Tag Archives: Worcester

Quiet Time

By Rosalie Tirella

CCR. photos: R.T.

When I was a fifth grader at Lamartine Street School, we were a rough, emotionally closed-off crew of ten year olds. Most of us were frightfully poor, from the Green Island neighborhood; many of us came from “broken homes” where boyfriends and girlfriends moved in and out of our apartments with a confusing regularity. Five or six of us were “kept back” for a year or two or even three – so a few of the boys were really teenagers and looked different from us little fifth grade kiddos. They towered over many of us! Even their voices sounded different…and to hear them struggle in their almost grownup voices as they tried to sound out an easy word in our fifth grade story book when they were called on to read aloud … it made me feel … uncomfortable.

There were plenty of bullies who’d give you a sock to the stomach and kick you when you were rolling on the cement school “yard” in pain. Having grown up with parents fighting all the time – literally taking swings at each other – this kind of behavior was typical, acceptable in our young eyes. Everyone, me included, if pushed, could yell or be emotionally abusive. A few of us carried real knives. I remember one classmate who brought in her pet guinea pig for show and tell. During recess she brought out her big knife, practically a carving knife, and did another kind of show and tell in the Lamartine school yard. She was a quiet kid who was always nice to me; she smelled like her guinea pig: like wood shavings that had been peed on. But she had the coolest red hair and freckles. That afternoon, my classmates and I had made a tight little circle around her as she showed us her big knife. We were quiet, interested…impressed. When the recess bell rang, signalling it was time for classes, she put her big knife away, in her purse, and we kids ran to the big Lamartine Street School doors to re-enter our school. No one thought to tell any adult about the knife.

A few of the girls had real boyfriends. Often they were the ones who were kept back and had their periods and were sexually active. I’ll never forget watching a sister of a classmate walking into our junior high school. She was very pregnant. She was in eighth grade. Because she was so beautiful with her long dark hair and dark beautiful eyes and was always so quiet and sweet, I got it into my head that she was the Madonna, some saint who had been blessed by God with an immaculately conceived baby. I never asked my mom or any adult to explain the situation; I just thought the girl was beautiful – pregnant, especially so – and had received a special gift from God.

Back to Lamartine Street School…So, in walks “Mrs. Harrity,” our school music teacher to give us fifth graders our weekly music class. Now, you’d think that this would be one of the high points of our week, that we fifth graders would be ecstatic to put away our math books, tuck those spelling books deep inside our metal desks to have some fun singing or even dancing with our music teacher. But it wasn’t like that at all. It was like going to the dentist, taking a trip to the gas chamber without ever having to leave the classroom. Mrs. Harrity was pretty, early in her middle age, dressed in no-nonsense skirts and blouses and always wore beige panty hose and flat shoes. She had a nice smile and spoke very softly … but something was lacking. She would walk into our classroom, smiling, carrying her acoustic guitar in its black guitar case, pass out some sheets of paper with music lyrics typed on them and offer us kids tambourines, bells, shakers, etc. to accompany her guitar strumming and singing. Most of us declined to take a musical instrument, except maybe the bigger boys who could be very percussive! We dutifully passed around the lyric sheets. Then Mrs. Harrity would take her guitar out of its case, go over the song, sing it once to us, and then ask us kids to join in for the second sing a long. We never did. As students, we were to be graded on participation and effort, but we didn’t care. We never ever sang a song with Mrs. Harrity.

Why was that?

Every week our nice, polite, milquetoast Irish American teacher would come into our classroom, offer up songs that were pleasant and easy to sing. She’d pass out her mimeographed sheets of paper with song lyrics. We’d all politely accept the light blue or green or pink sheets of paper – and then clam up. For about 35 minutes. Our classroom teacher was gone for this music session – on break – so we kids were alone with Mrs. Harrity. She never scolded us or got mad – but she never really talked with us, either. She never joked around with some of the bigger boys or asked us about ourselves, our lives, our hobbies. She just mechanically pulled out her colored mimeographed sheets of paper, week after week, and sang her pleasant songs and asked us to sing along. We never did. Maybe a few kids would mumble a chorus or two … I think I’d mouth the words halfheartedly but not actually sing them. And I liked to sing at home! We had music on the radio all day. My mom loved music and danced polkas across our kitchen floor. If you know anything about Woo’s old three deckers, then you know the kitchen was the biggest room in the apartment. So we’re talking practically dance hall floor dimensions, here! And I had taken violin and accordion lessons – at Lamartine!! Some of the kids played drums when they went home. A few were into their big brothers’ Beatles collection, the recent Abbey Road was popular back then …

Why couldn’t we sing along with Mrs. Harrity? Just for the hell of it!

A hit with whom?

Years later I realized my music teacher lived four houses down from my aunt and uncle and their kids, in a big beautiful house in their nice Worcester middle-class neighborhood. Mrs Harrity’s husband worked at a science center and they always had semi-exotic animals in their backyard, like peacocks and small water buffalo. They had an English setter that I loved and couldn’t wait to see and pat whenever I visited my cousins.
But I never made the connection as a kid.

