith Morgan introduced you to the school’s AWESOME in-house clothing store for kids! We repost the story, below.
– Rose T.


By Edith Morgan

Come with me and take a most remarkable trip, into a huge storeroom, with what seem to me to be 15-foot high ceilings, lined with metal shelves from cement-block wall to wall – and every row filled with “gently-used” clothing of every kind. As I enter, to my right stands a giving tree, festooned with pictures of students who have put in at least 20 hours already, and whose continued work will earn them a star for every ten hours more, s they fulfill their community service duties.

The room is alive with busy students, filling “orders” from families who have sent in requests. Other students are folding, sorting newly arrived donations, straightening shelves or drawers full of new items (the socks and underwear are new, as most people really prefer to wear such items new), The students come willingly and on time, and when asked why they participate in “Andy’s Attic, they all told me how heartwarming it was to know that they are helping truly needy families to be properly and warmly clothed – some even had been recipients themselves, and now were “paying it forward,” so someone else could feel what they had felt when someone cared enough to help them.

Since October 2013, hundreds of bags full of complete outfits in the right sizes have already been sent out, and every day about 36 students show up to help.

Why the name ”Andy’s Attic”?

The idea grew out of the tragic death of a 16-year old Shrewsbury student, Andrew Reese, whose parents and friends wanted to honor his memory. When the project outgrew its Shrewsbury quarters, after a couple of moves, Shrewsbury resident and South High teacher Christine Foley approached her principal, now WPS superintendent, Maureen Binienda, who provided the large basement room that used to be her supply closet. After a huge clean-up job and truckloads of moving, the “attic” was ready.

At first, South High students received the donations – many were needy themselves, but as the project grew, Christine and her volunteers found that behind every student in need was a family in need. And soon word spread, with “orders” coming in from other towns in Worcester County.

In the summer of 2013 the Reese family moved to Florida, and Christine Foley took over the project. She enlisted the help of several major Worcester organizations and got the project under way. Staff and students worked to get it started, and what I saw today would be the envy of any large business, with students performing the many tasks required to run such a great enterprise. We should all be very proud of the students who week after week see to it that Andy’s Attic takes care of those who are in need.

If any readers want to help, besides winter clothing, Andy’s Attic always needs: new socks and underwear, and “gently used” clothing of all sizes. Sometimes a special request has to go out for sizes not in stock, so Andy’s Attic can always use cash to purchase what is needed. For more information or to drop off donations:
South High Community School
170 Apricot St, Worcester
Principal: Jeff Creamer
phone: (508) 799-3325



By Steven R. Maher

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting sick and tired of the impeachment drama of President Donald J. Trump. I think getting this thing over with as quickly as possible is the best outcome possible.

Given Republican numeric dominance of the Senate, and given the Republicans have decided to hang together, Trump’s survival was forecast from the start. The Democrats would impeach Trump in the House and a Senate majority would vote against impeachment on a party line basis. Trump would survive.

When this whole thing began, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) reportedly stated he planned an immediate Senate vote on any impeachment bill presented by the House. That’s the smart thing for the Republicans to do. Vote as quickly as possible and get it behind them before the New Year.

The Republicans might drag this thing out for weeks. Can we blame them? Some Democrats wanted to drag this out as long as possible. The Republicans might feel the same way – exploit their position to enhance their electoral prospects in 2020.

My feeling is that the American people will blame whichever party drags the country’s agony out the longest. The Democratic House should vote out a one count impeachment bill solely related to the Ukrainian bribery episode. The Republicans should vote down as soon as possible the impeachment charge. They maybe we can back to some type of normalcy where the two parties spend time rhetorically attacking each other, instead of trying to put each other in jail.

I believe that Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense when he involved himself in the Ukrainian situation.

Trump has learned a valuable lesson from all of this, though he would never admit to it. His power is not limitless. Donald Trump will be remembered as the fourth President in America history to be subject to impeachment proceedings, right down there with Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. But the best thing now is to let history judge Trump.

My expectation is that 50 years from now Donald Trump will be judged harshly.





4 green apples, peeled and cored, plus more for garnish
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 lbs. (8 cups) red kuri squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 carrots, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1/2-in. piece ginger, grated
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish
1/2 tsp. chili powder
Pinch ground cloves, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 cups fresh apple cider
2 cups low-sodium broth
2 cups water
2 tsp. salt
Pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place the apples in baking dish and roast for 20 minutes.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic, cooking till tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients. Chop the roasted apples and add. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are very soft, about 30 minutes.

Purée in batches in a food processor until smooth, then return to the saucepan. Heat over low heat, thinning with more water, if necessary.

