Category Archives: Rosalie’s Blog

Worcester Public Schools, face the changes

By Rosalie Tirella

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Teaching – more than books and pens … CECELIA file photos.

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Our city kids are up against a lot – the WPSchools must strive to improve every student’s chances for a good life.

Hoping the new Worcester School Commitee is serious about hiring more minority teachers for our public schools. Squeezed-out Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Maureen Binenda gave the idea lip service. Nothing more. A product of the good old Irish boys Worcester political network, a system rife with nepotism, Binenda was thrown under the bus by the present Worcester School Committee, her boss, after the Worcester School Committee/City of Worcester was face to face with a lawsuit demanding district representation, a way to bring more minorities and poor people into the school committee mix.

The City’s inequitable at-large system kept our school committee white and West Side. District representation on the Worcester School Committee is gonna finally happen – or else embarrassing, expensive court time. A blood bath for all. By voting to hire a new WPS school superintendent who most likely will be a person of color or, at the very least, not be one of the city’s good ol’ boys or gals, Worcester’s self-dealing political machine hopes to placate the local NAACP and the city’s growing number of minority leaders – and save individual political skins.

All this after the Worcester School Committee voted AGAINST district representation several years ago – to save their seats on the school committee. No one wants to relinquish power and dough $$$. It takes a fight. In this case it took the threat of a very ugly, very public lawsuit by Worcester minority leaders for the city’s political machine to finally capitulate: dump Maureen Binenda, make district representation on the school committee a reality – and HIRE MINORITY TEACHERS for a minority-majority school district: the Worcester Public Schools.

None of this will make our public schools much stronger. Decades ago I was a substitute teacher in the Hartford Public Schools, a majority-minority school district, staffed by mostly Black teachers and school principals – a school system in state receivership. It was one of the poorest and neediest school districts in the country. Most of the teachers, my colleagues, were excellent: smart, super-educated, professional, good people who came to school every day to make a difference. They welcomed me, a young white woman, into their school and treated me with grace and kindness. … But they couldn’t erase the extreme poverty, family dysfunction of their students. They were up against it all because Hartford’s public schools students and families were up against it all. The same will happen with Worcester. Still, it’s important that Worcester’s political leaders and public servants are reflective of the city they serve … And that Worcester keeps striving to be open to all people via jobs, housing, education and more. That’s how a city evolves into something better …

Tom and America

By Rosalie Tirella

You know our country is going to he*l when you go to AutoZone for some motor oil and the Latino kid – really about a young MAN about 20 years old – is in the parking lot next to you, standing before his beautiful new sports car and blabbing on his terrific smart phone and DEMANDING the AutoZone counter kid “POP OPEN MY HOOD” AND FIND HIS MOTOR OIL hole and “OPEN IT” and pour the motor oil in. I looked at this dipstick, dumbstruck. I thought every red blooded American boy knew how to pop open his car hood … and add motor oil. Plus read dipsticks, change a flat tire, maybe change oil. In the 1950s and ’60s every Dad taught his son to drive and basic car maintenance. My late father could take a car apart and put it back together. He had a junky truck which he loved working on, usually with his junkyard German shepherd dog lying a few yards away, snoozing in the shade. When and if he came home, he entered our Lafayette Street apartment with grease on his white tee shirt and his hands black. He used to buy this special grainy soap to wash his hands clean. I tried it once. It hurt my hands it was so gritty!

All WW II guys loved playing under the hood. For hours. When I was a kid most of my boy cousins were into cars and fixing them – adding all kinds of bells and whistles like exhaust pipes that roared or shiny new hub caps for car wheels. There was always a bottle of Armoral hub cap cleaner and buckets of soap bubbles and hoses to wash their babies down. Often they had white bucket seats in front. And stick shifts. At Providence Street Junior High we had a Car Club – open to boys and girls, ninth graders only. Mr. Chiras taught the class in the school parking lot, using his station wagon as the classroom. My friend Ann joined the club, along with a ton of boys and girls – some of whom already knew how to drive. In Car Club Ann learned how a car worked, how to charge a car battery, how to change the car’s oil, how to jack up the car and remove a tire and put on the spare tire. She was 13 1/2.

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Grafton Street AutoZone. pics: R.T.

The was all below the ignorant kid standing by me at AutoZone. A Latino fella who did not even watch when the AutoZone staffer, another Latino kid who KNEW about cars, did his dirty work for him. I watched the kid play on his phone. At 60 I feel I know enough about life to opine in public. The old broad looked at the kid and said: You know when I was your age EVERY YOUNG MAN KNEW HOW TO OPEN THE HOOD AND POUR HIS OWN MOTOR OIL. WATCH HIM AND LEARN. … DIDN’T YOUR FATHER TEACH YOU HIW TO DO THESE THINGS?

