Saturday, October 31, 2009

BOGO: Buy one and get

There is a sale going on in Dorchester, Mass. It's a real estate bonanza. It's not a fire sale and it's not a going out of business sale. It's not a holiday sale except in the sense that every day is Dorchester Day in Dorchester! It's good value honestly negotiated over the barrelhead, sold and bought with only the best intentions for sharing a sound investment. Everyone comes out a winner in Dorchester

You can buy a condo or a house or a loft in Dorchester and you get to own that condo or house or loft if you don't think about the bank that financed the purchase and still holds the deed. You also get something added on for free, an extra value, a get a little something that makes the mortage less onerous... You get to live in Dorchester!

Not the Dorchester in England. The Dorchester in Massachusetts is the better Dorchester. That's why the Pilgrims sailed away here. It's the best part of Boston. You don't have to sail across the Atlantic. Just take the Red Line and have your downpayment. Happiness and prosperity will follow.

Living in Dorchester is a two-for-one deal: you get to live in the Dot and you get to be a Bostonian. This is the best of all possible worlds. Most Dorchester real estate brokers have a doctorate in optimism. Most Dorchesterites come upon their panglossian view of the world not through book philosophy but by the street lessons their surroundings impart. You can't live in Dorchester long without going through every following day with a punch drunk, Mona Lisa smile on your mug. Dorchester breeds contentment. Realtors don't lie. They don't even fib in the Dot.

Wise investors know they will get the best return on their dollar when they buy property in Dorchester. This isn't speculation. It's a proven, historical fact. Dorchester may be a neighborhood of booms and busts if you keep your ears and eyes open, but it is also home to a steady climb. Everything goes up in Dorchester. As a rising tide lifts all ships, Dorchester promotes the portfolio and personal growth of everyone it touches. Dorchester excelsior!

Buddy, you can spare a dime. When you buy a gumball in Dorchester, two fall out of the machine's slot. It's BOGO all the time in the Dot.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dorchester Five-O

Cue the twangy guitars. Though it was nothing like tropical weather today (low to mid 50s), proof is offered once again that if Boston were made up of fifty states, Dorchester would be Hawaii.

I was returning a book to the Field's Corner library branch. I prefer it over Upham's Corner though Upham's Corner has a more impressive building and includes a swimming pool. Anyone can reach Field's Corner by the Red Line. The Upham's Corner library can be reached by commuter rail and then a walk of a few blocks. Don't get me wrong, the walk up Dudley Street and Columbia is much more picturesque than the one through the Field's Corner Shopping Center parking lot, it's just a tad longer and, as I say, the weather today didn't invite strolling.

So anyway, I was in the parking lot where the Farmer's Market is on Saturday mornings and there was a police car parked there with the window rolled down. I've always assumed police officers listen to commercial radio while they also listen to their dispatch radios. It probably makes the time pass more pleasantly and, if the patrolmen spend their days chasing criminals, it is probably good for morale to let officers listen to something more soothing than a constant string of crime reports. Music soothes a lawman's breast, and I could hear music coming out of this patrol car's passenger window.

I want to be clear that the volume wasn't overly loud. No noise ordinances were broken. The bass didn't rattle all the panels attached to the Crown Victoria's frame. Quite the opposite, I happened to be passing closely and what I eavesdropped wasn't hip hop nor was it classic rock. The latter seemed more likely when I glimpsed the officer involved. It was a lilting and relaxing, island melody.

Here's what Don Ho had to say (pre-recorded) in the parking lot of the Field's Corner Shopping Center across from the local branch of the Boston Public Library and kitty corner from the old Radio Shack:

"Tiny bubbles.. in the wine... make me feel happy... make me feel fine."

Needless to say the officer in question didn't resemble Jack Lord in the least except in his steely-jawed determination to enforce law and order. We nodded to each other and after I returned my book I went over to the Blarney Stone for a glass of afternoon proseco (for the bubbles). After all, though I didn't see one person wearing a lei today, I did get more than one taste of 'aloha' culture in Dorchester, Mass. Not just from the Don Ho music coming from the police car. The librarian greeted me at the circulation desk by saying, "Aloha."

Whether you are a Dorchester kamaaina (oldtimer) or malihini (newcomer), may you find here that special connection with Dorchester and the rest of Boston that was the essence of what Don Ho held for the islands of Hawaii. It's not all about crime in Dorchester. It's more about easy living, getting along, and enjoying life to its fullest with no regrets.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More Doggerel Tuesday

If it's Tuesday, it must be time for more poetry of questionable merit. Another gem from over the transom. Keep those cards and letter coming!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Prurient data

Ever wonder what your neighbors are up to when you aren't looking? Here's some statistics detailing what Dorechesterites did today:

91.8% of the working age population actively in the job market did exactly what they wanted: they went to work.

8,376 medical appointments were kept today, including chiropractors, dentists, physical therapists, mental health sessions and blood pressure checkups with nurse practitioners, as well as medical doctor visits. 787 appointments were rescheduled. Only 82 appointments went empty without a follow up call either from the patient or the provider. No one reported to any of the neighborhood health clinics or to Carney Hospital with symptoms of H1N1 influenza infection.

As of 4:30PM, America's Food Basket in the Field's Corner Shopping Center sold 425 pounds of yams, 315 pounds of chicken, 334 pounds of pork, and seven boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

The Sugar Bowl in the Polish Triangle sold 188 cups of coffee by 10:10AM. Anna's Donuts in Savin Hill sold 338 cups of coffee by 10:20AM. The Mud House in Neponset sold 228 cups of coffee by 10:35AM. Flat Black in Fields Corner sold 788 cups of coffee by 10:45AM. Flat Black in Lower Mills sold 448 cups of coffee by 11:04AM. The Dunkin' Donuts in Lower Mills sold 1874 cups of coffee by 11:10AM. Dorchester drinks a lot of coffee.

