Category Archives: Rosalie’s Blog

ON THE ROAD WITH ROSE

1. OUTSIDE THE BOX

BY ROSALIE TIRELLA

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Jett. pics:R.T.

The magical hour of our journey. Jett seems to thrive in this in-between world. He loves to look out the car window and see the city lights at night …the world rolls by his blue eye and his brown eye and he’s curious. My little husky mix loves jumping on a just made bed and soaking up the air conditioning while I unpack our gear and turn the TV on to Turner Classic Movies. He meets all kinds of people who pat his geriatric head, and the little kids love his tail that always curls up like a little flag. At 14 1/2 years old, this is Jett’s last great adventure. With me and Lilac, of course!

A few of my friends are going their own way, too – and liking it. They’re way past caring what the world thinks of them. They are wise, know the score. They’re fine with being untethered, unfettered …at 60! We don’t give a da*n what you think of us! Freedom, baby! Freedom! It’s addictive!

Dorrie just bought herself a camper and told me she’s “glamping” in Barre and having a terrific time. Just Dorrie and her dogs in nature. No pesky people, no city stress…she left it all behind in her gorgeous Victorian in Worcester, which she plans to sell. Was it Emerson who urged us to: “Simplify, simplify, simplify” ?
…Dorrie’s friend is sailing up and down the East Coast in a smallish boat with her boyfriend. Their home? Their boat – and wherever they drop anchor for the night.

Is it COVID that has made us brave? Has liar Trump catapulted us into honesty? Has our dying planet made us want to live Hendrix’s lyrics? “Excuse me while I kiss the sky!!!”

My cousin – 61 – just became a dad. For the first time. He and his young wife have left their cottage in Western Mass and are “bouncing around” Massachusetts, their two-month baby in tow … along with their two little dogs. When we talked on the phone they were heading to their motel. My cousin left his great job at the hospital to focus all his attention on his new born baby whom he adores and can’t stand being apart from for more than two minutes. Maybe the nurses at work found this irresponsible, just “dropping out” like that. But my cousin has never sounded giddy on the phone. These days, at 61, with two hip replacements and his finances thrown to the wind, he sounds positively giddy!

And me, meeting Worcester County in a more personal way, seeing so many more people than I normally would … talking with strangers and learning their stories. Seeing the pain and seeing how we try to transcend the pain. Brave souls, me included! And wanting to write it all down …

2. PUPS AND HOME

BY ROSE T.

The early bird catches the dog park. Jett and Lilac love their romps (twice daily) in the park, though Lilac is getting a bit clingy. She seems extra protective of me these days. My smart girl.

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I am more Jett – hyper and in-the-moment. Lilac is more thoughtful, almost wise. I think she dreams “HOME”! A few months ago, when I picked up some blankets and afghans from our old apartment on Blackstone River Road- and smelled their gameiness with a frown – Lilac wagged her tail furiously, dove onto the blankets which I had thrown onto the floor, and she rolled in them, reveling in the smell of our old apartment: HOME. This made me cry.

Lilac had seen the truth, our situation for what it is. Jett and I couldn’t have cared less about the ratty afghans. I think that’s because I have lived in crappy apts my whole life- and am unsentimental about all of them.. And for Jett, he adores me – really really loves me. I am the apple of his ice blue eye. To him, my beloved husky husky mix, ROSE = HOME. Rose is where his heart is. Lilac is attached, too, but not as intensely. With Jett it’s a primal thing. His mistress Rose is with him, so he is complete. He is Home.

Another discovery: seeing a city unfold its wings in the early morning. The truckers rousing in the DD parking lot…the homeless walkers stopping to put their knap sack and bags on the sidewalk – to repack, reorganize … take stock of their stuff. Important stuff. The new day lifts spirits…I go to the grocery store for fresh fruit and seltzer water. And to pee. I see my face in the big mirror by the door: I am old.

3. WEIRD STUFF AND YWCA EMPATHY

BY ROSE T.

Another night (saw a quasi fight break out at McDonald’s), another day (stay safe out there, all you traveling souls!) in my life …
Weird. In happier times I’d never think to wear cut-off blue jean shorts or buy a hamburger at McDonald’s special for Jett and Lilac. I feel guilty about doing both – so not me – but these trying days have made me do weird stuff.

Weirder still: I’ve just come to realize how few truly empathetic people are out there. The listeners. The soul soothers… You apply to SMOC, WCAC – Worcester’s premier social service agencies – re housing and your dire straights and…they do nothing. SMOC’s Chris Orcutt, the directors of WCAC barely acknowledge you, never return calls … But your gas station-owner buddy rises to the occasion- listens, hears you, gives that extra treat to the dogs…comes up with an apartment lead. While pumping gas. Always looks cute; these days his handsomeness is rounded with gentle concern when he talks with you. And last week he went out of his way to try to repair my jalopy so as to not slow us down

… Or take the front desk lady at the YWCA last night …A Hispanic lady sitting at the brandy new desk in the remodeled YWCA lobby. I was feeling grubby …needed a shower. I shower every day – to music courtesy of WUMB.ORG.

