Sunday, February 28, 2010

Readership and ridership

Does the core readership of New Yorker magazine understand MBTA-based humor?

I'm not clear on who drew this cartoon but since it's copyrighted to the Cartoon Bank, I can only assume it originally appeared in the New Yorker magazine.

As anyone who has stood on an MBTA platform for any amount of time knows, the T's riders are the eyes and ears of transit police.  If we see something, we are encouraged to say something.  Somebody's got to be on patrol during coffee breaks.  If something has a hint of sophisticated humor about it, should it be reported to the MBTA's finest?  Will it be passed on to the next level or will it be dismissed as some bright boy trying to be funny but failing.  A good sense of humor is a good indicator if an officer has a good sense of menace.

Does the New Yorker's core readership understand MBTA-based humor?  I guess that's the flip side of the question, "Does the MBTA's core ridership understand New Yorker-based humor?"

I've a pretty good idea that the New Yorker's editors think their Boston-based subscribers are unwashed, beer-swilling, ball cap-sporting, vocational school dropout cavemen.  Heck, when I leave the boundaries of Dorchester and Roxbury, I think that sometimes too.  Especially around back of the Capitol Building on a weekday at the legislators' entrance.

If you see something, you should say something.  If you see trouble, you should report it to the authorities.  If you see trouble with the authorities, you should say it at the ballot box.      

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Some things don't change

I'm reading about life in Ancient Greece and came across this fragment of a play by Eubolos.  Let's say it takes place in Athens around 500 BC.  It's subject is drinking wine at private gatherings:

"The first cup is to health, the second to love and pleasure, the third is to sleep, the fourth to violence, the fifth to uproar, the sixth to drunken revel, the seventh to black eyes, the eighth to the summoner, the ninth to bile, and the tenth to madness and throwing chairs around."

Sounds like some of the after hours party in Dot.  The police usually do show up by around cup number eight.

Unfortunately, Dorchester hasn't yet produced its own Socrates or Plato.

You'll find the excerpt on the bottom of page 100.  It's a very readable and interesting book

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dorchester's unofficial fish?

I was at P.J. Bait Shop this morning, at 1397 Dot Ave, soaking up the hand-me-down, angling news passed along the local chum line.

Here's what's running in Dorchester Bay past the JFK Library and the UMASS Boston seaside campus: Crappie.   I'm not trying to be funny, here.  A bunch of the old timers and some of the young timers too were talking about how the species Perciformes nigromaculatus is in season in our coastal waters this time of year.  Granted, I don't know sturgeon from shinola, but these crusty characters seemed to know what they were talking about.  Since I wasn't stocking up on bloodworms and I obviously didn't know a sinker from a treble hook, they were particularly unguarded in their conversation.

Apparently, the best place to reel in these crappies is where the sewer vent bubbles up off shore and under the tideline across from the UMASS campus center.  An older man remarked on this to a younger one with a wink.  The younger guy looked at me suspiciously, as if I might have overheard a secret.  I studiously inspected a display of rubber squid while feigning deafness so they wouldn't suspect I was eavesdropping.  They shared a laugh and the young buck thanked his elder mentor for the tip.  It's a tip I pass on to you, gentle reader.  This is a good time of year to fish for black crappies.

As one of the gentleman said while he was leaving the bait shop: "Percifores nigromaculatus," he said in high faluting Latin, "That's the best eating you can get in Dorchester this time of year or anytime."  He had the fingers of his right hand curled into the Okay symbol and he brought them too his lips for a kiss. like a pizza box chef.  "Percifores nigromaculatus...yessir... fine eats," he repeated.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Mount Ida feast

I just walked the baseball diamond at Ronan Park and it occured to me.... Why doesn't any one eat these fat Canadian geese? 

I checked in the Shaw's at Harbor Point on Sunday and frozen, "free-range" geese are going for $45 apiece.  It's enough to make me a poacher, if I only knew what to do with the feathers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Missed holiday

Yesterday was International Pipe Smoker's Day, a day when pipe smokers are supposed to make the rest of the public aware that they still exist.

Dorchester doesn't have any tobacconists that cater to pipe smokers.  There aren't any dedicated tobacconists at all that I know of.  If you are in the market for a cigarette, there are plenty of convenience stores and gas stations.  If you are looking for a mass marketed cigar, you can find them in the same locations.  If you are looking for a bit of a higher quality cigar, some liquor stores have cabinets, if not actual humidors.  If you are looking for a briar or a corn cob bowl or a tin of pipe tobacco, you won't find them in Dorchester.

