Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Malibu Beach, Dorchester, MA

Malibu Beach is a bit of bay sandwiched between a stretch of six-lane Morrissey Boulevard and a fraction of eight-lane Interstate 93. It is a sandy stretch that surrounds a shallow body of water that has about twenty feet of extra beach at low tide. It isn’t the most romantic spot, but when love is in the air it is the perfect place to take a walk with a significant other and pitch woo.

Nothing about Malibu Beach resembles California except that there is air and water and sand and traffic. After dusk, the water sparkles with the refracted light of street lamps that line the highway and Morrissey Boulevard, headlights and taillights of passing cars stuck in traffic or zipping by, and the antique lamps that limn the walkway that circles three quarters of this inlet. The sidewalk that runs parallel to the beach is a linear park, part of the Boston Harborwalk’s Dorchester branch. Malibu Beach is part of the Savin Hill neighborhood’s many amenities, easily walked to from the T station on the Red Line or accessed by driving down Savin Hill Avenue, turning at Playstead Road and parking in the lot at McConnell Park.

The elbow where Playstead Road bends into Denny Street is a good place to start a romantic amble when the sun goes down. Intramural leagues use McConnell Park for Little League and softball games late into the night. Some games don’t start until after 9:00PM on weeknights. The play is high-spirited, well-mannered and orderly. Catch follows fly which leads to a tag or a run and everyone cheers, “Well done,” no matter which team is ahead. Sportsmanship, above all, is the goal of these contests. The powerful halogen bulbs suspended high over the diamonds light the fields as brightly as day but with deeper, more dramatic, crisp shadows. You can lean against the waist-high chain link fence and watch the good-natured clash of competitors go on for nine innings or just for half of one. A small dose of good clean fun refreshes one’s faith in the human spirit.

Between the parking lot and the beach is a playground where young families gather to enjoy the swings and slides and monkey bars. Toddlers and adolescents mingle with adults and everyone keeps an eye on everyone else. It is forums like this that produce cross-generational connections and where the blooms of youth are tendered under watchful, experienced eyes. Fights rarely break out and when they do, this is an area that polices itself. No blood is shed, no grudges are nursed and parties shake hands after a disagreement, agreeing that the other has a point and that fisticuffs or worse are not the best means to settle a dispute.

A little to the east of the playground, across a sidewalk and up a slight rise, is a monument to Savin Hill, which used to be called Rock Hill. The geographic formation formerly known as Rock Hill is just up Denny Street and a right turn on Grampian Way, which is a road that surrounds Savin Hill in an inner loop. A little to the east of the playground, across a sidewalk and up a slight rise is a boulder of gray rock surrounded by a cast iron, barred fence with spikes on top of the bars. This fence is forty-one inches tall, so it is more ornamental than forbidding. Anyone who wants to touch the rock can climb the fence if he or she is mindful of their crotch. Not many people climb the fence. There is no plaque or nameplate within or without the fence. There is story cast on a bronze plate that describes the reason this rock is so important it deserves to be set apart and protected from its surroundings.

From outside the fence, one admits the rock is noble and honorable and worthy of its special esteem. It is a piece of geology older than Shawmut. It is strong and true to its self. It rests contently, as only stone can, unmoving from its seat of respect within its stately, cast-iron fence. The rock accepts gazes of admiration from those who stop and wonder why such a large lump of puddingstone, as impressive as it may be, should be fenced of in such grandeur as if it were a statue of George Washington. Observers who do not know the rock’s history assume it has historical significance. They are right.

The rise on which the rock sits runs in a ridge next to the beach. There is a sidewalk along the ridge through the side yards of neighbors, and there is a sidewalk about five feet lower alongside, near where the sand starts. Where the two sidewalks converge there is a public bubbler pumping pure Boston Ale for the thirsty.

Be careful. The pressure in this bubbler is high. The spigots spout streams of transparent refreshment over the basins and onto an unwary drinkers pants right where they would prefer not to have a wet spot. The water out of the bubblers is cold and fresh, without impurities and plump on the tongue with full-bodied flavorless flavor. It is drinking water at its best, cleaner than clean, and it is part of the public supply available to all for free.

There are benches along the sidewalk that follows the contours of Malibu Beach. They are regularly spaced at convenient intervals for strollers who want to rest their dogs and enjoy the view. Most people sit when the drawbridge that spans the mouth of the cove opens to let boats moor at the Dorchester Yacht Club. The bridge goes up and halts traffic on Morrissey Boulevard, stopping cars for a mile at minimum and the edge of Malibu Beach is lit with brake lights like a halted parade of ladybugs.

Couples take their ease along Malibu Beach in the lazy fashion of people who have nothing better to do. People come here to spend quality time with their significant other in a place where the ugly infrastructure of civilization comingles with nature. The cove is surrounded by high-speed roads and major automobile arteries. There is nothing picturesque about Malibu Beach but the beach. Sitting on a bench, enjoying the horizon, you are reminded that you are in a city, a member of a human community full of commotion and distractions. You are confronted by two types of endless tides: the highway and the surf.

The susurrus of wheels whizzing on pavement and the low, lazy slap of Malibu beach’s weak-fingered waves makes the perfect, unobtrusive background noise over which to whisper poetry in the dark. The antique street lamps that stand between pairs of benches along the walk bathe the concrete paving and the benches in a welcoming glow. They erase imperfections and paint faces ideal. The ambient soundtrack, the ambient light, the scent of ocean, good company; forces converge to make romance bloom and honeymoons sweet.

You can see scores of couples arm-in-arm every evening along Malibu Beach’s promenade. Their heads are leaned close together past where their shoulders touch. They use their free hands to caress their companion’s midriff or cheek. They whisper and quietly chuckle in response. They mind only the business that exists between them. A couple will invariably stop at bench. They will sit closely together, nuzzle, kiss, look out over the water, cuddle closer and kiss again. The most common words overheard at Malibu Beach are, “I love you.”

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Whale Tosses Its Tail

Whalehead King has beached in Boston. He has landed in North Dorchester, just south and inland of Columbia Point. He lives on Sydney Street in Fourth Haven, Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A., Planet Earth, Solar System, Milky Way.

One thinks cosmic thoughts surrounded by Vietnamese Buddhists on a sultry, Dorchester night while they stain the bare lumber bannisters that border thier front steps. Plastic boddhisatvas are glued to car dashboards and hang from rear-view mirrors. So many souls along Sydney Street are considering their karma, everyone else is drawn in the whorl. Sydney Street is a quiet, contemplative street.


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