Category Archives: Rosalie’s Blog

💕🍂Saying goodbye to Jett🐾🍂❤️🍁

By Rosalie Tirella

Jett!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️CECELIA file photo.

Got my autumn/holiday haircut at the Spencer Rob Roy yesterday. K.C, the hair stylist there, is so good, easy going and efficient – for a half hour he took my mind off my dying Jett and how much I love my best dog and how much I will miss him when he’s gone.

Jett struggles to walk our teeny neighborhood walk these days. His bouncy gait has disappeared, replaced by baby steps, faltering and tentative. He seems disinterested in his surroundings – even his favorite fire hydrant, the red one, outside our building. I look at him and coo “Jett Jett Jett, read the doggy news!” but there’s no reaction from my boy. Jett is looking past me. And he was the one dog who was always looking at me…for me … after me. Mesmerized by Rose! The apple of his eye! Looking to his Rose for everything. So happy for the guidance! Elated to just be with his Rose, giver of fresh cheddar cheese cubes, cool clear water daily, bumpy rides in her jalopy to the dog park, half-hour walks in Quinsigamond Village, in the rain, during snow squalls, dappled in sunlight. The snowflakes stuck on Jett’s curly cue tail, the rain drops beaded off that thick husky coat. The little rub downs and hugs, afterwards, courtesy of Rose. The love made visible thru play, movement and touch …

Now I think, Jett, that you hurt when I try to get close, to snuggle, to hug …or sometimes even to stroke you. Your delicate old back, a little crooked in the middle. To touch with too much love hurts you now!

Funny, Jett, you’ve still got your robust appetite and you are super alert whenever the treats come out! But other than that, there’s not much else that excites you. Not a romp with Lilac in the grass here. Or even a hug from me, your Rose! You sleep a lot …

One pain pill – your first – as I was so hesitant to start you on the regimen because you’re so sensitive – made you, my bonny boy, very sick. You vomited in the middle of the night and, during my 3 a.m. trip to the bathroom, I “found” your puke – slid on it and went sliding under my kitchen table/desk. Amazing: so much furniture with pointy corners and I missed it all. Just luged under that table, half asleep, too snoozy to try to brace myself in any way. Which was a good thing. I was thinking of you. Worried about you. Lying on that floor for a minute or two, my hair and body covered in your puke, I was broken hearted for you. A big clean-up followed. Plus, taking you and Lilac out to pee in the wee hours of the morning – AFTER a shower, of course. We always try to look presentable whenever we’re out…cute dogs and fairly cute mistress. Part of the scenery. In Worcester. Now in Spencer. Later that morning, washing my vomity night shirt etc. I felt … so sad and lost. Without Jett. A new feeling.

Later that day I made an appointment to euthanize you on Friday. I don’t think you’ll want to go gently into that good night. But it’s for the best. This time we have to stick to the plan! I told my friend. This is too much! My boy has lost his bounce! My handsome Jett looks bedraggled … He is so restless. I think he’s suffering. His restless walks around the apartment … All signs pointing to the end.

Jett, today with Lilac, still savoring those treats!

Why, my beloved Jett, are you leaving me after just 17 1/2 years together? I could continue our conversation, old woman to husky, husky to old woman, for another 17 years! In the winter! During spring! Especially during spring time when the buds are just out and the flowers are hiding and the forsythia branches are climbing the fence at the dog park! Look, Jett, the geese have taken flight and I can see their oval, hard bellies and their long hard legs and webbed feet right above our heads as they work and work so hard to get home. Lilac has followed these athletes and run to the lake after them and you’ve run after Lilac! You’re so silly, Jett!

I already miss you, my Jett. I miss your delicate white paws. In my dreams I see their boney outlines, their clean whiteness. I see your blue eye and your brown eye, so exotic. People always remarked… I see your coyote fur, rough to the touch, a real protectant: the rain always beaded off your coat, the snowflakes stayed stuck there in their hexagon beauty. Each snowflake like no other. Jett, like no other husky or husky mix.

Jett after rolling in the snow.

I remember so many of our jaunts to all our Worcester County dog parks and along Blackstone River Road, Jett … It’s as if you’re already left me, even though you’re right here, snoozing on your mat by my feet as I write this and listen to Neil Young. I’m bawling as I look at the photos in my cell phone, hundreds of them, taken of you and Lilac frolicking in all kinds of weather. I can see your smile, Jett, easy, relaxed, jaw open, smallish teeth. I’m already craving all that Jett energy that always energized me thru the years, your mistress, your devoted owner and friend. Where will I be without your joie de vivre, Jett?! Every minute of the day? It was so contagious! It always lifted my spirits!

There we were, for 17 months, homeless! Me driving my old jalopy thru the streets of Worcester depressed, trying to get to our forever home, trying to figure things out and filling out hundreds of forms and rental applications. Lilac sad, muted, as she is curled up in a ball in the corner of the car’s back seat, waiting to get … home, to have a big bed to leap onto and my bed pillow to grab onto with her big teeth …to shake the stuffing out, just for sport. For FUN. But not you, Jett! Standing tall in the back seat, facing the world, your little flag tail is curled in the morning air and you look so pretty as you poke your little snout out of the rolled down car window to joyfully sniff the new morning air. You tilt your handsome little lupine head to the sky and just love that the sun is out again and it’s shining on you. On us!! You can’t wait for that ride to McDonald’s for that breakfast biscuit with scrambled eggs – you love your scrambled eggs at 6 a.m. Then to the Millbury dog park where you and Lilac will run and run in the pale morning light and the morning dew will soak your paws. I’ll pray and read a magazine and sip my McDonald’s coffee and eat my yogurt. Watching you and Lilac and sitting on that dog park bench in the beautiful country makes me … ecstatic! I am so happy watching you and Lilac play!

An old homeless lady with her two mutts trying to find their new home, trying to get home, trying to still run her newspaper and exercise her dogs in all kinds of green spaces and … wow! I’m having fun!!

Now, looking back, I see I was already home: I was with my Jett and Lilac in the cup of God’s hands.

Two winters ago: Jett and Lilac frolicking in Worcester City Councilor Candy Carlson’s big front yard! Candy was so wonderful to Jett and Lilac when we were homeless – a true friend to the fur babies! We will never forget all the kind things Candy did for Jett and Lilac! All photos: R.T.

Lilac and Jett at the dog park. CECELIA file photo.

James Stewart Gets his Gun🎥🍿🎬

By Rosalie Tirella

A cowboy movie to enjoy! photos: R.T.

Good news for this Western aficionado: James Stewart made some terrific Westerns with director Anthony Mann in the 1950s! I recently learned this celluloid factoid. So right now I’m watching Mann’s “Winchester ’73.” It’s a fast paced, entertaining flick starring Stewart and Shelley Winters. But there’s a passel of supporting actors who are also excellent, each one adding another brush stroke to this painting of American greed, violence, true love and our incessant need to keep moving.

So much is going on here. Mostly, we’re enthralled by Stewart, playing “Lin,” an on-fire kinda guy maniacally searching for the thug who beat him up and stole his beautiful, brandy new Winchester ’73 rifle he won at a Fourth of July marksmanship contest in Dodge. Hell bent on finding the thief – and killing him – Stewart and his sidekick pal scour the plains looking for the thief – without catching their breath, without stopping for a good meal even. The rifle has a life all its own: it’s lost by the thief, stolen by a sly gunslinger. Then an Indian (a very young Rock Hudson wearing a big, ridiculous fake beak nose) kills for the Winchester ’73 after the gunslinger tries to sell him crap weapons for his tribe. Then Rock loses the rifle to the U.S. Calvary. Then it’s gifted to the cowardly boyfriend of Shelley Winters (Lola). Lola’s beau is a real loser. Chased by Indians while driving their wagon to their forever home, he stops short, jumps on the horse tied to the back of their cart and gallops off, leaving poor Lola all alone in that wagon. She yells after him. He gallops on. The Indians move in … in clouds of dust and war paint. I so love Winters in this role! She’s the feisty brassy blonde dance hall girl who keeps on insisting she just plays the piano! So down to earth! There’s such real warmth in her smile, and it’s sweet when she kisses the older Calvary officer on his wizened cheek after he saves her from the Indians. He was hoping for a little more …

Shelley Winters shines in this movie!

