Tag Archives: Green Island Grrrl column

💕🍂Saying goodbye to Jett🐾🍂❤️🍁

By Rosalie Tirella

Jett!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️CECELIA file photo.

Got my autumn/holiday haircut at the Spencer Rob Roy yesterday. K.C, the hair stylist there, is so good, easy going and efficient – for a half hour he took my mind off my dying Jett and how much I love my best dog and how much I will miss him when he’s gone.

Jett struggles to walk our teeny neighborhood walk these days. His bouncy gait has disappeared, replaced by baby steps, faltering and tentative. He seems disinterested in his surroundings – even his favorite fire hydrant, the red one, outside our building. I look at him and coo “Jett Jett Jett, read the doggy news!” but there’s no reaction from my boy. Jett is looking past me. And he was the one dog who was always looking at me…for me … after me. Mesmerized by Rose! The apple of his eye! Looking to his Rose for everything. So happy for the guidance! Elated to just be with his Rose, giver of fresh cheddar cheese cubes, cool clear water daily, bumpy rides in her jalopy to the dog park, half-hour walks in Quinsigamond Village, in the rain, during snow squalls, dappled in sunlight. The snowflakes stuck on Jett’s curly cue tail, the rain drops beaded off that thick husky coat. The little rub downs and hugs, afterwards, courtesy of Rose. The love made visible thru play, movement and touch …

Now I think, Jett, that you hurt when I try to get close, to snuggle, to hug …or sometimes even to stroke you. Your delicate old back, a little crooked in the middle. To touch with too much love hurts you now!

Funny, Jett, you’ve still got your robust appetite and you are super alert whenever the treats come out! But other than that, there’s not much else that excites you. Not a romp with Lilac in the grass here. Or even a hug from me, your Rose! You sleep a lot …

One pain pill – your first – as I was so hesitant to start you on the regimen because you’re so sensitive – made you, my bonny boy, very sick. You vomited in the middle of the night and, during my 3 a.m. trip to the bathroom, I “found” your puke – slid on it and went sliding under my kitchen table/desk. Amazing: so much furniture with pointy corners and I missed it all. Just luged under that table, half asleep, too snoozy to try to brace myself in any way. Which was a good thing. I was thinking of you. Worried about you. Lying on that floor for a minute or two, my hair and body covered in your puke, I was broken hearted for you. A big clean-up followed. Plus, taking you and Lilac out to pee in the wee hours of the morning – AFTER a shower, of course. We always try to look presentable whenever we’re out…cute dogs and fairly cute mistress. Part of the scenery. In Worcester. Now in Spencer. Later that morning, washing my vomity night shirt etc. I felt … so sad and lost. Without Jett. A new feeling.

Later that day I made an appointment to euthanize you on Friday. I don’t think you’ll want to go gently into that good night. But it’s for the best. This time we have to stick to the plan! I told my friend. This is too much! My boy has lost his bounce! My handsome Jett looks bedraggled … He is so restless. I think he’s suffering. His restless walks around the apartment … All signs pointing to the end.

Jett, today with Lilac, still savoring those treats!

Why, my beloved Jett, are you leaving me after just 17 1/2 years together? I could continue our conversation, old woman to husky, husky to old woman, for another 17 years! In the winter! During spring! Especially during spring time when the buds are just out and the flowers are hiding and the forsythia branches are climbing the fence at the dog park! Look, Jett, the geese have taken flight and I can see their oval, hard bellies and their long hard legs and webbed feet right above our heads as they work and work so hard to get home. Lilac has followed these athletes and run to the lake after them and you’ve run after Lilac! You’re so silly, Jett!

I already miss you, my Jett. I miss your delicate white paws. In my dreams I see their boney outlines, their clean whiteness. I see your blue eye and your brown eye, so exotic. People always remarked… I see your coyote fur, rough to the touch, a real protectant: the rain always beaded off your coat, the snowflakes stayed stuck there in their hexagon beauty. Each snowflake like no other. Jett, like no other husky or husky mix.

Jett after rolling in the snow.

I remember so many of our jaunts to all our Worcester County dog parks and along Blackstone River Road, Jett … It’s as if you’re already left me, even though you’re right here, snoozing on your mat by my feet as I write this and listen to Neil Young. I’m bawling as I look at the photos in my cell phone, hundreds of them, taken of you and Lilac frolicking in all kinds of weather. I can see your smile, Jett, easy, relaxed, jaw open, smallish teeth. I’m already craving all that Jett energy that always energized me thru the years, your mistress, your devoted owner and friend. Where will I be without your joie de vivre, Jett?! Every minute of the day? It was so contagious! It always lifted my spirits!

There we were, for 17 months, homeless! Me driving my old jalopy thru the streets of Worcester depressed, trying to get to our forever home, trying to figure things out and filling out hundreds of forms and rental applications. Lilac sad, muted, as she is curled up in a ball in the corner of the car’s back seat, waiting to get … home, to have a big bed to leap onto and my bed pillow to grab onto with her big teeth …to shake the stuffing out, just for sport. For FUN. But not you, Jett! Standing tall in the back seat, facing the world, your little flag tail is curled in the morning air and you look so pretty as you poke your little snout out of the rolled down car window to joyfully sniff the new morning air. You tilt your handsome little lupine head to the sky and just love that the sun is out again and it’s shining on you. On us!! You can’t wait for that ride to McDonald’s for that breakfast biscuit with scrambled eggs – you love your scrambled eggs at 6 a.m. Then to the Millbury dog park where you and Lilac will run and run in the pale morning light and the morning dew will soak your paws. I’ll pray and read a magazine and sip my McDonald’s coffee and eat my yogurt. Watching you and Lilac and sitting on that dog park bench in the beautiful country makes me … ecstatic! I am so happy watching you and Lilac play!

An old homeless lady with her two mutts trying to find their new home, trying to get home, trying to still run her newspaper and exercise her dogs in all kinds of green spaces and … wow! I’m having fun!!

Now, looking back, I see I was already home: I was with my Jett and Lilac in the cup of God’s hands.

Two winters ago: Jett and Lilac frolicking in Worcester City Councilor Candy Carlson’s big front yard! Candy was so wonderful to Jett and Lilac when we were homeless – a true friend to the fur babies! We will never forget all the kind things Candy did for Jett and Lilac! All photos: R.T.

Lilac and Jett at the dog park. CECELIA file photo.

Not thinking about relationships💕

By Rosalie Tirella

Rose, today: There it is!

One of the nice things about getting older (I’ll be 62 years old next month) is not having to think about relationships any more. As in boyfriends. As in obsessing over boyfriends I’m in relationships with, obsessing about the way they feel about me, about the way I look to them … their level of commitment to our relationship – or lack there of … their passion in bed – or lack there of … the restaurants they took me to, the places we didn’t visit…the extra pounds I put on, the extra pounds I took off – for them. All in the name of the relationship. Not love usually. But the RELATIONSHIP – like a science experiment, easier to examine under a pink microscope with your gal pals over the phone, late at night, one of you nursing a glass of wine.

These days, thankfully, blissfully, I no longer think about relationships. I don’t have to see myself thru the eyes, gonads or stomachs of men, my boyfriends. Tormenting myself over: Am I pretty enough for him? Interesting enough for him? Sexy enough for him? Smart enough? Thinking about my guy from all angles: emotional, physical, sexual, culinary, musical, monetary etc etc etc etc. For decades I did this like any girl! With different guys! Beginning at puberty to way after menopause when my ovaries, once the size of walnuts, according to my gynecologist, have now shrunk to the “size of raisins.” Long live female hormones!!! This happens to all us ladies, and now, sans all those sex hormones flowing thru my body I can relax. Truly accept my flabby body and duplicitous soul, my likes and dislikes, the gap between my two front teeth and think … I’m good enough. I’m ok with me! So …WHAT WAS ALL THAT NOISE ABOUT? WAS ALL THAT FREAKING RELATIONSHIP MELODRAMA NEEDED?! WHAT A WASTE OF YEARS AND YEARS spent thinking about my relationships!

You simmer down after menopause and, sadly, realize: I should have written novels. I should have hitchhiked thru Europe, maybe even lived in Paris. I should have learned to cook like Julia Childs … but instead I WASTED MY PRECIOUS TIME, MY PRECIOUS YOUTH on the relationship! With John, Dick and Harry! Fred, Joe and Hank! Sure I had some great times, but it was all so exhausting! Trying to figure out where I stood with them. One day: Apple of His Eye! The next: Rose who? … Pondering our “future”? Deciphering the marriage question. Living together…a possibility? But when? All that sound and fury … for absolutely nothing. Comparable to finding a pebble on the shore of Lake Quinsigamond – dark, nondescript, basic – but deciding it may, deep deep down inside, contain gold. Be a gold nugget! So you stupidly keep turning it over and over and over again in the palm of your hand – this relationship – desperately seeking the unique, the whimsical, the magical in this guy. But you’re going out with a pebble. From Lake Quinsig, over by the bridge on Route 9, heading into Shrewsbury. Over by HOOTERS.

