By Rosalie Tirella
So I moved back to Worcester’s District 4 after three years of living at 159 Greenwood St., Worcester. Back then, living on Greenwood Street, living at the edge of Quinsig Village, I felt, for the first time!, almost semi-retired. Heaven! I was born and raised in the inner city and lived in all kinds of sketchy pads in sketchy hoods most of my life. The edge of the Village, near the Millbury line, was like joining AARP.
In the Village, I could truly unwind… across the street from my digs there was a big park, next door a business that closed up at 5, every night…and next door, on the other side of my place, my human neighbors were two old Swedes and their old son who would inherit their antiseptic little house and existence and keep the cycle spinning, keep things blessedly quiet. …Greenwood Street is wide and busy with zooming traffic – no chance of small talk with neighbors across the street!!!
Now I AM IN THE THICK OF HUMAN HAPPENINGS HERE IN MY D 4 inner city hood! TONS OF PEOPLE ARE JAMMED IN HERE – most desperate around the edges, lots a pay-check or two away from being out on the street. Lots of folks here don’t work at all…
When I first moved here I was annoyed, ANNOYED, by all the messy human activity. Annoyed that the guy nearby decided to rip into his girlfriend one day as I was getting into my car to hit the road for InCity Times. The nerve of the guy! Calling his gal pal a cunt and rushing at her just as I was planning on where to buy my coffee…I am middle aged and I’ve been to this rodeo before. It’s as constant as the turning of the earth. It began with my father in Green Island decades ago! The guy loathes himself, believes deep deep deep down he’s shit, a loser. Lost and broken, he is. Then a woman takes him in (we always take them in) and it’s good for awhile but then the man who hates himself begins to transfer his self loathing onto his woman – rips into the woman to feel better about himself.
The morning I was thinking about my coffee, I sensed, without turning my head to look at the garish spectacle, that the guy who was screaming at his girlfriend and threatening to punch her was showing off…for me… The new lady neighbor with big sun glasses who always tries to look nice when she runs her business…and always takes her little husky dog with her wherever she goes …
I felt mad and ashamed. For them. For me. For the human race…
But that was several months ago…
I have re-remembered that for every shitty experience that goes down in the inner city, 10 cool things happen. For instance, my downstairs neighbors are LOVELY. They love Jett and call him beautiful. One of them came upstairs with a box of doggie biscuits a few months ago, and the other gave me a teeny spider plant which I have replanted three times in successively bigger flower pots – making her little gift a big, sprawling, BEAUTIFUL testament to her good ways. Despite the poverty.
My neighbor next door has cleaned the yard and has planted an urban garden for all of us to admire, and it is fun to watch his squashes grow by the hour it seems! Squashes and tomato vines carressing our inner city yard – lovely. The little yard where his little dogs scamper about and try to mix it up with Jett my husky mix.
Yesterday I saw some plastic soda bottles and wrapping paper and other trash strewn in front of our three decker and I got indignant! No! My neighborhood, my home, is not your personal trash can! (Lots of people think it’s perfectly OK to throw their garbage onto inner city streets and sidewalks, as if to say let the paper and plastic refuse join the human kind. This is immoral! We WILL CHANGE THIS MINDSET, my neighbors and I!)
Sometimes taking pride in yourself, your jalopy, your neighborhood is catching and your neighbors start to clean up around their yards and plant pretty flowers in their front yards and joke with their dogs as they see you make your way to your car with your husky dog! Everybody walks a little taller.
And then sometimes inner-city life can be TRANSCENDENT…
A few months ago I was heading to my apartment after a long day’s work. I was tired. I had closed my car door, was putting the leash on Jett to lead him to the back yard to pee and then this: boom! Four or so boys, 12, 13 years old, were in my face…They looked dirty, rough, their hair knotty and when I looked up one of the boys put his hand out to me and said: LOOK!!!
In his hand a sparrow. A sparrow that he was cupping so he and his little gang could show me. The pretty little, tough little brown birds that you find every where in the inner city, the ones that make their nests in the eaves of old sheds or the condemned three decker you had given up on.
There sat the brown bird, so so still, in his hand, feathers dirty and ruffled. Perfect. The boys let me look long and close at this mystery.
The leader said: He got himself hit with our baseball!
I thought to myself: You mean the one you whipped at him. Now he’s probably in shock.
Still, I stared, grateful that they had thought of me, had guessed (correctly!) that I would love the sparrow.
And then FOOF! The sparrow FLEW OUT OF HIS TRAP and made mad little circles over head.
The boy yelled, laughing: YOU FAKER!
And looking up into the sky, running helter skelter, their tee shirts ill fitting, greasy bangs in their eyes the boys ran out of my parking lot following the sparrow…The bird was high in the sky…We were all looking up at it! We were smiling. Happy.
The time to make up your mind about inner-city life is … NEVER!