Random Wormtown-area pix by a 5-year-old

Earlier this summer my eldest son received a camera as a gift.  The images he captures are mostly out-of-focus shots of family ankles and portraits of some of his favorite toys.  Occasionally his camera finds the outside world worthy of attention.  Below are a few such shots.

The one above the flowers is the entrance to Midland St. School.  I’m not exactly sure where some of the other buildings were.  Any guesses?

Not in Wormtown . . .

I asked my husband to keep his camera handy yesterday in case there was anything worthy of inclusion in the image collection of the Wormtown Fleet.  He brings me this:

Benny Hill's favorite stance.

It calls to mind one of those Benny Hill skits where a letter or two drops off an otherwise innocent sign and turns it somewhat naughty.  Now I have Yakety Sax stuck in my head.

In case you’re wondering, this wasn’t taken in Worcester, it’s in Cambridge.

Set for Success Backpack Drive

City Councilor Kate Toomey and Friendly House are coordinating the Fifth Annual Set for Success School Supply Drive for homeless children in the Worcester Public Schools.  They especially need pens, pencils, crayons, rulers, notebooks, highlighters, calculators, and backpacks.

Local blogger/sometime do-gooder Brendan Melican has found a distributor who will sell 250 backpacks for just over $1,300.

While that’s way too much for any of us to pay for on our own, we hope that as a group — bloggers and readers — we will raise enough money to buy 250 children backpacks for the coming school year.

If you’re interested in donating, please visit this page.  Every little bit will help!

To encourage donations, I will do something special for readers who contribute at certain levels:

If you make a $15 donation, I will write a blog post on any topic you want.  (However, if it requires an Albert Southwick level of research, you will need to donate $50.)

If you make a $25 donation, I will take you out to dinner before the City Council meeting of your choice.  (Warning: I’m cheap.)  Then you can chill with me during the meeting.  (Warning: I like to sit within clear sight of MikeGermain.)  Alternatively, for a $25 donation, I’ll take you to see The Expendables when it gets to the West Boylston Cinema.

After you make a donation at one of these levels, let me know what your choice is and I’ll get working on a blog post (or pencil in a City Council date).

Thanks in advance for your support!

To Worcester’s graffiti crew and YOU!

Thanks to T-Traveler for pointing out the T&G article about graffiti removal in Worcester.

That reminds me that I had wanted to recommend a product to everyone, and especially to the graffiti task force guys.  It’s something my husband found at Building 19 a few weeks ago:

He bought it with Deed Rock in mind, figuring that for $3.99 a gallon, it was worth a try.  I have no idea what’s in it, but the label says it’s biodegradable & non-flammable, so at the very least it was unlikely to be harmful.

Well, it has been a busy summer and we haven’t gotten to Deed Rock to try it yet, but we did an experiment last week which has me champing at the bit to try it on graffiti.  I’ll explain, but be forewarned — toilets will be mentioned.  If you’re squeamish, read no further.

For decades the toilet in my house has had a problem with stubborn “stains” under the rim where the water comes in at each flush.  I qualified the use of the word “stain” with quotation marks because I’m not sure exactly what the nature of the discoloration was, but it was certainly impervious to Comet, Ajax, bleach, and all of the other retail toilet-cleaning products, as well as rust removal products like naval jelly and CLR.  My husband managed to remove the stains once before about 10 years ago using hydrochloric acid and a wire brush — I suppose it’s a miracle that the porcelain is still intact.  But nothing short of that would even reduce the stainage.

Until SafeScience Concrete Cleaner & Graffiti Remover, that is.

It was my husband’s brainstorm to try the SafeScience product on the toilet stains.  This solution is supposed to be used diluted, but he put some undiluted solution on a Scotch-Brite sponge and scrubbed lightly at an area of the stain.  In less than two minutes, the stain was gone!  He proceeded to use it all around the rim, and now our problem stains are history!

I should also mention that my husband, being the daring sort, did this without gloves or any other protection, and came to no harm, nor was the sponge damaged in any way.  This product is not only effective, it was cheap and safe.  I can’t wait to see how it does on graffiti!