You remember all the ridiculous conversations you had with your gal pals trying to decipher THE RELATIONSHIP. Sharing embarrassingly intimate details about your sex life, the size of his penis, the so so restaurant he took you to ON YOUR BIRTHDAY! His ambition or lack there of. His boss he may have a crush on. All that psycho babble or just babble for the sole purpose of where you stand with some dopey guy. And to vent. And to have a few laughs, at his expense, with your gal pal who’s told you about her RELATIONSHIP. You have thought about it with her, about her boyfriend, and also asked with her: Why did he leave her for her best friend? – the best friend that he met at the great party she had given TO SHOW OFF THEIR RELATIONSHIP to all her friends!!! (a true story)

You think and ponder … and there are no answers.

Think about it! You and your gal pals tirelessly, foolishly, waste half of your precious female lives seeking answers to relationship questions that are inane, unanswerable. Yet women have been asking themselves these questions ever since paleolithic times, when volcanoes erupted everywhere, every few seconds, and cavemen boyfriends went out hunting the saber-toothed tiger leaving their cave women alone … to get anxious about the relationship. Seated around the fire pit, together now, the cave women getting all insecure about their cavemen, started thinking about their relationships with their cavemen: Is my hair too out of control and knotty for him? Are my breasts too hairy? Does this bear-skin skirt make me look fat? Why aren’t we living together in our own cave? Is he cheating on me with the cave woman in the pile of rubble right over that glacier? I bet language was invented by cave women intent on figuring out their cavemen!

Yep. It all began eons ago, 100,000 BC – Before Creams. As in moisturizing creams for the face… creams for the decolletage… creams for the elbows, the knees, the heels and toes …creams for the fingernails – ALL THOSE FU*KING CREAMS THAT, IN THE END, MAKE NO DIFFERENCE WHEN IT COMES TO A RELATIONSHIP’S SUCCESS OR LONGEVITY!

Fast-forward to the late 20th/early 21st centuries, to my life … to Rose’s relationships with her boyfriends:

1979. At Clark University, my first ever real boyfriend, Fred. My first orgasm with Fred. My first visits to New York City with Fred. My first meet-his-parents visit with Fred. Our going, in NYC, to the exact same theater shown in ANNIE HALL, the iconic Woody Allen movie to sit in the exact same theater Woody and his girlfriend Dianne Keaton, Annie Hall, went to in ANNIE HALL! Fred and I both love Woody Allen … and THE CATCHER IN THE RYE … and THE MARX BROTHERS. Fred can recite lines from DUCK SOUP! He is so handsome! My mom says Fred looks like Paul McCartney! A Beatle!

Then why, on Valentine’s Day, did Fred give me the small heart-shaped box of chocolates and give the girl down the hall in his dormitory THE BIGGER HEART-SHAPED BOX OF CHOCOLATES? Why did I get the small box and she get the larger box? On VALENTINE’S DAY?!

Naturally, I called him on it, very upset! I demanded: What does this mean? What are you saying – about us?!

Naturally, he shrugged it off.

Typical guy move.

So, of course, I had to call my gal pals to discuss this debacle of the heart … and to think about The Relationship long and hard. WHERE DID I STAND with Fred? WAS I GOOD ENOUGH for him? Why didn’t I rate the bigger box of chocolates? Why did that big red cellophane-covered heart shaped box of chocolates from CVS go to her – and not ME?!

Fred and I broke up that summer and I became borderline anorexic.

Fast forward to the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, where I was in another “serious” relationship with a beau. Hank had just gotten on an airplane to visit his sister in Montana, a doctor whose husband carved canoes for a living. A very cool couple who lived in a real log cabin that they built together, side by side, hand in hand practically. Why wasn’t I on the plane with him to Montana? Why wasn’t I getting to meet his favorite sister, the cool one? We drove together to NYC the previous month for his music gig – he was a lighting engineer for a rock ‘n’ roll type company in Western Mass – WHY NOT HANG OUT IN MONTANA WITH HIS SISTER AND HER HUSBAND?

I had to think about the relationship: Was I special enough for Hank? Where was this all going? Did he love me? Or was he just being his cheapskate self, knowing he’d have to foot the bill for my plane fare and meals at restaurants. He was a real tight wad! Or did he know another girl … in Montana?

We broke up a few months later and I rebounded with a guy, a grad student, with an 800 SAT math score. He dumped me a few months later and I didn’t even have to think about the relationship. He had given me his reason: “I can’t talk about the Milky Way with you, Rose.”

“As in galaxy in the universe?” I said. “Not the candy bar?” trying to be cute.

In relationship speak Hank was telling me: YOU’RE NOT SMART ENOUGH. I’M MOVING ON.

And he didn’t even wear underwear!

Fast forward to Worcester and the Old Beau. We’re going to the Mohegan Sun Wolf Den to see Peter Noone in concert. I look so cute! Hair in a pixie hair cut and dyed red. I’m wearing my pretty multi-colored skirt with its red petticoat. A petticoat! Topped off with elegant black blouse. My makeup is flawless!

In the car, before taking off, he goes in to kiss me, stops short, looks into my eyes and says: “You’ve got that hair.”

“What hair?” I say.

“That one-inch long hair growing from your chin.”

WHAT????? !!! I run upstairs to my bathroom and shove my face two inches before my huge bathroom mirror. Sure enough. Facial hair. Just one long brown hair, a single hair, sprouting stubbornly from a little beauty mark on my chin. I grab my cuticle scissors and cut it as close to the root as possible. There! I hold it in the palm of my hand – appalled!

All the way down to Connecticut, the entire drive, I think about our relationship: He’s cruel. He sees nothing but the negative. He doesn’t compliment my skirt or red petticoat…nothing nice that I’ve done to get ready for this night out. Doesn’t he appreciate my elegant blouse? Just sees my one single chin hair! But it is long! Oh! How embarrassing! Why didn’t I ever see it before today?! … Why tell me now? It’ll be dark inside the club! He’s an arse. We’ll never get married! He’s too superficial for me! I don’t even want to go to this concert…but he’s buying dinner at that nice restaurant at the casino, the one I really love. … Have I stuck around all these years just for the great meals at all those nice restaurants? Every Saturday night …

And so on and so on…


Yesterday I looked in my big bathroom mirror and saw the same hair growing from my now flaccid chin. Except these days it’s white with age, not the dark brown color of my younger self. I looked at my chin, my grey chin hair and remembered the Old Beau and smiled sadly and thought: I’ll have to get to this tomorrow.

Day Trip

By Rosalie Tirella

Rose, this spring.

So, I was 19, back home from college for summer time and, for some strange reason, I wanted a father. My father. To finally get to know the hard, distant man who, for my whole young life, shrewdly skirted around our poor little family – avoiding my mother, my two sisters and me like the plague. All those years! “Daddy” absent without a note from home. AWOL in the war on poverty – our minimum-wage poverty in Green Island. Missing the fun, too. And the responsibilities. The great stuff and the mundane crap. Everything intimate and real that was happening in our Lafayette Street tenement. Everything that mattered, everything that was shaping my life and my sisters’ lives, our world views. … Like Daddy never bought my mom, his wife, a birthday present or a Christmas gift or took her out to dinner at a restaurant on a Saturday night – not once in all the years I knew him! My mother shouldered the burden – worked 60 hours a week at the dry cleaners to support us and pretty much raised me and my kid sisters singlehandedly. She would have loved to feel special – loved the night out! But Daddy never gave Ma a date night, never showed his appreciation for being tremendous in the face of adversity. He treated my mother, sweet, hardworking, smart, GOOD “Ma” like trash. My sisters and I ran under his radar – lucky for us because Daddy could be an emotionally abusive a-hole. His meanness was saved all for my mother.

So why, at 19, did I want to get to know the asshole? A man I actually called “asshole” to his face once or twice? … There are scientific studies that tell of the psychological need – the absolute longing of young women 19, 20, 21 – to bond with their fathers – no matter what kind of father the guy happens to be. It is true for all girls – even the ones who never liked their fathers. Daughters like me.

