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.
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 …
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…
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!
… 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.
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 …
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 …
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.
ON SEEING MY FATHER
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.
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.
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…
… 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!
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 …
THE FUTURE: Chef Joey’s baby girl – Gigi! pic: Chef Joey
By Rosalie Tirella
Dear Worcester and America:
Today’s the day – ELECTION DAY! We all make the somber, joyful, vindictive?, salutary amble to our local churches, neighborhood centers, senior centers to pull the lever, color in the ovals – X marks the spot! – in our hearts! No bludgeon-wielding thug can coerce us into saying how we voted or make us vote for this one or that one! This is America! The grand land of Lincoln – not Putin!
Today, Election Day, every American 18 or older can partake in the ultimate American pot luck dinner: a FREE, NONVIOLENT, OPEN election! An election whose results are accepted by this sea-to-shining-sea country of millions and millions of people who show the rest of the world what true day to day, cheek by jowl DIVERSITY is – a people – and we are “WE THE PEOPLE” – who accept election results in peace … go back to the drawing board to get our guy or gal or point of view in next time. Our elections do not trigger beheadings, civil wars, coups d’etat.
Remember: We are the land of Lincoln – not Putin!
Today we can choose as our next president: A brilliant, seasoned stateswoman, a public servant who’s advocated for women, children and families her entire political life – which spans decades – OR we can choose a megalomaniac, racist, sexist nut job whose most substantial and consistent character trait is his fake goldy-locks-comb over. Republican nominee Donald Trump was all over the place this election cycle – but his hair, each and every follicle – never wavered!
Do we want a bad comb-over as our next president?
Do we want to empower Donald Trump to make that 3 a.m. phone call that could end the world as we know it? Madness! Choosing between Hillary Clinton, a former Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, First Lady and Donald Trump, a bloviating, mentally unstable blow hard reality TV show star WHO HAS ZERO GOVERNING/POLITICAL experience and who loves only himself. We are all just tools or toys with which Trump can play to feel GREAT about himself and all his other delusions. He is a vulgarian who has criminally assaulted women, ogled naked 15-year-old girl models, a man who, at the slightest puerile provocation (like, hey, Donald you’re a wimp!) would blanket the Mid East with bombs – children and women be damned.
Of course, Trump wouldn’t have gotten this far if the Republican Party weren’t a shambles. The Republicans have dismissed, forgotten, NEVER SERVED, the people who’ve given them their electoral prowess ever since Tricky Dick: the white working class, the lower middle class with high school degrees and God on their side. Their wages have been depressed for years, they’ve been down sized without new free training for the global economy, they visit food pantries after working all day at Wal Mart. THEIR VOICES MUST BE HEARD!
The Republican political elite got their votes and closed their ears and hearts. Now the slumbering have awoken! American democracy, the Republican hoi polloi have puked up Donald Trump.
Good. The Republican Party deserves it. Now it will be forced to retool itself for 21st century America: a land of young people, immigrants, people of color, the LBGT community, the working poor, the poor, women, women, women… the majority of whom will not be white in a generation. THE FUTURE!
Today! PLEASE VOTE FOR HILLARY CLINTON AS OUR NEXT PRESIDENT!
YES ON Q 3 – So that Mass doesn’t accept animals or their bounty from places where the animals live in quarters where they cannot lie down and fully extend their legs, stand up or turn around in.
HUMANE LIVING QUARTERS FOR VEAL CALVES, PIGS, CHICKENS now!!!
YES ON Q 2. Poor parents stuck in the inner city without academic choices for their kids…NEED TO BE EMPOWERED TO MAKE CHOICES, to send their kids to the schools they think will most benefit them – academically, socially, emotionally. On this website I wrote of my wonderful, late mom and why she would vote YES ON Question 2. She was a loving person who adored little kids. She always wanted the best for them. She would take union politics and paycheck bullshit right out of the equation and see a YES on 2 as a YES for Mass kids!