Here’s a close-up of the label, so you can see what else it’s designed to work on:

Go get some while it’s still in stock at the Grafton St. Building 19.  I read online that SafeScience, Inc. became GlycoGenesys, Inc. at some point, and has had some financial troubles recently.  It’s unclear whether they’re still making products like this, so hurry up & get some while it’s available — and cheap!

Introducing…Wormtown Fleet!

Part of what makes Jeff Barnard the premier Worcester blogger is not just his wit, or his writing talent, or his prodigious output. 

For me personally, and for many other area bloggers, Jeff has been a mentor who works to encourage and promote other bloggers.  He created a one-stop shop listing Worcester area blogs, and he frequently links to other, lesser-known bloggers.  As any Worcester blogger knows, a link from Jeff means lots of hits, and  most of us have gotten plenty of readers through the Worcester blog list

Jeff has made himself available (to me, and to others) numerous times for advice, and the best piece of advice he gave me was to include more pictures in my blog.  He told me to keep a camera on me and just snap away when I saw something interesting.  It’s obvious that I never took that advice.  I never needed to; Jeff took enough pictures for the whole blogging community. 

Face it: with Jeff spending most of his time at home fighting his illness, you’re missing your daily fix of Bump Installation Crews, politician sightings, Newton Square updates, and only-in-Worcester photos

And we’re missing it too! 

Since it would take a fleet of cars to continue creating all the photo posts one taxi driver was able to do for so long, the bloggers of Worcester have decided to band together to form the Wormtown Fleet

This is not the cast of Wormtown Fleet


Every day, at least one Worcester area blogger will post a photo (accompanied by a witty or insightful comment) to his/her blog. You can get a complete list of the posts here

Wormtown Fleet may feature cameo appearances by Will W. W.


If you don’t have a blog and would like to contribute a post, please let me (or your favorite blogger) know and we’ll gladly post what you send us. 

We’re all wishing Jeff a speedy recovery!

TelegramTowns vs. ICT

I was at the main branch of the Worcester Public Library on Friday afternoon, and swung by the corner where the free papers are to pick up my bi-weekly fix of ICT.  Not five feet away was a free, print edition of the Worcester edition of TelegramTowns…and I smelled the potential for comparison.

Category 1: Inner-City Issues
On page 3, In City Times featured an op-ed called “Living next door to the PIP homeless shelter (or: Pipped Out!)” by Ronald L. O’Clair.  Pull quote: “I have seen most everything and I have also heard most everything, when in the wee hours in the morning.”

However, I think a better pull quote would have been: “You have no idea of what it is like to be falsely accused of a crime you did not commit, and then have no one to believe you when you tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God.”  Exactly the kind of gritty InCity Voice you’ve come to expect.

On the front page, TelegramTowns featured an article about the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  Good, informative article about a social service agency in Green Island that I’d been meaning to visit.

This is a tie.  The O’Clair piece gave a good description of what it’s like to live near the PIP Shelter, but needed an editor to bring focus; the ReStore article tackled an area (Green Island/Canal District) that the ICT is a touch obsessed with.

Category 2: Animal Rights
The In City Times featured two press-release-y articles from PETA, and one additional press release-y article (originally from their website) about Southwick’s Zoo.

TelegramTowns featured an article about pit bulls (and their owners) who’d be affected by the proposed ordinance.  (Disclaimer: the article was written by friend-of-the-blog/former distant neighbor Steve Foskett, so I should probably just recuse myself now.)

Advantage: TelegramTowns.  I’m all about the pit bulls, and I prefer to see some original reporting to recycled PETA news items.

Category 3: Local Color
InCity Times
featured not one but two pieces by Bill Coleman: an article celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Worcester Senior Center, and a review/hagiography of Squire’s restaurant.  Added bonus: the article on the Senior Center repeatedly refers to the former city manager as Jeff ‘Milford.’

TelegramTowns quotes Nat Needle in an article.

