Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wearing a motorcycle helmet

I've been a little lax on posting recently because I'm occupied packing my saddlebags and poring over maps for the BABE run that starts on Sunday.  Taking a motorcycle from Boston through New York City to New Orleans should be an easy, if long, affair.  Interestingly, Connecticut and Pennsylvania are the only states on the route that don't require use of a helmet.  These are two states that I won't be spending much time in if I stay on course.

I'm from Connecticut and until I moved to Massachusetts, I didn't wear a helmet.  Never liked them.  I still don't like them but I've gotten used to wearing a helmet.  In fact, I'm so used to it that I wouldn't consider taking it off to feel the cool breeze in my hair.

I have both a full face helmet and two visor helmets (five button).  I'll be taking the full face down to the Big Easy.  I'll be wearing the padded jacket and thick pants with armor over the knees.  I'll be wearing the touring boots from Aerostitch that cost so much I can't bear to get rid of them though I rarely wear them.  It's for a ride like this into terra incognita that you need combat touring boots.

So with all the cartographic study and essential packing, I haven't been singing Dorchester's praises.  I am distracted.  I intend to be posting while I'm on the trip though:  A Dorchestarian on the road, as it were.  Once I arrive in the Crescent City, I'll resume my normal schedule of near daily missives to the ether.  I'll be back in Dot at the end of May for a brief stay and then its another cannonball run, that time via UHaul.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another city's Universal Hub

New Orleans doesn't have a Universal Hub or Crescent Hub or Easy Hub or whatever it might be called.  The Big Easy's version that isn't quite as interactive but it's served as one of my online gateways to the Crescent City.  New Orleans Ladder is what it's called, a daily tier of links that people will find of interest about New Orleans.

The daily updates are usually without editorial commentary.  The links in the sidebar are an exhaustive trove of New Orleans' blogs and viewpoints.

My favorite entry from today is The Man Who Knew Too Much.  Evidence of Katrina isn't hard to find in New Orleans and though the city retains it's vitality, the scars and the memories remain fresh.

"A screaming comes across the sky.  It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now."  Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Positive thinking from yesteryear

Do you think the time will come when we will have a 30-hour work week in industry?
Don't know....15

Those who responded in the affirmative were asked: Just your best guess, how soon do you think this will be?
In two years or less.............6%
In two to five years............14
In five to ten years.............18
More than ten years...........13
Don't know when...............6

- From a Gallup Poll conducted January 26-31, 1954 (this was Survey #559-K)

So in 1954, thirty-eight per cent of Americans thought a 30-hour work week was essentially right around the corner.  I'm all for it, but it turns out the thirteen per cent who thought it would take more than ten years were correct.

This is a real poll, by the way.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The bright lights of Mission Hill

I was in the Walgreen's at Brigham Circle on Thursday to buy a roll of cinnamon Mentos.  The guy in front of me in line struck up a conversation with the cashier, who is a friendly, chatty chap to begin with, just the kind of upbeat person you would want manning a cash register.

"It's been a while since I've been here last," the customer said.  "It looks a lot brighter.  You didn't change the fluorescent lights did you/"

"Yessir," the cashier answered, "The company changed all the bulbs about five weeks ago.  They came in and replaced all the fixtures.  The electricians told me they're using a new kind of bulb."

I thought so...I thought so," replied the customer, "It really looks good; brings the color out on the labels.  I noticed it as soon as I came in; the store seems so much brighter.  I was thinking that the last time I was here was a month and a half but you're probably right, it probably was only five weeks."

The cashier remarked that Walgreen's is always trying to improve the shopping experience while the man in front of me was counting out exact change for thirty-nine cents using the smallest denomination coins possible.  When the two of them had concluded the transaction, the customer left on his way telling the cashier, "Tell your manager I really appreciate the effort.  The lights look great."  The cashier said he would.

I don't visit this Walgreen's very often but I didn't notice anything except that the Valentine's Day merchandise had been replaced by beach-themed, summer toys.  The man in front of me must have been particularly attentive to his surroundings.  I noticed that he was wearing sunglasses indoors.  Perhaps he is photophobic.  That would explain his attention to ambient light, but not why he thinks brighter lights are better.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sing along with Dot

Sing along with every dandy, bloke, schoolmarm, spinster, cripple, thug, harlot, tyke and babe that calls Dorchester home!  You know the tune...

