Tag Archives: Rosalie Tirella’s blog


Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

This afternoon: Finally! CeCe on the job. On the look out …

… for Fred (yeah, I named him), the little black mouse who has taken up residence … in my refrigerator! Have you ever heard of such a thing?! Thanks to my relatively new, useless, absentee landlord, who DOES NOTHING FOR HER TENANTS unless threatened with calls to the city Code Dept. or, as in the case of my downstairs neighbors, withholding rent until the problem is fixed, I know my headache (an old refrigerator) will NEVER be solved by her. This clunker is on COLDEST temperature setting and it does keep my perishables cold. But it’s not cold enough for Fred the mouse. It’s not chilly enough to repel him, who, true to Darwin’s genius, “adapted” to his environment and grew his little black fur coat thicker. Dare I say, you could call it lustrous! Thanks to a steady diet of butter and cheeses! My butter! My cheeses!

Last week, I noticed Fred’s glossy thick coat when I saw him splayed out on my cheese platter on the top shelf of my refrigerator. I screamed and Fred, terrified, tried to run and hide but instead fell through the white wired shelf to the shelf directly beneath it, and then the shelf below that one, in a SPLAT, landing loudly (for a mouse) on his stomach.

“Ick!!” I screamed and slammed the refrigerator door shut, knocking on it, to scare Fred into a dark nook. Girly girl terrified, I screeched again thinking about his “splat” but, stupidly, noting his clean shiny coat. When I was in fifth grade at Lamartine Street School I had a little pet mouse “Gigi” that my mother had bought for me at the Woolworths on Front Street. Gigi was a great little pet. I had made him so tame, he’d travel around our flat in my shirt pocket. He’d climb out of it and ride on my shoulder, sniffing into my ear with his long whiskery nose. Gigi had a pale grey and white coat that was lovely – soft and glossy. She also had Ruby red eyes from where her blood flowed. I have not seen Fred’s eyes – I hope we never come face to snout – but I have seen his coat: it’s as glossy as Gigi’s was!

“Fuck!” I said to no one in particular in my fourth flour kitchen as I watched the little mouse take his tumble in the middle of my refrigerator, in the middle of one of Worcester’s slummier, mousier neighborhoods. “Another stupid problem to solve!” I said. And I rapped on the refrigerator door again and stormed into my bedroom.

Lesson learned?

To knock on my refrigerator door before opening it so I don’t have to “bump into” a mouse I named! Fred. If Fred had been nibbling on my yum yums prior to my nibbling on my yum yums I didn’t want to know. Or see him make his distraught little getaway … running atop apples, skittering over oatmeal. I didn’t want to be repelled by the sight, have my stomach do flip flops.

Lesson 2: CeCe, my beautiful, affectionate 10-month-old kitty was a total loser when it came to catching and killing rodents. She is no mouser. Some cats are born for the hunt. CeCe was born for the hug.


I had been down this mousey road before, wiped away little mice turds, smelled the mouses’ strong, urea-concentrated pee pee. That is why I adopted CeCe! But CeCe is more fun than murder…


She has had numerous encounters with Fred. I’ve seen a few by the floor where the refrigerator stands: For instance, Cece batted Fred around a few days ago with her long elegant black paw – only to let him scamper away under his beloved refrigerator. She waited for a few seconds for Fred to come out, then lost interest and joined the dogs in the living room. She padded away, as if to say: Play with you tomorrow, Cece plays with Fred, like she plays with her favorite toy, this yellow plastic kitty ball.

Every day she picks the ball up with her mouth and carries it to me, as if to say THROW, Momma! I do – I throw her yellow plastic ball across my big apartment and CeCe madly chases it. Then she picks it up with her mouth and carries it back to me. I think she would do the same with Fred.

Jett and Lilac haven’t figured out how to play FETCH.


CeCe has – she’s the family Einstein.

But I’d rate Fred the mouse #2.

See? He nibbled on my Traders Joe’s double cream BRIE cheese …



… but took a pass on the Shop Rite clearance orange cheddar cheese “food spread” I had bought on sale. Why eat crap (leave it for Rose), when you can feast on Brie?!

“Damnit!” I yelled when I saw the clean swipes Fred’s little incisors had made on my special Brie treat – the Brie I had been saving to nibble on while watching my CITIZEN KANE video for the 50th time (Orson Welles is God, to me). “Damn it!” I bellowed imperiously, like Charles Foster Kane lording it over the monkeys! 🐒🐒🐒🐒

But here, at 48 Ward St., it’s just me and a mouse. (P.S. I still ate my Brie. Cut off where Fred nibbled and an inch more and fed the hunk to my dogs – and ate the cheese from further down the triangle!)

I’d never seen anything like it. A mouse living in a cold, mostly empty! refrigerator – refusing to leave his chilly abode, no matter how tightly food is sealed, no matter how high and precariously food is placed …



A cat seemingly infatuated with the mouse. Meeting him every few nights, as if for play dates!

I know what you’re thinking: GET SOME MOUSE TRAPS, Rose!

Did that. Like I said, I’ve been down the rodent road before. About a year ago, our building seemed to be inundated with mice. I had a gaggle of skanky, scrawny little grey ones who just wouldn’t give up the fight. I told the landlord. She poo pooed the problem…to not spend a nickel on her property. I cleaned and cleaned and hid food and I let Jett and Lilac (two hunters who mean business) freely roam the apartment. Jett and Lilac were outstanding: They’d always locate the poor little mice, corner them under the parlor heater usually, and sit and wait for them to come out. Jett would be glued to the spot – for hours. No one could distract him from his job. He sat bold alert, ears pricked…Then Lilac would go in for the kill or capture… The next morning, when making my bed, I’d find a dead mouse under my bed covers – right where Lilac had buried it, her safe spot. Or her stinky little gift to me. I’d scream, wrap the mouse in a Shaw’s plastic bag and throw it all out.

Once I found one by Lilac’s bed. Lifted it up with my fingers because I thought it was one of my stuffed little tiny toy animals that Lilac had picked off the book shelf. Nope. I felt its delicate ribs, an entire rib cage. I looked closely at its matted fur, its snout and body wet from having been in Lilac’s maw! Poor guy, he looked ROUGH, as my late pal Tony Hmura would say. ROUGH. Like a street person. Like a feral cat. Like it had had a horrible life. I sceamed and dropped the body. It was still warm. But not moving. Then I did something strange: I picked it up again, hid it under the bed where the dogs couldn’t get at it and placed a white fluffy paper towel over it. If it were alive, it was in shock from being inside of Lilac’s large mouth. Or it was playing possum – faking being dead, hoping my dog would lose interest and drop him. Both scenarios broke my heart. By placing the tiny mouse under the paper towel where the dogs, I was giving the poor creature a chance, a chance to escape the torture, feel better, run away. If, after several hours, there was no change, he’d already had a nice wake, so I’d wrap him in a Shaw’s plastic bag and dispose of him.

In the end, my dogs caught and killed most of the mice – except for one or two stragglers who were smarter or luckier than their brothers. Stressed that the mice would reproduce and I’d go through the craziness all over again, I called the my landlord panicked. Several days later her father placed a bag of mouse traps on my back porch: Not the wooden ones with springs but ones I’d never seen before – sticky boxes that you set up and the mice ran into. And got stuck into, got “trapped.”

Stressed out, unthinkingly I grabbed the traps and set up three of the little tents: behind the stove, refrigerator and sink.

Then it happened: one of the stragglers, attracted to the bait, was caught. The mouse screams – small, squeaks telling of horrific pain and fear began. And lasted for TWO WHOLE DAYS. A horrible torturous drama unfolded in my pantry. The cries of the little gray mouse caught in the glue, burning from its chemicals broke my heart. I began to cry over the mouse and whisper to it, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

“Tweek! TWeek! Tweep! Meep!” cried the mouse, stuck in his poisonous hell house – his little claws, maybe belly, glued, cemented, to the floor of that little hell hole! His tender skin torn, bleeding as he tried to pull away, run away.

I had not anticipated this! With Jett and Lilac the death of a mouse was always fast and clean – like nature intended. But this killing was man-made, Rose-erected…and it was horrible. Oh, please! I begged my little mouse, Stop! stop!

But he didn’t. He screamed his little head off. Poignant mouse cries filled the apartment for hours. I had to leave my place! Took the dogs and jumped into my car and drove around the block, my face tear stained, praying! for the traumatized mouse! “Forgive me, Father!” I whispered. “I know not what I do!” I hadn’t gone to church in 25 years. Hadn’t made confession before a priest in 30! But that evening, that moment, I made confession. The REAL THING. I banged my heart with closed fist in contrition and felt the suffering I had caused another living being.

Should I take him to Tuft’s Veterinary? I asked myself, totally distraught, still driving around the block with the dogs. No! I can’t afford it! And how can his little feet be pulled from the glue without tearing his flesh?? God, help me!!

Two hours later I returned home, entered my apartment. The mouse, so bony and with fur all matted…was still screeching in his trap! Crying for help!

I ran to my bedroom. Skipped dinner. Jumped into bed, hid my head under my pillow to muffle his cries!

All night this went on. SQUEAK! SQUEAK! SQUEAK! SQUEAK! SQUEAK! I got up for a drink of water to find…the other mouse, his mouse friend, scampering around the mouse glue trap, reacting to his brother’s pain, excruciating calls…trying to save?? his little friend!

“NO!!!!” I yelled at the top of my lungs to the little mouse as I lunged at the mouse trap. “YOU’LL GET CAUGHT!!” I picked up the trap with the other mouse STILL, albeit more softly, it had been hours, crying… he was dying so slowly…and stuck it behind the stove. Away from the other mouse. I had gathered and thrown away the other traps I had set up after the first mouse got caught.

I sat at my kitchen table a broken woman, listening to my little scrawny gray mouse in his trap bleat weakly from thirst, exhaustion, pain, sadness. Prolonged agony. I would feel the same way. This vegetarian, “animal lover” had fucked up! I cried to the mouse: Forgive me! God made me! And he made you, too!

I went to bed, an emotional wreck.

The next morning I got up early to get the hell out of my house! Away from the mouse’s squeaky cries! There was no noise in the kitchen. Blessed peace. I made breakfast. Fed the dogs. Showered. But when I got out of the shower and went to my big mirror in the kitchen, by the stove, to dress and put on my make up, I heard the faintest squeaks coming from the mouse trap. Yes, my mouse, exhausted, had fallen asleep, slept for a few hours, but then he woke up, still alive, barely, still in agony.

I thought: Should I stomp on him? Put him out of his misery? I dressed, grabbed the dogs and ran out of the apartment. It was Day 2. He would HAVE TO DIE today…he had no more reservoirs of strength…he was dehydrated, dying of thirst.

I came home several hours later. No mouse squeaks. For the rest of the night. My mouse had finally expired.

So, fast forward to these past few weeks, and you can see why I’m so lenient with Fred, my mouse, why I almost thought of taming him down and making a pet of him, like sweet Gigi. Sometimes if I’m eating cake and a few crumbs fall to the floor, I don’t pick them up.

I am tired, too. Like a mouse but without the sticky trap. In my own traps. Rose stuck in different traps. I am glad CeCe is more serious but not too serious. She will never catch Fred.

