Category Archives: InCity Voices

STOP GUN VIOLENCE!

By John Monfredo, retired Worcester Public Schools teacher and principal and former Worcester School Committee member

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This summer: Mr. Monfredo. CECELIA file photo.

“We lose eight children and teenagers to gun violence every day. If a mysterious virus suddenly started killing eight of our children every day, America would mobilize teams of doctors and public health officials. We would move heaven and earth until we found a way to protect our children. But not with gun violence.”

― US Senator Elizabeth Warren, from “A Fighting Chance”

I am deeply concerned about the gun violence taking place in our nation and in our community every day. Too often we watch the news and a killing or mass murder is happening. So I started doing some research on this topic and read information from our citizens across the United States. The information was astounding!

Gun violence is a public health epidemic in this country, with nearly 40,000 Americans killed by guns each year, including more than 23,000 dying by firearm suicide. According to the research, more than 100 gun deaths happen every single day.

Among high-income countries, the U.S. leads in gun violence. We have the highest firearm ownership and, compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. In addition, the firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is nearly 25 times higher than other high-income countries. The firearm suicide rate is nearly 10 times that of other high-income countries.

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NEEDED: A FEDERAL BAN ON ASSAULT WEAPONS

The research does say that there is a misconception that those living with mental illness are responsible for gun violence. But the research states that mental illness does not cause gun violence – the problem is access to firearms.

Still, based on those statistics, more than 6 in 10 Americans believe that a gun in the home makes the family safer. However, the evidence is clear: guns don’t make you safer. The overall gun deaths increased 17% over the last decade – the gun suicide rate increased 12.5% and the gun homicide rate increased nearly 26%.

If you go on the internet and read what owners of guns have to say it’s an eye opener. Many say that they use it to defend their families, others for hunting or for sports. When asked about a ban on guns – most stated it was impossible, for we have more guns in the homes than people. Most felt that firearms should remain in the hands of people and have no intention of giving them back without a fight. “In America, elimination is an impossible task.”

We also have a very strong and well organized gun lobbying organization that pours money into political elections – the NRA – and that many politicians kowtow to for the money. Bought and paid for by the NRA.

Many people stated that the right to bear firearms is legal, for our citizens have that right under the 2nd Amendment. However, on a side note, let’s remember that the citizens in 1776 carried muskets and NOT semi-automatics. And it was to form an army against the British. No one needs a gun that fires 10 to 50 rounds per second for protection or for killing an animal. No one needs a semiautomatic rifle. I don’t think that’s what our founding fathers had in mind.

Let’s face it, gun violence in our country is a public crisis. The murder rate in our country is 25 times higher than it is in peer nations, and American teenagers are 82 times more likely to die from a gun homicide than their international peers.

The problem is that there is no simple solution to reducing gun violence in this country. I believe that we need to look at some common-sense steps as a start. Here are some that are worth talking about:

“Compared to other peer countries, basically what we have is lots and lots of guns… and we have by far the weakest gun laws,” declared David Hemenway, professor of health policy at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Here are some ideas …

– Ban Assault Weapons and High-Capacity Ammunition Magazines

– Enable the Center of Disease Control and Prevention to Research Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue

– Require Universal Background Checks – for All Gun Sales

– Support Local Violence Prevention and Intervention Programs

– Disarm All Domestic Abusers

To me, banning assault weapons is a no brainer!

No private citizen should own one. These are military weapons, and they are used to kill human beings. Why have we not banned them from private citizens? Under President Bill Clinton assault weapons were banned – and there were fewer gun-related deaths.

Also, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center suggested that more research take place and recommends measures aimed at living safety with guns by having a safe storage requirement, smart guns that can only be used by their owner, and safety features that prevent guns from firing when dropped or after a magazine is removed. These are some suggestions in reducing gun violence in this country.

Another national survey by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Gun Policy and Research found that 84% of all respondents who owned a gun in the survey stated that first time gun buyers should be required to pass a safety course on the safe handling and storage of a firearm. They also believed that carriers of concealed weapons should be required to demonstrate that they can safely and lawfully handle their weapon in the types of situations they might encounter.

This brings us up to 2023! The latest move coming from Congress is a bill by U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland. He is reintroducing two bills to help curb gun violence and strengthen gun safety. One bill would be to better equip and crack down on gun violence and illegal use of firearms. The other bill would incentivize state and local governments to implement the need for a permit to purchase laws. This would require individuals to obtain a license before purchasing a handgun.

This is a start, so let’s hope that Congress will support it, as well as the banning of assault weapons.

Please encourage our delegation in Massachusetts to support these bills. Let all of us stay on top of the gun violence crisis in America. It’s time for us to stop being silent!

🎟️🎥🍿Luis Sanchez’s review of Wednesday Series🎬❇️

Wednesday Series Review

By Luis Sanchez

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Luis!

Who would have thought that a spooky series was just what we needed to end the year? Wednesday is a supernatural comedy horror Netflix series based on Wednesday Addams (played by Jenna Ortega) from the widely known spooky Addams Family. In this series, Wednesday Addams is introduced to Nevermore, a school for outcasts, and has to learn to manage connecting with her new schoolmates, control her newly-found psychic abilities, and solve a murder mystery. Typical high school problems, am I right?

The show’s premise is a bit shallow. The plot does not suffer from anything; it works well within the Wednesday world. What I’m referring to is how it is slightly uncreative. Many murder-mystery shows are displaying similar characteristics, and that is because they are all using a similar template. Wednesday is simply Riverdale season 1, but add supernatural elements and the Addams family. However, the show still succeeds. Despite being predictable (I solved the murder case by the third episode), the quirkiness of the show makes it stand its ground. It’s like having two siblings both dress up as ghosts for Halloween, but one simply wears a bedsheet with holes while the other sibling wears all white and even uses makeup to make themselves look pale; Wednesday is the sibling wearing all white while the other shows are like the sibling wearing the bedsheet; both costume ideas are basic for Halloween, but one is more interesting than the other. There is one reason why this show was able to succeed, though.

Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams did a lot of the heavy lifting with this show. She was casted for the role in part to represent Wednesday’s Latina heritage. We cannot forget to credit the writers for such a great character they were able to draw out. Wednesday Addams was a serious, dark, gothic and intelligent girl who rarely blinked. Her stern and direct way of speaking was different from the other characters, which helped her stand out in addition to her black and white attire. Wednesday is a girl who shows no emotion and finds joy in what others would feel pain. Ortega effectively portrayed this character and made her the reason for me to keep watching the show. I simply wanted to know more about Wednesday. The few moments where Wednesday showed emotion caught me off-guard but were quite rewarding. It was also comical to see how Wednesday would despair to what others would celebrate and celebrate to what others would despair.

Overall, Wednesday is what made Wednesday succeed. It only makes sense. Wednesday was a classic CW teen-drama with murder mystery turned supernatural and quirky. Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams carried the show. The show would have succeeded more than what it did if it took more time to explore its supporting characters and dedicate less time to the boring love-triangle that is not even worth mentioning here.

It may seem like I’m saying more negatives than positives, but that is to avoid spoilers. I give Wednesday a 6.3/10, and recommend watching it now during the hype because once the hype is gone, so will be the show.

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. REMEMBERED BY THE WORCESTER COMMUNITY AT TWO SPECIAL EVENTS!

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Martin Luther King, Jr: a prophet of peace and social justice

By John Monfredo, retired WPS principal and teacher and former Worcester School Committee member

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– MLK, Jr.

The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was alive and well in Worcester this month. On January 14 Worcester State University held its 29th annual Youth Breakfast Celebration to an audience of community members, parents and students. Then, on MLK Jr. Day, Monday January 16th, Quinsigamond Community College held the 38nd annual event to a crowd of over 600 and honored the work of Dr. King as well as honoring community members.

Retired Friendly House Executive Director Gordon Hargrove was honored for his over 50 years of outstanding work at the Friendly House. For decades he assisted the neediest children and families in the Worcester area. He received the Eleanor T. Hawley Community Service award. Also, receiving the Eleanor T. Hawley award was Dr. George S. Smith for his service to the community in starting up this special day in honoring Dr. King and for all his work within the community. The Worcester Police Department Service award went to Captain Kenneth Davanport and to Police Officer David Rutherford for their outstanding service to the community.

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Worcester hero, social service agency icon and all around terrific person Gordon Hargrove was honored at the MLK event for decades of service to the poor in Worcester as executive director of the Friendly House!

The overall theme at the events was remembering the “Dream” of Dr. King and moving forward in an attempt to assist others, to espouse the importance of non-violence in our community and to assist the less fortunate in our society. The guest speaker at the event was Rachael S. Rollins, United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. Her speech was outstanding, for she addressed the importance of carrying on Dr. King’s legacy.

Other speakers included Congressman Jim McGovern who spoke about racism. He said, “We need to disrupt racism in our individual choices, in our economic choices and especially, in our political choices.” Also, President Luis Pedraja of Quinsigamond Community College, on that same issue, stated, “Unfortunately, the pandemic revealed that we saw, more clearly than ever, that racism and systemic oppression still have a strong hold on our society…We still see that violence plagues us, and that hatred still thrives in our midst.”

Then Worcester City Manager Eric Batista, the city’s first Latino manager and a former student of mine at Belmont Community School, stated that one of his top priorities is to create a more inclusive and representative workforce… a future where diverse young adults see themselves better represented in positions of leadership within the community. He also spoke about everyone willing to work together for a better Worcester.

It was 29 years ago Gordon Hargrove and his sister Dorothy Hargrove, along with a few other community members, organized the MLK youth breakfast for students and it has continued with many other individuals carrying the torch. Students across Worcester County have been encouraged to participate in a poetry contest honoring Dr. King, Jr. In addition, student performances and special awards were also given out.

Student Art initiative awards were given out to Richard Bonus, a junior at WSU and to Maria Orozco Orjuela a freshman at WSU. Student dance performances were done by Friendly House Teen Program, The Learning First Step Team and by Jo Ann Warren Studio. Nasya Osei, of South High School sang the National Anthem and the Southeast Asian Coalition performed a song and dance routine. Vanessa Ford, an outstanding adult soloist, sang several songs throughout the program and encouraged audience participation.

Another highlight that the audience loved was the father-son musical team, Noah and David Allen, from “The Journey Community Church in Worcester.” Noah played the trumpet and his father the guitar and they did an outstanding job of entertaining the crowd. Noah will be attending Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship.

Mistress of Ceremony was senior Tayla Weeden from WSU. In addition, on behalf of Mayor Joseph Petty an award was presented to Richard and Elizabeth Gonzalez for their service to the community by City Councilor Etel Hazhiaj.

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Another longtime advocate for Worcester families: John Monfredo!

There were several award-winning students who received college scholarships for their academic and work within the community: John Bouhanna, Ian Njihia, Tiernan Ashford Ivory O’Neal, and Rachel Sinclair all from WSU. The awards were given out by WSU president Barry Maloney.

The winning poems certificates given out by community leader Dorothy Hargrove went to the following students:

Grade 12: Judith Adu-Worcester Technical High School and Kiauna Russell- North High School

Grade 11: Anya Geist-South High School and Kevin Avalos-University Park Campus School

Grade 10: Alexis-Danielle Coleman-North High, Fernanda Duerte- South High School, and Abenezer Asmare and Cayvon Johnson – University Park Campus School

Grade 9: Nakeisha Moise- North High School and Matthew O’Connell- Venerini
Academy

Grade8- Missage Budimbu – All Saints Academy, Alexander Kowalski and Gianna Rosario – Saint Joseph School, Sorelle Lavalle – Saint Bernadette School, Armeline Chaban, Ryan Donahue, Davi Nogueira, and Joseph Castillo all from Venerini Academy

Grade 7: Georgeanne Gajewski and Kaylie Bageris from All Saints Academy, Louisa Akowus, Terhon Donovan, Ana Serna from Burncoat High School – Molly Hachigian and Ella Parslow, Alvin Montreuil from Saint Joseph School – and Elizabeth Spillane from Venerini Academy.