The kid looked at me and said: NO. I’M ALL ALONE. By myself.

I said, half believing him: “Yep. That’s the problem these days.” Then I added, disgusted: THIS COUNTRY IS REALLY FU*KED UP. Then I walked into AutoZone and asked the other kid, Tom, pictured here…
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Tom🇺🇸🇺🇸

… to help me out. I said: meet my new jalopy. Always able to do for myself but I can’t open the hood! …Tom got my motor oil, walked out of the store into the AutoZone parking lot, showed me where to place my fingers, popped the hood and read the oil dipstick. I decided one quart of motor oil would be good and Tom was nice enough to pour the oil in, then screw the cap, then read the dipstick again, then wipe my motor oil bottle clean and then he proceeded, with his white work cloth, to wipe off the oil that missed the hole and had spilled on my engine. I didn’t want a funnel. Late for an appointment. He smiled as he gave me my oil back. He went on to help the next customer in the same knowledgeable, courteous way. I was dumbstruck: Tom was the exact opposite of the other kid. He was respectful, nice, smart, hardworking. The kid with the new car and phone did not have a smidgen of dirt on him. He looked down on Tom and the others – just servants in dirty brown uniforms.
Tom looked like a young working man. Tom was my hero. Of course America doesn’t reward a smart professional kid just starting out: he was most likely making minimum wage …not a $15 living wage. He was scrawny and looked underfed. I wonder if he even owned a car…and what make and year? Tom …

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Free community college for American youth – guys like Tom.

I guessed the entitled Latino kid was being kept by a girlfriend. Or maybe still living with his mother.

I thanked Tom and got into my car, angry. American society, our economy, should reward a Tom. Instead he is exploited. Instead…NO FREE COMMUNITY COLLEGE WHERE HE COULD TAKE SOME BUSINESS CLASSES OR LEARN MORE AUTO BODY REPAIR. Or earn his associates degree in a subject he really loves. Nope. The Republicans killed that part of the Biden Bill, as did Joe Manchin, a senator from COAL COUNTRY WHERE THERE ARE A MILLION TOMS.

I drove away upset and ashamed of our country, our families, our disdain for the next generation, if it’s poor …

So I stopped the car. Got out a card and long envelope. Wrote: THANK YOU TOM FOR BEING SO KNOWLEDGEABLE AND PROFESSIONAL. – Rose

I put a $10 bill in the card, stuck it in the envelope, sealed the envelope and drove back to the Grafton Street AutoZone where I found Tom with a customer, squatting before a shelf looking for the right brake fluid for the person. I gave him the envelope. THANK YOU, Tom! I said as I handed him his tip. It was so little but the least I could do.

President Joe Biden and Congress must help kids like Tom better their lives through education. Community College for free. Usually it’s the only way up in the world for the Toms in our lives. THEY DESERVE IT.

UMASS MEMORIAL HEALTH CARE CHUMP CHANGE! Remember the Plumley Village Health Clinic!!

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose just turned 60. Low-income writers need access to great inner-city health clinics so they stay healthy! pics:R.T.

Yeah, UMass Memorial Health Care system just donated a cool million$$ for Health Equity initiatives in Worcester, but (a few years ago) they CLOSED THEIR PLUMLEY VILLAGE HEALTH CENTER! They did the health care damage they are trying to undo now with this one-time contribution. Pennies …

Two years ago Worcester city councilors, the public housing project’s families and the center’s patients, from PLUMLEY, begged UMass to keep their UMass health center open. For their physicals. Their health screenings, diabetes screening and monitoring. Asthma help. Pediatric care. Vaccines. Nutrition counseling. Xrays. EKGs. Referrals.

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UMass Memorial health care shut down their terrific Plumley Village Health Clinic a few years ago – it was a place where low-income Plumley residents could get medical help for diabetes and other health issues.

The Plumley families cited the great health care they got at their health center, a 2-minute walk from their apartments. Many residents don’t have cars. … They said their families KNEW THEIR DOCTORS AND NURSES – and loved them. Advocates said poor folks from PLUMLEY HAD CONSISTENT HEALTH CARE at their UMass clinic, MUCH OF IT PREVENTIVE … which saved society $$$$ in the long run. But no, UMass, like any corporation seeking to save millions $$$$, was adamant and cold. The UMass Memorial president and board of directors opted for the brutal way: take out the Plumley beloved docs and health care providers of this inner-city clinic, remove the diagnostic equipment and close its doors … forever.

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Type 2 Diabetes can worsen as you get older, if you don’t have medical assistance. Many people of color and poorer folks struggle with diabetes and are helped at neighborhood health clinics.