Tomorrow I will go to Home Depot and buy one of those humane mouse traps, you know, the clear boxes you bait with Brie😉 cheese so the mice walk into them and the door closes and they are caught LIVE 💜💙💚! They can even eat their Brie! Then you take them to the nice woods or peaceful meadow and release them into nature … where most likely a hawk, coyote or other critter will catch them in a few minutes because their moms never taught them how to survive in nature. They have their instincts, though.

But for a few, shining moments – maybe a few hours, cuz Fred is smart and adaptable – my mouse will live!! Really live! Wash himself in the virgin sun! Lick the dew off a blade of grass! Smell the morning blowing in on the wind!

You see, I’m waiting for the snow to melt, waiting for Spring to bloom in earnest before I go to Home Depot – which, incidentally, will stop carrying sticky mouse traps, thanks to PETA enlightening the chain about the trap – …


… to buy my humane live trap ..
and I will catch Fred live and release him in some nice woodland spot on the West Side 😉 and watch him dart to the left and to the right looking for the sunny side of the …street! And I’ll say: God be with you, my little city mouse with the lovely, satiny black coat!


Molly – a “cut” above the rest!

By Rosalie Tirella

Today, while looking in my “magic” mirror, …

pics: R.T.

… I saw my fingers fussing a little too busily with the grey hairs framing my middle-aged face. So I grabbed one of my cheap dye-job kits, …


… left the touch-up bottles in the bathroom, and went into my pantry to perform a MAJOR DYE JOB – platinum blond on top of the fake auburn, on top of the fake copper highlights, on top of the original mousy brown.  I dye my hair in  my pantry (dishes washed and put away!) because it’s  got two big sinks and a spray hose, making coloring my pixie pretty easy, if not at all pampering (trendy hair salons – with their $75 price tags – are “out” for this blue-collar gal!).

I grabbed my clean, old towels I use specially to dye my hair, the Nice ‘n’ Easy box, and was set to begin the all-too-familiar routine. But even before I opened the box – she, Molly –  came back to me. In a rush!  And I didn’t even have to get a whiff of the peroxide in the toner bottles!

When I was a little girl growing up in Green Island, Molly was our family “hairstylist.” My mom took my two sisters and me to “Molly’s” for our haircuts, and she went to Molly’s for her “perms.”  We always called the hair salon Molly’s, even though Molly had given it a proper name, probably something very glamorous for Millbury Street, where it was located – or should I say crammed into (the space was pretty much a long corridor) – near Kelley Square.

I think Ma called Molly’s Molly’s because Molly had been doing my mother’s hair for a decade  – way before Ma had us kids. They were “professional” friends: Molly took her clothes to be cleaned at the dry cleaner’s down Millbury Street where Ma worked as a counter girl, and Ma took her black hair (I always loved the color – her own) to be cut and given a curly permanent up Millbury Street where Molly worked. They had confided to each other through the years: Molly knew my mom was poor, killing herself at the dry cleaners to put a roof over her three little girls’ heads. And Ma knew that Molly was also alone – a single working woman hustling with her small business (I never saw a customer – I was so proud! It always seemed Molly had opened her shoppe SPECIAL for my mother and us kids!) and caring for her grown son who still lived with her and had “problems” and couldn’t hold a job. Ma never explicitly said anything about alcoholism,  but somehow I got the gist of it  – and was always nice and polite to Molly.

These days hair salons are like movie studios, filled with young, beautiful women with beautiful, long, thick  multi-hued tresses “foiled” ever so artistically. They are cutting, coloring,  practically caressing, their clients’  locks. These women – and men – consider themselves hair and makeup artists and use phrases like “color palette.” They are skin care professionals, too! Life-style gurus, even. To enter many Worcester hair salons today is to be swept up into  tranquil, luxurious worlds filled with lovely aromas, music, people, salon  furniture and shampoo dispensers. Places where stylists coo their flattery, offer you complimentary cups of chai tea  and dry your hair with the fluffiest towels! As if you’re Meryl Streep about to sashay down the Red Carpet!

So unlike Molly’s. As a little girl, even holding Ma’s hand, I was always a little afraid of Molly – of getting my haircut at Molly’s. First, she wasn’t beautiful  –  or even pretty. She looked like Johnny Rotten or Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. She cut her hair with a razor blade – very short and jagged. Then the lurid orange-yellow hair dye was poured on – Molly’s signature hair color. Until her death. Her hair was teased – spiked – out and up!  Laquered in place with a ton of hairspray…defying gravity. The first impression Molly made? She looked as if she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Molly always wore a black plastic robe tied tightly around her waist – if you could locate it on her torso.  Molly was skinny as a tooth pick – her waist would be hard to define. She never glided down her rented corridor on Millbury Street, like she was some beautiful movie star, the way some hairstylists do today.  No, Molly always walked jack-knife straight, as if escaping a bloody car accident. She’d lurch from the sink with stiff towel, to the black no-nonsense barber’s chair you sat on, to her back room, closed off to the public by a heavy gold plastic shower curtain dragged across its entrance … for another pair of shears, or just a time out. It was a stressful affair.

Molly never smiled or made chit chat with us kids when she cut our hair. No “How do you like your new teacher at school?” or “How old are you now? My, you’re a big girl!” Stuff that hairstylists say to kids today to kiss up to their  helicopter moms who hover over the hairstylist with polite determination. Molly – and Ma – had no time for that clap trap. We were little kids – as significant as the  faded posters of the out-dated models with their old hairstyles that Molly had Scotch-taped to the walls.  At Molly’s, the women did the talking. About grown-up things. I shut my mouth and closed my eyes while Molly cut away and talked with Ma.

Molly was a very fast and abrupt hair cutter and occasionally poked you in the eye with one of her bony fingers – or the points of her little scissors. I didn’t want her sharp little shears nicking my face – ouch! It had happened a few times during previous visits to her beauty parlor . So I closed my eyes and listened to Ma and Molly talk – in hushed tones – about their lives. Very seriously. Sometimes I’d open my eyes to see Ma seated on the barber’s chair next to the one I was sitting, leaning forward, looking anxious, as she confided to Molly. Molly, 15 or 16 years older than Ma, seemed to give her advice. Sometimes I’d open my eyes and see Molly in her little side room (the plastic shower curtain was pulled six inches to the right or left),  and I’d see her open a little drawer in her cabinet  and pull out a little flask like I’d  seen at McGovern’s Package Store a block away. Molly would stand stiffly by that cabinet, like a stork, her skinny arms and legs all veiny, and she’d take a few furtive swigs from the flask and shove it back into the drawer.  I once asked Ma about the flasks. Ma looked annoyed…said Molly had a lot to think about. Said Molly was taking care of her only son. A grown man who was sick and depended on Molly to take care of him. Did I say my pretty, sweet mother looked annoyed with me?  I never asked about the flasks and back rooms again and always tried to be extra nice and polite to Molly. My kid sisters sat on the gold plastic chairs lined up against the opposite wall, the reception area, while I got my hair cut. It’d be their turn next!

Ma always  made us get our hair cut at the same time. It was easier that way for her – one trip to Molly’s, one outlay of cash. Ma got her curly perms every three or four months at Molly’s. We kids went along – mainly for the trip to The Broadway restaurant on Water Street for hot fudge sundaes after Molly finished perming Ma’s hair! Sitting on those gold seats at Molly’s, watching her work on someone else, Ma, you got a different perspective – and realized that Molly was as cavalier with Ma’s hair as she was with mine and my two kid sisters’. She must have used the strongest chemicals to curl Ma’s otherwise soft wavy hair because she always lined  my mother’s entire hairline with a thick rope of cotton – to keep the chemicals off Ma’s face and out of her eyes. Still, while Molly worked over Ma in her stiff, fast manner, lips pursed, her black slim cats eyes glasses slipping down the bridge of her skinny long nose, I could see my mother’s pretty face turning a blotchy pink red from the strong chemicals. She sighed and sweated.  Molly ran into her back room for a swig of vodka and two cotton balls to plug up Ma’s ears. That was so the chemicals – of which Molly used a lot – wouldn’t flow into my mother’s ears as Molly rolled Ma’s treated hair into the scores of little curlers. It looked like there were around a million of them – small and medium sized – in her beauty tray. There were no  windows that opened at Molly’s – just storefront ones – so Molly opened the front door to let some fresh air in. Still it stunk to high heaven in that little Kelly Square beauty shop.

After a few hours of what seemed like torture to Ma – the smells, the red skin, the hot dryer over her head that made her face even redder – Ma was “done.” Literally! Molly took out the scores of curlers and combed out the little curls – teasing the front of Ma’s hair-do, over her still red forehead –  quite artistically we kids thought. Then she sprayed about a half a can of Aqua Net on Ma’s hair – and voila! Ma looked beautiful! She looked just like Elizabeth Taylor in the 1950s – or Sue, who worked at the dry cleaners with Ma, and also got her hair permed at Molly’s. Or my Aunt Mary who, now married to my Uncle Mark and living in the nicer part of town (the Burncoat area), was still loyal to her old beautician from Green Island and had Molly perm her hair, too. Like Ma,  Aunt Mary had a history with Molly.

We all had a history with Molly –  one that overlooked the actual hair care. Molly seemed to know only a few hair cuts and styles. She never was “on trend,” unless you want to count her punk rocker look. It was the early 1970s – punk rock was ascendent … maybe she really was trying to look like Ziggy Stardust. All I know is that Molly made my mother and all the ladies who came in to her salon for perms look like … poodles. We kids got the crookedest pixies…she was too cheap to shampoo us. Hair conditioner? We didn’t know what that was –  didn’t  use it at home. Our kiddie hair cuts were supposed to air dry. We were treated rough – like wayward puppies who had rolled in dessicated squirrel and dried dog shit. Fast, fast, fast went Molly’s hands over our little heads – so rough!

When I got older, say 11 or so, I began to develop my own sense of fashion. If  you’ve been reading me, you know as a tween I had a mega crush on the ’70s teen heart-throb pop singer David Cassidy, lead singer of The Partridge Family. I wanted Molly to give me a shag – just like David Cassidy’s – like all the kids were wearing! I went into Molly’s with Ma and, shyly, tried to explain to Molly, the look I wanted: the bangs, the layers, the length. I even said: “David Cassidy” and “Partridge Family”! Molly frowned, put me in her stiff black barbers chair, draped a big black plastic cape over my front and went to work – feverishly. I expected the worst and shut my eyes to protect them, and my psyche, like I always did. When it was all over, Ma gasped. I opened my eyes to see my mother … smiling! At me! I looked into Molly’s big wall mirror and saw me … looking very cute!!  Like a mini-David Cassidy! Or the beautiful Karen Carpenter of the Carpenters! Or Paul Williams, the little pop singer I just watched on the Odd Couple TV show with my sister the other night!  I  looked so cute in my shag!! ….My bangs softly framing my face, my hair flowing softly, roundly about my ears, then gently cascading over my shoulders, very feathery! JUST LIKE DAVID CASSIDY’s coif!

