Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The city Care remembered

New Orleans is known as "The City Care Forgot." We're not discussing New Orleans today, but its antipode. We're not drawing a line through the center of the earth to discuss a city in Asia. We're drawing a line about 1500 miles to the northeast across America, to the shores of Massachusetts Bay, to Boston... Bean Town... The Puritan City... the anti-New Orleans.

Both are world-class cities known the world over by reputations earned over the course of centuries. Both contain important colleges, both are important ports, both are home to active and robust tourist industries that are more and more an economic transfusion to their life blood. Both are the biggest city in their home state and both define what people think of when they think of that state. Both are picturesque and both foster a unique culture that hasn't been replicated elsewhere.

New Orleans is a place known for letting the good times roll. Boston is known for hemming in good times. New Orleans is a twenty-four hour city where artists bump into each other at all hours of the day and night. Boston is a city known to love undisturbed slumber after midnight, when only a few gas stations and convenience stores are open during the wee AM hours and those are regularly visited by beat cops in patrol cars. New Orleans invites people to let their hair down. Boston invites people to button their top button and pull their necktie tight. New Orleans tolerates joie de vivre and encourages carnival and role playing. Boston sermonizes against too much frivolity and encourages serious study and righteous indignation when other people are making too much noise enjoying themselves. New Orleans is about play. Boston is about work.

New Orleans is colorful. Boston is drab. New Orleans is sweet and heady. Boston, if not sour, lacks spice and a sufficient mix of flavors to match its hefty, down-to-earth, stick-in-the-mud texture.

Not all of Boston is sour, savorless, monochrome, or marching in lockstep toward a shining, sterile future where scientists and technocrats will rule the world, however. Dorchester forms its own crescent that bulges out toward the wide, expansive horizon that delineates the outermost boundary of Dorchester Bay. Boston's usual rules of propriety, though felt, don't apply as strictly south of Andrew Square. You hear people laugh freely in Dorchester. Some dance in the streets apropos of nothing but the spirit that moves them. Dorchesterites have cares: they have bills to pay, and familial and professional obligations like anyone else. Those burdens seem to press more lightly against Dorchester's shoulders.

You can still have an impromptu party in Dorchester, even an impromptu parade. Neighbors know one another and they are bound together more by a common zip code than a shared profession or fussbudget sensitivity. In fact, most Dorchesterites are thick-skinned, used to being scorned as somehow different from Boston proper. Look over your shoulder when a Dorcheter native has his or her dander flying because you just might get a playful dope slap or a noogie or a wedgie. Afterwards, the perpetrator will buy the offender a shot, with or without an accompanying beer, and bygones will be bygones without a care for the future. Care burdens Boston. Dorchester takes scant notice of consequences. Dorchester lives in the moment and what a grand moment it is to be alive and well in Dorchester.

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