Advantage: InCity Times.  They also included a topless picture of Gary Rosen from one of the male swimsuit issues from a few years’ back.  Be thankful I decided not to include pictures in this post.

Category 4: Quality of Contributions
InCity Times’
guest columnist was Matt Wexler, who wrote a column called “Men: Your bathing suits – and how to fill them!” (which I thought was going to bring me flashbacks of Sean Connery in red hotpants in Zardoz; yes, that was a link to a blog called “Wry and Ginger” — Sid McKeen, feel free to sue!)

Anyway — back to the Wexler column.  It was ostensibly a satirical column about how a man should(n’t) dress in the summer, but Wexler kept referring to greasy white T-shirts, pot bellies and Speedos, and the picture accompanying the column was the aforementioned topless Gary Rosen.  To which I think all of us can say, “What did Gary Rosen do to deserve a column like this next to a picture of his?”

ICT also had an InCity Voices column written by Justine Washere, a young vegetarian who works at McDonald’s, called (of course) “I’m lovin’ it!”  This is one of those ICT pieces that just screams for an editor: does the author feel any sort of vegetarian guilt for working at McD’s?  What skills (besides getting annoying customers out as quickly as possible) does McD’s teach?  We never really find out.

TelegramTowns has two great cartoons.  And a small piece by Paul Rogers.

Advantage: TelegramTowns.   The spelling tends to be more accurate as well.

Category 5: Overall Layout
Well, the InCity Times is what it is.  I like that there’s always a photo included from the Worcester Historical Museum’s EB Luce Collection.  The pet peeve of my life is surprisingly not the spelling but the fact that the WARL ad never identifies whether the animal in question is a dog, cat, or guinea pig.  There’s a bit of blue accent color on the front and back pages.

Most — if not all — of the pictures in TelegramTowns are in color, as are some of the ads.  They’ve got a much better events calendar than ICT, and they also feature the municipal meetings for the week.  I’m a bit finicky when it comes to print layout, but TT isn’t bad.

Advantage: TelegramTowns.  You had me at “Historical Commission Meeting, 5:30 p.m. City Hall.”

Final Assessment
I really wanted to hate TelegramTowns, but it’s actually a great alternative to a paper like ICT.  (Not WoMag; I think TT is by its nature more limited in scope.)  I prefer to read things online, but this is a paper I’d actually pick up a hardcopy of; I think the layout makes me more likely to read certain articles that I would have otherwise passed by.

This is not to say that ICT is without its charms.  Ultimately, though, TT is more than a one-person show and can do more (editing, ad sales, etc.) than one person alone.  I’m not sure what the advertising cost is (compared to ICT) but I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens between the two publications over the next year.

The ins and outs of a Mill St. plaza

Recently, Worcester has experienced one of the most cataclysmic changes we’ve seen in my (admittedly short) lifetime.Nope, it’s not the Telegram.com paywall.

And we won’t be seeing a vote on the pit bull ordinance until September 7.  

No, it’s something that affects far more people in a deeply profound way: the “In” and “Out” signs at the Mill Street plaza that hosts, among other businesses, Savers and Harbor Freight Tools, have finally been reversed.  (Though for old fogeys like me, it’ll always be the “Stop & Shop Plaza.”) 

Until recently, the entry was on the left.

 I say “finally” because the signs were clearly placed by someone who was pining for the United States — or, at the very least, Worcester — to switch to driving on the left side of the road; the “In” was on the left and the “Out” was on the right.  For those of us who’d never been to the plaza — or for those of us who refused to accept its twisted directional logic — there was always that jarring experience of driving into what a normal person would think would be the “In” side, only to find a car barreling at you as your eye wandered to the left and noticed the crooked “Out” side winking at you.

Helpful exit angle for homeward bound space aliens


Well, the plaza signs have now been changed.  I, not immediately realizing that my life had been turned upside down, drove in what had been the right side for a great many years, but is now the wrong side.  What I’d dreamed of for so many years — that the owners of the plaza would see the error of their ways and switch the signs — was now a nightmare.   