Making the shower ask is uncomfortable. Abby’s House is anti-dog. So are my relatives! Friends were busy with their Saturday nites. …But when I presented my hygiene conundrum to the front desk lady at the YW, she knit her brows and right away began working the problem. No, I wasn’t a Y member. Yes, I was smelly. Yes, I had toiletries. No, she didn’t have a towel to give me…And yet she moved quickly, talked with the maintenance girl and found me a family shower to shower in. I brought my make up and bath kit…laid out creme rinse, pretty soaps from Dorrie and had a luxurious shower at the YW at Salem Square last night. I dried my hair. Put on deodorant. Slathered on the moisturizer. Ahhh…

Now I could face the world with a modicum of confidence. Thank you, YWCA shower angel!
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On the road …

4. RED LIPSTICK AND BULKIES

BY ROSE T.

When the going gets rough, the tough get going … to the makeup display corner to buy red lipstick. Pretty tube. Nice rose-red color. No brush necessary – apply straight from the bullet.

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I’m in the Canal District, wearing my new red lipstick, but forget about the kiss – CRAVING a Widoff’s bulkie! Right now! The hot pillowy rolls just bought from Widoffs! For my mom on Lafayette Street! After Sunday mass …with my kid sisters and all the city’s church goers …now cued up in the bakery, holding tight to their snippets of paper with numbers on them- the ones they pulled out of the red dispenser when they entered Widoff’s. The counter girls – pretty kids from our high schools – will yell out your number and then it’ll be your turn to shout over the crowd of customers: 1 dozen bulkies – seeded!

Then the walk home…me eating a so soft, hot bulkie, torn in half, no butter (that’s for home) but still melt in your mouth delicious! Its poppy seeds are stuck between my teeth…I’ll eat two more, buttered, at home! This one’s for the road! My sisters will eat theirs at the kitchen table like good girls.

That’s what I’m missing now. Home in that wonderful Widoff’s Sunday Morning Scarfing Down a Bulkie after Mass.

Now we’ve got pot shops, hookah shops, tattoo shops, tapioca balls …in Widoff’s place. Instead of Lederman’s and Widoff bakeries and their tremendous freshly made bulkies, today I see some stupid hookah supply place with its big ugly hookah pipes – not bulkies!!! – in the display window! Lederman’s is now home to some ridiculously trendy exercise joint and a bo bo shake shack that I don’t evenunderstand. Never see any customers.

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Water Street

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Wistful for Lederman’s Bakery (and Widoff’s, right across the street!)

Miss my bulkies!

At Elm Park – Check out ART IN THE PARK!

I don’t want to give too much away, but check out a few of the new COOL SCULPTURES in Elm Park. The ART IN THE PARK installation, after missing a year during Covid-19, pre-vaccine, is back! Better than ever! With the walkers out walking and the pups excited to sniff new territory, Sunday morning begins …

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And smiled at Dr. Morse’s STROLL MARKER … Such a gentle, sweet man – so passionate about public health and keeping Worcester healthy. Loved visiting Dr. Morse on Meade Street – Dr. Morse was old school – dressed in a suit and tie for work … unfailingly polite, so willing to take the time to explain the health issues. Ahead of his time … miss an ol’ ally:
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– text/pics: Rosalie Tirella

Kelley Square Field of Dreams

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose, this week: driving by an “American tune”

Baseball can be so corny.

I guess that’s why we love it.

No matter how much teeth-grinding I engage in over the Kelley Square stadium being the final nail in the gentrification-coffin of my old beloved neighborhood, Green Island, I love driving by the ballpark just before game time and seeing the dads, uncles and big brothers leading the little boys in their lives into the stadium … down Green Street, up Madison Street, across Harding.

The little boys are four and five years old, and their tiny hands are engulfed in Dad’s big, reassuring paws because there is a ton of traffic. The boys are walking all jangly, half running!, as they strive to match the pace of the man-heroes in their lives – pops, big brothers and granddads taking them to their first baseball game! Invariably, they are in classic little boy uniform: soft blue jeans, sneakers that you can hold in the palm of your hand, a small cotton tee shirt (blue, green – often older – ready to catch the mustard and ketchup from clumsily held Coney Island hot dogs ). A baseball cap, often on askew, “caps off” this all-American picture as the little boy hustles down the street with the tall grown-ups, part of the baseball parade – women, teenaged girls and their beaus, old timers – that is winding its way to the baseball park.

Always, as I watch this scene from my car (idling in traffic on Green Street), I smile. I’m oblivious to the traffic jam I’m in! A few times, a few tears have rolled down my cheeks.

Baseball …

https://youtu.be/Ug4bsd4LqqM

WORCESTER’S SCHOOL DAZE

By Rosalie Tirella

Working on our September CECELIA. Here’s our August issue …
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… and me:
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… Can you believe it’s really BACK TO SCHOOL as in BACK IN SCHOOL? Yay! No excuses this school year, WPS Superintendent Binienda! So many low-income Worcester kids have lost precious learning time; upper-middle class kids have the educated parents and resources to weather this storm … a once in a century global pandemic.

