By Rosalie Tirella
So there we sat, the boyfriend and I, in Elm Park. Four years ago, on one of our first dates, we visited this grand ol’ urban oasis – more excited about each other than the flora and fauna around us. Still, me being me, and “Mario” (he asked that I give him this silly pseudonym) being “Mario,” we began to take a GOOD LOOK at our city park. Mario lead the way, smoking his cigar, still wearing his work pants and tee-shirt. I followed, wearing pretty skirt and sun top. We found: park benches whose slats were missing or busted, huge cannon-ball-sized holes in the pond’s foot bridges (which also desperately needed to be repainted), broken bulbs atop the antiquish street lamps that circled the park’s pond. It was a sorry sight for a park with such a rich history – the oldest city park in America!
So I took photos of the debris and destruction (I had a camera with me that day) and ran the pics in InCity Times, my newspaper, along with some copy. Within a month or two, the city began repairing and painting the foot bridges. City Manager Mike O’Brien got the Carpenters Union over on Endicott Street to volunteer to fix the wooden benches. A half year later and Elm Park looked grand again!
But last week … after the DPW and Parks Department layoffs … after Worcesterites who just don’t give a hoot and use their surroundings as their personal garbage cans, old Elm Park looked droopy again. First, Mario and I couldn’t find an intact bench to sit on. Depressing. Then when we found one that had all its slats, we sat down to a view of paper and garbage and plastic bottles littered on the scruffy grass. And finally, the park’s old timey street lamps were flickering off and on. One minute a lamp had a pretty orange glow, the next, an eerie green one.
“That’s because of its bulb,” Mario said.
Then the lamp flickered out. Ka-put. We sat in semi-darkness.
Cities, like relationships, are awefully labor-intensive. If you start to walk away from a park (or a person), litter accumulates, good feelings ebb and you get a lonely feeling in the bottom of your heart.