Burncoat High School – Rose’s alma mater. She was deep into the Beatles at Burncoat!
Kind of a day off for me. Listening to a few of my lps – and LOVING IT. LOVING THE PHYSICALITY OF “playing my records,” just like in the ol’ days, just like when I was a 15-year-old kid growing up in Green Island, a sophomore at Burncoat High, and had just bought my first Beatles album – ABBY ROAD – at the teeny record section in Jordan Marsh, in the now razed Worcester Galleria. Brought the lp home to our Lafayette Street tenement and “played it on my record player,” a cheapie Emerson stereo my beloved, late mom, Cecelia, bought for me. I played that record 10 times straight – all the way thru, side one, then side two. Loving the goofy Paul McCartney throw-aways, but 10 years later hearing how brilliant side 2 is. Holding the album cover up, away from me, so I could better appreciate the album art, the photos of the band – front and back. When I was a kid, sometimes there would be a poster inside of your album – of your fave rock n roller. Or even glossy colored photo prints!, as was the case with early pressings of the Beatles’ WHITE ALBUM (lost ’em years ago!).
Sigh. The decades, and the lps, keep spinnin’ … away from me. But the young Rose reawakens today as I flip thru the lps, just like when I used to as an undergrad at UMass/Amherst and had amassed an impressive amount of lps (used) and audio-cassettes, mostly homemade, made for me by various plutonic guy pals on my dorm floor. The flipping of the lps, the stopping at one and pulling it out to see the cover and the playlist. Ahh, love that tune. Ahhh, love that B side …
Rose, left, with dear friend – both restless seniors in the library of Burncoat High – 1979.
Then choosing the record I wanted, pulling it out ever so gingerly … taking the big lp out of its sleeve, holding it by the edges – finger tips on the lp can leave behind dirt, oil from your finger tips that get into the record’s grooves – and can give it its popping, crackling sound (beautiful, to me)- maybe even skipping, if too dirty or dusty. At Radio Shack they used to sell vinyl record cleaning kits: a small bottle of solution, a velour type of cloth, tacked onto a smooth, pretty block of wood and, finally, a piece of soft cotton. Playing your records was science, as well as sacred ritual! All for: the BEATLES, ELTON JOHN, FLEETWOOD MAC, ERIC CLAPTON, THE MOODY BLUES, STEVIE WONDER … Such perfect music for such imperfect times – your teen years, when you’re gangly, acne-prone, longing for that first kiss, that first caress … but stuck at home with your conservative Catholic mother, kid sisters, Polish immigrant grandmother, Bapy … and your Bapy keeps feeding your pet hamster Joy chunks of her hardboiled egg sandwich. “Bapy!” you say to her, “Joy has her own special hamster food!” Your plea falls on deaf ears. Joy is overweight from being fed double – by you and by Bapy!
Sometimes there would be no album art on an album cover – just the band’s name. Written in fancy font or just embossed … almost invisible. This usually happened with the brilliant million-record-selling SUPER STARS, like the Beatles (their “white” album was just that: WHITE, with the Beatles name embossed on it, like a wedding invitation) or as with the Carpenters, even as Karen struggled silently with her anorexia we LOVED her!
… Then propping up the album cover – propping it us against a small stack of books – so I could stare at the album art – and we all considered the illustrations, photos, printing on our album covers to be TRUE ART – gaze longingly at Eric Clapton or the Beatles – as I listened to their songs. Their music. Their world view. Their experiences, hopes and dreams. They were mine, too!
I’d lie on my big bed, in my Lafayette Street bedroom, and close my eyes and just listen … and soon my abusive father, the drunk guy staggering out of Ben’s Cafe, the train ch-ch-ch-chugging down the railroad tracks, the ghetto all around me, would fall away, AND IT WOULD JUST BE ME AND MY MUSIC. Rose playing records.
Rose, left, and her kid sister on Rose’s graduation day from the University of Massachusetts.
United States Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett will be sitting in Notorious RBG justice’s seat on the Supreme Court sooner than you can say: NO MORE ROE V WADE! Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s seat on the highest court in our land is still warm!, her final note, written just a few weeks ago, just before her untimely death, its ink still wet! No matter to the Repubs and their mad dash for re-election.
Ginsberg was respectful but adamant in her note to Congressional leaders: PLEASE DO NOT FILL MY SEAT UNTIL AFTER THE NOVEMBER 3 ELECTION. Please let the new President – whoever that may be – CHOOSE his/her own nominee to the Supreme Court.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg – an American icon who fought for – and won – equal rights for us women (and our moms, sisters, daughters, best gal pals, cousins …) – is now a DEAD American icon. Her final note, her dedication to THE FREEDOM of all women, is a joke to Republicans in Congress, unread, un-respected, disrespected … by Mitch McConnell and Trump minion Lindsey Graham – they are ramming Coney Barrett’s confirmation down American women’s throats – with politeness, fake erudition. With brutality wrapped in politician-speak. Trump, so desperate for re-election believes Coney Barrett is THE #2 GIFT to his campaign. After his COVID 19 super-spreader Rally Reality TV Shows!
Let’s be honest: Amy Coney Barrett is a good woman, a wonderful mom who has, with her loyal husband, adopted two Black children and loves them as dearly as the gaggle of kids she’s given birth to. But Coney Barrett is passionately pro-life … really, truly, deeply. No way around it. So she is blind to so many women’s realities. So… this is the end of Roe V Wade. The end of every American woman’s right to control her OWN body – her right to a safe, medically/socially sanctioned MEDICAL PROCEDURE performed by doctors trained in MEDICAL SCHOOL. To safely remove a fetus – If she’s been raped and does not want her rapist’s baby. If she’s 17 and not ready to be a mom. If she is poor and her boyfriend – the one with the job – got scared and dumped her. If she is the older woman who had the one-night stand, but there was a birth control mishap, and now she is pregnant. She does not want a baby. She already has a life, her own life patterns.