So, clearly, the Harrity’s were “nice people.” But maybe too nice for Lamartine Street students? Too middle class for our rough and tumble lives? Too uncaring to care?

But one day sticks in my brain: it was the day Mrs. Harrity came in with the Credence Clearwater Revival song “Looking Out My Backdoor” – the lyrics mimeographed onto her sheets of mint green paper. We kids had heard the song on the radio. It was a hit back then. I remember reading the lyrics on my sheet of paper and smiling. “…Do do do looking out my back door! /a giant doing cart wheels /a statue wearing high heels/ Look at all the happy creatures dancing on the lawn! …

“Tambourines and elephants are playing in the band/ Won’t you take a ride on my flying spoon?/ Bother me tomorrow /today I’ll buy no sorrow/ Do do do, looking out my back door!”

This song was made for little kids to sing! And Mrs Harrity sang it with real spirit. I remember a few of the kids even volunteered to try out our teacher’s tambourines…I think a few of us sang … sort of. But it was still the usual bust.

Next week it was back to the same musical pap. Mrs. Harrity had given us a great song to sing with her last week – a real rock n roll song that we were probably dancing to in our bedrooms at home – and we had still failed her. We had still shut her out.

Looking back, I think we kids had decided, without ever discussing: Mrs. Harrity wasn’t cool, so it wasn’t cool to sing with her. Mrs. Harrity wasn’t wearing the mini-dresses the way our old third grade teacher, Miss Zaterka, did. Mrs. Harrity didn’t even seem to see us sitting before her, many of us … sad. Mrs. Harrity wasn’t out playing softball with the kids and other teachers after school the way Mrs Nedwick at Providence Street Junior High School did – with real gusto! – her fancy silk scarf blowing in the spring wind on the Vernon Hill ball field. Mrs Harrity would never play a grand game of kick ball with us the way Mr. Chickarian used to play with his sixth grade class during recess – really having fun with his students in our beat up old school yard, with the big cracks in the pavement … even when the best, most powerful kicker in his sixth grade class, Fanny, kicked that big pink rubber kick ball so hard, it went smack into Mr. Chickarian’s genital area. “Right in the nuts!” one of the big boys had screamed, doubling over with laughter. Mr. Chickarian had doubled over, too – in pain. His eyes were bugged out! But you could see he was laughing, too – through the tears. Then all of us kids in the Lamartine school yard had joined in and we were laughing, too, with Mr. Chickarian. Unlike Mr. Gilman, Mr. Chickarian or Mrs. Nedwick, Mrs. Harrity never really had fun with us. Never seemed to like us. And kids, no matter how rich or poor, can always tell if someone likes them.

📺TV series review by Luis⭐ …

YOU: Season 4, Part One – Series Review

By Luis Sanchez


One of the most famous psychological thriller television series has returned. With season 1 released in 2018, You became an engaging and suspenseful Netflix series filled with plot twists and dark psychological themes. For those unaware of You, it stars Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg who is a bookstore manager who falls in love with a woman. He intends to insert himself into her life, and his progressions become obsessive and disturbing which leads to a gripping and suspenseful plot.

Over the course of three seasons we witness Joe Goldberg making his way through love and life as obstacles get in his way and distract him. Now season 4 has arrived, and more Joe adventures await us. We’ve always heard of “new and improved,” but I’m here to say that “new” may not always have been improved. That is not to say it is bad, but I’m only afraid that this season may be the beginning of You’s plateau or end. I should make it clear, though, that this is only given the first part of the season; we still have a complete other half to watch – and I am excited for it.

It will be difficult to talk about this season without spoilers because only five episodes have been released, but I’m here to provide a review on it. Joe has moved to London and is now a professor at a university with the name Jonathan Moore. From what we have been exposed to, it seems as if this new season of You will attempt to face the theme of wealth and privilege. There are brand new characters all under the same belief: money can get you anything. Those characters are exactly how you think they would be: one dimensional, stubborn and rude. This only allows for Johnathan (Joe) to further stand out from the crowd. After a night out, the crew and Johnathan are now part of a whodunit. I enjoy reading and watching many movies that all undertake the whodunit plot, but I find that whodunits are gambles. They are either really good or really bad. However, You has proved to me that there can be a middle. Despite its lousy revelation and non-supporting characters, I do agree that with the entire context of the show and where this show comes from, it’s evident that the writers are attempting to do something new, and I will forever applaud that. Whether good or not, entertaining or boring, if a writer/director has tried to make something new with a show or movie that has an already established theme, I admire it. This is because there is a high risk with doing so. If it fails, so does the rest of the series. The negative effects would not even be up to opinions, the director knows that the reason why it was not well-perceived was because of their decision. That risk taking is what I admire.

I labeled the supporting characters as “non-supporting” because evidently, they don’t do much to drive the story forward. I have yet to wonder what was the point of having some of the characters there besides filling up space so people are less likely to guess the killer. If a character can be thrown away and the plot density does not change, then that character is worthless. I feel that way towards some of the characters here. Like I mentioned previously, though, there are a few that I enjoyed learning more about.