The nearest pipe shop you'll get to anywhere in Dorchester is L.J. Peretti, still going strong since 1870 at 2 and 1/2 Park Square on the corner of the Common.   Peretti has a selection of tinned tobacco prepared elsewhere, but the appeal of this Boston institution is that it still mixes it own blends.  This is a rarity in the pipe tobacco world and Boston is very lucky to have L.J. Peretti's established expertise around.   The irony is that Boston is officially a tobacco-hating city despite the Nobel laureates and cultural icons who have lived in Boston and cooked up their best ideas while puffing on a long stem.

There is another pipe shop in Brookline and there is another tobacconist that doesn't specialize in cigars in Harvard Square.  Piretti is  the only one that still mixes their own tobacco and can speak knowledgably about it.  If you want a Dutch Masters cigar to go along with your lottery ticket, Sunny's Cigar in Mattapan Square is recommended.  I have yet to find a tin of Price Albert or Captain Black in Boston.  This is probably because L.J. Piretti is selling their own superior blends at reasonable prices.  That and the fact that pipe smoking isn't much in favor in Boston anymore.  Next year on Feb. 20 Boston's pipe smokers should celebrate International Pipe Smokers' day en masse on the Common the way the marijuana smokers do.  I walked through Boston Common this weekend and I didn't see a single pipe smoker.  Myself included.

Next year.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Major without the majorettes

Though I've seen majorettes in the Dorchester Day Parade, I don't know of any marching bands based in Dorchester.  They may be there, I'm not too savvy on the school system.  There aren't any adult marching bands that I know of....we are in Boston after all, not New Orleans.  The only parade I see on any other day but Dorchester Day is the march of commuters heading to the T station.

Some people like their lovers big and naughty.  Dorchester is certainly both.  It is Boston's biggest neighborhood and it attracts is share of notoriety.  Dorchester's Marching Band wouldn't be light skinned, though it would include Caucasian saxophone players and snares.  It would be the usual polygraph of hues found on all continents except Australia (yet...there isn't an aboriginal enclave in Dot to date) that wander to and fro between Dot Ave and Blue Hill Avenue.

Dorchester could have a marching band, and I know what it would look like, even if more melatonin would be in the real version.  Dorchester should have an ambassadorial elite that represents the neighborhood at official functions.  Destination unknown?  Poppycock!  Destination Dorchester.  Spank up the beat and get the Dot life.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

DOT: Dalliance on Transcendence

I could write a book about Dot Ave and do you know what I would call it?  Dot Ave.  I know, it's not very original, but 'Dot Ave' is the title bestowed on Dorchester's spine.  It's an evocative name.  Nobody says Dorchester Avenue unless they are a GPS voice.  Even strangers reflexively refer to Dot Ave after the first time they hear the shorthand moniker.

Dot = Dorchester.  Nothing could be plainer.  Even with long r's why does this compression of syllables make so much sense?  I'll tell you.  Though Dorchester is a big place with a longish name, it can be distilled into one commonly appreciated, multi-layered concept described by three letters.  D-O-T doesn't just stand for Department of Transportation.  DOT is also an acronym for Dalliance on Transcendence.

The middle of a bull's eye, the gold spot on a daisy, the halo over the stem of a lower case letter 'i'.  You can whittle away your whiles in Dorchester and be none the worse for wear.  It's a big sprawling Dot with as many smug secrets as the twin pupils in mysterious Mona Lisa's eyes.  Whatever it's not, Dorchester is Dot

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Walking, eating, shopping

I checked out the book Boston Neighborhoods by Lynda Morganroth yesterday from the Mission Hill library.  For whatever reason, it was filed on the Military History shelf, right next to Naval History.

This is a tourist guide advising where to find picturesque walks, ethnic restaurants and reasonably eclectic boutiques that you can't find in suburban shopping malls.  The BPL edition is copyrighted 2002 and it's surprising how quickly it has gone out of date.  Not the feel for each neighborhood, but how many businesses have gone out of business.  Like any of these guides, it is a time capsule preserving what happened to be around when the author was observing.