“Daddy” never took out the garbage, bought furniture for our Green Island flat, taught us girls – his three daughters – how to drive a car or care for dogs (he was expert at both) … and yet here I was, 19, and colt-like in my skinniness and sensitiveness and intuitiveness, wanting to do something cool with my mean ol’ Daddy. He never even sat down and read my college essays – the ones I got A’s for – the ones in which he was the main topic! Yet here I was standing in the middle of our huge three decker kitchen, fascinated by his handsome face, mesmerized by his gnarly junkman hands, taken with his Italian nose … and his truck. Here I was, back from UMass Amherst for the summer, begging my mom: Can I do something with Daddy, Ma? MAKE HIM DO SOMETHING WITH ME, Ma!

My mother, like most people who became parents in the 1950s and early 1960s, didn’t share her feelings with her kids. She was an old-school mom: strict, with high expectations for her offspring, loving but not a big kisser or hugger. We kids were not showered with compliments or given choices …we weren’t part of her adult world, a world which was serious and maybe even dangerous. Our mother had to be thinking all the time: paying the rent, electricity bill, gas bill, working at the dry cleaners, surviving a tough neighborhood, grocery shopping with that rickety wagon in winter time, walking home in the snow, in the dark with just the street lights to light her and her daughters’ way home. … We girls had to be focused, too: do our chores, homework, attend weekly catechism class at St. Mary’s school on Richland Street, go to confession and weekly mass at Our Lady of Czestochowa church on Ward with Ma. Plus Girls Club all week during summertime, sometimes the school year. Violin and accordion lessons for me. We had schedules. Big-time . That was our closeness. Ma’s close talk was reserved for her two sisters, one of whom she’d call up every night to confide about … everything. She’d never tell me, even when I was an older teen: I’m afraid, Rosalie. I’m worried, Rose. I’m tired. … Or, now: “Why do you want to get to know your father, Rosalie?”… “This is weird.”

Instead, one day, my mother said: Daddy will spend the day with you, Rose. What do you want to do with him?


So, that next week, my father, in his blue factory shirt and pants, and me, in my tight blue jeans and big man’s dress shirt – pretty much my college uniform for 4 years – walked to Kelley Square and up Madison Street to the then Greyhound Bus Station and took the bus to Boston. Daddy sat in the window seat and looked out the window and didn’t say much. I stared at him, fascinated! …We got off in Boston at the bus station there and, because I had friends at Northeastern whom I visited during the school year, I knew my way around the city a bit and walked us straight to the chi chi Newbury Street. Back then Newbury Street was tony and for rich people but also student friendly: there was a movie house, cool clothing boutiques, hair salons …and that famous toy store…with the fiberglass toy bear, a story high, that sat outside the building around Christmas time. Something told me my father would like all the cool mechanical toys inside, just like me.

Wow. So many rich kids and their rich parents in that toy store. (What was it called now? AO Schwarz, I think?) … Wow. So many stylish students and young people in the Schwarz toy building! I was right! My father made a bee line to all the beautiful, some very large, puppets with painted faces and intricate costumes and myriad strings and the tin soldiers in brightly painted uniforms who marched stiffly when you cranked them up. My father tilted his head, his pompodor still fabulous after all the years but now auburn colored, no longer bright red like when he was a young man. He saw the slim, Chinese-American sales clerk, a young guy, and smiled a goofy smile at me and said, nodding at the guy: “Rosalie, that Chink looks like a doll!” … My father meant that as a compliment. That the young guy was so perfectly coiffed and dressed and had such fine, chiseled features that he could be a doll in this beautiful gigantic toy store. That the sales clerk was as perfect as the puppets we were playing with.

I don’t think the sales clerk heard my father. But we looked so poor and rough compared to the other customers! He began following us as we made our way through the iconic toy store. Daddy and I walked to the stuffed animals, and there was the sales clerk staring at us, furtively, from behind the board game display. Daddy and I walked over to the plastic dinosaurs, and there was the same store clerk, peeking out at us from behind a life-sized polar bear. I got the hint: we weren’t good enough, we were potential thieves. I said to my father who was unaware we were being treated like criminals: Let’s go home, Daddy. And my father obediently followed me out the front door of this fancy Newbury Street shop where we were not wanted.

For the first time in my life I felt sorry for Daddy. Saw him as weak and puny in a world of money and educated folks. Maybe that’s why he was always pissed off. And maybe that’s why he said, proudly, whenever he saw me: She’s the smart one. She gets it from me!

So there I was on Newbury Street, right there with Daddy. My father’s daughter. Not having any fun. We hopped on the next bus and, during the ride back to Worcester, I said: “Now let’s do something you want to do, Daddy.”

And two hours later, we were back in Worcester County at my father’s friend’s farm. We were at the pig pen, and my father was cooing softly to a big ol’ black and white hog sleeping in the nice cool mud. With the tip of his workboots my father gave the pig a little nudge thru the fence’s white slats. The pig grunted drowsily but didn’t get up to greet us. My father smiled his toothless smile and went to chat with his pal, and then we took another bus home, to Lafayette Street, where I told my smiling mother all about our big adventure! The beautiful toys on Newbury Street! The beautiful black and white pig in West Boylston! She kept smiling as she listened …

Daddy had walked into the bedroom and, reclining on their old bed, called out to my mother for a tuna fish sandwich and two plums. He was in his 50s now and lately had been acting more subdued, spending these past few years living with us on Lafayette Street. Being with his family. I never saw my father eat a cupcake or slice of cake or even a bit of pie for dessert at the end of his meals during those years – just a few pieces of fruit, like a real Italian. My mother offered to heat up a can of Del Monte spinach for him – she said she’d mix in some olive oil and a few shakes of garlic salt.

My father said: Sure, hon.

Spencer story: Mean ol’ dawgs!

Photos and text by Rosalie Tirella

In Spencer…a country lunch and coffee with Cece …

… and the mutts.

My “country kids” now, since we’ve hightailed it to Spencer! Beautiful nature all over, kissing my soul – but rough, too, even around the delicate purple flowers still growing towards the sun in my small side-yard.

And there’s an adjustment period – for me – and Jett and Lilac, my two dogs. For instance, we’re learning all about Spencer dogs – the Dog Situation in the country! Different from the Dog Situation in the city! While Spencer seems strict with regards to licensing their town pooches, leash laws are thrown to the Spencer winds: big old German Shepherd mixes, big-boned pitbull mixes, big, ol’ fine-boned Doberman pinschers and big black lab crosses run free here. A plethora of protective, aggressive, just plain ol’ MEAN country watch dogs, often belonging to the town’s poorer folks, who seem to define themselves – they don’t have good jobs (the mills here closed years and years ago) or own homes (they rent all the wild, funky roaming poor people’s digs all over downtown Spencer and its side streets – folks who define themselves by their big ol’ mean dogs and motorcycles, and long hair and bandanas for the guys, and cute, sexy boyfriends for the gals.

The dogs, like the people here, go their own way.

The dogs even have the run of our downtown! Dawgs that wanna mow you down and tear the shit outa you! Dogs who are beyond command. The good folks in Spencer town hall are probably aware of this Spencer social phenomenon but know they can’t do a damned thing about it. They’d be going against nature …

Last week, I was walking Jett and Lilac ON MAIN STREET here in town. Main Street, for God’s sakes! – and just like a locomotive exploding through the Gates of Hell, from across the street, I heard a terrible growling rushing me at the speed of sound. I looked up and saw a Spencer BBQ happening outside the crappy apartments across the street – poor folks sitting in their plastic chairs at their long plastic foldable table – red meat on their grill – enjoying the gorgeous sunny Sunday Spencer September afternoon on their cement driveway right outside their front doors. A nice community affair.

And their untethered Dobermann Pinscher.

When I yelped “hi!” the fat lady at the table threw her ample arms around the sleek black Doberman pincher’s wide-as-a-barrel chest, straining to constrain him. I waved to her, smiled at her, real neighborly, but squeaked to myself: FUCK!!!!! My two goofy dogs wagged their tails at the enraged Dobbie. Yay! A party! they seemed to signal. Smell all that cookin’ meat!! – we never smell that smell on Mommy’s stove!

I pushed and tugged Jett and Lilac into seriousness and pulled their leads for them to follow me as the fat lady put a leash on her wild Doberman.

