exile on Mifflin Street

6 Jamal 165 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  The Pogues, “The Sickbed of Cuchulainn”

Ah yes, the first weekend in May.  Once again, it is time for the Mifflin Street Block Party,  In this time-honored outdoor neighborhood event, undergraduate students celebrate the approaching end of the semester by partaking of spirits, and spreading, er, good cheer amongst themselves and their neighbors.

Easter Fire Champagne Human Man Mifflin Street
Mylene2401 / Pixabay

I usually pray for hail.

Okay, I’m trying not to be a cranky neighbor.  When I was in college, in a neighborhood not unlike the Mifflin Street area, we had a cranky neighbor who forced us to remove some ugly old sofas from our porch.  We were told that they were an eyesore, and was able to invoke some law that somehow prohibits eyesores on one’s property.  But one person’s eyesore is another person’s useful item, and we ended up deprived of a nice place to sit in the summer.

So I think about that when I complain about my neighbors.  Whatever people do in the privacy of their own homes is their business (as long as no one gets hurt)  but clearly there’s lines that need to be drawn.  I need my sleep. I’d like to hear my own music, not my neighbor’s. I’d like to go about my business without having my train of thought interrupted by the chants of “Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer!” And I want to feel comfortable walking on my own block without having to deal with someone who becomes aggressive when they drink.

I’m not the only neighbor over 30 in the neighborhood. So are several of my housemates, and a child lives here part-time. Behind our building is one that has some families living in it, and I occasionally see people with strollers walking down the block.  One block over from the festivities are the Capitol Centre apartments which house many senior citizens.  Do you want to tell all of us to move so students can party without having to worry about disturbing their neighbors?  I thought college was supposed to prepare people for the real world.

As such, I just don’t get this Mifflin Street Block Party “tradition.” The party today is entirely different from the one broken up by police nearly 40 years ago, when it had more of a feel of protest and solidarity. It is now a beerfest that has continued without a permit for years. It costs the city $80,000 to contend with an event people never got permission to hold. 

I think about the values communicated when such a party is permitted to be held. To insist that people have a right to inflict such inconvenience on their neighbors and such expense on the city is absolutely mind-boggling. I wonder if such tolerance would be extended to people holding a similar festival in one of Madison’s low-income neighborhoods.

I don’t necessarily have solutions. I know the city has been trying various ways to deal with the party. It just bothers me that there is such an attitude of entitlement associated with it.

So, tonight, my housemates and I are planning an “Escape From Miffln Street Block Party” excursion to the restaurants and establishments of another neighborhood, perhaps Willy Street or the Atwood area.  And we’ll try to be patient and not get angry about festivities that we can’t do anything about.

Oops, gotta run. Someone’s relieving himself on our property again.  Time to go up to the balcony and pour the boiling oil.

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