The poems were outstanding and here is a sample of one of the winning poems:

He Stood With Us

He led many to The Lincoln Memorial and said:

“We may have all come on different ships,

But we’re in the same boat now.”

He said he had a dream.

He was right.

Now many people hold hands all around the world.

Black American, Asian, Latino, Indigenous

And all people of color Survive together.

He stood for the right to let people of color

choose who may be in charge.

He stood with us.

He fought with us.

Here I am, a 12 year Black girl,

Asking you to stand together

For the future he dreamed of.

Louisa Akowua – Burncoat Middle School

Again, both events were outstanding and did our city of Worcester proud.

✍️A note to Worcester’s new city manager, school superintendent … and the usual suspects!🙏

By Rosalie Tirella

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The Green Island three decker Rosalie grew up in was recently sold. photos: R.T.

Re: Worcester housing and Worcester kids – this post is for them. And the new Worcester Public Schools superintendent, Worcester’s city council, school committee and new city manager. City “leaders,” WHERE WILL OUR POOR CHILDREN – and their parents – live in the new, gentrified Worcester with its inflated rents and unscrupulous slumlords and sneaky developers? I just found out: the young developer and his brothers who are doing major work on my old Quinsigamond Village building and the other two buildings that he bought several months ago – 34, 36 and 38 Blackstone River Road – this developer is known for buying Worcester property and putting in TWO bathrooms in a three decker’s individual apartments. Adding a whole new bathroom, so there are two. He’s not slicing and dicing the big beautiful airy spaces – most original three deckers have 3 bedrooms – like other developers do to maximize their profit by creating two or three units out of one. No, this guy adds a bathroom to each tenement SO HE CAN freeze out most Worcester families and RENT TO FOUR OR FIVE PEOPLE who are UNRELATED and, pooling their $$$ financial resources, will be able to pay the new, exorbitant rents he will charge. Each person may be paying $800 for his/her own bedroom. Kitchen and dining room shared. Two bathrooms a blessing! Roommates. Not a Woo family.

This happens in the WPI neighborhood all the time, with WPI students getting into these big apartments, four or five students per apartment. Then the four or five of them pitch in$$$ to pay the high rents that working families can no longer afford to pay. My old beau lives in the neighborhood. When he first bought his house in the WPI ‘hood all his neighbors were working class families who rented the apartments in the two- and three- family homes. Now the houses are filled with WPI students because the landlords’ rents are too high$$ for a working class Worcester family.

As far as the Blackstone River Road buildings go, this extra bathroom gambit is illegal, as the neighborhood is NOT ZONED for this kind of dwelling unit. If each tenant in each three decker and two family has a car, that’s a lot of cars per floor! That’s 12 cars for a three decker that used to maybe have four or five. It all used to be terrific immigrant housing built for a family during the turn of the 20th century. Immigrant families, generation after generation, the sons and daughters, then the grandkids, lived in these edifices and were able to enter the middle class after a generation or two. The American Dream happening in Gateway Cities all over New England. There may have been two cars for the entire three decker back then! When I was a kid growing up in a huge Green Island three-decker apartment we had no car, but the family on the second floor had ONE car to do it all, and even the huge family on the first floor (about 10 people!!) had ONE car, too. A long station wagon with those cool wooden side panels.

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Worcester’s East Side three deckers – nice homes to live in for Worcester’s Italian immigrants – and their descendants – during most of the 20th century.

The old Worcester neighborhoods actually made being poor tolerable back then: you lived in a spacious three decker apartment – bigger than some houses in Worcester – where you had big windows in each big bedroom room, a front and back porch, a dining room attached to your parlor and often a pretty big backyard. And a landlord who wasn’t out to make the biggest buck ever! Rents were low, we had our neighborhood school, Lamartine Street School, our local park, Crompton Park, Millbury and Water streets for our shopping/ business district … all a 10 minute walk from my family’s Lafayette Street tenement. Same for all the families on Lafayette, Lodi, Endicott, Grosvenor, Sigel, Lunell and Bigelow streets. So no one ever moved away from Green Island! We kids all started Lamartine Street School together as kindergartners and seven years later graduated from sixth grade. Togetherness. You were a huge extended, albeit dysfunctional, family!

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Birthday celebration: “Bapy,” Rose and her two kid sisters in their Lafayette Street apartment, circa 1967.

All gone today – Worcester’s public schools have a student population that is always on the move, on the run. Families jump from one neighborhood as they move from one crumby three decker to the next – and often to a new school, for the kids. The landlords suck, the apartments aren’t up to code, the neighborhoods are rough and the rents keep going up up up. I forget the official name schools label children and families who are on the move – sometimes homeless – every few years. But it’s a detriment to the kids’ education. How can a child focus on books, do reading and writing assignments? Learn? Also: Make friends? Bond with teachers and adults who are great role models? How can they look forward to school traditions?

Tell me, new WPS super!

Gas stoves. Most three deckers have them, along with gas parlor heaters. It all worked well for a century or so, but now we’re finding out gas stoves cause asthma in children and worsen adults’ asthma. Federal officials recommend electric stoves OR ADDING A HOOD OVER THE STOVE AND A VENTILATION SYSTEM THAT sucks up the dangerous gases that are byproducts of cooking with gas. Some carcinogens! At least open the windows, we’re told!

My question: IS THE CITY OF WORCESTER BUILDING AND CODE departments AWARE OF ALL THIS??? AND CHANGING CITY CODES to reflect the new findings? To protect poor children? WHAT ABOUT IT, DIRECTOR AMANDA WILSON?

