Saturday, January 31, 2009

Prettiest girls in the meat market

Patrons of Gene & Paul's Fresh Meats have come to expect expert butchery. In fact, in the trade, the men and women behind the meat counter prefer to be called 'meat cutters.' Butchery has the same unpleasant connotations in the meat business as it does in other human endeavors. That said, if you want the freshest cuts of meat expertly prepared, Gene and Paul's on the corner of Dot Ave and East Cottage Street, is the place to go.

The shop is also known as Dorchester Market and it contains a small, fresh produce section, and all the other sundries and comestibles one can expect from a neighborhood grocer. The shop is reliably home to some of the prettiest cashiers in all of Boston. We don't think this is done with intent. It is more probably an example of that oft-held belief that the outside reflects what is on a person's inside. This isn't always true, but at Gene & Paul's it seems to be the rule.

There are male cashiers minding the store from time to time but more often not you'll find young ladies ringing up your purchases. They are cheerful, efficient and professional. They are also, without exception, the kind of girls-next-door that have made up the plots of many a coming-of-age novel and Hollywood romance. They are pretty, young women you wouldn't be ashamed of bringing home to meet your mother. They are not only pretty and courteous, they are employed and responsible.

Whether Gene and Paul share the hiring duties as much as they do the meat cutting, we don't know. Whoever is in charge of staffing the market does a good job. Shopping at the Dorchester Market is always a pleasure.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dot Sumo

I ran into Mr. Ikibuchi Yomomato at the Blarney Stone in Field's Corner. We were both nursing a Guinness and, as people in Dorchester do when they sit next to each other in a bar, we struck up a conversation. Mr. Yomomato is a slight, reserved man in his late fifties who moved here last year from his native Japan.

"There are big boys here," Mr. Yomomato said, "They look like they have the coal in their bellies to make good rikishi." He was using the Japanese word for sumo wrestlers. He would know. Before he retired and moved to Dorchester he made his living as a professional sumo trainer. With a connoisseur's eye he has been measuring the local talent and thinking about starting up a city-wide sumo league. As he says, the raw material is here. We split a plate of nachos and continued discussing Dorchester's sumo potential.

I observed, "It's not just big boys we have in Dorchester. There are plenty of big girls who can hold their own in a dohyo (as the ring is called)." Mr. Yomomato shook his head, "Female rikishi? No. That's not traditional. It isn't done."

I pointed out to my fellow citizen that we were sitting in Dorchester, a part of Boston where norms of propriety are often stretched as much as pants' waistbands. "Have you ever watched some of the Dorchester women keep their men in line?" I asked. "When push comes to shove it's always the women who win the day." Mr. Yomomato conceded that he had witnessed this same phenomenon.

"Lady rikishi," he said with a look of wonder, "In America, anything is possible." I added my two cents of correction by saying, "In America, anything is possible. In Dorchester, everything is probable."

With our pint glasses and nacho plate empty Mr. Yomomato and I shook hands as we parted company. I advised him to contact the Dorchester branch of the YMCA about starting up a sumo program. He said it sounded like a good place to begin. With all the private karate studios around the Dot, we both agree there is room for a sumo studio.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Population destiny

Dorchester is Boston's largest municipal subdivision, logging in just shy of six square miles. The population in 2001 was 92,115 people in a larger city made up of almost 600,000 at the time. If you do the math this come out to about 15,000 people in each square, Dorchester mile. That's more crowded than a Red Line train during rush hour. There may some friction and frayed nerves at times, but, like harried commuters, the people of Dorchester get along as they head to their specific destinations.

Interestingly enough, Dorchester is Boston's second-most densely settled neighborhood after the equally maligned Roxbury. People think downtown is dense but that is mostly an impression of architecture and tourist traffic. Neither Roxbury nor Dorchester is home to high rise office towers or vast civic plazas, or anything modern, really. They exist by rules and plans laid out at least a century ago and oftentimes older. The infrastructure works and supports a multitude. It is time-tested and doesn't go in for fads.

Dorchester is one three-decker building after another after another along every street in every direction, each story packed with families and each family packed with stories. The sidewalks don't lie. There are always people out and about on some fool errand or another. You don't find many people in the Financial District after working hours or on Sundays.

So many people jostling and talking to each other results in a cross-pollination of ideas and ambitions. Great schemes are incubated in Dorchester (and Roxbury) and great men and women get their start here. People from outside the Dot say it is too crowded, too run down, there's too much crime, the beautiful people don't live there. The beautiful people may move away after a time, but they are born here and more are born after them. Its per capita concentrations of souls is one of Dorchester's assets. Good and evil, rich and poor, industrious and lazy, abide side by side in close proximity. It is a stimulating place in which to live, a place that breeds understanding and universal viewpoints, compassion and competition, philosophy and piety, and a willingness to allow everyone to work together.

You don't want bankers and construction contractors running your city. A living city needs a neighborhood like Dorchester (and Roxbury) to keep its focus honest and close to the bone of humanity.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Restaraunt Laura

On Columbia Road, a little north of Everett Square, is a haven for Dorchester's Cape Verdean community. Restaurant Laura is the kind of warm, clean place where neighbors drop in for a glass of port, a little bite, a little gossip, and a good time. They have live music.

My companion and I popped in on a cold night and were made welcome. The wine selection was extensive and inexpensive, perfectly paired to the menu. I had bacalau stew. My companion had a roast beef dish so tender she cut the meat with a spoon. Everything was bright and fresh and swimming in garlic-infused, Portuguese olive oil the color of near-equatorial sunshine. It was a welcome respite from the subarctic wind blowing off Dorchester Bay. It's not just the food that makes Restaurant Laura special.