Or: She’s a young, beautiful free spirit at UMass/Amherst … in Massachusetts – an older undergrad with wild, curly black hair – a magical sprite with a bit of a limp, who reads all the Beat poets and who bikes everywhere on our big sprawling UMass campus … her curly, black hair blowing in the wind, that Western wind that loves to sweep across her high forehead.
Joannie loves to discuss philosophy/LIFE, she is into women’s rights and is double majoring: English and the still new WOMEN’S STUDIES. Joannie has joined the super cool food coop run out of the UMass student union building. She calls me up the day they are serving their big vegetarian lunches… Me! Rose! One of her closest college gal pals: COME ON OVER FOR LUNCH – ON ME! she yells into my phone receiver. I can picture her smile. I laugh OK! and I, the young, uncool, untried, tentative 19-year-old freshman-hick, Rose, I run straight outa my dorm room, across the big quad, to my friend in the student union to the huge room and adjunct kitchen in the round student union building. Run to my best grrrl HERO, the coolest chick I know, the bravest woman I know. Not a lesbian. Just INDEPENDENT AND FREE like I have never seen. Three boyfriends – but not easy. Loves the smart men. The hikers and mountain bikers (she rides a sleek racing bike). Joannie Loves Sex. She describes her orgasms, talks about masturbation … asks me about my boyfriend’s sexual proclivities … “Rose, have you ever?” she queries AS WE STROLL BY MY ENGLISH PROFESSOR! Joannie! I scream at her, red-faced, … then I tell her everything.
Once, as we walked by the grocery store in the middle of Amherst, Joannie, as poor as I was, steered me into the grocery story … to the dairy section. She grabbed a Land o Lakes box of butter and shoved it into my jacket and zipped it up. LET’S GO, ROSE! she hissed into my ear and we booked it outa the automatic front doors. Once outside, I said, still not knowing what hit me (the Joannie hurricane!): JOAN! WE JUST SHOP-LIFTED!
Joan, especially pale that day, gave me an exasperated look, opened up the butter box and gave me one of the four sticks of wrapped butter.
Joan. I would have done anything for her. For her approval. She was exciting!!
Joannie, the most knowledgeable female friend I had ever had! The great girl with all the great ideas: socialism, cubism, veganism … The gal pal who gave me my first copies of OUR BODIES OURSELVES, DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET…THE NEW WOMENS GUIDE TO OUR BODIES … If she was late with a term paper, she asked me for one of my old term papers. I gave her one to copy verbatim. And she got the better grade, too!
JOANNIE! I CAN STILL PICTURE HER RIDING HER BIKE THRU CAMPUS, IN THE RAIN, HER PLAID RAIN PONCHO covering that strong but skinny body – those knock knees that never slowed her down one bit! Ever!
So when Joannie told me she missed her period and feared she was pregnant and that I was to perform her abortion, with our mutual pal, Laura, I, stupidly said: Sure! Ok!
Joannie had read a book. It gave directions. There was this new method – a mini-vaccum hose you run up to the uterus … and easy peasy you just vaccum the snot out. Joannie had sent out for and got this special do it at home abortion kit. It was so early in her pregnancy, the fetus she kept reassuring me “was the size a snot.” Plus we could do it in her pretty bohemian room she rented in town, with her fave folk music playing on tbe stereo, the lights low, Laura could be downstairs baking brownies and the extra hands if needed.
This, when told to me by Joannie, all seemed to make holistic sense. Peace, quiet, Joan Baez music, young women empowered …
When I explained it all to Laura, who liked Joan, she said: ARE YOU CRAZY?! THIS IS WHY WE HAVE ABORTION CLINICS!
I said: BUT YOU’RE MAJORING IN PUBLIC HEALTH, LAURA!
EXACTLY! THAT’S WHY IT’S NO!!!! Laura, long haired, and just as smart as Joannie but without all the beauty and pizzazz, stalked off fuming.
This gave me pause. As Joan gave me the abortion instruction pamphlet to read one afternoon, I timidly asked: Hey, Joannie, did you get your period? My friend said no. I grew afraid…began to hope the day would never come – even though I knew my wild child friend WOULD NEVER WANT A BABY.
The days rolled on… I begged Laura to help, be by my side: HEY! YOU CAN DO THE ABORTION! I’LL BE THE ONE WHO BAKES THE BROWNIES! Laura, in her long hippie skirt, twirled around and looked me straight in the eyes: NO. CANCEL THE ABORTION ROSE. Take her to the student health center…
I looked at Laura. I thought: It is not a baby, just a two week old piece of snot. How hard can it be? Joan has the little plastic kit… I was raised a Catholic by my strict conservative Catholic mom, Cecelia but we stopped talking a year ago. The Generation Gap writ large. These were my waters to navigate. And I loved my friend.
One day, as I was in the local park, reading a book of poems – by feminist Adrienne Rich for strength – it hit me: I CAN’T EVEN KEEP MY LOOSE LEAF BINDERS ORGANIZED FOR MY AMERICAN REALISM CLASS …HOW CAN I PERFORM A MEDICAL OPERATION PRACTICALLY? I would have to break the news to Joannie …I closed my book and headed for home.