98.6% of all registered public school students under the age of 16 attended class. 93.2% of registered public school students over the age of 16 attended class. 99% of registered public school students over the age of 18 attended class. These figures don't include UMASS Boston or LaBouree College of Nursing students, only those schools under city administration.

Unicef gala

While we don't know who exactly the Dot Rat Rockstars are, we did receive an invitation to join them tomorrow (10/27) at Tavolo (1918 Dot Ave).

When you think of a rock star, you think of someone self-involved, trashing motel rooms, and pretty much divorced from reality. When you think of a rat, you think of a shady character, unless you are thinking of Ratt, in which case you are still thinking about rock stars. Add in the Dot though, and the connotations become something else altogether. Charity begins in Dorchester, Mass.

Trick or Tweet for Unicef features raffles, candy and free parking, as well as themed drinks concocted by Boston's best mixologists using Absolut Boston brand vodka. All donations, even those made to subsidize the free parking, go to support Unicef. This is a chance to act locally to give globally.

The invitation doesn't indicate when the event starts, so there's no chance of arriving early or late. Whenever you get there, you'll be right on time. We don't see any harm in showing up unannounced, but if you want to RSVP, you can do so at

Unfortunately, I'm already committed to attend a burlesque show tomorrow evening. It doesn't look good when a person picks a bawdy night in the South End over supporting Unicef, does it? I bought the tickets a month ago, before the fundraiser was scheduled. It's not the best excuse, but it makes me seem less like a heel.

If you haven't already commited to watching strippers and fire eaters, head to Tavolo tomorrow evening. You'll sleep better and wake up feeling better the morning after.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Boston-Haiti connection

You know you're in Dorchester when you spell Creole with a K: Kreyol.

Did you know the word for razor in Haitian Creole (Kreyol) is jilet? How's that for a Boston connection? In Mattapan and Codman Square, Haitian Bostonians are buying razors with an English loan word. Don't let the spelling fool you. Jilet (with an accent over the 'e') comes from the opposite, most northerly end of Dot Ave, where a certain World Shaving Headquarters cools its plant and machinery with waters drawn from Fort Point Channel. The world is a fascinating, interconnected place.

For our non-Boston readers: Gilette's World Shaving Headquarters is located in South Boston. It has been for as long as safety razors have existed.

You know you're in Dorchester when you can buy a newspaper at the corner store called the Boston Haitian Reporter. The paper's headquarters is located on Harbor Point, down the road from the JFK Presidential Library.

You know you're in Dorchester when you are turning the radio dial hapharzardly and Haitian news and music comes out of the speakers. You can also hear Haitian music and at least local Haitian-related news if you eavesdrop outside of apartment windows.

You know you're in Dorchester if you find yourself eating in the best Haitian restaurant in Boston: Bon Apetit. It's on Blue Hill Avenue so it may be better described as being a part of Mattapan, but Mattapan and the Dot have a long-shared history as well as a long-shared zip code. What's good for Mattapan is good for Dorchester and vice versa.

In fact, to draw this out a bit further: what's good for Mattapan is good for Dorchester is good for Boston. What's good for all three? The Haitian connection. Boston, and Dorchester, and Mattapan are all better off under the Haitian influence. In a city of immigrants, Haitians are welcome. They add to the city's cosmopolitan air and lend their strengths to building a new and better Boston for the future, less the blue blood land of the cod and the bean, but more a place where they mince fish over grits and fried plantains for breakfast.

What better place to get a jump on a day and on America's multi-lingual tomorrow than in Dorchester, Mass?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Boston's in-crowd

Boston's stars revolve around Dorchester. Boston's center of gravity resides, imperturbably, in Dorchester. Both light and opinions bend according to Dorchester's pull.

Dorchester contains more Bostonians than any other of the city's neighborhoods. It is a good place's nature to suck the cream off the available milk. When outsiders think of Boston's more desirable residential neighborhoods, they think of the Back Bay and Beacon Hill. They think of the North End or the South End. That's why they are outsiders. Insiders know the real deal and from where the butter comes that coats the side of the bread that falls face down.

Just as the most desirable things are rarely marketed to the masses, the value of Dorchester real estate and culture isn't promoted to the hoi polloi. Dorchester has the upscale cachet of an exquisite wrist watch with a brand name you've never heard of, or an automobile more rare than a DeLorean. It may look odd and out of place, but that's the idea, the cachet, the je n'est sais quoi. When you put your finger on what makes Dorchester so good, you'll feel a rarified pulse. It is like palpating the carotid artery of an opera singer who has overdosed on ether just before she regains conciousness to sing another aria from the top of her ample lungs and bring down the house.

There are more millionaires in Dorcheseter than there are in any other part of New England, including Fairfield County, Conn. Through sleight of tax return and property maintenance, this statistic is a secret. Only the Illumadotti know the truth.

If Tom Menino gets re-elected to be the longest serving mayor in Boston's history, it will be because the collective will of Dorchesterites makes it so. If it is Michael Flaherty's fate to break Mayor Menino's winning streak, it is because the population of Dorchester has rallied behind his unofficial deputy, Sam Yoon, a transplanted Dorchesterite who the locals respect.