Many things that we witness Joe learning in past seasons are used in this new season, so it’s a nice little callback to see him do what he does. His wisdom and self-control have improved. If we were to talk about character development, I think that Joe’s is the most smooth and intriguing to witness. There is a specific decision that Joe takes in this new season that had me standing up and clapping at him.

In terms of plot and production, I can say that the producers of the show have done great in making each episode feel different than the last. There is a small portion of the show where the whodunit is pushed to the side as a shift in the plot puts Joe in a claustrophobic setting. Does this help him because he is closer and can find out more, or may this have just put him in the lion’s den? I will always enjoy it when a show makes me question something, but that was quite literally the only question that I came up with because the show became slow. During this point in the series I was starting to fall asleep. I found myself wanting to skip scenes. All of sudden we are kicked back to reality and the show ramps up. The only fault during the show’s last push was the revelation of the whodunit. The motive is understandable, but it was something seen from a mile away.

For those active readers of my columns you know that I recently reviewed Wednesday with a similar outcome. I am here to say that You season 4 part 1 falls victim to the same problem: trying to make the predictable unpredictable. After that, I once again became intrigued and finished part 1 of season 4 with a bittersweet taste in my mouth.

This isn’t the end of Joe, and I hope this isn’t the end for You. So far, I would rate it a 5/10, and if you can wait for the next part to come out then I would suggest doing so. Watching the second part immediately after would be like watching a bow being tied up giving you a sense of closure, preventing any time wasted, and enhancing your viewing experience as you follow Joe navigating his new environment. All this relies on is the second part not disappointing.

🐝Be a good neighbor to wildlife: Create a garden fit for a queen (bee🐝) this spring!

By Melissa Rae Sanger

bzzzzzzz … photo: PETA

Last spring, I decided to let native wildflowers take over a small area of my lawn. I was giddy with excitement and hopeful that my little garden would be a haven for insects and other wildlife in a neighborhood where manicured lawns and landscape pavers are the norm.

I even painted a sign that said, “Pardon the weeds. We’re feeding the bees.”

One day, a neighbor approached me about my beloved bee garden. He said he would file a complaint with the city if I didn’t remove the flowers. Worried I’d get in trouble, I went out and mowed everything, tears streaming down my face.

I’ve since learned that I was within my rights — and that although growing wildflowers may have annoyed one human neighbor, it was a lifeline to a multitude of wildlife neighbors who lived and fed in the foliage. This spring, I’m going to replant the flowers, and I encourage everyone else who can spare even a sliver of lawn to grow wildflowers, too.

Pollinators, including bees, birds, bats, butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles and lizards, are nature’s life force. Their fate is inseparable from our own. They affect 35% of the world’s crop production through pollination, the quintessential synergy that enables the transfer of pollen so that plants can reproduce. They deserve a healthy, vibrant habitat in which to flourish for their own sake, and in doing so, they help us, too.

But these precious pollinators are struggling. Many factors are to blame, and one of the most pervasive problems is habitat loss. Although tidy, over-fertilized lawns appeal to some, it’s time to reconsider the barren, lifeless lawnscaping we’ve come to accept as standard.

Removing “unwanted” plants, such as dandelions and clover, also removes vital sources of shelter and food for insects and other animals. So what might look like a healthy lawn is devoid of the biodiversity that’s necessary for the survival of wildlife. Plus, grass isn’t really “green” if it’s drenched in lawn chemicals and fertilizers and guzzling gallons of water all summer.


Growing wildflowers and other pollinator-friendly plants like basil, rosemary or sunflowers is better for the environment and will attract local and migratory butterflies, birds and bees. The secret is to provide a variety of native flowering plant species to create habitat, food and shelter for all.

If you do choose to keep some grass, consider participating in “no mow May,” which fosters habitat by allowing grass to grow for the entire month of May. Less frequent mowing also saves water by helping grass become more drought-resistant and decreases emissions from gas-powered equipment.

Should you find yourself with uninvited “guests” in your garden or home, there are many ways to deter them without harm. For example, you can fill your garden with plants such as bee balm and lavender, which act as natural rabbit repellents. Placing cinnamon sticks, coffee grinds, chili pepper, paprika, cloves or dried peppermint leaves will help send ants packing.

A growing number of cities and states are recognizing the need to protect wildlife with legislation that promotes pollinator-friendly landscaping. But bees and other wildlife can’t wait — they need our help now, wherever we live. What we choose to do with our home’s outdoor space has an enormous impact on animals who depend on it for life.

If my neighbor complains again this summer, I’ll share the facts instead of reacting in fear. Who knows — maybe one day he, too, will see the beauty in bees and butterflies floating above a sea of purple coneflowers and black-eyed Susans and decide to transform his own yard.

🏘️Is it Possible to End Homelessness in Worcester?🏘️

By Lorie Martiska

Lorie. photo submitted.

In 2011, Worcester celebrated reaching an important milestone. The City declared it was at “functional zero” for adult chronic homelessness, meaning that as people became homeless, the system was able to quickly provide support and housing, so that periods of being unhoused were rare and brief.

