Category Archives: Rosalie’s Blog

📷Bapy and Jaju: Mad about You!

By Rosalie Tirella

While changing up my kitchen table tablecloth this a.m. …
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… I rearranged a few photos of my late grandparents, small, framed pictures that form a hippy kind of centerpiece on my table, and snapped a picture of their giant wedding-day portrait that hangs in my bedroom.

📷 I saw and liked the progression of the photos: my Polish immigrant grandmother and grandfather – “Bapy” and “Jaju” – at the beginning, middle and end of their 55-year marriage in America, Worcester’s Green Island: pics 1, 2, 3:

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Their Wedding Day portrait by Vernon Studios on Vernon Street. … 100+ years ago few people owned a camera – so they went to the pros for photographs, usually only on special occasions: weddings, family reunions, formal family portraits. Staged before heavy, lugubrious floral arrangements and fake marble columns and urns. There were several of these professional photography studios on Vernon Hill, a Worcester neighborhood Bapy and Jaju, young and beautiful but very poor, could only aspire to.

They got married on Valentine’s♥️ Day. Very romantic for a couple of DPs, “Dumb Pokaks” as they and their kin were called by others in Worcester: Polish immigrants, poor, heavy jowled, Catholic, unable to read or write or speak English, doing the city’s, the county’s, dirtiest jobs … to survive in The Block of tenements in Green Island. Many of the men, like my Jaju, worked in the textile mills in Douglas. Jaju was a dyer for 35+years – pre-OSHA, pre-labor unions – and it shows. Just look at him in the last photo. Sure, he was a smoker, but still … My late mom, Cecelia, rolled his cigarettes (no filters) every morning in his little metal rolling machine, using almost transparent white tissue paper squares (in their own little box), then handing the cigs to Jaju before he left for work. His friend had a car, picked him up, and together they drove in to work.

📷A few years ago, I drove down to Douglas/Dudley/Webster to check out what was left of the textile mills, ancient and abandoned, trying to find Jaju’s mill. I may have found it – a huge brick complex with small windows. I imagined working summers in that place – on a humid July day!

2:
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📷Picture 2: World War II – their only son, my uncle Joe, back home on leave from the US Navy. Big meal, all homemade by Bapy: meat and cabbage and potato pierogi, gawompki, beet soup, pigs knuckles/feet (pigs knuckles – I ate them as a little kid growing up on Lafayette Street in Green Island – they came in a bottle! My mother bought them at the Polish market on Millbury Street.) Hugs all around and Polka music and photos taken on the Block’s roof, by my auntie with her Brownie camera. Years ago a young graphic designer scanned the originals photos for me and blew them up. I framed the scans, besutufully done – still have them on my walls, all over my apartment. But the one I am showing you here, above, is of Bapy and Jaju inside their tenement in the Block on Bigelow Street. I love how happy Bapy looks – she adored my grandfather, as wild about him! – and I love how contented Jaju seems, his arm casually draped over his little wife’s round shoulders.

3:
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📷The final picture – three or four years before Jaju – now retired and doing a ton of woodworking around the house (he made Bapy a big two-seater glider swing for their front porch) – died of lung cancer. In the photo, Bapy is holding me! Precious cargo! Her first born Lafayette Street grandchild!

I love how Jaju, now 50 years later, has changed places in the photographs: Bapy stood dutifully by his side in their Wedding Day Portrait: in the Lafayette Street photograph, taken by my mom, Jaju is the one standing dutfully by Bapy. His woman. For more than half a century. No words. Just the neat buttoned up white shirt showing respect and love for his wife, the mother of his children. Now proud grandmother.

Jaju was my favorite. He was sweet-natured, quiet and loved carpentry and crafts. We used to sit on our Lafayette Street back porch, my Jaju in an old weather beaten black wooden chair, me sitting on a little foot stool he made. Me holding my block of dark clay – Jaju reaching for it, then molding a clay pony out of my “putty” – and then his thick, gnarled fingers working like magic to make a clay cowboy and a big 10-gallon clay cowboy hat for him! And then Jaju would seat my clay cowboy on my clay pony – and we would recite a Polish prayer over it, together. … Bapy was the fiery mate!

Yep. My Jaju, after killing himself for decades in the Douglas textile mill to support his wife and four kids, going fishing with his African American pal from work on weekends. Bapy reluctantly fed the two a big lunch and glasses of beer after seeing her first Black man – no Black folks in Poland back then – and fearing him! – and JAJU SAYING CURTLY: He’s MY FRIEND! FEED US, WOMAN! Jaju, just a man, an American now but no civil rights crusader. Jaju, now an old man, sitting in his wooden chair by the kitchen window nursing his glass of beer (that Bapy had watered down and handed to him like a waitress♥️) and watching the world go by, his world: Lafayette Street, Bigelow Street, Lodi Street …
My Jaju and Bapy showed me – everybody in our family – what true love is.

🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶:

Stopping by the Ward Street Dunkin’ Donuts on a Rainy Eve (during the COVID-19 pandemic)

By Rosalie Tirella

So many new CECELIAs to deliver …

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pics: R.T.🎻🎻🎻

… yet today – on this sunny spring day with all the old and young Worcester trees half in bloom and the daffodils outside Price Chopper their buttery-est yellow and the neon-vested construction workers on Millbury Street making THEIR BEAUTIFUL NOISE♥️ again – telling Worcester: WE CHOOSE LIFE! The FUTURE IS OURS! – I choose to stay in my apartment. Under the covers so to speak.

How strange! I’m still in my shorts and tee and old cozy sweater, unshowered – but eating fresh, feasting on the little tangerines I bought yesterday, heating up my leftover tomato-rice mix, topping my bowl off with more cherry tomatoes and the good cheddar cheese I bought yesterday …
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… giving myself some self-love.

BUT I AM AFRAID.

The coronavirus sneaked up on me yesterday! At the end of my work day, around 7 p.m., when I was tired from CECELIA delivery and my guard was down. It was raw and raining. I was outside the slumlord Bob Largesse’s crumby building, on Ward/Stone streets, on the right side of his inner-city liquor store, in front of the Dunkin Donuts.

I saw three homeless people – rough …
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Bob Largesse – Canal District “visionary” – owns this dump. Bob is all about money$$$$.

… dirty, covered in layers of bkack and gray rags. Standing in front of, blocking the front door of, the Dunkin Donuts. One guy, the older one, was missing his four front teeth – or they were pretty rotted. So when he basically told me to go Fu** myself, his thin lips curled up to show me his teeth. His lady friend, long-haired heavier looked annoyed – I was the interloper. The kid – in his 20s – held a dog leash … with no dog attached. That would be the beige pitbull hovering by their calves. He was wearing a red tee shirt meant for a human. Like his masters, he too was trying to seek shelter from the rain, dampness and cold. So they all huddled by the Dunkin’ Donuts front door, under that tinny brown piece of crap roof.

I was with my “pups,” Lilac napping in the corner of my car’s backseat …
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… my high energy Husky-mix Jett boppin’ ’round in back, as he always does (he’s only 12 years old!) But when my hound Lilac got the scent of the pitbull she perked right up and went crazy barking in the back seat.

I grabbed my Dollar Store scissors and a bundle of CECELIAs to make it fast – my delivery – 100 CECELIAs on the DD counter – 100 in their “wrapped” bundle. To deliver cuz the customers love them. I shouted to the little homeless “family”: “CAN YOU MOVE OVER TO THE LEFT? MY DOG IS GOING CRAZY – I DON’T NEED TROUBLE WITH YOUR DOG, AND I NEED TO GET IN TO DELIVER MY PAPERS!

No reaction.

I did not say: You are homeless, bereft, dirty and possibly carrying the novel coronavirus! You are wearing no facial masks! You scare me! And maybe I carry COVID-19 and my bandito mask is slipping off my face and I am too exhausted to readjust it. So I should scare you, too!

Instead I said, the cantankerous old broad I am: “I AM NOT GOING TO GIVE YOU ANY MONEY! LET ME IN!”

And I started the car again and backed up. The pitbull ran onto the highway off ramp, looking comical in his damp red tee shirt, like a pup outa a Charlue Chaplin film. A car whooshing by stopped short, the dog was still running … the older toothless guy grabbed the leash from the kid and went onto the street to get their dog. The man was scrawny and limped and used a gnarly cane that looked like some tree branch he had shorn of its smaller branches and wittled down to some smooth, tan, slippery snake stick.

The medicine show begins!

All the gods are watching us!

But we turn to deviltry!

We are at the end of our COVID 19 tethers – cruel to each other. There is NO VACCINE OR EVEN ANTI-VIRAL MEDS. The package of 30 disposable facial masks I saw at the store today cost $30, and I didn’t have enough money on me to buy them. They flashed before my eyes now, and I thought: I hate poverty. I have been poor all my life! The hard COVID-19 truth.

I said again, turning stubborn, shutting the car engine off: I NEED TO DELIVER MY PAPERS! SOCIAL DISTANCE! YOU ARE LOITERING!!!

And the homeless crew made faces and stood their ground – staked out their three square feet of DD territory.

I had forgotten how I had driven down this street just four months ago – in the dead of a Worcester winter – giving homeless people new warm knit winter hats, gloves and scarves! To help them! Chatting with them under the Green Street bridge, too – and they stuck their pale faces, pock-marked chins into my car, on the passenger side, and patted Lilac on the head and thanked me for my gifts and smiled their toothless smiles – even the beautiful young homeless women.

