An Israeli in Mattapan

UPDATE: A.A. has shut down his blog.

A.A., an Israeli now living in Boston, arranged to pick up a dresser and a couple of bookcases found via Craiglist. He reports on his trek to get them - in Mattapan:

... Mattapan was quite a scary experience. We were stared at. Na'ama said panicky "take your [yarmulke] off!" It was generally an unpleasant experience. What we did not know at the time, but my colleagues and friends were glad to point out in a "are you nuts" kind of a way, was that Mattapan is better known by its endearing nickname of "Murderpan". You can guess why. One of my colleagues said she's glad we made it. ...

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      Comments

      WTF is this guy's problem ???

      He is from Israel where they have to deal with suicide bombers, rockets fired from neighboring countries, and all kinds of other nasty things that Americans fortunately never have to encounter day-to-day. He comes to a quiet, peaceful American city and goes apeshit because he encounters Strange Black-Colored people? Like there are no Ethiopians in Israel?

      I am pretty confident in asserting that at this moment, the only white people in Mattapan were Na’ama, me, and, as it turned out, Arther, a French student who sold us the furniture.

      Obviously he has never heard of Tom Finneran.

      If a given neighborhood is south of the center of the city of Boston, then you’re probably heading straight towards SOUTH BOSTON!

      Oh boy, I'm really looking forward to this guy's next adventure getting lost in our city.

      Hrm...well last time I

      Hrm...well last time I checked there weren't alot of loud, gangsta type black folks in Israel.

      Typecasting an entire neighborhood? I see. Wake up. I'm sure Mattapan has nice parts...I'm sure that there is a nice part of having an anal rash as well, though I can't think of one for either right now.

      Yes, Mattapanm and Roxbury had a large Jewish population, a long time ago. Then the neighborhood declined and a certain class of people moved in, and a certain class of people moved out, and then urban decay set in during the late 70s and 80s. Would you prefer that the South End annexes the area and adds more Crunch Fitness, Starbucks and Wine bars so as to bring up the land value?

      You know, people can piss and moan all they want, and act all bleeding heart liberal they want, but if you take the map of the T subway system and compare racial populations, incomes and crime rates at each stop, I doubt anyone would be surprised. That's the reality of this city, this country, and this world. You can have your cheap two family in Rozzie and your 'authentic' local cuisine; I'd rather take a place where I don't need to worry about my wife getting assaulted or my kid getting hit by a stray bullet because two kids are fighting over a game of Madden 07 or a crack vial.

      Answer with as much sarcasm as you like, or inform us all about the 'hidden jewels of Mattapan' right between the crack den and the "Checks Cashed" place.

      Try again...

      "Then the neighborhood declined...

      Wrong. Try it this way: Then the neighborhood was
      redlined and blockbusted by a lot of shady real
      estate agents with the collusion of the local banking
      community and political infrastructure.

      Just the other day

      I was telling my little boy not to fight over the crack vials. There are enough for the kids to share.

      Oh, did I mention it's absolutely horrifying here in Roslindale? Just the other day a suburban momma's boy like you came to visit, and we made him into authentic local cuisine. Did you know that cracker tastes best with a mustard-based ('yellow') barbecue sauce?

      Oh, yes

      Everybody who lives in Boston gets welfare, didn't you know that? Personally, I just back the Cadillac I bought with food stamps up to the bank and shovel the money right into the trunk. Then I try to shoot faster than the neighbors on the way home. It's just like Grand Theft Auto. Don't come to Boston! It's scary! Especially Roslindale!

      'Checks Cashed' place

      I don't like them either, since they are rip-offs. But do you also stay out of Central Square in Cambridge, or Union Square in Somerville, just because it has one of these storefronts?

      Google Maps even shows them in Watertown Square and Waltham Center. Unfortunately, you'll find them anywhere where you find immigrants who don't trust our banking system.

      Slu-Slu-Slumerville!

      All the places you've listed are holes I wouldn't normally go to anyhow...so whats your point? Oh look, there's a farmers market in Union square, it must be progressive and up and coming!

      Howse that Ikea going? Oh wait, Slumerville thinks it is too good for some chain stores; it might take away from the Panache of the Assembly Square Mall.