Molly smiled when she saw my beaming round face. She took the big black cape off me and, with a flourish, shook it so my light brown hair wafted to the floor. Ma, still smiling, paid her for my haircut and we walked home. I floated down Lafayette Street! A few days later, our class photos were taken at school – individual ones now because I was in seventh grade. I still have one of the wallet photos. I am smiling broadly. I’m wearing a silver band around my neck, from which dangles a delicate silver heart. I’ve got on a thin, bright yellow orange sweater – almost as bright as Molly’s hair! All the cool kids were wearing sweaters like that. And the color was so “in”! And I’m sporting – modeling! – the shag haircut Molly gave me just a few days earlier. Perfect!

Newsrooms in their heyday! I was there, at the “tale’s” end!

By Rosalie Tirella

Watching this 60 Minutes interview, thinking about the new Tom Hanks/Meryl Streep movie, got me thinking about American newspapers and writing for a “daily,” The Springfield Union News, pre-social media – say, the early 1990s. Back then I was a cub reporter for the Union News, just an hour and a half westward ride down the Mass Pike from ol’ Worcester.  I had made the wise decision to move to Springfield to immerse myself in the city – and its news.

I had been a “stringer” for the T and G here in town, back when the T and G – like most daily newspapers in America – was the only show in town and hence lucrative, and hence able to hire all kinds of writers. Back then the T and G reporters filled an ENTIRE building on Franklin Street! Three floors of writers! And there were all kinds: columnists,  lifestyle reporters,  cooking writers … travel, features and even music (classical AND rock n roll!) reporters. Today? Just the bare-bones news and sports writers , throw in a columnist here and there. It’s the formula for most second/third-tier city dailies in America today.

But back in the day things were so good$$$ for mid- to big-city daily newspapers that their reporting staffs overflowed into the many small towns and burbs around them. That was true of the T and G and Worcester County. We called them “news bureaus” – publishers rented small offices in the surrounding towns to “cover” them, too. Report their news. These news bureaus had a managing reporter/editor type in charge of two or three town reporters, plus a couple of stringers who covered the teeniest town meetings that were deemed to insignificant to be covered by the reporters. These  town meetings were usually sparsely attended and run by town officials – big fishes in miniscule ponds who loved the sounds of their parochial voices. Their egos were huge. Many were stupid and/or corrupt. I loved it!!

This was my entry into the writing world: Chasing a Spencer police chief who turned around and chased me out of his police station – his cane raised over his head, swiping away at me!  Limping and waving his cane over his head at me – Rosalie Tirella, not just a girl Polak from Green Island, but a REPORTER who demanded the TRUTH  –  to see the town’s police log – public record! I was a real threat to this guy! I had power! The truth, the law, was on my side! Intoxicating!

Reporting totally appealed to my feisty, right-makes-might, writerly Catholic girl self! I was in heaven in that stinking little police “headquarters,” being chased by the proverbial racist, sexist small town, good ol’ boy top cop! I knew, at that moment: This is the life for me!!

Flash forward three years… I’m still a stringer at the T and G. News editor Leah Lamson doesn’t want to take a chance on me and hire me as a full-time reporter – for a T and G bureau. “Our reporters have masters degrees from the Columbia School of Journalism, ” she tells me. Haughtily.

I think: Right, Leah, and you got your  entry level reporting job here because your family used to go to the same summer camp as the old editor.

But I was more polite back then. So I held my tongue. Faced with her snobbery – and mediocrity (Leah couldn’t write for shit!) – I smiled, thanked her for her “time and consideration”  and shook her hand. Goodbye!

Then the magic happened: I was hired as the Enfield, Connecticut, reporter at the Union News in Springfield, the same kind of newspaper as the Telegram – a small city’s major rag. They had just opened their Connecticut bureau but weren’t renting an office in Connecticut. The money folks weren’t sure how their CT experiment would unfold. So they kept their five newly hired CT cub reporters – my four colleagues and me – in THE CITY ROOM in Springfield. WHERE ALL THE GREAT REPORTERS WERE! WHERE ALL THE ACTION WAS! The big, beautiful, sprawling, fluorescent-light lit city room!

Did you look closely at the Washington Post’s city room in the above video clip I posted? That’s the way it was in Springfield. That’s where I worked four glorious days a week!

Picture this: Rose begins her day at the Union News hub, in the middle of a diverse, challenged and challenging city… the doors open…the news room beckons: row, after row, after row of desks…each desk with a reporter typing on the chunky keyboard of his or her gargantuan desk top computer – the early ones. Atop their metal desks: notebooks, thick, bound reports, file folders of  “clips” they’re referring back to for info and context, dinky paper cups filled with bad  coffee bought for just 50 cents out of the big coffee machine in the utilitarian (let’s face it – ugly) break room off to the side. The computers are as ugly as the break room. Big  plastic television set jobs – the size of a Lazy Boy lounger. The computer screens are ugly too: no beautiful screen savers, no fancy bells and whistles…just the black background on which you typed your deep and beautiful thoughts  in ghastly green letters, in a basic, no nonsense font. Paragraph, after paragraph. It was really all about the words back then. Nothing was Instagramed, touted on FB, publicized to death in a fast, streamlined, slick manner. No one sat on cool ergonomically designed desk chairs, no one drank lattes or spring water. People drank Coke and many reporters smoked cigarettes – in the city room.

The desks were big clunky metal jobs – like the ones your high school teachers sat at. Nothing was saved in “the cloud”  – we each had tall or short metal filing cabinets in which we saved our new clips – the ones we cut out of papers and periodicals. We created different file folders for different subjects: the dog pound, the shooting at the park, the restaurant with the roach  problem. Our file cabinets also looked like the ones you’d see in your high school – your principal’s office.

And yet the writing was terrific! The reporters smart and intellectual – and hard nosed – and idealistic! We talked poetry and music when not writing our stories. We shared notes, sidled over to each other while sitting in our beat up metal chairs – with wheels.  Told a joke, flirted …

The desks were arranged in subgroups, according to the reporters’ “beats”: the cop reporters sat at their clump of desks; living had their row, schools and education theirs, features theirs, sports on the other side. Editors and copy editors were stationed in the middle of the long room – big enough to host a wedding – but the nerve center of the city room, the entire newspaper, the desks from which all the orders and decisions floweded, the people we reporters went to for guidance, advice. The (mostly) men to whom we “sent”  – emailed I guess you can could say – our “budgets” – the list of stories we were working on and would have for them at the end of the day – usually around 11 p.m. , as we were a morning newspaper. Budgets had to be in to our editors around 4 p.m.  You had to produce stories at the Union News. You had to always be working on a story. You had to be fast.

This was exciting.

Your daily deadline made it  exciting.

Here you were – you and 100 or so other newshounds – up against the clock. Out in the city or your town or  police station (your beat) in the afternoon hustling for the facts, reporting, then coming back to the city room with your notes and typing up your story. There were no cell phones back the, so you made your follow up phone calls around a million people, at your desk phone – a big clunky black job with a receiver on which was attached a plastic or rubber cradle so you could type your interview subject’s answers right onto your computer screen while cradling the receiver in the crook of your neck. All the cool reporters wrote like this. I did. It was like being in a movie – you and a 100 other people talking into phones and typing. Still, some of the great ones used only pen and notebook. I had a crush on a senior reporter who did both. Sometimes I’d look up from my computer across the room to look at him working – and catch him looking at me! City Room Lust!

You had to write – or I had to write -beautiful prose within this world-wind of people and phones ringing and keyboards clicking…this cacophony of slamming of desk and file cabinet drawers, munching and lunching! Heaven! At least at the Springfield Union News where all the reporters we’re so respectful and friendly. I don’t know if this is true for all city rooms but, while being hyper-competitive – all reporters want front page, above the fold! – my colleagues in Springfield were always proud of each other’s good work, catches and scoops. We all read each other’s stories – kept tabs on our bylines. We knew each other’s strengths like the covers of our slim, reporter notebooks: one guy was a brilliant writer! Another guy super sleuth reporter. Another was a brutal but accurate political scribe – after one of his investigative pieces was published, the politician he wrote about killed himself! Another person wasn’t much of a writer but a great guy who was good with sources and a total work horse. One gal got cheated out of the cop beat cuz she was a girl – but the cop reporter (a guy) was so good to her, so nice, so wanting to share his beat with her (he felt guilty for getting the job she deserved) it was … a little heart breaking.

Friendships formed, people hooked up and moved in with each other, a bunch of guys and gals would go on a celebratory bar crawl every Friday night – after the work week. I wasn’t a bar gal but I became  friends with three or so reporters – all guys, all helpful with ideas, sources, you name it. One turned out to be a total keeper – handsome, an elegant writer – and as crazy as me! His desk was next to the reporter I had a crush on. The guy I lusted over had a cute way of typing – eyes half closed, his long bangs brushing over his forehead. While busy typing, he never brushed his hair off his handsome face, just shook his head back. Very sexy. From across the city room I’d stop typing my school board story only to see my kooky buddy sitting next to him – doing the  same thing. Typing the same way my crush did. I’d laugh out loud! He would too. … I’m sure the object of my affection thought my buddy and I were both nuts! But we were good writers – sometimes my friend had written the most elegant news story of the day. Once I walked by one of the top editor’s office during one of his meetings with other top editors, and I heard him say “She’s one of our up-and-coming reporters.”

My God! Grab this girl’s ankles! Pull her down from scribe heaven! Wipe the star dust out of her eyelashes!

I floated over the ugly yellow linoleum city room floor for an ENTIRE day!

Back then there was a true mix of reporters – not everyone, as Lamson has stupidly crowed to me, had graduated with a master’s degree from the Columbia School of Journalism. Some great reporters came with no fancy pedigrees. After all, reporting started out as a career for blue collar smarties, society’s misfits and frustrated poets. That’s what made it such a great profession. At the Union News, the guy reporter I had a crush on had gone to a first rate liberal arts college, and there was a Yale grad, too. But there was a first rate gal reporter who had once been a social worker. There were Westfield State College grads – and a New York Times burnout at the copy desk. My editor was a very savvy reporter –  and an alcoholic. As in reeking of booze when you went to talk to him about your stories, blood shot eyes, greasy hair … stumbling as he walked over to you. Born and raised in Green Island, I had seen plenty of this before … and looked past it. One reporter, she was my least favorite , called him a booze hound, laughing . I never called him out. Was loyal to the guy. Liked him and his ol’ smile and his takes on the news. Today the editor would be fired, I’d be called an enabler and we’d both be in psychotherapy – and AA for him and Al-anon for me, to boot. But it was different back then! He kept his job, I kept my sweet editor who, in his tipsy state, still managed to do his job. Lots of reporters in the good old bad old days were drinkers. It kinda came with the territory.

Often I yearned for more…to be on the city staff writing about city people and city issues – the racial and ethnic stew from which I had sprung. It was a  drag covering the drippy (white, homogeneous) town of Enfield, Connecticut. So I’d propose stories with more oomph to my editors.  Stories with a wider scope. Big picture pieces. Investigative  juggernauts…but they never happened, or maybe a few did, but I don’t remember them. Mostly, people liked my feature writing and personal essays –  what I’m doing now for you.