All that goodness washed away in the COVID 19 rain.

It has been two months and chaos is still here!

I drive by the DCU center, and it looks like a MASH unit with the big white tent, police cruisers, the ambulances, the sawhorses set up all over the place … lost souls with backpacks looking at me with scared eyes. No more bar life here or hockey fun or Woo memorabilia to be sold or jaunty college youth walking in freshly the painted crosswalks. Now sickness and death.

My crew before the Ward Street DD maybe decided to skip all this stuff, to omit the City’s new homeless shelters, the City of Worcester-sponsored coronavirus tests for at-risk populstions like the homeless, the National Guard on hand to guide and help during emergencies. Nope. Not for this round and hard as a chestnut crew huddled together before the front door of the Ward Street Dunkin’ Donuts. They would be free of the societal responsibilities, society in general.

But in my way. I am still trying to do my life’s work!

I should have driven home yesterday and tried again today. But I had dug in, too, like the homeless crew. This old lady who has been running her feisty little rag for almost 20 years. MY RIGHT to deliver my papers to the DD I have been delivering to for years. So I rolled up my car windows and sat in my jalopy, waiting. Waiting. Too tired to think.

Lucky for all of us, the kid behind the counter at the Dunkin Donuts came out in the rain and stood by my car window and grimaced. He was scrawny and pale – and wore his face mask, which he pulled down to talk to me. All the fast food kids make this mistake! All of a sudden my heart broke! He said: THEY CAN STAY HERE! THEY ARE PAYING CUSTOMERS! I showed him my car stuffed with my newspapers – my mask had slipped down too, so we were both talking to each other a foot apart, my car window down, no barriers between us. He said, annoyed at playing ump: DO YOU WANT ME TO BRING THEM IN?!

YES! I said.

I gave him my bundle of CECELIAs through my open car window, and then I drove home. At home I felt infected, guilty, lost, fearful, hating myself. Lost in the brutal America my country has become. Always was if you are poor. I felt covered in novel coronavirus microbes, their red and green coronas sparkly, rolling in the Worcester night, latching on to the starlight and my lungs. That Dunkin Dounts kid – I had forced him out of his work place … he pulled his face mask down in the sea of billions and billions of coronaviruses … and the scared little pitbull in floppy red tee shirt meant for a human. And the homeless “family” sheltering from it all, not believing in science or Worcester outreach workers, or physical distancing or face masks. Just believing in themselves.

The Dunkin Donuts on Ward/Stone streets …

☮️☮️☮️☮️☮️☮️☮️☮️:

Shopping at Worcester supermarkets

By Rosalie Tirella

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pic: R.T.

A new day begins … Porch lights twinkle off outside my apartment windows and I look for my favorite tea at my cute coffee station …
☕Yesterday and a few days prior I was out and about – getting CECELIA ready to go to press. Felt like the old days! Sort of. … Everyone in Worcester seemed to be wearing a facial mask … and social distancing! A great thing! A community coming together to protect each other.

But something very sobering happens in the supermarket … something serious, a little scary: SO MANY PEOPLE WEARING ALL KINDS OF FACE MASKS, FACELESS, AVOIDING EACH OTHER, NO CHIT CHAT among customers. No lingering over the boxes of pilaf – shpuld I buy this flavor or should I try the Rice a Roni noodles? … All of the fun sapped out … All of the death around the corner if I turn my shopping cart here … or there … or there. EVERYONE SAD. EVERYONE BRAVE. Following the governor’s, our city leaders’, directives. We all know President Trump and his campaign style Covid-19 press briefings are a national joke – and disgrace – and a few of us will say so in the checkout line, careful to stay standing on our blue lines – 6 feet away from each other. Some supermarkets have the cute red feet to stand on to mark your place. I like those markers better – like being in Romper Room. Not coronavirus room – as in half of us have had the virus or are asymptomatic carriers. We’ll never know for sure, as there are not enough test kits for all Americans thanks to our feckless Dodo in Chief! So THE COUNTRY IS FLYING BY THE SEAT OF HER PANTS!

What kills me: the chubby – or skinny – old woman, alone, confused, slowed down, wearing her face mask a little crooked … not social distancing, coming up right behind you in the canned vegetable section. Followng you down to the tomato sauces … You throw her “a look,” but she can’t see your annoyed expression because you’re wearing a facial mask! But then you realize she is doing this on purpose, she wants to be close, she is scared … So you turn around … and say a few words (not comforting): “This is just like a science fiction movie!! A dystopian sci fi novel!” or “Did you ever think we’d be living like this?!!” She just shakes her head. She needs a hug.

Or: the pretty, slim 40-year-old woman. Suburban pretty with long blond hair and nice jacket – she comes up to you and blurts out: CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS? My husband died. I’m a widow! I have to do all of this, everything, by myself!

