Saturday, January 30, 2010

Deceiving appearances

Ever wonder what's inside the fraternal lodges scattered around Dorchester?  Not just the American Legion and the VFW.  I mean the windowless buildings fronts that house the Shriners, the Society of Vulcans,  the Woodmen, the oddly acronymed H.O.G.S.I.C., or that mobile home parked on New England Avenue that has a bronze placard engraved "Society 11, A.E.I.O.U." posted next to the boarded up screen door.

I was out on the Dot last night and I was invited to one of these fraternal lodges this afternoon.  I am sworn not to say which.  I intended to make an expedition to the wilds of Newton to chase down a rumor of Dorchester immigration for business reasons, but an adventure close to home is always better than one that involves a journey.  

Know your surroundings like the back of your hand.  Know your surroundings like you know your soul.   If you don't know your neighborhood, you can't know yourself.  A city is a collection of people grounded in one moment in time in a particular place.

So I met up with some members of a fraternal order that also has a ladies' auxiliary branch.  Both male and female members were present when I arrived, to ensure I was worth granting a tour.  Though I knew the clubhouse address, I was blindfolded and led to our destination as a matter of protocol.  I didn't mind, though the passing cars honking as I was led down the sidewalk was a tad startling.

I can't reveal what transpired after this.  Let me only say that the peeling paint and darkened windows on the outside of these private clubs is not indicative of the furnishings inside nor their civic pride or involvement.  Any community that hosts such a panoply of private organizations only does so because public organizations don't serve the job they are intended.  Because people don't jump on City Hall's bandwagon doesn't mean they are disengaged.  Quite the reverse.

The picture that opens this report is a hint of what I found a block or three from the center of Codman Square.

I'l leave it up to you to guess what the actual address was.  It was a very interesting afternoon, but without many surprises beyond the decor.   You can't live long in Dorchester without noticing the positive impact ad hoc societies have on the body politic and the body civic.  No expects the top tier, governor- or mayor-appointed  boards of development, commerce, tourism, industry, investment, job creation, beautification, arts advancement, race relations, or home garden produce promotion to do much work at Dorchester's street level.  Those who wait are lost.  

Dorchester waits for no one.  It moves forward, inexorably like a glacier.

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