They say Dorchester is home to the largest Cape Verdean community in Massachusetts. More Cape Verdeans live around Uphams Corner than in New Bedford, if you can believe that. Restaurant Laura caters to them and everyone else who wants to enjoy some of this island nation's unique culture. The spot has a lazy atmosphere. People linger over their dinners and the talk travels between tables, good-natured jokes, compliments, commentary, most of it spoken in Cape Verdean creole, a branch of the Portuguese mother tongue. The night we were there, there wasn't a lull in the atmosphere. Musicians were on stage serenading the patrons with ballads that made at least one diner think he wasn't in Dorchester but in Praia, the capitol of Cape Verde.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dorchester's Umami Mile

When I went to school we were taught there are four basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. First described in scientific literature in 1907, umami is now considered the fifth basic taste. I don't know if the public school curriculum has caught up with science. You'll have to ask an elementary school student.

Umami, or "savory," has long been recognized in eastern cultures. The appropriately named German chemist Karl Heinrich Leopold Ritthausen discovered the food chemical responsible for this flavor in 1866, but it took a Japanese researcher, Kikunae Ikeda, to perfect its mass production. Since that fateful event monosodium glutemate has made Chinese food taste better.

You don't have to go to Chinatown to get your MSG fix. Between JFK/UMASS and Field's Corner there are a number of Asian grocers located along Dot Ave. This is Dorchester's famed Umami Mile. Large and small concerns are located every three or four blocks. They do a healthy business.

Some people will always go to Chinatown because it is picturesque and more compact. They are cheating themselves out of Dorchester's umami experience. After all, on Dot Ave you can pick up your bok choy, MSG, hoisin and rock crabs for the week at the Truong Thinh Supermarket and then walk up to the Harp and Bard for a Guiness and corned beef platter. You can't do that in Chinatown.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

White Faced Black Spanish

Does Dorchester have an official bird? It has a Latin motto, "Pietate, Literis, Industria," which is emblazoned on the former town's seal. While piety, learning and industry are still some of Dorchester's defining features, this part of Boston doesn't have a symbol that defines it against the backdrop of the wider metropolis. One could argue the seal fulfills that role but, really, when was the last time anyone has seen it?

I propose that the White Faced Black Spanish be the official bird of Dorchester for obvious reasons. This chicken carries itself with grace and style. Like all roosters and hens of the Minorca breed these birds have long, strong bodies well set and balanced on firm, muscular legs. Sounds a lot like Dorchester, doesn't it? Though prolific egg-layers, they don't do well sitting on the eggs. Nonetheless they hatch into sturdy succeeding generations.

According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, there are fewer than 500 White Faced Black Spanish chickens in the United States. There are considerably more Dorchesterites and ample space behind all the three deckers to allow for a couple of coops. Of course, Boston statutes forbid keeping chickens within city limits. If the White Faced Black Spanish were made the official bird of Dorchester, I'm sure an exception could be made. The breed, like dyed-in-the-wool Dorchesterites, is in danger of global extinction. Mayor Mennino would back such an environmental initiative in this most green and sensitive of cities.

It may be time to start a petition drive.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

January motorcycling

In early December, 35 degrees seems too cold and treacherous to take the motorcycle to work. In late January, three degrees above freezing seems warm enough to go on a criss-crossing jaunt through Dorchester and a little farther beyond. Cabin fever leads a man to do things that would have been unpleasant seven weeks before. Now they are refreshing.

I've been noticing that since the last snowstorm the streets seem to be hazard-free and, having been acclimated to sub-zero temperatures, the thermometer told me I might be able to enjoy myself. I didn't don my summer gear. I wore fleece long underwear and two windproof layers around my torso. Most of my outfit was courtesy of Aerostitch, a company that seeks to outfit the motorcyclist with the best, if not the least expensive, kit he or she can sport. You get what you pay for. Had I outfitted myself at Family Dollar, I would have resembled the Michelin Man. I put all the armored padding into the appropriate places and started up my little Ninja motorcycle.

The engine wasn't happy and I kept the choke out for the first ten minutes until both the bike and I agreed there was no turning back. After that point we were both as content as playful kittens happy to exercise our muscles.

In warmer weather, I carp about traffic congestion and kvetch about the sorry state of the roads. Not in January, though. I was happy to be out and about. With extra attention to the roads' surfaces for stray patches of ice and slush, and extra attention to cars who probably don't expect to see a little Ninja speeding down Dot Ave, let alone side streets, I made my way hither and yon. I wove from Savin Hill to Fields Corner, then up Park Street to Codman Square. I gamboled on Codman Hill which is a neighborhood that is usually as dull and repetative as West Roxbury or the high, terraced hills behind Roslindale, or the flatlands of Hyde Park. No matter. I was out and about on my motorcycle. It was good to be free.

When I left the house, my companion said she would see me in a half hour. I pulled back into my berth three hours later. "Where did you go?" she asked.

"Everywhere," I answered. "I was in Lower Mills. I was in Mattapan. I was at Norfolk Point. I was in Codman and Adams Village and Morton Village. I took Blue Hill Avenue all the way from the tail end of Boston to Magazine Street and after that I circled around and around in Newmarket Square, just enjoying be able to go around and around."

More frigid weather is projected for tomorrow. At least I got one day to live like it is summer again. It's all what you make it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The chocolate hand

They say that so much cocoa powder has been mixed into the dirt in Lower Mills that when it rains the ground smells like chocolate. I've been along the shores of the Neponset River during a downpour and I can vouch for this legend. There is another legend I cannot prove.