Now UMass Memorial throws this bone to Worcester’s poor.

Chump change.

They think we’re stupid. Remember: UMass Memorial health care recently received a $175 million DONATION!!!! Which the UMass poo-bas say they’ll use for RESEARCH. Screw the city’s poor! Screw great public health care!

The people of PLUMLEY VILLAGE want their UMass neighborhood health clinic back!! UMass must use some of their $$$millions upon millions of dollars they just received as THEIR BIGGEST DONATION EVER to REOPEN THE PLUMLEY VILLAGE HEALTH CENTER.

NOW.

WHY NOT MAKE COLUMBUS DAY “ITALIAN HERITAGE DAY”?

By Rosalie Tirella

I get it: We must ditch Columbus Day. Let’s forgeddabout the Nina, the Santa Maria and the third ship Christopher Columbus sailed over from Italy in his global quest for rare, exotic spices (that’s what we were taught as students at Lamartine Street School while we colored our paper plate Columbus ships for Columbus Day). And no, the guy in colorful tites, with that big plume stuck in his puffy silk hat did NOT accidentally discover America. The Mr. Magoo cartoon we Baby Boomers watched on TV every October, before the Peanuts Great Pumpkin Halloween TV special, got it wrong. It was all a lie. Or confusion. Or fantasy. Or a revisionist retelling of the history we wanted to believe. Myth making at its most desperate.

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We Italian-Americans are proud of our artists – some of the greatest in the world!

More damning, once in the New World, Columbus, like all the European explorers of his time, embraced slave labor and genocide. All in the name of acquiring new lands for Queenie Isabella or King this or that – and personal riches. Columbus was the beginning of the end for native peoples in the Americas and pretty much the beginning of All Things Beautiful and Horrific from Europe. So, yes, there was horrible horrible death…but there was life, too: Herman Melville, John Coltrane, Neil Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, the Pilgrims, the US Constitution, Teddy Roosevelt, Jane Austin, Nikki Giovanni, Sylvia Plath, Mark Twain, JFK, Richard Wright, The Band, MLK Jr, Chuck Berry … and Frank Sinatra. And Dean Martin. And Frankie Valle. And Bobby Darren. And Tony Bennet. And Mario Cuomo. And Martin Scorsese. And Al Pacino. And Joe Mantegna. … And my grandmother Maria, from Northern Italy, who settled with her no-account husband Sabino (my grandfather) in Worcester’s “Summit” neighborhood. Maria gave Sabino 10 kids, and he gave his mistress up the street presents. Sabino, a ladies’ man extraordinare, was a traveling Italian grocer. Every day he’d drive his little food delivery truck to Boston’s North End to pick up terrific Italian sausages, cheeses and breads; then he’d drive back to Worcester to sell them fresh to his Italian customers. He beat his kids – especially my father – and during Prohibition he was a bootlegger. He wore spats.

But Maria was a loving person. She put her heart into her big brood, had a garden the size of a city pocket park and cooked and baked Italian food from scratch, most of the ingredients coming from her ginormous garden. She sent two kids out of the 10 to college – and one to Hollywood where he painted movie sets/scenery. One son, Al, had a swinging jazz band in Worcester during the Tommy Dorsey craze. And her youngest, the small Georgey, around 5 feet tall and a City of Worcester mechanic (he worked on the City garbage trucks and called them “honey wagons”), played the banjo and was the sweetest husband in the world, according to my Aunt Rita, who still misses her long passed soul mate.

We Italians can be wild, dramatic…even violent. But we can love like crazy: our kids, our dogs, our cats, our soul mates, our soul food, music, church and art. My grandmother Maria was no Sophia Loren, and I don’t know if she could carry a tune. But she PERSISTED. In America. She raised her children in Worcester, Massachusetts. She was self-sufficient and had a ferocious work ethic. As did Frank Sinatra’s mom, I imagine. And Mario Cuomo’s. And Martin Scorsese’s.

Italian Americans don’t know who the he*l Christopher Columbus is and we really don’t care. But we came to America and put the work in – we deserve a little credit. We, like the Irish, like the Brits, like the Africans, like the French, like every immigrant rag tag band of bounders poured our hearts and souls into this freakin’ place. Contributed. Big time. Our history, our lives, in America shouldn’t be demonized.

We can make November Native American Month and learn, mourn, celebrate, improve … grow as a nation! But let’s keep the real meaning behind Columbus Day, what the day and the parades and the homemade marinara sauce really mean to us Italian-Americans – a day to celebrate US in America! Not Columbus! But my grandmother Maria! And Mario Cuomo!And Frank Sinatra! And millions of proud Italian-AMERICANS. Just rename it: ITALIAN HERITAGE DAY.

