Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dorchester excelsior!

Today's editorial was going to be the usual pie-in-the-sky, rosily tinted view of life in Dorchester that most of the reports here turn out to be. This article came across the teletype today and I read it with interest to get to the meat of the Dorchester-related subject matter toward the end. If the author doesn't mind I'll include a pertinent quotation, however, I encourage you to read his thoughtful observations in their entirety:

"Once, when I was living in Dorchester, MA, and we had had several gang-related killings, the community packed into a huge meeting with the mayor. What did they ask for?

"Longer hours at the library. More staff at the community youth center. Midnight basketball. Lunch programs in the summer for kids who eat their only good meal most of the year when they get lunch at school. A warrant-sweep to get gang leaders into confinement, at least until the schools were open, so good kids could take advantage safely of the library, the community youth center, midnight basketball, free lunches."

This was the original springboard for what I was going to introduce today and I juggled on how to approach the subject: 1.) That must have been a long, long time ago. Today's Dorchester is a virtual Eden. 2.) He must have moved away yesterday. My sunny disposition naturally drew me toward Door Number One. Preferring the easy mark and the easy jest, I'll always pick the lady over the tiger.

Before I had started writing though, this report came over the news wire. One person's joke is another person's tragedy and the lack of good taste in my original tone wasn't lost on me. When the police say a man is pronounced, they don't mean he is pronounced the groom on what should be the happiest day of his life. They mean he is dead. It's not a reason to yuk it up. A young man was killed and he probably wasn't Pol Pot. He was a neighbor. A young man was shot to death a few blocks from the zoo.

People outside Dorchester may say to other people embarking on a visit, "It's a jungle down there." It isn't. I have spent at least two thirds of just about every day here for the last two years. I've never been the victim of a crime and I have never witnessed a crime. Contrary to what you may have been told, Dorchester is not a den of thieves and cut throats.

Do you want proof that Dorchester isn't a thief's paradise? I owned I bicycle I hated that I bought at Target. I rode it three times, hated it each time more than the last, and decided I wanted it stolen. I left it unlocked by my porch. It took six months for that bike to disappear in the dead of night. Maybe that says more about the uselessness of the bicycle, but it did ride okay, just not to my liking. I think it says more about the quality of the people who pass my yard every day at all hours of the night. I know they pass, I hear them through my open windows and I slumber feeling safe protected by only a scrim of fly screen and a flimsy wisp of curtain fabric.

There are rough and tumble sections of Dorchester. Denying that would be disingenuous. I have tried to include those parts in my essays though, I must admit, though I pass through them, I don't often linger. This isn't because I feel unsafe. There just isn't much to do or look at to hold my interest or my commerce. There are only so many haircuts a man can get in a month and I'm not really in the manicure or hair braiding market. After I buy a bottled drink at a corner store, how long can I linger on the sidewalk sipping it before I am off to elsewhere?

Dorchester isn't really a place full of attractions beyond being an overall attractive place to live. Much of the living attraction comes from affordable rents or from accessible businesses that cater to day-to-day needs. Well, most places have businesses that cater to day-to-day needs, tourists don't visit Dorchester to tour the Fields Corner Shopping Center. If you can afford the rent in a waterfront condo, you'll live closer to the water for the views. While Dorchester's repetitive three-decker streets have a beauty all their own, they don't match the sea breeze or the view of sunrise over the Harbor's mouth at the edge of the vast Atlantic beyond.

Murders happen in Dorchester. This is an unfortunate fact. Another fact is that murders happen everywhere. If they are more common in Dorchester, this is our communal lament. Longer library hours won't change that, but perhaps the people who demand them know in their bones something the rest of us don't realize. Maybe, given the choice between two types of culture, people will follow their better instincts and improve themselves through book smarts rather than street smarts. Hopefully, a library contains the best fruits of the best minds at work, as well as DVDs of collected television sitcoms and 'Ghostbusters.' Street culture is full of sharp intellects at work too, but as often as not they end up in a result that while a game and a joke for some, is a tragedy for someone else in the community. Dorchester needn't be that way and I don't feel it trends toward anarchism red in tooth and claw. This is a fine neighborhood pregnant with good intentions and instincts.

It takes one bad apple to spoil a barrel and Dorchester has its share of worms. It also has its share of honorable townspeople who live what they believe in practice as well their unarticulated theory. They are the majority. You can throw a pebble in Dorchester without hitting a church or community center. Dorchester is solid so that pebble will create few ripples. This isn't a hypocritical community. It is a place where people suffer their burdens and deal with them as constructively as they can.

A bit of Latin to end this on a civilized note: Dorchesterii carpe vita exceslior! Dorchesterites seize life ever upwards!

And to end on a light note:

...or you can check it out from your local library branch when it's open.


Larry Davidson said...

I'm hoping that your attempt at Latin is meant to be humorous, or else maybe it's been too many years since you've studied Latin! "Dorchesterii carpe vita exceslior" is definitely not the correct translation of "Dorchesterites seize life ever upwards" into Latin. In fact, the forms of all four words are wrong, and the word order is dubious. My Latin is a tad rusty, but I think the correct version is "Dorcestriani vitam excelsius carpunt."

Whalehead King said...

Who says Latin is a dead language?! Thanks for the proper translation.


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