The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts had funded an initiative called Home Again, with $2.2 million. The project focused on Housing First, an evidence-based practice where people are housed as quickly as possible, and then offered services and support that they can choose to access if they wish. Case management was provided through Mass Health and occupancy funding provided by federal and state governments.

In November 2022, according to data from the Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance (CMHA), there were 586 homeless people in the City ( of which 226 were unsheltered). Far from “functional zero”. So what happened?

Causes of Homelessness

Lack of Affordable Housing is the number one reason there are more homeless today than in 2011. The average one- bedroom apartment in Worcester costs $1500, and the supply is small, creating competition for a limited number of apartments. The Opioid epidemic and lack of low-barrier access to needed mental health and medical services have also contributed. Domestic violence and racial inequality are also factors that can lead to homelessness.

Larger cities like Worcester are often the most affected by this crisis because people seeking supports, transportation and jobs often flock to cities where resources are more readily available. For this reason, Worcester is working with a group of 14 of Massachusetts’ largest cities to ensure that no one City bears the burden for all, and that all can benefit from innovation and lessons learned.

So is homelessness solvable?

According to Community Solutions, a national organization leading the charge for “Built for Zero,” homelessness is indeed solvable. They note that homelessness is a societal choice, not a personal one. “Ending it takes improving systems, not blaming individuals,” according to their website www.communitysolutions.org

The National Alliance to End Homelessness agrees, noting that “housing is a platform for stability, and a key contributor for long-term recovery and relapse reduction for people who are homeless”.

They outline key solutions for ending homelessness:

* Coordinated approaches to delivering services, housing and programs

* Rapid Rehousing with short term rental assistance and supportive services

* Permanent Supported Housing for the most vulnerable, chronically homeless persons

* Coordinated entry, planning, and data collection

* Coordinated Crisis Response including outreach, coordinated entry, diversion, emergency shelters and permanent housing as end goal

* Increasing income through employment and connection to needed benefits to ensure sustainability of tenancy

What is happening in Worcester?

The good news is that most if not all of these elements are in place in Worcester, and the City and provider and housing agencies are working together to make progress toward the goal of ending homelessness.

Shelters are a piece of the solution, especially when they are structured to rapidly lead to rehousing individuals and families. Providing outreach, Housing First, Rapid Rehousing services, wraparound support and case management are also important facets of efforts to end homelessness in Worcester.

And for those who have the most complex needs, there are several permanent supported housing projects on the drawing board – a tiny village community on Stafford Street, conversion of the Quality Inn at Oriol Drive and a supported housing project on Lewis St.

Worcester has most elements of a strong plan, willing collaborators, resources through ARPA funding and other sources, and the empathy and concern to care for all its citizens. That is a formula for long term, sustainable progress. Time will tell if it is enough to end homelessness once and for all.

Lorie C. Martiska is vice president of Advancement, Open Sky Community Services.

Open Sky is a behavioral health provider, with 1,200 employees in more than 100 programs throughout Central Massachusetts. Open Sky provides a number of services for people experiencing homelessness, including a temporary winter shelter, rapid rehousing, case management, permanent supported housing and outreach.


By Rosalie Tirella

The new Doherty High School, a work in progress. Photo submitted.

A photo of Worcester’s new Doherty High School on Highland Street, one third completed … night time. In the old days, you could call the WPS school brass at Irving Street or the city manager in his office at City Hall on Main Street and get a basic update on a major school (City) project without having to jump through too many hoops. But this is the new Worcester. We’re polished professionals now. So all the “hoops” – attractive, polite, well spoken, not too helpful, unwilling to answer tough questions – are firmly in place. The Worcester Public Schools newish school superintendent, a Latina lady from California, has kept the WPS substitute teachers making poverty wages while she has hired herself a passel of professional assistants to protect herself from the press, from questions, from reality. Unlike the previous WPS superintendent, she has hired herself a press secretary (mid-$90,000 salary??) and a bunch of other support professionals (thousands of dollars per year???) to create her personal buffer zone. Our newish city manager, Eric Batista, also has a media relations person so he doesn’t have to get personal with the press. He issues statements rather than calling back a reporter to answer basic questions that Woo voters and taxpayers may want answered.

So it goes like this: Your reporter Jim wants to ask questions about the new Doherty High School, but the WALL goes up. Your reporter is a nice person, super polite and fancies that he has good relations with the secretary of the WPS superintendent and the newish city manager. You, at this since 1987 and not exactly enamoured with the human race, think: Bull shit…these over paid bureaucrats will never return Jim’s phone calls. To answer the most basic questions!

Twenty three years ago I could call the Worcester city manager’s office and ask for an interview with the city manager and get a sit down with then City Manager Tom Hoover or his second in command, an always sweet Paul LaCava – within a few days. We sat and talked and Hoover and LaCava answered my questions. Tom was blue collar real, Paul was a sweetie. So, of course, then city councilor Tim Murray set out to destroy Hoover, and he worked behind the scenes to replace him with an Irish bro, Mike O’Brien, who became as dictatorial as soon to be Mayor Tim Murray.

