You’ll keep your eye on the Dot if you’re wise. You’ll keep your eyes peeled and your senses honed sharp, open to opportunities. Plenty strike it rich in Dorchester, Mass. and plenty more get by without complaint or hardship. Yes, Dorchester, the biggest borough in Boston, the place where boys become men and girls become women. This is an adult neighborhood, brawny and beautiful, where neighbors work together to overcome obstacles. This is the thick of the city. It is dense with webs woven in convoluted patterns that overlap the streets’ twists and turns.
Tightly knit in a many-colored fabric of clapboards and accents and values and styles that transcend familial backgrounds, Dorchester is where life gets lived to its fullest potential with more bangs than whimpers. From Upham’s Corner to Fields Corner, from Lower Mills to Andrew Square, from Mattapan to Peabody Square to Neponset Circle to Meetinghouse Hill to Savin Hill; Dorchester’s weft morphs its pattern while keeping true to its underpinning. Stitched together, linked one block to the next, one kitchen per purl, embroidered knots perfectly placed by whim and design, Dorchester is a tapestry best felt with fingertips and seen with one’s own sight rather than described. It is a figure of more than eight and more than eight thousand.
I shared coffee and chocolate with a woman in Adams Village and she walked me to the bus stop to make sure I would get to Columbia Point in one piece. I passed up Dot Avenue past Caritas Christi and check cashing parlors, though Ashmont, through Codman Square then up Mount Bowdoin along Geneva Street. The American flag hung suspended over the shore of Dorchester Bay where Boston fronts its harbor and the wider Atlantic beyond. Everything was still but the wind and the traffic on the streets.
I make my home in Dorchester. I am one of the toughs, made of sinew, muscle and nerve. I am one of the many who make up the whole.
It takes more than a village to raise a grown person to the heights of greatness. It takes a whole, living city. Dorchester is the most robust organ in one of the most vibrant municipal bodies on the face of the globe. Boston births the American spirit. It is the cradle of liberty. It is a beacon that attracts by dint of historical gravitas and by the open-ended promises of its progressive schematic.
In an anatomical atlas of Boston proper, Dorchester occupies the place of spleen and gut and bladders. There is room for waste in Dorchester and there is room for gall, but most of all there is room to work to get things done and make a good life for oneself, one’s family and one’s fellow travelers.
Dorchester is the Dot, the bull’s eye, the sweet spot, the G spot, the soft spot, the tender trap, the hole in the net, the X on the treasure map, the end of many journeys, the ellipsis that ends an unfinished sentence. If you can’t be happy in Dorchester, you can’t be happy in Boston. If you can’t be happy in Boston, you can’t be happy anywhere. You had better aim lower if you can’t keep your eye on the prize.