Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Smile again

I like Bowdoin Street much more than I like Geneva Avenue in the Bowdoin/Geneva neighborhood. That's a clunky moniker if there ever was one. Bowdoin Street is lined with small business but the sidewalks are never busy. I pass through, usually stuck in vehicular traffic, but nothing much ever seems to be going on. It is life as usual. I suppose there are people in the hardware store, or in the nail salons, or having some callalloo in the Jamaican restaurant, but the windows are dark and I can't remember seeing anyone actually going into these establishments.

The same is true of the Smile Again Furniture and Appliance Outlet. This tidy, corner building set apart from its nearest neighbor by a vacant lot is a pristine example of 1870s clapboard and trim. They sell refurbished furniture and appliances. Best prices. Best quality. The name sums up the neighborhood: "smile again."

Isn't this what Dorchester is about? Built mostly from scratch during the end of the 19th century, almost everything in Dorchester is old but still useful, still livable, refurbished, re-polished, not new, but as-good-as-new. Every thing about Dorchester's infrastructure smiles a welcome. Take the plywood off a repossessed three-decker and you could live here too and make a go of it.

A welcome mat is laid out in Dorchester. It is woven, warp and woof, out of pressed asphalt laid over old macadam and cobblestones and trolley rails that wind convoluted, one-way, byway corkscrews hither and yon, up hills and into vales full of diversions and adventures. Everyone who chooses to call the Dot home is invited to wander at their leisure, daydreaming, whistling, humming to their own internal rhythm attuned to the thrum of the pulse along the sidewalks. Sometimes there's a lull, a pregnant pause. A march and a syncopated rag is soon resumed and people call out to each other with a lively step that taps out a staccato. Gossip and inquiries regarding what happened last night fill the lightly operatic atmosphere. You don't say? Really? What did he say?

Smile again when you come to Dorchester. You have smiled before. You know how. Do it again.

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