It must be noted here: Mann’s depiction of Native Americans is deplorable. In his film they are portrayed as stupid, money-grubbing losers with weird, self-defeating religious beliefs. From the ridiculously made up Rock Hudson as a war chief to the lost soul Indian townie at the centennial celebration in Dodge, you feel ashamed – and angry with Mann and Stewart who was supposed to be a very nice guy, bravely serving as a fighter pilot in World War II. My late pal Tony Hmura was a bomber in Stewart’s US Air Force squadron. Stewart was beloved by his men, including Tony, and was a true American hero!

But I digress. Ostensibly, it’s the fancy, repeater rifle, the rife that “Won the West” – a firearm model owned by Buffalo Bill and President Ulysses Grant alike – that sets Lin on his wild odyssey. But it’s more than that, as we learn bit by bit during the film what’s really driving this guy. The real reason is fully and finally revealed at the very end of the movie.

I read that Mann and Stewart ushered in a new kind of Western when they made Winchester ’73 – a cowboy movie with more emotionally complex cowboys. After Mann and Stewart, the Western hero wasn’t always wearing the white hat. Sometimes he was both good and bad. Sometimes his motives were fuzzy – or just plain wrongheaded. Sometimes he was vindictive for the maddest reasons. Sometimes he killed without giving killing a second thought. Still, he was the film’s “hero.” In 1950 it was Mann and Stewart. A few years later it would be John Ford and John Wayne making my favorite movie of all time, THE SEARCHERS, an American masterpiece. You can’t find a darker, more tormented, more emotionally isolated, more messed up “hero” than Wayne’s Ethan Edwards. But you’re with him every step of the convoluted way, thru snowstorms, bison massacres, horrific trips to Indian reservations. A warped American Western hero, Ethan Edwards, but you can’t let go.

Back to the film I’m watching: Reunited with her cowardly boyfriend but now in love with James Stewart, who plays her love interest with a sexy grace, Shelley Winters finds herself holed up in her future home with a bunch of rough necks whose leader draws her boyfriend into a fight and easily shoots him dead. Some fake blood pours out of the gun shot wound, another first for Westerns – the bloodshed, the real consequences, after the trigger is pulled. Now Shelley’s his girlfriend, he decides. She basically calls him weird to his face: “You’re a strange person!” This is before the authorities set the place on fire. Wyatt Earp is the marshall, and he’s wise and charming, even while setting the house ablaze.

The prize?

All the while the Winchester ’73 passes from thug to killer back to thug then to killer, a mute witness to man’s insanity. When the crazy boyfriend meets up with his compadres in a cabin in the sage brush, he’s got Shelley Winters (Lola) and the prized Winchester ’73 with him. But the original thief is there and claims it’s his rifle. He couldn’t care less about the pretty girl! Crazy guy gives him the Winchester ’73 telling Lola he’ll kill him for the rifle later on … eventually.

Stewart shows real menace in this movie. You wouldn’t think so because he’s got that nice face and wonderful drawl … When he enters a room, Lola says: “Well, hello, nice people.” Yes, Stewart is the epitome of niceness. But he’s crazed and vicious at times in this film. And believable in his neuroticism.

The final shootout is in the middle of a bank heist with Shelley Winters jumping in to protect two little kids. She gets shot. Holding the wounded saloon gal, Lin’s pal tells her Lin is chasing “Dutch Henry” – the original thug who stole the rifle from Lin – because he’s his half-brother and he killed their father. Shot him in the back.

The final scenes are kind of Biblical… brother shooting at brother, talking back and forth to each other as their bullets ricochet off the boulders in the middle of the desert at dusk. Dutch’s real name is Matthew. Lin scolds his brother Matthew for wasting bullets. Their father always taught them to never waste firepower. “Save your lead” Lin tells Matthew.

I’ll give the ending away: Stewart gets the girl – and his Winchester ’73. But we all know Shelley Winters is a way better prize than some dopey ol’ rifle!


By Rosalie Tirella

Rose’s Hartford case manager “brief case” – still with her today, only it’s the ICT/CECELIA brief case she’s been toting to her advertisers for 22+ years!

Life’s not always what you expect it to be. When my late mom lived in a seniors apartment complex in Worcester – happily, for 20+ years – I’d visit her and see this elderly couple walking the grounds. They were in their 80s. The husband leading the pair, walking deliberately with his cane, wearing a knit vest over his button-down shirt. His little wife, with her dark skirt down to her ankles, followed him – old-country subservient. They made a lovely Hallmark card-ready pair in the sunsets …

How wonderful! I used to say to myself. Husband and wife still together, still taking walks together in the mornings, at dusk. Later, when they disappeared from the complex, I found out that the old man had been beating his wife with his cane. The cane he took their walks with …

My friend and her husband live on the West Side of Worcester. Pretty neighborhood. Middle-class folks living in their own pretty Worcester homes. So it surprised me when she said: The nice old couple across the street. She went into a nursing home. Later he died. When family came to clean out their house, they found scores and scores of guns under the old people’s bed.

Not one gun. Not two or three but like 100. … Incongruent with their neighborhood image.

Another example: Worcester is just catching up to Boston and Hartford – cities with a racially diverse political class. On our city council and school committee – now we see brown faces and white faces. Black and brown city councilors and people of color on our school committee. A good thing: They make us see city issues from new, important perspectives. The forgotten are less forgotten. The racial prejudice in the city is taken down a notch or two.

Or is it? Will it be?

When I lived in Hartford, a Black city pretty much in the 1990s, the city council was all minority. Good people of color trying to lead one of the poorest cities in America. Their public schools were in state receivership. The only relatively safe neighborhood in the city, Forest Park, where I lived, was still plagued with shootings – and murders (one happened a few buildings down from my apartment complex). Professional Black middle class folks – teachers, social workers etc – followed the lead of white folks and left the city once they became successful. Many Black professionals moved to East Hartford, the cute town next door.

With all these compelling challenges, it was heartbreaking – and shocking – to read in the local newspaper during election season: Hartford political candidates mud slinging over the SHADES OF THEIR BLACKNESS. One political candidate of color – the one with the darker skin tone – was in the papers complaining that the political opponent with the lighter skin tone (also a person of color) was being racist. The lighter skinned candidate was being negative against this candidate’s darker skin tone, his shade of blackness.

Wow. I had never heard of this in Worcester. Mostly because our politicians were white. White Irish Catholic to be more specific. So, here Worcester is 30 years later and the white Irish ruling class is having to “adjust.” But to what??? Will we eventually, sooner rather than later, be reading stories like the Hartford one in our local rags?

Fast-forward to me working in a major Hartford socal service agency. All my fellow case managers – about 60 or so – are black and brown. Terrific, caring professionals, many with MSWs. I’m the only white city case manager there – maybe there are two more white cases managers. Maybe.

When we case managers did home visits in the projects we paired up. I am still wiping the tears away after the day we visited a home and the mom, beautiful but man-crazy, was in bed with her hunky beau and he answered the door in his briefs. Looking up towards the ceiling we told him we were making our scheduled home visit. He huffed and let us in their barren apartment. The young woman came out, confused looking, hair in post coital muss. She had forgotten about our visit. At the kitchen table I watched the cockroaches run all over her kitchen stove top. I turned away to look at her sweet little boy. He was three years old. The most beautiful boy I had ever seen!

Hi! I said, smiling.

He smiled back at me and was too cute, leading me to their refrigerator. He opened their refrigerator door – empty except for two little juice boxes. He took one of his little juice boxes and handed it to me. The perfect little host! Such a generous, good boy! I took the juice box, sat on one of the cubes of foam in the living room and thanked him. I pulled off the little plastic straw the juice box came with, stuck it in the hole and began sipping my snack. Of course, tears were streaming down my cheeks as I drank my juice.