Ms. Morganroth is an amenable observer.  Her observations in the South Boston/Dorchester chapter are accurate in spirit and she seems to have actually walked around and enjoyed the details of the neighborhoods.  She is spot on enough about Dot that she's inspired me to take a trip to Somerville's Union Square to see what I can see this weekend.  I always like to take the bus, after all, even if I don't do it as much as would be good for my soul.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Awful Offal

There’s some Rhode Island-based punning going on in the Sizzling Empire Lucky Jade Wok Garden Menu.  The copywriter/translator who spun the descriptions obviously spent some time at Newport Creamery and couldn’t resist touch of wordplay, despite the lack of irony or even self-awareness found elsewhere in his/her work. 
Some people think the Chinese eat every part of the animal except the breath.  That’s not true.  Some choice parts are saved for their medicinal value.  As for the rest, many of those have euphemistic English names.
Chef’s Selection Number 4.  SHUI MEI AWFUL AWFUL.  Large, balanced portion of sweetbreads, chitterlings, tripe and chicken giblets tossed with oyster sauce, ginger and scallions.  Served on rice vermicelli noodles and garnished with crispy fried pork rind.  $12.35.
To accompany this meal, management recommends Appetizer A5: PORK BLOOD SOUP WITH DUMPLINGS.  $3.50.  Twenty-five cents savings when ordered with Shui Mei Awful Awful.

Hi Neighbor!

I'm doing some research on corn cob pipes, their manufacture and history.  On page three out of 36 of this morning's google search, I came across a recent post by Boston Biker on this very subject.

It's always nice to stumble across someone you know.  It's why I walk around the neighborhood.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cheeseburger stir-fry

Sizzling Empire Lucky Jade Wok Garden's chef has really outdone himself working up unique dishes to appeal to the typical American palette, gourmets and adventurous eaters.  He seems to be using basic Chinese culinary methods and kitchen utensils with a brash combination of ingredients.

Chef's Selection Number 3.  CHEESEBURGER STIR-FRY.  100% USDA lean ground beef fried with a judicious mixture of lettuce, tomato, white onion, and slices of both kosher dill and bread and butter cucumber in a "special sauce."  Topped with additional shredded lettuce and cheddar cheese.  Served on crispy sesame noodles.  $10.95.

I usually head to Chinatown when I have a hankering for food from the Celestial Empire, but since Sizzling Empire Lucky Jade Wok Garden promises delivery, I might just give them a call.  I only eat Chinese food once or twice a year, so it may take me awhile to finish reading the menu and finally pick up the phone.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sizzling Empire Lucky Jade Wok Garden

Chef's suggestion Number 2 from the Sizzling Empire Lucky Jade Wok Garden menu that was left tucked in my front door.  They deliver.  If you live within their zone, keep an eye on your doorknob for your copy of their latest menu.

OUTBACK TREAT SOUTHERN PLATTER.  Grilled, BBQ jumbo prawns with tenderloin kangaroo cutlet, kiwi slices, and macadamia nuts quick sauteed in sweet cherry and Vegemite sauce.  A tomato sauce dollop floats atop the side box of white rice that accompanies this dish.  Many Australians say, "It's Boston's Bush tucker!"  Not for delivery, eat in only.    $17.95.  **** Four stars on Yelp.        

Sizzling Empire Lucky Jade Wok Garden

A new Chinese take out place has opened near my house.  It’s called Sizzling Empire Lucky Jade Wok Garden.  They left a menu in my door.

Chef’s Selection Number 1.  SHANGXI BUTCHER’S GIFT.  Tender beef, roast pork, select chicken, succulent duck, crisp bacon, turkey breast, and slowly roasted gyro meat sauteed in chef’s special dark brown gravy served on a bed of goat fried rice.  $15.95.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Breakfast at Bickfords

I don't watch a lot of TV.  In fact, the last time I watched an entire program, it was probably BJ and the Bear.  I couldn't tell you what episode it was.  All I remember is Sheriff Lobo hassling Billie Joe McKay over a legitimate contract hauling job.  It was a big misunderstanding.

There are actually two things better than watching a rerun of BJ and the Bear, if you can imagine that.  One of them is building a model of BJ's Kenworth K-100 semi truck and living out your own, pretend, trucker adventures.

The other thing is pulling whatever you're driving into the Bickford's at 77 Gallivan Blvd in Dorchester.  There's ample parking.  Indeed, you can pull an eighteen wheeler into the lot and many hungry road warriors do.  Why is breakfast at this Bickford's better than reviewing your beta tape BJ and the Bear archives?  Because, for the majority of the people reading this, breakfast at this Bickford's will make you feel young.

When I eat at this Bickford's, I am the youngest person in the building by twenty years at least.  Usually more, much more.  I don't mean my fellow diners only.  I mean the waitresses, the manager, the assistant manager, the fry cook, the prep cook, and the dishwasher.  This may not seem like much if you're ten, but I'm forty-five.  It's not many places anymore that I can say that I'm the youngest person in the room by far.  I can say it any morning of the week at 77 Gallivan Boulevard.  If you're feeling a tad over the hill, a trip to Dorchester may be the psychological cure you need.  Especially first thing in the day.