She stands before you. Beautiful. Shaken. You say to her: You are so pretty! It will work out!… I live alone – a third of Americans live alone! Most of us our single! We HAVE TO DO WHAT WE NEED TO DO. …I stress this last part, she seems afraid.

Then she says: You’re right! You’re right! …and heads to the wrong door with her grocery bags and says, laughing: I don’t even know where I am going!

♥️Love you, Worcester supermarket shoppers! We are the working class, the widows and widowers, the oldsters … I wish beautiful birds could fly down from the blue sky and magically deliver groceries to our front doors …

🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶:

BE COVID-CREATIVE!!!

Text and pics by Rosalie Tirella

A few days ago I posted this beautiful picture of the beautiful yellow and orange facial mask my art director hand-sewed for me … To help me get through the pandemic:

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But SHE MAILED IT TO ME FROM A WOO SUBURB, and you know the Worcester mail: She might as well have sent my face mask to me from California VIA PONY EXPRESS! So, as I wait and wait uneasily for my beautiful face mask, and need to grocery shop tomorrow, and HATE TO GROCERY SHOP without a facial mask – it is a scary, stressful, under-10-minute race thru the cheese, fruit and bakery aisles – I decided to STEP UP. PUSH UP, to be exact! – and make my own facial mask by converting my old push up bra into a facial mask – TWO facial masks, to be exact.

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Remember the ol’ Wonder Bra, ladies? Well, mine is a “knock-“off (ha ha), but it is still pretty perfect for these COVID 19 days, seeing our President has FU*KED US ALL OVER AND WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH PPE plus America is selling our facial masks to other countries to MAKE $$$!!!, and, as I close in on 60, maybe my bra’s sexier days are receding into the COVID-19 sunset😢. I have worn it special for … but wait!! I must refrain from sharing! Face Book is a PG 13 platform!!!

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♥️Each of my bra cups covers my mouth and nose perfectly. Inside, the push up foam acts as a filter. Totally breathable. And washable. I started my lil’ project last night – I have to put the ribbons through its corners so I can tie it on my face. I am hopeful. Doing my part. Following Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus, Dr. Hirsh and Worcester Mayor Petty’s directive. It is a new kind of law here in Worcester. We are all supposed to wear facial masks in supermarkets.

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☕So, ladies, let’s wave our flags! Let’s save our city! And remember: When the going gets tough, the soft get going!

♥️Love you! Stay safe!

**********

♥️🎶♥️🎶:

Palm Sunday. Coronavirus morning …

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

This a.m: My breakfast – because it is all I’ve got left in my kitchen cabinets:
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Tuna and Triskets. Bleh. But I am desperate, I am hungry, so I will wolf it all down.
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Now I’v just got oatmeal and orange sauce. Am I eating alphabetically these days? No, phonetically! And I am hungry! So I park my tastebuds in the discarded Bumblee can and eat. I grew up poor in Green Island. I know what I have to do to survive.

God, help me. I would prefer to be eating the my Water Street’s Widoff Bakery bulkies, slathered with soft butter, and planning a fun day with my two dogs! But this is the new reality, how things roll these days … days of death, days of a global pandemic, with no cures in sight. … Yet. We humans – all over the globe – are thrown back hundreds and hundreds of years, and we are left with the remedies our Neandethal ancestors were left with during killer epidemics: STAY AWAY FROM ME, Freddo! GO DIE QUIETLY, ALONE, IN YOUR OWN CAVE, Rita! And the strong drink water! Eat! Pray to the clay gods and the cave paintings painted in bloodroot.

During these COVID-19 Days/Daze this atheist prays her Hail Mary’s, not because I’ve found Jesus, but because they remind me of my late mom, who prayed her Hail Mary’s three or four times a day – in our Lafayette Street kitchen, in the morning before we little kids were up for breakfast, before I headed out to my beloved Lamartine Street School. “Ma” prayed on one of our rickety wooden kitchen chairs that she had pulled out from the green wooden (so ugly) kitchen table and placed in the middle of our kitchen where she faces the open window, and sunlight, and a picture of Jesus, hammered into the kitchen wall, a few inches above our icebox. She kneels on the kitchen chair, blesses herself and hangs onto the back of the kitchen chair for balance. It is her mother’s beatup paintining of The Virgin Mary she is whispering to. An heirloom in our slummy tenement. My late mother, in all her strength and moral beauty …
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Rose’s mom, Cecelia, in downtown Worcester, circa 1961

… beams down her love and strength onto me these awful days of ventilators (not enough), old ladies sewing pretty, but useless, cloth face masks, youngish doctors dying in their hospitals as they save the HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS of moaning, begging, crying, sick patients – some of them waiting for help for 5 hours in their gurneys parked in the ER hallway – the docs leaving their little sons and daughters back home, waiting for them … orphans. Like me without Ma! But I was old when I lost her, and I enjoyed my childhood with her. Because of her.