First, I found the requisite car barreling at me; the driver of that car gave me that “Why can’t you figure out the right side to enter?!?” look so particular to this plaza.  And then, of course, I realized why the plaza had probably been designed that way in the first place. 

View from the Mothership

Now, of course, you have people entering the plaza and proceeding immediately along the little road that lines the shops.  Unfortunately, most drivers are so used to driving down there to get out of the plaza that you have to squeeze carefully by them.  And — of course — you really just want to park, which is why the previous location of the “In” was perfect, as it just brought you to the parking section. So — what once drove me crazy now just drives me even more crazy. 

I had gotten into the habit of entering the plaza via the entrance further down Mill Street, closer to the Sun-N-Sound (which, for me, will always be the Webster Square Cinema), and I may still get back in that habit.  Of course, that doesn’t solve the problem, because you’re still taking your life into your hands trying to get through the In-and-Out traffic.  

What would probably make the most sense at this point would be to re-do the island and move the “In” and “Out” entrances even a bit further towards Rob Roy, so that the “In” would get you to parking spaces. 

And at that point, I’d find something else to hate about this particular plaza.


My modem died right after the Telegram paywall went up; I ended up missing a back-and-forth discussion about it, and I like to think that I could have had something positive to contribute.  But, really, all I would have done is come up with silly ideas for new telegram.com features.

Here they are, a few days late:

1) I was going to suggest that Albert Southwick sex up his column, but he’s already done that.  Can I recommend Grover Cleveland’s sex scandals for next week’s column?  (Actually, I’m serious about that.  Grover Cleveland Sex Scandal would be a great band name as well.)

2) Robert Z. Nemeth needs to do an about-face on his column topics.  Does anyone really want to read his opinions about NYT faux-trend pieces published a couple of months ago?  Of course not! 

Take a note from the most-talked about columnist in town (initials: RT) and spin a web of city politics, your personal life, and having your website taken over by a garage owner into what could be the most unusual column ever written for a Sunday paper.  I think a column that combines descriptions of various ex-girlfriends’ physical characteristics with a rehash of the Research Bureau’s line on most civic issues would be a pretty accurate depiction of life in Worcester.

3) I also foresee a possible collaboration between the web staff and Nick K. immediately before every City Council meeting.  Nick can tap into his inner Joan Rivers (or Steve Kmetko) and host T&G Live From the Red Carpet: Special City Hall Coverage every Tuesday night.

The vast majority of Worcester residents care nothing about what goes on at any given City Council meeting.  They might, however, care if the color of Phil Palmieri’s tie determined how long he might talk during a meeting.  Does Paul Clancy do something special to keep those blazer buttons so shiny?  Who makes Kate Toomey’s eyeglasses?  Konnie, is that a Le Suit or Kasper?

Trust me, all of this is more interesting and more relevant than most of the content of the meetings.

4) I’d also like to see choose-your-own-adventure editorials.  All roads would lead to some exasperated grunts and a couple more grey hairs on my head.

Because Victor’s blog has guilted me into saying what I liked about the Telegram today, I feel somewhat obligated to say that this is the kind of article I like to read.  Just in case you were wondering.  And I think I can speak for a good portion of humanity — hipsters and non-hipsters alike — when I say that there is no shame in liking (or even loving) Huey Lewis, but that Starship is something you should only listen to when Metal Machine Music is unavailable.

Crompton Park Cleanup on Saturday

There will be a Crompton Park cleanup on Saturday from 10am-noon.  Cookout to follow.

You can pick up bags and gloves near the building in the park.

(If you hate me and want to tell me why you don’t read my blog, feel free to come down on the earlier end of things; I’ll probably be down there for the first hour or so.)

Please Apply to Serve (on a city board)

Before we discuss my perpetual appeal for citizens to apply to serve on a board or commission, we need to discuss yesterday’s City Council meeting.

First, I MET MIKE GERMAIN LAST NIGHT.  (I think that deserved all caps, don’t you?)  I was hanging around with Brendan while he schmoozed (or, really, was on the receiving end of a lot of schmooze) and he said, “You know MikeGermain, right?” as MG walked by.

