By Rosalie Tirella
This song, this Elliott Smith video, makes me think of a lot of Worcester kids but especially the homeless kids I saw yesterday hanging out under the Green Street bridge in the city’s Canal District while delivering the new issue of CECELIA.
Tragic on a number of fronts: 1. Elliott Smith WAS A MUSICAL SHINING STAR, but he was also an addict. He was addicted to, for most of his life (he stabbed himself in the heart and died at 34): alcohol, heroin, anti-depressent meds, crack cocaine, cutting himself. … They say at the end of his life he was wandering the streets with a comforter over his head, totally disoriented. He was gentle, sweet, strong in his love for making his music – but haunted. He said in a few interviews, obliquely, he had been sexually abused by his stepfather when he was a child. At 14 Smith ran away, moved to Portland, OR, to live with his dad – to escape his sexually abusive stepdad. Smith said, when he left TX, he felt he had abandoned his mom, whom he loved. All of this personal trauma is reflected in his beautiful, melodic songs, often sung by Smith in a range just barely above a whisper! Smith’s beautiful songs, so Beatlesque Rubber Soul/Revolver in their musicality, have lyrics that cut like a knife, often filled with raw despair yet just as often perfect short stories – sung by him:
2. The kids hanging out under the Green Street bridge in the Canal District are not like the late Elliott Smith – even without his musical genius. They are, with their dog-eared poetry books at their feet: without jobs/careers, without knowledge that can lead to good paying jobs (Smith graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst), without material goods/apts (Smith came from an upper-middle class background): couch-surfing junkies nodding off under the Green Street bridge (Smith always had friends and girlfriends to live with). The addict part of the Green Street bridge kids rubs the Canal District small business owners the wrong way – they feel the addict kids get in the way of promoting the city – ugly knick knacks set in a freshly painted room. They spoil the aesthetics. The young Canal District entrepreneurs don’t like the homeless street kids hanging around Water, Harding and Green streets – even though the kids under the Green Street bridge are often cold and hungry – and a lot like them. That is why they are hanging under the Green Street bridge – they naively think they will be welcomed, even embraced, by their peers. (They won’t.) Like the young biz owners of the Canal District, they in their 20s and early 30s, hopeful for their futures, at their prettiest/most handsome looking … and, I believe, idealistic!
The Green Street kids differ from the young Canal District biz owners in that most homeless youth, studies show, are horribly alone – with no real support systems – at least the family/good friends kind. They run away from their homes to FLEE THEIR HOMES. TO ESCAPE sick, violent, negligent and often sexually abusive parents or guardians. Horrible abuse! That can only be if you, as a kid, decide to leave YOUR FAMILY AND CAST YOUR FATE TO STRANGERS, HOMELESS SHELTERS, STREET CREEPS WHO PREY ON YOUTH …TO HANG OUT UNDER THE GREEN STREET BRIDGE.
To be exposed to drug dealers, sex abusers, the lowlifes of the world who will – often for sex – FURTHER TRAUMATIZE THESE KIDS.
It AMAZES ME: Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus and the Worcester City Council don’t really give a damn – they say they do, but the first thing you will notice about Worcester when you drive in to our city is all our homeless people – older, middle-aged and young. We have no BIG CITY-WIDE PLANS TO SOLVE THE ISSUE. Which is: BUILD MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING, CREATE SAFE GROUP HOMES FOR OUR STREET KIDS, BUILD SUPERVISED SRO-TYPE BUILDINGS for the poorest of the poor who are never gonna get shelter in the new, gentrified Worcester.
There are so many sick people in the world. Why expose a scared, on the run, TRUSTING and NAIVE, 14 year old to them? An Elliott Smith without the songs?