Presto. Now, that’s Italian!

BILL COLEMAN RUNS FOR WORCESTER CITY COUNCILOR AND MAYOR. AGAIN.

By Rosalie Tirella

Perennial Worcester City Councilor and Mayoral candidate Bill Coleman is running for political office again. This November. … Billy wrote this cover story for us years ago:

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🙂

He was running for Worcester City Councilor and Mayor back then, too. Again. He was all over the city posting his already yellow, faded political signs in pals’ lawns. They’d seen better days even back then. But he was in his 50s years ago … youngish. And we were younger, too. Plus, we really didn’t understand the Coleman modus operandi back then, his insatiable need for attention, his habit of always finding the camera’s view finder, to be leading whatever rag tag political parade that caught his fancy that week. Or hour. Bill blew wherever the political winds blew him. But he was…loveable.

Was Bill a Republican? A progressive African American Civil Rights crusader? Was he pro-business? Anti-anything?

Over the years we saw how Bill would climb aboard – and hijack – any hot popular Worcester issue and get his photo in the papers. Just to be in the thick of the excitement? Just to satiate his bottomless ego that was bigger than the bottomless cups of coffee he swigged at his beloved Pickle Barrel in Piedmont?

Most people at Worcester City Hall believed: Yes.

So they dismissed Bill Coleman, laughed him off. Sometimes while sitting three feet away from him at a candidate forum.

We endorsed Bill. Every election cycle. Every political September or November. We endorsed this friendly, energetic African American guy who loved city politics and so wanted to be a local political mover and shaker. This being Worcester, Bill always lost. Black, not born and raised in Wormtown, Billy was rebuffed by the city’s power brokers/pols … even as they glad handed him and shouted: HEY, BILLY!

But Bill was not entirely rejected by the voters who saw him all over Worcester painting American flags on junkyard fences and more. He had a few good years – especially the one where we essentially gave him the covers of InCity Times …

Here it is 20 years later and Billy is back at it – running for Worcester city councilor and mayor. Again. He is thin. I am fat. He is … cynical for Bill Coleman. I am … hopeful for Rosalie. He is not as helpful as in the old days. I’m burned out, too. He walks with a hitch. Me too.

We talked over the phone this morning. I pulled no punches. I said: BILL, WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE?! THE VOTERS HAVE REJECTED YOU! FOR YEARS!

Bill said: Rose, didn’t you ever learn that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?

So I’m saying nothing.

I will, however, VOTE FOR BILL COLEMAN.

Again.

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Bill Coleman, years back, standing before one of his American flags.🇺🇲🇺🇲🇺🇲

Worcester’s SMOC vs THE PIP and how they help/helped our homeless

By Rosalie Tirella

PIP photos, taken a few days ago:
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pics by R.T.

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The Charlton rooming house, right, run by CECELIA’s old writer and pal Ron O’Clair who ate at the PIP and liked Buddy and crew but was never too thrilled with the high PIP clients who sometimes hung out on the neighborhood street. Across from Ronny’s bedroom.

SMOC photo, taken last week:

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The huge SMOC building in Piedmont, located on the corner of Chandler Street and Park Ave. What untapped potential – it can be a great affordable housing complex! But SMOC, SOUTH MIDDLESEX OPPORTUNITY COUNCIL, based in Framingham, lets it go fallow. Five staffers, led by Chris Orcutt, don’t really serve Worcester’s homeless.

Let’s compare and contrast these two HUMONGOUS BUILDINGS and the nonprofits who run/ran them. First they are two of Worcester’s in-city behemoths. The PIP building is located at the corner of Main and Charlton streets, in Main South. The SMOC building located at the corner of Chandler Srreet and Park Ave. In the city’s Piedmont neighborhood.

The PIP – no longer but once owned by a local nonprofit and run by a board of directors and Executive Director Buddy Brousseau. We ran a cover story on the PIP 17 years ago in InCity Times. I went in and took pics and got a tour courtesy of Buddy; our intern went in and wrote the piece. We learned: THE PIP WAS NOT A DRUGGY FLOP HOUSE. IT WAS A COMPASSIONATE AND COMPREHENSIVE social service agency that cared for the city’s chronically homeless- often drug addicted on many levels: socially, medically, emotionally, as well as offering on the first floor hot meals at night, breakfast, showering facility, male/female sleeping quarters with clean cots with blankets. On the second floor there was the AA and NA meeting room – clean and filled with chairs. On the third floor there was a Cafe and game room where clients could drink coffee and eat fresh fruit and play board games like checkers and Monopoly. On the top floor was the commercial coffee roaster and coffee business – with some profits going to the PIP. I ought know: I went out with the coffee guy, Peter. Let’s just say Peter was …interesting. Brilliant, he had a degree from Columbus University and his MSW from UConn. He was one of the PIP’s social workers- and a terrific writer with several unpublished novels under his belt. Peter blew up the coffees roaster – donated to the PIP by Dan, owner of GOOD AS GOLD COFFEE on Green Street, back when we Baby Boomers supported each other and tried to change the world. Dan gave Peter the free roaster, Buddy gave his pal Peter the free space, I gave Peter the free ads. In a nut shell we were all taken in and screwed by the little charmer…who called me four years ago, YEARS AFTER WE HAD BROKEN UP, to leave me this message: “Hello, Rose. It’s Peter.” I thought: OH NO and deleted the message.