Later, I was appalled when my fellow case manager, a terrific African American gal, young, with her MSW and her beautiful work outfits and her advocacy for all parents. I was shocked to hear her say: She’s a good mom!

I wouldn’t have written up the report her way at all! But the child seemed happy. He didn’t look malnourished, even though he probably was. They were a very young couple and maybe needed to be taught …

But I deferred to my colleague because I was white and didn’t want to be called racist.

Another family: this one headed by the grandmother, toothless, scrawny…a black woman from down South. The daughter of a share cropper. She couldn’t read or write. She could only sign her name … Yet, she was very gracious when we knocked on her door and made our home visit. Sitting at the kitchen table, we all talked. Her little grandson was running about, happy and cheerful. In the bedroom I saw his mom – just a kid – in bed, her head tilted against the head-board. She was a heroin addict and had just shot up. Most likely her son, the little boy, had seen her do this.

After the visit, in the car, driving away, I said to “Joan”: We have to pull that child out of that home! His mother is a junkie!

Joan looked at me and smiling shook her head no. She said: Grandma runs that house. She’d never let any harm come to that little boy. He’s her baby!

But the mother’s a heroin addict! I screamed.

Joan shook her head no. The grandmother kept everyone fed, clothed. Didn’t the little boy come to class every day? Dressed? Clean? Happy? We would be breaking up a family if we had the boy removed.

It would be racist. It would be culturally insensitive.

Yep. I knew I was licked. I stopped arguing. Took my concerns to our boss, the head social worker. She agreed with Joan.

I was being insensitive … maybe even racist.

So, Worcester, as we become a majority-minority city, things will become more equitable.

But they won’t always make sense.

Not thinking about relationships💕

By Rosalie Tirella

Rose, today: There it is!

One of the nice things about getting older (I’ll be 62 years old next month) is not having to think about relationships any more. As in boyfriends. As in obsessing over boyfriends I’m in relationships with, obsessing about the way they feel about me, about the way I look to them … their level of commitment to our relationship – or lack there of … their passion in bed – or lack there of … the restaurants they took me to, the places we didn’t visit…the extra pounds I put on, the extra pounds I took off – for them. All in the name of the relationship. Not love usually. But the RELATIONSHIP – like a science experiment, easier to examine under a pink microscope with your gal pals over the phone, late at night, one of you nursing a glass of wine.

These days, thankfully, blissfully, I no longer think about relationships. I don’t have to see myself thru the eyes, gonads or stomachs of men, my boyfriends. Tormenting myself over: Am I pretty enough for him? Interesting enough for him? Sexy enough for him? Smart enough? Thinking about my guy from all angles: emotional, physical, sexual, culinary, musical, monetary etc etc etc etc. For decades I did this like any girl! With different guys! Beginning at puberty to way after menopause when my ovaries, once the size of walnuts, according to my gynecologist, have now shrunk to the “size of raisins.” Long live female hormones!!! This happens to all us ladies, and now, sans all those sex hormones flowing thru my body I can relax. Truly accept my flabby body and duplicitous soul, my likes and dislikes, the gap between my two front teeth and think … I’m good enough. I’m ok with me! So …WHAT WAS ALL THAT NOISE ABOUT? WAS ALL THAT FREAKING RELATIONSHIP MELODRAMA NEEDED?! WHAT A WASTE OF YEARS AND YEARS spent thinking about my relationships!

You simmer down after menopause and, sadly, realize: I should have written novels. I should have hitchhiked thru Europe, maybe even lived in Paris. I should have learned to cook like Julia Childs … but instead I WASTED MY PRECIOUS TIME, MY PRECIOUS YOUTH on the relationship! With John, Dick and Harry! Fred, Joe and Hank! Sure I had some great times, but it was all so exhausting! Trying to figure out where I stood with them. One day: Apple of His Eye! The next: Rose who? … Pondering our “future”? Deciphering the marriage question. Living together…a possibility? But when? All that sound and fury … for absolutely nothing. Comparable to finding a pebble on the shore of Lake Quinsigamond – dark, nondescript, basic – but deciding it may, deep deep down inside, contain gold. Be a gold nugget! So you stupidly keep turning it over and over and over again in the palm of your hand – this relationship – desperately seeking the unique, the whimsical, the magical in this guy. But you’re going out with a pebble. From Lake Quinsig, over by the bridge on Route 9, heading into Shrewsbury. Over by HOOTERS.

You remember all the ridiculous conversations you had with your gal pals trying to decipher THE RELATIONSHIP. Sharing embarrassingly intimate details about your sex life, the size of his penis, the so so restaurant he took you to ON YOUR BIRTHDAY! His ambition or lack there of. His boss he may have a crush on. All that psycho babble or just babble for the sole purpose of where you stand with some dopey guy. And to vent. And to have a few laughs, at his expense, with your gal pal who’s told you about her RELATIONSHIP. You have thought about it with her, about her boyfriend, and also asked with her: Why did he leave her for her best friend? – the best friend that he met at the great party she had given TO SHOW OFF THEIR RELATIONSHIP to all her friends!!! (a true story)

You think and ponder … and there are no answers.

Think about it! You and your gal pals tirelessly, foolishly, waste half of your precious female lives seeking answers to relationship questions that are inane, unanswerable. Yet women have been asking themselves these questions ever since paleolithic times, when volcanoes erupted everywhere, every few seconds, and cavemen boyfriends went out hunting the saber-toothed tiger leaving their cave women alone … to get anxious about the relationship. Seated around the fire pit, together now, the cave women getting all insecure about their cavemen, started thinking about their relationships with their cavemen: Is my hair too out of control and knotty for him? Are my breasts too hairy? Does this bear-skin skirt make me look fat? Why aren’t we living together in our own cave? Is he cheating on me with the cave woman in the pile of rubble right over that glacier? I bet language was invented by cave women intent on figuring out their cavemen!

Yep. It all began eons ago, 100,000 BC – Before Creams. As in moisturizing creams for the face… creams for the decolletage… creams for the elbows, the knees, the heels and toes …creams for the fingernails – ALL THOSE FU*KING CREAMS THAT, IN THE END, MAKE NO DIFFERENCE WHEN IT COMES TO A RELATIONSHIP’S SUCCESS OR LONGEVITY!

Fast-forward to the late 20th/early 21st centuries, to my life … to Rose’s relationships with her boyfriends:

1979. At Clark University, my first ever real boyfriend, Fred. My first orgasm with Fred. My first visits to New York City with Fred. My first meet-his-parents visit with Fred. Our going, in NYC, to the exact same theater shown in ANNIE HALL, the iconic Woody Allen movie to sit in the exact same theater Woody and his girlfriend Dianne Keaton, Annie Hall, went to in ANNIE HALL! Fred and I both love Woody Allen … and THE CATCHER IN THE RYE … and THE MARX BROTHERS. Fred can recite lines from DUCK SOUP! He is so handsome! My mom says Fred looks like Paul McCartney! A Beatle!

Then why, on Valentine’s Day, did Fred give me the small heart-shaped box of chocolates and give the girl down the hall in his dormitory THE BIGGER HEART-SHAPED BOX OF CHOCOLATES? Why did I get the small box and she get the larger box? On VALENTINE’S DAY?!

Naturally, I called him on it, very upset! I demanded: What does this mean? What are you saying – about us?!

Naturally, he shrugged it off.

Typical guy move.

So, of course, I had to call my gal pals to discuss this debacle of the heart … and to think about The Relationship long and hard. WHERE DID I STAND with Fred? WAS I GOOD ENOUGH for him? Why didn’t I rate the bigger box of chocolates? Why did that big red cellophane-covered heart shaped box of chocolates from CVS go to her – and not ME?!

Fred and I broke up that summer and I became borderline anorexic.