The defunct chocolate mills that mark the border between Dorchester and Milton have been there almost forever. It is the site of the first chocolate factory in America and eventually grew into the Victorian gingerbread brickwork that looms over the little valley today. The mills have since been converted into housing. Though the machinery has been long disassembled and sold off, memories of the industry linger in Lower Mills and not just in the architecture.

They say that Zachariah Quincy, a worker at the Walter Baker & Co. plant, injured his hand while hand-mixing a batch of cocoa powder into a corresponding measure of cocoa butter. He was rushed to Carney Hospital where surgeons couldn't reattach the severed hand. Too many major nerves and arteries and ligaments had been shorn free from their moorings. Before the hand could be sent to the Pathology Department for proper disposition, it disappeared.

Over the decades, the people of Lower Mills have reported the appearance of a disembodied, chocolate covered hand creeping along the pathways in Dorchester Park between Carney Hospital and the factory grounds. These sightings usually occur on moonlit nights after the taverns have locked their doors. Some speculate that the hand is looking for its missing owner. Others think it is looking for members of the factory's management. Still others suspect it is looking for someone to clean the chocolate off its fingers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Orange Line vs. Acela

A regular conclave has met during recent weekday mornings at the Butterfly Cafe at Roxbury Crossing Station. It consists of Seventh Day Adventist missionaries, off-duty Mass Art baristas, LaRouchie pamphleteers, and the guy who hands out the Metro. A recurring topic of conversation is this thought experiment: Which would win a race, the Orange Line or the Acela?

The Metro guy puts his money on the MBTA, but the T and its customers are his bread-and-butter.

Events conspired to set up a perfect coincidence. As the Orange Line was heading inbound out of the station, the Acela sidled alongside on a parallel track. The Acela is as sleek and streamlined as a jackrabbit. The Orange Line trains are as boxy and ponderous as turtles. As the two progressed, the Acela steamed easily ahead, withholding its full power but still slipping ahead likes its rails were greased. The Orange Line train lurched along, losing ground but not entirely giving up the ghost of a chance to get ahead.

As the Orange Line cars pulled into Ruggles with the third rail sparking, the Acela was swept along on its own schedule, unaware of the bets that had been settled during this encounter. Of course, the Orange Line had to make its designated stop to serve its passengers. On an open, transcontinental track without obligations, who knows what would happen if the engineer could open up the throttle?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Snow and Dorchester

We went to the laundromat in the Field's Corner Shopping Center this morning. We intended to leave the house at 8:00 AM but shoveling duties set the departure time back to 8:45. Sydney Street was a slurry of slush but Dot Ave was as clear as if only rain had fallen over the past 24 hours. A tip of the hat to Boston's public works crews. Well done, gentleman and ladies manning the plows. This taxpayer salutes you for a job well done.

The parking lot at the Field's Corner Shopping Center was reasonably navigatable and the center's sidewalks were free of slippery hazards thanks to the storefront overhangs. We put a load of laundry into one of the establishment's advertised triple-load washers and headed on foot to the Tedeschi Convenience Store a few blocks south. All the sidewalks had been cleared along the route except the stretch in front of the local branch of the public library. We bought a newspaper and a snack at Tedeschi's and then headed to the adjacent Dunkin' Donuts outlet. This branch of Dunkin' Donuts is undergoing renovations and there wasn't any coffee to be sold. Sheepishly, we went back to Tedeschi for a cup of java and, once we were rung up the second time, we said, "Thanks again!" The cashier replied, "You're welcome, again!" and attended the next customer.

It takes more than ten inches of fluffy snow to shut down Dorchester. Fey ne'er-do-wells may wilt in their hot houses, blanching at the hint of a blizzard, but the sturdy people of Dorchester have errands to run and they don't let something as uncontrollable as the weather get in their way. Dorchesterites were out and about, commerce was humming, transactions were made and everyone was happy and satisfied. Though the landscape was smothered under a thick blanket of white bunting, life went on as usual.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hong Kong Idol goes Vietnamese

This corner storefront used to be called Hong Kong Idol. It was a misleading name because it isn't located in Chinatown but along Dot Ave, somewhere along the 9oo blocks. This small storefront that has long been an outlet for Vietnamese language DVDs and VCR tapes, and music CDs, for as long as one intrepid reporter has been covering this beat. It's on the same block as the Tom English Tavern and, even though the snow has been falling like sugar granules from an unrepentant diabetic,'s secret stash of restaurant packets, the shop is open for business. People need access to Vietnamese movies in Dorchester.
The shop's new name is more honest now. It is called Vietnam Records though we doubt any vinyl platters are coming out the front door in the hands of hip, downtown DJs. Vietnam is the key word here. Records refers to recordings, and the shelves are stocked form floor to ceiling with digital media. The new business model also includes 'alterations.' This refers to the seamstress/tailor who has taken up residence in the shop. You can buy the most popular music CD in Vietnam at the moment while getting your pants hemmed. This is entrepreneurship to the nth degree, making the most of available space to offer services people want and need under one roof. It is a super way to stop and shop.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Free stuff in Dorchester

There are usually free things for the taking along Dorchester's streets, especially on trash days. Many people in this ecologically conscious and penny-pinching part of Boston cannot bear to let good things go to waste. Boston's municipal dump was once located here and though part of it has become Pope John Paul II Park along the banks of the Neponset River, Dorchesterites realize that good results don't always come from discarding things that have outlived thier usefulness.