But I digress: the PIP had a terrific Latino doctor who monitored PIP clients’ blood pressure, diabetes, etc. Plus he bandaged them up if they came in bloody from the streets. A Saint. A million stores written about the man. There was another social worker besides Peter who advocated for the clients…there was head cook George Orcutt who cooked and cooked and cooked EVERYTHING for EVERYBODY. Another Saint, now passed, along with his mom, an old lady sweating at the kitchen stoves…George and mom catered City of Worcester events – for free. Giving back to the community. Buddy, a recovering alcoholic, called the PIP clients his “brothers and sisters” and gave everyone- including this writer – the best bear hugs. Lovable. Buddy was Lovable.

But Babs and Billy pushed and pushed and the PIP WAS CLOSED DOWN. BOUGHT BY SMOC. And there was no real game plan for Worcester’s homeless…just a patch work of inadequate places and peeps who left our homeless high and dry. So the City of Worcester became THE PIP. WITH HOMELESS PEOPLE AND FAMILIES ALL OVER WORCESTER. In cars, woods, parks, the Canal District, Street corners…

SMOC bought the old MLK BUSINESS EMPOWERMENT CENTER in Piedmont several years ago, hoping to make the huge edifice a new PIP, but abutters whined. So today SMOC has a portapotty and Director Chris Orcutt and his case manager Sammy Rivera. And a few office people. Chris, George’s son, doesn’t have the vision of Buddy or the heart of his dad. Got the job thru Worcester nepotism. SMOC, based in Framingham, has been cowed into DOING NOTHING WITH THEIR BUILDING by the city…So the building is closed for 2 weeks because Chris Orcutt gets COVID. EVERYBODY HOME ON VACA!!! There is no talk of putting in affordable studios or apartments – forget about a shelter. There are no msw social workers like my Peter, or chefs to provide meals like George Orcutt or Buddy Brousseau’s TO REALLY UTILIZE THE BUILDING AND REALIZE A VISION of caring and love for the homeless.

The closest we’ve come to truly caring for the homeless since the PIP’s demise is Father John Madden, Frank Carroll and Bill Riley of St. John’s Church on Temple Street. They’ve covered food, shelter, advocacy AND SAVED HUNDREDS OF LIVES. Bless you.

SMOC IS A JOKE . THEIR BUILDING IS UNDERUTILIZED. CHRIS ORCUTT COULDN’T CARE LESS. Sammy Rivera tries but he’s only one man.

Worcester’s homeless scattered throughout the city because the City has no PIP

By Rosalie Tirella

SMOC HEADQUARTERS- SMOC: Worcester’s premier homeless social service agency – located on the corner of Chandler Street and Park Ave at the end of the Piedmont neighborhood:

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SMOC is housed in the old MLK building. It used to be run by Clarence Thomas who could never get his Black business empowerment center off the ground. SMOC and SMOC’s Chris Orcutt have also let this grand old Worcester building lie fallow. Pics: R.T.

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The MLK building could use some real revitalization!

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The homeless sleep on the Worcester Common BECAUSE WORCESTER HAS NO HOMELESS CARE PLAN.

Run by Chris Orcutt, the son of the late great PIP hero – PIP cook George Orcutt, who even got his mom to volunteer at the wet shelter’s kitchen in Main South. Now, all gone, died, retired, the PIP closed, thanks pretty much to former Main South activist Billy Breault and his old partner in crime former D4 city councilor and fellow Main South resident Barbara Haller.

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Worcester City Council and City Manager Ed Augustus have dropped the ball when it comes to compassionate care of our homeless …

Worcester is still coping with the fallout of the PIP’s closure. Twenty years ago the truly chronically homeless- drug-abusing etc – folks of Worcester County had a real HOME. PIP Director Buddy Brousseau brought in social workers, a Saint of a doctor, volunteers, cooks, and more to CARE for everybody. These days Chris Orcutt and SMOC have dropped the ball and Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus has, in his own oblivious way, sanctioned HOMELESS CAMPS/HIDEAWAYS for our suffering, the ones who need love and care most of all. They’re sleeping under the Green Street bridge, in the woods by the railroad tracks before Greenwood Street, the signage pointing them to the trees and bushes that will shelter them.