Dorchester Man!
Dorchester Man!
Does what no other Bostonian can!
Is he strong?  Listen Bud,
He's got puddingstone in his blood!
Hey there!
Look out for the Dorchester Man!

Can he afford a loaf of bread?
Take a look overhead:
Wherever there's a tightrope,
He always speaks the right trope,
He always walks a fine line
Always just at the right time,
That makes him the Dorchester Man!

In the gloom of night,
At the scene of a crime,
At the speed of a stop light,
He arrives just in time
(to stop one not to commit one)!

Dorchester Man!
Dorchester Man!
Does what no Allston habitue can!
High degrees, he's ignored
Community is his reward!

He finds his thrills on the sidewalk!
He appreciates some straight talk!
He doesn't have any hang-ups,
He's had his share of bang-ups,
Wherever there's a tight spot,
He knows there's a home in the big Dot,
That's why they call him the Dorchester Man!

I did a pastiche on the same theme just seven months ago.  I don't mind returning to the same material to polish it up though.  This version is different and I think much better.  You decide.

Viva  Dot.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I don't follow the mayor

I don't follow Thomas M. Menino on twitter but he follows me.  Today, I asked him to cease and desist.  I doubt the Urban Mechanic himself checks in to see what quip I have to say about Dorchester on a semi-daily basis but it bothers me that some lackey is getting paid to monitor his twitter account and report back during a daily meeting.  I'd rather my tax dollars go toward keeping library branches open.

I don't hate Mayor Menino, but to say I love him would be a gross overstatement, as gross as blubbery lips, ham hands, a thick tongue, cross-eyed myopia, a bleached rollie-pollie belly as big as a sow's in a political cartoon.  I don't disagree with Mayor Menino though I'm obviously not looking for a patronage job.  I think he is a fine public servant.  I think he's a decent mayor.  While I think Boston can do better, I also think it could do much, much worse in the chief executive department.  To say Menino doesn't inspire me is an understatement and I find this to be relatively true among the people I talk to.  Menino doesn't depress me either.  He makes me shrug, "Meh!  It could be worse."  Not high praise, but hardly damnation.

The less I see of the mayor's mug, the better.  I don't want him following me on twitter or on the street.  I don't go out of my way to bump into him and there's a reason for that.  I hear his handshake is clammy and that he spits when he talks.  That's reason enough for me to avoid civic ribbon cuttings.

Wanna see him for yourself?  Here: click this.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Iron Bride of Dorchester

There's a new reality show on a cable network called WZMY (MY TV, get it?).  I don't have cable, so I can't comment on the quality of the programming, but they apparently reach 2.4 million homes in eastern New England so maybe you've watched some of their shows.

They have a show that's in its second season called Iron Brides (TM).  Brides compete to win a videography package for their wedding worth $9,000.   The new episodes hit the air on Saturday, April 24 at 2:30 PM.  It might be worth marking your calendar if it's supposed to be raining this weekend.   All of Season II's contestants are from Massachusetts.

Even though I won't be watching the shows as they are broadcast, I'll have someone record them for me.  It should come as no surprise who I'll be rooting for...none other than Dorchester's own Eileen Weir!  Though I disagree with her favorite restaurant, I agree with her choice of neighborhoods.  The website doesn't say how many episodes it will take to decide who wins the $9000 prize but one thing's for sure: Dot Rats prevail.  I'm sure Eileen is going to give that Rebecca from Sandwich a run for the money.

Thanks to Hollywood East Connection for bringing this to my attention.  Anyone want to meet on Saturday afternoons at Tom English's to cheer Eileen on?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

New Orleans soundtrack

I sit on my Dorchester, Mass. porch with the weather alternating between partly cloudy and drizzle.  As I go about my Sunday routine my mind is elsewhere.  I'm listening to WWOZ, the soundtrack of New Orleans.  I've been listening to the station for a few weeks off and on and I've never been stuck in a dull stretch.

It helps if you like music.  I'm no expert but I don't listen to any Boston stations beyond NPR.  Nothing has caught my ear in the almost three years I've spent on the Boston radio dial.  Is there a Dorchester station beyond the UMASS one?  WUMB, 91.0, does boast providing authentic music for our time.  I don't think folk music is particularly indigenous or relevant to Dorchester or Boston as a whole at this point in time. moment.  I may be wrong.  I admit I haven't looked very hard but whenever I hear folk music in Dot, it's Celtic.