In a year or two my city room dream died. The Enfield bureau wasn’t generating enough Connecticut ad revenue – so the Union News stopped printing a CT edition. None of us were laid off – but I was offered a job all the way up in no man’s land Greenfield. In their little bureau in a little town north of Northampton. I had graduated from UMass/Amherst, so I was familiar with the town. Like hell was I going there! A small town with no big exciting city news room where the piles of books and file folders were a fire hazard, where my drunk editor gave me silly grins, where I could go to the city room library and read The New York Times just for the hell of it. Or any major American paper. The city room, where all the ideas, arguments, note books, copy editors, editors, cans of Coke, cookie crumbs, photographers, affairs of the heart and words, words words that moved, changed a CITY sloshed about like a big gorgeous gold fish in a small gold fish bowl.  No. I was NOT going to the dinky Greenfield  bureau after the City Room!

Watching the clip, above, made me cry. To see all that beautiful junky clunky office furniture again. To see disheveled, dissipated looking, BRILLIANT editors  again! To see hundreds of work horse reporters who live and love their job. So NOT fake news, as President Trump bellows. And three cheers for all the young hungry reporters who are TODAY relentlessly pursuing  the TRUTH. Their writing isn’t as strong as the guy and gal scribes who preceded them…but they work just as hard – haven’t given Trump a second to catch his gassy breath. They are relentless! And that’s gangbusters!

Still, I cry over the death of most American city newspapers (even the T and G) and the shrinking of most city newsrooms. It’s the end of a glorious era. Glad I had a chance to experience the rukus and the romance!
Rose today: still crazy for writing, after all these years!

We feel your pain, Melania!

By Rosalie Tirella

First Lady of the United States Melania Trump, the butt of late night comedy shows and their wickedly wonderful hosts and guests …


FREE MELANIA!!!!! is the clarion call throughout our fair land! Some say the First Lady’s a victim: of emotional abuse, low self-esteem … her own greedy, materialistic self.

But don’t all grownups, including FLOTUS Melania Trump, make their own decisions? Are we so suggestible and air-headed that we marry or commit to someone just because someone else suggests it?😉 Or because our future mate-for-life looks good … is rich, powerful and/or drop dead beautiful? … aphrodisiacs that often fade with familiarity. Bargaining chips of the rich.

No, Melania stars in her own shit show. She gets little pity for being the Donald’s putty. Yeah, she keeps her distance, slaps his hand away, uses separate cars and bedrooms, but there’s never a clean break. Just more degradation, courtesy of her husband, President Donald Trump – and, sadly, herself. Donald fucked porn star Stormy Daniels directly after Melania had given birth to their son, Barron; he practically gropes his daughter ice princess (there’s that word!) Ivanka, he STILL wants to fuck – and probably does – every gorgeous piece of ass that crosses his crass path.

If Melania divorced Donald she’d be a national hero! Earn global accolades! And get cool millions in alimony! She could begin anew with shell-shocked son Barron. BE HONEST with her boy, grow him right – and maybe find a real prince! of a guy who will really, truly love her.

But something keeps Melania glued to her philandering, lying, sleaze ball husband, President Donald Trump. It’s Melania and it’s happened before. So many of our Presidents were total shitheads when it came to their wives – just look at the Bill and Hillary Clinton debacle! But the First Ladies stayed with their loser guys because our princess dreams die hard, horrible deaths…refuse to die! (Didn’t I just type “prince” a few paragraphs ago?!)

I still have the Cinderella Princess statuette my mother gave me when I was in the first grade!!

pics: R.T.


It is broken from years of my travels!

It came with a pink Timex wristwatch. For little girls.

For my mother’s very own little Princess!

I also keep my late mother’s white shoe polish, too. “White Scuff Cover” by Kiwi. So I never forget.


We were so poor… When Ma worked at the dry cleaners, she couldn’t afford new shoes, so she kept wearing the same old white nurses shoes she had bought for herself at the Mart in Main South. She had bottles and bottles for the 35 years she worked at Oscar’s. But my pretty mother had a truckload of pride – she always wanted to look professional and presentable for work (60 hours a week). She loved her job as a “counter girl,” working with the public! So she went crazy on the white shoe polish.

My mother must have watched this movie a hundreds times, The Sound of Music. It was her fave film! As a little girl growing up in Green Island, sometimes I was prodded into watching it with her. Ma believed wholeheartedly in this dream. Prince meets his future Princess and, after getting through some bad scrapes, a few romantic glitches, they finally hook up forever – marry and live happily (if a bit too chastely) ever after!

Yet like so many women living on Lafayette Street, Ward Street, Bigelow Street, Millbury Street and the other byways in our neighborhood, my mother hitched her trusting heart to an asshole husband – an abusive man, physically and emotionally. A philanderer extraordinare. My father. … Without the Trump money or brand. Not that it really makes a difference in the long run.

I like looking at the Sphynx-like expression on First Lady Melania’s face. It tells me nothing – and everything. So many of us women can relate to the truth buried beneath the lies.

The beautiful Broadway and Billy – 100 Water St.

By Rosalie Tirella

pic: R.T.

Rose on her daily drive down Water Street, where she gets her yummy wraps and sometimes coffee at The Broadway Restaurant and Catering at 100 Water St.

Did she tell you she loves this place? The idea of this place? The people of this place? The look of this place? The love wafting over every cup of coffee (bottom-less!) in the place? The INTEGRITY in each and every Broadway French fry?

What gives the B-Way its Best Ways? The Isaldakli family, of course! Owners for decades, after Billy Isaldakli realized his engineering degree wouldn’t make him as happy as or rich as owning the Broadway, the Isaldaklis bring a love for each other, their kids, grandkid and community that has fueled the Broadway’s success … for decades. Billy and Betsy, his wife and work partner, bring a magical Old World affection, unpretentiousness and moral code to the little corner eatery in my neighborhood that never fails to uplift and inspire me in this crass, narcissistic Trump world. The Canal District’s trendy bars, eats and people may come and go – I’ve seen these places open with such fanfare and then a year or 2 later, poof! gone! – but the Broadway endures. Like the turning of the earth, like the salt of the earth … like an epic Broadway Hot Fudge Sundae!

Years ago Billy bought the Broadway biz from the old and soon-to-retire Sam, a Green Island legend in his own right. Every Sunday morning Sam would be at the front entrance of his Broadway in a suit coat, shaking hands with and greeting each and every one of his (steady) customers as they walked through his front doors! When I was a little girl growing up in Green Island my mother, like half of Worcester, would take  us to the Broadway for breakfast after Sunday Mass. And there stood Sam, gate keeper to my sisters’ and my burgers, fries and Cokes, smiling seriously. (Ma had breakfast – always a cheese Western omelet and coffee💜.) Rich, poor, in-between – Sam treated ALL his customers with the same Sam brisk-but-attentive courteousness. It was a whirlwind Sunday! Sam was a king atop the Broadway hill!

Billy brought a more fun vibe to the place. Chatty, given to giving you unsolicited advice (usually spot-on. “Rose, you’re too deep into your life to adopt kids!”), political, smart and philosophical, Billy could have been a great politician – or Pope.

But it has been the Broadway where he’s built his life and flourished. I chalk much of his success up to his smarts, cooking skills but mostly Big Greek Love – for family, customers, Worcester – everybody. To experience the Broadway is to be swaddled in a warm world of connections, smiles, banter, family, integrity, homemade ice cream, hard work – the American dream slathered over your cheese burger, don’t hold the pickles!

Billy has owned his culinary icon for years and never ceases to impress folks with his family affair at 100 Water St! Billy, wife Betsy, daughter, son, soon grandson, all work at the Broadway at some point in their lives. They all seem to gather there, in the back dining room, for their informal Greek dinners. Often with a waitress, just off her shift. The room radiates clan, LOVE, family first, good food. AND…respect for every Woo girl and boy!

To visit the Broadway is to visit a more no-nonsense, honest time in America where rules and rituals mattered: Billy and Betsy married for years and still flirting with each other over the feta, still respecting each other’s points of view, admiring each other’s skills. The cute Billy cheat on the pretty Betsy? Never in a billion years! She’s the whipped cream on his Belgian waffles! And, besides, more important, it is WRONG to cheat on your wife, your life’s helpmate and best friend.

… Billy grinning to himself over the French fries when Rose tells him his three-year-old grandson has his mom’s – Billy’s daughter Daniella’s – smile. Rose can see Daniella’s exact same smile, the exact same mischievous little curves in the two corners of the little boy’s mouth when he grins. This amazes her. She tells Billy so. A quiet, contented grace washes over Billy’s gently lined face as he accepts the compliment. No words spoken.

Giving to the community is first nature with this crew. Every Thanksgiving, Billy and family and a few staffers cook ALL the turkey dinners for Worcester shut-ins for the Bishop’s Catholic Charity Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels. At the Broadway! For 17+ years! Under the radar, sans self-promoting Instagram photos or press releases. That is how the Isaldakli family spends – and celebrates – their Thanksgiving. Sweating and (Billy) swearing over hundreds of scoops of their homemade stuffing, scores of Butterballs (the Bishop supplies the turkeys – Billy cooks them) and cans of cranberry sauce. Community service, totally out of the public eye.

That’s how Billy likes it.

Rose is thinking of Billy today. Billy, a middle-aged guy (he married young) surviving in a Facebook world. Billy, a guy with a moral code that rivals Lincoln’s, a guy who doesn’t know what Snap Chat is and couldn’t give a fuck. Slinging grape nut pudding, joking with the dish washer and the kid at the counter. Billy knows that inside the rules is where you are absolutely free! No one else in America seems to get this any more. In this crazy country, folks (kids!!) post pictures of their boobs, butts and trendy meals on Instagram. Fake loves, too. For everybody to see … curated, manipulated, cropped and colorized. Billy Isaldakli will have none of it. Billy runs around the Broadway kitchen sweaty and stressed, yelling over the assistant cook. Betsy calmly grabs a fish platter and throws a reassuring glance at her husband, her beloved. Waitress Cathy makes fresh coffee…friends/customers come in. The Broadway world spins on, a cozy delight.

Daddy New Year!

By Rosalie Tirella


When I was a little girl growing up in Green Island, New Year’s Eve was the one holiday my father, “Daddy,” celebrated with my mother and my two kid sisters and me. And Bapy, our Polish immigrant granny!

My father was a rover, an Italian Romeo, who my poor minimum-wage-working mother fell in love with cuz she felt the magic with Daddy (lust!), after dutifully going with a dutiful, church-going Pole from the neighborhood for years. “Stan” had loved her, was romantic: he gave my mother an engagement ring. He once took off his coat and laid it over a big mud puddle so my mother could walk on it and not through the puddle!  He was a furniture delivery kid for Millbury Furniture on Millbury Street, who went on to become a school teacher. 

But “Ma” chose foolishly: she dumped good boy Stan for bad boy Daddy, the hot Mediterranean with killer profile – Daddy’s high, red pompadour (his moniker when he was a kid? “Red”!), his long elegant Roman nose! Swoon-time! – and attitude. Daddy came with the complete bad boy package: a big-boned German German Shepherd dog named Heidi (tougher than the American breed), a big dump truck where Heidi sat in the passenger seat and hard, calloused, workman hands that had caressed many a’ ghetto-girl breasts and hot rod tires, and a true rock n roller outsider stance. Daddy was taciturn, even gruff, kept his demons close to his chest. He didn’t talk to us kids, his children! – or any kids, for that matter. What was the point? He was in and out of our lives but always managed to make a pit stop at our Green Island flat when he needed to recover from whatever shit he had stirred up around Worcester.