Did I mention my mother was enchanting? So was my Polish immigrant grandmother, Bapy, … and my pretty aunties:
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WW II – on the roof of The Block, Bigelow Street

Today, before I go grocery shopping and pick up other necessities, I eat crap and miss EVERYBODY! Even a nemesis or two. Or three. Or four or five.😢 Today, I recite, whispering over my dogs and my cup of black coffee, …
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… my Hail Mary’s. For my enemies!… Hatred. Such a waste of LOVE, the lifeforce!

I cannot WAIT TO GO OUT DOORS TODAY! Who, knew, as Michael Moore says during one of his Rumble Podcast, that we humans are hardwired to be around our fellow humans! That we CRAVE PHYSICAL CONNECTION, the surging, dirty-faced masses! That we want to rub shoulders against ALL PEOPLE, the beautiful COVID 19 asymptomatic and beautiful symptomatic COVID 19 hoi polloi! So good to see you, my Woo friends! I know – cuz it happens every time – that as I take my large McDonalds coffee and quibble over napkins with the takeout girl in the window – my heart will swell with JOY! I am JUST SO FREAKIN’ HAPPY TO SEE HER! And those golden arches! And that prosaic stretch of Greenwood Street! And that gas station with my pal at the cash register! And the sky above! And maybe a seagull or two diving outa the clouds to pick up a stray Wendy’s french frie! Hooray!!! … Last week I saw a woman standing in the Burlington parking lot feeding scores of swooping seagulls hunks of bread from a big plastic garbage bag. She was smiling! HAPPY TO BE OUTDOORS TOO! TO SEE PEOPLE AND SEAGULLS IN ALL THEIR BIG BELLIED BEAUTY. Amen.

Today, as I get my $1 special McDs coffee, I will be so slaphappy ecstatic!!! HELLO, WORCESTER! HELLO, BEAUTUFUL ROUTE 20 STRIP MALL! I ADORE YOU! Every brick that needs repointing! Every door that needs sanitizing! … On to CVS … Every pothole that sends me and Jett and Lilac flying in my jalopy! I love you, too! My car is such a piece of crap!!! GOD LOVE IT!

Yesterday I was cruising Youtube, picking out songs for this post. I wanted the tunes to reflect these COVID 19 days: societal collapse, pain, anxiety, darkness, death. So I looked for the dark, devil lovin’ Stones …

… another tune:

… But I ended up being attracted to:

…and then finally choosing this song to encapsulate my feelings these days. Choosing Armstrong, our earth, our animals, love OVER DEATH. AS WE ALL DO! Because we are human. Because, despite these temporary hard times, we human beings and our planet earth will endure. We are BRILLIANT. ♥️:

Our Coronavirus Sci-Fi Prez

By Rosalie Tirella

Wow. Here we all are – in our own science fiction novel. Dystopian with classic characters and situations:

THE EVIL PRESIDENT/KING who misleads the people to stay in power and maintain his cult of personality. The rush to supply stores to buy THAT LAST TINY BOTTLE OF HAND SANITIZER! IT COULD SAVE LIVES! There is NO VACCINE! WE MUST ALL USE COMMON SENSE … but, at the end, it will mean ruthlessly fending for ourselves and our families. Scientests are working hard to make a vaccine, BUT THE KING PRESIDENT HIDES AND DENIES THE SCIENCE. He doesn’t make (for every man, woman and child) – and we🇺🇸 can – THE CORONAVIRUS TEST. He continues to spend Billions$$$ on THE SPACE FORCE. AND BOMBS. So … it is survival of the fittest. The young and healthy will survive …the old – our moms, dads, grandparents – may die as the puny number of VENTILATORS AND RESPIRATORS are given – by the doctors – to the peeps with the most potential: young worker bees …

THIS IS AMERICA TODAY – FOR THE NEXT HALF YEAR OR SO. Some experts predict TWO YEARS.

And our mad/king president Trump is NOT UP TO THE CRISIS. He is no FDR during WW II or JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis. HE IS A FU* *ING MORON. We, his people, all know this. There is talk of a soft coup … FBI just quietly asking him to step aside, self-quarantine for a while. … Then we get Pence – the VEEP who calls his wife Mama and let scores of AIDS patients die when he ruled Indiana…

My sci fi novel outline … Needs a hero. Maybe MICHAEL MOORE AND HIS PODCAST RUMBLE♥️. MAYBE SOME GENIUS KID AT WPI who makes the vaccine next week …

******
OUR SCI-FI TALE’S MAD KING/PRES:

😢


😢

Two-Tier…Two Tears

By Rosalie Tirella

Yesterday, I know I looked silly, but I decided to eat my lunch in the old Green Street parking lot. Deep in the parking lot, in my car, yards away from shored-up banks of dirt, big gaping holes in the land, big trucks and the far-off hum of construction equipment, too many tools and trucks to count or tease out the specific sounds … of jack hammers, cranes, forklifts, hoses. TOO MANY TOO COUNT!!! And all in that gawd-awful safety color yellow. A Kelley Square STUFFED WITH URBAN RENEWAL MAYHEM!

