The city I love to hate

smiley-face-1
An original Harvey Ball smiley face (image: The World Smiley Foundation)

Worcester: A stale lifeless zombie with empty eyes longing for fresh blood and tasty brains to create life once again and live up to the potential it had for so many years prior. Through no fault of her own, the townspeople have beaten her into this vegetative-zombie state and so she will remain until a hero can save her.

Before we move on, let’s get one thing straight, the zombie’s name is pronounced Wista. Not Wor-cess-ter, nor Wor-chester. She gets very angry when you mispronounce her name. I won’t lie, I get very angry, not her.

I didn’t always hate the city of Worcester. When I was young it was a great place to raise a family. Parks with baseball games, super tall swings, ‘petting’ zoos full of goats, sheep, peacocks, deer and buffalo that roamed in their pens, throwing bread in the pond to feed the fish, swimming in the lake or being brave enough to enter the water using the tire swing… everything you would picture the Norman Rockwell picture of America to be like. A blue collar working class city and as the second largest city in all of New England, if you didn’t know everyone, you know a person who knew that person or someone related to that person. It was that kind of place.

Probably the second most iconic smiley face (Mona Lisa being the first) was created by Harvey Ball 50+ years ago in, you guessed it, Worcester! That big yellow ball with its quirky smile has been seen world-wide hundreds of times over. While there is much controversy over this well-known smile due to copyright issues, until history wants to give me a definitive answer, I give credit to Mr. Ball.

Here is a little background on Worcester:  The city is built on seven hills, they create the topography and explain why there are very few bicyclists among the traffic…their common English names are: Grafton Hill, Bell Hill, Airport Hill, Bancroft Hill, Green Hill, Pakachog Hill, and Vernon Hill. The 4-mile long lake that runs through it is Lake Quinsigamond, glacier created and home to the inter-collegiate regatta since 1859.

If you came from the Salisbury Street/west side area, you had money (period), if you lived on ‘the hill’ you were probably lower middle class, if you lived in the South end, more than likely you had a harder life but just didn’t know it at the time, and if you were from the Piedmont Street area well… it was known as the shall we say ‘working girl’ section of town, and like any good city, it knew to keep itself in check, not seeping into other neighborhoods.

Worcester is deep in history; it boasts such names as Robert Goddard, the father of modern rocketry, Abraham Lincoln who visited and spoke at City Hall (1848), it is home to Marshall “Major” Taylor who held seven world records for his professional bicycle racing and the second African-American to hold a world record in any sport (1899), and John Adams worked as a school teacher and studied law (1755-1758), just to name a few.

The Blackstone Canal (1828) allowed the city to thrive and become a huge source for textiles, shoes, and clothing and known to be the largest inlet port on the east coast. This canal also led to a huge immigration of Irish, French, and Swedish in the mid-19th century.

In 1831, Ichabod Washburn opened Washburn & Moen which shortly thereafter became the largest wire manufacturing company in the country, then brought more manufacturing to the area and became the center of machinery and wire products for companies such as Wyman-Gordon, American Steel & Wire, Morgan Construction and Norton Company. The Royal Worcester Corset Factory (1908) was the largest employer of women in the United States at the time.  If you have ever had a soda made by Polar Beverages (1882), you are drinking from a fourth-generation family owned business that abuts Rte 290 and has the smiling blown up mascot Orson the Polar Bear waving to you (who has been the butt of many college pranks and stolen many times over). In the years 1949, 1960, 1965, 1981, AND 2000 Worcester was voted All-American City!