And what about that City of Worcester apartment registry, Amanda and Worcester City Council? City officials were supposed to create a directory OF EVERY RENTAL UNIT IN THE CITY OF WORCESTER and workers were to visit each unit periodically to make sure: its stoves work, the bathroom is in good shape, windows are not broken, doorways and hallways and stairwells are safe, the heating system is ok. The previous city manager, Ed Augustus, said he was planning to get this directory going – but he never did. Now it’s up to new City Manager Batista to do the right thing and help poor Worcester kids! Mr. Batista, make sure their parents have a good, safe stove to cook their meals on, a safe, effective heating system so they’re not cold during the winter, windows that aren’t broken and are good enough to keep the elements out during rain and snow storms. Are the porches ok?

The new City of Worcester hires on Irving Street and Main Street are really on probation in the eyes of most Worcesterites. For us, they needn’t get fancy and expensive$$$ with hiring extra administrative assistance and holding meetings with their people to protect themselves and their high paying jobs. They needn’t get caught up in their profession’s professional lingo. They just need to step up, work hard and do the right thing by poor Worcester kids and their families.
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The original El Morocco restaurant. The Wall Street area was another Worcester immigrant neighborhood (Middle Eastern) that boasted scores and scores of three deckers with front- and backyards. Real homes where immigrant families could build their American Dream. Photo courtesy of the Worcester Historical Museum.

🥂New Year – new movie!🍿🎟️

By Rosalie Tirella

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photo still: Wally, left, and Andre imbibing and pondering aloud the meaning of it all.

New Year … New Movie! Actually, I saw this terrific film, MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, in 1981, when it first came out. At Clark University, I think, with my boyfriend at the time. The movie was kinda personal back then because a lot of Clarkies hailed from New York City or the Jersey suburbs. My closest female friend lived in Brooklyn; my boyfriend grew up in a leafy Jersey ‘burb. Then when I quit college and lived on that hippie commune, a pal of mine was from Long Island and another was from Greenwich Village. So I got to visit a bit of NYC – especially Manhattan – in my youth. It was pre-Giuliani clean-ups and his aggressive, racist policing … pre-broken-window urban theory, pre-gentrification, back when my friend’s big sister lived in a big beautiful old brownstone with several friends from college. Next year she was off to study in Japan! My Chinese American gal pal, the one from Brooklyn, grew up in an apartment building yards – I mean just a few yards – away from the subway tracks. At night her whole apartment shook as the trains rattled thru her family’s neighborhood. I spent a weekend there once – with her and her big, quiet family – both parents Chinese immigrants. Few words were spoken, everyone seemed so placid – the exact opposite of the Tirella Lafayette Street clan where no one ever shut up, where stories were told to thin air, where everyone had OPINIONS and REBUTTALS. My friend’s family seemed like they were from another planet – a planet where WHOLE APARTMENTS SHOOK AND VIBRATED, 24/7!

Manhattan was very gritty in the late 1970s – but democratic. Everyone could live here in a free, diverse, crazy America. I remember: hookers would follow my boyfriend (and me) after he drove in to the city to pick me up at Port Authority. 42nd Street was a world of strip clubs, peep shows and prostitutes. For miles and miles, it seemed! Exciting to me – just 18 years old and a wannabe writer hungry to experience the world. Oblivious to the pain and class divisions! Lovin’ the human carnival! I remember the subway cars – inside and outside – covered in graffiti. I mean every square foot. You ran through Central Park if it was nighttime.

I loved it.

The beginning of MY DINNER WITH ANDRE reminded me of the New York City of my youth – and a little bit of me and my friends. We were all kind of like Wally Shawn and Andre Gregory, two real life New York City theater people the movie centers on: we too were sensitive, artsy, philosophical – and garrulous as hell.

We first see protagonist Wallace (Wally) Shawn making his way through the garbage-choked streets of Manhattan – on his way to have dinner at a fancy restaurant with his old pal and colleague, Andre, a NYC avant guard director who has had a kind of nervous breakdown and dropped out of the theater scene. We see Wally, depressed and gnome-like in his big trench coat, gloomily walking past all the garbage, boxes and bags of refuse, block after block after block. He’s oblivious to oncoming traffic. He hops onto a subway car, numb to the garish spray paint sprayed all over its interior and the unfriendly faces, fellow subway riders. All the while we’re privy to his thoughts: Wally doesn’t want to have dinner with Andre – has been avoiding him for years, even though Andre was the one who discovered playwright Wally – staged his first plays, encouraged and championed Wally. Now Andre had dropped out and was being very weird, running around the globe having all these strange experiences. Andre was in Scotland, Poland, Tibet … the Sahara desert. “Andre was talking to trees,” says the glum and frightened Wally to himself. “He hadn’t been with his family in months. Andre used to hate being away … couldn’t wait to get back home to Chikita, Peter and Marina.”

Wally only agreed to this dinner after a friend called him, begging him to check on their mutual friend: a few weeks ago he had seen Andre in a tough part of town, leaning against a crumbling building, sobbing. Andre had just seen the film AUTUMN SONATA and broke down after Ingrid Bergman says: “I could always live in my art, but never in life.”

Well, Wally makes it to the expensive, fancy restaurant, full of dread. But his trepidation is misplaced. The handsome, suave Andre seems ok, walks up to Wally and gives him a hearty hug. They are led to their table, and for the next 1 1/2 hours they discuss: the meaning of life, the aloneness of death, the mystery of marriage, casual love, the theater, old age homes, swastikas, huge cabbage heads, cooperative insects, a photograph, weight loss, teachers … I mean, God, what a magical time at this dinner table! Wish I had been there!