Ignore Boston's biggest and best neighborhood at your peril. Those in the know, know Dorchester pulls Boston's strings.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

G-8 memorabilia for sale

Tiffany Peabody reports falling on hard times. "Mr. King," she writes, "Like many people who have suffered during what's being dubbed as The Great Recession, I find myself with credit overextended and the wolf at my door. Though my 401(k) is of little use to me and my investments have gone sour, I still have my great-great-grandfather's legacy in my possession. I hope to sell off some artifacts to interested collectors of World War I memorabilia and I was hoping you could help in publicizing my need and my earnestness to do business."

G-8 and his Battle Aces aren't well remembered today. They were certainly as daring as Audie Murphy, but G-8 never became an actor. After the war he retired to Dorchester to live out his days quietly, out of the limelight. He had seen enough excitement in the skies over the European trenches and he was never one to look for glory. He did have some glorious adventures however.

The Nazis are accused of all sorts of outlandish, occult exploits. Young people today who have learned all their history from video games and films can be excused for thinking that the Nazis mastered evil. While Nazis dabbled in occult and pseudo-science their success (in the sense that they achieved their goals) happened through rather mundane and pedestrian, brutal foot pad and cut throat means. In fact, it was the Reich that fought the First World War that really pulled out the stops when it came to over the top battle tactics, enlisting dragons and cavemen and monsters as well as invisible, poison gas. The Nazis industrialized thuggery. Their predecessors were more esoteric. G-8 foiled the Germans in WWI. He was too old to enlist in WWII, though he was a special adviser to the Army Air Corps' Division of Paranormal Combat.

G-8, as one of the Allies' top aces, confronted a bat staffel, a vampire staffel. and invisible staffel, a spider staffel, a blizzard staffel, a gorilla staffel, a sword staffel, a headless staffel, a staffel of floating heads, and a blood bat staffel, not to mention the aces of the damned, the flying coffins of the damned and the red fangs of the Sky Emperor. Needless to say he triumphed over these adversaries and many, many others in 110 chronicled adventures and many, many more that weren't reported since to this day they are still classified as 'Top Secret.'

I had to inform Ms. Peabody that I'm not in the estate liquidation business, nor is the Dot Matrix particularly set up to handle inquiries about what she has for sale. G-8's legacy is located in Dorchester, however and his spirit and courage are part of the weft and woof of Dorchester's matrix. For that reason, I include this report. G-8's exploits aren't well remembered and that is a shame. The beginning of the 21st century needs heroic exemplars beyond politicians. Great men have done great things in the past. Against all odds, Good has trumped Evil. The lines may have been more clearly drawn in the past, but I think G-8 sets an example that some young Dorchester men could learn something from in these ambiguous days.

While I wish Ms. Peabody all the luck in the world raising enough money to pay off her bills by selling her great-great-grandfather's souvenirs, I hope she can see it in her conscience to donate some memorabilia to the local schools or the public library for an inspiring display of what courage and clean living can accomplish against fearsome foes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Doggerel Tuesday

This came in over the transom the other day. While not a limerick, you can't argue that it's sentiments are insincere.

Monday, October 19, 2009

24 hour Dunkin' Donuts

I'm no fan of coffee chains. I prefer the Sugar Bowl on Dot Ave, however the Dunkin' Donuts at the apex of the Polish Triangle offers one thing the Sugar Bowl doesn't. The Dunkin' Donuts next to Andrew Station is open round the clock every day of the week.

I've bemoaned the lack of late night activity before, ad nauseum really, and I am not going to say that an all night Dunkin' Donuts is anything to crow about. I'm still a big fan of Boston Bowl, but they don't serve coffee or food except out of machines. There's the Tedeschi's in Field's Corner, but the vibe there is more for picking up a snack, though there is plenty of chitchat on the shop floor.

What makes the Dunkin' Donuts in Andrew special, aside from the fact that it's open, is the characters that inhabit it. There's a seemingly homeless looking guy that no one seems to like who stands in a corner eating potato chips or McDonalds' sandwiches while reading the newspaper. There's the guy who hawks the Herald while opening the door for entering and exiting customers. He never has an unkind word and he is willing to strike up a short-lived conversation regardless of whether you want a copy of the Herald or not. He gets the day's first editions, by the way; if you have a yen to read the Herald at 3AM, head to Andrew Square. It's hot off the press.

There are regular customers. Transit police, barflies, night crews of all professions, insomniacs, truck drivers, taxi drivers, beat cops and homeward-bound bartenders stop in. The ladies behind the counter know most and they are cordial and efficient for everyone, familiar or stranger. Oddly, only women work the graveyard shift at this Dunkin' Donuts. Nice women. One of them is named Trixie. It's true. She's nice too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dorchester demographics

A pre-2010, unofficial census report contains some interesting statistics.

Dorchester's total population on August 12, 2009: 113,311.

African American or Black: 34%
African American: 20%
Haitian: 5%
Dominican: 3%
Other Carribean descent: 4%
African descent (not naturalized): 2%
White non-hispanic: 32%
Irish-American: 12%
Uncommitted Euro-American: 10%
Polish-American: 5%
Foreign born Europeans (not naturalized): 3%
Etruscan-American: 1.5%
Boston Brahmin Blue Blood: 0.5%
Hispanic or Latin: 8%
Asian or Pacific Islander: 20.5%
South Vietnamese-American: 12%
Foreign born Vietnamese (not naturalized): 4%
Chinese-American: 3%
Korean-American: 1%
Tibetan-American: 0.5%
Cape Verdean: 4%
Some other race (including one or more claimed and Native Amercian): 1%

For a frame of reference, Wikipedia provides the following stats: "As of 2000 the population of Dorchester was 92,115 and the ethnic makeup was 36% African American or Black, 32% White non-Hispanic, 12% Hispanic or Latino, 11% Asian or Pacific Islander, 1% Native American, 4% some other race, 5% two or more races."