But I digress. Jim’s/CECELIA’s question: HOW MUCH IS THE LATEST COST $$$ for building the new Doherty High School?

Months ago it was $240 million. What is the price tag these days? Not really a gotcha question, just one question for a basic news story.

But everyone who’s anyone in Worcester city government clams up. Everyone issues statements through their press flacks. Emails from the Worcester city manager’s media relations poop are sent to Jim who sends them to me. Jim is nice about it all. I want to take these ridiculously self-important “public servants” and turn them on their stupid heads and just shake shake shake them by their spindly, weak ankles until the answers fall out like pennies out of a dime store piggy bank. I think: What are these a-holes hiding? The cost to build Doherty must have gone up up up by millions of dollars, and the city manager and the school superintendent don’t want to tell anybody…the taxpayer, the voter, the Worcesterite whose kid will be attending the new Doherty High School. It’s public record, but the ropes in Worcester city government will turn it into a knife fight. This is America. People have every right to know. Federal tax dollars, state money, city taxpayer dough have all foot the bill …

Please! We’re not against new, state of the art high schools to educate the next generation of Worcester leaders, doctors, nurses, teachers and entrepreneurs. We love our WPS students! As do many of our pols! Head of the Worcester School Committee, Mayor Joe Petty, is making Burncoat Senior High School his next big school renewal project. Burncoat – my alma mater – beautiful memories. It was almost brand new, recently built, when I graduated in 1979. Now it’s tired. We need another new high school for that part of the city.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we – any one in Woo – could punch the appropriate office numbers into our cell phones and get some nice personal time with a City or School Department poo ba who could speak intelligently, passionately about these mega school projects? Instead, they all hide. And collect their almost quarter of a million dollar paychecks, courtesy of the Worcester taxpayer.


By Rosalie Tirella

Stuck! photos: R.T.

You know, I’ve been a reporter/writer since 1986! And here I am living in the town where it all began! The New Leader newspaper, home to my first reporter gig, is a glorified circular now. But decades ago it was a real AWARD-WINNING newspaper with an office (now a nail salon on Main Street), a kick-ass editor (Sandi), a wonderfully gifted sports writer who is probably writing novels as I write this post – and three other “town reporters,” Tom, Loreena and me. Tom was a Holy Cross college grad, like our sports writer, and could quote H.L. Mencken and tried to write his Spencer columns in the style he imagined his literary idol would pen them. Loreena was a UMass Amherst grad, unbelievably conscientious and all around excellent: a true reporter, a terrific writer, a caring confidante. She was the conscience of our newsroom – kept us all together when we felt too constrained in Spencer or too ambitious for East Brookfield. Spencer was my town, too, full-time, after graduation, from UMass Amherst. It was around 1987. We were all in our 20s. We were all idealistic, passionate about writing and … clueless about government. Big city or small town. I had no idea how dysfunctional town government – government in general – can be! It’s hardly of by and for the people. Mostly it’s of the moneyed by the politically connected and not at all for the poor or people of color.

So here I am in the town that I remember from the late 1980s and several years back when I lived here, in the rough part of Spencer, and saw its really poor people and tried to help. I tried to get a Food Hub started in Spencer and went to Congressman Jim McGovern’s office to see if we could get a Food Hub built in town. No luck. I went to another pol to see if we could get a community garden planted where some hoped to pour a parking lot. The parking lot peeps won. I went to Spencer Town Hall to demand that more polling places be set up in town so the poor and people in wheelchairs wouldn’t have to walk or roll to Town Hall to vote in the sleet and snow, like I’d seen them do when I voted in our recent town election. I went to Congressman Jim McGovern’s office again and told his toady Seth: Spencer is a physically BIG town. Only the middle class with their cars can make it to Town Hall to vote every election. You should see what I saw! All these people in their wheelchairs or using canes going to town hall to vote in the sleet! Awful. How many stayed home in the storm?! Why not put a polling station in the public housing complex where a few hundred folks live? Why not in a seniors apartment complex, too? No go. Voter Suppression wasn’t mentioned back then. But now we have the words – Voter Suppression – and that is what it was. I could go on: the Spencer people nice, real … and stoic. The blue collar town had lost most of its blue collar jobs. The schools were inadequate, almost losing state accreditation…but it didn’t matter to Town Hall if the majority of Spencer kiddos weren’t “ready” for the Kindergarten or that hunger was a big issue here. The politically connected and old timers were doing ok in their homes in the country. Why rock the boat? Who cares if teenagers were walking the streets in fuzzy slippers in January? Poverty didn’t count because the poor didn’t vote.

Poor Jett peed!

So, here we are, decades later – in Spencer again!!! This morning Jett, Lilac and me – stuck in our building elevator. For an hour! Jett has already peed in the elevator. I have the bags of garbage earmarked for the dumpster outside but they’re here in the elevator with us and things are starting to get stinky. My heart is starting to pinch, too, and I am getting warm. The dogs are ok, but I am starting to panic.

The bags of garbage, Dumpster ready!