But we are! The film, co-written by Gregory and Wallace after tape recording months and months of their real-life conversations and piecing the best parts and themes together, directed by the great Louis Malle, is meant to make you, the movie goer, the silent dinner date, hovering over this entire nutty, glorious affair. Listening in … Andre was one of New York’s promising talents, and he had in fact dropped out of life. Wally was a kind of struggling avant guard actor and playwright in New York City – the son of iconic editor William Shawn of The New Yorker. At the very beginning of the film, as he walks to his dinner appointment, Wally, once upper middle class, now struggling like a real writer, thinks to himself: “When I was young I rode in taxis … all I did was think about art and music. Now I’m 36, and all I think about is money.”

Point taken.

The road not taken – Andre’s way. The lover of cozy domesticity – that’s Wally. But Andre is such a terrific person and such a great story teller that Wally – and we, the viewers – hang on his every word, can picture in our minds, those teeny insects marching to the field where they’re allowed to nibble on the crops…the photo of Andre’s wife when she was 26 – young and sexy to Andre. A photo that he always carried with him. A few months ago he really “saw” the picture of his wife of 20 years: her face, mournful … she looked so sad … She was so beautiful but “she was lost,” Andre says. Wally slurps his potato soup and nods with understanding and compassion. Sometimes in silent, sweet disbelief as Andre’s adventures get more and more … esoteric, culminating in Andre being buried alive!

Then that was that for Andre. The end of his quests. Andre stopped searching, went home to his family and went to see an agent to tell him he was interested in directing a play …

Through the entire dinner, from soup to espresso, you come to love Andre and Wally. You love the warmth between them, their mutual cheerleading … their empathy and intelligence, their ability to really listen to “different” ideas and to react honestly, respectfully. With love.

Decades ago I used to have conversations like that in Clark University dorm rooms with my beau and my Brooklyn friend and other pals. Most adults called them: college “bull-shit sessions.” But to us students they were as important as our Kafka classes! A few hours set aside at night to drink beer, unwind and open up about ourselves and our families, our dreams and plans … a time to question, challenge, support and share. Real conversations. The kind of intimacy that seems to elude much of present day American society.

I miss the bull shit.

☃️The best Christmas gift 🎄🌹

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rosalie, this Christmas.

My best Christmas gift this year, better than the AutoZone and Dunkin Donuts gift cards, meaning as much to me as my kind neighbors’ Christmas cards and lovely lemon-scented candle: the set up of my “dining room” centerpiece – the old farmer’s kitchen table, white tiles still in tact, its big wooden legs nick-less despite all my moves through the years … finally put together. Now I can eat my meals at my table instead of in bed or by the coffee table or standing before the kitchen counter.

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Rose’s table – ready for meal time! pics: R.T.

Yesterday, a good man put my farmers table together. For my Christmas Eve. I didn’t know Spanish, he didn’t know English, so we couldn’t make small talk. Still, we communicated. We kept smiling, tentatively, at each other, me gesturing with my hands and saying: IT’S OK. It’s OK. PLEASE! He wavering for a few minutes – should he go up to this old white lady’s apartment to help her? The old broad in candy striped shorts babbling away stupidly, her two silly dogs running circles around her, tangling their leashes around her? But he did.

I said to this stranger, my right hand over my heart: THANK YOU! The dogs are good! Good! My house ok!

The American story: Two strangers from different parts of the world taking a chance on each other.

At Christmas!

So …up we flew on my building’s elevator! Oh, hear the angels’ voices! Down the corridor we ran on the Night Christ was born! Two poor people following the star of light … my dogs, Jett and Lilac, leading the way, their spirits so bright!

We entered my cozy apartment. The young man went to work putting the big wooden legs into my old farmers table. A 10- minute job. The table a gift from a friend 30 years ago, Dianne, a woman who gifted me my first furniture for an early apartment, for the early Christmases. Most of her stuff has left me, fallen to the wayside of time – except this grand old farmers table, so on-trend decades ago, and my bed’s simple but lovely headboard. This Christmas I remember “Di” with love and gratitude!

Back in my home, the young man struggled with my “toy wrench,” and the old table’s legs wobbled … My dogs, sitting politely with me a few feet away, wanting to run up to the guy to sniff away. Jett growling very very low. Me shushing Jett. BE NICE, JETT!! BE NICE!

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Jett, foreground, is always a bit protective.

The young fellow, short and stocky, a dark brown, working in the restaurant kitchen week days, walking to work even during the coldest days … wearing a heavy sweatshirt on top of another sweatshirt … living in the rougher part of town. Me, knowing the American story having lived it, but spending last Christmas in my car, homeless, struggling, too. I wanted to say to him: My friend, it will work out! Let your family and friends help you! Make sure your future children ace their classes in public school … They’ll be the next generation of teachers and doctors. Trust me! This is America! The best Christmas gift!

But I couldn’t speak his language. So I said, loudly and stupidly, over and over again: THANK YOU! THANK YOU! BEAUTIFUL JOB!, my right hand touching my heart. He smiled shyly. Once in a while he’d glance up from working on my old table, turned upside down on the floor, to glance at my big white book case, directly behind him – filled with books and more books. Then his eyes would wander to the stack of newspapers, my newspapers, CECELIA, written and edited by the granddaughter of illiterate Polish and Italian immigrants.

America on Christmas Eve.

When he was leaving my apartment, gesturing to the stairs, wanting to skip the elevator, I gave him a small envelope with a tip$ inside, not much money at all. Then I went back to my Christmas stash and gave him a new pair of winter gloves, still attached together with their tag. I loved them. They looked so cheerful with their snowflake pattern.

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Merry Christmas!

🎄My Favorite Christmas Movies☃️

By Luis Sanchez

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Luis! photo submitted.

My favorite memories include hot chocolate, snow, blankets, family and a movie. As you can tell, I love the Christmas season. My family and I take a few days during the vacation to gather around and watch a few Christmas movies that’ll make us either laugh or cry. You all know that I tend to look beyond the surface of a movie; I digest it properly and come up with an in-depth analysis, but during family-movie nights I sit back and enjoy what is presented to me.