The following advertisement appeared on Craig's List this afternoon: "I have a free washing machine(whirlpool) and dryer(kenmore) in my basement. I have no idea if it works or not...but I just want it out. Call 617-719-8420 if interested. You must bring help to move it. (Location Dorchester)"

This is a neighborly offer in every way. It points out the manufacturers of said appliances in case anyone is observing any boycotts of which the author is unaware. It admits up front that caveat emptor (or, in this case, receptor) is the order of this exchange. It also plainly points out that on-site, manpower is unavailable. Party A has something and Party B is welcome to take it without interference. A+B should equal C: Party B is in possesion of a washer-dryer set of questionable utility. It could be a labor saving jackpot or it could be a waste of time for everyone but Party A.

Many people in Boston's more fashionable neighborhoods question the utility of having Dorchester as part of the larger, civic body. It is a blind spot on their part. Dorchester may be full of cast-offs, but most of what is neglected can be put to good use. Everything discarded can be recycled, and there is also a rich vein of talent and undiscovered elements in the Dot that hasn't come close to being tapped. No one looks. Good students don't advertise on Craig's List while lawbreakers are broadcasted every day in the popular news.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A call for mussels

In terms of the number of described species, mollusks make up the second largest phylum in biology. Local malacologist Kenin Czaja, who is headquartered in the neighborhood of Peabody Square, is making a special study of American freshwater mussels and he needs help collecting specimens.

Specifically, he is looking for 'lightly used' freshwater mussels shells. Complete pairs only. He is apparently scrutinizing the relationships between both halves of these bivalves. He is willing to pay a reasonable bounty for collected freshwater mussel shells, not live specimens, and will also pay the cost of shipping. Size doesn't matter. This scientist is examining his subject at all stages of development from infancy to old age. He does ask that shells not be broken, though whatever unavoidable, minor wear-and-tear the mussels have undergone over their lifetimes is understandable and of interest to him.

We do not publish his contact information here for fear he may be inundated with cranks, but those who are serious and who happen to come across freshwater mussels in their travels are encouraged to read the specifics of Mr. Czaja's needs by clicking here and scrolling down about a half a screen.

Many interests are pursued in Dorchester to broaden the scope of human knowledge in every field imaginable. Many hands make light work. We hope that Mr. Czaja will make some great discovery along that ever-stretching road that some people call 'Progress' and other people call 'Dot Ave.'

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fantasy Dorchester

Isn't every day in Dorchester, the neighborhood where dreams are real, a fantasy? Yes and no. Mr. Roark never toured the Dot in a Chrysler New Yorker, but he would have if he could have, wouldn't he? Why hasn't any automobile model been christened 'The Dorchester?' That's a ride I'd pay good money to take and, as a matter of fact, I do... all for the price of renting my apartment. Everyone rides high and comfortably in Dorchester, Mass.

Dorchester is that part of Boston that promises plush cushions for your sore fundement. No one who stumbles in Dorchester gets worse than encouragement to pick themselves up and encouragement to keep trying. Punch-drunk and dazzled, Dorchester stumbles from one blow to the next, always ahead of creditors and the rat race. Dorchester, sweet Dorchester, I sing the names of your twisting, one-way streets like catechism chants along a string of beads. If anyone can reach salvation, they will do it in the Dot in record time.

Dignity begins and ends in Dorchester. Dorchesterites are proud for justifiable reasons. Often maligned and often overlooked as an afterthought, a swollen appendix easily excised, a blemish, a corral for Boston's citizens deserving the least consideration, Dorchester provides the muscle and the soul a world-class metropolis requires. It is a vital organ that buzzes a fugue of intertwined ambitions. Imagine if all Dorchesterites went on strike. Boston would shut down. Coffee would overflow unattended urns, hotel bedsheets wouldn't be changed, waste baskets wouldn't be emptied, bills wouldn't be paid on time and accounts receivable would languish unattended. Someone has to mind the store. The good people of Dorchester fill the roles they've been allotted and they do it with both vim and vigor.

They are not millionaires but they are not the kind to care. The people of Dorchester get by with an empty purse and pocketful of dreams. When it rains in the Dot, it rains pennies from Heaven. It doesn't matter what your bank statement reads. You are rich when you live in Dorchester.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Planning ahead

I went to an after hours meet-up at the Gardner Museum tonight. I do venture outside Dorchester, you know. I work outside the neighborhood and I often enjoy the cultural events this great, big city of Boston has to offer. The Dot does hit the spot but it is a part of a larger parcel of which I am also a part. Ah, Boston, let me count the ways I love thee... There is no time for that however.

Before going to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to meet some chums for cocktails and a tour, I thought I should replenish my internal combustion engine with some fuel. I stopped in for a plain slice of pizza on Tremont Street. It was a good decision. The neon sign outside the Tremont House of Pizza claims this pizza is the best in Boston. I wouldn't go that far, but I got more than my $1.50 worth for a plain slice. Nice guys run this shop and they make a decent pizza pie. My meal stuck to my ribs and to the walls of my arteries to get me through the night. It was a good thing too. The museum was selling a toast plate for $12.00. I had already filled up so I wasn't tempted to place an order.

As usual, after the festivities the Green Line sped me to Park Street where I transferred to the Red. Lickety-split, before I knew it I was back in Dorchester. I laid my head on pillow knowing that I live in Boston's best neighborhood and sweet dreams followed.


It may be too early to be envisioning the green on Meeting House Hill in Dorchester as a pleasure garden. After all, there isn't any greenery on the green, just ice and snow. As every good gardener knows though, it takes planning during the fallow months to ensure a bounty once the earth moves closer to the sun . Peacocks have just gone on sale.