If you want to support your local, Dorchester college station, check out WUMB.  If you want to hear some good stomping and swaying music, check out WWOZ.  Some people dream of the green shores of Ireland when they are in Dorchester.  I dream of New Orleans.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mermaids not the mythical kind

Reports of mermaids off Tenean Beach have been substantiated but they are not buxom young ladies with fish tails plying the tides.  We took a detour to Tenean Beach this morning to investigate.

Young ladies are in the surf but they are lithe, little things with dancers' bodies, two legs and all, and terrestrial without a doubt.  A local Dorchester dance academy (the teacher in charge asked that the institution remain unnamed) is training its students in stamina and mind over body techniques.  Apparently, the very cool waters of Dorchester Bay in mid-April make a better setting than the studio.  "Take your work in the field," is a lesson my art school professors always exhorted.  If it's good advice for painters it must be good for dancers.

Yes, there are young women in Tenean Beach's waves nowadays.  No they are not the mythical mermaids that have haunted many a young Dot swain's fancy as he has walked the shore on moonlit nights alone.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Better living through Kumtek

I was at Euromart at 808 Dot Ave to pick up some smoked trout from the cooler but as I was entering, I ran into John Kumbalowski who was carrying out a six pack of Zywiec, the beer of choice in the Polish Triangle.  We got to talking and he suggested we head over to Cafe Polonia for some kishka and cherry brandy.  An order of kishka only goes for eight bucks and we were splitting a plate so I agreed.

Unfortunately, Cafe Polonia looked a bit too crowded for our tastes so we headed across Andrew Square to the Aces High Tavern.  Since we were now on the Irish side of Andrew, we ordered two Budweisers on tap and John proceeded to catch me up on what's going on his life.

Though he works as a installer at Yale Appliance and Electric, John graduated from MIT in the Class of '91.   He hasn't forgotten anything that he learned as a student and, in fact, he has been pursuing his own interests while off the clock at Yale.   He told me he was starting up his own company in order to manufacture jet engines he's designed and patented on weekends and during vacations.  He asked me if I'd be interested in investing.

I answered that I would be interested and I asked the name of the new company.  John replied, "Kumtek.  It's a combination of Kumbalowski and Technology but I spell technology with a 'k' because it looks more futuristic."

I agreed that the k was cutting edge but I advised him he might want to pick a different name.  I suppose there's nothing wrong with the name Kumtek but it's not the kind of name I'd like to drop in polite conversation.  He said he'd think about it and he did seem thoughtful as we finished our beers.  When we parted company, John asked, "What do you think about Baltek?"

I told him it would depend on the pronunciation and we shook hands.  I headed over to Euromart to pick up my smoked trout.  John headed back to the drawing board with his six pack of Zywiec under his arm.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

As shiny as today


It's as new as tomorrow and just a little bit older than Boston itself.  It's Dorchester, as wide as a mother's love and as deep as Socrates.  Dorchester, Mass., Boston's biggest neighborhood, is so big that three or four old Bostons could fit in it.

If at first you don't succeed, try and try again.  This could be Dorchester's motto and I would submit it so the City Council if someone translates it into Latin for me.  Dorchester already has an unofficial motto, which used to take precedence over all others.  Nowadays, its motto is the same as Boston's.  Something about being founded in 1630 if you look at the city seal.  This is probably best, Dorchester is part of Boston now, lending its geography and multitudes to the greater city to handily deliver votes and secure federal grants.

There is something nice about Dorchester's old motto: Piety, Literacy, Industry.  None of these go out of style.  As new as tomorrow and as shiny as today.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

B.A. on the P.A.

I was musing the other day about how Mr. T would be a good celebrity master of ceremonies in the Dorchester Day parade, marching beside Dorchester's honorary mayor.  People outside Dorchester may wonder how someone qualifies to be Dot Mayor for a year.  They raise the most money to support the parade.

I don't know how much Mr. T, nee Laurence Tureaud, is  charging for personal appearances nowadays but it must be less than when he was riding he crest of popularity of Rocky III and the A Team.  In my book, diverting a few parade dollars to nab Mr. T to ride shotgun in the mayoral float would trump any total dollar amount.  It would be like Louis Armstrong leading the Zulu krewe.

Aside from Dot Day speculations, wouldn't Mr. T be the perfect spokesman for the MBTA?  Again, I would like to point out that in both real and inflationary dollars, the illustrious Mr. T's fee is probably less than it was in the late 1980s/early 1990s.  I wouldn't mind hearing Mr. T warn about trash causing fires on the electrified tracks or advising me to take the T to see the Bruins.  "Fare evasion is a crime, fool!"  Mr. T knows how to deliver a message and he does it much better than the droning voices currently on the T's PA system.  