 A nod to Slay, Monstrobot of the Deep!! for the 80s flashback graphic.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Dot keeps secrets

Overheard in Mission Hill outside the Harvard School of Dentistry at lunch hour today:  "I don't see any pretty girls around here anymore.  This part of town is going to the dogs.  You couldn't swing a dead cat in October around here without hitting a babe."

Ladies, your secret is safe.  We won't reveal your address.  Dorchester welcomes, it kisses, it embraces, it holds, it nurtures, it protects and it enables.  No matter what though, Dot doesn't tell secrets.  Smart women live in Dorchester.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Motorcyclists unite

I don't like the Dot Matrix to serve as a collection of links pointing the reader elsewhere, but sometimes, something is so good, it should be shared.    An article on motorcycles that appears at The Selvage Yard, is just that kind of thing.    It's a nice piece, just two paragraphs of text and then a long selection of photographs of celebrities on their bikes.

One of those photos is the one above.  That's not Whalehead King, but WK recognizes that look on Steve McQueen's face.  Anyone who has eyeballed the road up ahead, taken its measure, and decided to proceed anyway with full confidence even if there's a bit of butterfly hidden in the belly.

Go to the Selvage Yard, read the brief commentary, and enjoy the pictures.  A nice essay.  It's just the thing for a February day in Boston.

Riding the 28 bus

I was wondering about the MBTA Route 28-X that was supposed to bring high-speed bus service along Blue Hill Avenue.   I thought it was a good idea when it was proposed but I thought I should test my instinct.  
I took bus # 0821 on the existing Route 28 yesterday morning.  What follows is the arrival time for each stop, the name of the stop, and how many people were on the bus when the bus pulled away.  
        10:40. Depart Mattapan Station up Blue Hill Avenue.  2 people aboard.
  1.     10:41. Mattapan Square. 10 people
  2.     10:43. Babson Street.  12 people
  3.     10:44. Woodland Street.  12 people
  4.     10:44. Almont Street.  14 people
  5.     10:45. Norfolk Street.  13
  6.     10:46. Wilmore Street.  13.  6 degrees C per Frugal Furniture sign.
  7.     10:47. Evelyn Street.  15
  8.     10:47. Woolson Street.  14
  9.     10:49. Morton Street.  14
  10.     10:50. Woodrow Avenue.  16
  11.                 Arbutus Street.   No stop.
  12.                 Calendar Street.  No stop.
  13.     10:52. Westview Street.  17
  14.                 VA Health Center.  No stop.
  15.     10:53. Talbot Avenue.  18
  16.                 Vesta Street.  No stop.
  17.     10:54. Blue Hill Avenue at Wales Street.  17
  18.     10:55. Charlotte Street.  17
  19.     10:57. Ellington Street - Columbia Road - Franklin Park Zoo.  19
  20.     10:57. Pasadena Road.  18
  21.     10:58. Castlegate Road.  16
  22.     11:01. Warren Street at Sunderland Street - Grove Hall.  17
  23.     11:02. Intervale Street.  18
  24.     11:02. Gaston Street.  20
  25.                 Holburn Street.  No stop.
  26.     11:03. Quincy Street.  24
  27.     11:03. Savin Street - YMCA.  26
  28.     11:04. Maywood Street.  25
  29.     11:05. Woodbine Street - Mall of Roxbury.  26
  30.     11:05. Waverly Street.  27
  31.     11:06. Montrose Street.  25
  32.     11:07. Warren Street at Moreland Street.  27
  33.                 Kearsage Avenue - Roxbury District Courthouse.  No stop.
  34.     11:10. Dudley Station.  13 passengers.
  35.                 Malcolm X Boulevard at Shawmut Avenue.  No stop.
  36.     11:13. O’Bryant Park High School.  12
  37.                 Madision Park High School.  No stop.
  38.     11:14. Tremont Street - Roxbury Crossing.  11
  39.                 Tremont Street at Prentiss Street - Boston Police Headquarters.  No stop.
  40.     11:16. Ruggles Station.  End of the line. 
Out of a total of 40 stops, 32 were taken at a minute between stops.  Total time elapsed: 36 minutes.  This isn’t too bad and probably not too much longer than regular traffic.  The number of people getting on and off were one or two per stop except in Mattapan and at Dudley Station.  
Would the 28X be faster?  It’s hard to say, but probably not on a Saturday morning.  If more people had been getting on at every stop, which I assume is what happens during weekdays, the trip would have been much longer.  All in all, it was a pleasant trip.  A tip f the fedora to Operator 67942 for an enjoyable ride.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Inbound meet outbound

Two executive types stopped into Tom English's this afternoon.  You know the type: bespoke, chalkstripe, dark worsted woolen suits with cashmere scarves and camel hair topcoats.  Their silk socks matched their silk neckties and their pocket squares matched their handkerchiefs.  Squares.

