Monday, September 28, 2009

Alive and in technicolor

Though full of slapstick, melodrama and overacting, Dorchester, Mass. is no silent movie. Quite the reverse. Firstly, it's real life. Secondly, it's quite noisy.

The heavy rumble of the Red Line rattles Dorchester's spine and, where the Red Line ends at Ashmont, the Mattapan High-Speed Trolley carries on the work. The High-Speed is a tad less loud, but it passes through Cedar Grove Cemetery and the T wouldn't want to wake the dead, would it? At least the T stops running some time after midnight. Dorchester is home to an elevated highway (I-93) that runs at second story height and is clotted and congested with cars and tractor trailers all hours of the clock.

Babies squawl in Dorchester. Kindergartners swear like soldiers. Their pipsqueak voices lend an alarming novelty to trains of connected curses and anatomical combinations they cannot really understand...or can they? After becoming accustomed to the local argot, playground profanity becomes a part of Dorchester's atmosphere, like the sound of flower petals gently patting the pavement when a zephyr blows inland off Dorchester Bay.

Pots and pans clatter over the course of a day. They make as much noise as the shopping carts pushed by the can men and bottle collectors who start their rounds an hour or so before sun-up and continue the rest of the morning until a little after dawn has faded into noon. Garbage day is a busy day in Dorchester as rag men and scrap dealers patrol the curbs. There is treasure to be found in Dorchester.

Coffee shops, diners, lunch counters, fine restaurants, pizzerias, Chinese take-out joints, bakeries, and barrooms buzz with the talk of the neighborhood. Dorchester is anything but silent. It is busy and burbling, percolating with vitality and street smarts, with pep and persistence, with zip and with zing. Silent Dorchester? Far from it. Dorchester is alive and loud . It's also in technicolor.

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