Good God, I thought to myself …safe now…ready to make a little circle aroud the Price Chopper strip mall. I wondered: Where did that mean ol dog come from? I wanted to price the supermarket’s mums and pumpkins…BUT WHOA!!!!! A lump hit me in my chest as A BIG OLD GERMAN SHEPHERD AND A BIG OL’ TAWNY PIT BULL MIX charged me and my dogs as their stringy-long-haired master scooped up their massive dog poops outside his funky old Spencer apartment, in his cement parking lot with motorcycle dutifully parked…

I felt: FUCK! We are dead!!! and just ran with Jett and Lilac straight into … the Price Chopper shrubbery! Falling into their half dead mums, clutching the big Price Chopper pole – to show the mean old dogs: SEE? WE ARE FAR AWAY FROM YOUR TERRITORY!

The mean ol’ dogs stood at the periphery of their shitty little world – and watched us …scramble off…to my car, parked yards away.


Last week I saw – on lead, thank God – a brindle, pointy-nosed bull terrier. The Spuds McKenzie dog – but dirty as it hung out with its owner and friends outside a Spencer chop shop. Its muzzle looked smudged with dirt. Or was it blood?

Even the little chihauhau next door is a mean ol’ dawg! – wants to kill my dogs. Wearing her rhinestone studded collar she CRASHES UP AGAINST HER SCREEN DOOR, GROWLING like a mad dog, wresting demons from her pint-sized soul! Her traumatic backstory? Her little chihauhau sister “was murdered right in front of her by my ex-husband!” says my very nice next door neighbor. “I’m so sorry!” I tell her. “I’ve got a restraining order against him,” she says.

And a (little, sooo adorable) MEAN OL’ DOG!!

Welcome to Spencer, Rose!


Worcester’s “bike kids” need a new bike-sharing🚴 service …

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

… now that our yellow bikes are gonzo!

RIP, Ofo!

We say SO LONG! to your chunky frames and your color: creamy whipped BUTTER. Your black utilitarian baskets in front, sometimes with a big headlight attached. God, the light shone bright at night on our city streets! You were the apple of every poor Worcester boy’s eye!

St. John’s Cemetery …

This past Friday was the last day to ride the Ofo bikes. The company and City Manager Ed Augustus’s lackeys were all over our inner-city neighborhoods picking them up. Laughable! Why didn’t they just let our inner-city kids keep them? Ofo’s a global, Chinese company for Christ’s sake! China = the world’s largest, state-run economy.

I guess the millennials and yuppy types Tim Murray and his chamber of commerce poobas were hoping to attract never materialized in big numbers. I never saw one of Worcester’s young up-and-comers with his or her iPad swinging on the shoulder rounding the shoulder of a Worcester hill on a yellow Ofo bike. Off to a meeting with some one who’s wildly instagram-ing his startup’s customers while sipping a latte in some pleasant cafe.

Instead, the bikes were popular where the junkies shot up, the pits were walked and the chicken poppers were poppin’ in their vats of oil. They were most used where they were most needed in a Gateway City like Worcester where one in four kids is “food insecure” (read: HUNGRY) – poor neighborhoods. Lots of them. Poor adults in these neighborhoods, neighborhoods like mine. Adults who were sick of one of the country’s worst public transportation systems … and our BIKE KIDS. City kids whose families don’t have the money to buy them a shiny new bike but still, like all kids, they wanted to have FUN … they wanted to ride!


As a kid growing up in Green Island, my only two bikes were rusty hand-me-downs from my cousins because my wonderful mother was too busy killing herself 60 hours a week for minimum wage at the dry cleaners down the street to pay for the vital things: rent, the gas and electric bill, food for my two sisters and me and her old Mama from Poland. New bikes were not part of our universe. They were something I dreamed over when I stared at them, locked together, at Zayres. Upper-middle-class and even middle-class folks just don’t get this – how hard it is for the impoverished to own cars, washing machines and clothes dryers, new bikes for all the kids … You never see scads of poor kids on new bikes, do you?

Instead, the well off don’t think about the reasons, they just shit on the poor kid or his/her parents or his/her neighborhood …

Green Island…

Losers in Losersville.

Like my “Ma” was a loser! She was the opposite! She gave me everything! She’s been my life’s inspiration! Lots of adults who’ve endured hardscrabble childhoods will tell you the same: their moms, dads, grandparents were HEROES to them. Up against it all and still working the shit job, getting up early to take the two buses to work, making that Duncan Hines Cherry Supreme cake for birthday parties. A recent poll found that half of the American population doesn’t have $400 in the bank to cover an emergency – they’d have to borrow the money or sell something of theirs to pay the bill. So it only follows: HALF THE KIDS IN AMERICA NEED AN OFO BIKE!

By the way: I saw about three Woo girls on the Ofo bikes during the company’s stint here. It was definitely a boy thing! Which means next time around, we gotta get the gals ridin’ bikes! Exercising in the summer sun! Whooping and hollerin’ just like the boys!

Did I find the bike-herds menacing? The groups of boys on Ofos and their own bikes who rode through the city together in a clump, wicked fast. The bike-herds that folks said elicited calls of panic to the Worcester Police Department. Oh, my heavens! Youth! Brown and Black youth! A gang! Call 911!!

Only one out of my scores of encounters with the bike kids flustered me…


Most of the time I felt like the moments our paths crossed were an inner-city gift🎈. After all, I was the one behind the wheel of a 2,000-lbs jalopy! Sometimes I worried about bottles being thrown, especially at Jett and Lilac, but I just drove through, pushed ahead – with resolution. Slowly, but the boys got the message …


And I took pics for CECELIA and my website – the picture-taking threw them off a bit…

City life.

To be safe is to live in the countryside or the suburbs surrounded by white people with money in nice, tight homes with nice white teeth. People just like YOU! I prefer my wayward kids and their wayward bottles …

Don’t rue the Woo!

I never saw anyone in Worcester abuse the Ofo bikes, like the T and G trolls claim. Racist lies mostly, I suspect. Yeah, I stumbled upon a few beaten up yellow bikes on our city streets, but our city streets (and sidewalks) were often more beaten up than the Ofo bikes were! What did I usually see? Worcester’s inner-city kids – and poor adults – pedaling their Ofos with pride! Sometimes I’d even see them smiling to themselves. Riding a shiny, new, yellow bike down Millbury Street can do that to you!

Sometimes a gaggle of kids on bikes (yellow and their own) would see me looking at them in cock-eyed wonder, and they’d put on a little show just for me: pop wheelies, ride their bikes for the stretch of the street on only one wheel like a unicycle! I’d drive by slowly to take in the parade! One kid, about 8, brown-skinned with his beautiful brown curly hair cut in a wild, insanely tall pompadour with a kind of tail in back stopped, looked at me, and making direct eye contact, smiled impishly and said, THANK YOU! (I had stopped for the group so they could “cross” the street). Looking straight at him, and with a nod of my head, a tip of the hat, I said, YOU’RE WELCOME. Very genteel. Then we both laughed out loud! Ten kids, 10 brown- and black-skinned kids, friends, just having the best time. Worcester needs more of that in her inner-city neighborhoods!

To me, the Ofo bikes were our ghettos’ JOYFUL TOYS! An affordable gift any inner-city kid could give himself for an afternoon. It cost only $1 an hour to “rent” the bikes. And so the boys rented them and rode them all over downtown and Main South and the South and East sides of the city, all spring and summer long. Sometimes they’d wear funny, colorful, rubber masks on their faces, and they’d take them off for you, grinning puckishly. City Super Heroes! Or they’d tie red cotton bandanas over their noses and mouths, like the cowboys did when they rode through their dusty and dirty America two centuries ago.

Our urban cowboys! TODAY’S mavericks!


I am thinking of these free spirits this afternoon …


Hoping to see them sitting astride on the NEW dockless bikes our COMPASSIONATE city officials are promising to order! Sooner rather than later. I hear autumn in Vernon Hill is divine …


Nothing to do with Ofo bikes, everything to do with boys. I’ve loved this crazy tune since I was 16!

Worcester’s changes, big and small

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

While eating breakfast today with CeCe …



… I thought about the changes – big and small – happening in Worcester, my hometown. Big change: Quinsigamond Village is getting the Blackstone Visitors Center – a bigger-than-I-expected new building now under construction where the OK Wool mills were once located. And next door, part of this urban renewal project, a park with benches, paths and a sleek slice of the Blackstone River. The park is being carved out of the patch of woods that stretches from the beginning of McKeon Road, behind the OK Wool site, to almost the street’s end, a block before its intersection with Cambridge Street:


The urban ecosystem has been defiled … trees cut down, bushes torn up, wild grasses dug up to make way for the new development. The buzzsaws are whirring in the summer heat; the dump trucks are hauling stuff away; cement trucks, with their huge rolling barrels of cement, are making tight turns in the small parking lot of the teeny, three-store ghost strip mall that’s been vacant since I don’t know how long. Working guys wearing hard hats work a full day. The few store fronts will be gobbled up by the Blackstone Visitors Center, too – part of the project.