George Orcutt / the PIP used to cater City of Worcester events and parties. For free – a gift to the City from Buddy – for understanding. Having a heart.

That’s all changed.

For two weeks SMOC was shut down to clients: Chris Orcutt got COVID and shut his entire brick complex down. And the week before that he was on vacation. Chris had no plan B for his staff to fall back on. It was vacation time for all his staffers, as everyone stayed home! Homeless folks had no one – no Buddy Brousseau to advocate and care for them. No George Orcutt to cook them dinner. No PIP building (the first floor) with cots and blankets for shelter from the elements. No doctor to dress their wounds, no social workers to help them fill out referral forms.

Now Worcester’s homeless are in the woods, in their cars, under bridges, in the Canal District …

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The beginning of Quinsigamond Village, site of the relatively new visitors center and hiking trail/park …

The old PIP – a scourge to Haller and the folks on Charlton and Sycamore streets – DID SERVE A PURPOSE. Now we realize it HELPED the city more than it hurt …

The PIP WAS ABOUT COMPASSIONATE CARE FOR THE HOMELESS. IT KEPT THE HOMELESS POPULATION PRETTY MUCH IN ONE PLACE – THE PIP. Now that the PIP is gone, there’s no one to really wrap their arms around the homeless. No Buddy or George. No Angel Doctor. Now there are STREET CORNERS for panhandling, under the GREEN STREET BRIDGE for fellowship and sleeping, PARKING LOTS in which to rest or relax, LOCAL PARKS/WOODS to camp out/sleep. Heck, one morning I saw a couple roll up their sleeping bags after a night spent sleeping on the Worcester Common, yards away from Worcester City Hall. No one bothered them. They seemed ready to face the day together. It was a compassionate scene.

But we can do better, Worcester. We can move beyond SMOC!

We “slipped” up!

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose’s slip

You know America is falling apart when you visit a major discount department store in Worcester, walk into the ladies “intimate” section and ask the pretty young sales clerk: “Where are your half slips? Or slips?” and she says, “What’s a slip?”

You say, incredulously: YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT A SLIP IS?!!

She says: NO.

You say, it’s something silky women wear under their skirts and dresses so the sunlight or a car headlight doesn’t reveal the crotch area when you’re walking past the light …it’s made of thin material, usually nylon or polyester.

She looks flummoxed.

I say: Don’t you wear a slip when you wear a dress or skirt?

She sweetly stares at me.

It’s like I’m talking to a box of dog biscuits.

So I move onto the next pretty sales clerk in the discount department store and ask her sweetly, because I think the other young sales clerk is the exception to the rule, WHERE ARE YOUR SLIPS?

She says: WHAT’S A SLIP?

Disoriented, befuddled, I walk to the underwear racks and rifle through ALL their intimate apparel: bras, panties, thin “shape wear” – today’s girdles – and their sporty camisoles … several long racks of ladies intimate apparel. No slips. One of the store managers walks by me, curious. I shoot him an angry look but do not ask him for help, ask him if he has any slips. He’s a guy.

I leave the discount department store and drive to another discount department store in Worcester to buy my two half slips. Being on the road means my slips (most given to me by gal pal Dorrie who knows what a slip is and has given me some very pretty ones through the years) are in storage or were chucked in some motel room or pal’s place as my dogs and I search for an affordable apartment in Worcester and Chris Orcutt at SMOC shuts his building down on Chandler Street because he has COVID. This development after his week-long vacation. So my search for housing – and hundreds of other folks’ – is interrupted because Chris is a pointless paper-pusher who doesn’t serve SMOC’s clients. Chris probably doesn’t know what a slip is either.

But I digress. Like I said: It’s been an interesting journey! I’ve lost a lot these past months – antiques, a fake fur coat I planned to send to my sister who has Parkinson’s, a ladies electric razer kit, a bottle of witch hazel … and my half slips. Dorrie’s stepped up but is exasperated. BUY THEM! she texted me, when I texted her: Dorrie, I NEED SOME SLIPS! Large!

So here I am at Marshall’s looking for half slips. Everything looks so classy and put together here. Surely, the attractive young sales clerks will be able to help me. I walk over to one and ask her: WHERE ARE YOUR SLIPS?

She says: WHAT’S A SLIP?