YES ON Q 4. Legalize Mary Jane! I’ve come around on this issue: Arresting half the young men in our inner city ‘hoods for a non-gateway drug is folly. We’re destroying young lives – especially black, brown and poor young lives.
NO ON Q 1. NO MORE CASINOS IN MASS. We’re the smart state. We can innovate our way to a gangbusters economy! Go, Massachusetts, go!
There’s plenty of room on our Common for Worcester’s planned memorial to our city’s fallen African American W W II soldiers. Right here, for instance – the Franklin Street side of City Hall. pics: R.T.
By Rosalie Tirella
… Why is Worcester’s planned memorial to our fallen African American W W II soldiers being erected at the Worcester Police Station?
Why not put the statue honoring our Black soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice right where it belongs? On the Worcester Common, along with all the other statues honoring Worcester’s fallen heroes?
There’s a slew of them on our Common – in the middle of our soon-to-be revitalized downtown! Around and behind Worcester City Hall … they adorn the grass and trees that surround them even as we try (at least on holidays) to adorn them – lay wreaths braided with flowers or pine at their feet. We walk or drive by the stone and iron soldiers if we work in or visit the heart of our city. They make you think … put aside your work, dining, shopping obsessions for a few fleeting seconds to see something greater – a person’s life story, a city’s story, world history. The stone and iron soldiers come alive!
You can even build the new memorial to our Black WW II soldiers next to our John Power WW II monument that stands right outside our City Hall. The monument to our Black WW II heroes – it was called the “Colored Citizens World War II Honor Roll Memorial” – was once located in our African American Laurel-Clayton neighborhood but disappeared, along with the neighborhood!, when the interstate highway was built. John Power is STILL with us – standing guard by Worcester City Hall (see my photo, above). So, truth be told, we will be building a new monument because we lost, destroyed, the old one! How can you “lose” a monument? What does that “loss” say about our city a few decades ago? Back then, how sacred to our city fathers were the memories of these dead African American soldiers – Black men from Laurel-Clayton, from Worcester?
Not very sacred at all.
Hell! There’s room for a tank or a couple of Jeeps to the right of the John Power statue. There John stands as the hip students walk by to get to their recently built dorms on Franklin Street …
Soldier Power doesnt look hip at all! He looks like your average WW II grunt – ditch digger, mucking around in stinking trenches with penecillin pills, canned spam in his knap sack – but a KILLER too. Make no mistake! See the rifle slung over Power’s right shoulder and the long dagger in his left hand? He’s clutching the dagger ready for the fight – hand to hand combat – to the death probably. How can any city deprive a Black soldier, who fought the same fight, the honor we’ve bestowed on John Power? Power’s helmet is on askew cuz he’s in battle. He looks Irish – and a little cockey. Why can’t we humanize our dead African American soldiers this lovingly?
Why can’t Worcester’s Black community have the same thing? A touching yet tough depiction of men in war in stone?
Why stick our Black soldiers at the bottom of Bell Hill, at the Worcester police station, in the middle of a 20-way intersection, surrounded by ugly concrete (we’re talking the police station, too!) – a place where few will visit, stop to honor these men, think about them? A place where drug dealers, robbers, rapists and killers are flung?
Yes, the police station is a stone’s throw from the old Laurel-Clayton neighborhood, razed and replaced by the Plumley Village low-income public housing complex, home to many people of color – Blacks, included. Why not – I’m certain residents would be honored -put the monument there? It would be back at its real home. Placed before the entrance way to the buildings and high rise, lots of folks would stop and pay their respects.
Or is that the point? The intention (maybe subconscious) of Worcester City Leaders? To keep the monument to our fallen Black WW II Soldiers out of the public eye – especially out of reach of the African American community?
And something else…to stop it from being a focal point, a symbol, a place for Blacks to gather, to remember, to rally, to teach … to protest. So often people come to their city or town common to express views, speech-ify … Protest! It’s been happening as long as there have been places where people chose to live together. A kind of gathering at the communal fire place! In America we’ve been doing it ever since our forefathers and mothers sailed into Plymouth Rock!