To serve, ladle into shallow bowls and garnish with sliced apples, freshly ground cinnamon, and a pinch of ground cloves.

Makes 12 servings!

Adapted from A Vegan Survival Guide for the Holidays.


Skatepark at Crompton Park Design Workshops!♥️🙏♥️❄️

The City of Worcester Department of Public Works and Parks wants to hear from you!

There will be two meetings, open to all, to tell city officials – who destroyed the previous skatepark in the Canal District – what kind of skateboard area you want in Crompton Park:

⌚Dec 9 and Dec 11 – both gatherings @ 6:30 p.m. – at the newly reopened Green Island Neighborhood Center located in the old field house, by the pool!

Be there, young people!


Honoring those who died on Dec. 3, 1999: our WFD FALLEN SIX – Heroes Forever!

By Rosalie Tirella

More love and respect, this eve. Be there! file photos: Rose T.

This evening, 5 – 8 p.! Please attend the City of Worcester’s Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Fire remembrance ceremony at the Franklin Street Fire Station, or join your neighbors in lining the streets as firemen and women from surrounding towns walk solemnly, but proudly, past Union Station to the Franklin Street Fire Station, built at the site of the inferno, to honor the city’s Fallen Six: Lts. Thomas Spencer, James F. Lyons III, Timothy P. Jackson Sr. … Firemen Paul A. Brotherton, Jeremiah M. Lucey and Joseph T. McGuirk. They died in that massive brick hellscape, that antiquated cold storage building, stories high, to save a couple of homeless people. A homeless guy and gal who had camped out in that old brick working-class hellhole for animals, slaughtered animals, sides of raw beef now, hanging from big iron hooks,lined up like bloody dominoes … the heroes rushed in to save the lowliest among us. The two people living there must have sensed its macabre history, but they stayed to stay warm! On cold December nights in Worcester! The guy at the diner sometimes fed them. No one judged them harshly – even after the fact. … The couple’s candle was lit, they ran away as its small flame flickering on the candle wick leapt to clothing? bedding? and in a matter of minutes exploded into flames, an inferno. It had engulfed their makeshift bedroom and their few paltry belongings and now was raging up stairs, down byways and in dark corners in search of fresh air, oxygen, for fuel, to stay alive! The homeless couple were too mentally ill to add it all up, explain it all to authorities. (Why not more staffed special needs homes/residences for these people, like in the 1970s, when they were first released from institutions like Worcester State Hospital?)

So six good men died. Awful deaths. Frightened at the end, maybe alone, maybe in each other’s arms.

Never Forget: THEY DID NOT DIE IN VAIN. They died doing a job they loved, with guys they adored, for the good life in towns and cities they loved. They were brave family men … fearless sons … strong leaders. Martyrs. Their wives and kids still mourn their passing.

But like a phoenix rising up from the ashes and rubble, Worcesterites came together to knock down – erase that horrid building – and in its place erect a beautiful new fire station – the Franklin Street Fire Station. A simple life-sized statue of a kneeling fireman in boots and fire gear/work clothes kneeling to honor his fallen brothers says it all. Signals that this spot is hallowed ground. Holy air, land … snow, today. That what happened here 20 years ago, in this city working class ‘hood, on this frozen December night, will never be forgotten.

The Six Men will aways be loved – as men, as heroes. And, if you believe all the religious pap, they are in heaven cavorting with the angels, miles and miles above burning buildings … I say: THEY ARE HERE NOW – OURS!


Tonight, if you go: Firefighters and civilians are expected at the ceremony, which begins at 6 p.m. with a march from Union Station to the Franklin Street fire station. Firefighters from surrounding fire stations are expected to line the route.


Elliott🎶 Smith❄️

By Rosalie Tirella

I’m on an Elliot Smith discovery songbook tour. So, you are comin’ along! Here is “Condor Ave” by Elliott Smith. I love this song’s lyrics – a perfect song for tonight: a desolate, dark, break-up kinda nite. The protagonist’s feelings disregarded by his ex: she just drove off!, didn’t even pack her clothing! She’s sailing away in the Oldsmobile. She sailed past the junkyard, surreal carnival barker screams filled the air. The boyfriend, feeling abandoned, is enraged – he slams the screen door over and over again – so hard that those stupid wind chimes go flying!

That is how it feels tonight.