And just as I was rounding the hill to walk back onto campus, Joannie was running to me, ecstatic, flailing her arms, skipping with those knock knees, beautiful …I GOT MY PERIOD!! she screamed. I GOT MY PERIOD! I was weak with PURE JOY! … YOU GOT YOUR PERIOD! I SCREAMED TO THE HEAVENS. YOU GOT YOUR PERIOD!!! Then we rushed into each other’s arms and danced in the sunlight.
THIS IS WHY ROE V WADE MUST NOT BE STRUCK DOWN BY soon to be Supreme Court Justice AMY CONEY BARRET.
Abhorrent – my neighbors. After yesterday’s crazed cupcake incident, then the WHITE-PAINT-all-over-Rose’s car catastrophe, I guess it’s time for my nemesis to vacuum her car! No heart.
Peter has always helped Worcester’s homeless. ICT file photo.
The opposite of my friend, Main South community activist and one-man social service agency Peter Stefan, owner of Graham, Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Home at 838 Main St. Peter’s the Heart of Worcester’s Main South neighborhood!!
Peter saw my paint-covered-car photo and called me to say: MOVE OUT! THEY’RE GONNA GO AFTER YOUR DOGS! I’LL PAY FOR YOUR CAR TO BE WASHED AT THE CARWASH! COME DOWN FOR SOME MONEY!!
You know, my friend Peter is ALL HEART, no matter what some folks at City Hall may think! Injustice of any kind moves him – even though he’s seen a lot in his 80+ years and he’s been in the middle of so many great battles for social justice here in our city, often on the vanquished side. Yet, he never despairs, his heart never grows cold, never turns away, unmoved, by people in need. Peter’s never dismissive of poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, animal cruelty.
Peter is running for Mass Governors Council, District 7, – you should vote for this good, unpretentious man! … Today, you’d think he’d be calling me for a positive political story. Ingratiating himself with this writer and inner-city newspaper owner. Pushing for some pretty prose. Nope. Peter called me this afternoon because he was moved by my car pic and plight – got in touch with me to HELP ME, offer real feelings about my dogs, my life, the safety of us all. And expressing real dismay at the actions of bad actors.
This is the Peter Stefan I’ve known – Worcester has known – for years and years. The guy who gives food to the hungry, helps indigent seniors pay for their prescription meds, helps another elderly person pay his heating bill, buries Worcester’s unwanted: the scrawny homeless guys found in train box cars, dead in the dead of winter … the murdered gang members … little babies tragically mute, their sweet breath stopped cold…their parents too poor to pay for their caskets (so small!) and their burial sites and funeral services. No one cares about these people. They have no clout. Peter has always cared for them … loved them.
If you write Peter Stefan’s name on the ballot line where it says governors council and fill in the oval next to his name on November 3, if you elect Peter to Governors Council, we will ALL GET A FIERCE LOVER OF SOCIAL JUSTICE, RACIAL EQUALITY, COMPASSION FOR ALL – especially the state’s most vulnerable. He will make Massachusetts courts MORE JUST – racially balanced, lots of women judges/clerk magistrates, less incarceration and more community service/true rehabilitation.
A bonus: Peter will also donate his entire Governors Council salary – a $36,000 a year salary – for two years – to Worcester County Food Pantries and Homeless Shelters: from Fitchburg and Gardner to Southbridge and Webster. The Worcester County Food Bank in Shrewsbury, too. And the Veterans Shelter and Pernet Health food pantries, right here in Worcester. Milford and Athol, small towns but also struggling with hunger, especially during these days of COVID and job layoffs/economic landslides, will get money, too. Most likely Peter will visit the food pantries to check out the operations for himself! He was a board member and a HUGE advocate of the now gone PIP WET HOMELESS SHELTER down the road from him, in Main South, at the cusp of downtown. Peter would go every week to Nissans Wholesale Bakery on Quinsig Ave and buy a ton of freshly made pastries, rolls and more for all the homeless people at the PIP. Every week. He’d then drive down to the PIP, deliver them to the wet shelter on the corner of Charlton and Main and talk to the people there, visit with the staffers, buck up PIP Executive Director Buddy Brousseau, who loved Peter. Peter used to say: “I’m the PIP’s junkyard dog!” He was right! Whenever the PIP was in the news and it was bad, Peter was all over the situation asking newspaper readers, rhetorically: WHAT IF THIS WAS YOUR MOTHER OR DAUGHTER OR SON OR FATHER? He always saw THE HOMELESS PERSON as a person first and foremost. A human being, God’s child.
🦋 During the COVID 19 pandemic Peter doesn’t spread the novel corona virus – he wears his facial mask and social distances – but he still spreads love. Always has. As the owner of Graham, Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Home, he cleansed and cared for the bodies of AIDS patients when no one would touch them. It was in the 1980s and no other funeral homes wanted to wash, embalm, respect the bodies of deceased HIV patients; funeral home owners were fearful of the relatively new virus – thought they could catch it through body fluids. Plus, many funeral home directors were just plain old homophobic and didn’t want to deal with gay folks and their friends and families.
Peter led the way – became an advocate for people with HIV BEFORE ANY ONE ELSE IN HIS BUSINESS. This decision, I will never forget, because it was so selfless and fearless.
Please vote for our Classic Peter (Stefan) on November 3!!