Above: one of Daddy’s pitstops; below: Ma’s First Holy Communion pic

I remember: Daddy walking into our Lafayette Street tenement after days or weeks or MONTHS away from home, MIA, looking like the January winds had blown him into our poor flat! His pale hazel eyes red and teary, his now auburn hair wild and swept-up. He had axl grease on his hands and under his fingernails and on the front and back of his blue work shirt. Seeing this junkyard dog of a man, Ma would (to our consternation) … melt!! Like goo. Get all flustered and start running – running!! – to their closet to get Daddy a clean tee shirt, run to another closet to get Daddy a clean white hand towel. And as the Prodigal Daddy washed his dirty face and dirty hands in our kitchen! sink, Ma pulled out the big T Bone steak from the refrigerator (her pretty round ass filling out her snug house coat) she had bought special for Daddy at Supreme Market on Millbury Street. Just for him alone – an entire steak! We kids never got steak! Neither did Ma, who only allowed herself to  gobble up Daddy’s leftovers – the steak’s “tail” – all fatty – after Daddy had finished eating. I remember seeing her eat the tail end by the kitchen stove, stealthily, her pretty mouth shiny with its fat – only after clearing the TV stand on which she had served Daddy his big meal, in their bedroom, where he lounged on their bed, solitary as a lobster. He couldn’t be bothered with or by his three little girls…. Today I make the same special salad dressing Ma once made for Daddy: a saucer of olive oil; add one clove of garlic, finely diced …


… a teaspoon of vinegar and pinch of salt.  Stir with a salad fork and voila!

We kids would stay in the “front” room quietly watching The Carol Burnet Show on our black and white Philco while Daddy feasted on his steak in the bedroom.  We were 8 and 7 and 7 (twins) and expected nothing. “Good little soldiers,” as Ma used to call us. We kids, Ma  – and, of course Bapy, who got Daddy’s number from day #1 and hated his guts – had grown accustomed to Daddy’s ways: no birthday gifts on our birthdays, no candy Valentine’s hearts on Valentine’s Day, no Christmas gifts during the holidays. Daddy was a cheapskate who kept his money to and for himself; he had zero interest in making his little girls smile during their birthdays or the holidays.

Rose went to her aunt and uncle’s house for the best birthday parties; above: her cousins, pre-birthday party sugar-and-salt blast!

Except during New Year’s Eve, a time when something magical stirred in Daddy. For two or so years he was a night watchman at the Worcester Country Club. Night time was his time, and he worked the holidays at the country club for time and a half pay. So… Daddy worked his shift New Year’s Eve and, way past midnight, after watching the club, but also watching (or hearing) Worcester’s well-heeled drink champagne, dance past midnight to a local big band, ring in the New Year with party favors that cranked, whirred, buzzed, twirled and honked… After the big ball room New Year’s countdown, after the big night, after all the Merry makers had departed for their nice homes in Burncoat or the West Side, the ones with big back yards and flowers trimming front lawns, so quiet in the moonlight…only then would Daddy stoop and pick up all the spent favors, the discarded tin foil caps, the popped poppers on the dance floor and take them home to us. He’d even take the ceiling and wall decorations off their perches! The big tissue paper silver balls and the big crepe-paper New Year’s bells that hung from the country club’s ballroom ceiling were not safe from Daddy’s nimble fingers!… And the big cardboard New Year’s Babies that had hung from the ceilings and had floated above all the dancers and party goers in their top hats and cute diapers, like the champagne bubbles… floating off to happy land… would float right into our third-floor Lafayette Street tenement, in Green Island!

So much fun to hear Ma yell to us: “Look what Daddy brought you from the Country Club!” It was past 3 in the morning but no difference! Ma wanted us up! My two sisters and I jumped out of our beds and, in our pajamas, ran into our big kitchen where Daddy was gingerly placing (on the kitchen floor) our New Year’s treasures. We squealed and picked up the used party favors and streamers and began running in big circles on our big kitchen floor. We took the white big paper bells and lifted them high over our heads into the air and yelled: HAPPY NEW YEAR! We ran with the streamers – our New Year’s Eve’s kites – all over the apartment! I grabbed a big cardboard New Year’s Eve baby! Tomorrow Ma would help me tape my diapered little prince on my bedroom wall!

Ma made sure silly Belle, our English Setter mix …


… was on her dog pillow, an old chair cushion bestowed to her by Bapy, her true mistress!, away from all the tinsely temptations!

Daddy’s New Years Eve was as fun to me as another winter tradition in our flat: when Ma hung the laundry to dry in our kitchen! On two long ropes she had strung up from one wall to the opposite one! We were too poor to have a clothes dryer, so Ma always hung our laundry outside on the back porch clothesline. Except for below freezing days like today when she brought the operation indoors and my kid sisters and I would clap our hands and giggle and hug each other as Many hung the big white sheets out to dry. We’d run under them touching them with our hands, our little faces, screaming!, Ma smiling. They smelled so nice, our make-believe snow mountains, drowsy and deep and white in Green Island!

So News Year’s Eve at our house was just as exuberant! Ma smiled as she watched us play and Bapy, sitting in her over-stuffed wooden easy chair at the head of the kitchen table, sipped her cup of Sanka instant coffee and sang a Polish nursery rhyme while tapping our little butts with the palm of her old hand as we ran by her giggling, glitter on the soles of our feet!

Bapy loved music and encouraged us to sing and make joyful noise year ’round! Our house was filled with music 24/7, except for nighttime when we slept. But during the days the radio blared Bapy’s polkas and Ma’s Beatles and Herman’s Hermits and Top 45, Wolfman Jack, baby! On special occasions I cranked up Bapy’s Victrola and played Ma’s old 33s, from when she was a maid in the Bishop’s house in Springfield: Doris Day, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney …

… The Dorsey Brothers, even Al Jolson! I used to love to belt out, with Al: “Hallelujah, I’m a bum again!!”!

Rose leading her two-kid band (her sisters) in the big Green Island kitchen!

Come January 2, Daddy was a “bum” again, as Bapy sputtered into her cold Sanka, cursing him in Polish (“Dog’s Blood” spoken in her native tongue sounded deadly). He was gone from the flat, our lives, once more. With feeling. He had made his getaway early in the morning, while we kids were still sleeping, as was his custom, usually around 5:30 a.m. Ma would wake up at 5 to make him his breakfast and fresh coffee. See him off!! My sisters and I got to keep our New Year’s Eve paper regalia, but the bells and streamers now sat crumpled in a corner, on the kitchen floor. Except for my cardboard New Year’s baby which still delighted me and, like I said, Ma would help me tape to my bedroom wall later in the day.

Looking back, I now see that our peripatetic Daddy was almost as poor as we were. Once he was beaten up by a goodfella for a Shrewsbury Street loan shark who didn’t get the dough Daddy had borrowed from him – and still owed him. I remember Daddy coming through our backdoor (of course), sheepishly – so unlike his usual entrances. I remember Ma putting her hand to her mouth, which had fallen open, then running to Daddy to examine his big cauliflower ears…

So, today, I catalog some of the gifts a poor Daddy gave to his poor daughters. At the time, I considered them more his plunder than our gifts, but still… He always placed them on our big kitchen table or big ol’ kitchen floor, like sacred junkyard offerings (when they weren’t too cumbersome):

1. A Frank Sinatra album

2. Two Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons albums (one of them double!)

3. Barbershop equipment – all the mirrors, stand up and wall, which he picked up somewhere in his truck – got paid by the shop owner for hauling them away. I remember running downstairs to see all the mirrors in his truck, glinting in the sun, and helping him lug them all upstairs, to our third floor tenement!

4. A cast iron baker’s rack, which I also helped him lug upstairs! It became my plant and ceramic animal stand. For years!

5. A rusty old Maxwell House Coffee can, filled haphazardly with dirt and in the middle of the dirt: a lovely pink lady slipper, puffy in full bloom! My sisters and I rushed to the old coffee can when Daddy placed it on the kitchen table. We ooohed!! and ahhhed!! at the lovely flower, touching its velvety, prickly hot pink petal. We had never seen a lady slipper in our lives! Not even pictures of them in our school books! I was mesmerized….Daddy had picked it during one of his many walks in the woods up by West Boylston. We didn’t walk in the woods, like our father. And he’d never dream of taking us – especially three GIRLS! – along with him, though I remember one of my sisters, the Tom Boy and his favorite, always pleading with him to accompany him.

I never asked to go along…

And those are all the birthday and holiday gifts my father gave to me and my two sisters. Ma got squat. But she kept her costume jewelry from Springfield, gifts from Stan, in a box lined with purple crushed velvet and wore her twinklers to our schools’ Parent Nights where she was told what good girls she had. And Rosalie! So smart! All A’s again!

My gifts to my mother!


… I still have a few of Ma’s earrings. She used to let me wear them around the house when I had a cold and was too sick to go to school or play outside. They were a quick pick-me-up! But I never wear them these days – I don’t want to lose them, lose the memory💜.

These days, I live in Green Island, again. I see on my old Millbury Street the new old Millbury Street…today’s poor …


… walking, as once my sisters, mother and I had walked, sometimes trudged, during winter in the inner city: wearing layers of cheap clothing, heads down, heading home with treasures like a bag of bread, a fish sandwich, a scarf or two from friends more comfortably off…And I look up to see the snowman, angel, snowflake or Santa decals pasted to the frozen-shut crap windows above the storefront windows. And my heart flies straight up to meet those windows’ Santa’s and snowflakes! I love them so much – best of all! I see my Green Island childhood in them: poor families making the best of things, making things Merry and Bright in spite of the fact! The decals pasted up by poor kids or their mothers or fathers or their uncles or aunts. Or big brothers, sisters … cousins. No matter! It’s all done with the same love! And hope!

These Green Island Christmas windows will stay decorated through January, and I will look up at them every time I go by them!

Happy New Year’s Eve!

P.S. We remember Maggie Roche, who died this year. 💜 you, Roche Sisters!

My two cousins

By Rosalie Tirella

Writing my David Cassidy post got me thinking about Baby Boomer teen life and my two favorite girl cousins, Jennifer and Kris. Jennifer was the trend setter of my junior and early senior high school years. The beauty I idolized but could never be.  She was the suburban willowy love-child of the ’70s who caught all the boys’ eyes (once I was walking with her when she literally stopped traffic!), and I was the Polish immigrant nerd living in the ghetto (Green Island) with my face deep in my school books and Bapy’s potato pierogi’s.

Jennifer was the Ali MacGraw to my Mr. Magoo (I was near-sighted as a kid, and my mom bought me thick-lensed eyeglasses at the optometrist on Millbury Street), the Cheryl Tiegs string bikini to my White’s Five and Ten polyester pants. And the whole family knew it. When her parents, my sweet Uncle Mark and Aunt Mary, spoke of her, their only daughter, the word “model” popped up in lots of their sentences. As in Jennifer was beautiful enough to be a model. She was tall enough to be a model – 5′ 7″.  She had an oval face – the perfect face all models had. Plus: Jennifer made her own groovy clothes that looked like they came right out of SEVENTEEN magazine. She sewed like a demon (linings? No problem! Zippers? a snap!) and could knit or crochet anything.