Imagine standing on the outbound platform of South Station.  Mr. T's voice booms out, "The Ashmont train is now approaching!  Ashmont!  Step back if you want Braintree, this isn't your train!  Braintree's next, wait your turn!  Good things come to the people who wait!  Stay behind the yellow line, don't be a fool!"

Friday, April 09, 2010

Peter Lorre review

For reasons that aren't always clear to me, the Dot Matrix has an affinity for Peter Lorre.  We can blame it on a past interview with Dorchester resident Laurie Masters.

How's the young Ms. Masters doing? you ask.  She's moved to East Boston so I've lost touch with her.  I'm certain all is well though.  She's a bright girl with good taste and Eastie is as fine a neighborhood as Dorchester.  Some might say more so but I'm not one of them.

If you are interested in a review of the movie from which today's illustration is culled, it a hoot from someone who apparently thinks Mr. Lorre smoked too much.  I've quit the cigarettes, myself.  I smoke a pipe instead.  Peter Lorre also smoked a pipe, though not exclusively.  I recently drew a picture based on a photo of him holding a pipe.  I'll post at this site in the next week or two. I'm very lazy when it comes to scanning things.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Don't pity Dot

Some people say Dorchester will take a man and chew him up before the neighborhood spits him out as far as Charlestown or even further: to Somerville or Chelsea or Everett.  Untrue.  Some people say Dorchester will chew a good man up and spit him out the way a junkyard dog devours a tender lamb chop and leaves only shreds of cartilage and bone fragments gnawed free of any marrow scattered willy-nilly on dead pavement.  Also untrue.

Look at Dorchester's outline.  Lower Dot swells like a pregnant belly and the silhouette of Columbia Point could be mistaken for a breast taken out of context from a National Geographic photo.  Dorchester doesn't mutilate.  It builds character.

Can Mr. T serve as a symbol of Dorchester?  Despite the similarities between Mr. T's character and Dorchester's the answer is probably No.  It's hard to have a name like T in Boston and be associated with pride, good service or respectability.  There's no need to pity Dot, indeed, most people who live here would wrinkle their noses at the idea.  People who visit Dorchester don't pity it, they respect it.  Tourists who wander a bit off the Red Line return to wherever they are from with a fresh, independent understanding of what Boston really is: a vibrant, working city rather than a Revolutionary War time capsule.

I think Mr. T's picture above will reappear again and again this month.  He isn't a perfect match for Dot Pride, but there are worse spokespeople we can imagine embodying Dorchester's essence.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Who could put the T in Dot?

We all know Dorchester is the best part of Boston and some people would try to convince you this is a direct affect of the Menino administration.  I doubt it, even if he specially picked his spokesperson, DOT JOYce, for her name.  Personally, I'm surprised she wasn't required to change it to Roxie Mandela when she was hired.

Records show that Dorchester has been very, very good before Menino came along.  Dorchester attracts the kind of people that make it better than good.  Walk around.  On any block of Geneva Avenue or Bowdoin Street you can see Thomas Menino's equal, especially in the mechanic shops.  I wouldn't be surprised if someone who can tune what's under the hood of some of Dorchester's used cars wouldn't be able to tweak and lubricate how the city runs and be just as articulate.

Speaking of articulate, it's just as well that the mayor calls Hyde Park home, but if Dorchester does need one resident who was larger than life, rather than just larger than me, I know who it would be.  Dorchesterites walk the walk and they talk the talk, but wouldn't it be nice to have someone who talked even straighter in a language we could all understand.  Could Mr. T be recruited to march beside the Dorchester Mayor on Dorchester Day?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Nola mayor-elect in Boston

The mayor-elect of New Orleans is in Boston today, spending time in Cambridge and then having a little tete-a-tete with everyone's favorite urban mechanic.  What pearls of wisdom will Boston's longest serving incumbent have to impart to the new guy?

I don't know too much about New Orleans politics at the moment, but Mayor-Elect Landrieu has convened several citizen advisory panels to help him set policy as soon as he takes office next month.  It seems Mayor Nagin wasn't very popular and didn't make many popular decisions.  He beat Landrieu in a close race in the previous election and people have been rueing that turn out in the interim.   Of note, Landrieu has served as Lt. Governor of Louisiana in the past.  That's a nice bit of experience for a city's top official to have.