The City of Worcester must mandate that all its teachers and teachers aides – all school staff – be vaccinated. Or be tested for COVID daily! STOP THE SPREAD!

But the new Delta variant is insidious, wicked contagious. You can be fully vaccinated and still contract DELTA COVID! It’s a rare occurrence – you can have no or mild COVID symptoms – but you still carry the same FULL Delta viral load as the unvaccinated do. You become the super-spreader!This is all surreal, right out of a dystopian sci fi short story – and brought on by us stupid stupid humans – desecrating and trashing our Mother Earth and her animals. So now it’s Mama Earth’s time – COVID, WILD FIRES, FLOODING …THE PLAGUE!! The rebalancing of the scales. THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF US SELFISH HUMANS?

So the gesture seems miniscule…the City of Worcester tries to get things right. Too late? But let’s honor each other and the earth: the WPSchools should open with the science we have … all WPS staff fully vaccinated and following Boston and Springfield’s lead: mandate all WPS staff and students wear facial masks while in school.

On mankind’s horizon: a new UK COVID strain. It doesn’t react to our COVID vaccines the way the other COVID viruses did – it remains pretty much unaffected by the shot/s.

Now what? Develop a new vaccine? Tweak the ones we’ve got?

Tragedy strikes the rich and mighty – we humans may finally get what we’ve deserved for eons.

Face the Changes

By Rosalie Tirella

Can you believe it? The only person to enter our SPIN THE GREEN ISLAND contest and answer all but two questions correctly – adding even more names, more dates to the neighborhood lore – is LORR-AINE LAURIE, the “Mayor of Green Island.” Miss Laurie – who wrote a little history on the old neighborhood as an undergrad at Anna Maria College – not only knew who the manager of the old Supreme Market was (Bill) – she told us Sid owned the Millbury Street hotspot. Lorraine wins the $100 cash grand prize.

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Lorraine, left, holding her favorite newspaper. photo: R.T.

Speaking of hot spots, that’s what my old neighborhood has become: the city’s entertainment hotspot. Worcester’s party mecca. Fun, fun, fun. I drove through the re-branded “Canal District” last night and realized, with a wince, that the branding took: there were THOUSANDS of people drinking, eating, congregating (Delta COVID breeding ground here we come!) in the bars and pubs, attending the Woo Sox game. Hundreds and hundreds of vehicles stashed in over-priced parking lots and jammed into every square inch of street. Everyone was white and had money – except for the homeless people camped out around St. John’s Church, sleeping in sleeping bags in nooks outside the rectory. I saw two Black people – one was a homeless guy sleeping on the concrete outside of St. John’s – and zero Latinos, unless you count the folks working at the restaurants. Back of the house.

I drove through my old stamping grounds last night, dumbfounded. Befuddled. Bummed out. It was a different world from the racially, ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood of my childhood and teen years. All the working-class grit was gone. All the paint stores and fabric shops and kids shoe stores and Catholic school nuns – poof! Evaporated! Not a trace of them and their quirky world views – and pain. And happiness. I saw how definitively Allen Fletcher and his gentrifiers had won – and how badly Lorraine Laurie and I had lost.

No, Lorraine, the neighborhood will never get a supermarket! No, Lorraine, we’ll never get a CVS or Walgreens – a real drugstore where people can by shampoo on sale or get their prescriptions filled. And no, Lorraine, we’ll never get a fully manned, operational bank branch like the old Mechanics Bank on Millbury Street of the 1960s and ’70s, with its polite and professional tellers who gave us kids lollipops when we went with Ma every Friday so she could cash her check from the dry cleaners. Once – long after the bank branch had closed – my sweet and very poor mother had to cash a big check: that big crook GOLEMO, owner of the dumpy mouse-infested Golemo’s Market on Millbury Street, charged her SEVENTY DOLLARS!

So Fletcher and his ilk failed us. I knew they would. You were naive, Lorraine. Duped by their charming manners and endless pointless meetings with dessert and finger foods and hot coffee in cool cafes. You thought you were being heard but your voice was being muffled. You were being hustled by hyper-educated, well spoken millionaire HUSTLERS. So the poor will continue to go unheard and be exploited in our old neighborhood, Lorraine.

Congrats on your $100 prize.

Togetherness

A month ago I wrote our 20th anniversary column; so let’s not waste time … let’s dive into a new column!

TOGETHERNESS

By Rosalie Tirella

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Ma

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Daddy holding Rose’s two kid sisters

When I was a little girl growing up in Green Island we were very poor, and my father, “Daddy,” was tough and abusive. So going to the other side of town to visit my Uncle Mark, the elementary school principal, and his wife, my mom’s sister, Mary – Aunt Mary to me – in their adorable cottage with huge backyard and our three fun kid cousins was like applying a cool, soothing balm to our raw and crushed spirits: my mom’s, my two younger sisters’ and mine. Daddy never went on any of these family jaunts – in fact, that’s when he stuck around around the flat. He’d have our apartment all to himself to make his cryptic phone calls in Italian … and then leave promptly on our return!