It’s happening still. All over. Especially with Black Lives Matter and, before that, Occupy Wall Street. It’s happening in Worcester. Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus has come down brutally hard on the BLM movement/rallies here, just as his predecessor City Manager I HATE ALL POOR RESIDENTS Mike O’Brien was hard with Occupy Wall Street protesters – refusing to meet with them, making sure they were off THEIR Worcester Common!
Would city leaders want a Black Lives Matter march to end at the “Colored Citizens World War II Honor Roll Memorial” on the Worcester Common? Would they want to see anyone give witness to pain, anger, racial discrimination in Worcester, “a city on the move”? Would they want a large crowd of folks agitating for change? In the middle of downtown?
Is this what John Power died for?
(P.S. Don’t let this happen, Bill Coleman and James Bonds!)
Some Worcester projects just drag on and on and on.
For example: The Wyman Gordon site, at Green Island’s Lamartine Street. Now a brown field, it was once a thriving factory and serious economic booster for Green Islanders. Today it lies empty, ugly and toxic.
… or Piedmont’s Chandler Elementary School. The families there need a larger school building to accommodate the hundereds of kids that the city educates there. A good chunk of the student body is being bussed daily to other learning sites in the city. On a smaller scale, up until very recently, its trashed back doors and side windows needed replacing … (pics:R.T.)
These projects in our urban core just never seem to get off the ground. Like the perennial lead balloon, these inner-city sites – a reflection of Worcester political leaders’ lack of commitment to poorer/minority neighborhoods and poor/minority folks (usually people with little political clout ) – just keep rolling along Lamartine Street, Murray Ave or Chandler Street. Every election cycle our politicians ever so elegantly dance over these lead balloons: Yes! they say, we feel your pain! (they absolutely do NOT!). Yes! we know half of Chandler Elementary school’s student body is being bussed out to other city buildings to learn because the building is so over populated! (How many West Side parents would put up with that kind of school-day disruption for their precious kiddies?!) Yes! We know the school’s back doors are wooden and rotten and look like some one’s trying to kick them in and the wood windows are damaged badly, but, hey, we’re working on it! (finally – yes – the school’s doors were recently replaced with heavy green metal ones and the damaged heavy wooden windows replaced with new ones – see photo, above)
Here is our latest urban core lead balloon over which the city is self-flagellating but not moving on – even though a BEAUTIFUL USE for it was recently presented to the City Manager and Co. by former Worcester City Councilor Juan Gomez :
It’s the old PIP building in Main South – and the LATINO ARTS/PERFORMANCE CENTER it could have become!
Formerly one of the state’s two or three only “wet” shelters (drunk, high, stoned homeless welcome here!) residents and small businesses in Main South and city leaders (most notably former District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller) clamored for years for the PIP to be shut down. The drug users were shooting up heroin a few streets outside the PIP’s doors and then staggering into the social service agency for supper, medical care and a cot to sleep in for the night . Morning came and they walked out into the Main South neighborhood, some on their way to getting clean and sober, but most looking to get high all over again and repeat the brutal cycle. Usually just yards away from the PIP’s back doors! Nearby Main South small biz folks were outraged, lower Main South residents fearful and without hope.
Then a few years ago, the unimaginable happened: Thanks mostly to Haller and Main South community activist Billy Breault, the PIP was FINALLY shut down. Homeless addicts and hardcore alcoholics are now being helped in other places in the city – social service agencies that refuse them if they are high and transport them to hospitals for detoxification; places/half way homes with more security; social service agencies with impressive, structured programs.
So now the old PIP building has become another Woo lead balloon!
For their/your information: the PIP building ITSELF is STILL attracting junkies, staggering alcoholics and high homeless folks! Scrawny, weather beaten women are STILL TODAY walking the walk outside its doors, along Charlton Street, looking to sell their bodies to buy a bag of cheap smack from the heroin dearler who himself is usually just a few yards away. The tired and high but hopeless STILL sit on the curb stones by the PIP nodding off, heads in their hands, rocking to and fro, murmuring to themselves. So sad…They are still breaking into nearby vehicles to “sleep it off” or look for money in glove compartments to buy drugs. Guns are still being fired.
