Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dot labyrinth

Wandering in Dorchester, it is easy to get lost. There is little rhyme or reason to the street plan. There's no grid. Dot Ave runs straight as a rifle shot but every other road is either crooked or leading to unexpected destinations. You cannot intuit where you are headed, you can only hope for the best, following your nose and enjoying the journey.

There is plenty to enjoy. I was on Taft Street today, in a canyon sided by three deckers, each as different as they were the same. There were no trees, just porches stacked on top of porches next to each other in a crowded line on both sides of the pavement. I wandered a tableau of antiquated, human-scale architecture and the smells out of kitchen windows drove home the fact that this is a place where people live their lives and eat their daily dumplings.

Weaving and cutting along the twisted lanes that separate Blue Hill Avenue and Columbia Road, I was in a reverie. So much accumulated experience, all of it hard earned and hard won, settled in a part of the city few outsiders visit. I took a loop through Four Corners and got stuck in traffic on Bowdoin Street. The sidewalks were a hive and a haven abuzz with gossip and little routines, hale greetings, nursed grudges and satisfied smirks. Tourists don't visit these parts, only residents, only citizens, Bostonians, Dorchesterites all.

N'orchester, S'ochester... upper, lower, east and west...the shore and the inland cityscape... vistas stretch far in some neighborhoods and vistas are cut short in others... As much as there is blight there is so much more that is set rightly and true. A square can have any shape in Dorchester, wherever two roadways cross or people gather. This is a part of Boston in which you can lose yourself and come out with more than you brought in.

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