Meanwhile, Uncle Mark would pick us up in his long gold Elektra, always happy and full of corny jokes for us kids and, decades later, when I look back, a real sensitivity to my mom and her plight. My Aunt Mary was a classic 1950s Eisenhower stay-at-home wife and had “the life” (I thought): she never worked at a job outside the house, stayed put in their adorable little home and cleaned, cooked and baked and planted flowers in the garden for her family. For their delight. To their delight. She was chubby and had rosy cheeks and gave the best hugs. She always smelled like Widoff’s unseeded rye bread – lightly toasted and buttered! In the afternoons she’d watch LET’S MAKE A DEAL on TV and pine for the newest models of all the refrigerators and stoves and living room sets behind all those big wrapped boxes/stage sets that game show host Monty Hall showcased with such flair. You had to have a really funny costume for Monty to pick you – but you could furnish your own Eisenhower little house if you won big.

Travel 20 or so miles down Worcester’s battered streets and there was Ma toiling away at the dry cleaners on Millbury Street for minimum wage, then walking home to Lafayette Street in rain sleet or snow to do the mommy things for her three girls like cook supper, set out new clean clothes for the next school day, throw our dirty clothes into the old pink wicker laundry basket and care for her aging and high maintenance Polish immigrant mother Bapy who lived with us and was feisty, opinionated, loathed my father, fed my pet hamster Joy birthday cake and liked to think she ran the show. Which she did. In Polish.

Uncle Mark was an ex-college football player from Fordham and almost went pro – he was talking and thick – built like a brick outhouse with his square shoulders that were so wide they filled our Green Island doorway. He was there for my mom to drive us all for our pediatrician appointments…if they bought a new coffee table, we got their old one …During their cookouts Mom always got the second hamburger off the round domed BBQ – after Aunt Mary’s got her burger first.

But once in awhile we were reminded of our secondhandedness at Aunt Mary’s. By our beloved Uncle Mark. After a successful cookout or after a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner with all of us around him, he’d stride over to Aunt Mary throw his thick beefy arms around her fleshy put pretty shoulder and shout: TOGETHERNESS! For the whole world to hear, it seemed to me. This made Ma and me …uncomfortable. My father NEVER did that – would do that – to Ma. Drape his arms around and shout to the heavens: TOGETHERNESS! It was the opposite! AWAY-NESS! … I could see my pretty mother, in her late 30s, and still pretty look away, grow serious. It was as if Uncle Mark was bragging … and had forgotten that my mom was …alone.

Fast forward four or five decades: I am in trouble. My late mom, Cecelia, her ashes in her urn – a blue biscotti jar I bought at the old Building 19 – has been rolling around in the trunk of my car for two months. I do not have the heart to stick her in storage – nor do (did) I think to reach out to anyone for advice about the matter.

Until one day. I had been on the road, delivering the new issue of CECELIA, when, with all the new newspapers in the trunk, all the riding on all our bumpy Worcester roads …the lid came off mom’s urn and her ashes – dark, granular, heavy – spilled out onto CECELIA the newspaper! And in my car trunk! THIS FREAKED ME OUT. I was repelled by the sight, devastated by the situation my late mom was in …I was showing no respect for the dead who must lie in peace – not all over Worcester County.

I did what any Catholic who had not been to church in 40 years did: drove to the Chancery, the primo headquarters of the Catholic Diocese in Worcester, circled the big Elm Street parking lot and when a fat little priest came out the door, cheerful, ruddy-complexioned ran to him with my mother in her urn and said: “FATHER! PLEASE HELP ME! THIS IS MY MOM. I CAN’T HAVE HER IN MY TRUNK! PLEASE GIVE THIS TO FATHER REIDY. HE AND SHE WERE FRIENDS. Maybe he can hold her until I get settled …on a book shelf …

The fat little priest looked down at the blue biscotti jar I had shoved into his arms and reading my business card I had tucked into its lid, said: “Cecelia.” Then he smiled at me. Yes, he said, he’d deliver Ma to Father Reidy, an important vicar …

“Thank you, Father!” I said and drove away, flustered but grateful.

The next day I got a phone call from Father Reidy. He left me two voice-mails. He sounded stern and …adamant even though he’s slightly built and has a quiet, gentle voice. … “Rosalie, it’s Father Reidy. Please call me.”

I did not. I was afraid to. I knew I had done something…unconventional and desperate. Father Reidy called the next day:”Rosalie, it’s Father Reidy. PLEASE CALL ME.”

