Like a landing page for a blog series like this one, the Philadelphia style house became the place I kept returning to. During the last year of my most recent east coast sojourn I rented from a friend in one of Dorchester's many diverse 'hoods; that Fields Corner neighborhood of the Dorchester section of Boston introduces my October places project. Dorchester forms a quarter of the geography of Boston proper; last I knew, Dorchester held about 25% of Boston's population. Nick, my landlord, lived as earthbound a lifestyle as possible in the inner city. He shopped at farmer's market for everything he couldn't grow in his own garden, maintained at least two composts, haunted thrift stores, recycled almost compulsively. He renovated and painted the house's interior and exterior.
After they left Egypt, the history of God's people Israel became the story of their journey toward a landed place where they could settle, obey, live, farm, and thrive—a quest and a hope for free-flowing rivers and boundless goodness from the ground that would help recreate them as free people. End of the last century in Fields Corner gave me a taste of the kind of landed safety Israel yearned for. Dinner conversations with Nick, who did most of the cooking... a couple of parties for neighbors who were moving; several other social gatherings, including a progressive dinner! Listening to music together and Saturday evening Scrabble games. Up, down, and around the street I took photographs with my old Zeiss analog camera. Digital cameras were new, and 1 or 2 megapixels couldn't approach the clarity of German optics. From Fields Corner I ventured to Tall Ships Boston 2000, but decided not to take photographs, since my preoccupation with getting good shots sometimes prevents my being fully present. From Fields Corner I started my first serious online endeavor—an urban group in the now defunct MSN groups. From that Fields Corner place I wrote the intercessions I'd lead at Sunday worship—my first time in forever participating at that level. Fields Corner finally provided a sense of safety, a touch of home. Why didn't I stay? That's a long story, with New England weather not even the better part of it.
I've written about Californian anonymity and rootlessness, but those conditions aren't exclusive to California! California simply engenders them to such a high degree it's the poster state for them. My current pursuit of healthy, affordable housing is a longing and a hope for a place to belong in spite of rootless, anonymous. southern California: a place I'll celebrate because it will play a part in creating my own free future.
You may have heard of greater Boston's MBTA public transit system? Maybe you've ridden the T? My first photo is the station head house of the Shawmut Red Line stop before Fields Corner on the way to Harvard Square; the next three are Nick's house; the fifth picture's Malibu East, a strip beach close to the Savin Hill stop that comes just after Fields Corner.