A small, but heartbreaking change: the wildlife that called that sliver of nature in the middle of our old blue collar Swedish neighborhood is out of balance, freaking out! Rabbits and raccoons are mowed down by cars on McKeon Road as they flee their noisy, shrinking home. The birds seem to be falling out of the sky (heart attacks?) as the heavy machinery and men move in, taking over …


Their teeny paradise is more fragile than ever as it’s devoured by mankind. Invaded, destroyed, sunny day by sunny day. Good work days for the work crews; deadly days for the deers, rabbits, coyotes – all the wild animals who’ve adapted to the space nature had bestowed upon them, right across the street from Holy Cross college. Across McKeon Road sits Holy Cross or “The Cross” as it is known to the old timers and older alumnae. The small Jesuit school ate up the other side of the woods in 1843.

One of the McKeon Road entrances to Holy Cross.

The animals adapted and pretty much stayed on their side of the road. For all these years, except for the past five or so, there weren’t even street lights! Nighttime you’d drive up McKeon Road, a hill, and it felt a little perilous, the road winding, the college dark on one side, the woods dark on the other. But through the woods there were the city lights sparkling, just over your shoulder, beckoning you to admire them. And you had to turn to look at them and smile at the twinkly prettiness. The Old Worcester. Sigh…

Now it’s all changed. The New Worcester. Gentrified in Green Island with bars and pubs filled with people who eat and eat and take pictures of their plates of food. Things are going the same way in the direction of “The Cross.”

A while ago, in the middle of busy mid-day traffic, I slammed on my brakes to let a leggy, shell-shocked fawn cross McKeon Road to stumble onto the Holy Cross campus, the woodsier side where I walk my dogs almost daily. The fawn was skanky, smudged with dirt. It looked undernourished; it was all legs: skinny, dirty little rib cage body riding atop those sharp-kneed limbs. Still, I could see its white spots – a babe in the Worcester woods! And those big brown melt your heart eyes. You could tell it was terrified as it galloped crazily, obscenely, with those race-horse legs. I was struck by her degraded majesty. I quietly sat in my halted car, even turning off the car radio so as not to further stress her … so she could make her mad, wild, clumsy dash, into Holy Cross, literally falling over her legs sometimes … looking for her “Ma,” no doubt. Poor thing.

Of course, the drivers behind me, got right on their horns and started swearing at me up and down McKeon Road. This being the new, faster, meaner, smart-phone-toting Worcester everyone was in a BIG hurry to get somewhere important. And to photograph the event with their smart phones. Everyone was pissed off. At me for holding them up. They let me know just how they felt with blaring horns and “asshole” this or “bitch” that or FUCK YOU. I didn’t react so as not to send the fawn back over McKeon Road: I wanted her to safely complete her frenzied pilgrimage to Holy Cross, where things would be quieter in the teeny patch of woods there. Maybe she could hide there until her mother found her …


I stuck my left arm out of my car window and dramatically pointed at the fawn, as if to say to the pissed off hordes: See? See how wonderful she is?! Let her cross! Watch this miracle hobble up the hill!

“FUCK YOU!” Whahh! Whahh! went a slew of horns. It was a symphony of hatred. Obviously, my fellow drivers weren’t interested.

I didn’t care how they felt. I just sat calmly in my idling car and, solicitous now because I had fallen in love with her, felt the fawn was mine and that I was responsible for her, watched her scramble up the Holy Cross hill, all sharp-angled beauty and frantic – not at all graceful. She was terrified. When she disappeared into Holy Cross woods – maybe this took all of three minutes – I stepped on the gas, my fellow drivers on my ass now, tooting their horns and STILL cursing me!

It was the first time I had ever seen a fawn in “the wild”! Her white splashes of spots, even darkened with dirt, blew me away! Yes, I’ve seem deers. One even up close in Auburn while walking Jett and Lilac. My dogs, on leads, and I almost literally bumped into a large doe as we turned a building corner. Both parties froze and stared at each other – WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?! – before the doe bolted away.

Last week I was walking the dogs at Holy Cross, at the edge of the school’s baseball fields, right across from the woods, right on the cusp of McKeon Road, when I noticed a ragtag family in a jalopy even crappier than mine driving up and down the college entrance road and then finally stopping by the trees (pictured above). There, father (the driver), mother and baby (in her car seat in back) sat, staring at the clutch of trees. The dogs and I hadn’t begun our walk, so I made us mill about: I wanted to watch the car watching the Holy Cross trees. Finally, suspicious, even though it was none of my business, I asked them sternly: “Can I help you?”

The mother, exiting the car, disheveled, now looking more like a girl (the man’s daughter?), said breathlessly, as if under a spell: “We saw a deer go up here! We saw a deer!”

It must have been big and beautiful and they must have, just like me with my fawn, stumbled across her while driving up McKeon, and seen it very up close and very personal. Their paths had crossed! And the humans were enchanted! I knew the feeling. I smiled and said, “A while back I saw a fawn up this very same road.”

The girl was too mesmerized by her dream – the one that had pranced before her eyes. She got back into the car, and slowly, very slowly, the car crawled up the campus hill once more. Looking for their deer.

Were they planning on, hoping to, capture the graceful animal and drive it home for their very own? Maybe they lived in a house with a big backyard. Maybe they lived in a trailer park surrounded by tin and cement. I lifted my smartphone and snapped a picture of the car, making sure I got its license plate in the picture’s frame. They saw me do this and drove off.

And then last week, this:

I’m walking the dogs at Holy Cross, same path …


… and as we make our way to the practice batting cage, right outside the practice baseball and football fields, I see a young rabbit dangling high from the heavy cord netting of a batting cage. I run with the dogs straight to the rabbit; they want a go at it. BACK OFF! I scream, and they know mom means business. So they back off and lie down in the grass, still excited …


… I try to work the dangling rabbit out of the net. It is limp, not stiff. In shock?? Does it have a chance? Its neck is wrapped three times in the cord netting. It must have struggled like crazy, entangling itself more and more the harder and harder it fought to free itself. Its frenzy only made things worse.

I didn’t take a photo of the rabbit like that because it felt exploitative and cruel. I didn’t have a nano-second to lose if I wanted to save it! So I ran, with the dogs in tow, back to my car, to fetch my big Dollar Store scissors. Stored in my driver’s side cubby, I use them to cut the heavy string that’s tied around my lifts or bundles of CECELIA newspapers on delivery day.

I ran back to the rabbit, a brown sugar cotton tail and commanded Jett and Lilac to lie down and stay, which they did, sensing the seriousness of my voice. I began to cut the rabbit free. First, I took its furry little paws out if the netting. Then I began working on its neck. But the problem was, and it was at this point I realized the rabbit was dead, the netting was wound so tightly around its neck I could barely cut it free. I struggled to get the scissors’ blade between the rabbit’s neck and the batting cage netting. It had panicked, and since it’s head was bigger than the netting “holes” it could not pull its head free. So it kept plunging forward, through a new “hole” in the net – which only ensnared it more tightly. It had done this three times – I felt and saw three bands of the netting cord choking its light brown neck – before it gave up, asphyxiated. Still, I went on, cutting the first cord, then the second, then the third, really struggling to slip the scissor blade gently between animal and rope.

The rabbit looked young and healthy when it softly fell to the ground.


I plopped down on the ground, too, exhausted. Then the dogs and I sat there with the rabbit for awhile, just to be with it … to show our respect … acknowledge the fact that it had BEEN. Mystery achieved!

Then I began cutting the batting cage netting like a madwoman and cut a big chunk of Lilac’s leash for rope (I knew she’d follow me back to the car). I cut and cut that ol’ net and strung it up with Lilac’s leash – making an open tent flap. I tied several knots in the leash to make it super secure so another rabbit or any wild thing wouldn’t get caught in it and suffer and die a horrible death.


With all the cars and trucks thundering by. The noise, the desperate aloneness in all that noise. The hot sun beating down on you as you twisted in the wind choking to death. Coyotes, wolves and dogs (I once saw Lilac kill a rabbit in the woods) kill rabbits quickly, efficiently – go for the throat or the belly. Nothing like what happened here on the Holy Cross baseball fields.

Then my dogs and I got up and had our walk. Nature makes millions of rabbits. I have seen scores and scores of these happy, bouncy little creatures. And always, beneath their cuteness, the strength, the nobility. God.

After our walk my pups and I got into my car to drive home. I looked out of my car window.