These two executive types, reeking of hair oil and aftershave, took the two available seats at the bar between Drunk Charlie and Slats McAdam who were debating the merits of fluoridating water on one end, and Sliver Malloy and Molly, who were debating why Molly doesn't like sleeping in the buff anymore.  It was Inbound meet outbound.

One of the executive types told the barkeep, "I just want a shot of milk."  His companion remarked he was thinking the same thing.  The bartender, none too pleased to be pouring out an ounce of good White Russian ingredient at a low profit margin, asked for confirmation.  "Yep," Executive Number One answered, "Two shots of milk.  I would normally ask for whisky but something about this part of town calms my nerves and I want to keep my stomach settled.  It feels good in Dorchester and I don't want to ruin it by aggravating my ulcer."  His companion concurred.

Two shots of milk it was, neither shaken nor stirred.  The two executive types toasted each other and downed their shots.  They paid their two dollar tab with a three dollar tip, big spenders, and they headed down Dot Ave and then Crescent Street to the JFK/UMASS station.

Once the door closed behind them, Slats McAdam interupted Drunk Charlie's conspiracy monologue.  "I think they were spies," Slats confided.  Charlie looked out the plate glass window at the suspects' backs. "They're not spies," Charlie said, "their just speculators.  I'm gonna speculate they'll be around a lot more in the future."

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."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

You never forget your first day

You never forget your first day in Dorchester, unless you were born here.  If that's the case, your memory may be a bit fuzzy.  There was a lot going on and not much personal back story for comparison.

My first day in Dorchester was in late spring, the tail end of March or the beginning of April.  The trees hadn't yet bloomed.  They waited for my second visit to shower confetti of cherry blossom and magnolia petals.

My boon companion and I walked down Dot Ave from Savin Hill to Ashmont.  We then took Talbot Ave to Blue Hill Avenue.  From that intersection, we walked to Columbia Road and then onwards around the bend to Dot Ave again.  It took about three and a half hours to navigate that oblong route.  We stopped and rested only once, on some steps on Columbia Road.  Afterward, I remarked that my companion must have been hungry with all that walking in the middle of the day and not stopping for lunch or even a snack.  "I was in love," she replied.

Make that double for me.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The T is not a trash can

Monday, February 1, 2010, 1:00 PM on the E Line between Northeastern and Brigham Circle, Car # 3806B...

An outbound trolley had just passed as I my way to the Northeastern platform.  I moved to sit down an enjoy my magazine while I waited for the next train but as I turned my head I saw it exit the tunnel headed my way.  I didn't make it to the head of the platform where the sign says "First Car Stops Here" but the driver saw I was the only person around so he stopped right in front of me.

One passenger disembarked and a young lady ran up behind me from across the street.  "After you," I said.  Ladies first, after all.

The young lady took the first seat available but I headed down the car a bit, toward the second set of doors.  The backwards facing single seat on the port side was empty and I headed for it, but on my way down the stairs I was struck that this was a remarkably dirty train.

I tried to read my magazine (the current New Yorker!) but I couldn't concentrate.  I kept being distracted by the disheveled surroundings.  I took out my notebook and this is what I recorded:

Tattered and scattered pages of the Metro newspaper like a hamster would leave behind if a hamster were the size of a person....sand and road salt everywhere...crumbs in three consistencies, five colors and six Hershey's Dark chocolate bar twisted rope of an individual serving Lay's potato chip bag (original flavor)...a Starbucks cup upside down and drooling light brown ichor...a phone card...a shred of cherry flavored Chap Stick wrapper...a golf pencil...a sheaf of lottery tickets uncurling on a bed of three discarded, scratched scratch-offs...wadded up tissues stained and held into their haphazard origami by earth toned, natural glues....a crumbled Chipotle Grill bag...a trail of Chipotle Grill napkins that led from the bag to the door....

The train arrived at Brigham Circle and I had to stop writing.  I don't blame the MBTA for this state of affairs at this time of day.  I'm looking at you, fellow citizen.  Don't be a litterbug.


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