If you read the Times-Picayune article on Mitch Landrieu's visit to our fair city, you'll see he has unspecified business in town through Wednesday.  I don't think he'll be coming to Savin Hill to congratulate a soon-to-be future immigrant on his wise decision but I do have a piece of advice:

Mayor-Elect Landrieu, before you head back to the beautiful. lively city of New Orleans, you may want to see the most beautiful and lively part of Boston.  Since you are going to be here tomorrow morning head up to Dorchester Heights and stand in the park at sunrise.  Face south and as the rosy sky breaks to gold and cerulean you will see Dorchester stretched out before you in all its majestic glory.  That will give you something to think about when you are considering plans to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East.  You could do far, far worse than match Dorchester's vitality.

I'm sure I'm going to love the Big Easy, but I'm going to miss Dot.

Another piece of advice:  If you want to do anything after midnight, there aren't many options but you can always go bowling.

Monday, April 05, 2010


This isn't about hotties who are recovering alcoholics.  This is about a motorcycle run that starts in the Athens of America and heads through the Big Apple, ending in the Big Easy.  Boston to New York to New Orleans.

I'm going to attempt it in May and I'm poring over maps and planning how to pack my saddle bags.  My Little Ninja had some electrical problems recently and I brought it to the shop.  I told Bob that I wanted the battery ship shape because of what I was planning.  "Are you hoping to find yourself?" he asked.  I replied that I think I have already found myself but I have to get the bike to the Big Easy somehow and driving it seemed the most straightforward way.

Why does my motorcycle need to be in New Orleans?  Because that is the city I intend to call home.   Boston is okay but I like to stay out late.  Dorchester has been the best part of Boston, but like the city at large, Dorchester loves its beauty sleep.  The living is easy in Dot but the whales are jumping in New Orleans.  At least one will.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

I kissed a girl

I kissed a girl.  She's really more of a woman.  Well, she's really more of an old woman.  The fact that I'm male and have kissed a few in my day (if I'm forced to blushingly admit) isn't particularly revelatory.  I doubt this report will go platinum, but here it is:

Old Widow McGrue was sitting on her front porch on Aukland Street looking rather glum as I was meandering my way to the Savin Hill T station.  Service has been reliable recently, running on time, so I wasn't rushing in a worry that I would miss a train.  I asked the Widow McGrue what ailed her.

"Today is my wedding anniversary," she said.  "Old Man McGrue and I would have been married 53 years today if he hadn't passed away in 1997."  I happen to know from previous conversations that the old man passed away on the job a few weeks away from retirement as a stevedore at the docks in Southie.  He was crushed to death under a pallet of bananas.  What a way to go.

"You know what the worst part is?" she asked.  "The worst part is that I haven't been kissed since my dear old man left me for a better world."

I walked up the front porch steps and planted a peck on the Widow's forehead.  "It's time to start counting again," I said.

I made my way to the T station.  The Alewife train was pulling in just as I got downstairs to the platform.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

I was a little bit slower at work than usual today.  I was employed in my usual foot dragging and feigned incomprehension, but I was yawning while I was doing it.  Cubby, the mail jerk, shouted out over the cubicles, "Hey, WK!  Ya seem out of sorts!  Whatsa matta?  Hungover?"

No, Cubby, I wasn't suffering from a katzenjammer even though I had been enjoying adult beverages only a few hours earlier.  I attended a party on Taft Street last night and, since it was within walking distance of chez King, I was able to stay until the festivities petered out to nothing since I didn't have to rely on the MBTA to get home.

No one was shot, no one's finger or ear was bitten off, there weren't any fisticuffs.  In fact, there weren't any arguments and I didn't hear one cross word or cuss word until I beelined my way homeways along Dot Ave where a couple of cabbies were arguing in front of the Ryan Playground.  It was good, clean fun, the way people entertain themselves in Dorchester.  Lacking many nightclubs or any movie theaters, Dorchesterites tend to make their own fun wherever they congregate.  Unlike many New Englanders, the people of Dorchester have a reputation for being warm, even on the last day of March, the butt end of winter.

While I was sluggish this morning, it wasn't because of the ample social lubricants that were served.  You know, when you're dancing at a Dorchester party you burn all the alcohol out of your system even if you're just running on fumes the next day.


Related Posts with Thumbnails