I tell her and she is still stumped. I say: Just point me to your intimate apparel section. She does. It’s the same story here: nylon body shapers, bras, bikini panties, hip hugger panties… but no slips. I decide to buy some panties: cotton, high waisted. Basic. Functional. No go. Everything is polyester! I want cotton! Cotton breathes! Everything is way below the belly button. I want waist-high panties! Fuming, I tear through the five long racks of underwear and, finally, land on some thin cotton hip hugger panties. Large. There are five panties artfully hanging from little clear plastic hangers. They are ugly. I buy them anyways and leave Marshall’s where you can purchase gorgeous on-trend rugs, poofs, furniture and even exotic coffees BUT NO SLIPS.

Dorrie suggested that I go to Good Will. They’d probably have slips there. Just wash them before you wear them! Dorrie instructed me. A new day, a new hunt. I drive to Good Will on Park Ave. I throw caution to the wind and run straight to the Latino kid working the cash register and ask him: Where are your half slips?

He says: What’s a slip?

I crumple on his cash register. Practically in tears, I say: Why don’t you kids know what slips are?! What is wrong with this country?! Your mom probably wears them! Or your older sister! This is unbelievable!!!! This is too much!!

The Good Will kid was a guy but he was sympathetic. I explained to him what a slip was and told him of my quest for TWO FREAKIN’ HALF SLIPS IN THE CITY OF WORCESTER and almost cried. “PLEASE!” I pleaded. “I am so tired!! I just want to buy two half slips. I don’t care about their color. I DON’T EVEN WANT TO GO LOOK FOR THEM!!!

The young Latino kid smiled sympathetically at his distraught customer and walked out from behind his cash register and went into the miles and miles of Good Will clothing racks and knick knacks and electronic shelves and shoes on stands and came back with TWO HALF SLIPS! Nylon. Large. One was black, the other white.

I said, “WOW!!”

He said, “My grandmother buys hers at Walmart.”

Thanks.

When did American ladies – with slips in their hospital overnight bags – give birth to babies who would grow up to wonder aloud: What’s a “slip”?

When hospitals kicked you out hours after you gave birth! When America got cheap and plastic and distracted and half slips were lost to plasma TVs, a 7 dollar minimum wage, MCAS tests, empty churches, millions of guns and not enough unions!

When my mom had me she spent one week – ONE WEEK!! – like all new moms – at Memorial Hospital on Belmont Street recovering from childbirth. For one week she was spoiled by the nurses, visited by her obstetrician. She was served breakfast in bed. Wore pretty pink quilted bed jackets. Visitors came to her bedside with flowers. AND SHE HAD A SLIP FOR UNDER HER DRESS WHEN SHE WAS DISCHARGED FROM MEMORIAL HOSPITAL!

America has changed since I was a kid – the days every girl grew up learning what a slip was! And wore them! Worcester moms bought our slips – and theirs – at Woolworths, Denholms, The Deb Shoppe, The Mart, depending on your economic class. And we girls wore them under our First Holy Communion dresses, prom dresses, school uniforms if we went to Catholic school, first date dresses, Easter dinner outfits for Uncle Mark and Aunt Mary’s …When we took home the leftovers in TUPPERWARE MADE IN THE GRAND USA!

When did we slip up?

Rose Buds

By Rosalie Tirella

Monkey-reaching-out-from-her-cage
He could have been Kane’s monkey …

We’ve all seen the movie 100 times; so I’m not giving anything away … For years, while in my 30s, CITIZEN KANE was my # 1 movie. I think that’s because I was embarking on a newspapering career in earnest, and CITIZEN KANE is, on one level, about a newspaper man: his love of politics and power; his early, crusading journalism; his defense of the hoi poloi/populism, his … hubris. How does a man – or woman – make his/her mark on society? I wondered as I watched this Orson Welles masterpiece. You’re in your prime! You feel unstoppable! Capable of toppling worlds! But Charles Foster Kane showed me you can fu*k up. Royally. You can trash your biz, betray your lovers … grow so full of yourself you end up alone, isolated in your personal castle with … a bunch of jigsaw puzzles. Sure, you call all the shots, but as Jededia (Joseph Cotten) Kane’s best friend and early biz partner and confidante once told Kane, “you’ll just lord it over the monkeys.” Xanadu, Kane’s “pleasure palace,” did, in fact, have a zoo filled with caged, constrained, sad monkeys and other exotic animals …

Older (I’ll be 60 next month), these days when I watch CITIZEN KANE, I focus on the snow globe Kane is clutching on his death bed, then releases when he expires. “ROSE BUD,” he whispers as he dies. In wicked close up, you watch his fingers release the globe, watch it roll away and smash up… This happens in the first few minutes of the movie – the rest of the film is Kane’s life. … you ask: What’s ROSE BUD? Where is ROSE BUD? You spend the rest of the film looking for it …