We are not referring to the dandy rakes and elegantly made-up ladies that parade up and down Bowdoin Street where it runs near Adams Street and Quincy Street and Church Street. We are referring to the birds that were the favorite of the Greek goddess Hera (Juno in Latin). Here is a thought: why not populate Adams Park, which is under the watchful and majestic gaze of Dorchester's First Parish Church with peacocks? People may argue that the fowl would wander into the street and foul traffic but, alternatively, couldn't they be fitted with miniature collars and an electric fence be installed? It works with dogs.

Imagine Adams Park full of strutting, iridescent peacocks. It isn't hard. The birds are a perfect fit for the scenery. The cost of eight chicks is a mere $272.32. Even if no single benefactor wants to foot the whole bill, there is no doubt a community collection would cover the cost not just of the chicks but the electric fence as well. Who doesn't like peacocks? Even if the collection can comes up short, some lavender guineas could be substituted for a similar, if less spectacular effect.

This park isn't deserted during the year's warmer months but the addition of a little avian pageantry would only add eye appeal to what is already a feast for the eyes. If something is good, why not go over the top making it better? Stranger things have happened in Dorchester, the part of Boston where dreams become real.

Who is a good gardener? Here is fictional one that got pretty far on the principles of good garden management:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The missing Tyrolean

Hans Nindelschitz reports that he lost his hat on the 22 bus somewhere after Ashmont Station while the bus was travelling Talbot Avenue. He is a German exchange student at UMASS Boston on Harbor Point and his hat is a cherished possession. It is a forest green Tyrolean hat with the requisite green rope braid over the brim and a boar's hair brush mounted on the left side. The hat is studded with pewter pins that Herr Nindelschitz earned on group hikes through his native Rhine Valley. He attests that he hasn't seen any other hat like it in Dorchester, so anyone who spies it can be reasonably sure of its rightful owner.

Herr Nindelschitz says that the 8:05 PM bus out of Ashmont wasn't crowded so he took off his hat and placed it with his books on the seat next to him on his way home to his apartment in Stony Brook. He could take the Red Line from campus to Downtown Crossing and then the Orange Line to Stony Brook but he has found that the Red Line to Ashmont and then the 22 bus shaves a few minutes off his commute. With his hat and books at his side, after a long day of studying, this scholar fell asleep, lulled by the rocking of the 22 bus. He awoke at 9:11 when the bus came to an abrupt halt at the intersection of Talbot Avenue and Nightingale Street. His head feeling cold, he reached for his trusty Tyrolean hat and came up empty handed.

His books were undisturbed but his hat was missing. He felt around the bus floor and bent to look under the seat but there was no sign of his hat. He made his way to the front of the bus and asked the driver about where it may be. The driver stopped the bus in mid traffic and asked his passengers to search their seats for the missing hat. It really was missing.

At Stony Brook, Herr Nindelschitz spoke with the Transit Police and the officers on duty promised to issue an all points bulletin for the missing headgear. The sergeant at the desk said, "We'll do our best but that hat could be anywhere by now. It could be at the tip of Hull by now and if it is we'll never be able to trace it."

Anyone in Dorchester who happens to accidentally be in possession of an unfamiliar Tyrolean hat is encouraged to turn it in to the nearest MBTA police station so that can be reunited with its rightful owner. Today he was wearing a knit watch cap, popularly called a 'scully' in Dorchester, and while it is warm it isn't warm like he likes.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Viva Las Dorchester

Dorchester is not a Sin City, its not even a city in and of itself though it is bigger than most stand-alone municipalities in midwestern states. Dorchester more populous, more stretching and more vibrant than Hinton, WV. Likewise Wewoka, OK. But Dorchester doesn't stand alone in the middle of nowhere. It is bound as one into the greater destiny of the great metropolis of Boston, Massachusetts, the Athens of America, the Hub of the Universe. Dorchester is one of the pillars that support a world-class city and increase its justified fame.

Though it has its own courthouse, Dorchester is not a county seat. It is a bystander kind of place, an audience as much as an minor actor, the kind of place where you don't find excitement so much as you find home. Dorchester isn't an understudy for the rest of Boston. It has its own culture and plays by its own rules. Dorchester is not the star of the show but a character that keeps the plot of history moving along, a foil to Beacon Hill, the North End, the Back Bay. Dorchester exists to show what happens when honest, everyday people withstand the tempting vices a big city offers. Dorchesterites are the salt of earth that counters the pepper pot of big city spice.

If you don't count people who play the state lottery, you won't find any gamblers in Dorchester. People look at scratch-off tickets as potential investments no more dangerous than playing the stock market and often enough just as lucrative. This is a neighborhood of planners who rarely spend beyond their means, who sock cash away for college, who drive cars to the end of their blue book value and who clip coupons to eke a paycheck over a week's worth of suppers.

Movies get filmed in Dorchester though Elvis Presley never made one here. When Dorchesterites walk their streets they have a satisfied swagger in their hips. They walk the walk of the self-assured. It isn't a glamorous place but it is a comfortable one. Vini, vidi, dottie: I came, I saw, I live in Dorchester.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The dancing Dot

I was enjoying some coffee and dry toast at Saint's Diner in Codman Square this morning when I was approached by a fellow customer. "Hey, Mr. Writer," he said, "You know not all of Dorchester is Irish." I looked around at the obvious and replied that I'm not of Irish descent either. "Then why do you always use the Irish when depicting the spirit of Dorchester?" He was referring to yesterday's report on the Dotusi, a dance that marries Irish step dancing with 60's era, camp, go-go moves. It was one of those moments that showed the power of the internet at work.

