Friday, March 20, 2009

What a neighborhood.

What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs? Matt. What do you call a part of a city that gets little respect but deserves a lot more? Dorchester.

Travelling from Longwood to Savin Hill this evening, I went from one world to another within the same municipal jurisdiction. Both are Boston. Both have their part to play in this urban opera.

Huntington Avenue, between Brigham Circle and Symphony, is crowded with bright-eyed youth full of half-digested book smarts untarnished by experience and without a scar to show they've earned their place in the sun yet. Tremont Street is another story. The farther one gets from Brigham Circle, the darker and more sparse the city seems. Mission Church has a chapel filled with crutches from those who cast them off after being healed by miracles. After the church are a few pizzerias and then the wide, concrete and asphalt, sterile intersection of Roxbury Crossing.

I was on my motorcycle by the time I hit Roxbury Crossing. The light turned green and I rocketed down Malcolm X Boulevard, a street with few features, canyoned on one side by dynamited puddingstone and on the other by factory-facaded school buildings and an enormous, institutional post office. My speed was just right and I passed through Dudley Square and all down the length of Dudley Street without hitting another red light. Dudley is a place where no one gives up hope. They mill between destinations like the city's grist that gets leavened into airy bread. Self-contained, little wrong is committed in Dudley. It is a half-charmed place in which Fate never forgets to bestow a few blessings.

I passed the over sized, bronze pear in Everett Square, a symbol of Dorchester's fecundity if there ever was one. I parked my motorcycle on Dot Ave, walking the street to pick up some sundries before I settled home for the evening. The sidewalks were just as crowded as those in Longwood, but a different breed of humanity was out and about. I passed the bleary-eyed, the watery-eyed, the cross-eyed, the legally blind, the blue-eyed, the brown-eyed, the almond-eyed, the mystically third-eyed. I passed among the bloated and the spindle-ribbed, between the straight-backed and the wearily bent, the chalk-faced and the rosy-cheeked. Young and old, adolescent and senescent, addled and sage, the only homogeneity was provided by context and common experience. Dorchesterites. Dorchesterites all. Human beings foremost, Bostonians of course, citizens of Dorchester in the end. What a city.

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