The article's anonymous author also notes that when Dorchester was annexed to Boston in 1870, the town was primarily rural with a population of 12,000. After annexation, the population grew to 150,000 in 1920. Though it shrank after 1950, it is on the rebound and increasing again.

These more recent, unofficial numbers and additional categorization lends credence to the accepted notion that Dorchester is a neighborhood open to anyone who cottons to moving here. It also speaks well of Dorchester that so many cultures co-exist side by side with little strife and nary a kerfuffle. Dorchester really is Boston's most welcoming neighborhood where opportunity abounds. Immigration is up along with accompanying gentrification. Dorchester remains an affordable neighborhood overall, however, and hence the net gain in population.

Be warned, the statistics cited in this article have not been verified by an independent agency, nor are they endorsed by or reported by the federal government or any other official or quasi-official municipal agency. Figures were determined by a secret formula and direct observation by the Illumadotti. Inquiries as to methodology and sample populations can be directed to that organization's secret address.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tender trap

You walk beneath the flowering trees,
There's a lilting music to the Bay's easy breeze
You feel kind of smart and your heart goes pit-a-pat!
The trees and the breeze, they're part of a tender trap.

Some starry night, Dorchester will make you tingle.
Then you'll jump the Red Line, sign a lease, and hang up your shingle.

You've moved to place that is so nice,
There's pho and pizza, corned beef and rice;
You've picked a place that's more than just a DOT on a map...
You're hooked and you're cooked,
You're caught in a tender trap.

Some starry night, strolling through Dorchester Park,
You'll know you made a wise choice rather than a foolish lark.

You'll wonder how it all came about,
Not that it matters...there's no getting out.
You've fallen in love and you know what?
Dorchester, Mass. is a tender trap.

(thanks to Cahn and Van Heusen for writing the original version)

Thanks also to the Brattle Theater for playing the original last night before the 9:30 show of "The Friends of Eddie Coyle."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

89 degrees

My near neighbor hasn't turned on his heat yet. I turned it on a few days ago and set the thermostat to a luxurious 62 degrees. I didn't do it for myself. I''m happy to wear woolen undergarments and an overcoat and stomp my feet and watch my breath merge with the steam off a teacup cradled between my chillblained fingers. I don't live alone though, so, bowing to the change in seasons, we have added blankets to the bed clothes and turned on the heat. N*Star must be happy to be reading this.

My near neighbor wonders if native New Englanders have a secret on how to deal with the seasonal misery with aplomb. Brother, it's just started and I am dreading the coming months. It's nothing yet. This is just a taste. I'm not from Massachusetts; I'm a cranky Nutmeg Yankee. That means I'm from Connecticut, a few miles closer to the tropics. What's our secret? We're not called cranky Yankees for nothing. Unlike those nice folks in Minnesota, winter doesn't bring out our best. Winter is the hammer and tongs that make us the way we are: sour, remote, bland, uncaring, resigned, hating to see anyone else having any fun. If you enjoy something, it must not be good for you. New Englanders love winter as much as they hate it. It wouldn't be New England if you could go outside and play year round. Our secret: hunker down and enjoy the misery.

As I type this, I see that the temperature in New Orleans is 89 degrees. The temperature here in Boston, this fine mid-October evening, is a seasonable 41 degrees. They say that in New Orleans people celebrate the sabbath like Bostonians spend the 4th of July. They celebrate October 15th the way Bostonians do July 15th too. Boston has a lot of attributes to recommend it. Dorchester is one of them. Climate is not.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Limerick Challenge

I was recently asked, "Do you know any limericks about Dorchester?"

It's sad to say, but I don't. Boston's poetry scene seems to be centered more around Cambridge than the Dot. During my extensive excursions, I can't recall meeting one poet. I haven't seen any poetry readings advertised at the Mud House in Neponset, the Sugar Bowl in the Polish Triangle, or at Dot 2 Dot halfway between Peabody Square and Lower Mills.

This doesn't mean there aren't any Dot poets. The longer I live in Dorchester, the more surprises I discover. I expect tomorrow I'll learn that all the garrets between Virginia and Monadnock Streets are packed with wan consumptives wiling away their parting hours penning poignant verse. For all I know, a 'Dorchester Vortex Sutra' has already been composed and it has influenced the latest generation of hipsters.

Our editor has been thinking of imposing some structure on the Dot Matrix rather than inflicting whatever catch-as-catch-can whims onto the general public as has been our usual modus operandi. The idea of a Doggerel Day has been kicked around for awhile so maybe it's time to start a new format. For the foreseeable future we'll feature Doggerel Tuesdays, meaning that Tuesday editions of the Matrix will feature poetry. Some of it may be good but we suspect much of it will be of the other variety as befits the definition of doggerel. Quality doesn't matter so much as heart and good intentions.

Anyone who wants to submit some poetry, good or bad, limerick or free verse or rhymed and metered, earnest ode, is welcome to do so. Just email it to whaleheadking at earthlink dot net. If selected, not only will it be posted here, but we will include an uncritical review and a link to any site the author may maintain. Sorry, we cannot offer payment. The income this blog earns wouldn't feed a guinea pig. Your work will be read, however. That much we can guarantee, even if only by Whalehead King. If that doesn't seem particularly're right. It's not, but that's all we can guarantee at the moment. Please limit subject matter and theme to Dorchester, Mass.