I explained that I can only relate things as I find them and that I have often commented on Dorchester's Vietnamese element and the African-American culture around Codman and Morton Street. I have reported on the Polish enclave near Andrew, and the Cape Verdean community around Uphams Corner, and the polyglot international students that live around UMASS Boston. I suggested that if there were really to be a dance to represent the spirit of Dorchester, indeed, more parties would have to be involved in its choreography. Did this gentleman know anyone with the expertise?

"I have a cousin who danced in a few Snoop Dogg videos. She's got some Dorchester moves that make Riverdance look like a cake walk. She didn't like your description of the Dotusi either."

I suggested she get in touch with the dancers in Neponset for some collaboration. The gentleman agreed to put this suggestion to his talented cousin. We will see what comes of the cross-pollination. Anyone else willing to lend their sense of rhythm to this project is encouraged to do so but, as with most things, we don't believe a committee is the best means to achieve artistic expression.

Dorchester is a multi-faceted jewel of a place full of folk carrying DNA from around the globe. No one strand dominates the others. Dorchester is, in fact, a sprawling jelly of a place that jiggles and sparkles according to the jostling of its many constiuent ingredients. There won't be one Dorchester dance in the end, but many, as befits a place made up of so many feet, each moving to their own beat.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Dotusi

The Widow O'Malley's basement on Chickatawbut Street in Neponset is full of the mingled sounds of house music and boot heels. Her nightclubbing grandchildren and their neighborhood colleagues are intent on choreographing the next dance craze they expect to sweep Boston and then the nation. Who knows? At the 2012 Democratic convention we may be watching the delegates do the Dotusi on broadcast television.

Charlie O'Malley explains: "I was watching a Batman marathon on cable one night and I saw Batman dancing the Batusi. I could relate to Adam West. This is how we dance at block parties around Neponset Circle. The hand gestures and the hip shake...they're pure Dorchester. I thought about how to make it more local and express the spirit of the Dot and I got to thinking that, really, at all the clubs downtown, Dorchesterites are lords and ladies of the dance floor. By combining the Batusi with some Riverdance moves, I think we've come up with something that combines the best elements of Dorchester in a way everyone can get on board and strut their stuff."

He and his friends went through some steps for my benefit. They made their fingers into peace signs and pulled their hands over their eyes. They shook their arms like they were holding a cape. They shook their booties for at least five seconds. The whole time they were high-stepping with their feet rat-a-tat-tat on the Widow O'Malley's cement basement floor.

"Come Spring we're thinking of renting the Party Trolley to introduce this new dance to Boston," Charlie continued. "We'll start here in Neponset and then head inbound tying up traffic all the way with strobe lights, disco balls and fresh moves. We're planning on hitting Felt and Machine and then Utopia in Fenway. We'll probably stop at other places along the way. We want to spread the Dotusi wherever it will take. I think this dance has it all: blue collar, camp, highbrow, Irish, and most"

Friday, January 09, 2009

No news is good news

If your only source for Dorchester news is The Boston Globe, you are forgiven for thinking life in the Dot is more rambunctious than it really is. Be not afraid ye who venture down Dot Ave. There is nothing to fear but the gloom painted in the traditional press. In fact, Dorchester is a tidy, humdrum burg, albeit a sprawling one full of people from all walks of life.

No one was murdered in Dorchester today. There were no crimes beyond petty ones. A teenager left a store without paying for a Charms Blow Pop but his mother took him back to hand over his quarter and made him to pay fifty cents to make amends. After all, a Blow Pop is two treats in one. No sins were committed beyond the venial. Nothing mortal transpired today, not even this week. The parish priests are bored hearing confessions. There is little to justify even a Pater Noster.

Traffic moved along at its usual, leisurely pace. Books were returned to the library before they were due. Cars stopped for pedestrians at crosswalks. People held doors open for those after them. Gentleman tipped their Red Sox caps to ladies they passed on the street. All the talk in the coffee shops was of concern for family members and commiserating about rising food prices in a weak economy. You can still get good deals on produce at America's Food Basket in Field's Corner and at the Farmer's Market grocery store in Mattapan. For those who go and use their cards, both Shaw's and Stop and Shop supermarkets are offering values and some of their outlets are conveniently located near T stops (Shaw's at JFK/UMASS and Milton...Stop & Shop not so much).

Like most days in Dorchester, there was nothing to report. For the people who live here, that isn't a bad thing. It is business as usual.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Hex Removed from the Red Line

A couple of pals were wandering the least-visited corners of the JFK/UMASS platform this afternoon during rush hour on the Ashmont side when they stumbled on a bundle of dead forsythia twigs bound by a rubber band. "What do you think this is?" Jim asked. I said it looked like hoodoo.
Pat agreed. "This looks like something out of the Blair Witch Project," he said. "It's even got a red rubber band like it's meant to jinx the Red Line. I bet this is why the Red Line trains have been running late."
We discussed it and decided we would be doing the MBTA, and Boston, a favor by removing this talisman from the station. It couldn't hurt. Jim said, "It may not be a Blair Witch but a Dot Witch. That Dot Witch has been disrupting service all the way between Mattapan and Alewife. The least we can do it burn this mojo and maybe service will be what it is supposed to be: on time and under budget." We all agreed.
According to Pat, who is the member of this party most wise in the ways of Wicca, it will take the stroke of midnight to remove any curse that was placed beforehand. Marvin was elected to carry the talisman down to the Shaw's Supermarket parking lot a block away and he did it at arm's length like he was carrying a piece of Limburger cheese between his outstretched fingers. Pat set his zippo to the twigs and they disappeared in a flash with little smoke, as if the whole bundle had been a mirage. If the Red Line runs on time tomorrow morning, we'll know the curse has been lifted.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Pudding Henge

An unnamed, entrepreneurial impresario has a scheme for a new tourist attraction/employment plan in Dorchester and she is allowing us to leak her blueprint under the condition we protect her anonymity. It is our pleasure to oblige and relate the following...