As Catholic…I knew the Catholic church …how stern and unforgiving priests could be. How annoyed the nuns could get if you answered the question wrong during CCD class on Monday nights. That’s why I left the church. Yiu were never good enough. I knew I had to call the Padre. I knew he’d make me feel bad. Guilt-ridden!!! But I steeled myself against all the mean things I thought Father Reidy would say to me and called him about a week later:

Hi, Father, it’s Rose. …

To make a long story short: Father Reidy was so nice! Didn’t scold. Understood. And honored my late mother: Ma is being interred with DADDY!!! at St. John’s Cemetery on Cambridge Street. She’ll be given, with me there, a proper Catholic burial. She will rest peacefully – for the first time ever – next to Daddy in a beautiful, tree-filled space, green and lush…a little urban forest dotted with gravestones. Nature. Flowers. A place where my sisters can visit her. A place where I can plant pretty pink flowers.

I don’t know exactly where in St . John’s Daddy is buried. I brought a huge Jesus statue for his grave two years ago – but couldn’t find him. So I dumped the statue at some old Irish guy’s tomb…and wrote about my illusive father. Again.

But Father Reidy said he’d help me find the grave site…and I could plant flowers and have a place to visit both my parents.

Ma and Daddy, together! TOGETHERNESS.

How strange …

The Girls Club

By Rosalie Tirella

Love💙 Executive Director Gordon and the Friendly House Staff and Kids! Here’s to a fun summer 2021 to all the Worcester kids who participate in the Friendly House sports, arts and crafts, day trips, games, contests and meals – all up and running! Hundreds of city children and teens celebrating the return (pretty much) to pre-pandemic life and rituals. Yippee!!

☀️My family has some history with this iconic Wall Street social service agency. When we were kids, my younger sister loved sports: she ran in the Friendly House road races and played basketball in the FH gym. … Years later my late mom Cecelia made mini-donations of new blankets for the neighborhood families.

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Rose and her kid sisters: at primo age for THE GIRLS CLUB!

☀️We were from Green Island, so our kiddo summers were spent closer to home (5 days a week, 8:30 a to 3 p) at the Winthrop House Girls Club on Vernon Hill (now Girls Inc.) From kindergarten (the gingerbread house) until the end of junior high, we were proud Girls Club girls. Our mom walked us up Vernon Street to the Club in the morning and picked us up in a cabin the afternoon. When we were older we walked or got a ride from our Uncle Mark (our cousin Mary went to the Club, too). The best times!!! The same staff returned – summer after summer – with Director Mrs. Miller running the show year after year after year. She was tall and leaned forward to talk to the little kids. She had dark hair and wore glasses and white Keds. She kept the club immaculate even with hundreds of girls having fun – no running in the hallways of the three story building and no loitering – you had to find an activity to go to – they were printed on pink and red and yellow and green construction paper balloons that were pinned to the big Girls Club bulletin board in the lobby – every week day had a bunch of balloons and you chose your activity. All the staff was female … some of the gal teachers were pretty nursing students from the St. Vincent’s nursing school (all female) across the street. Everyone who worked there seemed young, talented and cool.

Very empowering! A total Girls zone! No boys to hog the attention – or boss us around. Women ran a beautiful facility that served hundreds of Worcester girls and their families. I have terrific memories of my young summers there – memories that many would snicker at today. It was all so pre-feminist: sewing class, knitting class, cooking, yoga, put-on-a-musical like SOUTH PACIFIC. SING SONGS! One songs lyrics went in a round: “MAKE NEW FRIENDS BUT KEEP THE OLD/ ONE IS SILVER AND THE OTHER GOLD!

Sure, we were encouraged to excel at school – and many of us did – but summer at the Girls Club was sitting in our Clubhouse “BEAUTY PARLOR” painting our finger-nails with that pale pink polish or pretending to dry our hair underneath the big, non-working helmets of those old donated beauty parlor hair dryers … or roller-skating in the gym to the Rolling Stones’ I CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION blasting over the intercom speakers. You chose the albums and put them on the record player yourself … or baking, from scratch, those delicious peanut butter cookies using USDA ration peanutbutter – the cookie balls you flattened and crisscrossed with fork tines before you put them into the oven to bake. The smell of those cookies cooking was intoxicating! Those HUGE silver cans of peanut butter – nondescript. JUST USDA
PEANUT BUTTER STAMPED ON THE BIG CAN. Perfection.

Today it’s all different. My Girls Club is now Girls Inc. Like a corporation. It is co-ed. The place seems to have quite the p.r. maven as its executive director – but who really gives a sh*t? I see few girls in Girls Inc – even in the newspaper articles. We had hundreds, the place and its yard and back lot was swarming with girls. Today Girls Inc offers girls serious stuff: date rape awareness class, STEM studies class, computer class, career exploration. All important – even life-saving! But … really…bleh. It’s summertime…girls just wanna have fun. Especially poor inner-city girls like the Rosalie of 1971! Afternoons at The Girls Club in the 1960s and 1970s, up on Providence Street, were sweet – but frivolous compared to what goes on up there these days.