The PIP building is STILL an affront to the hardwordking small business folks who are trying to make a living and create jobs! It’s STILL a late night, cacophony-filled nightmare for Main South residents trying to hold down jobs and raise their families right!
Enter the adorable, strong-willled, smart-as-the-bow-ties-he-wears Juan Gomez, executive director of Centro on nearby Sycamore Street – just two streets down. Gomez, a former Worcester City Councilor and a recent city councilor candidate, has been head of the city’s premier Latino social sevice agency for several years now. And he’s run with it! Programs for the Hispanic elderly, hungry and displaced have expanded! Their outreach to the Worcester Hispanic population grows stronger by the day. Education, art, small biz … Juan is trying to support it all! Do it all! The yearly summertime and terrific Latino Music Festival, put on in large part through support from Centro, is another jewel in Worcester’s cultural crown. In other words, Centro, which has been around for years, is UP AND COMING !, thanks in no small part to the little power house and biz-savvy, Republican, feet-on-the-ground-but-not-afraid-to-dream Juan Gomez, himself a second generation American and a profile in courage as a cancer survivor.
So I cheered when Centro purchased a few pieces of tired property, really a good bit of Sycamore Street, next to and across the street from Centro. For additional office space and parking, Juan says. Needed because their expanded services and mission needs more space in a very densely populated inner city neighborhood.
Here’s the most intriguing/best part…Centro, through Juan, planned on buying the PIP building to create a Latino Arts Center/Community Space open to ALL. It would have showcased the arts/culture and artists of Puerto Rico and Central America. Worcester folks with roots from those countries and territory would be able to enjoy a beautiful slice of their or their parents/grandparents homelands. THEIR ROOTS. THEIR HERITAGE. A POSITIVE PICTURE. There were plans for a performance space with a stage for dancers, musicians, singers, poets. There would have been classrooms for artist workshops and community art or music classes. All with an eye on nurturing and promoting Latino art and artists!
TERRIFIC! I thought to myself. What a wonderful addition to the Worcester Family! To a CITY that SAYS it embraces racial and economic DIVERSITY as manifested through its population!
Juan applied to the City of Worcester for a $100,000+ community block grant to help buy the PIP building. The City Manager’s office said NO, NOPE, no thanks. Not interested in supporting this arts center. The grant money went to other Worcester social service agencies – all doing fine work but nothing as WONDERFUL and INSPIRED/INSPIRING as what this Latino Arts building would have meant to our Latino/ minority community, ALL WORCESTERITES and DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION.
The PIP is a big, multi-storied building that is in EXCELLENT shape (I toured it a few years ago). It would have made a great arts center. It has a big commercial kitchen, many bathrooms, meeting rooms and a big open first floor space. Perfect!
Yet city leaders, who claim to be urban visionaries, couldn’t “see” the brilliance and beauty of Juan Gomez’s vision. For his people. For downtown. For all of Worcester County, really.
So often the Latinos that make the news – and shape our collective vision of their culture – are in the stories about Latinos in Worcester riding illegal dirt bikes, getting arrested for drug dealing, getting stabbed over that, shot over this. THE FEW BAD SEEDS. (I’ve always been amazed that grinding poverty and prejudice haven’t made more people angry killers!) Wouldn’t it be great to read, daily, about the good and amazing in Latino culture? The famous Latino guitarist visiting the CENTRO ARTS CENTRE or those wonderful Salsa dancers who performed over in Main South at the CENTRO ARTS CENTRE … or the city kids who are discovering a famous Hispanic painter in the summer art class they’re taking at the CENTRO ARTS CENTRE?
That is how you cure white people of racial prejudice!
Present a different – the TRUE – PICTURE of a culture to them!