Our subject is a trust fund heiress who comes from an old Dorchester family that earned its wealth in land speculation a century ago (see the "Streetcar Suburbs" book below). She has invested her wealth conservatively and hasn't been battered overly much by recent economic events and she is willing to put up the funds for her project within reason.

"I was vacationing in Wiltshire County, England last year," she says, "When I saw something that I thought would be perfect for Ronan Park. The park has commanding views of Dorchester and the harbor but no one except the neighborhood people go there really, and then it's to watch Pop Warner and Little League teams play games on the fields. If I can get the Mayor to buy into this, I have the idea to carve up some native Dorchester puddingstone and arrange it into a destination that will rival the Prudential Center."

She showed me some books concerning Neolithic archeology and pyramid building. "Originally I was going to use heavy machinery to get this accomplished, but with the recession going on I think there will be plenty of day laborers looking for an honest day's work. I decided to do this the traditional way, all muscle and sweat. My plan is to start in Dorchester Park and carve up some of the puddingstone boulders that are there into oblong blocks about fifteen feet high and three or four feet wide. I only want to use hand tools. Then, using rollers and ropes, workers can haul the blocks up Dot Ave, which is relatively flat until you reach Ronan Park. It will be like a parade. The final phase will involve the last placement of the blocks in the park next to where the playground is now and then raising them, post and beam style, in a circle. It will be hard work but the community will be involved. Think of what they'll have to show for it."

I mentioned the workers wouldn't want to work for free at this undertaking. She replied, "Though I've weathered the stock market's downturn pretty well, all things considered, I don't have the reserves I did at this time last year. I am willing to pay for labor. Though it won't be hourly wages, I will provide lunch for everyone who participates in this project. I will also provide drinks to keep everyone well hydrated. I think that I'll offer 80 ounces of malt liquor at the end of the day for everyone to enjoy in the evening before it's time to get back to work. That should be enough enticement when times are tough."

What does she plan to call this new monument? Pudding Henge, of course, after the most common stone found in the Dot.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Lost on Washington Street

I was in Eggleston Square in Roxbury this afternoon doing a little shopping at Skippy White's Record Store when I noticed a pedestrian wandering about from corner to corner between Washington Street and Columbus Avenue, obviously without a compass. "You look lost," I said. "You've got that right, friend," he replied. "Which direction do I take to Codman Square?"

"You're a long way from Codman," I answered.

The stranger looked up at the street sign and said, "But I'm on Washington Street, right?"

"You're on Washington Street, alright," I said, "But you're on Washington Street in Roxbury. That's a different avenue from the Washington Street in Dorchester."

"Am I still in Boston?"

I reassured him, "Indeed you are. The problem is, if you follow this Washington Street, you'll end up in Hyde Park in one direction or downtown in the other. If I were you, I would head that away toward downtown. At least you'll be able to catch the T and save yourself some shoe leather. If you take the Red Line to Shawmut you'll just be a few blocks from Codman. I wouldn't recommend walking to Dorchester's Washington Street from here."

The stranger looked puzzled. He asked, pleadingly, "Where am I?"

"Oh, you're in Boston," I said, "You're not that lost yet, but don't let the street names confuse you. There are at least four Washington Streets that I know of but there are probably more that I don't. Don't trust the signs. In Boston you have to poke about and find your way through trial and error. I was like you when I first moved here but I've learned my way around. Just get on the T and it will take you close to where you want to go, assuming its close to a T station."

"Where's the nearest T station?"

I pointed westward. "It's somewhere over there," I said. You'll hit a main-looking road that runs north south and you should follow that one way or the other as you feel inclined. You wander back and forth along a few one way streets with no clue where you're headed until you hit some stairs headed underground, Follow the rumble of a train on submerged tracks. Let that sound be your guide and you'll eventually find your way."

"Can I follow you?" he asked. I told him I was taking the bus through Jamaica Plain to Calumet Square in Mission Hill and once he was dropped off there he would be just as lost as he was here. "Let your conscience be your guide," I said, feeling like Jimminy Revere, ""You'll get where you're headed in the end even if it takes you all day. We've all done it at least once."

Monday, January 05, 2009

Over 2,000,000 pizzas sold

Those aren't golden arches across from St. Mark's Church at 1740 Dot Ave. That's the storefront that pizza has kept open for over 18 years. The whole time McDonald's has served billions and billions of hamburgers over the decades, Charlie's Pizza has served up its share of slices. They boast of 2 million pizzas sold and they have the receipt books to prove it. Charlie's Pizza has been a Dorchester institution for almost two decades and it is still going strong.

It's a cut throat pizza market in Boston as any pizza chef will tell you. Shops open and close with the regularity of traffic lights going from green to red. Pizza fashions change like the hemlines on ladies' skirts and the width of gentlemen's neckties. What was popular last year is out of favor come the following January. Charlie knows, he's seen them come and he's seen them go.

Charlie offers everyday specials: You can get a small cheese pizza with ten wings for $9.99 any time during normal business hours, for example. Charlie offers lunch time specials: There is a $2.00 discount on any large pizza or calzone ordered between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM weekdays, for instance. Charlie also offers a unique pizza pie you can get nowhere else, its a little concoction called 'The Turkish Farm.' It is one of the shop's more popular pies even though St. Mark's Parish isn't known for being home to large Turkish population.