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This Christmas enjoy your favorite holiday movies with your favorite warm beverage! photos: R.T.

There are three movies in particular that have been engraved into our yearly schedule. It’s not Christmas if we don’t watch these movies together. They each provide their own unique message about life, and it’s always good to be reminded of those lessons every now and then. These movies have brought my family together, and in no particular order are my top three favorite Christmas movies:

Home Alone narrates the story of a young boy who needs to defend his home from burglars after he was left behind by his family as they went on vacation. Despite watching it for the umpteenth time, my family will laugh as if it was the first time we watched it. The creativity of the traps always gets to us. What I also enjoy is the uniqueness of the movie in general. It’s a rollercoaster of events. This movie does a great job of weaving two subplots surrounding our protagonist, Kevin, together. When they come together for the climax of the movie, we become aware of the lessons hidden behind each story. A great way to end family night is with a movie about family itself.

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Don’t be a Grinch!

Someone who truly has a unique family is the Grinch from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In this film we travel to Whoville – a town that celebrates Christmas like there’s no tomorrow. The Grinch is a being who terrorizes the town, but this year he decides to steal all of Christmas from Whoville. One thing that I will waste no time in mentioning is the subtle rant this movie gives about the holiday season itself. In order to not spoil it for anyone who may not have seen it yet (in which case, this is the year to watch it!) I will not directly quote the line. The main point of that line is how much the meaning of Christmas has changed, and not necessarily in a good way. Along with that dialogue, there are plenty of comedic moments that also make my family and me cheer. Let’s not forget to mention Jim Carrey’s exceptional performance as the Grinch in the remake. We could see him as both the antagonist and the protagonist at the same time! We should all appreciate moments like those, because it’s difficult to act that way and have the audience agree with you for both sides. The quirkiness of the movie is what drove the message home, and the message will stay true for a long time. Real life lessons in a dream-like world is a productive way to teach not only the youngsters, but the older generations as well. This is why How the Grinch Stole Christmas will remain one of the most elite Christmas movies of all time.

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The creator of the Grinch, “Dr. Seuss,” was born in Springfield, Massachusetts.

To wrap things up in a cute little bow like the one on top of the Christmas presents that you’ll receive this year, I want to take a moment to praise the popular film known as The Polar Express. The movie takes place during Christmas eve. A young boy sees outside his home a mysterious train that is bound to the North Pole. He hops aboard and meets other kids as the train embarks towards the famous Santa Claus. The Polar Express is more meaningful than it is comedic. Similar to the other movies, its unique message resonates with the audience. The characters form unique bonds between each other. This helps the movie feel more realistic despite its fantasy elements. The characters make genuine mistakes. Let’s not forget about the hot chocolate!

Christmas movies make the holiday season more cozy. They bring bundles of fun. As an avid movie-watcher, it feels good to take a step back and enjoy the motion picture. I always have fun with these three films. Each movie is good in its own way. I recommend watching them! Get yourself comfortable, cue the snow, and have a Christmas movie night at your leisure. Life sometimes rushes at over 100 miles per hour, so don’t forget to give yourself some breathing room.

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Luis graduated from Worcester’s South High School in June and is applying to colleges this winter. photo submitted

As the year comes to close, I want to thank all of you for reading my columns and reading this newspaper/website. May the new year bring us joy and prosperity! Hug those around you! Have happy holidays and a happy new year!

The Quality Inn in Worcester would make terrific permanent housing … and the Friendly House celebrates

Thanksgiving 2022 at the Friendly House

By Jim Coughlin

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Jim🌲🌲🌲

Grafton Hill’s Friendly House Community Center on Wall Street was the scene on the three days preceding Thanksgiving for their annual “Turkey Giveaway Program” that dates back to the 1960’s.

In an interview with Mike Moreshead, the Assistant Director, he said that the program initially serves about 500 families whom Friendly House serves on a regular basis, year – round.

On Monday, November 21st, the Turkey Giveaway had three members of the Worcester Railers Hockey Team on hand to pass out turkeys to the Friendly House families.

Moreshead said that the drive this year had been organized by Josephine Delef who oversaw approximately 60 volunteers who gave of their time to make it a successful event.

He said that the turkeys initially come frozen and by the time they are eventually handed over to the families which he estimated takes about four days, altogether, the turkeys are ready to be be cooked.

In addition to the turkeys, they also provide onions, squash, potatoes, stuffing along with cranberry sauce.

Moreshead said that in addition to the turkeys and “all the fixins,” Friendly House also handed out “a gift bag of non- perishable canned vegetables for the next day.”

He estimated that Friendly House recieved about $7,000 in financial donations this year for the Turkey Giveaway.

Moreshead said the first two days were reserved for the Friendly House families and Wednesday was reserved for others in the community whom he said, “may have fallen short in their Thanksgiving grocer⁷:: shopping,”

“There were 150 gift cards for local grocery stores, valued at $20 that were made possible by local businesses,” Moreshead said.

Among the many busisnesses contributing to the Turkey Giveaway were the Worcester County Food Bank, The Wagner Auto Group, TJK, the Willows Retirement Home, and others.

He described the Turkey Giveaway as ” a community effort, with lots of donors.”

“We also partner with churches,” he said.

He said that Friendly House recieved so many donations and he apologized to This Reporter “if he left any businesses out.”

In addition, Masterman’s Manufacturing Company in Auburn donated 50 pies.

” I am honored and humbled to do this job, year-round,” Moreshead said.

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🏘️🏘️🏘️🏘️🏘️

THE QUALITY INN ON ORIOL STREET – THE PERFECT PLACE!

By Rosalie Tirella

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The Quality Inn. photos: R.T.