Still… maybe making toilette paper roll firecrackers for the 4th of July (filled with popcorn), covered in red blue and white crepe paper, in the arts and crafts/game room with Ms. Bousquet… or taking swimming lessons or a dip in the Girls Club lap pool (always impressive to me) … or sitting on the bench in the Club Library by the window looking into the Kodak View Finder, pointing the little “camera” out the window into the summer sunlight and seeing, as I snapped away as, as if close up, each individual small “slides” of a wild animal of Africa or touristy photos of Rome … new worlds on those round disks no bigger than a DVD!!, well it was fun and frivolous. But it was also self-discovery and empowering, too.

BRING BACK THE GIRLS CLUB!

Movie Review: PSYCHO!!

By Rosalie Tirella

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Norman Bates

These past few months have been wicked macabre. Yeah, we’re talking my personal life, but today we’re also talking about the ALFRED HITCHCOCK MOVIE MARATHON ON TCM. MARNIE. THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY. THE BIRDS. DIAL M FOR MURDER. REAR WINDOW. 24 consecutive Hitchcock movies! Heaven. I love Hitchcock! Every frame of every film. Like with Orson Welles, a Hitchcock film can be muted – you can turn the sound off for the entire film – and still get the plot, characters…the feelings. Always real. Always human with “Hitch.”

Hitchcock was a director with obsessions: beautiful, cool, willowy blondes … Catholicism and Catholic
guilt, thanks to his Jesuit upbringing and schooling. … I have watched most of his movies … since I was in my early 20s I’ve seen them at college Halloween film festivals and on teeny smart phone screens. No matter the screen size – they pull you in. This weekend I feasted on three of my favorite HITCHCOCK films: North by Northwest, Vertigo and now: PSYCHO. Cary Grant in NOTORIOUS is my #1 guy in my absolute ideal HITCHCOCK flick, but North by Northwest (also starring Grant) is a close #2. VERTIGO is a sexy gorgeous tale of a man making a woman in his image of her. Twice. Love, lust…the feelings are complexly portrayed in these films thanks to Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. But PSYCHO, based on a true story, is a great horror movie. Seeing it for the first time, a Pycho virgin, …ah to be young again! But once you see the film and know its ending, it’s still great entertainment. A lot of fun to re-watch.

Anthony Perkins is the conflicted wounded trapped Norman Bates. Janet Leigh is the gal he desires – slashed to smithereens in his creaky old motel’s shower – pretty early in the film but it’s not a premature thing. For the next half of the film you are riveted by the riveting Anthony Perkins as innkeeper/ bird taxidermist Norman Bates. The last guy on the planet who should be in the hospitality biz. He’s as frozen in time and space as the dead displayed specimens in his motel sitting room. You don’t give a hoot about the other characters, but you become obsessed with the boyish scary charm of Norman Bates…his gentle, wounded ways attract …

The film opens in a seedy motel. Janet Leigh as Marion Crane is on her lunch break and in bed with her married lover. She wants him to break free from his wife, and so does he. It’s all a bit too tawdry and gets tawdrier when she’s sent by her boss to the bank to deposit a ton of company money and decides to keep the cash, ditch her vehicle for another and then drive away with the $40,000 so she and her boyfriend can live happily ever after.

But as Marion drives through “slashing” rain she has second thoughts …decides to turn back and return the money in the morning. She’ll spend the night at the Bates Motel and deposit the money in the bank and pretend nothing weird happened. At the motel – all cabins empty because the highway didn’t come through – Norman greets her in his folksy corduroy suit jacket and gives her room #1 – the one with the peep hole so he can watch Marion undress. Then he offers her sandwiches and milk – with him. Why should she drive to the diner in the rain for supper?

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Marion Crane

Right away there’s a fight between Norman and his Mother when he walks up to the house to get the milk and sandwiches. Mother starts screaming, tells her son Marion is a slut – GET RID OF HER.

Norman brings the tray with sandwiches and they sup in the back parlor with all Norman’s stuffed birds. He tells Marion: “I bet you never had a dull moment.” Then as if guilty: “A boy’s best friend is his mother.”
Norman seems unhappy. He tells Marion: “We’re all in our private traps and none of us can get out. We claw … but we’re trapped. … but I’m used to it.”

Then this classic line: “A son is a poor substitute for a lover.”

By now Marion is a little creeped out…begs off…must retire…she needs to get up so so soooo early. …
She leaves Norman to his stuffed owls and blackbirds and own haunted, maladjusted mind. In her room, Marion removes her slip and bra and gets into her silk robe to shower. Norman sees all this through the peephole and becomes agitated. Hitchcock homes in on the ogling eyeball twitching excitedly. Turned on? Agitated?? Tall and angular the good-looking Perkins sits at the little table chewing his gum determinedly. Trapped.