SPENCER during this Election Season: I’m thinking of the sweet people I used to live next to in the poor part of this town: Elm, Mechanic, Main streets. Old row houses built for the factory workers – Spencer was once a French town known for its sheet metal workers, blue collar thru and thru. Then the SAAD factories, the mills down the road in Dudley and Douglas closed, like all our factories and mills here in Worcester, then 1, 2, 3! Spencer became poor. Spencer in many places looks like my part of Blackstone River Road …
But except for one creepy neighbor – like the creeps here who CREEP me out! – I liked the people of Spencer. The poorer folks in this big, sprawling Central Massachusetts town – my Elm and Maple street neighbors, tenants living in the long row houses, were unfailingly polite, modest … a quiet friendliness suffused their “hello”‘s, “have a nice day”‘s. And everyone was a builder/crafter: they fixed their porches, weaved beautiful fake flower wreaths for their front doors, added bits and pieces of wood to their little garden fences …
I saw their poverty and, unlike the hustlers here in my buildings, they did lots of improvisation when it came to surviving poverty: the old guys carved their own crooked walking canes, the ladies had shopping carts just like my late Mom did when we lived in Green Island, and they pulled their shopping wagons up the hill to the supermarket to grocery shop – and pulled it home. In all kinds of weather. Sometimes I’d offer an old woman a ride – proud and quietly determined, she always declined. I was nice but I wasn’t a Spencer girl. New in town.
Often I’d go to Spencer Town Hall, pictured here, to talk with Laura the Town Clerk and try to make an appointment with the Town Manager (ha!). Laura was polite but, my advocacy for the poor people fell on deaf ears. Laura, I’d say, WHY NOT HAVE A TOWN COMMUNITY GARDEN IN THAT BIG TOWN LOT NEAR MY HOUSE? The people need free fresh veggies and … What about a FOOD HUB like they have in Northern Worcester County?
My suggestions were met with a Laura smile, condescending, stubborn as a mule …
So WHEN I SAW ALL THESE POOR SPENCER FOLKS WALKING IN THE SLUSH, A WET SNOW FALLING ON A DARK NOVEMBER NIGHT TO TOWN HALL – ELECTION NIGHT IN SPENCER – I WAS APPALLED. Some folks were in their motorized wheelchairs driving along with traffic! Most were drenched, a few weren’t wearing boots …
The old Republican middle classers of Spencer had their big old Caddies and Buicks parked in the town hall parking lot and voted with ease. They came out in droves to re-validate old ways, the same old same old pols …
I voted – and asked a poll worker: IS THIS THE ONLY PLACE TO VOTE? TOWN HALL? WHY NOT A POLLING SITE AT THE PUBLIC HOUSING, IN THE COMMUNITY ROOM, OVER WHERE I LIVE? Why have the poor from my area walk in snowstorms and the cold?
The old woman poll worker replied: WE DON’T EVEN HAVE ONE IN OUR SENIOR HOUSING! WE NEED ONE THERE!
Laura and all the Spencer movers and shakers were practicing their own version of voter suppression. With their small town smiles… So many people/voters living on Elm, Mechanic, Maple, Main streets and more probably looked out their windows on that election night and …left their canes by their doors…and stayed home that Election Night.
Next day I drove down to Congressman McGovern’s office off of Shrewsbury Street – Spencer is part of his Congressional District. He is supposed to represent the people of Spencer. Upset I told Chief of Staff Gladys Rodriguez Parker and other McGovern staffers what I witnessed the night before. WE NEED MORE POLLING SITES! IT’S NOT FAIR!!!
Comfy cats. Entitled cats. They gave me the same look that the Spencer movers and shakers had given me!! …and did nothing.
❤Love to all my Spencer neighbors who vote despite the voter disenfranchisement in Spencer, courtesy of Congressman Jim McGovern, oblivious Town Clerk Laura, the Boneheaded Spencer selectmen and pointless Spencer town administrator.
A week ago, when I went to Family Health Center for my EKG, I brought along … John Lennon. An old broad with a trembly ticker and a dead Beatle making their way through Worcester’s Piedmont neighborhood. How strange!
At the time I thought: I’ll be at FHC for awhile, let’s bring some reading material …
But why John Lennon? I’ve got a ton of books and mags in my shack. Why did I grab a 10-year-old copy of a truncated ROLLING STONE (owner/publisher Jann W. had just shrunk his once iconic magazine) that was buried on a book shelf buried behind a clothes rack stuffed with my favorite tee shirts and blouses? A magazine I hadn’t read since the day I bought it, a decade ago?
Simply put: JOHN LENNON. He made me feel safe, protected. John would watch over me as I trembled under my hospital johnny. I would close my eyes and squeeze tight my Rolling Stone as my old heart-beat was recorded …
A friend had prayed over me that week, put his pudgy hand on my shoulder and asked God for a healthy heart and tranquility, then promising he’d buy me a new Bible – one with PINK covers! For girls! I said to him: I’ll try a new take on this God thing – “Whatever gets you though this life!” A few days earlier the pastor of Woo’s premier Catholic church had come through for me with grace and a deep comprehension of the hungry heart. But maybe not mine. Pre-EKG test, the heart monitor that gets the sticky squares and wires all tangled in the beginning, as I looked mortality square in the puss and the FHC EKG technician complained about her old EKG machine … I closed my eyes and eschewed my friend’s Pink Bible verses, forgot the Jesus hanging from the cross and chose BEATLES instead. John’s Music. Amazing harmonies. The real God, for me.
John Lennon, the beautiful. The perfectly human deity I’ve been praying to since I was 14 years old in my Green Island bedroom with those ugly green painted walls and brown metal bed! It’s always been John! – Beatles and post-Beatles. You choose what MATTERS as you are wheeled in and out of the hospital and sit naked on the examination table.
LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS. NOWHERE MAN. IN MY LIFE. STRAWBERRY FIELDS. All John Lennon masterpieces. John: the sarcastic Beatle, the angry Beatle, the intellectual Beatle, the Beatle in restless search of his mother who had abandoned him. The Beatle of lullabies, ocean tides, harmonicas, fists and honesty. The Beatle who played his guitar in that sexy bow-legged stance. The Beatle who’s seen my less-than beautiful smile (a gap between my two front teeth since I was 9!) – and still loved me enough to sing his beautiful songs to me!
