Monday, September 07, 2009

Dorchester smells like sweat

Labor Day. Dorchester, Mass. is home to the headquarters of organized bricklayers, masons, carpenters, electricians, welders, ironworkers, sheetrockers, framers, subcontractors, pavers, stevedores, teamsters, railroad workers, teachers, firefighters, policemen, government janitors, postal carriers, and healthcare workers. Labor Day passes, a restful break for all the busy hands that keep Boston running on time and on budget.

Hot dogs on the grill, a bun in the oven, relish on the side, sweet potato salad...these are the things that make Labor Day in the Dot a holiday to be savored. It's not just the enjoyment of rest between routines that makes Labor Day Dorchester-specific. It is because Dorchester, like few other parts of Boston is a neighborhood where people have dirt under their nails and grease in their pores that a scrub brush can't erase after only one pass. Dorchester is a sweaty place, where garbage men retire to sleep the sleep of the exhausted and their wives and girlfriends get accustomed to the smell. Dorchester is a place where a worker earns a paycheck from the sweat of his or her brow and the ache of overextended muscles.

It isn't easy being a hod-carrier. It isn't a walk in the park to dig ditches, shovel to soil hour after hour. It isn't easy to maintain the skyscrapers and office parks that information workers take for granted. Someone has to tighten an elevator's cables and someone has to fine tune the escalators. Dorchester's working folk trudge up and down endless flights of stairs and ladders to get into and out of tight places, making sure everything transpires as it should, without a hitch. If a belt doesn't slip, if the gears turn as intended, if everything is well-oiled and all the parts fall into place, if a toilet flushes, chances are that a Dorchesterite has done the job to spec.

Dorchester smells like sweat: clean, honest sweat that pours out of a working person hard at a thankless chore. A wet forehead gets mopped by a wet hand swung cavalierly without any thought but to keep a hammer swinging without missing a beat. No candles or perfumes can disguise the scent of Dorchester. It is as natural as Adam and Eve being cast into the Garden of Dorchester and laboring to build a home for themselves. There is no shame in being ripe.

Dorchester, Mass., brawny and savvy Dorchester, Mass. Boston would be weaker without the good folk who inhabit the Dot. Boston wouldn't be Boston. It would be frozen without lubricant, without electricity, without workers, without hope, without anyone able to jerry-rig a broken part in a complicated, interlocked machine. Labor Day is Dorchester's day. Boston should observe a moment of silence in respect for the people who inhabit Dorchester's three-deckers while they stroll the Common and the Esplanade.

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