Wednesday, February 03, 2010
I can't speak as the government
It's a beautiful day for a neighborhood, especially if that neighborhood is named Dorchester, Mass. Can it get better than that? I suppose it depends on where you live, but if you live in Dorchester, the chips are stacked in your favor. A Dorchester address is like winning the lottery. Every rainbow has a pot of gold at its end and Glory Begorrah! Dorchester has its share of shamrocks.
You have junk in Dorchester and you have food. You don't find junk food. You can purchase potato crisps and potato chips, you can stock up on two-ounce boxes of Jujyfruits, there is more greasy pizza and Chinese takeout for sale in Dorchester than there is in the North End and Chinatown. Dorchester is bigger than both combined. That's how things shake out here; that's how the cookie crumbles and the fortune unfolds. Dorchester nourishes. The very air on the streets themselves offers a harvest of food for the soul.
I saw a woman crying on Washington Street in front of the post office off Codman Square. She had just received a letter from her long lost brother. She showed me the letter and I couldn't read the Haitian Kreyol. A passing pedestrian translated. "Dear Sister," the letter read, "I have heard of Dorchester and it sounds like the best part of Boston. It may be the best part of America. You are very lucky to live there. Is there room in this fabled Dorchester for a poor wretch like me, a man with no luck, a checkered past, an honest man who has run afoul of corrupt policemen? Is there room for a person who wants to live by his wits and ability? Do you think I will fit in in Dorchester, that cream of Boston neighborhoods? My visa has been approved. Should I look for an apartment in South Boston instead?"
The translator told me the letter was over. "I can't speak for the government," I said. "I can't speak for anyone in Dorchester or Boston but myself, but this brother sounds like the person who moves here and succeeds. There is plenty of room in Dorchester for people who want to make their lives better. " I paused. "Tell him that though I can't speak for Dorchester or for Mayor Menino, I can speak as an American. Tell him I welcome him and I will be proud to shake his hand, man to man, when he becomes a fellow citizen of this great nation."
"Tell your brother," I whispered conspiratorially to the crying woman, "that he has the best long lost sister in the whole world. She is a found sister and she has found him a place to put down roots and grow."