The God my late Mom, Cecelia, loved so much she worshipped him on the Ed Sullivan Show and wore him on her Keds! A pair of white Keds with the faces of John, Paul, George and Ringo stamped all over them. All the kids wore ’em back then. As a two-year-old I sat at my mom’s feet, mesmerized by the cute mop-top boys on her Keds, the boys she sometimes danced to in the kitchen, turning the volume up on her white plastic radio sitting atop our old refrigerator, singing with them: I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND! TWIST AND SHOUT!! HELP! Ma polka-ed, jitterbugged, waltzed around our big kitchen floor – she loved to dance and knew all the dances from the 1940s and ’50s – but she also free-formed grooved to the new rock n roll. Because she had rhythm and was a joyful person, despite – maybe because of – her hard life. THE BEATLES AND THEIR MUSIC AND THEIR IDEAS MOVED HER. Our Lafayette Street tenement was our concert hall, dance hall …
Our youngish Ma, raised in and oppressed by the Catholic church, loved the Beatles gorgeousness, their FREEDOM, CREATIVITY, YOUTH. She, along with millions of young people all over the world, had caught the YOUTH WAVE of the 1960s! And ever since then, America’s worshipped youth, everything young.
I am rewatching the Beatles classic movie, their best in my opinion, A HARD DAYS NIGHT, starring John and his (soul)mates … and feeling Peace and Love (God). It’s an early ’60s Dick Lester film that truly captures the Beatles, their off-beat humor, their wit, their spirit and their early music. Plus, the times: Beatlemania and the ascendancy of youth culture, the out with the old and in with the YOUTH vibes, the soft poking at the nose of society: 1940s/50s music, middle-aged people, old time-y TV variety shows, public relations marketing schemes, teams and offices filled with pr flaks AT THE MERCY OF YOUTH they can never understand because they aren’t young. … Pointless charts, mundane surveys and fake trend-setters. ALL TO BE UPENDED BY THE FAB FOUR AS THEY TAKE OVER – by the sweetest of storms – STODGY OFFICES, BORING TV SHOWS, POINTLESS TV PRODUCERS, CLUELESS OLDER FOLKS, EVEN FAMILY and WOMEN (they call women “birds”). The Beatles are their own family – close to each other in their Beatle bubble. John in love with Paul – and vice versa. They make their own intimate magic – but share it with the world. How lucky we are! Free and truly themselves only when out of the clutches of their wild girl groupies, insistent managers, nagging director, boring TV producer. FREE in their beautiful songs:
This film still holds up for me – not like their HELP! flick, made a few years after A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, or their goofy Christmas radio mini-shows. I love their animated YELLOW SUBMARINE but not as much as their kinetic A HARD DAY’S NIGHT! It’s in black and white and feels very off the cuff, very Beatles … The guys say things in the movie they WOULD HAVE SAID IN REAL LIFE. But it was all scripted, all in the movie script! Great writing!!
For me, as an old lady in 2020, the thrill of the flick is STILL WATCHING THE BEATLES PLAY THEIR MUSIC. STILL WATCHING JOHN LENNON PICK HIS GUITAR. STILL THE SIGHT OF PURE HAPPINESS – GOD – AS GREAT, GIFTED FRIENDS GRAB THEIR GUITARS AND DRUMSTICKS … to sing their song.
❤Happy Birthday, John Lennon – October 9. We love you and still miss you!❤
I received a phone call last week from an elegant gent I used to know and love. He lives at the gateway to our city’s elegant West Side: Homer Street, Institute Road, Massachusetts Ave …home to the Antiquarian Society building, depository of the first newspapers of our grand USA – newspapers containing the musings of Thomas Payne … His neighborhood is also home to WPI, our city’s engineering university where the finest scientific minds help search for the cure to COVID … Streets where tree canopies make you feel you are in Wellesley or Weston as you drive down the tree-lined Flag or Troy streets, the wide enough to host a parade Massachusetts Ave.
Now his elegant neighborhood is RATSVILLE – rats climbing West Side trees, rat burrows in West Side back yards, rats skittering up Mass Ave, rats nibbling on organic eggplants in chi chi West Side organic carefully tended gardens – gardens where Opera records have played – to the annoyance of my elegant old gent friend: he listens to ZZ Top and Greg Alman – LOVES Southern Rock.
All Southern Man past as he watched a big-ar*ed rat climb the tree by his back yard and another rat, smallish, hang from one of his many front porch bird feeders. The City of Worcester came to his doorstep and claimed: you’re the rat-magnet! Shut down your bird feeders!!
My elegant old gent thought: LIKE HE*L I’ll stop feeding my pretty robbins, feisty blue jays and hardscrabble little English sparrows. Not to mention the humming birds with their sugar water dispenser – now frequented by savvy Worcester rats!
My old friend – who loves nature but not rats – has exterminated twice. The rats return. He has had confabs with the city and his lawyer – and telephoned me. Not to take me to a socially distanced Martin Sexton concert as I had begged but to WHINE ABOUT RATS AND THE CITY. Not senior Sex in the City – but Rats in the City. A new kind of TV show, starring him but, alas, not I …📽
I said to him: Sweetie, I adore you, but I implore you: I have my own RAT problem here in Quinsig Village with my own rats to fret about – and they have guns and tasers. Rats bigger than your rats, and stinkier, too … but not as bright!
