Monday, June 01, 2009

Living history

I wrote yesterday about New York's Tenement Museum and how it didn't really apply to Dorchester's local history. All history is local. I find myself in a living museum, partaking of history on the fly as it's being made. The story of Dorchester is just as compelling as the story of Manhattan's Lower East Side. For the people who live here, more so.

A city is organic, in constant flux as priorities are realigned. Buildings get torn down and new institutions take the place of old. A current, a pulse if you will, runs through the arteries of a place though. The Dorchester of today is nothing like the Dorchester of 1630, but some trace elements remain, absorbed into the matrix of the current configuration. If you live in Dorchester a year or more, you can't escape the pull of that magnetism that leaks out of the puddingstone. You can't help but be cantankerous. You can't help but identify with Boston itself, while being resentful of the greater city's over lordship. Dorchester is good, that doesn't make downtown Boston better.

A city is the sum of its parts. Dorchester is the biggest part of Boston both in area and population. No one visits Mozambique and says they're from Dorchester, Mass. It would take too much explaining. They say Boston, without the Mass., and everyone knows where they're from. History still unfolds in the Dot, however. Boston is better because Dorchester is a part. There isn't a museum but there is a historical society. There is an unspoken credo among native and newly grafted Dorchesterites. They work together to make the Dot good. So far so good, but there's plenty more work to be done and so much more history to be made.

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