ROSE BUD was Kane’s childhood sled – the make, the rose bud decal, stained to the top of the sled where you sit. There’s a teeny sled in the snow globe Kane clutches then releases. If he shakes it the teeny plastic snow flakes coming down on the snow globe sled looks exactly like the day Kane’s mom give Kane away to a banker/caretaker. He’s a millionaire now: his mom wants him away from the poverty and his abusive father. His over seer lives in a big city, he’ll grow little Charlie’s fortune, send him away to boarding schools, try educating him at Harvard and Yale … The mine a poor boarder left Mrs. Kane was sitting on oil. Or coal? Doesn’t matter. Little Charlie Kane won – and lost – that day. He won elitism, ease, cosmopolitanism, sycophants… He lost nature, real love, his mom, real play…HOME. The snow globe is worth a penny but encapsulates everything Kane knew was TRUE. Old, alone, dying, Kane holds onto what really mattered to him. He carried it around with him in his castle long before he died. It’s all in that dime store snow globe.

We all have our ROSE BUDs.
Green Island/my late mom/Lafayette Street are my ROSE BUDs. I dream them, as do my sisters. One called me: she had dreamt of our old grey, back door on Lafayette Street, the small panes of glass held in place with grey modeling clay our Jaju had pushed in. And still we were cold in winter. My Jaju’s blocks of clay, our talismans. They bring such comfort today! They meant LOVE. I’ve been longing for them for years, would give anything to see them again …

DESTROYING GREEN ISLAND’S LAFAYETTE STREET

By Rosalie Tirella

20210629_105702
This summer: the upper part of Lafayette Street is a bit more residential than the strip that runs into Millbury Street. That section is car-clogged thanks to an autobody shop run amok. Pic: R.T.

My beloved Green Island Grrrl – as in Girl – street: Lafayette Street. The street I grew up on years ago before it all became the Canal District. My Ma’s street. And Bapy’s. And my kid sisters’. And Rich Gedman’s childhood stamping grounds, too! A five-minute walk to the old Lamartine Street School from our three decker; a 10-minute walk to Millbury Street and its scores of mom and pop shops. Today – I should have snapped a few photos as City workers slapped lime green warning stickers on a ribbon of cars – Lafayette Street has become the personal street of an African autobody business that treats the street like its personal garage/junkyard. These guys have taken over half of Lafayette Street – a pretty long city street! Literally! The neighborhood has the look and feel of a chop shop on steroids, thanks to these morons.

Yes, Lafayette was always zoned residential and industrial but this is nuts: every day 30 or so
cars – in varying degrees of disrepair – all illegally parked onto Scott Street, too – hog every square inch of Lafayette Street streetscape. Engines rev. Car doors open into the middle of the street. Smashed Caddy’s wait in the wings on Scott Street. To drive down Lafayette Street is to think like a trapeze artist whose tight rope is frayed…all the African car guys and their customers walk boldly in the street going from car to car chatting and you drive down your tight rope …fuming.

They talk cars, you quietly curse in your vehicle and wonder why the City of Worcester – Code is on Meade, the next street over – enables these neighborhood polluters and defilers. The source of the street’s ugliness, noise … selfishness.

I grew up on Lafayette Street – it’s what inspired me to start InCity Times two decades ago. Memory upon memory…the people, the pets, the shops, the school teachers…the collective unconscious for so many Eastern European immigrants and their offspring…our ghetto…our American story, rich and instructive and inspiring.

Today? Forget it, kids! You can’t even walk down your own street because the African business guys – immigrants with no respect for other newcomers? – are so greedy, so oblivious, they’ve trashed an entire city street! Its residents deemed worthless by guys who’d brook none of this is their “nicer” Worcester neighborhoods.

The physical company is located in a small two-bay garage – what used to be the old Murhall Sign shop of my childhood. Decades ago it was always neat and self-contained (work never even spilling out onto the sidewalk!) with the sign guys – three or so – going about their work inside. We kids walked to school or church and sheepishly looked inside as their big garage doors were always rolled open. The guys inside quietly went about their sign making- the lettering easy to read – the font basic and often fire engine red. Murhall, along with Leader Sign, was one of the first sign companies in the city. Tony Hmura of Leader knew and respected the Murhall guys.

Now it’s all dirty, noisy…the new workers and their customers are bold. They’re dismissive of the laws, common courtesy and common sense – most important, the people in the neighborhood! They think they own Lafayette Street – a public thoroughfare! They’re living proof of an America dumb-downed, greedy and garish.

Enter Donald Trump.