The menu states quite bluntly and categorically that the Turkish Farm Pizza has "No pizza sauce." Then it goes on to list the ingredients that are used. Prices range between $8.99 to $17.99 depending on the size.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Hanging Tenean

The ice sculpture titled "Pipeline" that graced Boston Common this past New Year's Eve referenced Boston Habor's often overlooked reputation as being one of the premier surfing locations in New England. The focal point of the local surfing industry is none other than Dorchester's own Tenean Beach.

Though not home to the tallest or swiftest waves in the world, Tenean Beach does offer predictability and a reliable mix of adrenaline and challenge. Package tours targeted at surfers visiting Massachusetts not only include Hull and Castle Island but also the unique excitement of riding the waves that Tenean provides. According to Surf Fancy magazine, Tenean is consistently ranked in the top 2000 surfing beaches worldwide.

Summer is prime surfing season in Dorchester and residents around Norfolk Point are accustomed to seeing cars sporting boards heading down Morrisey Boulevard before they loop around and around in a string of puzzled U-turns trying to find their way to Tenean Beach. Tenean is known for its laid back culture of beach bums and bunnies who spend hours lounging on the sugar sand waiting for the next great wave to roll in.

Surfers be warned: The conditions at Tenean Beach may not be for you. Tenean's waves are for connoisseurs who are more like fishermen, patient in waiting for the perfect alignment of events to provide a successful trip. You are advised to visit first to measure the beach's temperament before bringing your gear and challenging the local tides.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Devil went to the Dot

The Devil went down to Dorchester. He was looking for a soul to steal. He was way behind and he was in a bind and he was willing to make a deal. He got off the Red Line at Andrew and walked all the way down Dot Ave to Lower Mills. Then he took a right on River Road all the way to Mattapan. At Mattapan Square he took another right, trudging up Blue Hill Avenue. Then he took another right down Columbia Road all the way to Massachusetts Avenue. He wandered through the parking lot at South Bay Center, stopping in at Home Depot to pick up a Phillips head screwdriver and a roll of duct tape that he needed, and then he took Southhampton Street back to Andrew Square.

It was a long, oblong ramble and during it all the Devil didn't meet a single sinner who wanted to barter their soul away. All he got was bunions and, in an odd way, he was sort of satisfied after having trudged so many blocks. He felt refreshed after inhaling that clean, honest Dorchester air. Better a bunion in Dorchester than a flat on Pinckney Street, as they say around Codman Square.

Dorchester is like that. Everyone is content and can't fathom wanting anything more than being where they are. When you live in Dorchester, you are as close to Heaven as you'll ever be in this world. The Devil learned a lesson that day. He headed back on the Red Line to Charles/MGH. His business is better on Beacon Hill and he knew he would make his quota before midnight.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Kissing Cousins

This morning I accused the Tedeschi mascot of making time with the people over at UFood Grill. I stopped by the Tedeschi in Neponset later in the day to investigate and I stand corrected. The two personalities are not the same, only closely related. It turns out they are cousins.

The resemblance is striking and each is often mistaken for the other in dark alleyways.

I selected a bag of assorted fish that the Tedeschi pixie was peddling. The bag contained one kippered herring, five dried anchovies and a sprinkling of crunchy, freeze-dried, brine shrimp cured in garlic salt. Tedeschi may be an Italian name but it seems the chain is diversifying its snack options to cater to its East Asian clientele.

An overworked icon.

We were at Landmark Center the other day (before the snow) and noticed a familiar face while en route to the art store. If I recall recent franchise business news, UFood Grill is the recently renamed and rebranded Know Fat! restaurant chain. Any name would have been better and UFood is okay, I guess though I'm still not tempted to try it. The new mascot is a curious selection.

Isn't this winking cutie the guy from the Tedeschi candy bags?? Who licensed his appearance on behalf of the UFood chain? Does Tedeschi know he serves two masters? I doubt there's a lot of overlap between customer bases but where does a mascot draw the line? I'm all for making a buck and I realize times are tough, but how can this chipper imp keep smiling when he's appearing all over town? With one more endorsement, he may become the most overworked icon in Boston.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Royal Roast Beef

One thing that you can do at Royal Roast Beef, at 752 Bennington Street in East Boston, is sit inside during a snow storm. We were at our favorite beef joint on the afternoon of New Year's Eve with the snow swirling outside and enjoying two #2 meals, snug and contented.

You can't do that at Kelly's in Revere.

We overheard a gentleman on his phone, "Hi...I just got my haircut and I'm at Royal....Royal...You know, Royal Roast Beef in Orient Heights, by Burger King and Dunkin' Donuts [some landmarks! ed.]...It's snowing and I'm hungry....I like the chicken fingers here."

While everything on the menu is good and, as the sign says, Royal does offer more than famous roast beef, we were somewhat taken aback by what we overheard. Not wanting to show we had been eavesdropping, we didn't interrupt this gentleman's meal with probing questions. Someone else at an adjoining table was eating a plate overflowing with deep-fried jumbo shrimp. To each his own. Being traditionalists, my companion and I stuck to the beef sandwiches that are worth any Blue Line excursion.

Having finished our meal at 12:24 PM, we crossed Bennington Street to enjoy the snow drifts and direct assault of seaborne, icy wind at Constitution Beach. It was nice to get on board a heated Blue Line train at Orient Heights to ride back to Dorchester (after a few transfers), full as ticks and warm as bugs in a rug.

Postscript: Just as GM and Chrysler will undoubtably finish thier restructuring on time and under budget, Whalehead King did likewise this week. We thank our readers for thier patience and wish everyone the best of fortune this New Year. Now back to our usual shennanigans. Welcome back and enjoy.


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