You may think you've never heard of Dorchester, but you have. It's Boston. To those who live there, it's called Dot for short. It is Boston through and through, more Bostonian in many ways than downtown.
It's not the North End where Wednesday is Prince spaghetti day. It's not the part where Mystic River was filmed (though much of it looks like that). It's not where Bunker Hill is or where Paul Revere set off on his midnight ride. The Boston Pops don't play in Dot. It's not where a lot of tourists go unless they are visiting the JFK Presidential Library. Some tourists visit. They are either the smart ones or the ones who leave from the wrong side of the JFK/UMASS T station. Either way, they enter the best part of Boston and when they get back on the Red Line they don't see Boston the same way again. They have seen its true, better nature.
Dorchester is the biggest of Boston's neighborhoods, some people (present company included) say it's the best. I lived in Dot for three years and I wouldn't trade those years for the world wrapped with a ribbon. Plenty happens in Boston...plenty, but much of it involves college students and professors, scientists, doctors, engineers, politicians. Dorchester life is the common life sprinkled with the kind of minor miracles that make it a pleasure to get out of bed. A neighborhood of neighborhoods in a city of neighborhoods, everyone is pleasant, they get to know each other and they work together to make a livable place enjoyable for a few blocks or a few miles as far as the eye can see.
Ethnicities rub shoulders and elbows and jowls and bellies in Dot. If there is any friction, it is smoothed by common courtesy and cordiality. Bad manners have no place in Ashmont, the Polish Triangle, Lower Mills, Codman Square, Upham's Corner, or at Port Norfolk. If there is a circle, it is the gravitational orbit that centers around where the Neponset River empties into Dorchester Bay.
Despite the impression of rampant gang warfare and weekly shoot-'em-ups you may cull from the daily newspapers, Dorchester is an overall peaceful and congenial place in which to raise a family and spend a lifetime. Generations have done it. A few bad apples can't spoil a bushel or a barrel filled with golden eggs, none of those rotten.
Big things are afoot in Dorchester. It is a part of Boston where things happen under the radar while regular citizens reap the rewards, spin filigree from flax, glean kernels from chaff, and chafe at a bum rap, all the while getting along, getting ahead, getting together, and having a good time. Loving one's neighbor is easy in Dorchester and the high proportion of churches ensures it is a chaste affection exchanged between passing pedestrians. Playgrounds are populated with well behaved, impish scamps who don't know the word "truant." They scamper about harmoniously with a twinkle in their eyes, bright smiles, and evident good breeding, respect for others, and a sense of fair play.
There are worse parts of Boston than Dot, much worse. If there are better parts, that's a matter of mistaken opinion. If you are thinking of moving to Boston, talk to your realtor about Dorchester. Don't believe the nay-sayers, distrust the haters. Visit yourself, walk the streets, witness the camaraderie and kindesses and civic pride that is on display. Walk into the shops, witness the landscape, the streetscape, the peoplescape. Say hello. Introduce yourself. Ask yourself, "Can I picture myself living here the rest of my life?" When you ask yourself this question, after plumbing the reaches of your soul's needs and measuring the existential bounds of what makes a good life, the answer can only be, "Yes. I can."