I had done quite the number on Holy Cross’s batting cage, but nothing compared to what it had done on the rabbit. Repercussions? I decided there wouldn’t be any. Stroking Lilac who had affectionately stuck her nuzzle under my chin like she always does after our walks, I told my dogs: “It’s a Jesuit college. Jesus would have done the same thing.”

Then we drove down McKeon Road, the shrunken woods to our left and, at the bottom of the hill, the half-built Blackstone Visitors Center, all concrete and corrugated roof tops … me missing the way Worcester was all the way home.


tweaked: Happy Birthday, Paul McCartney! 🎵💿🎶🎧

Text and pics by Rosalie Tirella

Today is the Beatles’ Paul McCartney’s birthday! As I walked through my kitchen this early afternoon, here in lower Vernon Hill, my own private ghetto😉 … the coffee percolating, Cece keeping me company as she always does during meal time …


… I caught the beginning of Paul’s “Fool on the Hill,” written when he was with the Beatles. I was struck by the aloneness of the tune and stopped in my tracks to soak in the lovely loneliness. To really listen to the song. The fool atop the hill, the only one around for miles and miles! Half crazy! Or at least the world believes he’s nuts. No matter to him: there he stands, indifferent to people’s mocking and prejudices, alone and unbowed, face naked to the sunlight, spinning around and around until he’s dizzy, his arms out like a pinwheel! Smiling at the cotton ball clouds, doing his thing, singing his song! He’s utterly alone, yet fulfilled.

This afternoon I thought about the fool. So inspiring! “He sees the sun going down, and the eyes in his head see the world spinning ’round …” Paul sings. The fool is no fool! He knows where his talents lie, he knows his place in the natural world …

McCartney was just a kid when he wrote the tune – around 20. Maybe even 19. He was just a kid when he wrote all his “sad” masterpieces: YESTERDAY, SHE’S LEAVING HOME, FIXING A HOLE, ELEANOR RIGBY – all the beautiful, alone Beatles tunes. …

They’re about abandonment, wistfulness, despair … Yet often the songs are stories (McCartney loves to tell stories) of a shining soul defiant in a hostile world! 1960s youth zeitgeist? I say, oh, to be so young! – at any time! TO SEE AND SPEAK THE TRUTH before it’s muddled in adulthood! Before the lies – big and small –
move in … . “SILLY PEOPLE RUNNING AROUND, WONDERING WHY THEY NEVER GET PAST MY DOOR!” Paul sings in “Fixing a Hole.” Cheers, brother!

Ensconced in gorgeous solitude, Paul McCartney songs get to me – got to me as a kid growing up in Green Island. All these Paul Beatles songs are GREAT – even though you may think they’re a bit melodramatic! They feel deeply … like the brilliant youth who wrote them. Like all youth! Remember when you were 16? Every day you let your heart out to twist in the wind! You unfurled it like a flag …

When I was a teen growing up in Green Island …


… I’d listen to the Beatles in my bedroom, on my Emerson turntable, with its two big black speakers and dream – lose myself in all the sonic rivers and streams of a Beatles tune. Especially the ones written in ’67 and ’68. The Revolver (’68), Rubber Soul years (’67)…

Rose’s new old speakers. She loves her vinyl!

I was 15 years old and looking in the mirror for the first time and seeing a pretty young woman’s face staring back at me. Then I’d riffle through my Beatles paraphernalia to find Paul’s prettier face staring back at me!


It was beautiful! The soul behind the soulful eyes even more beautiful, to me! All the Paul sad songs, imbued with his longing, feelings of abandonment, despair, even prayers … feelings I felt at 16. Sexual feelings. For the blond haired boy in homeroom and the tall, tanned, dirty, lanky boy-man who dropped out of school and worked in the junkyard next door. He couldn’t read; I cried over him!

A beautiful, amazing world – wide open. My Green Island family slamming it shut! Piling up against the wooden door, their asses making a THUD. Abusive Daddy; prayerful, submissive Ma; my two, heart-breaking kid sisters; and always our feisty Polish immigrant granny, Bapy, yelling in her broken English: “Rosie, get me Sanka!! Heat me Sanka!!”


Shut up, Bapy! I wanted to scream in Polish as I jumped off my bed where I was stretched out on my belly listening to SARGENT PEPPERS LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND. Yep! Bapy called! And I had to come when called, just like a golden retriever. Bapy was demanding I get up out of my Beatles reverie to grab her dirty, cracked, hard-boiled-egg stained coffee cup half-filled with her tepid Sanka and put her crappy cup of instant coffee into a boiling pan of water. Gross! I wanted to be left alone with the beautiful Beatles in their beautiful nehru shirts! To lie on my bed, with the pink curtains billowing in, listening to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” …


Those Paul songs, swaddled in violins, horns, cellos, symphony orchestras … His lyrics, rough and tumble, from the streets and tenements: “We struggled hard all our lives to get by … She’s leaving home, Bye Bye!…” Mother, in the middle of the night, clutching her natty bathrobe, watching her favorite daughter leave home … forever. Her careworn face too tired for tears. Watching her daughter leaving home for good armed only with the foolish certitude of the young poet. Mother says: Bye Bye!! Bye Bye, Rose!!

When I was a young girl growing up in Green Island, Paul McCartney got to me in ways my mom, school, most books, couldn’t … . Sure, he was adorable and, like most Baby Boomer teenaged girls (and not a few boys!), I fell for his CUTENESS. Those big, sad, puppy-dog eyes. The flirty way, in the early days, he shook his head as he played his (left-handed) bass…(“Watching the skirts, you start to flirt, now you’re in gear!”) Yep! I was a Paul groupie! I knew, through Tiger Beat magazine and the cheap paperbacks I bought or got, …

Rose still has the McCartney bio a friend bought her when she was a student at Burncoat HS!

… that McCartney was left-handed, that he dumped beautiful model Jane Asher for beautiful photographer Linda Eastman, that he loved all animals and had an Old English Sheep dog named Martha about whom he wrote a song …

Paul, Martha and Jane

I read all his song lyrics, pored over his every sentence in every interview I could get my hands on, cut out his newspaper interviews, if I was allowed to, and pasted them into my Beatles scrap book. I tried to dress like Paul – blue jeans and loose, flowing, beautiful, flowery, colorful shirts …

But at the heart of my attraction was the sadness, the loss: Paul’s mother, a nurse, had died of breast cancer when he was just a little kid. His father, a cotton salesman, raised Paul and his little brother.

Paul, right, and his brother, Michael

I understood Paul’s predicament. We were two peas in a pod: I had no real father. I missed a parent, too – a parent I needed to love and be loved by. I just had this asshole Daddy who popped in every other year or so to make Ma and the whole family miserable.

Beatle John Lennon also lost a parent – his mother Julia, who was too young and wild to raise her son. So she gave John up to her sister Mimi to raise …

John Lennon

When John was a teenager Julia came back into his life – only to be run over by a bus!! She died just as John and she were beginning their relationship.

Lennon once said he and McCartney bonded over the loss of their moms. They were alone together. That meant everything. So the searching began, musically … these two working class kids, who just happened to be musical geniuses, remembering, trying to reach their mothers, through sound…

Rose, in Green Island looking for her father, hating her father, yet longing for a Daddy. The good Daddy who sang Frank Sinatra songs in the kitchen and liked to walk in the woods. But this Daddy seldom showed up on Lafayette Street and, when he did, he didn’t stay for very long. Went away … but where??? Died.

How does a working-class, 15-year-old girl figure it all out? Become the hero of her song?

She listens to the Beatles, of course! She buys all their records at Strawberries or Jordon Marsh downtown and replays them hundreds of times in her beat up old bedroom in her mother’s Lafayette Street flat.

Like Paul and John, Rose cries, too!

And always you are pissed off! A hard attitude to cop, if you’re a good Catholic girl. FUCK IT ALL! You snuggle under your bed covers and listen to “Let it Be” one more time. Paul sings: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, Let It Be.” Ma loves this Beatles song! She thinks it’s about the Virgin Mother in heaven and praying to her. You read somewhere that it’s really about Paul’s mother – her name was Mary.

All the things you love on Millbury Street … you see and hear them in Beatles’ songs. Their working class Liverpool is your working class Worcester. Their frustrated parents, your frustrated parents. Their neighborhood, your neighborhood! All the beautiful flowers, animals, rainbows and sky are in their music and lyrics! For you! How lucky you are to live in their time, when they made their melodies and lyrics.