Jennifer could knit sweaters like these pom-pom bedecked doozies!

Once she crocheted herself a beautiful blue hotpants jumpsuit with a red apple on the bib (which her parents never let her wear in public). It involved following a pattern, creating pieces, putting them together…so intimidating to me!

Jennifer loved going to the beach and sunbathed in the pretty two piece bathing suits she sewed for herself. She slathered on the Coppertone sun tan lotion (SPF 0) and smelled like a coconut. 

For me, the whole Jennifer package was amazing! No one ever stared at me – a gawky 13 year old with thin hair and a gap between my two front teeth, which my mother, too poor to outfit me in braces, kept promising me would come together as my wisdom teeth grew in. (never happened). No one ever told me I had model potential. No one ever cared what I was knitting. I was in Jennifer’s knitting class at the Winthrop House Girls Club on Providence Street. Everyone in class knew I was the worst knitter at the Girls Club; in a million years I could never crochet a blue hot pants outfit with a red apple on its bib! The club knitting teacher, was a tough old Irish broad who had plenty of ability but no heart. She fawned over Jennifer and her work but sneered at me as I sweated bullets over my paltry scarves or “slippers” for Bapy. Scraps to her. She never tried to teach me anything new –  never really even acknowledged my presence. She just kept me knitting those damn scarves and slippers – both the easiest beginner projects entailing knitting/crocheting row after row after row after row…I hated the teacher and class but my mother wanted me to learn “home economics” so I took all the classes at the Club: sewing class, knitting class, cooking class. I soldiered on in knitting for three years while  Jennifer soared –  graduated to sweaters with pom poms, halter tops! and hotpants jumpsuits. She bought and  followed patterns, three-page directives that told you when you knit, purled, dropped a stitch etc.


Jaw dropping. I never  owned or even followed a pattern, which you could buy at Woolworths on Front Street. I couldn’t even “read” them. So I became the Madame Defarge of the Girls Club – knitting and knitting and knitting my  scarf in a corner of the room.

Jennifer wore platform sandals and shoes that we’re pretty and on trend – but never slutty. She drank NuForm 1% low fat milk because she was tall and willowy and watched her figure, like a real model. She wore just the lightest touch of makeup (pink lipstick, a bit of mascara) because she was a natural beauty, like a model.  And like all models in the 1970s she wore her long, chestnut hair parted straight in the middle, straight down the back, a la Ali MacGraw.

pics: R.T.


Jennifer even knit herself those knit hats Ali MacGraw wore in the movie “Love Story,” co-starring  ’70s heartthrob movie actor Ryan O’Neal.

My aunt would say, “That’s my Ali MacGraw!” My Uncle would say, “That’s my Polish Princess!”

And we’d all nod, grinning.

No one ever called me a Polish Princess! But I knew I was loved by mom. For different reasons. I was up to something a little different – Ma picked up on it, knew I was wicked book smart, an all-A student.  She knew I loved music and enrolled me in violin – and accordion! – lessons at Lamartine Street School. She pushed me to be in the WPS orchestra – at 7! She’d bypass Jennifer altogether and compare me to the boys in the family. Race my intellectual prowess against that of her sister’s two whiz kid sons’ – Walter and Jim.

My Aunt Mary would brag to my mom: “Jim is number two in his class.” My mom would hit back with: “My Rosalie is number 1.” My aunt would crow: “Jim’s teachers love him.” My mom would retort: “Rosalie’s English teacher took  her and five of the smartest kids in class to the art museum on Saturday. Then they  went to McDonald’s for lunch!” If Walter was reading a hard book for his book report at Burncoat Junior High, I was reading a brain-cracker for my book report at Providence Street Junior High. If Walter was going to college to be a doctor, I was going to college to be a veterinarian – a job my mom believed required more intelligence.  Animals did not talk and therefore couldn’t tell you where they hurt or what their health issues were!

The competition was intense, and soon I felt I was on a different path than Jennifer who wanted to go the more traditional route. She wanted to be a school teacher, get married in a beautiful wedding gown …


… with the band playing BREAD songs for all to dance to at the wedding reception.

My cousin loved BREAD and bought the above album, The Best of Bread, and convinced me to do the same. I did. When we had our sleep overs at her house we’d get into our jammies, talk boys and true love and she’d put her BREAD album on her portable record player and together we’d softly sing all the songs on it (I knew all the words by heart, still do). We’d sing high and melodramatically in the gentle moonlight that suffused her little pink bedroom, with the swing set in the back yard, my aunt and uncle in the kitchen having a final cup of coffee of the day,  together …

A few years ago I heard “Everything I Own” on the radio and cried. Not for what the music critics would call its saccharine lyrics (the critics slagged BREAD, gagged over BREAD, their entire career) but for what the band once meant to two innocent girls in the little moonlight-imbued bedroom off Burncoat Street, the swing set in the backyard by the big tree I’d sometimes climb… . Two girls who believed in all that bad love poetry with all their hearts!

“I may be climbing on rainbows, but here goes…”

“… I really wanna make it with you!”

Jennifer’s husband would be handsome and straight-as-an-arrow loyal, and – a must – he’d have a great paying job.


They would live in a big house in the nice part of town and have a family…Jen was losing this Green Island Grrrl.

Into the breach stepped Kris, the teenaged daughter of my mother’s older sister, Helen. Kris was another beauty but very different from Jennifer. Helen, like my mom, her little sis, had married stupidly – got hitched to a physically abusive carpenter who would hit her and drink whenever he wasn’t working. I remember him at our kiddie  birthday parties, walking around the room and popping the balloons with his cigar. A total asshole. Like with my father, I was afraid of the guy. After running away from him, kicking him out of the house, getting a divorce and their house in Webster Square, my auntie became the tough, single mama survivor raising her two teenagers during the 1960s, the Vietnam War … working three shit  jobs  to keep the house and send  her kids to private schools. She eventually became a professional, an accountant, while raising Kris and her brother, Peter. She was the auntie who had a lifelong love affair with Doberman pinschers, owning one after another, huge canines built like brick outhouses, all named delicate, pretty names like Sparkle, Serena and Tatiana. Any one of them could have killed a man.

Like I said, Kris was a beauty. Wavy long auburn hair, huge melt-you eyes, pretty figure, full sensuous lips – so fetching in her blue jeans, peasant blouse and loafers. But where Jennifer was confident and exuberant, Kris was tentative and sad. Where Jennifer sauntered down that beach, Kris walked stiffly past the wavelets, her shoulders up, square and rigid like a soldier’s. She could have looked amazing in a bikini, but she wore a no-nonsense, nylon navy blue one-piece.

Still, we connected. Through our mutual love for animals. When visiting us – and my Aunt and her two kids often did visit us to escape the flying fists of my uncle – Kris never chatted about boys or music or hinted she could be a model, though, years later, I see her in my mind’s eye and she is a kind of ravishing, exotic beauty that Jennifer never was. But she was emotionally squelched by a dad who was a drinker and hit her mother with her hair brush. No. Kris was not young the way Jennifer or even I was. She was serious – until she was given our cat Rajah to pet or our English Setter mix Belle to hug. Then she smiled her toothy white grin and talked about her cats at home or their latest Doberman pinscher. …

Kris would have loved the playful and mischievous Cece!

… But mostly Kris was quiet, “reserved” my mom called it, just connecting with our pets. She would get right on the floor with them, lying down next to them and play fight or cuddle. It was primitive. Bewitching! I’d just sit by her and my pets, watching. They were having fun. My cousin was turning into a feline! A pup!

I wanted to reach out, have Kris be my best friend cousin, just like Jennifer had been, but there was a wall. Kris was only a few years older than Jen but everything about her seemed far away, distracted.  The only emotional connection to my clan? My late mom. Kris loved my mother, who in her 40s then, had a husky, sexy voice that no one else in the family has or ever had. It made her so unique! Everyone remembers her voice, so Las Vegas, Frank Sinatra, dry martini  – even though all she did was work 60 hours a week at the dry cleaners to support me and my two sisters and come home to cook and care for us. When she saw her, Ma would always give Kris a big hug and a kiss on the cheek and … unlike her mom, leave her be … the pressure was off. Kris could play with our pets to her heart’s content. My mother would offer her a cup of Delmonte’s fruit cocktail – something Ma loved to do when we had guests over. Kris accepted the cup of syrupy soft pale fruit and then Ma’d go back to the kitchen table and sit with my aunt. They’d have a cup of freshly brewed coffee Ma made special for my aunt and chat. Ma and Auntie would never talk about my uncle or the physical abuse in front of us kids – maybe they never did, even when we weren’t around. Maybe Ma just sensed it all, Auntie telling her a few things here and there, painting a picture of alcoholism and domestic violence without using the words or even knowing that alcoholism is a disease and domestic violence follows a cycle. It was the ’70s and all of the research was just coming out. Blue collar women like Ma just did not have the knowledge at the time. They relied on their instincts, tried to reason with folks.

There was one night when Uncle Joe did not want Helen and her kids at our place. He drove to our Lafayette Street three decker and got out of his car and started yelling for my aunt, his wife, to come home with his kids. Kris’s face got beet red and tears fell from her eyes. Auntie looked flustered… . Ma went to our third floor window, opened it wide and through the screen said, gently: “Go home, Joe. Go home.” Uncle Joe kept shouting. He sounded off balance, drunk. Ma, still in that gentle voice, said: “Go to bed, Joe. Helen will come home tomorrow.”

That seemed to satisfy Uncle Joe and he drove home. My aunt and cousins spent the night. They got our beds. We kids doubled up. The next day they left early in the morning – so early my sisters and I were still sleeping. I don’t even think they had breakfast. I was sad that I missed saying goodbye to my Aunt, cousin Peter and pretty cousin Kris, who I later learned was a bigger Beatles fanatic than me! She had all the Beatles’s records. She even had the original Beatles dolls!

Ma’s little red book and Trump’s America

“Ma”   photos: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

When my late mother was around 14 years old she got the How To Pitch Baseball book by Lew Fonseca lots of American kids (mostly boys) owned around that time (World War II) and pored over after school, during school, before baseball practice and after a game (sand lot, park or school yard) – kid-arenas where your team either won or lost and a million stories unfolded between the first and ninth inning. All of them were dusty and dirt-beneath-your-fingernails hardscrabble, especially if you played them in Green Island!

The slim red book is small and light – a teenaged boy could have held it in the palm of his hand easily.