Fast forward to the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, where I was in another “serious” relationship with a beau. Hank had just gotten on an airplane to visit his sister in Montana, a doctor whose husband carved canoes for a living. A very cool couple who lived in a real log cabin that they built together, side by side, hand in hand practically. Why wasn’t I on the plane with him to Montana? Why wasn’t I getting to meet his favorite sister, the cool one? We drove together to NYC the previous month for his music gig – he was a lighting engineer for a rock ‘n’ roll type company in Western Mass – WHY NOT HANG OUT IN MONTANA WITH HIS SISTER AND HER HUSBAND?

I had to think about the relationship: Was I special enough for Hank? Where was this all going? Did he love me? Or was he just being his cheapskate self, knowing he’d have to foot the bill for my plane fare and meals at restaurants. He was a real tight wad! Or did he know another girl … in Montana?

We broke up a few months later and I rebounded with a guy, a grad student, with an 800 SAT math score. He dumped me a few months later and I didn’t even have to think about the relationship. He had given me his reason: “I can’t talk about the Milky Way with you, Rose.”

“As in galaxy in the universe?” I said. “Not the candy bar?” trying to be cute.

In relationship speak Hank was telling me: YOU’RE NOT SMART ENOUGH. I’M MOVING ON.

And he didn’t even wear underwear!

Fast forward to Worcester and the Old Beau. We’re going to the Mohegan Sun Wolf Den to see Peter Noone in concert. I look so cute! Hair in a pixie hair cut and dyed red. I’m wearing my pretty multi-colored skirt with its red petticoat. A petticoat! Topped off with elegant black blouse. My makeup is flawless!

In the car, before taking off, he goes in to kiss me, stops short, looks into my eyes and says: “You’ve got that hair.”

“What hair?” I say.

“That one-inch long hair growing from your chin.”

WHAT????? !!! I run upstairs to my bathroom and shove my face two inches before my huge bathroom mirror. Sure enough. Facial hair. Just one long brown hair, a single hair, sprouting stubbornly from a little beauty mark on my chin. I grab my cuticle scissors and cut it as close to the root as possible. There! I hold it in the palm of my hand – appalled!

All the way down to Connecticut, the entire drive, I think about our relationship: He’s cruel. He sees nothing but the negative. He doesn’t compliment my skirt or red petticoat…nothing nice that I’ve done to get ready for this night out. Doesn’t he appreciate my elegant blouse? Just sees my one single chin hair! But it is long! Oh! How embarrassing! Why didn’t I ever see it before today?! … Why tell me now? It’ll be dark inside the club! He’s an arse. We’ll never get married! He’s too superficial for me! I don’t even want to go to this concert…but he’s buying dinner at that nice restaurant at the casino, the one I really love. … Have I stuck around all these years just for the great meals at all those nice restaurants? Every Saturday night …

And so on and so on…


Yesterday I looked in my big bathroom mirror and saw the same hair growing from my now flaccid chin. Except these days it’s white with age, not the dark brown color of my younger self. I looked at my chin, my grey chin hair and remembered the Old Beau and smiled sadly and thought: I’ll have to get to this tomorrow.

🥟The Spencer Fair🎠

By Rosalie Tirella

EXPLOITATION! Animal cruelty!

I didn’t go to the Spencer Fair this year, even though I live in Spencer and it’s a pretty big ta-do around here. It’s way more than 100 years old – practically historic! But it’s not exactly bucolic like the Woodstock Fair in Connecticut – which I’ve attended and so enjoyed: picture-postcard perfect, more than pretty ensconced in all that velvety green New England countryside. The old beau and I saw Peter Noone of the Herman’s Hermits 10 years ago at the Woodstock Fair. Noone’s a ’60s pop singer and was quite the hit at the fair – to the old beau’s delight. The old beau, from Lynn and tougher than anyone in Spencer could ever be, was, much to my horror, a Peter Noone groupie! Absolutely in love with Noone and his ridiculous songs, like “Mrs. Jones You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter.” All sung in this fake cockney accent. When we were together we saw Peter Noone in concert at least five times! I was dragged to these spectacular spectacles! If I resisted, he’d say, suit yourself, and go alone. We practically stalked Noone in venues all over Southern New England, including the Mohegan Sun’s Wolf Den, with the added bonus of free entry. My guy almost got into a fight with someone angling for front seat status! A few months before that night we had seen a seated in chair, thinnish, Greg Alman, a little after his liver transplant, his long blond hair still fine and gold and beautiful, tied back in a long thin pony tail. I was gobsmacked! GREG ALMAN! I screamed! He’s a legend! The old beau was nonchalant. In his mind, Peter Noone was the legend!

But I digress. The Spencer Fair is the opposite of the Woodstock Fair. It has about two trees, and a very dusty midway and dirt that hovers over the midway thick and silty. You can see the silt when the sun shines through it. Like the town of Spencer, and our downtown, the Spencer Fair is rough and working class. Think tattoo kiosks and big tanned guys in leather vests sporting their tattoos. Nonetheless, in all its dusty, fried dough glory it sails on year after year drawing big crowds.

I still think its carousel is romantic. I still think choosing the right pretty carousel horse to ride is exciting – running thru that circle of a ride, sizing up all the steeds as fast as you can and choosing yours amid the hustle and bustle – trying to find your soulmate before the ride’s operator starts up the ride and the old timey music begins. That beautiful old timey carousel music. Was there ever anything so lovely as a carousel? The circular “race” …the carousel’s operator, scrawny, a cig hanging from his thin lips. You look up and see all those folded mirrors unfolding in time to the music, and you’re swept up in the merry-go-round dream in the Spencer night.

I stopped going to the Spencer Fair a decade ago because, the older I get, the more sensitive I am about the way the animals are treated. The poor exotic animals in shock as they’re handled by kids. Freaked out piglets forced to wear little saddles and race around a little race track. The farm animals “shown” at the fair have to do their thing – like pulling two tons of crap if you’re a draught horse – no matter what. Even in humid 90-degree weather with the sun beating down on their big wet haunches – the sweat breaking my heart. One year a huge brown beauty collapsed. I was with the old beau. I was appalled when the guys in charge of the pull gathered around the big majestic beast lying in the dirt, forcing it up again,along it continue the pull. I shot up and ran thru the fair looking for the veterinarian on call. I found the person and practically in tears told them what I had just witnessed. The person went over to the area and declared the horse “just fine.”

I was apoplectic! I was in tears! Crying to my boyfriend, I said, “The horse collapsed! The horse collapsed! And they didn’t pull him out of the contest!”

To my surprise, the old beau turned around and scowled at me and began yelling at …me! ROSE, WHY CAN’T WE JUST ENJOY THINGS? WHY DO YOU HAVE TO ALWAYS GET INVOLVED AND MAKE TROUBLE?!

He was so mad at me, they he got up and left the fair, me running behind him to catch up.

What he was telling me at the Spencer Fair, this lover of German Shepherd dogs, the owner of 10 of them, two the German line … this rescuer of turtles and hawks, this man who voted Green Party in some presidential elections, what he was really saying was: Rose, I don’t love you anymore.

And I got the message and was heartbroken.

Man’s roughness with the animals of the fair. Treating them like means to ends. Tools. Cheap entertainment. Beasts to be exploited. Creatures to be slaughtered and eaten. I was right about the horse who had collapsed at the Spencer Fair. The old beau was right about the demise of us as a couple.

The fair …I covered the Spencer Fair as a reporter for the New Leader decades ago as a cub reporter. I was young and stupid, so I’m sure my feature story reflected that.

One year I saw an old classmate from Burncoat Senior High School at the fair. My sister and I drove in to Spencer from Worcester, and she fell in love with those trendy at the time Vietnamese miny pigs – which actually grew up to be HUGE hogs. But that was the trend back then. I remember how Sally really wanted a piglet and standing over its little hay strewn pen made little piggy squeaks and squeals to a black and white Vietnamese potbellied piglet no bigger – at the time – than a Boston terrier. My old Burncoat High classmate was with her little kids. She told me she was a nurse or something like that at a local hospital. She was very nice to me, saying it was cool that I put out InCity Times and that I was speaking my mind, telling it like it is! She was impressed – and kinda proud of me. This surprised me. Even though she was in all honors classes like me, she and I were never close, and I always thought she thought I was too nerdy to chum around with. I was cute – but kinda nerdy! Here it was 20 years later and she spotted me and was very nice.