Marion gets into the tub naked, turns on the shower faucet, adjust the water temp …and showers. Not for long. A tall lanky figure, a lady, buxom, her hair pinned up in a bun, enters the bathroom with a huge turkey carving knife, rips open the plastic shower curtain and mechanically stabs stabs and slashes away at Marion….The film is in black and white. No lurid red blood or blue veiny guts spurting everywhere….just the gurgling circular flow of a grey riverlet her blood of going down the tub drain. The smudge the blood makes on the shower tiles as the stunned Leigh slides down down into the tub …her head against the tiles. She is still beautiful. Her face unscathed. Her lovely eyes open and upturned eyelashes layered with mascara – which has not run. Which unlike her blood did not even trickle down. Hitchcock was amazing – everything ghoulish and terrible about this slaying. …you are rattled! But it is all so artfully staged, our heroine still so beautiful, pristine almost. But “dead as a door nail.”

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Ohhhh!

Norman is freaked out. Mops up the blood in his terry cloth bedroom slippers, wraps Marion ever so delicately in the see-thru plastic shower curtain, drags her corpse across the floor and places her into the trunk of his car …and rolls the car into the bottom of a swamp.

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Clean-up time

Marion Crane is missing – so is the $40,000 she took from work. Martin Balsam is the detective on the case: he’s very 1950s to Perkins’ 1960s sensibility. You can see Hitchcock straddle both styles … Norman answers the questions – but he’s a wreck. The detective wants to look at, check out, all 12 motel cabins. The detective intimates that Norman might be being used by a pretty thief. Norman explodes. “She might have fooled me, but she didn’t fool my mother!” he says. His jaw is strained with tension. Hitchcock shows it from underneath, all in shadows. Detective Abernathy decides to call on Mama Bates at the main house, but she stabs him to death too, as he climbs the stairs to her bedroom, her little bun firmly affixed to her bony head …

The great Vera Miles – Leigh’s sister in the movie – goes to the sheriff with Marion’s lover, Sam. He sets them straight: Norman’s mother’s been dead for 10 year’s. Norman’s a hermit. He’s chewing gum…waiting for the other shoe to drop. He goes up to her room and tells his Ma: I’m carrying you to the dark, dank fruit cellar.

You see him carrying an old lady down the stairs. I won’t give away the ending, just in case you haven’t seen the film. But it’s a doozy of a denouement.

Reposting this GIG column for Father’s Day …

I wrote this column about 14 years ago, right after my father died. – Rose

On Seeing My Father

By Rosalie Tirella

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Country Boy. Rose’s father as a teen with his dog, Pal. He always owned dogs – loved them! Later he became obsessed with German Shepherd Dogs. Rose inherited her father’s love of canines! Today: Lilac at her feet. Below, Jett by the stove, waiting patiently for scraps. pics: R.T.

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Ever since my father died (about two months ago), I’ve been seeing him every where. When he was alive, he made about 1,000 entrances in my family’s life. Married with kids but not wanting to be married with kids, my father lived with my mother, two sisters and me some months and was Missing in Action (MIA) during others. He was as tentative as the junk yard dogs he loved so much (and owned).

Some of his entrances were comical – like the time he waltzed into our Lafayette Street apartment with some Frank Sinatra LPs and sang “I Did it My Way” to me. My mother had sent him out for a loaf of bread!

But most of his entrances were cruel, small, mean. He made my sisters, my mother and me cry and succeeded at that so well that we eventually learned to … simply dismiss him — cut him out of our world the way you cut the bruise out of an apple. We went on with our lives, worked around our peripatetic “Daddy.” My mother held down a 60-hr-week job to pay the bills, we kids went to school, held after-school jobs, applied to colleges. My father popped in – for weeks or months.

Very confusing.

Then, after all these years, my father died in the nursing home two months ago. And Bingo! He’s now larger than life for me – omnipresent, so to speak.

As I drive around Worcester selling ads for my newspaper, InCity Times, with the radio blaring and paperwork to the side of me, I see him. I’m eight years old; my sisters are six. It’s Easter afternoon and my father strides into our Green Island flat, chomping on a big cigar. My mom has my two sisters and me sitting in our three little kiddie rocking chairs waiting for her to get dressed. We’re going to Easter Mass! We wear new pastel dresses with butterflies embroidered on them. My mother “set” our hair the night before, and now our straight brown hair bounces happily around our faces in “baloney curls.” In my father strides, enraged. We had not seen him for almost … forever. We did not know from which land he strode – not the sweet and holy world that my mother and grandmother had created in our apartment, a world filled with prayers to the saints, rosary beads, homework papers, rules and pet hamsters! Was my father going to hurt anybody this time, I asked myself?

No! He was going to have his picture taken with the Easter Bunny! God love my wonderful, hopeful, dreamy mother, she had my father sit in the grownup rocking chair in the kitchen. She would put the big, vinyl Easter Bunny she had bought at the five and ten and blown up (to our merriment) near the rocking chair where he sat. Then she told us little kids to “sit on Daddy’s lap.” We would all say “cheese” on the count of three! It would make a great Easter photograph!