When I lived on Ward Street, like three yards from Interstate 290 by Kelley Square, with thousands of cars and trucks speeding past my door 22 hours a day (there was always a break between 2 a.m. and 3:30ish), I felt the opposite! Snow fall felt romantic. Magical even! I lived in the fourth! floor apartment of Chef Joey’s dad’s building. My place had just been renovated to look vintage 1940’s beautiful. Original, big, heavy sliding pocket doors; original, maple dining room cabinets with window panes and linen drawers … high plastered ceilings, original windows with woodwork cleaned and stained shiny dark. All the walls had been painted a creamy, dreamy white. I’d look out of any of my 10 windows and see Worcester spread out before me like a still from a Woody Allen movie: my mini-Manhattan! Worcester’s city lights, the stars in the sky, the glass tower downtown with its top floor changing colors!: now a wavy gravy green, red, then orange. Cool! … The white, simple, but elegant steeple of St. John’s Church with its own small spotlights.

Then they would come: millions of snowflakes, sheets of twinkly snow-powder, rushing down with slanted directness. You could see the snowflakes against the light that shone from the street lights on Ward Street and just by looking up into the Worcester night air. Winter storms didn’t feel like no break-up song then! I miss that wonderful apartment – it made me feel in the middle of it all! All the city action! It stimulated me! Made me happy to get up in the morning and be ALIVE in a real city like Worcester.

Then there is this Smith tune:

And this one:

So beautiful. How did I miss them? There are scores! I’m excited by their newness (to me)!

Smith lived in Amherst a few years after I left that great college town – maybe our paths crossed once or twice, as he was coming in and I was leaving. He matriculated at Hampshire College; I was at UMass. It was during the days of local band heroes Dinosaur Jr., led by Amherst native don J Mascis. And even though Aimee Mann was from Boston, I would still run to see her and her group, Til Tuesday, whenever they played at the Blue Lounge in our student union. Grunge was percolating in Washington state and Oregon. After college graduation, Smith left Amherst for Portland. All the guys back then, in Amherst, had the same slacker hipster vibe as Smith. Few had his musical genius:

I was wrong! His lyrics are GREAT!

And still he never stopped hurting. … They found him dead, with two knives sticking out of his chest. Horrific. A beautiful mind leaves us, but what stays forever with us: all his beautiful collage-songs. They will always speak to the hurting heart!

Actor and Native Son Denis Leary comes to Worcester – but half our three deckers cry out for the spotlight!

Text+photos by Rosalie Tirella

Dear Worcester City Leaders:

Why keeping losing our princes?

In light of Denis Leary’s visit here to help Worcester honor the six WFD firemen who died 20 years ago fighting the Cold Storage Warehouse inferno on Franklin Street … Why not tamp down on the star-gazing (we love Leary, too!) …


They are the problem, they are firetraps! They are seldom up to code … landlords don’t want to fix things to make their property safe … many landlords will not even rent to people of color!… many rent leaded apartments to families with toddlers! They are blatantly BREAKING HOUSING LAWS. Worcester City Council, as our housing stock, our three deckers, get older and older – 100+ years old at this point!! – we need to have a gameplan to keep our historic old buildings safe – and looking good.

Firemen and -women don’t see color

Inevitably, every winter, when it’s freezing cold out – like it was the night of the Stockholm Street fire that claimed WFD Lt. Jason Menard’s life – tenants in our three deckers struggle with the subfreezing temps. Many of our three deckers just have: a parlor heater in the living room and a gas heater log in old gas stoves in the kitchen. That is it. No central heating! And some buildings are so drafty! I grew up in an ice box, decades ago, on Lafayette Street in Green Island. We had 2 space heaters going in our third floor tenement in an old three decker (that we loved♥️) during winter-time. As a little kid I wore a knit hat to bed! … Folks STILL improvise in all sorts of ways – many drag out their electric space heaters in our old neighborhoods – and set them too close to their beds, bed linens, curtains or laundry. They just wanna get warm! We cannot blame them! I’ve been there! Then … DISASTER STRIKES … LIVES ARE LOST, OUR CITY MOURNS.
Lt. Menard honored as he is brought to the graveyard! He was just 39 years old!

But we rise up again! We are resilient, we denizens of these old New England mill towns. We are the sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters of factory workers … immigrants. We are tough.


But this shouldn’t keep happening! The new city task force that will study this situation and make recommendations MUST FOCUS ON THE REALITY IN OUR APARTMENTS, LIFE AS LIVED BY our working poor and working class!

WHY HAVE CHILDREN, OLD PEOPLE, FIREMEN DIE every Worcester winter because it was too cold in three decker flats? Why not CLOSELY LOOK AT EACH TENEMENT – and make landlords make improvements? WE ARE TALKING HALF THE HOUSING STOCK in Worcester!!

And why not build new, affordable housing? Why not enact rent control? And if the old guys on Meade Street in the Housing Code Dept. are not up to their cushy City of Worcester jobs as housing/code inspectors, lay them off – and HIRE A NEW YOUNG DIVERSE WORK FORCE to really do the job! New city workers for a new Worcester!