Well, of course I do, but I’d never met him, but I’d seen him numerous times, and of course he knows enough about me to know that a restraining order is in our future.

So Brendan introduces us, and we shake hands.  And then he keeps holding my hand.

Which is kind of awkward, because those situations are always awkward.  I mean, once a hand-shake is past the two-second mark, it’s really too long, but do you want to be the guy who pulls his hand away?  You might offend the other person.  But you really don’t want to be the person who doesn’t pull away, because then you’re just creepy. 

I mean, I really like MikeGermain, but I’d prefer to stay married.

Luckily, after what seemed like an hour but was probably thirty seconds, Mike left us to go talk to TV reporters.

Second, I met friend of the blog Steve Foskett, whom Brendan also introduced to me, because it was like one big cocktail party in the hall outside Esther Howland.  Except with dog leashes instead of drinks.  (Seriously, those people with the masks made no sense.  They weren’t from Worcester, so perhaps they were just scared of the Big City.  Also, not one person was wearing a dog collar, which was kind of refreshing and kind of disappointing.)  I had wanted to meet Steve for some time, so that was pretty cool.

Third, I found Bill Eddy saying, “This will be my losing moment of the night” surprisingly poignant.  Sure, I completely disagree with him on the pit bull issue.  And just about everything else.  But that kind of self-deprecation usually works better with Germain.

Sometimes the life of a city councilor is really depressing.  You propose an ordinance that six other councilors sign onto, and when it gets presented, not only is it held, but you have another councilor tacking on ten or so amendments to the ordinance.  You think you’ve got a slam dunk for public safety and instead you’ve got an overflow crowd made up of many who disagree with you.  And the few that do are made up of Vinny Pedone and Billy Breault.  If that’s not worthy of some self-deprecation, I don’t know what is.

Fourth, Kate Toomey.  I really like Kate, even though I agree with her about 25% of the time.  Which I believe is more than I agree with most other councilors.  After the meeting (oh, yes, I stayed to the bitter end, dinner-less because Woosta Pizza was out of cheese slices), Kate asked me what I thought about her amendments.  And I was trying to be nice, but I’m not a crime-and-punishment or law-and-order kind of girl.  Maybe my neighborhood is the one island free of dog violence on the mean streets of Worcester, but I just don’t feel like this is that big a problem that we need more laws on our books that essentially say the same thing as the laws we already have.  With two dog officers.

I mean, aren’t there any street vendors left to kick around?

Fifth, the real reason I wrote this post: the city needs people to serve on boards and commissions.  They’re begging for people to apply for the Thomas Early Scholarship Committee, which meets on an “as needed” basis.  According to the city HR department, The committee is “charged with delivering applications to the schools and then reviewing the applications to make selections. The busiest times for this board are in the early and late spring.”  If you’re looking for a small way to give back to your community, this could be it.  Information on applying can be found here.  (You can also email me and I’ll send you an application and some more information.)

I’m going to petition the city to make applications and a list of open board and commission seats available next to the agendas at every City Council meeting.  If they really want people to serve, they need to encourage people who attend public meetings to apply.  Aren’t those the kind of people you want involved?

I discussed this a bit with Jo Hart, “a Worcester resident who likes to describes herself as a public transportation advocate“, after the Council meeting.  In case you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Jo, she is someone who attends nearly every public meeting because you don’t.  She feels (and I don’t think I’m really putting any words in her mouth) that the city is not really interested in democracy, and she attends meetings primarily so that councilors know at least one person is watching everything they do.  She wouldn’t apply for a board because she thinks it’s just a way for the city to look like it cares about getting citizen input.

Now, I am sympathetic to her views.  But I think it’s equally true that our elected officials can say, “Well, no one’s serving on boards because there’s apathy” (as opposed to disgust) and “No one attends council meetings because they don’t care” (as opposed to not wanting to hear unnecessary speeches).  Jo Hart already walks the walk; she attends meetings and speaks out about the things we all care about. 

Now go out there and apply for a board.  Even if you already have — pick a different one and apply again.