It was published in 1942 as part of the Little Technical Book Library and belonged to Ma, a baseball lover from impoverished childhood to impoverished nursing-home death. But most likely it first belonged to her big brother, Walter, who played baseball on his high school’s b-ball-team. So it was a hand-me-down, one of many that came my mother’s way because she was the youngest of five children in a Polish immigrant family and it was the Great Depression . She did things like walk the railroad tracks with her Polish father, my “Jaju,” looking for “coke” – bits of scrap coal that had fallen along the railroad tracks – to take home for their little black stove my grandfather had set up in the corner of their big kitchen in the Lafayette Street tenement. To heat the cold water flat up in winter.  Ma and Jaju would wander the Worcester fields, too, picking wild blueberries and mushrooms to take home to my Polish granny, Bapy. Bapy would  cook them in soups or breads. She was a great cook, made egg noodles, stuffed cabbage – everything they ate at dinner from scratch. She kept (illegally) rabbits in a hutch on the back porch for stew. Jaju slaughtered them for Bapy and occassionally made Ma a lucky rabbit’s foot key chain from the scraps. Ma said the rabbit stew was delicious and, even though not all mushrooms were safe to eat, Jaju was an expert mushroom picker, and knew the safe ones.

Like I said, Ma’s big brother Walter played baseball and was on a team in high school. They didn’t have baseball teams for girls. I know Ma would have joined one if they had them, especially if they were St. Mary’s school- or church-affiliated. She was tiny and skinny but always active, a great walker, walked all over Green Island – up Millbury Steet to buy sausage at Biehler Brother Polish Market – or up Richland Street to help the nuns with decorating their classrooms at St. Mary’s School. Ma whistled when she walked – so much so that Jaju nicknamed his skinny legged, whistling daughter “scrovonik” – Polish for Little Sparrow. St. Mary’s school cum church was Ma’s, all Woo Polish folks’, cultural and educational nexus. A bridge to  America, a new country, a place mysterious and grand and scary.

Baseball was another bridge to America! For Ma and Walter and so many kids of Italian, Irish, Lithuanian, Greek, Portuguese and Polish immigrants of the first half of the twentieth century. They found their parents flaying about – out of their deeply religious countries of origin and thrown into the great wide open moneyland that was America. They would do better than Ma and Papa. They would be fluent in English. They would be rich. They would live in houses, not tenements.  They would go to baseball games and the movies. They would play ball!!!

When Ma died, her little red baseball book became mine. It is sweet looking and fine to the touch, but I like my baseball book best of all because it’s a window on America that is no more: an America that encouraged – practically forced – first generation kids and their immigrant parents to get with the American program! Become a part of the best country on the planet. No one called it “assimilation” back then or felt sorry for or psychoanalyzed anybody who was struggling to get with the American program.  Our great land was serious and striving, even though it was brutally racist and loved its booze, vaudeville stars and strippers… For every illegal dog fight in Green Island there was a little paper American flag taped on a tenement wall. Right next to the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Rose’s Bapy’s Sacred Heart of Jesus picture hung on her kitchen wall in her Green Island tenement for decades. Now it hangs in Rose’s bedroom.

Patriotism is the subtext of Ma’s/my little red baseball book!


This late morning, as I turn its pages, I connect with the “late” America: one that paid lip service to equal opportunity for all but was dead serious about work ethic. Believed in dreams, infinite possibilities, the act of self-creation ane recreation. Embracing intellect, too – even if you were just a kid from Green Island you could be smart! In so many paragraphs the book is telling kids: The KEY TO SUCCESS IN AMERICA IS THE SAME AS IN BASEBALL – dream, work like crazy for your dream, and if you can’t realize your dream and you’ve had to settle for another position on the American team, that is great too! You’re playing the American game with gusto! Fonseca (or most likely his ghostwriter!) says this straight up in his introduction. He writes: “Pitching without a doubt is baseball’s citadel. … More often than not, however, he [the wannabe star pitcher] will find his forte is elsewhere.”


No matter your position, in America, you can still shine! It’s the effort that counts!

I love this caption, printed under the photo, you see below:

“Run out every batted ball.”

“Never assume you are out till umpire rules.”

Be tenacious, kiddos!

And our American love of science, math, Hard Facts, is on display, in several diagrams like this one:


Very “Technical” – just like the book’s cover says! There is a science to great baseball!

Very American!

Even the President of the United States plays ball!! Fonseca tells his young readers that none other than our PRESIDENT throws the first ball of the first game of the baseball season! Every year! Right onto the diamond!

An American tradition!

In the book there is a photo of FDR throwing the first ball …


The kids probably didn’t know President Roosevelt’s polio-ravaged body would never allow him to “play ball.” He couldn’t even stand up! “Standing” for the photo – to throw that baseball was a herculean effort on FDR’s part. It was in fact an optical illusion that the wheel-chair-bound Roosevelt and his team worked hard to create: Before the baseball game, a big ramp was built so that the President’s car could be driven up it. Then hidden behind a ton of bunting and banners the president’s team propped him up, held him tight while he gripped a railing or his son’s arm with one hand and threw the baseball with the other. Sonetimes FDR just sat in his car and pitched – the roaring crowd didn’t know the difference. Sometimes the President’s car was driven on the field and he watched the game from the sidelines. No one knew the difference!

None of this is mentioned in Fonseca’s little red book. After all, FDR embodied everything that Fonseca preached in his little red book!: high spiritedness, optimism, intelligence, competitiveness, most important, control. Without control, Fonseca tells his young readers, your pitching is no where. Without self-control, you can never be a great pitcher! FDR was a great pitcher for America! He was the Babe Ruth of presidents!

Flash forward to today.

President Donald Trump TOTALLY OUT OF CONTROL. absolutely undisciplined. Today. Trump would probably make fun of FDR and his physical handicap – just like he did that New YorkTimes reporter.

Or the many other folks on the campaign trail (U.S. Senator John McCain. A Gold Star mother). The way Trump still treats his fellow Americans is appalling! Most recently, NFL players (he called kneeling NFL football players “sons of bitches”) and the folks of Puerto Rico (he intimated they were lazy and a drain on the mainland).

Now Las Vegas. A mass murderer with a ton of money but no soul. A big empty hole inside he filled with evil. What were Paddock’s motives, America wants to know?

What are Trump’s motives?

How is Trump making America great again???

My mom, like every kid in America, went to the movies religiosly. There was an A picture screened, preceded by the B, preceded by cartoons and shorts like this: 

Baseball was Ma’s fave sport! She must have loved this video when it came up on the big movie screen!! There were two or three movie houses in Green Island. They gave away dishes, so people would keep coming back. To make an entire table setting! American generosity and salesmanship!

Aa little kid, Ma listened to ALL the games on the big family radio in their “front room,” talked baseball with her big brother whom she watched play rough and ready pick up baseball games in the Green Island “big yard” – the sand lot down the street. Ma even grabbed her #2 pencil and, because she was a good artist, drew big sketches of her fave baseball players mid-swing or mid-catch. The hard, stitched balls only her mind’s eye could see…sailing through time and space … sateliltes of love. She gave her sketches to her teachers, the nuns at St. Mary’s school on Richland Street (still standing and operating!). They gave her little prizes for her skills: penny prayer cards (pretty picture in front, prayer in Polish on back), or little plastic statues of the Blessed Mother or Saint Joseph. 

Paddock worshipped winning money – an unhappy addict. A brutal killer who didn’t see, like I did on YouTube news, that pretty girl with long hair in short denim jeans and sexy cowgirl boot go down mid run to safety. She was hit with a bullet in her middle but like a young beautiful deer in shock got up and holding her stomach, ran, kept running. In shock. Would this lithe beauty die???

Trump never mentioned her or the others who were in the madman’s shooting gallery. Gun control? Not a peep from Trump on universal background checks, something most Americans want.

Trump is a demagogue, a slick, creepy divider of Americans, not a healer like FDR or Obama…

… but a killer, like Paddock. A killer of America, Ma, the immigrant’s dreams, science, good sportmanship, baseball’s highest ideals …

Donald Trump, our murderer in chief.

Woo news for you🍒… and …our thoughts on Trump and Woo’s Trumpistas!😱


We did it – thank you!

With your help, we were able to raise a grand total of $5,040 and earn a $5,000 matching gift from the Cahn Fund for Social Change to help support our move!

Thank you so much to everyone who helped to spread the word and made a donation – every dollar has a tremendous impact on our students!


Join us for our Annual Meeting and Open House on August 30th!

We are thrilled to let you know we have finished moving into our new office space – Suites 350 and 355 of the Denholm Building in downtown Worcester.


We would like to invite everyone to our Annual Meeting and Open House to be held from 6-8 pm on Wednesday, August 30th.


Join us for our Annual Fall Fundraiser on October 12th!

Tickets are now on sale for our Annual Fall Fundraiser to be held from 5:30-9 pm on Thursday, October 12th at UMass Medical School.

The evening will be filled with African food, drumming performances, inspiring speeches from our students and alums, and, of course, silent and live auctions filled with items including African art, jewelry, pottery, and much more!

Purchase Fall Fundraiser Tickets!
Thank you for all of your support during these busy and exciting times. We are so grateful to have so many generous and thoughtful proponents of ACE. We look forward to seeing many of you soon!

All the best,
The ACE Team

Our mailing address is:
African Community Education
24 Chatham Street
Worcester, MA 01609





Go, badass women, go!💐🌺🌻


Impeach Trump! Worst POTUS eva!!!!!!😱


Trump and Woo’s alt-right brigade

By Rosalie Tirella

Pres Donald Trump is a blip on our political scene, a big fat, dangerous transitional figure in American politics. The world has changed. America, too! The global economy has raised some up – but hurt others (read: under-educated Americans). The world grows more diverse – in 20+ years America will be a majority minority country. Lots of Americans can’t embrace these seismic economic and cultural changes! Out of fear, confusion and ignorance, they embrace  and endorse racist acts, classism, hatred for refugees, free speech and a more diverse and egalitarian America.

On the Worcester front, we don’t have a Mayor Trump, but we do have our alt-right figures:

Worcester City Councilor and mayor wannabe Michael Gaffney;

his political (but keeps it a secret) clone, wife Coreen Gaffney, District 4 councilor  wannabe;

local rogue lawyer Margaret Melican;

and Melican’s social media BFF, Turtle Boy hate blogger Aidan Kearney;

and Paul Collyer,  FaceBook pages “owner”/author of CHANGE WORCESTER and WORCESTER’S DIRTY SECRET.  

This group of peeps may think itself forward looking, but with all their blogging, comments, repostings and postings you get THE MOST RACIST, Worcester-harming political rants and political strivers this side of Steve Bannon’s office.

They are Worcester’s alt-right movement and Breitbart News rolled into one! Far right strivers hawking ideas that do not fit the Worcester of 2017.

But fear not! Like Trump, they are political flukes, too. Look around you! Don’t you see? This bunch cannot get any kind of political traction here, in Worcester. They are leaving our city/disappearing. Worcester is too racially and socially progressive for them…too willing to bring EVERYONE UP. We don’t traffic in their welfare queen and prince cliches, their “Petty” bashings etc.

Out they go!

For instance, by trashing our recent Worcester City Common anti-racism rally a la Donald Trump, Collyer, Gaffney and Turtle Boy show us how they have outlived their ability to thrive in Worcester. They have been called out by Worcester, they have been put on notice: they are Woo’s political old guard uttering their last, desperate syllables.