While I don't know any Dorchester limericks, I suspect there are more than a few out there. We'll see what gold pans out next week.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Boston's best pork chops

Thurston Crowell, "Thirsty" to his friends, told me it's his birthday today. I congratulated him when he told me he turned 53 this morning. "Doing anything special?" I asked.

"My Momma's making me my favorite dinner," he said, "Pork chops just the way I like them: with extra fat."

Farrah Mint asked, "How does your mother cook them? Mine spears the chops with rosemary sprigs and rubs them with thyme after soaking them in balsamic vinegar for the afternoon."

Thirsty wrinkled his already wrinkled face. "Nah," he said, "I don't go for any of that. I'm from Boston. The only spices I like are salt and pepper, black pepper. Momma sprinkles some of that on the chops and plops them under the broiler until the edges turn black. That's how I like them."

Peanut Jones said, "I like the pork chops at Durgin Park."

Beverly chimed in, "I like the pork chops at Locke-Ober."

Thirsty disagreed: "No. I like Momma's pork chops. I have for 53 years now. No fancy-pants chef can best them. She buys them around the corner and Paul the butcher knows how I like them. He sees Momma come in and he brings out the extra fatty chops that he keeps under the counter for special customers."

"I've never tasted Mrs. Crowell's chops," I said, "but they must be delicious. Thirsty, you make them sound like the best pork chops in Boston. Happy birthday! Enjoy your dinner!"

We all wished Thirsty another 53 big nights full of pork chop dinners.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Illumadotti

Outsiders wonder why Dorchester thrives despite being one of Boston's most disrespected and seemingly neglected neighborhoods. It is true that Dorchester looks a bit down on its luck at first inspection. Yet people continue to move in, businesses make profits and no one who lives here has an unkind word to say about their situation. It's very different from other parts of Boston. Despite seeming to have cause for a litany of complaints, Dorchester is complacent. What unseen benefits do Dorchesterites enjoy?

Boston has a mayor and Dorchester is represented on the City Council. I believe we have Marty Walsh as our elected representative, though I may be mistaken. That's how relevant the chartered government is: a paper tiger. Boston's official, municipal government cleans the streets and staffs the fire stations, but whatever policies get set at City Hall have few tangible effects in Dorchester. There is a shadow government afoot in the Dot, one that spreads Dorchester's wealth and polices the mores and morals of its citizens more effectively than the Health Department or the BPD. Dorchestester's gears are greased, but no elected official has much to do with how things are run.

A cabal of unelected leaders meets fortnightly at a secret headquarters rumored to be at the summit of Mount Bowdoin. They sometimes gather in quorums at other locales according to a rotating schedule set by tradition to ensure they experience all of Dorchester in the round, keeping in touch with their surroundings, leaving no sidewalk untravelled.

No one knows for sure who the Illumadotti are, though anyone who spends time in Dorchester comes under their influence and experiences their effects. It isn't only Dorchester's street plan that is a tangled web, it is its social relationships and its commercial interactions. Some Illuminadotti are prominent businessmen, some are the American Legion adjutants. One heads a branch of the PTA, one is the vice chairman of a neighborhood crime watch, one is a pimp managing a bevy of employees. One hawks newspapers at a traffic intersection in the morning, one approves mortgages, another maps sewers and monitors their maintenance schedules. One is a local historian. One is a midget who has never graduated second grade, year after year, despite attending night classes and earning an associate's degree at Roxbury Community College.

Dorchester is woven through with invisible filaments and no one knows for sure who pulls the strings. The strings get pulled though and Dorchester dances. Good things happen in Dorchester for a reason. The Illuminadotti make sure of it.

I can't say that I know anything about this secret society. I am not a member and even if I were privy to all of its secrets, I wouldn't be the one to blow the lid off this benevolent conspiracy. Let me go on record: I know nothing. Good things happen in Dorchester without official explanation. They happen seamlessly to everyone's benefit. Few homes go without a Thanksgiving turkey and few households are destitute for long. How this happens is a mystery under the radar. Only the Illuminadotti know why what happens as it does.

There are few complaints, if any, in Dorchester, Mass.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Little is wasted

I don't know about your neighborhood but where I live, Friday is trash day. The sidewalks are lined with trash cans and recycling boxes. Somethings are too big to fit in receptacles, so they are neatly stacked wherever will fit.

Little is wasted. The can and bottle collectors make thier early morning rounds, scooping up whatever deposits they can find. Before the garbage trucks arrive, men in pickups and vans make loop through the nieghborhood, scoping out the scenery, searching for anything with potential resale value.

Lumber and fixtures get removed before the paid garbage men arrive. So does furniture, tools, mirrors, picture frames, clothing. By late morning all that's left are things with no future use, things that really are ready to be discarded.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Mayor Menino is following me

I checked my email today and I found a fine how-do-you-do. Tom Menino is following me on Twitter. He doesn't give his official title, but his picture curdles milk so there's no doubt who it is: Boston's chief executive. He is following me and 2216 other people as of this moment. It will no doubt be more by the time I am done spellchecking this essay. No one can argue that the incumbent isn't trying to keep in touch with what's going on in the neighborhoods. I am tempted to make up more folderol than usual.

Tweet: "I saw Tom Menino's profile on a slice of moldy American cheese, the processed kind that doesn't normally get moldy, just hard." Not really. Just practicing. I didn't even count the letters and spaces. You can follow me on Twitter to see the edited version.