You want inventions? We gave you Candlepin bowling in 1879 (which is still a New England thing where you bowl with pins that are a different shape, the ball fits into the palm of your hand and you throw three times as compared to twice with 10-pin bowling), the first massed produced Valentine Day card in 1847, the first organized protest against the U.S. Government (known as Shays Rebellion), the first monkey wrench (1840), the first envelope folding machine (1853), the typewriter as we know it today (Charles Thurber 1940) the first pressurized space suit developed at David Clark Company who are still leaders in aerospace developers this day and age, delicious Table Talk pies of all flavors (to include the one of the best Boston crème pies you will ever taste) and more…

It is home to some of the best and brightest who attended the schools: Worcester Polytech Institute (WPI), College of the Holy Cross, Clark University (Albert Einstein spoke here), University of Massachusetts Medical School (and Nobel Prize winner for Medicine 2006), Assumption College, Worcester State College, Becker University, and Quinsigamond Community College – all right here within the city limits!

But what have you done for me lately and why all the hate? Sadly, as hard as this city tries to regain some of its grandeur, the residents will not allow it, and they are in essence, the living breathing ‘city’. More drugs, more crime, and more violence pushed the working class (the backbone and those financially sustaining the city) to move out and rely on being subsidized by state and federal monies instead.

Does she try very hard to cater to the families of young children with classes at the library and Y, yes. Does she cater to the many colleges with plenty of bars to decompress from finals, yes.  She also has one amazing (and second largest in New England) art museum established in 1898, the Higgins Armory which was the one and only of its kind, (closed only recently 1931-2013) and was dedicated to arms and armor in the country, one ‘acoustical masterpiece’ known as Mechanics Hall, one theatre for plays/comedians (Hanover Theater), one civic center (the Centrum as it will always be called I don’t care who has the bigger check to rename it) but that is pretty much it.

Back in the day, the Downtown/Main Street area would ROCK; live music, DJs, dance clubs, all genres of music and all within walking distance of one another. These days, walk around on Main Street on any given night and you may find one or two places to have a drink but the distance between them and any other establishment would be cause for concern as there are blocks and blocks of abandon buildings or shops that close at 6:00 pm.

Thus the zombie is born…dutifully obeying its master, not growing, not thriving, day in and day out simply existing…and it just breaks my heart…no big yellow smiley face here Mr. Ball.

 

In response to today’s prompt-We Built This City: What do you love most about the city / town / place that you live in? What do you like the least about it? If you were mayor, what would be the most important problem you’d tackle? How would you tackle it?

 

Look at me, I am flying!

flying turtle

Go big or go home. If I cannot fail– I want to fly. Not in an airplane, or a light craft, or with some other device, I want to truly fly…I want the force of the air to hold me up. I don’t care if it’s a simply as sticking my arms out like a plane, flapping them like a bird, or take a running start to lift off, I want to fly.

The closest to this feeling I have ever experienced is being on super huge swing – the feeling of zero gravity at that pivotal moment, the breeze blowing through my hair, my eyes tearing from the force of the wind and then looking up at the sky as if I were just mere inches away to touch it…

Flying is the one thing we cannot experience, no wholeheartedly anyway. We swim with the fishes and yes we need to come up for air here and there but we still swim. But fly?! Not only are we not built to fly (aerodynamically), Mother Nature did not equip us with an internal gyroscope necessary to navigate the 3 dimensional aerial world.

Something like a wish or a superpower, but hey, I didn’t come up with the daily question and there are no stipulations.

In response to today’s question: Tell us about something you would attempt if you were guaranteed not to fail.

(tutle photo: gchewlin.blogspot.com)

Happiness is a dirty smiling face

In response to today’s prompt question, this is what happiness means to me:

???????????????????????????????They say the first thing that pops into your head is usually the correct answer and this was it.             Happiness is a dirty smiling face.

One of the many adventures Goose and I have had together, destination: Aruba. The endeavor that was in store for us on this particular day involved several broken down ATVs, a swim in the Natural Pool, stepping on a sea urchin (and therefore having them stick 4 inches out of her foot), and the guide forgetting his wallet at the beach and having to wait until dusk until he arrived back to guide us to the garage. Although Goose was in pain from the sea urchin, she didn’t complain, still drove the ATV back, and then dealt with the ER wait and doctor’s remedy of, ‘sorry there is nothing we can do, it has to work itself out’….