I was only eight but thought my mother mad. No, I would not get on Daddy’s lap! No, I would not be in the Easter Bunny picture. My sisters – twins and safe in their look-a-likeness – happily clambered atop my father. Then my mother lifted her little Brownie camera, peered through the little viewer and said, “One two! Say Cheese!” and snapped the picture.

Today I look at the square little photo from the ’60s and see two little gangly girls in pretty dresses in baloney curls looking exactly alike and smiling widely. Each one straddles one of my father’s legs. The bottoms of their dresses fan out over my father’s lap. And there’s my 30-something father; he’s wearing a striped muscle shirt. His hands are on my sisters’ knobby knees and he stares into the camera, looking … trapped. His rugged handsomeness blows me away! When I was a little girl he seemed the ugliest person in the world!

When I’m on the road, I look out of my car window and think I catch my father’s eyes. But it’s just some old man.

“He’s dead!” I tell myself angrily and shake my head as if to shake out the images of him. Then four or so hours later I see my father walking down Shrewsbury Street (his favorite street) and I have to remind myself all over again.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer, he was not living with my mother and us. Mom had stopped giving him second and third chances a decade ago. My sisters and I had moved out of the apartment in pursuit of higher education/careers. So it was a shock to see him walking past the fish and chips joint on Grafton Street, red-faced, his nylon jacket unzipped, billowing out behind him. He wore no shirt that raw, autumn day and he looked dazed. Then there was his neck: as big as a basketball. The lymphoma had set in.

And yet my father went walking around Worcester – his hometown that he seldom traveled outside of –as if nothing unusual had happened. It was one of my aunt’s – his sister – who had found him in his mother’s old house, lying in the darkness, and said: “Bill, you’ve got to go the hospital.” And then he did – quietly and with some grace – because he knew he was dying.

Sometimes I look out my car window and see my father after the cancer ravaged him. I see a helpless old man – my father after the chemo-therapy, the radiation, the blood transfusions. The chemo treatment took all his curly thick hair away and left him with silver, wispy locks my aunt would cut in a bowl shape. Gone was all his wild, curly red hair that rode high above his already high forehead in some grand pompadour, the wild “do” that lead my feisty old Grandma (she was my mother’s mom and lived with us and loathed my father) to nickname him: “The Red Devil.”

Run, devil, run! There you are standing outside the Commerce Building on Main Street, waiting for the bus. There you are walking out of the Millbury Street fruit store, eating a juicy plum and throwing the pit into the gutter. There you are eating the same juicy plum over our Lafayette Street kitchen sink, my sweet mother looking absolutely smitten by you. You have no time for dishes, meals served on plates. Family sit-down meals are not part of your universe. “Gotta get outta here!” you used to say. “Here” being: our Green Island flat, poverty, a wife, three kids, responsibility.

You want to leave – I can tell. But I just can’t let you go, Daddy!

Downtown Worcester! Today!

By Rosalie Tirella

New day. Jett thanks “Auntie Lee” for the comforter – even though he likes to be on the bed with mommie. It’s good to have good people in my life! …

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❤Jett. Pics: R.T.

⚘Yesterday I worked on our 20th ICT/CECELIA anniversary issue and tried to buy a ladies wrist watch in our spiffed up, street-scaped, flower-pretty, benches-galore downtown. Ah! Great Expectations! Good luck with that! How naive was I?! Not a woman’s Timex to be found in our great urban renewed downtown – Main Middle or North – unless you wanted to go to the pawn shop in the heart of Downtown Worcester.

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Downtown Worcester…yesterday.

Remember when you could buy the necessities in our downtown, in any downtown in America, like a basic ladies Timex – or even, for Worcester folks, a better and fancier wrist watch at Denholms or Shacks (for men)? Those days have evaporated like the foam off your mocha caramel latte! Seems you can get all the high priced high falutin’ coffee you need in our downtown, but you can’t buy a da*ned Timex. Or a package of new Fruit of the Loom men’s cotton briefs. Or socks. Or kids school or “church” shoes.

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Remember when our downtown was built for and around the Worcester worker bee? We had Woolworths. The Mart. Lerners. American Supply. … Furniture and ladies bras and mens underwear for the Woo masses. My mom loved to shop in our downtown. We kids loved to shop with her. It was all just a 25-minute walk away from our Lafayette Street tenement! … 25 mins until we saw and mingled with hundreds of Worcester folks buying their goods like us, enjoying their hot fudge sundaes at the Woolworths lunch counter on Front Street. Magic time. The American Dream made visible, tangible … edible!

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Today’s new Downtown Worcester has been marketed to, built to, accommodate the moneyed Millennial (via their parents who foot the bill$$) or deluded old upper-income empty nester (“if I hang with the young, I’m young!”): We’ve got fancy, over-priced restaurants and bakeries and coffee shops made for people on the move. Entertainment districts. Beer gardens. But no Timex ladies watches! No sports coats for Uncle Walter! No neckties or tie clips for dad … or new ottoman for the living room to match your new Lazy Boy that sits in front of the Zenith 19-inch, color TV. All made in America. For sale in Downtown Worcester.

Sigh …

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