Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dorchester, Mass.

They call it Dorchester and I love it. Door-Chess-Tear. A rebus made of a front door, a white horse's head and a crying eye. Don't cry for me Dorchester. I am happy here.

It is big and robust. It is tops. It is Dorchester, Mass. I was in Codman Square today. I plied down Norfolk Avnue to Morton Street and on to Mattapan. I was in Lower Mills, Adams Village, Neponset and Savin Hill. I took Bowdoin Street and Geneva Avenue then I hooked a right on Columbia Road down to Edward Everett Square.

Dorchester. The variations confound a simple soul. Dorchester. What comes around goes around and I was everywhere today. Dorchester. Why are you so perfect. So many people live in Dorchester of all sorts of backgrounds. I am a dot in the Dot trying to connect a pattern and plan. Some things are too big to be understood. Dorchester is one of them. It is nice all the same.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Good Enough

"The downside of everything getting better is that people forget the virtues of just good enough."
James Lileks wrote that today on his "Bleat" at I couldn't agree with this sentiment more. He is specifically talking about coffee today, and I sympathize. I go to J.P. Licks every morning outside my office and I have to order a large Peru. I would like to just order a cup of coffee the way I do at Mike's Donuts up the street. Lileks doesn't need a shout-out from me; the reverse would be nice but unnecessary

I take the Orange Line to Roxbury Crossing and I either get a coffee at Butterfly, located in the station, or at Mike's Donuts a little further up Tremont Street. I don't need to specify what kind of coffee I want at either of these places. I don't particularly care what kind of coffee I get as long as it is hot and black and unflavored. J.P. Licks operates on a different, more newfangled model. I am expected to be a connoisseur at Licks. They have about thirty-wonderful flavors of ice cream and because of that, I suppose they feel they should be offering as many varieties of coffee. I just can't be bothered. Diner coffee is good enough for me.

The staff people at all these places are very nice. The ones at Butterfly and Mike's have worked there a long time (at least in the morning at Butterfly; after the crack-of-dawn shift, art students take over the carafes). The staff at J.P. Licks comes and goes. They are mostly art students also from what I can tell. They are used to persnickety orders. At Mike's you get coffee and you can get a donut if you want one. I just get coffee and the newspaper. Then I cross the street to Mission Hill park to read the paper before I go to work. It's a nice routine, one that is good enough.

My routine wouldn't be made any better with a better cup of coffee and not just because I don't care. I like to sit in the park with Boston's skyline in the distance. I read the Globe or Herald and look up. I gaze north and see the tableau where all I have been reading about takes place. The other day I read a story about a child being shot in Roxbury by the Mission Main apartment complex. I pieced the details together and realized I could see where the tragedy occurred. It was fifty yards away but whatever happened the day before, it was peaceful that morning. There was just a man reading a newspaper enjoying a cup of plain coffee. A city is like that. There are so many fleeting details. Just good enough is good enough most of the time.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Out of a little nut a majestic tree will grow. The oaks along Huntington Avenue beside Harvard Medical School are flush with acorns. They hang heavily on the ends of branches while leaves unfurl thier glossy, green leaves like stoutly inflexible pennants.

Longwood is not the most cheerful neighborhood in which to take a lunch hour stroll. The classrooms and labs have taken over the neighborhood and there aren't many shops and there isn't too much shade to paint a picturesque streetscape. Despite that, there are a few trees, like the 10-year-old oaks already mentioned, and there are benches where diners tuck into pizza slices and sandwiches. This is also ideal weather for girl- and boy-watching depending on your inclination.

I wouldn't recommend Longwood to tourists unless they are the type that groove over medical students, art students and people wearing hospital johnnies. Longwood is modernist ugly but it is lively. It doesn't thrum with an urban vibe, rather it hums with medical administrators ambling about the sidewalks killing time until the return thier cubicles. There are worse sights.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Chagall on Huntington Avenue

Do people float head-over-heels in Boston's turgid humidity? You bet they do, and not just the college students attending summer semester. The fog is so thick you can swim in it. I did somersaults suspended ten feet over the sidewalk between The Savant Project Bar and the Punjab Market on Tremont Street off Brigham Circle. We all scream for ice cream and J.P. Licks is nearby.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Manicures on the T

My nails need a little trimming so I thought I would blend in with the crowd and bring some clippers onto the T. I thought better of it in the end, but I got to wondering: what makes this act of personal hygiene so attractive to perform on the train? I see people clipping thier nails on the T all the time.

The Red Line is a popular line on which to perform this task, but the Blue and Orange lines seem equally inviting. I see less of this behavior on Green Lines trolleys, but once the streetcars get underground, the stainless steel clippers come out. Do dark windows make closet nail clippers come into the light? The Silver Line is the only branch of the MBTA that doesn't seem to tempt this urge to nip cuticles or cut off excess keratin. No one straphangs with a hangnail in Boston.

I live in Dorchester, and when I disembark at JFK/UMASS station I walk past plenty of front porches where people are clipping thier nails, letting the shards fly where they may onto the sidewalk. On front porches people clip thier toenails too, something I haven't yet witnessed on the T. Maybe I don't ride often enough.


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