Yup she is a trooper, amazing, my daughter, my Goose, and my travel partner until the end.

Happiness is indeed a dirty smiling face….through the good times and bad….love you more

 

I have to wait my turn to pee

ghosts

In my house there were two adults and four children, all on the same floor, all sharing the same bathroom. Those were the days right? One person in the shower, one brushing his teeth and one having to pee; everyone minding their own business and keeping on schedule….nothing to see here, just keep moving.

My bedroom was only three short steps away from the bathroom but during the night it seemed like a dark wooded scene from Sleepy Hollow with miles before I found a place to assist me in my quest for relief.

As I stood in my doorway, I could feel the fear of anxiety fill me. Darkness. Who knows what lurks in the darkness. It can’t be seen and the thought of the unknown is usually more stressful.  I had little to say in the matter for Nature was calling but hated to leave the safety of my bedroom. So as I stood there contemplating my situation, I would picture ghosts passing in front of me like cars and I was the pedestrian waiting for the crosswalk sign to light up indicating my turn; only then would I take those quick steps into the bathroom. True story.

I think that was my coping device to handle my fear of the dark. If I had to wait for the coast to clear the ghosts would abide and let me into the lane when I got the green light without incident; that’s how the adults typically do it when they drive anyway….

In reply to the Daily Post nudge… #5 your childhood fear

(photo: theguardian.com)

King of the Kasbah

crown

It was Morocco, 2006(ish), and the trip was in full schedule mode; A trip to the southern coast of Spain and all its side trips were added to the agenda.  How could I possibly pass up a quick day trip over to Morocco when you can practically see the coast of Africa from where we would be staying! Warnings from family and close friends not to take the side trip, along with the U.S. government travel website, were not heeded as who knows when I would ever have the opportunity (and bragging rights) to visit in the future!

Decision made, and with my Goose (daughter) in tow… off we go. We joined a bus group to take us to the port in Spain to catch the high speed ferry to Tangier. While filling out the typical paperwork for customs, one young lady, thinking she is the Don Rickles of her generation, says loudly enough for all to hear, “occupation… let’s put terrorist” – (white trash family laughter, nonfamily members-crickets) yes that is hysterical. Please do not quit your day job and shut your trap you are going to get us all killed, moron.

Disembarking from the bus and running away from the Chuckle Hut as quickly as possible to disassociate ourselves, we board the high speed ferry to whisk us away to a new adventure. Goose hears a man saying he wants to get his passport stamped – a great reminder of travels past! Wrapped up in the thought of visiting Morocco (and yes, a bit naïve) we jump on board that suggestion – “would you mind doing ours too?!” (as we blindly handed over our passports to a complete stranger for a .25 rubber ink stamp and about to enter a country we were told to stay out of…not one of my finer moments.) Thankfully, he was as upstanding as we had hoped and returned with an armful of passports all stamped (yes!).

First stop, camel ride on the beach. Although we did not take advantage of this (because Goose made the excellent call not to smell like camel for the rest of the day) we did get some really cool pics. We were told that the camels are treated very well because they have excellent memories and will not cooperate with a heavy-handed owner (animal cruelty is always a concern of mine).

Our guide was amazing and walked us through all the back alleys of the Kasbah filling our minds with so much history, culture, and levels of knowledge it is difficult to remember all the details. There were snake charmers, sellers of spices, local fruits and flowers, and the like, all tugging at our sleeves and bags to get us to stop and buy their wares. Luckily, Goose came to the rescue and spoke to them in French (their second language) letting them know we were not interested but thank you very much anyway. They seemed to welcome abiding by our wishes in their own language much better than others as the American speaking visitors were still being followed and taunted.

Last stop before the bus departed was the carpet store. Traditional locally-handmade Berber rugs filled the room in all sizes, shapes, designs, and colors you would probably not see elsewhere in the world. After the host gave us the history of the Berber rugs, Goose and I were taken aside, and felt a little uncomfortable as we were being corralled to an area surrounded by rugs to the ceiling and no other workers or visitors in sight. (I thought we would never come back from that one-maybe the warnings were right!) But with a little bit of haggling, we seemed to get an affordable price and off we were to get back on the bus.