      I'm seriously wondering

      I'm seriously wondering where this anon, if this threadlet is all the same anon, lives, to be so secure in its criticism of almost every neighborhood in the area.

      Well, anon? Where DO you live? Is it actually anywhere in the Boston area, or are you posting from your nice safe bunker in Montana?

      Incredible

      This is an amazingly ignorant comment with not too thinkly veiled overtones of racism. I hope, at the very least, that you have been to Mattapan and are speaking from some personal experience, rather than pure ignorant bigotry.

      Interesting, because I don't

      Interesting, because I don't recall him saying he ran into "loud, gangsta type black folks." Aside from people staring, there's no actual elaboration on why it was such an "unpleasant experience." Certain class? I'd offer that Mattapan, Roxbury, and Dorchester have some of the most diverse socioeconomic ranges in the city. It is not an-all poor or lower class neighborhood. But it is unfortunate that even locals can still be apparently biased against certain neighborhoods without seemingly ever visited them (in reference to your nice parts comment) much less people who just moved here days ago.

      History of the downturn

      Anyone who lives in Dorchester/Roxbury/Mattapan, or for that matter, anyone who has an opinion about their Boston neighborhood compared to the above mentioned three, should really read "death of an american jewish community" by Hillel Levine and Larry Harmon. The depth of the book goes beyond the title.

      I live in the most diverse zip code in the entire U.S.--02125. Would not move out for anything, and don't like any stereotypes, especially the ones about what determines property values (for worse or better). And let's talk about the behind-the-scenes blockbusting that's happening today in my neighborhood.

      Yeah, clueless

      Re-read the orginal post. Culturally clueless
      (and offensive) and also map-challenged:

      "If a given neighborhood is south of the center of the
      city of Boston, then you’re probably heading
      straight towards SOUTH BOSTON!"

      SOUTH BOSTON IS PROBABLY JUST AS BAD AS
      MATTAPAN! ASK ANYONE!

      Oh, the horror, the HORROR! Mr Kurtz, him dead!

      Bad news is that he was buying furniture, so looks like
      his presence here near SOUTH BOSTON is long term.
      Would have been better for all involved if he was
      heading towards EAST BOSTON to board a plane back to
      Israel.

      Yes, that 'go back where you

      Yes, that 'go back where you came from' attitude shows how classy you re. Let me guess, Framingham State or Mass Bay?

      Hey, no one said Southie was paradise. Every time I go there, I bring out my track suit and buy a handful of scratch tickets so as a blend in.

      so?

      Your account is still anonymous, since we have no clue who the fuck you are and you can make up any username you like. Furthermore, nothing stops people from creating multiple accounts and playing sock-puppet games, since we can't see your IP, when you created the account, etc.

      We?

      By "we" do you mean you and the other incoherent, foul-mouthed twits, the many heads of the juvenile hydra known as anonymous? Nah, of course you don't have a clue. Gotta agree with you there, kid.

      Or by "we" do you mean the regular contributors to this site? Because we who regularly contribute to this site do care who wrote a snotty, obscene drive-by, and we do come to know each other, just a little bit, over time. I don't much care where these folks live, or what their full names are. We don't get together for drinks or to sing kumbaya, or plot world domination. But we consider each other to be people and known entities to some extent.

      You? Meh. You're just an annoying gnat blown through on the breeze.

      Furthermore, yes, something does stop people from creating multiple accounts and playing sock-puppet games. It's called Adam.

      And if you want to see when I created the account, that's entirely possible. You see that part where my name is a hyperlink, and yours isn't? Them's fer clickin.

      North = good, South = bad?

      "3. Same goes for LA, Chicago, and almost any other major city. Keep north.

      4. Does anybody know of any research out there explaining the phenomena of southern parts of cities being the bad neighborhoods?"

      Where does he get this shit? So he listened to a Jim Croce song and read an article about the Rodney King riots and therefore all cities are bad in the South? In both cases, keep heading south and you again reach some pretty high end neighborhoods. And of course, it should go without saying, but there's nothing wrong with Mattapan. I am often the fourth white guy in that neighborhood. I even take the bus to Mattapan Square at times!