The Spencer police and fire department are here. Love the Spencer firemen. They rescued me when I fell and broke my wrist outside the building – they iced my wrist, put a splint on it, made a homemade sling, gave me a bottle of water and stayed right with me as WE WAITED 45 MINUTES FOR AN AMBULANCE TO COME (Spencer area has like two ambulances and the selectmen refuse to buy another ambulance for the town). When I was loaded into the ambulance, the two Spencer firemen looked in on me, worried, like two mother hens! … This morning a few Spencer firemen were outside my elevator, and the Spencer cop was serious. My landlord was on the cell phone with me trying to be compassionate. He called the elevator company and they were en route.


If you’ve never been stuck in an elevator: the first 10 minutes are spent trying to push, pry open the doors. I got the first set of doors open but not the second. The next 10 minutes are spent making calls …to everybody. Fire department, landlord…etc etc. Then the rest of the time you worry about oxygen and, wow, it’s getting warm in here. Finally, you pry open the inside doors for an inch of oxygen, fresh air. The building manager gal is here with her baby trying to comfort us. The baby has a preternaturally round head – like a little pumpkin! You thank God you can see him and humanity through the crack in the elevator doors. You pray Jett and Lilac – or you – don’t have to take a poop.


Everyone seems to care, outside the elevator. Everyone is trying. Except for the bureaucrats at Spencer Town Hall. You make that phone call and ask to speak to someone in the code or building department…any one with a bit of knowledge. You’re blown off. “That’s not our building,” the lady tells me, curtly. Almost rudely.


If it’s Spencer, maybe not. Just look across Main Street from where our building sits – the Mexicali restaurant building. There sits a huge grey behemoth of a building with busted windows galore, abandoned. Downtown’s haunted house. The landlord died and his ancient wife is doing nothing to keep it up. I hear the town’s homeless live there. I’ve seen the good Spencer firemen parked outside that old building in the early morning. Did someone OD?

So, of course, no one can or will help me at Town Hall. I press the secretary for solutions. She tells me there’s a State of Massachusetts number I can call. But she can’t find it. Neither can anyone else at the Spencer Town Hall.

The view this a.m.

Finally, 25 minutes later, I’m sprung from the elevator and my dogs are champing at the bit for their a.m. walk out in the yard. I persist. I ask the elevator guy: didn’t the town hall bureaucrats have any capability?

Yes, he says. The Spencer Highway Department has a key to activate, deactivate the elevator.

Of course.

And, you know this morning, after my elevator ordeal, I remembered my New Leader days and what editor Sandi taught us cub reporters decades ago in our little New Leader building, on Main Street, in ol’ Spencer. Circa 1988. GET OUT OF THE OFFICE, GET OFF THE COMPUTER, SIP THAT LAST SIP OF BAD COFFEE AND GET INTO YOUR TOWN. Chat with people, meet them, hang out at the local diner, have experiences with them. That’s how you learn about your town and the townspeople. That’s where the stories will come from.


By Rosalie Tirella

City of Worcester officials can’t seem to wrap their heads around Worcester’s homeless and affordable housing crises. Photo: R.T.

Re: the City’s Inclusionary Zoning proposal. Tomorrow night, March 15, is the hearing before the Worcester City Council’s Economic Development sub-committee. Then the Worcester City Council votes on it. The city council must do the right thing and vote for the 50% income guideline recommended by City Councilor King, a social worker who knows the issues families in Worcester face. He knows their struggles. …2. Wish the city council would increase the number of affordable apartments mandated under this new proposal. Developers shouldn’t be able to come in and change the face of a community just because they’ve got the dough$$$$ – and displace the locals or throw us a bone or two. They’re in and the Boston area folks who can afford the new Woo rents are in. Worcesterites – especially our working poor – are out!

Are we even a Gateway City these days?

Or are we Worcester Chamber of Commerce President Tim Murray’s wet dream come true – a chi chi satellite of Boston?

Tim’s been at it for 25 years – a quarter of a century. He has been trying to make us into a minny Beantown for years. A pro-circus, pro-Tif, pro job creation for his pal O’Leary at UMass medical center after working for him in the LG office – and then almost doubling his salary in a year. Murray knows the game. Why he practically doubled his own Chamber of Commerce salary when hired by the Chamber after he’d disgraced himself politically and was political dead meat in Massachusetts and nationally. Murray hates raising the minimum wage but doubled his salary from the high 90s$$ to almost $200,000 a year when he first negotiated his Chamber contract. Why isn’t this puke in prison?

HOMELESS. I struggled with it for 17 months and know the issues. Because I’ve lived the issues. A brutal reality. Unnecessary suffering. Hurt. Exhaustion. Despair. Worcester city councilors, most of them are comfortably middle class and thru their city positions have gotten their relatives into pretty good city jobs and housing – so they can’t relate to the average Woo person. A few of them, like City Councilor George Russell, City Councilor Candy Carlson and CC Moe Bergman are upper-middle class $$$$ – and may be entirely pointless when it comes to advocating for Worcester’s young people and working poor. Maybe if these rascals all lived out of their cars for a month or two they’d see the light.