Regular readers of the Dot Matrix know that while Whalehead King is not beholden to the current municipal administration, he is not entirely against it either. Why me, Mayor Menino? Why select me for your special attention? I am not your enemy, though I am certainly not your friend and whatever I have to say, especially in the space of a gross of characters, cannot interest you. I think you are more interested in me following you than the reverse. Sorry, I'm not signing up. I see your name and the results you leave in your wake enough as it is. I don't need regular updates of your gross of characters as you choose to delegate their release.

Don't worry. I read the papers. I am up to speed on what is unfolding in City Hall's bunker and I have my opinions. I keep most of them to myself. Your soiled laundry isn't mine to rinse and strain and hang out to dry. I can't say I appreciate your attention. In fact, I would prefer you unsubscribe. If you really want to know what I think, why don't you follow this blog rather than my Twitter account. It's in the Dot Matrix that I describe what I experience as a Bostonian, and, more importantly, as a Dorchesterite. I see my traffic goes up when your name is mentioned. I can only conclude your minions are at work. I can't imagine that as many people in the world are googling Tom Menino as they are Nicolas Sarkozy. In the country of the seeing, the tongue-tied man is king.

So now I am a bit larger a mote in the Mayor of Boston's eye than I was yesterday. I cannot say I am flattered so much as I feel damned. Luckily, I don't conduct business with the city and I have learned where to park to avoid tickets. If the my Little Ninja motorcycle gets any unjust tickets soon, you'll read about it here.

Tweet: "I just parked my yellow Ninja 250 in Franklin Park in front of the back gate." Just practicing again.

If you are interested in past observations of Boston's incumbent mayor, please click on the links to mayor or politics below.

Dawn patrol

The air is bracing before the sun comes up. The wind blows the Littlest Ninja motorcycle this side of the Charles River on a weaving course down Dot Ave. Some dead leaves drift but there is no litter. The streets are tidy.

Dark windows unreel along my path. There's a car up ahead, its taillights two corpuscles travelling Dorchester's sleepy artery. A shadow leans against a lightpost, waves as I pass. I don't get a good look.

What's open? Destination: Tedeschi's in Field's Corner. Open all night, every night. The two countermen are yukking it up with the security guard and two customers. The guard asks me, "Sir, do you know baseball?" I don't. He looks at me in disbelief while I wonder why he would feel the need to ask this question in Boston. Because of people like me, of course. He goes back to making a statistics-heavy argument to the other customers.

My business complete, I speed back up Dot Ave, crouched low over the gas tank to escape the brunt of the breeze. In the silence that precedes dawn, the motorcycle's engine seems to purr more loudly than in the thick of rush hour. Still, no one is awakened. Dorchester slumbers one last hour before the real work begins.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Playboy vs. Penthouse

I was at Cappy's Convenience a few weeks ago, though that's not exactly news. I forget what I was buying...maybe ice but probably not; was it warm enough for a cold drink in September? Whatever it was, while I was paying I spied the 'gentlemen's magazines" discretely arrayed behind the register, inconveniently out of reach and wrapped in plastic. The wrappers were opaque except for the top where the masthead showed through.

I mentioned to the proprietor that I didn't realize Playboy is still around. "Does anyone buy it?" I asked. "Oh yeah," he answered, "I still sell a few copies every month." Curious, I told him I'd take one. I think it was $5.99. It featured a story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. so that sweetened the pot.

I'm not sure what Playboy's target demographic is. I found the whole thing rather dull, including the fiction. There were some product reviews, two advice columns I think, an article on fashion that didn't make much sense but revolved around movie stars from the 60s, and the pictorials. If I recall there were traditionally three photo spreads of pretty girls when I was a kid. I'm thinking in this issue there were two, but there may have been three. I wasn't paying that much attention.

Leroy Neiman did the art on the back of the centerfold. Is he still alive? Has he been drawing these same pictures for 40-odd years? If they decided to recycle the old ones would anyone notice? The 'jokes' on the back of the centerfold were bawdy enough, if not particularly funny. The same goes with the cartoons that were sprinkled throughout. These dealt mainly with prostitutes and strippers and seemed to be of the same vintage as Mr. Neiman's drawings.

Playboy did at least try to cover a variety of topics even though it did so in a pseudo-hip, winking way that made me embarrassed for the authors. A week later I decided to sample the distinguished competition so I purchased a copy of Penthouse. "Yeah, we still sell a few of those a month, too," the proprietor told me.

Penthouse is pretty much about one thing and in the most superficial and juvenile way I could think of. Playboy wasn't funny. Penthouse was stupid. From the centerfold: "Q: Would you give up your right arm or the ability to have orgasms? A: My arm, then I could make some hot amputee porn. " Really? Someone really said this?

The problem is there is nothing about Penthouse that is believable or even remotely interesting. There was an article on Satanism that was so superficial I could have written it. Regular readers of the Dot Matrix know that rigorous research is not my strong suit. There was another article about having a bachelor party in Boulder, Colorado. Q: What's the best strip club in Boulder? A: The Penthouse Club. Really? Is that an unbiaseed opinion? Who said that? The owner? The owner of this magazine?

Playboy may be dull but that is because its obsession is on a faux sophistication that has aged about as well as Burt Reynolds. Penthouse likewise has an obsession and it isn't about being sophisticated. It makes Playboy look like the New Yorker.

You may argue that no one buys these magazines for the articles. That may be. I bought them out of curiosity. Maybe some people buy them for the pictures. I saw a few more body parts in Penthouse, but I don't need any anatomy lessons. I haven't made my purchasing trifecta yet by buying the latest Hustler. I'm sure it will be at Cappy's when I'm ready to stare with bewilderment at how I wasted another six bucks.