      "South" Boston

      The southiest of "South" Boston, southier than even Mattapan, is Hyde Park, which has some of the biggest, most expensive single-family homes in the city (up on Fairmount Hill). And "North" Boston certainly has poverty - Charlestown and East Boston are not (yet) exclusive yuppie enclaves.

      "He is from Israel where

      "He is from Israel where they have to deal with suicide bombers, rockets fired from neighboring countries, and all kinds of other nasty things that Americans fortunately never have to encounter day-to-day."

      Yes, my teenage cousin who is in the Israeli Army can attest to that. But he's also less likely to get mugged or shot in a drive by.

      Why don't you open The Book

      Why don't you open The Book and be helpful instead? Maybe offer some insight into why a stranger to our fair city shouldn't be weary of meeting a stranger in Mattapan?

      Use this map to give directions.

      Welcome to Boston. These comments are prime example of the intolerance in this city - hypocritically denouncing intolerance while fully supporting it.

      "social strata"?

      "Na’ama noted that it is strange that I have to deal with claims of segregation in Israel/the PA day in and day out on college campuses in Boston, when the city itself is divided by social strata, which is inevitably (inevitable for the US, 2008) also a racial segregation"

      Oh wow. Nothing like comparing religious/ethnic segregation via ghettos with giant barbed-wire-topped concrete walls and machine gun turrets to..."social strata".

      friggin idiot

      i wonder if the people from mattapan take off their hoodies when they venture into milton.it must be scary for a young black guy to be surrounded by all those "people".

      i personally hope this guy has to go back into mattapan and gets his ass beat.maybe he could tour the whole city? get a beating by a black guy in mattapan, a gay guy in the south end, irish drunk in southie, new jersey student in brighton, punk rocker in allston, clean cut irish catholic CM hockey player in west roxbury....I could go on and on.

      Well, I'm very careful about

      Well, I'm very careful about driving through certain neighborhoods of Newton and Brookline. We Lock the car doors and don't stop for red lights just in case someone tries to hijack the car with a machine gun: "I claim this automobile in the name of Israel!" It's happened. I read it on the internet somewhere.

      i personally hope this guy

      i personally hope this guy has to go back into mattapan and gets his ass beat

      Yeah, that'll help the perception of the neighborhood.

      At least then Universal Hub would include a google map of where it happened.

      Irish drunk

      Yes the Irish are all drunks and they live in South Boston. Typical bigotry from a blogger boy of the tree-lined streets of some Junior League suburb.

      How many of you have lived in Mattapan?

      I did, off of River Street. Lower Mills, actually, but just feet from the border. 37 years. Many thousands of hours in Mattapan Square and environs. Ate at the Burger King, shopped at the Purity, bought smokes at Sunny's Cigar, bowled at what became Lane's, drank at The Brown Jug and Tom English. OK, that's my cred. Here's my opinion.

      Mattapan could easily be a scary place for someone who doesn't know the area. You could be black, white, asian, whatever. Some sections of it are not safe. I wouldn't have any trouble walking any of it because I know it. However, I wouldn't send someone I love there, by themselves, unless I knew where they were going and how well they could handle themselves should a rough situation occur.

      Are there wonderful people and places in Mattapan? Of course. Are there horrible people and places in Mattapan. Of course. And prejudices exist all around us, including in Mattapan and among its people. What it comes down to is percentages, just as with any other place. Having lived there, and because of my own ethnic makeup, I can tell you that it has a higher percentage of people and places I would consider dangerous than, say, Wellesley. Not a big surprise.

      That a person from another country might find it intimidating? Also not a big surprise.

      If you all got down off of your soapboxes and relaxed, you'd probably enjoy the day more. Chill.

      Suldog
      http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

      Lower Mills represent!

      Yeah to all of that.

      I'm off River Street myself. Love me some Flames and some Chez Vous and some Franklin Park of a Sunday in June. I used to run a lot of errands up and down Blue Hill Ave for a caterer I worked for in the area. And yes, chunks of Mattapan are legitimately scary, especially if your pastiness can be seen from space.

