Jimmy works at Lupo’s and the Black Rep, and he recently changed his hairstyle because of his sons. “Both my boys are in prison. Nicholas, they just offered him ten, and Anthony will be coming home in 2013. That’s why I dreaded my hair. I said, ‘I’m not cutting it until they come home.’ It’s been about four months. They’ll be alright.”
Kim is an organic garden designer and singer-songwriter. She lives in Tiverton, but regularly comes into Providence to perform. For a song she wrote recently, “I sent out a text message to my friends saying ‘Tell me something about your dad.’ I got crazy stuff. One of the lines was ‘The blue hue bouncing off and through his beer bottle.’ How beautiful is that? The chorus is ‘I’ll pretend to fall asleep on the ride home.’ I know a lot of kids who pretended to fall asleep when they were little, so their dads would carry them into the house.”
Lina is from East Providence, and has been working for public accounting and consulting firm Sansiveri, Kimball and McNamee for 24 years. Their main offices are on the fifth floor above AAA, where she is a secretary in the tax department. She has two sons, aged 14 and 18. “The oldest one’s at Brown University, I can be there in less than ten minutes. I’ll drive up, he’ll come out with his bag of dirty clothes, and then I bring it back clean. I don’t mind, I did offer. His roommate’s jealous — his parents aren’t close enough to do that.”
John lost his parents “very early”, and was raised in Federal Hill by his grandmother. “She couldn’t speak a word of English. It was food stamps, welfare clothes, cold water, no tub. Carry the kerosene upstairs, heat the bricks, put them in the bed. My uncle went to jail for killing somebody. Another uncle went there for stealing.” When he was 13, his family decided to send him to an orphanage. “I came to a crossroads when I was 18. I was either going to go to jail, or continue at school.” He chose to train to be a teacher, and then as a lawyer. For the last 26 years, John has been the City Councilman representing this section of downtown, as well as the West End and Federal Hill. “We do what we got to do.”
Patty and Brian work around the corner at Rhode Island Housing, and come by regularly to get coffee at Tazza. At home, they have “four kids, a bulldog, a Yorkie, and two cats, and they all get along.”
Seung named her store for her sons: Two Brothers. They were teenagers when the store opened in 1994, and they worked behind the counter in its original location, where the parking lot across from Tazza now lies. When that building was demolished, the store moved to its current location inside the former Providence Journal building. Now one brother has his own business in Boston, while the other works on Wall Street. Seung is originally from Korea, and most of her customers are black. Her favorite item on sale? “I love my wigs!”
Teresa was a widowed mother of six who could speak only broken English, when she decided to open up her own restaurant. “It all started with this brave little Italian woman,” says Teresa’s daughter Angela. Now aged 72, Teresa still rules the kitchen at Mama Teresa’s, which has been downtown next to this window since 1994. Her kids are now married with children of their own, but they nearly all help out sometimes at this popular lunch spot. “At night, this turns into a bar, The 201, and Mama Teresa goes to bed. That is, if she’s not playing poker with her sisters,” says granddaughter Adriana. As for Teresa herself, we asked her to name the most popular dish that she makes. She has a simple answer: “The people, they like everything!”
The two buildings at 219-227 Westminster Street were named after dead parents. The heirs of Hannah Greene erected the smaller, red building in 1879, and named it after her. Next door, The William H. Low Estate Building was built in 1897 — named after a 19th-century property investor, memorialized this way by his son, William H. Low Jr. Directly across the street is the Alice Building. Alice was the daughter of Irish-born rubber magnate Joseph Banigan, whose picture is here. She was very much alive when the building was finished in 1898, though he died later that year. Alice herself died of influenza in 1909, aged 43.