On my Facebook page today I saw a video a FB friend of mine had posted of her and her husband at the Spencer Fair. Specifically, her ride on the carousel. She’s 80 and had captured all the magic of that merry-go-round, and all of a sudden I wanted to run to the Spencer fairgrounds, like a kid in love.

🍿🎬Madame Florence!🎶💜


By Rosalie Tirella

The deluded diva and her adoring enablers!

We first meet Florence Foster Jenkins, Meryl Streep, hanging precariously from a pulley on a stage that she, with all her millions $$$, has paid to commandeer … to entertain, enthrall, bewitch and terrify her legions of fans! Before an adoring audience of hundreds Madame Florence is “Inspiration,” a fat, late-middle-aged angel dressed in a white gown, huge feathered wings attached to her shoulders, ever so slowly lowered by stage hands, five strapping men straining to keep her airborne … She hovers two inches above the shoulders of an actor portraying Stephen Foster. She is there to inspire him. Foster is tinkling the ivories, vainly searching for an American tune. With a tap of Inspiration’s fingers on his shoulder Foster gets the gentle nudging he needs to complete his racist classic …

The master of ceremonies to this musical debacle is Madame Florence’s “husband,” her beloved cheerleader, handler and enabler, St. Clair Bayfield, played by the still gorgeous and dashing Hugh Grant. St. Clair has been kept by the deluded and good-hearted, and let’s be honest – really fun! – Florence for 25 years. That is as long as St. Clair indulges her every catastrophic musical whim, such as keeping her on stage, booking her singing lessons with famous voice teachers who inwardly wince at every flat note, orchestrating his wife’s famous sandwich- and potato-salad laden luncheons for her music club – the Verdi Club – and pretending Florence is MAGNIFICENT – even when she’s awful. Seconding that emotion: Yes! She’s MAGNIFICENT enough to play Carnegie Hall!

Truth? St. Clair’s got a beautiful young mistress waiting for him every night in his downtown apartment – the one that Florence pays the rent on. But the couple are united in their love of the arts – “they have an understanding” as Grant whispers to their young new pianist. And the smooth St. Clair has such a solicitous way about him! He IS sweet, always gentle, loving and tender with Florence. You believe she is his life. Yes, he would be nothing without Florence. He is a worse actor and monologist than his wife is an opera singer, but Florence gets him on stage often enough to recite his Shakespeare with melodramatic flair. He loves the stage lights, too.

It’s hilarious to watch the hammy Grant grimace as his even hammier wife wails away – and Streep’s singing truly sucks – it’s like listening to the clubbing to death of 100 baby harpoon seals – only to give her a standing ovation and a hearty “BRAVO! BRAVO!” at the end of each abysmal “performance.”

Singing lessons!

This is a true story – it all happened in America during the 1940s, during World War II – maybe a time when Americans needed to laugh uproariously. After all we were taking on the Nazis, the fascists of Italy … Hitler. Most of Florence’s fans knew she sang abominably, but they loved her despite her ear drum-piercing squawks, most likely because of them! They got to indulge the intrepid Florence, too!

Today she would be panned, mocked on Tik Tok. A hundred cruel memes would pollute social media, closing minds to the silly diva’s sweetness, patriotism … and ultimately, her sadness. But back then she was adored … especially if you paid your patrons and bribed your conductors and newspaper men and gave away free tickets to Florence Foster Jenkins concerts. And kept the scoffers away. Shielded Florence from every boo, hiss and guffaw, as St. Clair so nimbly did for 25 years!

This film is hilarious! First, Meryl Streep, trained in opera as a young girl, knowingly sings like a dying walrus – and in her layers of finery she looks like a living one! She hits all the wrong notes all the time. Everyone around Madame Florence is aurally assaulted, but the ever optimistic Florence keeps giving those closest to her their generous paychecks and bonuses and, well, I guess, everyone can be bought. Plus, the potato salad is to die for!

So what if I unabashedly adore Hugh Grant? So what if I’ve seen FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL at least 20 times over the years? So what if I love all his rom coms and his later, more serious movies, too? So what if I’d swoon at the sight of a now 62-year-old Grant walking towards me in the middle of Green Island – to me even sexier in his mature years? Still that most beautiful smile, husky blue eyes. The sexiest British accent. Hunky in that tuxedo! The hair line receding only just a tad and gray flecks throughout … but that mop top still wavy and thick, still worthy of passionate stroking!

But Florence never gets to run her craggy fingers thru her handsome husband’s hair!

That’s because this wealthy Manhattan socialite has syphilis – got it on her wedding night from her first husband, “an alley cat”! So Madame Florence and St. Clair have abstained all these years. I imagine Florence Foster Jenkins, deep down, was a very lonely woman.

Music gave her happiness and hope and the attention she craved! Meryl Streep plays Florence as deluded but not mad. I think the clap half went to Florence’s brain – that’s why she’s booked herself in Carnegie Hall! But Stephen Frears, the film’s director, disagrees, and has focused on St. Clair – and her new young sweet pianist – deluding her, keeping her in the dark about her abilities because they love her so. St. Clair protected his wife from all sharp knives – and all sharp comments. This movie into a love story, sometimes sentimental but mostly heartwarming. People can be foolishly devoted to people! Doesn’t the word “devotion” imply a kind of foolishness? Love is blind! And …People can love their loves without the passionate sex. Maybe. People can find each other despite the clap – and the fake clapping. Most definitely!

Watching Meryl’s singing lessons are a hoot. Her fake, ass kissing voice teacher works with real talent but is leading his latest pupil to lower depths of musical hell because she pays him exorbitantly. Her making of her very own record with her new, naive pianist straight off the bus from Galveston, Texas, is so funny. And the scenes between Grant and Streep are light, ephemeral, sexy – and even heartbreaking.

True love?

But the scenes with her virginal pianist – played with perfection by Simon? – are my favorites! The young man, so young, so innocent, so tiny, so scrawny, a true fish out of water, probably not yet even aware of his homosexuality is the biggest diamond in this tiara of a film. True to the life story, he is an excellent pianist and even composes his own music. He plays beautifully… To see his face as he first accompanies his diva at her piano in her fancy New York apartment is WONDERFUL. His face registers disbelief, horror, then utter shock. He can’t believe what he’s hearing! Later, his little horse face contorts with hysterical giggles in the elevator outside Florence’s apartment. St. Clair follows him out and tries to brainwash him: WASN’T MADAME FLORENCE WONDERFUL? WASN’T SHE SIMPLY MARVELOUS? A stunned Simon …knows on which side his bread is buttered…and sheepishly nods yes. He’s now complicit…

But he’s got his limits, too. He tells St. Clair he can not, will not, accompany Florence on the piano during her Carnegie Hall debut. “We’ll die out there!!” he screams to St. Clair. No! No! No! he says. He’s a serious pianist! He has ambitions! It’s Carnegie Hall, for God’s sakes! But the glamorous and pushy St. Clair knows how to work this situation and gets the little man to acquiesce. After all, he adores his Madame Florence, too… doesn’t he? Grant whispers. Won’t you stand by a friend in her hour of need??? The pianist looks down …he wrestles with his conflicting feelings…yes, Florence has been so good to him… appreciates his talent, is soothed by his playing of Chopin… He too is devoted to her!