Homeless in Worcester … a housing voucher that doesn’t work – doesn’t cover the sky high Worcester rents … a Worcester exodus in order to secure, be able to afford, a nice apartment (in another town in the county) … uprooting yourself from the places in Worcester that you love and your Woo pals/support network. I’m older, so it feels sort of ok to slow things down a bit. BUT IF YOU’RE A WORKING FAMILY, YOUNG PERSON JUST STARTING OUT or A NEW HIRE TO THE CITY SCHOOLS OR HOSPITALS the exorbitant Worcester rents will lock you out of the city you need to be in!


People, please connect with Worcester’s city councilors and the Economic Development Sub-committee Chairman – Councilor Rose – and demand MORE Woo affordable housing units be created FAST – like yesterday – to keep us a Gateway City. Tell them the City of Worcester must forge a STRONG Inclusionary Zoning Law THAT TRULY BENEFITS THE PEOPLE WHO NEED IT MOST.

🗻The Iditarod is True March Madness!🗻

By Jennifer O’Connor

Boycott the cruelty! photos: PETA

Running a marathon and finishing it is a remarkable accomplishment. But imagine running four marathons a day for 10 days straight. Throw in biting winds, blinding snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures. Unfathomable, isn’t it? Yet that’s exactly what dogs used in the Iditarod are forced to endure. Many don’t make it to the finish line alive.

No records were kept of dog deaths in the Iditarod’s early days, but the Anchorage Daily News reported that “as many as 34 dogs died in the first two races.” Since then, at least 116 more have died during the events. The number of those who die during training or while chained outside is impossible to estimate. Kennel operators and breeders aren’t required to report how many dogs die at their facilities. Before last year’s race even began, multiple dogs were injured and one was killed during training.

So many exploiters of the beautiful husky dogs!

Even the most energetic dog wouldn’t choose to run 100 miles a day while pulling a heavy sled through some of the worst conditions on the planet. Along the 1,000-mile route, dogs’ feet are torn apart by ice and rocks. Many pull muscles, incur stress fractures or become sick with diarrhea, dehydration, intestinal viruses or bleeding stomach ulcers. Aspiration pneumonia—which can develop after dogs inhale their own vomit—is the number one cause of death on the trail. Rule 42 of the official Iditarod rules says that some deaths may be considered “unpreventable.”

Mushers have tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana. Dogs have tested positive for opioids.

Mushers appear to be oblivious to the misery the dogs endure. Last year’s winner shared a disturbing video during the race of dogs covered in snow and ice in the blistering wind with, as he described it, their faces “totally entrenched in snow” and their eyes “all frozen shut.” One musher lamented that chipping frozen urine off the dogs’ penises was an unpleasant but necessary task. While dogs pull and pull, mushers can ride and sleep. Mushers have tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana. Dogs have tested positive for opioids.

Life off the trail is equally grim. The vast majority of dogs spend their seemingly interminable days tethered on short chains with only barrels or dilapidated doghouses for shelter. Most kennels are never inspected by any regulatory agency. Dogs who aren’t fast runners or who simply can’t run for days on end are discarded like defective equipment. Dogs used in sledding have been shot, bludgeoned to death or abandoned to starve, or their throats have been slit.

Urge sponsors to abandon the race!

The Iditarod isn’t about honoring Alaskan culture or tradition. It’s about money and unearned bragging rights. How can anyone justly take pride in an event that causes so much suffering and death?

I’m Old!

By Rosalie Tirella

Today – Rose and Cece.

Selfies with Cece this afternoon. These days I’m living in a lovely one-bedroom, loft-style apartment in the country: safe, secure, warm and watching classic Westerns (STAGE COACH today) on my lil’ TV, as I recover. But I’m overweight, and my daily walks with Jett and Lilac have seemingly added to my flubber! I’ve stopped baking cakes and other sugary treats and cut back on the mashed potatoes, but I look more and more like my dumpling-shaped Green Island Bapy from Poland!

People guess my age way too easily, too. Like when they called the ambulance to take me to the emergency ward after I fell, and the dispatcher asked the town librarian’s husband who, along with several other good souls, had run to me to help: HOW OLD IS SHE? the town dispatcher had asked him.

I’D SAY 60, he said – in a nano-second! Without having to think about it!

All those decades of my slathering sunblock on my face were for naught! All those cups of green tea and plates of veggies with their damned antioxidants and swallowing the Vitamin D3 caplets every morning with a large glass of water were a waste. I may as well have been drinking gin and tonics and/or doing drugs! I’d have had more fun, and the results would have been the same! The ambulance drivers, when they finally came – looked like kids to me – and treated me like their grandmother. Yes, I was splayed out on the driveway, wearing my ugly night dress and, yes, it was in the early morning and I was wearing zero makeup, but still …


My age.

I’m me, Rose, but I’m “vintage” now – unique but a little moth-eaten along the seams and I was in my prime in another era … when The Partridge Family ruled the airwaves and bell bottoms were king. I look old in photographs. My skin feels like crepe paper no matter how much body lotion I apply. My boobs droop to practically my belly button, which looks flaccid and no longer cute, like young belly buttons do! I talk a bit too long when asked to explain things – or maybe most people just don’t want to look at an old lady talking so they get annoyed and dismissive. I never knew I was long-winded! So you learn to be succinct – or shut up entirely. But I’m a very opinionated person who likes to share her opinions! Depressing!!! When you’re old – unless you’re Ernest Hemingway or Orson Welles or Judy Garland – no one gives a shit what you think.