Worcester City Councilor at Large Donna Colorio declared at last night’s Worcester City Council meeting: WORCESTER IS FULL OF RATS: THEY’RE INUNDATING PARK AVE, VERNON HILL, GRAFTON STREET. We need to look into this rodent problem. She asked City Manager Ed Augustus to eradicate all the Worcester rats who destroy our happiness, peace of mind and organic eggplants! I second that emotion … and say, “Rats off to you, City Councilor Donna Colorio!”
Did you know the film DINER makes my ALL-TIME TOP 15 MOVIE LIST? Today, as I rewatch it, it is number 8. Once it was #1 – even besting my all time #1 flick: THE AWFUL TRUTH staring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant!
Maybe this Barry Levinson masterpiece, a swan song to his Baltimore youth, is so near and dear to my heart because I see my Worcester-as-a-true-Gateway-City in it: my childhood friends, my parents, my friends’ parents …
… all that penny-pinching, the plain-spoken average Joe just wanting – because it’s what he can afford – the basics. All that Greek, Italian, Polish, Lithuanian industriousness … believing in the American Dream of house, backyard, car and college for your kids. Realizing that Dream in a few generations because you COULD back then. The factories were union shops … the small stores cried out for the thrifty, smart Italian or Russian proprietor. All that touchy, feely, sometimes saccharine, immigrant love! Church all the time. Praying to God – together as a family. The search for success in a new country while staying true to Old Country truths and traditions. Can we have both? we wondered. …
DINER’s grubby Baltimore warehouses were Worcester’s, the movie’s modest shoppes in a nondescript downtown matched our old Denholms, Marcus and American Supply … the religiosity of the people in DINER, the respect for elders, the many churches … and even more diners serving up roast beef sandwiches, French fries, bleh plain white bagels … and all that private talk with best friends. The pain and joy of assimilation. The ol’ Worcester.
I saw DINER for the first time decades ago (we are both that old!) in Worcester’s once bustling downtown – with our Mart, Sylvia’s Dress Shoppe and Marcus still open for business. I loved the Paris Cinema in its pre-porn days, before it became an XXX-movie theater. I still miss its wonderful vintage PARIS cinema sign which screamed HOLLYWOOD!!! and MOVIE STARS! I can still picture its thick, heavy, red velvet ropes, deep, red-plush chairs and its big gaudy chandeliers, lit from within, dripping those strands of big crazy rhinestone teardrops! But Showcase Cinemas was great too – in a more compact way, with its huge glass wrap-around concession area, right in the middle of the first floor – popcorn and Jujus before the escalator ride up to one of four screening rooms. Marble stairs to class it up. You always saw people from your school or church going up or down them making sharp clack clack clacks with their shoe heels. COMMUNITY.
Back to the film DINER: I saw it with two Burncoat Senior High School gal pals, falling for the film’s six handsome male leads … and its terrific storyline: a group of Baltimore townies, guys now in their early 20s, best buddies from high school, grow up – in fits and starts … going in separate directions, but wistful for old times … tentative. As they head into their adult lives, they are having second thoughts about a lot of stuff – from Eddy and his impending marriage, to Billy and his pregnant friend. Eddy is making his fiancee take this 100-question, esoteric, wicked hard!! football test – one wrong answer and their wedding is off! Billy, the Masters Degree candidate in business college got his TV news station producer friend pregnant during their weekend in New York City. They had been platonic, best friends for six years. Now home for Christmas vacation, Billy offers to marry his friend. tells her he loves her. She says, “You’re confusing friendship with a woman with love. It’s not the same thing.” Billy, sitting opposite her, looks flummoxed.
A few of the guys, like Shrevey and Boogie, will stay townies, not heading off to college, not straying too far from their childhood neighborhoods, but they are still living lives, still navigating affairs of the heart. Shrevey is a salesman at a furniture store in downtown Baltimore and married to the gorgeous, young Ellen Barken, whom he loves, knows is beautiful … but still … they don’t seem to connect … don’t have much to talk about these days. Ellen doesn’t understand or share his passion for music and records – touchstones for Shrevey. He lashes out at her when she doesn’t know where an lp goes – rock n roll or rhythm and blues. …
… And Boogie, a young, beautiful Mickey Rourke, before the boxing and Botox, is stunning and riveting as he sweet talks the ladies and tries to survive poverty and moving beyond his job at the hair dressers. He is desperate for money because he owes a loan-shark TWO GRAND. Tomorrow. He tells his mom he’s got $56 to his name.
… So he comes up with crazy, degrading schemes like taking bets on a box of his special “surprise” popcorn and a not very bright beauty.
A young Paul Reiser plays the young comedian of the gang, and a baby-faced Kevin Bacon plays the brilliant alcoholic trust-fund kid with a maniacal laugh that subs for crying.
To see the guys standing by the gray, dirty Baltimore harbor … to see them sitting at the diner, at the shiny chrome counter looking out those big windows at their world, from their cool clubhouse … is to see Worcester when she was grand and gaudy and gritty. To see Eddy’s mom complain to Billy: Why is Eddy still living at home?, then to watch her chase her son with a carving knife when he demands: MA, MAKE ME A SANDWICH!!! only to acquiesce and ask Billy: BILLY, DO YOU WANT A SANDWICH? IT’S NO TROUBLE! is to see shades of your Polish Mom or Greek Granny… You also see why Eddy is still a big kid!
