Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella
When I got pushed out of my old Worcester apartment and neighborhood, located on the cusp of the chi chi “Canal District$$$,” I felt numb. These days, except for a few old timers growing ancient in their trim little World War II houses, my old neighborhood, lower Vernon Hill, belongs to the new absentee landlords and their Section 8 tenants and cheats (hello, Mary Paradise, 48 Ward St!). …
Take a 5-minute walk from my old place and “cross(if you dare!)” Kelley Square, and you’ve got all the gentrifiers: hello, Woo Sox stadium and ancillary projects – boutique hotel, luxury apartments, high-end shops and the already ensconced pricey, glorified fast food eateries!
I felt bereft! Floating high above my home ‘hood of Green Island (the old name of the new tony Canal District) as it twirled and twisted in a sea of money, millennials, new white upper-middle-class people who spelled BORING as they strutted their homogenized coolness across Green Street. Always my beloved old Green Island sea churned up green: private$, tax$ and gift TIF$/DIFS$ from the federal government. Soon the city manager will use eminent domain to clear out the byways next door – my childhood street, Lafayette Street – and Lamartine Street, plus Lodi, Lunell, Scott, Mead. All the regular, struggling Green Islanders will be pushed out in a land grab. CM Ed Augusus will buy the people off and raze their old three deckers – and lives! – to build more big box market-rate apartment complexes and fill them with new, boring, moneyed folks from Metro West, the colleges, Boston, Rhode Island and beyond.
FUCK YOU, CITY OF WORCESTER!
I was kicked out!
Now my former absentee landlord at 48 Ward St. can charge her $1,100+ rent for my former beautiful old flat (I was initally paying 750 – before she bought 48 Ward). Section 8 is never late! Inflated rents paid on the third of each month, like clock work, courtesy of Uncle Sam, have ruined my neighborhood! The federal govt should have created, a la FDR during the Great Depression, a massive jobs program, for the people! A huge infrastructure project! To put ALL THE UNDER-EMPLOYED PEOPLE IN THE ‘HOOD TO WORK – FOR A GOOD PAYCHECK! Or the feds should have raised the minimum wage to a living wage. Or made community college FREE TO THE POOR. But the federal govt went the opposite direction: today, not just in Worcester, but all over America, a new generation grows up “on the public teat,” as my dead ol’ pal Tony Hmura liked to opine. An American tragedy writ large – and small!
A third of American third graders CAN’T READ AT THE THIRD GRADE LEVEL! The life long slide to the bottom begins…
Welcome to the growing American underclass!!
I was expecting all the neighborhood changes to pass me by, as I wrote my little heart out at my rickety kitchen table on 48 Ward St.
But the ghetto rents rose and rose to $1,000+. I grew a bit poorer newspapering (a dying industry I LOVE). And so I did … nothing. For months … In a stupid stupor! Expecting some kind of girly miracle to happen to me. I know all the fairy tales:
An animal/nature lover, I began driving around Worcester, peering into all the Woo woods, watching all the Woo homeless, with their stuffed back packs strapped to their backs, disappear into beautiful nature at night. I watched as they biked or walked through Worcester to make their way into the trees at dusk. Once I saw a Latino family, mom, dad, little girl, head into the woods at the end of their day. The little girl was beautiful. She had long chestnut hair, all in tiny ringlets. She was wearing a yellow dress, with pale yellow taffeta skirt. It fluttered all around her tiny waist as she ran into the clutch of trees, laughing, feeling safe with her parents in the warmth of the setting August sun … and I thought to myself: a dream! A nightmare, too! Me? My life? I cried …
… town meetings, too – the purest form of democracy!
I walk around with the dogs at the end of my day and think … It smells like fucking.
Rural America. I like it.