Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dorchester by choice

A specter is haunting Dorchester and it is has the wet, hangdog stink of unfinished business. A ghost with a blue collar stalks Dorchester's streets with rolled up shirt sleeves and calloused hands. This phantom wanders with heavy boots that have seen better days in trenches and scrap piles, that have stood in picket lines and bread lines and stomped in the snow waiting for work. Idle hands are the Devil's tools and Dorchester is antsy to be employed getting the job done sooner rather than later.

Boston, with its well preserved precincts and modern, glass, office towers is more than its architecture. A city is made up of people who come in all shapes and sizes and abilities, who lend their skills and know-how to burnish their surroundings more humanly palatable. It is the life on the street and between the walls that makes a city interesting, not the masonry on the streetfront facades. Bureaucrats try to channel citizens' impulses, but an independent people presented with options will tend to their hearths first. Dorchester is a laboratory in which Boston's future is being forged. If its contagion catches fire, Dorchester's health will spread from Codman Square to the State House and then all along the shores of Massachusetts Bay and farther inland. Wealth and prosperity will be common in the Bay State, which will become a beacon for the rest of the nation and the world.

A city that lives off its history neglects the promise it offers immigrants and the native-born. A real city is a place of boundless opportunity. A museum, not a city, is described on a tourist's map. A real city is where work gets done, things get built, everything is in flux, meals get prepared by chefs not consumed in food courts, families are raised, and the next generation is prepared to carry the torch of responsible citizenship high against the tyranny of low expectations. Public schools have their place to teach reading, writing and arithmetic, but a real city's streets teach hard knocks and what it takes to put food on the table and nurture a brood of little men and women who will grow up to be larger ones. Dorchester, like many of Boston's outlying neighborhoods, is a crucible and an incubator.

There are idle hands in Dorchester. A service economy doesn't just mean that people who are quick on a keyboard can get ahead. Plumbers, masons, carpenters, mechanics, ditch diggers, electricians, housekeepers, all use their smarts and experience to deliver products that work. There are plenty of thinkers and doers in Dorchester. Perhaps there aren't enough dreamers. History shows that one new notion can change the world. In a city, concepts and conundrums clash constantly. They do all the time in Dorchester. All it takes is one bright boy or girl to link discombobulated dots to come up with a fresh solution to the puzzle of how to lift all boats at the same time as the sailors are all squabbling. If Dorchester is anything, this vast neighborhood is disoriented to distraction while overflowing with human capital and human promise focused on getting through one day at a time... and every day beyond that. Roses grow best in a mix of rabbit droppings and seaweed.

If you want to witness the best Boston has to offer, look no further than Dorchester. It may be hard to discern the patterns at first. Dorchester is travelling with a slow momentum that hasn't yet reached the critical velocity from which there is no turning back. This star is moving according to its own eccentric orbit and its apogee is still years away from being as close to ultimate Heaven as it can be. Dorchester is on its path to reach its apex on Jacob's Ladder, but it is still a dozen or so rungs short of its destiny. Plenty more hands and minds and souls are needed to push it into its ultimate trajectory. Come aboard.

It will happen. Sober minds, romantic notions, dirty fingernails and strong backs will keep Dorchester on course. What Dorchester needs is people who want to be involved not for convenience or the opportunity to sign a low rental lease, but by choice because they believe the raw materials will yield a better tomorrow. If you make that decision, you are a Dorchesterite through and through and I will be proud to shake your hand. I will be humbled.


Anonymous said...

beautifully said! glad to have you in my neck of the woods.

Whalehead King said...

Thank you. It is very nice to be here. I know these recurrent, poetic manifestoes may get boring after constant repetition, but I keep chiseling away at the same idea time and again in order to find the right expression of I what I witness everyday here, in Dorchester.

This site doesn't exist to belittle other neighborhoods. Quite the reverse. All and sundry have reasons to be proud and to assert thier better destiny of being a vibrant part of the whole community. Dorchester has its advantages and it should play them for all they are worth and be unashamed while acknowledging any shortcomings (they are few and what some people may think are shortcomings are not that at all).

This isn't my favorite essay but I thank you for your seeing what I tried to communicate. Maybe the next version, or the one after that, will crystallize this message better. I am happy to be in this neck of the woods.

With a handshake,


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