You are in a secret society – the lonely hearts club band – a club whose members are fatherless, motherless, blue collar, alone Baby Boomer-strivers, chip-on-your-shoulder cool, bedraggled, glorious. You don’t say the word “artistic” cuz you’re poor. But you feel this way. You begin to write essays …all the time. Your father, whenever he’s home, laughs at you tapping at your cheap orange typewriter at the beat-up kitchen table. “Fuck nut!!” Daddy yells to Ma. “Poetry?! She should study to be a secretary!” Annoyed, he stumbles, pigeon-toed, to the refrigerator to grab a plum for his walk out.

But the fool at the kitchen table keeps typing away. She knows better …

Paul’s brainchild

Sunday is Father’s Day …

Reposting… I wrote this column years ago – right after my father died. – R.T.

🏢🏣🏤Rose’s childhood Green Island life. The view from her family’s 3rd floor back porch. Pictured: her English Setter mix, Belle:
Pic: R.T.

Her kid sister💜:
Pic: Cecelia T.

Another kid sister💜, “planted” before the Saint Behind the Glass!💜:
Pic: C.T.


By Rosalie Tirella

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 be a great Easter picture!

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.

The saints of Green Island

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

This Mother’s Day I got to thinking about my mother’s mother, “Mama,” –
“Bapy” to me and my two kid sisters … slangy Polish for “Granny.”

Rose’s mother, left, and “Bapy,” circa WW II

If Trump were President back when the above photo was taken, he’d be scapegoating Bapy, her friends and family, trying to keep people like Bapy (and her husband, my Jaju) out of America. After all, they were dirt poor, looked dirt poor, were uneducated, were immigrants from Poland (a quasi-“shit-hole country”); they were unskilled, unable to write and read even in their native tongue. And, of course, they were unable to speak the most rudimentary English – and just like the Trump Adminstration fumes today – these poor immigrants were incapable (especially that first wave…) of adjusting to the American way of life. America was just too fast for them. They were Conservative Catholics, farm people, a little too superstitious in their devotion to their God … a little too voodoo … too foreign for go-go, money-money America.

My relatives knew that – got it – when people in America, in Worcester, in their neighborhood, Green Island, laughed at them and yelled: “YOU DP!!” As in “YOU DUMB POLACK!!” The acronym “D.P.” really stood for “Displaced Person,” Ma taught me, when I was a little girl and the kids used to name call me at elementary school. It was an immigration office label, Ma explained to me, that’s all. But I hated the term and made it a label unfit for me. I would be the smartest kid in class! Read the best books! Get the most A’s! And so this “DP” became an all A student and always first in her class at Lamartine Street School and Providence Street Junior High. The biggest bullies (usually the dumbest kids in class) changed their taunt from Dumb Polack! to BOOK WORM! as they beat the crap outa me!

My pretty sweet mother was a Conservative Catholic, hence a pacifist …


She taught me to “turn the other cheek” like Jesus said in the Bible, which hurt like hell in Green Island … made absolutely no sense! I was dying in the Lamartine schoolyard at recess time! My classmate Frieda, twice as tall as me, red-faced, her two brown pigtails snapping in the wind as she lumbered towards me, enjoyed hitting me, hurting me. But before beating me up – she’d yank my pretty pink sweater off me – the one Ma bought special for me at Jack and Jill’s on Green Street – my favorite sweater with its beautiful pearlescent buttons – and step on it. Flower in the dirt! Once outside Helen’s Corner Store on Grosvenor Street, Frieda took a slug of her Orange Crush soda and spit her drink all over my precious pink sweater!! But I did as I was told. I stayed stoic. I walked home dripping orange soda. I was not a big kid, had a bunch of illnesses as a little girl…

“little Rose”

… so I had to be stoic. Ma tried to talk with Frieda’s mother. Our teacher was notified. But it’s hard to make impressions on bullies, usually miserable kids behind all their fisticuffs and bravado. Take Frieda: she was held back twice, couldn’t read even though she was in third grade, and her clothes were two sizes too small for her. Her mother never came to our school’s parents night – my mother always attended, wearing her Elizabeth Arden red lipstick! Plus, Frieda’s big brother was in jail. The schoolyard drama was traumatic … but it all turned out ok. Frieda dropped out of school soon enough, I went on to become the first person in my family to go to college, and I matured to become a damaged but crusading adult – “She’s always for the underdog!” Ma used to say – who lives life as she sees fit and runs a few crusading rags … a broad who does not give a damn what anyone thinks. And I don’t!, so certain am I of my zippy moral compass, infused with my late mother and grandmother’s Old World Catholicism, my Green Island fables and miracles.

Bapy was a demanding Bapy, and we kids were supposed to mind her the way we minded Ma. “Rosie, Sanka!” Bapy would yell to me from her lumpy old easy chair that Ma had set up for her at the head of our kitchen table – Bapy’s throne, her perch, from which she could watch – and COMMENT ON – all the domestic action: what Ma was cooking for dinner that night, my sister’s new shoes, my Barbie Dream House, my white hamster Joy. All in gnarled up Polish: “Rosie, put my cold cup of Santa Coffee in the little pan of boiling water to heat up! … Cecelia, don’t overcook the cabbage! … Mary’s shoes’ shoelaces are too long! She’ll trip over them! … Who’s this ‘Ken’ in your big doll house, Rosa?”

And me, screaming melodramatically in broken Polish: BAPY, STOP FEEDING JOY BIRTHDAY CAKE! SHE EATS HARTZ HAMSTER FOOD! She has her own special diet! Ma!!!!!!

Bapy: Let me feed your fat mouse, Rosie! You Rosie and I Rosie! (true enough. I was named after Baby – Rosalie.)

Bapy was a nag – but a cute one. She was four feet, 10 inches high and always wore two or three, one on top of the other, (cuz she had bad arthritis) flannel night gowns, topped off with an apron, a reminder of the ol’ days when she ran her own household on Bigelow Street and cooked EVERYTHING from scratch: beet soup, noodles, potato pierogi, rabbit stew, gawumoki, latkes … As a little kid you could literally run up Baby – she was like a musty old mountain! – kiss her round face and throw your arms around her chubby neck and bury your head in her huge, now flat as pancakes, bosom. She’d kiss the top of your head and squeeze you very tight. And not let go! All that love! Whenever we wanted it!

Bapy sang Polish songs for us kids…one of my favorite songs was about an old Polish guy sitting at the shore of a lake wanting to hook up with all the pretty Polish gals. But they were too young for him, so he went to the barber and got his hair dyed shiny black. So all the girls at the lake would go out with him! I used to love to sing that song with Bapy! I still know the tune – it’s so happy and silly!

Every Sunday evening I used to love to watch Ma comb out Bapy’s long silver hair (very fine but with a slight wave) to braid it fresh for the coming week. She’d comb out Bapy’s hair, make the three thin strands of gray hair, braid them tight. Then with bobby pins held between her pretty lips, make a big circle, a bun, at the nape of Bapy’s neck, securing each ring of the bun with the bobby pins. I’d watch Ma closely, occasionally stroking Bapy’s crinkly forehead where her pale purple veins pulsed … You Ok, Bapy? I’d coo to her, the way I’d coo to my little pet hamster, Joy. We’d be listening to the portable radio on top of our old round edged refrigerator – practically an ice box. A Beatles song would come on the radio. No one would be talking. Ma would hum along to the Beatles – she had Beatles Keds she loved them so much! All eyes were trained on Bapy’s beautiful bun in the making.

Rose, center, and her two kids sisters, seated in front of the “pulka” in their Lafayette Street tenement.

Bapy gave us chores – little jobs around our tenement that were perfect for little kids. They needed to get done – but were too tangential for busy adults but kinda fun for kids. My chore was “dusting the statues on the pulka” – pulka being the long shelf above the washing tubs in the kitchen. I got a quarter for doing it! Perfect for all the penny candy I was gonna buy at Eddy’s Penny Candy store, directly across the street from our house. Eddy had seizures. So sometimes you’d go into his store to by a few twizzlers and he’d be writhing on the dark wood floor in back. You didn’t have to see it … you could tell just by hearing the thumping and gagging. So you’d turn around, leave the store and go home with plans to return in about a half hour. Eddy would be fine by then, like nothing ever happened. You gave him your three pennies, said: Eddy, can you gimme three twizzlers? and he’d flick open one of the scores of tiny paper bags at his side, making a loud SNAP, and very businesslike put your three twizzlers in your paper bag. He’d bestow your candy upon you. You’d say: Thank you, Eddy! and run out of his store because he sort of frightened you. Ma was on great terms with Eddy – they were both Polish, lived with their controlling mothers, both from Poland, and Eddy’s sister was a nun and lived in a convent while Ma had worked as a housekeeper for the Bishop of Springfield and lived in his house, practically a convent.

