By Rosalie Tirella
What a dreadful cold spell. What an unlovely sight Wormtown is at tail’s end of winter. What better time – or so I thought, this afternoon – to treat myself to some real comfort food – a cheese omlette, bulkie roll and home fries at my favorite local hang out.
So there I am, on Water Street looking out the restaurant window, hunkering down, trying to avoid all the crap I have to contend with: the dog has cancer, the bills are paid but need more paying, mom has early dementia, guy pal will never get his shit together. Talking with another small biz owner earlier – we both pined for a vacation in sunnier climes. “I haven’t had a vacation in eight years!” he said. All this was weighing down on me … Would spring-time ever return, I wondered, and I looked out the restaurant window and saw ALLEN FLETCHER at the exact opposite side of the street.
He saw me. I saw him. I blanched. He – wearing his ridiculous black beret – gave me a big salute – the kind of salute Adolph Hitler gave his men before … gassing them.
I made a horrible face at him – and immediately lost my appetite.
My old neighborhood, my stomping grounds used to be hallowed ground, for me. Now it’s the Canal Distgrict (or shall we say Cabal District). Now, instead of a cool Jewish ghetto where (in the early part of the 20th century) hawkers lined the Water Street to sell fruits, vegetables, live (!) chickens and other necessities, we have Allen Fletcher in a black beret. Now instead of a blue-collar rough and tumble neighborhood we have Allen Fletcher (this afternoon) leading a bunch of touristy looking people through water Street – pointing to a building ansd no doubt pontificating about it. The Canal District lead by the perpetual tourist, the guy who takes several trips to Paris a year, a guy whose family owned Wyman Gordan factory and a piece of the Telegram and Gazette. An old money guy, right up (or down!) there with the Stoddards and other industrialists who exploited by grandparents … . A guy who gave each of his two kids $1 million when they graduated from the Bancroft School. A guy who played around in California but came back to Worcetser, thinking his family was gonna give him the Telegram and Gazette. Instead – knowing what a joke he is – they sold it right under him – to the San Francisco Chronicle company. That was in the 1980s.
So Fletcher bought the floundering Worcester magazine from Giglione and played editor for 15 or so years.
Now he is playing urban renewal guru.
If only we could have taken his beret and stuffed it down his scrawny throat!
It must be wonderful to be a multi-millionair like Allen Fletcher. You can play your whole life away! Most people worry about their jobs or their ill parents or dying pets. Allen Fletcher leads little tours of Water Street in the dead of winter perfectly oblivious to grown up worries. Millions of dollars can do that for a person.
Fletcher looks especially strange in the dead of winter – when he stands in such stark contrast to me, my pal who needs a vacation, heck, even the restaurant owners in Green Island. The working stiffs and stiffettes – and most middle-class people – who worry about life’s challenges don’t need to see some independently wealthy guy playing.
It was strange. There I sat and there was Fletcher leading a group of 5 or 6 folks. He was leading and pointing a blabbing. They were following and looking up to where his fingers pointed. THey looked cold. But: Were they buying up property in Green Island? Was Fletcher selling them on his fake Blackstone canal – the one that will cost tax payers millions of dollars? Was he trying to dump one of the many unsold condos that litter the neighborhood – a neighborhood with a great working class history that he and his ilk are destroying. A neighborhood that he is in but not of.
I remember my mom (now 83) telling me about walking down Water Street when she was a little girl. She, and my grandparents and aunts and uncle lived on Bigelow Street, in Green Island. They shopped, like all Polish immigrants, on Water Street. My mom told me how she loved this special time with my grandfather – how they would look at all the food and objects being sold on Water Street – and buy vegetables or rabbits (which my grandfather skinned and cooked – before the Worc. Board of Health got after him. She told me how on Water Street there used to be little monkeys, chained at the neck. They wore caps and ate peanuts – and entertained people. My grandfather liked to tease the poor things. One day he made a noise at one little monkey – the monkey turned around and showed my grandfather his little butt. “Kiss my ass!” he was telling my grandfather. In those days, when folks (in Green Isalnd, at least) did this to each other all the time.
Wouldn’t it have been great to have a little monkey in the restaurant window this afternoon? So when Allen Fletcher gave me his big, hearty (fake) salute, he would have gotten a face full of ass.
No, wait a minute!
Fletcher is the monkey’s ass!