My favorite shot in the film? After Billy and Eddy ham it up with a pretty, middle-aged stripper at a strip club, they take her out for coffee at a diner. Sitting at the long counter that faces the street, they look out the window and chat as they watch the world go by. Their banter is soft, sweet, respectful, silly … tinged with sadness and longing. They talk thru the late night. As dawn lights up their city, a horse clomps by – he’s pulling a wagon filled with junk and rags, the bells on his harness tinkle. The neighborhood rag man. They were a big part of city life not so long ago. My late mother used to tell me of the rag man and his horse – lowly travelers – coming through her Green Island, down Lafayette Street, up Millbury Street, up Water, calling for RAGS, JUNK. I once saw the rag man, when I was very young, a toddler. I saw his brown horse clomping down Lafayette Street pulling an old wagon. A beautiful horse!!! A coach like Cinderella’s! The rags were dirty and in a heap but I was entranced … by my city’s magic. Made in America❤.
I’m watching – for the 10th time!! – one of my favorite movies, THE SEARCHERS. The John Ford masterpiece starring John Wayne, Ward Bond and Vera Miles and the breathtaking Monument Valley, a bigger “character” in the movie than even the human actors, except for John Wayne. The movie still stands. Tall, graceful, haunting 70 years after it was made. Nothing soft or sentimental about this movie. It is true … and, for me, depicts both sides of the Indian/White Man rift with brutal truth. Yes, one side had to annihilate the other!! – this country was so gorgeous!! – worth fighting to the death for! The two cultures were incompatible; it would have been impossible to co-exist. Rape, murder, devastation of homesteads, even the brutal taking of scalps (initiated by the Whites) took place on both sides.
Wayne is racist in the movie, but director Ford isn’t, so his vision, his story, isn’t. The forced march of the Comanches, the American barracks the women and girls are held in, the slaughtering of all the women and children in an Indian camp by American soldiers, the murder of Luk, even the old scrawny Indian extras of the movie – real Navahos from a nearby reservation – break your heart.
Back to the story: Wayne’s niece is kidnapped by Skar and his band of Comanches during one of Skar’s murder raids. Skar is the John Wayne of Indian country – big and tall and strapping, the wise and brutal king – he must be killed. Skar and his band of marauders torch the homestead and kills the family of Wayne’s character, Ethan: All murdered: Ethan’s brother, Aron; the nephew; sister-in-law Martha and another niece. The women are raped before they are killed. Seven-year-old Debbie is spared – she is kidnapped by the Comanches. To see Wayne making his way through the charred rubble, to watch him pick up the blood-soaked blue dress of his true love, Martha, to know what he understands … He calls MARTHA!!! at this ground zero – not the name of his brother. But MARTHA!!!, his brother’s wife. This is the person who is HOME for Wayne in The Searchers:
I don’t care what anyone says, Wayne was a great actor!!! His visage grows darker and heavier with each loss in the movie. To see that close-up of him as he leaves the barracks where white Indian teenaged girls, all kidnapped when they were little, are housed in, is to see a beautiful portrait … of hatred. Wayne becomes mad – eaten up – by his vindictiveness. He WILL FIND DEBBIE, he tells fellow searcher Marty! EVEN IF IT MEANS SEARCHING FOR HER FOR YEARS! But when he finally tracks Debbie down, after five years of searching, he learns she has assimilated…lives with the Comanches as family, is the wife of an Indian, will have his children, Ethan turns on her, hates her. She must die. He intends to put a bullet in her brain. She is no longer his people, his family – but belongs to the other tribe.
As I watch this movie in my early old age, it feels Shakespearean. Epic like Homer. Or Steinbeck. I love when Wayne speaks … never coming down hard on a line, like his sidekick Marty does to show “emotion” (it’s like the young actor has turned it up to 11 for the entire movie!). Nope. Not the Duke – he’s marinated in nuance. His creased and heavy face tells his story, reflects his pain, his hurt, his loneliness, his aloneness. Ford shoots him so lovingly. And when he does cry out, it’s feels Olympian.
I won’t give away the film’s ending, in case you’ve never seen it, but to hear John Wayne, middle-aged, heavy shoulders, deep-voiced tell Marty he will find Debbie, that it is their inexorable fate, like “the turning of the earth” … WOW. Or to hear Wayne talk of the Indian after-life, as if he almost believed in it himself … after shooting out the eyes of the Indian buried in the red dust so the Indian’s a lost, restless wanderer in the afterlife, for eternity. As bereft and homeless as Ethan is in this amazingly beautiful country! The way Wayne uses his hands and arms in the movie, with graceful flourishes, to mimic the wind, winding paths, forks in the road, geese in the night sky is to watch and listen to a poet tell his story. You are captivated by his adventure!
The movie is BEAUTIFUL to look at. The final shot of the film is beautiful and heartbreaking. What does it mean? No happy ending for Ethan! He’s got no home, even after his gallant act, with the Jorghunsans. They are white and friends – but they don’t welcome him into the fold the way they do the young Marty. He doesn’t fit in. He can’t fit in! The Indians fear and respect Ethan but reject him, too. The heavy wooden front door closes shut on him, and he walks into the sun absolutely alone, with that signature John Wayne walk. He’s outside, with the other untamable things. A force of nature in his own right. What cabin, bunkhouse, tee pee could ever hold Ethan?
Driving down Green Street into the new “Peanut Square” makes me feel old. Old because all the upstart trendy shops on my once working class childhood street/magical touchstone – the new all-bacon restaurant, the bo bo tapioca drinks, the glorified high-calorie pub food, the black bralettes, the shabby-chic reclaimed/refinished furniture – are meant to attract the young. I would have loved this new Green Street if I were “newer” – say 25 years old, or maybe even rounding 30 … Ahh! The perfect blouse! Now I know that guy in philosophy class will notice me! … Hey, what’s the customer next to me buying? She’s prettier than me! Sigh. … Cool end table at this shop! Perfect for my new one-bedroom by the highway!