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Lunch time! pics: R.T.

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Green Street – construction city

The Picket Parking lot is on the edge (near downtown/the Green Street Bridge) of my old stamping grounds – Green Street/Kelley Square, the shopping district of my childhood where there was so much fun – and pain. I let it all wash over my old face: memories of an immigrant neighborhood filled with great/crazy people, food, small businesses, big dreams. No one was trying to be unique back then – no one humble bragged on Facebook about their recent jaunt to Disneyland (we were all too poor to go anywhwre!), but we all were so kick a*s!♥️ DIFFERENT, UNIQUE, WEIRD, and wounded …

So yesterday I ate, seriously, quietly, inside my car, my mutts in the back seat, deep inside the Pickett Municipal parking lot, my Broadway lunch. A big bagel cheese and veggie sandwich with fresh homefries made by Broadway sweet short order cook “Iggly,” who chats with me while he makes my lunch. He calls me “talented” in a matter of fact way while dropping my bagel in the wide-slatted toaster. I smile widely and feel like a million bucks. The Old Worcester!

The Pickett parking lot, soon to be defunct. Soon to be a Woo Sox stadium entrance cum pocket park. In a city that is slow to physically transform itself, a city where it COMFORTS me to drive by the my old, 100-year-old elementary school and the 100-year-old three deckers of my Green Island girlhood, SO MANY BIG CHANGES HAPPENING. … Me and my ilk about to fall over the edge.

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Changes

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Looking at all the construction trucks and big holes and shored-up banks of dirt, I think: THAT IS WHAT THE POWERS THAT BE WANT TO HAPPEN. Us to go away, quietly fade away …

I look out my car window as I drive outa the lot, having eaten my excellent lunch, and see all the well off – and the very poor and homeless!! – in the Canal District. They walk by each other but don’t mix. Or maybe we mix but definitely do not match! … Nothing for us underclassers…All the new construction and still NO FULL SERVICE BANK BUILT for poor locals who don’t own cars…still no Price Chopper or real supermarket that is affordable…THAT ACCEPTS EBT CARDS/FOOD STAMPS.

Blatantly two-tier…the way city big wigs want it to be. They want us out. I shed two tears …
… many more …

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⚾⚾⚾⚾⚾

My Kelley Square

By Rosalie Tirella

Yesterday, as I was driving through Kelley Square and dealing with THE TRUCK IN REVERSE, and taking pics of THE TRUCK IN REVERSE, I realized, later on, as I looked at my photos: THERE IS A HUGE TRENDY BAR JUTTING RIGHT INTO KELLEY SQUARE!! And across the street there is another BAR/BBQ feeding into Kelley Square. And up Green Street and on Water Street there are more BARS/GLORIFIED PUBS where patrons can guzzle alcohol – get drunk, whoozy, booze-buzzed – and then DRIVE THROUGH KELLEY SQUARE. Get into their cars and DRIVE RIGHT INTO KELLEY SQUARE TRAFFIC! The rats’ maze that it is now – or the new multi-laned Peanut Mess which will have cars driving thru at a FASTER speed because it will be multi-laned and laid out straight by Mass DOT.

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pics: R.T.

WOW. Think about it – all up and down Green and Water streets: 20 to 25 bars/pubs where you can drink beer, wine, mimosas, martinis … AND THEN DRIVE THROUGH KELLEY SQUARE.

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🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️

So different from my childhood WHEN KELLEY SQUARE WAS REALLY ABOUT WORKING CLASS PEOPLE, THEIR BUSINESSES AND THEIR KIDS. I grew up on Lafayette Street and felt: Kelley Square was a serious/fun biz district that accommodated my mom and us kids. We had:

Jack and Jill children’s clothing store on Green Street – great for First Holy Communion dresses and pocketbooks and Easter dresses

Atlas Fabric Store on Green Street – millions of yards of all kinds of fabric for our moms and grandmas – or anyone who liked to sew skirts, dresses, coats, etc.

Molly the hairdresser for those brillo pad shaped curly perms for moms and grannies – and cheap haircuts for us kids. Cheap and basic.