Monday, October 05, 2009

This town needs a good zeppelin

Say what you will about Dorchester, Mass. but big ideas get floated here and not all of them go down in flames. There's been some discussion about opening a zeppelin school in Dorchester as a way to build community pride while providing vocational training in a specialized field.

Advertising dollars are short this recession and the Hood Dairy has decided not to sponsor thier blimp this year. The DirectTV folks have been floating a blimp over Fenway, but no one has gotten very excited about that. A group of Dorchesester philanthropists have entered negotiations to purchase a second-hand zeppelin and operate it out of the industrial area by the Dutch Maid Bakery, near where the duck boats are maintained.

The idea is to plaster the word 'Dorchester' on one side along with a distinctive image emblematic of the neighborhood, a sleeping baby perhaps. The other side will be rented out to advertisers for the highest bids. Ad revenue will pay for maintenance and fuel as well as subsidize a school for inner city youth to train them in zeppelin mechanics and piloting skills. It's a unique proposition with no competition. A little slipshod, cursory research reveals no other municipal blimp programs in the US.

The neighborhood of Dorchester fills many niches and this is just the latest. Dorchesterites dream big and they aren't discouraged by long odds. The bigger the idea, the higher it will float.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Ah! Dorchester! It wakes some people up like a slug from a mug. For other people, it is home to sweet dreams.

In a realm of countless delights, can a discerning topophile whittle down a list of just five things that showcase and show off Dorchester’s inherent, characteristic goodness? It’s greatness? …Goodness gracious! The mind reels, the inner cinema goes dark, the imagination’s flood lights spark and then…all the Dot’s a stage:

One. How many dreamers have climbed the Stairway to Jones’ Hill? When they turn at the summit, they look out over the glittering street lights below and the stars over Dorchester and they know they are a few meters closer to Heaven. From Hancock Street at Jones’ Hill’s base (across from Cameron) 145 steps run up a slope too steep for a roadway. They end at a playground on Downer Avenue, the most inappropriately named street in Dorchester and not just because it’s located so high above sea level. People climb to reach their goals in Dorchester, Mass., a place where human potential is exercised and endurance is tested.

Despite the fact that its territory is vast, Dorchester is a warren of smaller sub-neighborhoods and parishes, each of them self sufficient. Each is interconnected by surreptitious shortcuts that those in the know use to get where they want to be. You can get lost in Dorchester but you will eventually find your way. The infrastructure is in place: stairways and pathways and sidewalks and alleyways. Every dead end has a way out, and you learn to navigate without ever feeling trapped. Every day in Dorchester has its own charm and lessons. Living in Dorchester is more poetic verse than prose sentence, more meander than straight shot.

Two. Dorchester was founded by farmers and its population exploded by the sweat of working men operating according to the schemes of streetcar line financiers. Once the roads were laid out and the houses were built someone had to make use of them. Dorchester is not only home to workingmen. It is home to their mates and the children that inevitably follow. Dorchester holds womankind in a particularly fine regard and that is why a little north of Codman Square, on Washington Street, is a comfortable, welcoming park called Mothers’ Rest.

Dorchester’s landscape is a collection of voluptuous undulations, hills and vales. Mothers’ Rest enjoys a vantage that looks out on the flatter lands at Field’s Corner and the far more expansive flatness of Dorchester Bay farther beyond. The park’s location is between Codman Square, the site of Dorchester’s second civic center which grew into it’s most active commercial node, and the first street downhill to the residential neighborhoods that line Codman Hill’s east face. Naturally, like on Jones’ Hill, Mother’s Rest doesn’t only contain benches and playground equipment. It contains a shortcut to Alpha Road. Alpha Road, though it isn’t much to brag about unless you live there, would be an apt name for Dorchester’s Main Street if Dorchester had a main street. All addresses are equal in Dorchester because all are exemplary.

Three. Dorchester’s boundaries are contentious, its identity is fluid. Being an agglomeration of smaller neighborhoods, the farther you move from Dorchester’s core the more confusing your coordinates. Is Ashmont part of Dorchester? Yes. Is Lower Mills? Yes. Savin Hill? Yes. Then things start to get fuzzy. Dorchester bleeds imperceptibly into Milton and Southie and Roxbury and Mattapan, which used to be considered a part of Dorchester until fairly recently. Is the Franklin Park Zoo part of Dorchester? Some say yes, some say no. I’ll side with yes.

If you go past the active zoo on a back trail through the woods to the southwest, you will come across some abandoned cages far removed from the main gate. There are neglected, concrete habitats, pits ringed with spikes, and a stepped, granite plaza overgrown with weeds and litter. What animals were housed here? I don’t know, but I am pretty sure the main pen held bears. There is a bas relief of two bears flanking the city seal set in the wall of the main pen. Though posed to seem stately, they are lumbering, awkward creatures, carved almost as large as life.

Is it appropriate to superimpose the likeness of a bulky, inarticulate creature of intimidating power flanking the symbol of what is supposed to be the most enlightened city in United States, the Cradle of Liberty, the Athens of America? Sure. This is a democracy.