I will be 59 years old next month. I call it 60. May as well. I usually go a step further and label myself an “old broad.” The chuckles rounded with … sadness, wistful feelings.
When you are old like me, cool end tables don’t excite you the way they did when you were 25 and an apartment virgin. You have lived in a bunch of apartments! In third-rate cities with your – or so you thought – first-rate dreams! The funky sofas and vintage lamps you have scored through the years blend into each other these days. A waste of time, all that ridiculous shopping. But necessary at the time! I was 27 and in love with blues, all hues. These days the chairs and plant stands and water gobblets are an afterthought as you begin to ponder … death. YOUR death!! A very real, tangible kind of possibility. Now an impossibility. You are 60 now and can imagine it death “happening” to you. Say in 10 or 20 years. The blink of an eye! It will, like birth, be painful. It will, like birth, be a solitary exercise. Vintage end tables seem pointless compared to the Grim Reaper. I fear the reaper!!
You dream of your estranged sister, both of you kids in your childhood home in your dream, in the old ugly living room on Lafayette Street watching The Honeymooners on Bapy’s black and white Philco TV. The conversation you had with your estranged sister in your dream two weeks ago feels more real than the chit chat you had today with your pal down the street! …
Lucky times, missed opportunities. You see the big picture and realize: It was all a crap shoot!! You controlled so little of it all! Your birth. Your birthplace – and time. Your family. Even your marriage. Your remarriage. Your move to this city or a hightail to that town…and then life just sorta unfurled. Sometimes slowly, sometimes fast enough to give you whiplash. Sometimes with such heart-wrenching beauty or cruelty. You marvel at all the goodness in the world and you’re horrified by all the ignorance. You realize the men who loved you in your diaphanous blouses can leave you, no matter how seductive you look in that billowy blouse. For new girls in new blouses. Maybe made of linen – or (horror of horrors) even polyester! And he sticks with polyester girl – and you say: POLYESTER!??? … You realize blouses have nothing to do with love! Having similar ethnicities, churches, work ethics, childhoods and values are better predictors of “love” and successful relationships. Two neuroses “clicking.” That’s what love means to me at 60. I don’t take it too personally these days.
At 60, you look at all the gourmet donuts, fancy sugar-laden cupcakes (again gourmet), artisan pizza pies in all the Green Street shop windows and your arteries ache.
At 60, you have seen a lot, and you begin to make up your mind about people in about 20 minutes. This is bad. But you’ve been around and think you sense the patterns – like the old f*rt (a stereotype!) you’ve become! You see and ignore: the shallow bland blond rich white girl with nothing to say; the arrogant blobby millennial guy who works in IT and thinks he’s attractive but is a fat slob to you and most Boomers who were slim, at times anorexic, when we were young. Then there’s the white trash young woman and her six kids … the junky homeless guy … the pointless WASP money guy, so oblivious to the working class.
They all have their stories but you cannot hear them. A disgrace! You are alarmed at your closed mind, but you are trying to make sense of your little existence! You realize you were just a drop in the universal water bucket but you were eternity, too. Just like all the other people-drops …
Funny. I’m watching Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in YOU’VE GOT MAIL. On my TV. This Nora Ephron rom-com from the 1990s (I love her Meg Ryan movies💚) is based on the Jimmy Stewart classic movie of the early 1940s, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER: guy meets girl through writing of letters/emails, falls in love … but no! The love of his life, the object of his bookish desire, can’t be the horrid woman he works with/against. She hates him, too! In fact, they go around crowing to each other about their secret pen-pals and how the Hanks/Stewart can’t hold a candle to their true love’s wit, erudition, compassion … It’s all in their letters/emails …
Finally, secret pen pals plan on meeting in person – in a coffee house. The gal will be at a cafe table reading a book – and displaying a rose, laid across the cafe table.
But the guy now knows the gal is from his work world, knows her identity, so in a love jest, he meets up with her, teasing her about her lover pen pal – making her furious but ultimately getting her to fall in love with him. Jimmy Stewart and the Jimmy Stewart of our day, Tom Hanks, are funny and charming in these scenes … and winsome, handsome.
Of course, our gals fall in love – want their secret writer/lover to be Hanks/Stewart!!! I will not give away the endings of both movies … But just now I cried, burst into tears while watching YOU’VE GOT MAIL. Not at the happy ending – but at Meg Ryan arguing with her current boyfriend in A CROWDED MOVIE THEATER! I cried at the old America, at HUNDREDS OF FILM LOVERS SITTING NEXT TO EACH OTHER, SHOULDER TO SHOULDER, enjoying – together!! – a movie! This is what made me cry! Our past life – before COVID 19, before facial masks and six feet apart and elbow bumps when greeting old friends. I cried like a baby over this scene, pre-global pandemic, arguably one of the most pedestrian scenes in the movie!
I miss all the casual closeness, the casual but deep intimacy, society’s grubby humanness … sharing germs – and laughs and tears – at a filled-to-capacity movie house.
The DVDs and Video cassettes will do for now …
… but when things get better, when the vaccine comes out and I have been vaccinated and our COVID flick fades to black, I am driving to Northampton, to a real movie theater, a beautiful one – not a ghastly humungous mall cineplex in Worcester – and I am gonna buy a bucket of popcorn, a box of Jujus and sit smack dab in the middle of HUMANITY AND WATCH A MOVIE WITH A FULL HOUSE of my fellow humans. Laugh with them, snicker with them, gasp and tear up, too. While watching the movie. Together, with them!
THIS IS HOW FILMS WERE MEANT TO BE EXPERIENCED!
It will all come back … eventually. This is just the middle of the movie we are all in now. There may be a Tom Hanks pandemic epic classic on the horizon!