      Yup

      "... especially if your pastiness can be seen from space."

      Indeed. My complexion can best be described as "fish belly" :-)

      It's not a mark against any particular race or ethnicity. Some white folks might feel less safe in certain areas of Mattapan in the same way that some black folks might feel less safe in certain areas of Southie. It's just the way it is, unfortunately.

      Suldog
      http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

      double yup

      It does indeed cut both ways. My mom's fiance is a ranked chess player who spent thirteen years getting his PhD from Harvard. He has a story about a black chess player he knew who was visiting Boston for a tournament. The guy insisted on rolling up all the windows in the car whenever they drove through Southie. Wouldn't so much as set foot on East Broadway.

      Crime? Try infestation.

      I hate to detract from the emotional debate going on regarding crime in Mattapan, but I'm surprised that no one has pointed out the greater danger from bedbugs.

      Used furniture is something I once happily picked up from yard sales, sidewalks and secondhand stores...but not anymore. I never brought home any new roommates with my past acquisitions and, I'd like to make sure that never changes.

      right, bedbugs only affect black people? *rolls eyes*

      Bedbugs are just as much or more of a problem elsewhere. Allston has huge problems with them, and a coworker who was a student at MIT was living through hell as MIT struggled to kill an infestation in her dorm. It was a months long saga of fumigations.

      So again, let's cut the bullshit racism, eh?

      I pointed this out on his

      I pointed this out on his blog, but folks, he's lived here for ten days.

      Ten. Days.

      Culture shock will get you every time; can't we just chalk it up more to that than to his being inherently racist?

      (I'm not saying he's NOT racist; I don't know...I'm just saying there's the possibility of a more benign explanation.)

      I understand that when you

      I understand that when you blog you are posting your opinion for the entire planet to read. Without my knowledge or permission, a couple of my blog posts have been plastered across the main page of Universal Hub. This has lead to an onslaught of strangers whom I don't know to judge me because they didn't like one particular blog post.

      I don't know who this Israeli in Mattapan is and I certainly don't agree with his opinions. However, he is entitled to his take on Mattapan, albeit a negative one at that. Honestly, this guy probably doesn't even know that Universal Hub picked up his piece, nor that a bunch of strangers are tearing him a new asshole for posting his thoughts.

      If you don't like what he or anyone else writes, comment directly on their blog or do a tactful and respectful rebuttal on your own site. Don't viciously attack someone under the cover of anonymity - that's just plain mean.

      So, wait...

      You get the part where when you put something up on teh internets, you are posting it for the entire planet to read... and you don't get the part where other people get to choose where they talk about it?

      I guess I approve of you not being the guy who gets to make up the rules.

      True, but ...

      At the same time, somebody who is blogging in her own quiet little world who suddenly gets hubbed (and, yes, I've seen people use that word!) can be open for a bit of a rude awakening. Not necessarily fair to that person - although some people want to be linked here (and I encourage folks to e-mail me with stuff I might have missed) - others might not.

      Also, I've also wondered about the whole "comment on UH rather than on the originating site" thing. It's cool for UH, natch, but, well, is it unfair in any way to the blogger who actually wrote what we're talking about? Why shouldn't she get the page views?

      Ironically, we're often in that position at work; we get Slashdotted or Dugg or whatever - we certainly appreciate the pageviews we do get, but wonder why people don't stick around on our site.

      Not that I'm busy right now whipping myself with a thorn or anything, but at some point, a site becomes big enough to become a potential issue for the other sites it links to (not in a server-overload sense here, UH isn't THAT big, but in terms of the types of comments).

      Is it unfair? No.

      The reason we comment here is because there is a group of people here who comment, in whose reactions we are interested. We all want to argue with each other. Sometimes we do stick a comment on the originating blog, which sinks like stone to the bottom of a small pond. There's no point in registering at every Tom, Dick, and Harry blog out there just so you can whistle in the wilderness at a hundred remote locations.

      Me, Too

      I'm so glad they re-opened that line. It was a huge part of my childhood in that neighborhood.

      (I know I may sometimes seem to post links to my stuff at the least provocation, but some of you on this thread may find my post concerning a return to my old neighborhood [Lower Mills] of interest in the context of this discussion, so here's the link...