Such a moving scene between the two: Florence, upset that her husband has gone “golfing” for two days (a weekend getaway with his girlfriend), takes a taxi to Simon’s slummy little flat and offers to wash his dirty dishes for him if he plays his piano for her. The pianist can’t believe she’s located him, is amazed she’ll do his dishes … and is touched by her vulnerability. For even though she hits every wrong musical note every time, Madame Florence never hits a false note emotionally. Eventually, the two of them end up playing Chopin together on his piano. Her left hand’s nerves are damaged from the syphilis so she can’t play with it…she struggles with the piece and is distressed. In a few seconds her sweet little pianist slowly walks up to her and, still standing, plays the other half of the waltz. So Madame Florence is playing the composition with her one hand, Simon with his hand. For the entire film the impoverished little pianist has put Madame Florence on a pedestal – never laughs at her, is always respectful to her, even deferential. So, naturally, he doesn’t, can’t, sit next to Madame Florence on his piano bench. That would be too familiar! Instead, in his work pants and tee and suspenders, he continues to stand, a foot away from her, playing the other half of the piece, looking down on his gentle, generous, artistic benefactor-ess with a little bemused smile. I’ll confess: a few tears were shed in this Spencer flat during the scene!

You’ll be moved …

I won’t spoil the film’s ending for you – I’ll just recommend you get this movie tonight – and watch it! You’ll love the dancing, the music, the glad handing, the sly jokes, the cinematography, the gorgeous Grant, the hilarious Streep and especially the magical little pianist!


🍿🎞️Watching THE GRADUATE🎟️🍿 …

By Rosalie Tirella

Iconic image … photos: R.T.

Watching THE GRADUATE, that iconic ’60s film that stars Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft and Katherine Ross for the 20th time – at least. Haven’t seen it in maybe six or seven years – the movie that we Boomer kids felt so strongly about when we first saw it as teenagers. This late afternoon, here in Spencer, the film still feels true to this 61 year old – true and exciting! And funny! The film whose Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack carried me away at 19 still filled me with wistfulness this afternoon, still out me in a place I was at years ago. Tears welled in my eyes. The essence of the movie, for me, is still the rejection of the depravity of American society. Back then, we kids wanted to be free of it all – the materialism, the stultifying world view of our parents, our boring, clueless pointless parents, the ladder of success. The Generation Gap was real back then! Many of us students, including me, ended up quitting college and living on hippie communes where we made lots of zucchini bread and became vegetarians and dabbled in Buddhism and got our hands on THE WHOLE EARTH HANDBOOK and MOOSE WOOD COOKBOOK. We hated the big plans our parents had for us and the houses in the suburbs that didn’t ensure, engender, real happiness. We kids were free spirits! The Vietnam War, the phoniness of our lying politicians, America’s underclass … We knew the system was rigged and stank to high heaven. We wanted to flee, hop on our motorcycles and go our own way, be different. The “ladder of success”… leading to nowhere. We weren’t going to climb that ladder, play “the game.” We were going to do and be something better than our parents – something meaningful and healthy and artistic. Most of us wrote bad poetry and tried teaching ourselves acoustic guitar. Check off both boxes for this gal. No regrets …

Anyways, the movie begins with Benjamin Braddock’s (Hoffman’s) triumphant return to his upper-middle-class California home after a stellar college career. Graduation day! Dean’s list! All-star athlete! Managing editor of the school newspaper! A fellowship waiting! Graduate schools beckoning! Mom and Dad give Ben a shiny new red sports car – a convertible – a “wop job” as one of their creepy friends declares – and they all throw Ben a welcome home party that has him in full blown panic attack mode. One old guy advises Ben, away from the others, almost stealthily: “One word, Ben: PLASTICS.”

I remember how the audience I was with reacted back then when we were all around 20 years old: hoots and hollers filled the Clark University auditorium at the word “PLASTICS.” My boyfriend and I were mesmerized by the film.

But I digress … Ben needs to escape, so he flees to his bedroom where Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) pretty much demands that he drive her home. Ben feels funny about this and funnier still when Mrs. Robinson asks him to come into her home after he sees her to her door. Once inside Mrs. Robinson serves him a drink at the family’s bar and sits seductively on a bar stool. Ben is getting nervous, and the next thing you know, he’s in a bedroom alone with the sexy, predatory, pathetic Mrs. Robinson, who’s locked the door behind them. She’s naked, out of her slip, panties and bra – black and see-thru …Ben is panicked.

The older woman, Bancroft, was really just six years Hoffman’s senior!

Hoffman is great as Ben, this basically good kid feeling “mixed up” … unsure… unsettled. Is one of his parents’ friends actually trying to seduce him?! Bancroft is a hoot as the manipulative, sad, middle-aged lady whose ideals – she was an art major in college – have been ground down to dust, thanks to her loveless marriage and unrealized dreams. Bancroft was only six years older than Hoffman when they made this film, but her makeup, hair style and clothing here make her seem much older than Hoffman. Very sophisticated and sexy.

Ben turns to Mrs. Robinson after the degrading 21st birthday party his parents throw for him. Bragging about the cost of his gift, Ben’s future fellowship Dad has his son “perform” – walk out wearing his birthday gift – a full scuba diving suit – urging him to dive into the family swimming pool to showcase the new gear that he paid big bucks for. Ben does jump in the water, clumsily, his harpoon and oxygen tank encumbrances. Then he plants himself firmly on the cement bottom of the swimming pool and refuses to come back up … Finally, some peace.

Ben: the only way he knows how to get away from the demands of his parents and society.

So the Mrs. Robinson affair looks pretty good after this tawdry affair. Their trysts at the town hotel are funny – the guilt-ridden and goofy Ben, still a virgin, the dead pan facial expressions of the hotel’s front desk guy – the brilliant and hilarious Buck Henry, also the co-writer of the film – and the annoyed, impatient Mrs. Robinson who’s been to this rodeo many times before … There is very little tenderness or romance here. You don’t even get the feeling that there’s a lot of sex happening … The virginal Ben is deflowered by Mrs. Robinson – Ben never feels he should call his lover by her first name – she’s in his parents peer group. After this first fu*k cue Simon and Garfunkel’s SOUNDS OF SILENCE. Isolation. Robotic lovemaking. Despair. Ben is lost.

Then comes Mr. Robinson pressuring – the adults are all very controlling here – Ben to take out his and his wife’s beautiful daughter Elaine when she comes home for college break, from Berkeley. Of course, Mrs. Robinson freaks out – she threatens, forbids, sneers and snarls … DO NOT GO OUT WITH ELAINE, Benjamin! Yet Ben, after beginning the date from hell with Elaine , culminating in a stripper doing a strip tease with boob-encrusted pasties directly over Elaine’s head and Elaine runs out of the club sobbing…he discovers Elaine is real, easy to talk to, has the same anxieties about adult life he has … and is very beautiful. Ben falls in love.

So many things about Ben and Elaine to love! – even though a reviewer hated their relationship when he first saw and reviewed the film in ’67 and, 30 years later, reviewing the film again, still mocks Elaine and lionizes Mrs. Robinson! The only honest person in the film, according to this reviewer! I get it: Mrs. Robinson is the only person in the film living outside the world that Ben is rebelling against. She’s not a good housewife. She’s not a good friend. She’s not a good mother. The money, vacations, fancy home and swimming pool keep her in her unhappy marriage and away from self-actualization – but she knows this. The other adults in the film are oblivious. Mrs. Robinson is self-aware – and, in the words of her increasingly restless, young paramour, “a broken-down alcoholic.”

The second half of the movie revolves around Ben stalking Elaine in Berkeley and persuading her to marry him – after Mrs. Robinson breaks up the young couple, telling Elaine that it was Ben who seduced her – and raped her. An emotionally frayed Ben takes a room in a rooming house by the university to win back his Elaine. It’s a plan. It’s honest. It’s given his life a purpose. Much more than anything in his young adult life has given him – this plan to wed the beautiful Elaine. His parents are on board – thrilled when he tells them he’s going to get married.

Katherine Ross, co-starring in another iconic Baby Boomer flick, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUN DANCE KID, was the it girl of the late 1960s: the dream girl who embodied all the coveted attributes of the era – long hair, long legs, a natural beauty, looking so lovely in those maxi dresses and fry boots … the coltish it girl – with a college degree. Ross was great with Redford and Newman in SUNDANCE, a pillar of dignity and very sexy. She always, in my opinion, held her own with the greatest male actors of her generation.