Of course no story ends that simply when Goose and I travel. In exchange for my beloved Life is Good® baseball cap I was offered several different kinds of jewelry, to which I said no every time. However, the winner of that much treasured hat was the most persistent and leaned in through the door with one last plea just before it closed. I tossed it in his direction and waved good bye. He held it up as if it was a crown and placed it on his head – the new King of the Kasbah.

In response to the Daily Post Question: Use It or Lose It  – Write about anything you’d like, but make sure the post includes this sentence:

“I thought we’d never come back from that one.”

(crown photo: animal-kid.com)

Who makes it happen? YOU make it happen…

Who makes it happen? YOU make it happen.

Guilty pleasure: The movie Working Girl is set in the 80’s, big hair, nylons-ankle-socks-sneakers, very heavy on the eye makeup, thick NY accent, and chunky jewelry. It doesn’t get much tackier but for some reason I fell in love with this movie. A very young cast of Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver (and a small part for  the up and coming Alec Baldwin!)

Anyway, the gist of the movie is that a young woman is a secretary with great ideas but because of the man’s world that she lives in, no one will take her ideas seriously so she bends the rules in order to advance her career.

It is always a good reminder to be told that ‘YOU make it happen’.

Example A. Prince Charming is not going to get a flat tire in front of your house, knock on your door to call AAA, and fall madly in love with you.  It didn’t happen back in the day and it won’t happen now; he has a cell phone to make the call.

Example B. You will not be in a club holding some stranger’s ponytail while she ‘sings’ into the ceramic bowl, only to find out she is a multi-millionaire and wants to hand you a check because you saved her from an embarrassing situation.

Example C. Chances of you sitting in the rail station swearing at your computer only to have Bill Gates approach you to fix the issue and offer you a job for six figures anyway is less than zero. (can I state a negative number here?)

You get the idea. YOU make it happen. Stop making excuses! Take a chance! Be uncomfortable and step out of that box. Whatever it is in this life, you have to take steps to make it materialize. A seed does not grow without water and sunlight… what makes you think you can sit back and just exist until someone decides to come along and water you? (figure of speech….stay with me…)

You have to network and go after that job, put yourself out there to find a date to share all the memories with, sign up at the local college and get that degree that has been put off for 15 years… YOU have to take that first step and make it happen. It doesn’t fall into your lap, no wishing or praying will make it magically appear, it is all up to you. You have more strength inside of you than you think.

No one said it would be easy, but easy is boring.. and no one likes boring.

In response to the Daily Prompt: Silver Screen

Take a quote from your favorite movie — there’s the title of your post. Now, write!

What is behind Door #1?

“That” room…  This is clearly not Let’s Make a Deal. There is no new car, no boat, no vacation, and not even a donkey with a sombrero and a serape.

My daughter does not like to clean. It’s a fact plain and simple. If the mess it is out of sight, even more so. That being said, I know there is a place in her apartment that even SHE dare not go.

When I see the door that leads to “that” room, it sends shivers through me.

Scenario One: Not unlike the scene from Poltergeist when the closet door opens to the abyss of hell. The only way I will open “that” door is if I have a priest (or little person with a funny hat and big sunglasses to clean the room in a spiritual sense) and a bucket of holy water.

Scenario Two: Opening “that” door could also be a black hole, sucking all of existence through it into another dimension. Stephen Hawking would be afraid to open “that” door.

Scenario Three: Have you seen Monsters Inc.? There is no proof that opening “that” door may not lead to 1000s of monsters and their factory of closet doors to scare children. I am an adult and “that” door scares me.

Keep the scenarios going…. What do you think is behind “that” door.

Reply to: No, Thanks – Is there a place in the world you never want to visit? Where, and why not?