Keep doing this every day…and prejudices will begin to melt away. Work to have people, white, brown, black, poor, rich interact with each other every day – meet in celebratory, educational places to see WHO THEY REALLY ARE.
That is how we break down barriers and make society more equitable, freer…
The CENTRO ARTS center would have been a BOON for all of us! Instead the city manager and city staff and city political leaders shut their eyes and missed an opportunity with the PIP building! Which is really nutty and pathetic, besides being horribly short-sighted, because they often talk about how there is little racism in Worcester or how seriously they take racial inequity. That’s a lie. They don’t know any better. Yet they need to!
If anything, out of self interest:
Main South is only a block or two away from our planned BRIGHT NEW SHINY DOWNTOWN! City Manager Ed Augustus wants a BEAUTIFUL and BUSTLING downtown Worcester to be his legacy. He’s got an urban renewal game plan and making it happen. It’s a shame he can’t walk just two blocks up from his beloved downtown and his office in City Hall to see all the horrible shit STILL GOING DOWN IN FRONT OF AND ON THE SIDE of the PIP building . The junkies STILL passed out in front of the PIP are just the beginning…
Now, I ask you, how can we create a downtown Worcester that WILL DRAW MILLENIALS AND THE UPWARDLY MOBILE AND THE MIDDLE CLASS EMPTY NESTERS if, on their way to a show at the Hanover or a road race that starts at City Hall or a visit to a cool, urbane downtown restaurant for martinis and sushi, they see some guy pretend butt fucking some gal outside the PIP building, like I have? Or several more lost souls sitting on the curb or overturned gray plastic milk crates picked out of Dumpsters waiting for their man so they can shoot up and get high?
What will this little gritty scene say about the new and trendy Worcester to people who will, in some cases, be driving by the PIP?!
Can you dig it?!
The City of Worcester movers and shakers can’t.
No need to plumb city leaders’ psyches for a deep answer…But let’s just say the city is run by a bunch of unforgiving vindictive shit heads who never forget a slight or a misstatement or a move that was not in sync with their political plans and have no trouble turning the lone riders the lone visionaries into PERSON NON GRATA. Crap. Juan Gomez, as a Worcester city councilor, was always his own man. But in a very nice, respectful way. Sometimes he’s been passionate about what he truly believes in. Nothing wrong, everything right, about that! But his passion for the Hispanic livery drivers and their customers during his last few months as a Worcester City Councilor (that’s why they were his last few months!) turned lots of political movers and shakers off. They whispered amongst themselves: Juan’s gone rogue! When he lead a group of clapping chanting livery drivers out of City Hall as a show of solidarity during a city council meeting when he was city councilor, well, that didn’t do at all! His political demise was written on the City Council chambers wall…
We loved it! Juan was right! Juan was real and cool and INSPIRING! The city shitheads renounced him, in their heads, right then and there! Here was the Juan who used to eat lunch with former City Manager Tom Hoover over at the MID TOWN MALL, across from City Hall, over at the Latino lunch hot spot SABANA’s being mentally blacklisted! He used to tell Tom Hoover: Come! Enjoy the spicey treats of my culture! Hoover did! Along with the scores of other cool folks! The line for lunch at Sabana’s used to go our the door! The old cool Worcester vibe! Back then it wasn’t all smug and phoney and boutiquey. Just urban. A white Polish guy from Toledo breaking bread with a little Puerto Rican guy from Worcester! Enormous!
Can you imagine Ed Augustus eating lunch in the MID TOWN MALL (a place on his urban renewal hit list) with Juan Gomez, a political outcast? Especially after Juan felt cheated after this election and held a press conference or two about it and almost pushed for a ballot recount?!
Of course the City of Worcester wasn’t going to give Juan his Latino arts center, give him the $$$hundred-plus grand he needed to begin his project.
It’s the Worcester way!
So the PIP continues to languish and be an unsightly magnet for drugs and crime EVERY DAY. And Worcester’s Hispanic community and Downtown Worcester don’t get a cool, racial barrier busting Latino Arts Center!