Many of my friends have died within these past several years, which makes me feel even older! My dead pals were more animated, more loved/loving and more consequential than I am, yet they’re all gone! Hearts gave out, ugly cancer cells ate all the beautiful good cells, an operation went south or it went ok but the person picked up a super bug at the hospital and died.

You begin to live with your own mortality – and realize you weren’t that great a human being, after all. You decide to “mellow out” and no longer “sweat the small stuff.” All the cliches but they’re true. The end is closer than I choose to think about. Why be pissed about a stolen Neil Young triple album?

Selfies ain’t what they used to be!

I like to think my death is a ways out yet, if I’m lucky … 20 years or so … down the mountain path, just past that bend in the river, like in SHANE, when Alan Ladd, his body ripped by the bad guy’s bullet, rides on, his arm lifeless in the dusk. The Teton mountains are still in the distance, but they’re a deep purple and majestic as darkness closes in. So inviting! Shane’s pretty horse, the one with the blaze on his forehead, knows the way.

Heroic Shane! photo: R.T.


By Rosalie Tirella

Mr. Gilman’s gift. Photos: R.T.

Posted my SHANE movie review here on our website – with different pics from what’s on my FACEBOOK pages (check them out!). The film, with its sensitive and realistic depiction of the boy character, Little Joey, and the terrific scenes in nature, of the Teton mountains, the deer grazing right outside Joey’s bedroom window … has me rereading my book, THE YEARLING, once again. READING this special copy of the novel, my very own, with its corner chewed a smidgen by Cece and its inside covers illustrated with portraits of the dusty old industrialists of Worcester and its simple, wood-cut style pictures introducing new chapters of the novel.

The book was given to me more than a half century!! ago by my fourth grade teacher at Lamartine Street School, Mr. Gilman. It was the end of the school year, and Mr. Gilman was cleaning house in his always tidy fourth grade classroom on the second floor of old Lamartine – now the headquarters for the City of Worcester Building and Code Department. I was a smart kid and a good kid all school year, and I was one of Mr. Gilman’s accordion players – Mr. Gilman was a terrific accordion player and gave lessons to any Lamartine kid after school, once a week, for free. He had about five serious students – and I was one of them. Mr. Gilman loved any kid who wanted to learn how to play the accordion – his favorite musical instrument in the world. I remember he wrote in my Fourth Grade Autograph Book: “Rosalie, don’t ever stop playing the accordion!” We students had the little used accordions we rented from the music store downtown; Mr. Gilman had a big, beautiful, adult-sized accordion, like new, with a shiny iridescent panel by the instrument’s keyboard and three rhinestone studs on his C buttons. My old accordion, rented and very much used, always wheezed a bit when I played it. Mr. Gilman’s accordion sounded tremendous – like it was right off the Lawrence Welk Show – a polka-making machine! The genial band leader with that perpetual goofy grin of his, Lawrence Welk, was very big in my Polish family when I was growing up in Green Island. The Polish-themed TV musical program of the 1960s and 1970s was my Polish immigrant grandmother, Bapy’s, #1 TV show. She made us kids watch it with her every Sunday night. Sometimes she’d sing along with the soloists in her funny, sad voice. Other times she’d just clap her fat old arthritic paws to the beat.

Worcester industrialists …

When Mr. Gilman gave me THE YEARLING, I felt: YIKES. Such a thick book to read! (I was only 9) Mr. Gilman must think I’m very smart to give me this present! … I tried to not let my teacher down. I tried to read the book that summer during school vacation, but it proved too advanced for me. So I just had fun looking at its cool pictures over and over again.


The years rolled by and I never got around to reading THE YEARLING, a novel about a young boy growing up poor in the Florida Everglades, nor did I ever see the classic Gregory Peck film based on the novel. But all that changed 10 years ago, when I found myself a cozy spot in bed, opened the book’s vintage covers and entered the world of young Jody, his family and his colorful neighbors. And, of course, the natural world which was the young boy’s world. I read it fast because I was enthralled. Then I reread it, more carefully.

Beautiful illustrations …

So here I am, almost the age of my Bapy!, thinking about accordions, Green Island, THE YEARLING, baby deer, loving your very own fawn, puppy or kitten. Being young and playful, right along with them! I’m also thinking about Mr. Gilman and the humble gifts Worcester Public School teachers used to give to their favorite students, many of us poor, many of us with less than ideal dads or moms at home. We saw the teacher’s gift for what it was back then: a book, a book-mark, a calendar, a statuette. We grew up treasuring those gifts because of the feelings behind the gift-giving. It was a long time ago, a time when teachers were trusted, often idolized – and a bit freer to give to their students and their families. And, for me at least, the relationships, their small gestures of kindness, were so positive and helped shape my life … for the better.
Jody, the protagonist of the novel.