So at the end of the film – during that iconic scene in the church when Ben busts up her wedding day Ross is excellent. Her marriage to a tall blond waspy frat boy – the opposite of short, dark, Jewish Ben – is a no go…We see her wooden acquiescence at the church altar, then, seeing Ben, hearing his cries for her, her realization, her rejection of all the “perfect ” man and the wild scream for the crazy little guy who’s pursued her for months …Then the wild fight that ensues in the middle of the church. Mrs. Robinson telling her daughter “It’s too late” and a defiant Ross looking her mom straight in the eyes to say: “NOT FOR ME!!” Then her mother slugs her. The cross-wielding Ben keeping them at bay and then locking them all in the church with that big gold cross. Then their mad rush after the old bus – Ben’s coat in tatters, Elaine’s wedding gown torn. But they’re so young and so fleet of foot! They run down that bus heading into the rougher part of town hand in hand, Elaine’s wedding veil whipping in the wind behind them! … And then that final shot, the both of them in the last seat of the bus, both laughing, smiling, feeling TRIUMPHANT! Then Ben’s smile fading, Ben looking serious … then the giddy Elaine looking confused and … frightened.

What did they just do?

They followed their hearts! The only thing any of us can – and should! – do when we’re young.

Worcester and Spencer’s Last Picture Show

By Rosalie Tirella

A classic. photos: R.T.

Maybe it’s living in Spencer, but watching for the first time THE LAST PICTURE SHOW and finding it kinda relatable. I’ve been meaning to watch this Peter Bogdanovich 1971 classic for years. It’s bittersweet, sad …about small town life in a dying Texas town, as seen thru the eyes of three graduating high school seniors, their feckless parents and the town’s sole small biz guy, Sam the Lion – the soul of the town. Sam still remembers his dreams and tries to create a little magic for kids Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges). But their lives are so circumscribed by the lack of opportunities, glory days gone by …

So, here I am, in what some might consider a dying Central Massachusetts town, and thinking: Spencer’s on the upswing, but it’s still looking a bit downtrodden if you stroll thru its center and I wonder about its kids’ futures. Watching this iconic black and white film here in my very nice Spencer apartment I’m seeing the overlap: the center of Spencer boasting few attractions and the boarded-up buildings with their peeling paint and rotted wood shrivel the spirit … the love of big new trucks and shiny vehicles of all stripes – the ultimate status symbol around here … and hooking up – couples are definitely the be all and end all in Spencer. What else is there to do but couple and uncouple? And, unless you’re rich, the average education that kids get here can’t guarantee a high school grad much of anything these days. Ms. Gobi, a lifelong Spencer resident and years as the State House politician, talked of building an agricultural high school here in Spencer. Wowza! As Governor Healey’s new rural czar she could make it happen. But, instead, Gobi claims it’s too expensive to be built and staffed. So why bring it up in the first place??? Free press.

Watching the film at home in Spencer.

There’s no downtown movie theatre to even screen the LAST picture show here. I wonder if Spencer had a movie theatre years ago like Clinton, Fitchburg … Worcester. I know Spencer had a T and G news bureau here with one of its reporters, Fred Smock, a physically huge guy and a bit of a local legend, at the helm. And there was another newspaper in town, The New Leader, with its own little building right on Main Street. In the 1980s I worked there as a cub reporter, along with five other writers covering Spencer, the Brookfields, real local news. LOCAL NEWS. SERIOUS AND SILLY COVERAGE. ENGAGING THE TOWNFOLK. BEING A KID AND LEARNING CIVICS HANDS ON. Now five reporters are about half of the T and G’s city room in downtown Worcester, New England’s second largest city!

If you – America – loses its local newspaper and reporters and local movie house, what have you got? No picture shows. Fewer dreams to dream … No civic lessons, less knowledge … And goodbye to learning a craft – reporting – the good old fashioned way – apprenticeship style. America has really changed – our small towns and cities are a lot like what you see in the movie I’m now watching, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, winner of two academy awards, nominated for several.

I drove by the Mercantile building in Worcester last week looking for the Telegram and Gazette sign, along with its website. The building, built in the 1970s and looking tired these days, sits across the street from City Hall common, in the middle of all the fancy trendy restaurants and diners and all the ugly new apartment complexes. The ripped down T and G signage was not visible to me, being physically too close to the tall building, once headquarters of the the old Mechanics Bank. I couldn’t tell what had happened. But the letters – taken down by the bottom-line-obsessed, fu*king cheapskate Gannet publishing behemoth that destroys local newspapers after buying them up – was never meant for ordinary townies to see – just walking or driving by the building. It was meant to be seen from the expressway – an ad for middle class folks, thousands of them commuting home to a Woo suburb after working in Worcester – looking out their car windows to see that they had a city newspaper. What b.s. With all the old timers like a Fred Smock shown the door, reporters given severance packages, encouraged to leave when still in their writing prime, Gannet screwed the city – and was able to hire newbies on the cheap. Their reporting is solid but like the disappearing signage, something is definitely missing.

In the center of Downtown Spencer: an eye sore and public safety hazard.

It’s the opposite experience of that big beautiful red TG sign that sat atop the four story high Worcester Telegram and Evening Gazette building for years and years. Like City Hall’s clock tower, embedded in the landscape, king of Franklin Street. Next to the old Coronado. A hop skip and a jump to Sylvia’s Dress Shoppe or that great wig shop with the beautiful blond lady and her daughter, both sexy looking and wearing that same type of sexy long blond wig. Closing up shop after hours to keep special appointments with transvestites who bought their wigs there and appreciated the privacy and one on one special attention. I once interviewed the owner for a story! The city’s newspaper was right there in the thick of things, the Coronado’s bar, the wild wigs, Sylvia’s racks of mother of the bride dresses … a real downtown player with FOUR FLOORS OF EMPLOYEES. First floor of the old TG building: billing and subscriptions and the guards. Second floor local news – the city room in the middle with desks pushed together and typewriters and computers the size of Volkswagens clacking clacking as reporters beating the hell out of the keyboards fighting up against deadlines. Making the morning paper or evening gazette. Upstairs: features… the elegant travel reporter, the two or three feature-writing ladies, the feature-writing guy, the food writer – the best writers in the joint … Cooking, sailing, books, restaurants, local phenoms, weird people …these Telegram and Evening Gazette reporters write about them all and were the most gifted writers on the papers. They wrote about all things Worcester. Plus, there was a local sports department, local columnists, and the wedding pictures and engagement announcements were free – as well as the obituaries – arguably covering the two most important days in a person’s life, besides the day of her birth. Also, listed for free in our local rag. You could be just your average nosy person, not interested in world or local news, and still buy a yearly subscription to the Worcester telegram or Evening Gazette. Just to read the obituaries – little feature stories on the people you grew up with or worked with or lived down the street from.

Now, like the last picture show, all that is gone. All that local flavor. All that coming together of ordinary people creating something extraordinary and special: their community.

I remember that old red neon TG sign, even as a little girl walking home from The Mart with my mom and two kid sisters. It felt imposing and important. Our mom would tell us stories about her being a cashier at the Coronado when she was very young and seeing all the big wig editors and local pols coming in to drink and eat at the restaurant. She remembered the news reporters and editors in their trench coats, their fedoras slanted over their eyes – always polite to her – looking like something right out of a movie.

The last picture show.

Worcester’s Canal District: so many homeless people suffering …

💕🐾Two Peas in a Pod💕🐾

By Rosalie Tirella

Jett, standing by his Lilac. photos: R.T.