Then the Automotive Parts Distributors biz on Kelley Sq…and next to it, the blue collar/working class King of Kelley Square, where Allen Fletcher’s building now sits and houses the Wachusett brewery mega bar that juts into Kelley Square: Edward’s Paint. BIG, MAJESTIC, A GIGANTIC NEON SIGN EDWARDS PAINT SIGN. Pink I think. At Edwards: thousands of gallons of paint, paint brushes, rollers, painters pants, paint trays, heavy canvas drop cloths, infinite paint colors … ALL MEANT for Worcester’s contractors, handymen, house painters, do-it-your-selfers. The worker bees of Worcester.🐝🐝🐝🐝

Then Water Street: strictly for families and fun. Not a barroom in sight. A special place for fsmilies overflowing with rootbeer floats, homemade pastrami on rye sandwiches, french fries, apple struddel, blueberry pies, birthday cakes!, Babka Bread, brownies, bismarks, BULKIES!!!!!♥️♥️♥️:

Widoffs Bakery♥️

Lederman’s Bakery♥️

Weintraub’s Deli♥️

Charlies Surplus Sports Store♥️ – kids and adults basketball shorts and jerseys, sweat pants, basketball socks and more! And the gregarious Charlie!♥️

The Broadway Ice Cream Shoppe and restaurant! With its inimitable proprietor, Sam♥️!!! Always Sam looking so natty in his beige sports coat, standing, every Sunday morning, at the Broadway’s front door … to shake hands/greet every man woman and child who walked in! Usually after church – for a hot fudge sundae – icecream made at the Broadway – or a burger and fries or a plate of scrambled eggs, homefries, bagel with cream cheese. Sam made my mom, a single working mom, a counter girl at the dry cleaners on Millbury Street … Sam made Ma feel like a million bucks when she walked in! The warm smile, the handshake, the Hello, girls to us! He made everbody feel special – factory workers, shirt pressers, brick layers, mechanics and short order cooks.

Water Street was great! No bars. No pubs. No booze. … ABSOLUTELY BUILT FOR workers, then KIDS AND PARENTS – AND FUN AND SUGAR HIGHS! You could spend your day on Water and Green streets AND DRIVE HOME THROUGH KELLEY SQUARE unscathed. Or you could walk across it, like Ma, me and my kid sisters did. Holding hands. Looking two, three, four ways … serious but feeling safe.

Crossing Kelley Square with a grin because we just had icecream cones at the Broadway or bought a dozen bulkies for home at Widoffs. All affordable – all made for the working families of the neighborhood, Green Island and Vernon Hill – and any other Worcester guy or gal with a few bucks in his or her pocket.

My uncle’s gold Electra sailed effortlessly through Kelley Square – with all of us kids and grownups in it – to the 290 on ramp…He had just bought two dozen bulkies at Widoffs. For sandwiches my mother and aunt would make at the beach…We were going to Hampton Beach and sailing through our beloved Kelley Square to get there …

🎶😉🎶😉♥️:

“Jo,” don’t go!♥️

Text and pics by Rosalie Tirella

Driving in downtown Worcester yesterday …

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Front Steet

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…I spied Worcester City Council sweetheart-gadfly “Jo” – the old woman who, for several years, attended each and every Worcester City Council meeting, every Tues nite. And each Tuesday nite Jo got up and calmly railed against the stupidity and pointlessness of Worcester and our elected officials. No one ever really “got” what she was saying, but listening to Jo you felt Worcester was on the brink of an existential crisis. Long grey hair in a smooth pony tail – or in a puffy bouffant sometimes – umbrella and tote bag in hand, a tan raincoat on her slim body, Jo was our inner-city prophet – sometimes speaking in tongues we did not understand. Yet the council – everyone in the room – was always respectful. Haughty yet ever ready with a thin-lipped smile, Jo was da*n serious when she stood up to pontificate – for the papers and the public record and her sense of purpose: WORCESTER’S SIDEWALKS WERE A MESS, THE LEADERS OF THE CITY CLUELESS, THE INFRASTRUCTURE NONEXISTENT. … Didn’t we all get it? Couldn’t we SEE?

Not really.

Still, it broke my heart when I saw a disheveled, confused looking Jo walking down Front Street. Without that sense of haughty purpose. Without that lean, clean, angular walk – sometimes too hell bent on fixing Woecester to walk on our crumby sidewalks! She walked in the gutter, agsinst downtown traffic.

So it was no surprise to hear that this winter, while walking the streets of Worcester, she was hit by a truck. A plow truck.

Seeing her at a shop, seeing her in our downtown – NOT SEEING HER AT CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS – makes me sad. … I called out to her from my car when I saw her on Front Street yesterday: Hi, Jo! Do you need a lift? Where are you going? Walking past CVS, she said: The Worcester Court House! … A sweet Latina girl helped her cross the street and get into my car. My mutts were happy to see a new person in the jalopy, I held her coffee as she struggled to get in. The girl held her bag and eased her in … A Mass State Police SUV pulled up aside of me: A PROBLEM?! … I said: No officer, this woman has special needs. I am giving her a ride. He hurumphed: YOU’RE BLOCKING TRAFFIC.