Like Trump, their “ratings” in Woo are low:

Paul Collyer has lost clout ever since his buddy former City Manager Mike O’Brien left his job, after HE realized he was no longer a good fit for a diverse, challenging, wonderful Worcester. Collyer is moving to the beautiful Hudson Valley in New York – miles and miles away😄 – with Susan to run a bowling alley. This permanent move will be good for Collyer and GREAT for the new Worcester!😄 Truly evolving cities go way beyond the installations of beer gardens and the scarfing down of fancy food and patronizing over-priced boutiques. That kind of economic development is just a small piece of the Woo puzzle, focusing on and catering to our upper-middle class. What we and most WORCESTERITES are talking about is SOCIAL JUSTICE, THE LIVING WAGE, POLITICAL MOVEMENTS WHOSE ARC BENDS TOWARDS OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL – not just the moneyed or politically connected.

City Councilor Mike Gaffney is, for Woo, a political anomaly. He is smart but duplicitous and a fraud. He will never become mayor of Worcester – even though he’ll try any DIRTY trick in the book to win, which usually entails lying about present mayor, Joe Petty, and shredding our community to bits as he throws wedge after wedge into sensitive city issues.

His wife Coreen knows how to be polite, but she’s dead in the political Woo waters, too. She’ll be another Mike Gaffney vote on the city council – no one will go for that. She has no chance of winning in majority minority, ever complex District 4. The best Coreen can hope for is a job with the DPW on its grounds maintenance crew.

Turtle Boy has moved to Jefferson because Worcesterites loathe him so passionately – and he’s got two kids to raise. They would be pariahs here – just like their daddy Aidan is. Aidan’s toxic Turtle Boy blog can no longer handle local stuff, so he Jerry Springers all of New England. It’s an emotionally ugly ride – his Turtle Boy blog. No one will publicly come out in favor of this racist, far right wing nut and his blog – except for Collyer, the Gaffneys and Melican who push the TB toxicity out into the community via their FB pages, etc…

It was great to see Mayor Petty and City Manager Ed Augustus at the anti-racism, anti-white-supremacy rally on the Woo Common a few days ago! They stood with the good folks at Charlottesville – not the Neo Nazis. They stood on justice’s side! Former CM Mike O’Brien would have tried to shut the rally down! Social justice is too messy and un-pretty for O’Brien, Collyer and crew. That’s why O’Brien’s gone, and his compadres will soon follow in his footsteps …


By Rosalie Tirella

Hello again?
Yesterday Cece spied someone outside my apartment window.      pics: R.T.

It was former ICT scribe Ron O’Clair, in the St. Mary’s church parking lot, in a red convertible, with white interior! Ronny was wearing his big black hippy sombrero and (I think) sporting a beard. He was looking up at me, while I parted the curtains in my fourth-floor shack to admire the sight and snap a pic. Then he gave me a wide smile and a big thumbs up and sped off! Quite the sight!


Ahhh, Ronny! On a high! Feeling good with the sun shining on his sombrero and a new shiny red toy! Here’s a guy who’s been knocked down by life from day #1 (childhood poverty, death of a parent when he was a little kid, then foster homes, depression, the murder of his brother, discharge from the military, alcoholism) and come back from the brink so many times (STILL brilliant and articulate, a TERRIFIC writer, in recovery for 30+years, a cool street social worker who’s helped hundreds of people find food, solace, housing, AA meetings as the live-in manager of a Main South rooming house ) that “resilient” is too weak (and serious) a word to describe Ronny. “Come backs” doesn’t fit either because the phrase makes Ronny seem old – which he sorta is, at 55!❤ – and a has-been, like a member of the Herman’s Hermits🎵 – which he is  most definitely not! (Sorry, Peter Noone!)

For me, Ron O’Clair is more Dylan than Noone. More Byron than Seuss. He never goes out of style … But his bipolar illness makes him disappear from the scene now and then, leaving his friends worried and sad. His condition makes him see things so intensely! The perfect writer for ICT! Ron can be deep – deeply sad, deeply wise, deeply sensitive. He can also be deeply wound-up, loud, revved up,  ecstatic. Manic.  Ronny has always offered his friends his kaleidoscope of feelings – and experiences –

… often powerful. When in his emotional “troughs,” though, Ron  pretty much hunkers down in his two rooms in Main South – for weeks. This breaks my heart. You can call it mental illness. But why put a complicated brilliant person like Ronny in a box? Still, his emotional vales break his momentum, whether it be his running for Woo City Council or following through on a marriage proposal that he made to a lovely – I mean lovely both spiritually and physically – hooker that he rescued outside his Main South building. … I think back to that time: Ronny was in love! But his complicated brain waves brought it all to a halt! It made me cry! I was rooting for the pair: Ronny bought “Sandy” a beautiful ring, rented a car one Christmas eve so she wouldn’t have to sit in his crap-cluttered vehicle on the trip to his brother’s house for Christmas dinner – to meet the family.❤ Ronny got Sandy clean and sober, took her to the doctors, the dentist, NA meetings. A gal pal gave Sandy bags of cool  vintage clothing. I planned their wedding with our gal pal: she would provide the vintage wedding dress and I’d dress up my apartment. I’d make the mostly veggie meals, served on my late Mom’s china, turn  my dining and living rooms into an inner-city chapel with all my candles placed on an altar I’d fashioned from headboards I had found on the side of the road. I’d board Jett for the day… Then boom. Ron shut down, so did Sandy  …

… and that was the end of that. Ron dismisses the whole love affair as a non-love affair. A pain in his butt. But I know he’s lying.

Ron has shared many of his experiences with you in ICT. Like the time he was a boy in foster care in rural Maine and bonded with a buffalo on the farm he was living on. The buffalo was like a big pet for Ronny, and he visited him in the field next to his foster parents’ house every day. But one Christmas Ronny unwittingly ate his best friend in the world. The buffalo was the main course for his foster family’s Christmas dinner! Ron tells the story with a chuckle, but you hear the real pain in the story he wrote for InCity Times. ICT – the conduit for Ronny’s dreams and schemes – realized and/or crumpled. If you meet Ron in Main South or at any of his haunts in Worcester – at a Worcester diner eating a killer breakfast, at a junk-yard buying parts cheap for his cars that he collects like jewels – you would think he’s kinda glib and … a jerk. Incapable of the stories he writes. But if you read his columns – which I have with so much joy, through years  – you’d soon realize Ron’s the brightest guy in the room. But his poverty, his living on the edge in the rooming house in Main South, his sometimes too enthusiastic emotional style, his physical SIZE! have left him the perennial outsider, here in Worcester, the hometown he adores. You all discount him and his intelligence and goals. It’s  a kind of prejudice. Not racial. But economic. And maybe just maybe your version of mental well-being skews a little to the left or right of Ronny’s state of mind! Shame on you!

In this life: so many people crossing each other’s paths, so many good people shunted to another road or handcuffed into silence by the in-crowd, the money crowd, the politically connected crowd. The hit brigade wallowing in their version of Wasp happiness.

What about WOP happiness?


Wikipedia says: “WOP stands for WithOut Papers. Many Italian immigrants had no papers to identify themselves and were branded as WOPs.”

My grandfather Sabino was a WOP.

He was also a NANG: Not A Nice Guy!


I’ve told you all about him: Unlike Ron, Sabino took his outsiderness, his otherness and used it to become a pretty successful entrepreneur. But he was an asshole in every other aspect of his life: cheated on his wife who gave him 10 children, beat her, beat my father, was a bootlegger. I mean, the guy was BAD!

Ron – and this WOP! – aren’t bad: we WRITE, we try to do the right thing for our city and this makes us happy and proud! Forget about moi for a second, let’s focus on Ron. Over the years Ron has:

given me a million rides when the jalopy I am driving breaks down.

delivered gallons of gas to me when I’ve run out – usually at night in the inner city. How comforting it was to see my friend pouring the gas into my gas tank, wearing his fake-lamb-skinned-lined bedroom slippers. In the middle of a Woo winter night. He wasn’t smiling, made no small talk and walked away with a huge huff after he finished his AAA call, but he ALWAYS came, always came through for me.

driven tons of people from his rooming house to the food pantry to get food so they could eat.

driven tons of people from his rooming house to AA, Al Anon, NA meetings – often joining the group as he is in recovery and never gets complacent about the fact!

helped strangers when they needed help

befriended lots of Woo characters – including this one! I remember the night Ronny came to my house with an old ex-boxer from Boston who just got a room at Ronny’s place. I had called Ron frantic – my late Mom’s cat April had just become diabetic and I did not know how/was afraid to use the needles to inject the insulin into April. Well, Ronny brings the boxer over to my house to help – the guy is BALD, HUGE, covered with tattoos, standing at my door, with Ronny. It is close to midnight. I am distraught. April needs her medicine. I don’t want her to die. I say…OK, come in. The boxer comes in, fills up half the entry-way but … picks April up, talks oh so softly to her, takes one of the skinny needles out of her needle box (filled with about 1O0 needles), shows me how to poke the needle into the little insulin bottle (always shake it beforehand), measure the amount of insulin. Then he lifts a bit of April’s fur on her shoulder, making a little tent, and gently gives her her shot. Then the boxer gently massages the spot where he inserted the needle. He told me and Ronny his grandmother had been a diabetic and, as a little boy, he used to give her her insulin shots. Every day. He said it all so beautifully. I could tell he had really loved his grandmother. Maybe she had raised him… I felt like shit for having been afraid of the Boston boxer and hesitating to let him into my home. As he turned to leave, I hugged the boxer – and Ronny -and said THANK YOU, GUYS! They lumbered down the stairs that lead up to my 4th floor apartment. Noisy as hell. I loved them both!

A night I will never forget, courtesy of Ronald O’Clair.

Lilac and the late, beautiful April

Ronny has also:

supported his landlord who was overwhelmed with his rooming house.

worked with the Worcester police for years to make his neck of the woods – the corner of Main and Charlton streets – much safer and quieter and a little less heroin-infected, especially when the PIP wet shelter was still open (across Charlton Street!)

So naturally it enraged me to see my friend’s hopes dashed when he applied for a slot on a City of Worcester Board/Commission and  was turned down by a City Manager toady. Not the commission who does the vetting but by one of former CM Mike O’Brien’s (an ICT detractor for sure) employees. This was about five years ago, when Ronny was on a huge UP and had all his i’s dotted and t’s crossed. He had applied to sit on a City of Worcester health or zba board – for no pay, as the job is a volunteer position. I had encouraged him to apply. Ronny, living the life he’s lived, KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT INNER-CITY HEALTH ISSUES. And what he doesn’t know – he’ll read up on. He’s a brilliant guy! Also, so compassionate! Hell, he’d be down in the trenches with Dr. Mattie at a homeless camp, talking to the folks, driving them to job interviews! I mean, he would be all in – give 100%. But CM O’Brien hated ICT, so Ron got screwed.

A few days ago I called Ronny. We were talking about city boards and commissions when I urged him to take another crack at the HEALTH commission. “The city needs lots of people from District 4! On lots of city boards!” I said.

Ronny was hesitant. I said: GO FOR IT, RONNY! YOU WILL BE GREAT – on that city board or any city board!

He laughed. Then I asked him to cover an inner-city health clinic’s health fair for me, to run in the next issue of CECELIA. Ronny said YES, attended the event for me and sent me some pics he took a few hours later. Here is one for you!

Ronny O’Clair: gotta love the man!!
Baby in Piedmont. photo by Ron O’Clair