    • http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com/2005/08/return-to-ca...
    • Written August, 2005)

      Suldog
      http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

      I should note that my

      I should note that my personal experience with Mattapan comes from driving through it. It wasn't until I saw a sign saying I was in Mattapan that I realized where I was.

      I thought it looked similar to various parts of Roxbury, Dorchester, and JP.

      Ain't nothin' wrong with

      Ain't nothin' wrong with some good old-fashioned soapboxin'.

      Seriously, though, people toss around comments that are racist/sexist/homophobic/otherwise-prejudiced without intending them to be such or having any idea that they might be taken that way. I mean, look at all the folks so eager to call Mr. A.A. a racist. Personally, I doubt he's a hardcore racist. But 95% of Israel is Jewish or Arab...I'm sure some of them are of African origin but how does that compare with Mattapan's 77% black population*?

      I think he wrote what he wrote out of ignorance rather than malice. Likewise, I think that people who state they don't want to know what people do in their bedrooms are speaking from ignorance rather than malice...it honestly doesn't occur to them that people are gay 24/7, not just in their bedrooms. And it doesn't occur to them that it's harmful to constantly hear that we're supposed to just suppress a large part of ourselves so that other folks don't feel uncomfortable. And I don't think there's anything wrong with politely pointing that out.**

      *Percentage from cityofboston.gov; does not include multiracial or non-white Hispanic people.

      **Disclaimer: I am clearly extremely biased here.

      Why can't

      You say these reasonable things in an unreasonable manner so that I can berate you?

      I think mr hide-the-yarmulke got such a rise out of people here mostly because of the colossal scale of his ignorance. You drive south to get to South Boston? Personally, I found him more funny than offensive. The AAAH! NEGROES! response is practically slapstick. And, yeah, it seems reasonable to cut the new guy a break.

      Some of those anonymice, on the other hand, that's where you get to teh offensive. People who live here ought to know better, and I am truly sick and tired of people calling any neighborhood that isn't lily-white a ghetto.

      As for suppressing part of yourself so that other people don't feel uncomfortable, I'll say please don't, because that makes me, for one, feel more uncomfortable. Other people's neuroses shouldn't be your problem, let alone your neurosis. Sometimes when a person feels (s)he can't act natural, (s)he acts unnatural, which makes it all worse.

      I think maybe some resentment about that gets built up, and it's much easier to let it off online in a high-minded tirade against somebody unsuspecting and unrelated than it is to really be there in the moment of the conflict, and handle that well. Sometimes when people say they don't care if a person is gay or straight, what they mean is not that they want you to tiptoe around them and avoid putting pictures on your desk, but that they'd rather everybody just got over it and acted natural. My colleague Tom once said to me that he just assumes everybody he works with knows he's gay, and is really surprised when they don't. I think that's a pretty healthy attitude.

      "You say these reasonable

      "You say these reasonable things in an unreasonable manner so that I can berate you?"

      Oh yeah? Well, I could say the same to you, Mister Intelligent-And-Reasonable-Discourse!

      Hm...that didn't work so well.

      Anyway, I pretty much agree with everything you said up there, and you're totally right that other people's neuroses aren't my problem...but for some folks, that neurosis builds up into rage, and then I could get killed for being queer. Within the past week, a trans woman was killed in her apartment in the Bronx and a 15-year-old gay kid was shot to death at his school, and wow am I getting off-topic here.

      It's a safety issue in that way; whereas I think if queers were more visible and more people realized they actually know and like one or two, that would go a long way towards making the whole thing the non-issue you and I both wish it were.

      I like the way your colleague thinks. But I have to say there's a difference between "not caring if a person is gay or straight" and "not caring if someone's gay as long as I don't have to know about it".

      (And I can vouch that eeka would totally say the exact same thing to someone in person that she did online; she's not one to let stuff go by and then stew about it until she needs to attack the INterwebs.)

      just under the wire

      And just when I'm ready to (mentally) write off a commenter for wasting his typing on the annoying and usually-anonymous ghetto-phobes, he goes and says something that warms the cold cockles of my cynical heart.