It will be a shame if the NIMBY crowd – homeowners in the Burncoat/upper Lincoln Street area – apply pressure to our weak-kneed politicians and the pols cave and nix the apartments that COMMUNITY HOUSING RESOURCES plans to build for the homeless in the Quality Inn suites/hotel on Oriol Street. Worcester city councilors and planning board members need to drive to the hotel AND SEE THAT THE HOTEL IS AWAY FROM HOMES AND CONDOS – that it is at the top of a street with a methadone clinic and a medical building. IT IS NOT LOCATED IN A RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD! What’s more, the Quality Inn is already operating as a huge, quasi-homeless shelter for Worcester. It’s staffed by the hotel’s terrific hospitality professionals who are ANGELS with the regular guests and homeless guests – the struggling kind. I spent, in total, a month+ at the Quality Inn on Oriol Street. The young Jamaican guy at the front desk was wonderful with me and all the guests – home owners from out of town and homeless folks from Worcester and area towns. Assistant manager Dana is a wonderful person – she should be made director of the new housing complex! Community Housing Resources should hire these two smart, sensitive young people to run their new endeavor! And keep the housekeeping staff, too!

You wanna know a secret? Our Worcester city councilors already know the Quality Inn is a kind of homeless shelter. A few City workers have told me: Homeless folks sleep in the bushes outside the motel, Rose. Yes, they do! It’s safe and quiet. When I stayed at the Quality Inn and took my two dogs out to pee late at night before I went to bed, friends of friends who had rooms at the Inn would sneak in for shelter. A night out of the cold or the rain. Rooms were shared by fiancees and cousins twice removed! Everyone looked exhausted and grubby – it’s no fun being homeless – but I never had a problem with anyone there. Not once.

The revamped Quality Inn that will be converted to apartments and studios for the homeless will no longer be a quasi-Worcester homeless shelter – it will be HOME. Home to folks in need. One-bedrooms. Studios. Bathrooms. A community room. It will be an IMPROVEMENT, an ASSET to the city. Fewer people sleeping on the sidewalks of the Canal District!

According to CHR, the reimagined and renovated QI will be supportive housing, meaning there will be staff on the premises 24/7 … to support the residents – to help with job searches…to counsel…to refer folks to other social service agencies that can help. Residents must pay a portion of their rent. There will be security cameras galore, I bet, plus security folks.

RIGHT NOW THE QUALITY INN is excellent but a bit of a free for all. The Worcester Fire Department’s fire trucks are always there – for silly stuff – and for real stuff, including health emergencies.

Let’s stop the suffering. This holiday season let’s get the homeless out of the woods and provide them with home …real homes for the working poor and very poor with little kids. Families. To see little girls and boys homeless, crying outside the Quality Inn as a dad or mom tries to comfort them is soul crushing. I often went to the Dollar Store when I stayed at the Quality Inn to buy the little kids coloring books and crayons, stuffed animals, etc … and I got other toys and books donated. Remember Edith Morgan’s big blessing bag last winter? Pens, pencils, notebooks for school – I tried to help. A heartbreaking sight: a Worcester Public Schools yellow school bus pulling into the Quality Inn … seeing the three our four little children clambering aboard the school bus, with parents looking tentative and hopeful. Doing the right thing for their children, under duress. This is America?! … I’d leave all donations/ school supplies with Dana or another front desk staffer and knew they’d distribute the stuff wisely. And my “pup” Lilac was always so happy to see the kiddos, giving them sloppy kisses whenever their paths crossed! One mom said, You made my daughter’s day! She loves dogs! This was after her daughter patted Jett and Lilac’s old heads and gave Lilac a hug as we walked about outdoors, outside the Quality Inn, our temporary home – we hoped.

Why must innocent children suffer?

Why traumatize little ones in a city whose coffers are full?

Worcester is undergoing gentrification – city-wide! Not just in the Canal District! So many of us have had to find our new homes in the towns outside of Worcester because our city is so expensive to live in. For young families with children in the Worcester Public Schools or the working poor who have jobs in Worcester but no car … they need to live in Worcester! Remain in their hometown! The new Quality Inn could be an answer to their prayers …

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Former WSC member and retired WPS principal and teacher John Monfredo makes a donation to the kids of QI …

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Mr. Monfredo donated a box filled with books and magic markers to the children staying at the Quality Inn.

Retired Worcester Public Schools principal and teacher and former Worcester School Committee member John Monfredo made a blessings box for the little kids at the Quality Inn on Oriol Street. I delivered the box a few days ago to a gracious Javan – the Jamaican front desk manager I told you about. Javan was being Javan – impeccably dressed, professional, polite … coming out of the kitchen area with a huge covered tray. . For the community room. A homemade frosted Bundt cake was already on the buffet table. It was around 3 p.m. I bet Javan and the hotel’s staff created a wonderful Thanksgiving feast for all the Quality Inn guests: out of towners visiting family, those displaced by fire or some other domestic catastrophe … and the homeless! The place settings were beautiful, so festive looking! Javan looked like a prince walking out with the platter … When I gave him the big box containing new/just like new children’s books, crayons and magic markers and told him I was no longer homeless – that I had a beautiful apartment – he smiled. HAPPY THANKSGIVING! we said to each other! The Quality people at the Quality Inn – a hotel that people love to malign because they don’t know any better …

– Rosalie

🍁LET’S LOOK AT THE TRUE MEANING OF THANKSGIVING🍂🍁

By John Monfredo, retired Worcester Public Schools principal and teacher and former Worcester School Committee member

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Mr. Monfredo, this summer. photo: R.T.

“Give thanks not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.” – Catherine Pulsifer

The above quote is a reminder to all of us about the true meaning of Thanksgiving Day. This day is more than a special dinner, watching parades and traditional football games. It’s a day to call for action! Thanksgiving is composed of two words … Thanks and Giving!

Let’s face it, we all live in a negative society! All you have to do is listen to the news or just tune into a political campaign or watch a meeting. As an educator I would encourage schools to step up and address the problem.

