Surrealistic Worcester

By Rosalie Tirella

I haven’t listened to Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow” since my college days at UMass/Amherst. Took a listen to the CD yesterday while driving around Worcester, working on InCity Times. A pal let me borrow the CD and I thought: what the heck.

Then their song, “Today,” came on and I was … SLAYED.  Absolutely fucking slayed! It is that gorgeous! “A love song” doesn’t begin to describe it. (click on the link below pics to have a listen)

Why didn’t I devour this song in college, the way I did yesterday, driving around downtown Wusta in my jalopy? Probably too hooked on their “Somebody to Love” tune (click on the second link below). “Somebody to Love” is made for youngness!

But “Today” hit my middle-aged soul so hard! Sent me reeling! Made me SEE my city differently! Made me see – and this sounds weird – Wusta’s panhandler problem from a totally different angle. The human angle. The LOVE angle.


While driving around downtown listening to “Today” for the 40th time, I drove by a homeless kid and that young man became wrapped in the melody and lyrics of “Today” and the kid was so beautiful looking, so pure looking … . He reminded me of my youth, of Amherst … I began to cry, “tears running down my dress.”

The way he looked. The way he protected his lanky body from the cold – he was only wearing a sweatshirt over his tee shirt. I swooned to the way he felt … The way he most likely felt alone. He was alone against this Jefferson Airplane song about all-consuming, life-transforming LOVE. A single soul … one of Worcester’s panhandlers …  hiding in an alley way, sitting on his lean haunches, against a wall, carving out a nook for himself – against bricks and cement.


I was not on drugs. I was not even caffeine-ated, but I was totally high on this Jefferson Airplane song and this kid. This beautiful kid’s aloneness – where would he sleep tonight? I asked myself. so cold. he is only wearing a sweat shirt over his tee shirt. tall and … scrawny. yet the curly long black hair framed his face and he looked like an angel … .

The music of the sixties and seventies was made for me.

I drove home and ran to the computer and ditched the column I wrote for this issue of InCity Times (which comes out tomorrow) and tried to write about “Today,”  the homeless kid, my youth, love, love, love … hoping that the City of Worcester would get the message.

I failed.

(This post is another crack at it.)

What am I trying to say here? That this kid was beautiful but utterly adrift and vulnerable. A soul. A soul alone in Wusta’s universe. Panhandling for money won’t begin to undo the degradation that he has most likely already experienced and will continue to experience. So many runaway kids have been molested by relatives at home. That is why they run away… . So many of these youngsters find themselves on the streets looking for a place to stay warm and paying for it with their bodies.

It is the holidays. So (of course!) the City of Worcester has to roll out a punitive affordable housing policy and a brutal panhandling policy. City Manager Mike O’Brien and some city councilors need to listen to “TODAY.”



Somebody to Love:

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