Ma in Springfield, with, of course, a pup in need of a home (hers!). She attracted strays of all sorts: Rose’s father, for instance.

Ma posing outside the Bishop’s house, where she worked/lived with her two sisters, during the Great Depression and World War II

But I digress! Back to my weekly chore, which was a blast. It entailed removing all the small statues of the saints and all the plastic flowers from the shelf above the big sink in our kitchen and dusting them all and re-placing them in ANY WAY I LIKED. I was the interior designer – for the Lord! Sometimes I could even run down to White’s Five and Ten and buy some NEW self-sticking shelf trim! My choice of colored plastic! Pink with blue flowers? Mottled gold?! My choice!

I went to town, with Bapy, crippled with arthritis, sitting on her kitchen “throne” commenting on the mini event. Because it was an event! The statues of the saints – Joseph, Anne, Theresa, Jude, Mary – the Virgin Mother all were very alive to us – especially Bapy who was even more pious than Ma, walking to church every morning for morning mass, in Polish at St. Mary’s, when she was young and middle-aged. Like Ma, she prayed throughout her day, a rosary and some rusty saint medals always sitting next to her lukewarm cup of Sanka! Bapy, Ma, we three kids all prayed to all the saints on that shelf, as if they were real! “Put Joseph there,” said Bapy. I’d show her the little Infant of Prague statue and she’d bless herself as she kissed its feet… I’d run to the bathroom, grab some toilet paper, wet the paper with lukewarm water and Ivory Soap and gently wash the statues faces, arms (always folded or raised in prayer), legs, feet…Once I dropped St. Jude and his head rolled off, cracking in two. Baby’s visiting nurse got her husband to put the head back on like new! A hobbyist, he put clay where the paint, plaster had chipped off and painted new colors on the old statue! Perfectly matched! He was an artist!

Like I said, the statues were alive to us. Ma sometimes said her after-work prayers to them. They brought us peace in slummy, sometimes violent, Green Island. Alive and happy in Heaven with Jesus, they lived! But, unlike Jesus/God/the Holy Spirit, they had no real powers. So you prayed to them, asking them to ask God to answer your prayers. Make your prayers come true. The saints had extra pull precisely because they were saints – spectacular human beings while on earth. Much nicer than you or I… Usually, they died for God, their Christian beliefs. Martyrs who were ripped up by lions in coliseums in Roman times – just part of the entertainment. The opening act for the gladiators…It all made me cry. It made me wash their little plastic flowers all the more assiduously in our bathroom sink. Then I’d put them – in different arrangements – in vases next to the saints – or at their plaster of Paris feet, to show my great love and empathy for them. (or, I could have run out of vases.)

You washed their dusty faces and made them look pretty like your favorite Barbie dolls…you changed their shelf paper like you changed the bottom of your hamster Joy’s cage. This is what I did every Sunday afternoon in Green Island, for several years. Bapy watching and validating me. Years later, I’d be home visiting from college and “do” the “pulka”/shelf! Now dustier, the saints more faded and drab looking, I went to work! It hurt me to see Saint Joseph and Saint Theresa looking so old, so under the weather! … So forgotten!

Here is a saint from our Lafayette Street kitchen pulka, the young Jesus who, as a kid, knew more than the rabbis in Temple! So the story goes … This was my favorite statue. Still is:


This Jesus fell off my shelf on Ward Street a year ago and broke in three. His head has come off numerous times – see the old model airplane glue I used as a kid to patch him up and set him back up on the long kitchen shelf?


I used to pray to this statue most of all. He was a kid, like me. His face seemed more life like than the other saints on the shelf. And most
important, I didn’t dicker around with the saints – I did my imploring before the Big Guy himself. No middle men and women for me, no matter how good and kind they were.

I used to grab a kitchen chair, clamber up it and slip Jesus little notes under the base of his statue.

From Rose to Jesus: “Jesus, please let me get an A on my math test Thursday.” “Jesus, please let me be #1 in my class.” “Jesus, please let there be no school tomorrow if it snows.” “Jesus, please let Ma let me have a dog.”

I was a selfish, ambitious kid, who loved dogs, I guess. Never did any praying for Ma, Bapy or my sisters, though I loved them more than anything!

I’d like to think the saints on the pulka/shelf – Joseph, Jude, Anne, Theresa, Anthony, Mother Mary – knew that …

Bapy at the head of the Lafayette Street kitchen table, squeezing little Rose!


Tweaked: As of yesterday …

By Rosalie Tirella

… the shit still sits on Water Street:

pics: R.T.

…and Millbury Street, too:


Welcome to the Canal District.

As Worcester gentrifies its older neighborhoods because it doesn’t have the thousands of factory jobs it once had …



… to support its inner-city folks, our inner-city neighborhoods – Grafton Hill, Green Island, Piedmont, lower Vernon Hill, Cambridge/Canterbury streets, parts of Main South – die. The three deckers now expensive$$$ rental property owned by absentee investor-landlords who LOVE Section 8, our residents often desperate welfare cheats or criminals! We see our city lose its soul.

Worcester – home to huge swaths of poor people (one in four of our children is labeled food-insecure,
govt-speak for hungry, malnourished!), forever on the outs.

Neighborhoods without the buzzing kids and their worker bee parents embarking on the American Dream.

We see the lack of civil respect that comes with living OUTSIDE society: for people (scrawny/obese, violent, under educated), places (garbage-infested dumps), things (guns).

… And the garbage pile-ups are the least deadly of our urban ills …


Cambridge Street, today

… but still a symptom of our deep urban dysfunction.

The death of my people. The death of a way of life I knew and loved as a kid growing up in Green Island.

Baby Rose being held by her fave aunt in her family’s Green Island tenement.

Water Street, the ’70s: Rose’s kid sister taking a stroll to The Broadway restaurant.

The Broadway – still open at 100 Water St. – STILL making its own HOMEMADE ICE CREAM!

A way of being American. A good civic and life path that was open to all Worcesterites. Worcester, like all Gateway Cities, celebrated at every turn: in her scores and scores of factories, our very solid public schools, our oppressive yet beautiful and spiritual Catholic churches…

One of Rose’s late mother’s prayer cards: Oh pray for us sinners, Saint Theresa!💜

I never saw garbage overflowing in our city streets as a little kid growing up in Green Island!

Rose, a babe, and her Polish immigrant grandmother, “Bapy,” in their Lafayette Street flat.

And we were all poor!

Yeah, we can blame the City of Worcester DPW, our city councilors etc. But mostly, it’s we, the people. Lacking the self respect and pride to be clean. Lacking the discipline to forgo the junk food shit at the corner Dollar Store and save the 10 bucks needed to buy the City of Worcester yellow garbage bag in which to dispose our crap!

Of course, our newly developing Downtown is now home to hundreds of high priced “luxury apartments” designed to keep out the poor locals. Woo City Manager Ed Augustus is pinning our Center City dreams on outsiders – not the locals from the once blue collar neighborhoods that made our downtown, in its heyday, sparkle and hum! Today new folks, well off people, will treat our downtown as their personal playground – their dining and entertainment hub. Our Downtown!! Once home to the most mundane offices and businesses that served Worcester’s sturdy hoi polloi! Poof! Gone! Along with the beautiful Notre Dame church – another symbol of the changes.

So, obviously, I feel a bit cut off. So do my neighbors. The new Worcester doesn’t speak to us, for us. I’ll never be able to afford dinner at Dead Horse. I’ll never hang in the cool apartments. Along with thousands and thousands of other poorer Woo folks.

Our holy factories are gone.
One of Rose’s old Lamartine Street School books – its inside touting Worcester’s industrialists!

Our economy is half-decimated – if you’re without schooling, an immigrant, or just wanna work with your hands… you’re screwed!

So what happens to half our population? The half that is under-paid, under-educated, poorly housed and clothed?

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it explode????


Kudos to State Senator Danny Donahue for proposing legislation that will raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour!

A big hooray for District 2 City Councilor Candy Mero Carlson for pushing the City of Worcester to pay each and every one of its workers at least $15 an hour!

No charity! Good jobs! Good paychecks! Home-ownership! Like the ol’ days!

FREE COMMUNITY COLLEGE FOR ALL OUR POOR AND LOWER MIDDLE CLASS KIDS! So they can grab hold of that gold ring, too!!

A REAL FOOD HUB for Worcester shoppers who aren’t middle class! Our people – children! – are hungry!

The city’s got to save HALF THE CITY!

My half. The half slipping away each and every day …