Four. The puddingstone on Quincy Street that protects Fernald Terrace is the most majestically shaped piece of puddingstone in all of Boston. Whether approaching from downhill or uphill, from Columbia Road or from Bowdoin Street, this puddingstone rears out of the ground like the barnacled humpback of an ancient leviathan cresting in stopped motion as it makes a tectonic journey so lengthy it seems still to a human observer. I pass this stone often, zipping by on a motorcycle or on a bicycle, sometimes in a car, sometimes on foot. It never fails to humble me and define this neighborhood. Quincy Street is a typical street and Fernald Terrace is a tidy cul-de-sac lined with regular-seeming homes with nothing in particular about them. They are special though, graced and guarded by a totem of Dorchester’s bedrock. The puddingstone that underlies the foundations of three deckers and duplexes rears out of the fertile earth. A rounded slab of millennial, sedimentary rock forms a protective barrier for Fernald Terrace and a natural monument that children scamper over and passing motorists admire. Nature, in the rough and at its most raw-boned is present and exposed. Boston and Dorchester are not only human creations. They have had a long prologue.

Five. Between Columbia Road and Blue Hill Avenue, along Quincy Street, is more territory that may be Dorchester or it may be Roxbury. In the end, does it matter? If you ask the people who live there, they’ll tell you it’s Dorchester, and anyone one who is Dorchester by Choice (DBC) is okay by me. In an infinite list of good things, Ma Siss’s place ranks as fifth from the top. Not a bad ranking when you consider the Dot Tavern ranks #477 no matter how fond I am of it.

I admit I know two things about Ma Siss’s Place. It was featured in a series of articles about it in the Boston Globe and that series of articles is one of the few things that has stuck out of all the fluff I’ve read stuffed between the Globe’s pages. The other thing I know is that despite its scruffy appearance, Ma Siss’s mission is vital to this well worn, humdrum part of the city. Change is the only constant in a living metropolis and polyglot Dorchester undergoes a perpetual, quiet revolution.

There is an outdoor Buddhist shrine behind the Field’s Corner library and it represents some of Dorchester’s cultural diversity. It is exotic and eye-catching. Ma Siss’s Place and the church with which it shares space in a converted garage, is just as exotic to some people though it lacks much aesthetic allure. Its role in the community isn’t to be pretty, however. Its role is to nurture the soul of its surroundings. Its role is to add to the well being of anyone who is hungry either in body or spirit. Its role is to make Dorchester more livable, through one small act after another, out of the limelight on the all but invisible corner of Quincy Street and Baker Avenue. It is the little things and the people who do them that make Dorchester good.

Here are a few other people who ADORE-chester! A kaleidoscope of views:

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Stay tuned.

I ran into a Southern belle fresh from Charleston, SC this afternoon at the Mud House in Neponset. I asked how she was enjoying her visit to Boston.

"Ah luvs me sum of this Dorchestah, suh," she answered.

I advised her to keep her eyes on the internet tomorrow. Many people love Dorchester. Some ADORE it. Can you think of fifty good things in Dorchester? Many hands make light work.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

New girl on the Dot

I travelled to Codman Square yesterday and then took a short jaunt downhill to Peabody Square. It was a gloomy, chilly day but it did have its bright spot and it did have its ray of sunshine. There's new girl on the Dot. Well, she's new to me.and she's not a girl. She is a young, capable woman. She has lived on Ashmont Hill for a year and a half which still makes her a foreigner by Dorchester standards. She hasn't yet lost the Baltimore accent with which she was born.

Some things take time, but a love for Dorchester can come on like spontaneous combustion. My coffee date confirmed this again and again over the course of our conversation. We went to Flat Black in the Carruth Building. It's a very nice place but it suffers the handicap of closing at 5:00. 5:00? It's not a typo and it's PM. We stayed until 5:10 but I was getting antsy when all the unoccupied chairs were stacked on all the unoccupied tables. I figured we were close to overstaying our welcome.

My companion for the afternoon was the newly minted Dorchesterite who goes by the name Social Butterfly. Yesterday was the first day we saw each other in person. She stepped out of her office easy on the eyes, arrayed in a visual symphony composed of shades of brown and dusky orange. She is as smart as a whip and as chipper as a Ms. Dorchester contestant. The Dot has that effect.

She is an Americorps volunteer full of the enthusiasm and promise of youth. She has brought her energy and expertise to Dorchester. She is not a social worker, though she is working for a charity at the moment. Her tour of duty is up soon. I asked if she intended to stay in Boston once her commitment was over. "You bet," she replied. "I love it here and I especially love Dorchester. There are so many things I like I can't limit myself to a top five-list or even a top- ten. I have a top-fifteen that could easily become a top-twenty or top-thirty."

Social Butterly's matriculated professional specialty is computer media, something I don't understand at all. When I went to school, computer media consisted of punch cards and spools of reel-to-reel tape. Despite the fact we have little in common we got along quite well and intend to meet again. Why? Dorchester binds people together with a cord of common appreciation. As my companion said, "It's not bad here. I don't know what people are talking about when they ask if I've ever gotten mugged." Dorchester breeds a solidarity. When you live in Dorchester, you realize that the rest of the world is populated by rubes who believe whatever they're told. Dorchester promotes critical thinking based on direct observation. That's the scientific method.

Trained to judge based on experience, Dorchesterites can take a person's measure after a half hour's company. I like this Social Butterfly and I believe that, while she may one day fly away elsewhere, she is not just fluttering by for convenience. This is a place where a chrysalis can earn her wings without hibernation. This butterfly will be adding color and intangible weight to Dorchester's civic life without any encumberance. Her wings will lift rather than drag.

We parted company at the foot of Ashmont Hill with a handshake firm with camaraderie. "Drive your motorcycle safely," she told me as I donned my helmet. "You walk safely," I replied. "We're in Ashmont," she said over her shoulder, "This is the safest place in the world."

Always needing to have the last word but with nothing else to add, I said, "Yes."

I wonder what Social Butterfly thought about meeting me?


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