In the car Jo immediately told me I had the heat on too high and that her legs were burning up from my heater. “It’s a mild day,” she said, giving me that famous don’t you get it? look. Exasperated at my stupidity. …She had a point. It WAS pretty mild out yesterday.

She wore a big grey plastic neck brace. Her pocketbook was old and faded in spots, her shoes too big, her hair chopped like from razor strokes or a crazy at home infront of the mirror haircut. Four inch, two inch strands of hair jutted out from the back of her head.

I said: Are you Ok? Safe? A place to live? She said YES. What about a social worker from Elder Services popping over to help? I asked. She said: Nope. I am an independent sort. Besides, my building is a dump. I said: We haven’t seen you at council meetings. She said: Soon. She is still recovering from being hit by a truck.

I dropped Jo off at the Worc Courthouse on Main and made a mental note of the newer clothing, pocketbook, shoes Jo needed. Then I texted Dorrie for the goodies…

And as Jo, now hunchbacked and unsteady in the slush, trudged to the Courthouse Library, I yelled: SEE YOU AT CITY COUNCIL, JO!

Got it, Elliott!

By Rosalie Tirella

Yesterday, I took my dogs out to the country for a run. Foggy ride up the hills, foggy meadow at the top. I tried to watch my ghost dogs … couldn’t see them. But a shout or two or three from me, and out of the mist … Lilac, front paws outstretched and muddy and snow-covered … still carrying her winter fat, but wanting to RUN REALLY FAST, despite her layer of chub. Jett running, too, wearing his relaxed Husky “smile,” as I shout “HOME, JETT!” He’s in love with me and I him.

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Yesterday: fogsville. pic: Rose T.

❄️In my car it is all Elliott Smith all the time these days on my CD player … So, for the ride home, I pop in his first solo CD: “Elliott Smith.” Songs Smith wrote when he was 17, 19. His songs are BRILLIANT. ALL OF THEM. Not a dud in the bunch – and he was prolific! Smith’s songs are wonderfully melodic … my brain unreels, gets cozy, when I listen to them. But his lyrics are brutal, mournful, angry, witty, wry: PURE PUNK. So … yesterday, driving home, down the big hill in New England-winter time, white fog and mist enveloping my jalopy, struggling to follow the disappearing curve in the road, my feelings raw, I HEARD – FOR THE FIRST TIME – his “Southern Belle.”

And I got it.

Got his story – to me: the Southern Belle = his mom (he was born and spent his childhood in Texas). The killer of the Southern Belle = his stepdad. The narrator of the song = Elliott, a youth, the once upon a time little child who was sexually abused, molested, by his step dad. Elliott is adding it all up AND EXPLODING. In his song he nails his step dad’s – a preacher – personality. A screamer who makes others feel like crap. “You give people hell/It’s what they expect from you …” A preacher preachin’ , a sick f**k who ruined the Southern Belle’s (Elliott’s mom) life. Elliott sings: Aren’t you “sorry that you’re the one she got?”

He hates his stepfather for doing secret, terrible things to him – this hypocritical pillar of the community: “How come you’re not ashamed of what you are?” … “I wouldn’t have you how you want”

Elliott doesn’t want to be around his stepdad – he leaves home, runs away, at 14 to move in with his psychiatrist (biological) Dad in Portland, Oregon. “I don’t want to walk around/and breathe the air you breathe” he sings to his step dad. Softly. Enraged. He wonders HOW CAN YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF after what he did to a little kid – him? “How come you’re not ashamed of what you are?” And for wrecking his mom’s life: “and sorry that you’re the one she got.”

The sick secrets of a child molester, Elliott nails them: “Aint nobody looking now. Nobody about to shout …” Seeing “red” – the community doesn’t see red, the alarms don’t go off. The predator’s a phony and his prey are quiet, helpless children.

In the song, only when I play the CD in my car CD player, can you really hear Smith’s devastation – which, I believe, he never overcame, stabbing himself twice in the heart at 34 and killing himself. …

… “But I wouldn’t have you how you want,”(me to be) Elliott sings angrily but with such intimacy. YOU MADE ME YOUR VICTIM – I WON’T BE YOUR VICTIM! And he isn’t when he’s singing and writing and performing to show, figure out and transcend his pain. Even for only a song. … You hear: Elliott shredding his guitar strings – this sounds, on his acoustic guitar, positively percussive! Loud without the volume! … Shaken, struggling to drive thru the fog, I had to pull into someone’s driveway yesterday to regroup and whisper … WOW.


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