Yesterday, as the incompetent Triple A – AAA – dispatchers sent a tow truck to ROUTE 6 on CAPE COD!!!! and NOT to Rt 9 Leicester – the spot where my car, my dogs and I were waiting – and after I had canceled the AAA tow call THREE TIMES to say “never mind!” but ENTWISTLE’S GARAGE in Leicester insisted on sending their tow truck anyways – hours AFTER I HAD LEFT AND CANCELLED the AAA TOW and even CALLED ENTWISTLE’S GARAGE TO SAY “DON’T COME!” … Entwistle’s Garage had persisted and come anyway. And harassed me with calls and sent one of their tow trucks to the Leicester site anyways. Because they wanted the AAA $$ money for “just” coming to the spot – a fee they get – against MY AAA CARD.

During this mess I was face to face with another: For the first two hours we waited for the AAA tow truck under a tree, sitting on the lawn of a small biz along the road. Me, Jett and Lilac, well fed and happy to be together. The small biz owner came outside to see what was up. She was a nice lady: commiserated with me and even brought out some water for Jett and Lilac (I had about a half gallon of H2O in my car). It was a beautiful day, sunny and cool, global warming and the climate crisis banished for the day at least. All the trees were in full green frenzy and the country setting left me feeling sanguine.

Yesterday: Jett and Lilac waiting for Triple A, with Rose.

Until Lilac saw a rabbit. She’d been smelling the air and had pricked up her ears like a good hunter as soon as we had sat down under that tree. My little ol’ shepherd/hound mix saw that bunny and darted lickety split into the patch of woods after it. Lilac’s burst of energy at the smell or sight of prey comes with a powerful adrenaline rush that makes her mighty! Her leash whipped out of my hand, I fell over like a sack of flour … and Lilac was gone.

Lilac and Jett relaxing at home.

I was only slightly upset, as I hadn’t lost my 17-year-old Jett with his bumps, blood pimples and dementia, and I knew that Lilac, super smart, would return in about 10 minutes – after she had had her little adventure, maybe even making a kill. The woods were pretty much the backyard of the small biz.

And then it began: The Jett FREAK OUT. My little husky’s desperate cries, incessant barking and wild yelping. That panicked look on his old handsome face, the face that still gets compliments from strangers. The worry in his eyes. Those eyes – riveted to the exact spot that Lilac had galloped into. Jett was a canine basket case! And he would not be appeased! Straining against his lead, pulling and turning in little circles, oblivious to my patting his soft shoulders and whispering, “Shhhh, Jett. It’s ok. I love you!”

Jett didn’t give a crap about my love. I didn’t matter. It was all about Lilac, the center of his doggy universe. It had always been Lilac! I had just supplied the food and water and the transportation to the dog parks! Now his beloved had gone AWOL – and he was unmoored. Jett’s unmooring was heartbreaking: I couldn’t bear the straining, the confusion, his shaking his old head back and forth back and forth and those short pathetic yelps – so plaintive as if he were being beaten! The pawing at the ground, as if he could dig his way back to Lilac. And finally, his impatience with me, Rose, his faithful owner for 17 years. I was nothing! Goofy bratty Lilac was everything!

I had heard on a radio show that dogs are healthier when they live with another dog – longer life span, fewer ailments and HAPPIER. Much happier, I now realize. Lilac, as I’ve blogged here, feels as strongly about her Jett as her Jett feels about his Lilac. Which “begs” the question: After Jett passes, will Lilac need a new canine companion? Will I have to get another dog?

Lilac ran back to us in about 10 minutes, and the inconsolable Jett stopped crying. He was immediately back to his old self: curious, hanging around Lilac, not too close but never far away. My old husky mix sniffed the air around Lilac’s haunches – and felt great again!

At the dog park!


By Rosalie Tirella

Terrific! photos: R.T.

Today is a Nora Ephron afternoon for me. It was a Nora Ephron week – reread my favorite essay, re-watched Sleepless in Seattle and got three of her books. Did you ever read my favorite Nora Ephron essay??? the one about breasts? “Shaping Up” or something like that… It’s about when Nora was 13 and flat-chested and wore falsies – three different sizes! Ephron so wanted those big breasts – badges of womanhood to her. The essay is so girly and so funny! I remember those days!

Like I said, I checked out three of her books at the library on Friday, making sure her breast essay was in one of them. I’ll probably reread it for the 20th time after I finish writing this post. Right now I am watching You’ve Got Mail for at least the 25th time. It was inspired by the James Stewart black and white classic, The Shop Around the Corner, but it stands on its own. It stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, the prince and princess of my favorite Nora Ephron romcoms, but really it’s Nora I’m thinking about as I watch Meg Ryan write to Tom Hanks in an anonymous email that autumn is her favorite season and he writes back to her: mine too…a bouquet of just-sharpened yellow #2 pencils for you. So beautifully written. Dreamy.

Tom Hanks in the Nora Ephron movie You’ve Got Mail.

But Ephron’s voice – through her screenwriting and magazine writing – was always more than dreamy. Her columns are wise, elegantly written and sophisticated – but hard-nosed as well. Her childhood was marked by her mother’s drinking, her adulthood by cheating husbands – one was the famous Washington Post Watergate reporter, Carl Bernstein. Ephron’s parents, both Hollywood screenwriters during Hollywood’s golden era, were in love and tried to raise their kids responsibly in Los Angeles, with mom being one of the few full-time female screen writers back then. But mom became a full fledged alcoholic when Nora was 15. She screamed and passed out in her bedroom every night and wasn’t there for her family anymore. She died of cirrhosis, never getting to see how her daughter blossomed into this amazing writer and director.

In Heartburn Ephron chronicles her second marital breakup… this time from the WP’s star reporter, Carl Bernstein.

Ephron’s Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan flicks are such cozy fairy tales…wickedly funny, upper middle class urban professional soul mates missing each other and then finally finding each other. In real life you, as a young woman, soon learn, the hard way, that you can’t rely on your dream guy. To sustain you. To even buy you a cup of coffee. In Nora Ephron romcoms you can get the man of your dreams. Which is why I continue to rewatch her movies! When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail. The dream guy may not be a cute, young Tom Hanks. He may be an older Billy Crystal wearing a series of bad toupees in Harry Met Sally, but the point is: Sally gets Harry. Romance lives!

Ephron died around 10 years ago of cancer and I took it very personally. Mourned her passing. I realized I’d never get the chance to read a new Nora Ephron column or story again. Ever. Or watch a new Nora Ephron movie. To get that wonderful Nora world view that especially spoke to us Baby Boomers, us women’s libbers, us career gals, us bloggers, writers and dreamers. I dragged the old beau years ago to see her final flick, the Julia Childs movie, Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Stanley Tocci. We both really liked it! We both really got Nora Ephron!

I still feel the void. The world – or my world – lost a spark, had gotten smaller. It continues to shrink: just found out an ol’ gal pal of mine – very smart and sharp and independent and stylish a la Nora Ephron – has sold her house in Worcester. In what used to feel like a neighborhood in a Nora Ephron movie – cute shops, including a futon store – nice restaurants and a corner coffee shop, independently owned, boasting locally sourced ingredients for their croissants. Very Upper West Side Nora Ephron territory. But that’s all changed as Worcester, like all cities, changes. My pal and I and our peers had our time in this once special Worcester neighborhood, but now it’s not so special. So my ol’ gal pal may be on her way to another state, southwards. And it hit me: another loss for Rose! Another good-bye!! Not a death, nothing so heartbreaking and permanent, but still … A leave taking, a farewell … The late Peter Stefan, Barbara Haller, my mom, my favorite aunt, Ron S., Tony H., Shirley F., my second favorite aunt, even Ken, my old landlord, all final farewells. My list goes on and on and more names are added to it weekly. Last week Sinead O’Connor died. Next week, who will be next???

Mass commercial media tells us women that losing our baby soft faces and our perky full breasts are the saddest signposts of aging. The real tragedy. So you trudge to the makeup counter to buy that jowl-firming night cream or that potion to restore elasticity in your lined puss. How stupid. The truth is aging sucks because everybody you love and lived your life with keeps dying on you. And one of these days you’ll be next to go – and make someone else’s list.