Many teachers in the past have changed the world every day in their teachings, by the actions they take and by establishing projects within their communities. Let’s do it again, if we are to show our students the meaning of compassion, empathy, understanding and respect. Let’s tie it into the true meaning of Thanksgiving!

Since coming back from the pandemic many schools have seen a rise in bullying and a general lack of respect for others. What if during this holiday season the true meaning of Thanksgiving takes place? What if kindness and compassion are taught in our schools? Could this be a step in the right direction? Remember: adult modeling is essential! We would do well to remember this little poem:

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence,

If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.

If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world!

In the past, many schools stepped up and had, as part of their school philosophies and goals, volunteerism … having students “doing acts of kindness.” Many schools still enact this policy, giving students credit for good manners or doing a simple act of goodness, like holding the door for someone or just thoughtfully giving your seat on the bus to a senior citizen. Look at Andy’s Attic at South High, established years ago by former WPS School Superintendent Maureen Binienda when she was principal at South. The program still exists, and clothing and goods are given not only to the students but to local organizations in need. Also, many Worcester schools have opened food pantry kitchens for students in need of food for themselves – and their families. Let’s also bring back this year, through the Superintendent’s Advisory Council, the policy that each WPS secondary school select a service project for the year and work on making a difference in our community.

Wouldn’t it be great if the “act of giving” could take place at Thanksgiving time and be part of the overall philosophy of all American schools?

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Every year Mr. Monfredo and his wife, Annemarie, collect thousands of books for the kids of Worcester County – a volunteer project they began about 20 years ago! Photo submitted

Several years ago, I remember reading a quote from Maurice Elias, a professor at the Rutgers University Psychology Department, when he was addressing the topic of teaching kindness in our schools:

“As a citizen, grandparent, father, and professional, it is clear to me that the mission of schools must include teaching kindness. Without it, communities, families, schools and classrooms become places of incivility where lasting learning is unlikely to take place … Kindness can be taught, and it is a defining aspect of civilized human life. It belongs in every home, school, neighborhood and society.”

As Thanksgiving approaches let’s think about actions you can take and schools can take to bring to the classroom something that fully expresses the giving and kindness of the upcoming holiday.

Here are some actions for the student and the adult to consider:

* Donating food and clothing to non-profit organizations …

* With a smile, hold a door open for someone …

* Read a story with a child …

* Give a sincere compliment …

* Tell someone they mean a lot to you …

* Make someone laugh …

* Treat a loved one to breakfast in bed …

* Give a friend a hug …

* Say you’re sorry (you know to whom) …

* Take time to really listen to someone …

* Visit a sick friend, relative or neighbor …

* Make someone new feel welcome …

* Do a chore that you don’t normally do …

* Call up a talk show with good news!

* Assist an older adult with a yard project …

* Assist a friend with a school project …

* Pay for someone’s coffee that is in line with you …

* Donate clothes to the needy

* Make someone a home-cooked meal …

* Send a TEXT message to someone on their Birthday …

As you sit down for dinner or discuss Thanksgiving with others, spend a few moments giving thanks and share with others what good, kind actions you will take in the next year.

Love to hear what your thoughts are or what you have done to make our community a better place! Write to me, monfredoj@gmail.com

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂

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Congressman Jim McGovern’s efforts to make sure our hungry have enough food entail volunteerism, too! Watch for Jim’s walk for the hungry this Thanksgiving!

Luis Sanchez movie review🎬🍿🎟️📽️

Andor Premiere Review

By Luis Sanchez

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Luis!

The Star Wars franchise seeks to redeem itself after its most recent installment of The Book of Boba Fett. After a disappointing show, Star Wars has taken the decision to raise the stakes and become a more mature universe for its audience. Andor is exactly what a new Star Wars universe envisions. Andor is a science-fiction series made for Disney+ created by Tony Gilroy. Diego Luna reprises his role from Star Wars: Rogue One as Cassian Andor. It is a prequel to Star Wars: Rogue One, and the entire series plans to lead up to that movie’s events. There are many new characters portrayed by Kyle Soller, Adria Arjona, Joplin Sibtain and others. What captured a lot of people’s attention was how the first three episodes were released on the same day. As I mentioned previously, Star Wars wants to renew itself. I think this is a great way to do so.

Watching all three episodes at once had its positives and negatives. The negative part was how I can’t exactly recall what happened in each episode besides the important points, of course. The positive was that it felt almost like a movie: a beginning, middle and end. If one episode was released weekly, then Andor would have released a different message to its fans. All three episodes worked harmoniously as it ignited my enthusiasm for the show. What I found most intriguing, is how I am not eager to want more – I am already satisfied. Although it may sound ridiculous, it has its reasoning. Take The Mandalorian, for example. Following the ending of an episode I would be ecstatic to find out what happens next, and I would want more, perhaps to even have the episode released the next day. In Andor, the three-part premiere provided a conclusive idea not to the show, but to its beginning. Now we know the exposition, we know the characters, and we are ready to follow Cassian in his adventure.

The episodes also provided an emphasis on maturity and what Star Wars aims to do next. I can recall at least one part in each episode that made me forget we were in the Star Wars universe. It would leave the room still. What I appreciate even more is how fleshed out the characters are now. We are no longer in the “Anakin Skywalker: farmer boy is the chosen one and becomes the big bad” era. We have characters that are three dimensional, that have complex feelings, that we see are having battles within themselves and battling the exterior war. There is nothing better than a character whom the audience can believe is real. Perhaps we could even say this premiere was solely for the purpose of providing context towards what will happen next. Either way, it worked great.

There is a lot to look forward to in this series. Soon enough we might see the rebirth of Star Wars. Will all of the fans agree? Perhaps not, but I can say that I’m excited for what’s in store. Star Wars seems to be taking a leap, and I am nothing short of proud of what they are doing for their fans.