Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mifflin Street revelries and reflections

Yesterday was quite a frenetic day in downtown Madison, in addition to the typical Madison Farmer's Market, you had the Crazylegs Run, motorcyclists heading up another well-attended anti-Walker rally at the Capitol, and lastly, tens of thousands at the annual Mifflin Street Block Party.

As a decent Wisconsinite, I dropped by the motorcycle rally for a bit, and grabbed a couple of pops at nearby taverns during a bar crawl that's part of Madison Craft Beer Week. Then made a couple of drop-throughs on Mifflin Street. My first go-round was around 1pm, and the streets were already flooded with people, many well on their way past a good time, but relatively tame with a live DJ stirring people up in a goood way. It reminded me of the Mifflins in my college times in the mid-'90s, with lots of drinking inn the street and people bouncing from house to house. Only difference was we didn't have beer vendors serving tall boys- which comes in handy because you can only get single cans of import beers at downtown liquor stores (really dumb law, by the way, only encourages 30-packs of crap to be bought).

Well, I went back to Mifflin about 3:30, and found people beyond shit-faced. Being in my 30s, I'm used to adult drunk (goofy and stupid but somewhat in-character), don't like but understand college drunk ("I don't know where I am and I'm shooting off my mouth, but I'm having a good time"), and Bourbon Street drunk ("I'm too drunk to say anything and I won't remember this at all"). A lot of these kids were at the Bourbon Street drunk level, and when you're barely at "adult buzzed" level observing this, it goes from the "Cool, carzy time" to "Wow, this is messed up."

That didn't change when I wanded up toward State Street to eventually catch a bus on my way home. Bars were jammed at 4pm, and I had to help a freshman find his way back to the dorms after he was falling off of park benches, losing keys, and stumbling out into Johnson St. I get that these things do happen, because I was that kid a few times when I was his age, but it's still not so much fun to see.

Apparently, it was even worse than drunks I observed having about ten too many, as 20 Mifflanders got taken to detox, and 2 people got stabbed. I note that the two stabbings were in parking lots of houses behind Mifflin Street, which have become this crazy wasteland of bottles, cans, and lots of college students and others trying to stay away from the eyes of security (who were patrolling the streets). This might be the biggest thing to look into changing next year, as those lots seem to be prime places for things to get out of hand with much less of a chance of the perps being stopped in time. The cops in the streets seemed to be handling things OK, and were visible enough to be contacted in case something was going to start breaking out (this helped last year when I saw a guy get decked on Bassett and me and a couple of others flagged down a cop who found the guy and got him sent off). But the behind-the-scenes action in the parking lots and on Dayton and West Washington Streets may have to also be looked at. Costs a bit more money, but may well be worth it.

I don't want to see Mifflin go away, but it's going to have a lot more structure next year, based on Mayor Soglin's comments in the article. I'd like to see some volunteers also intermingle in the crowd, as I think some college-age students don't want to deal with cops out of fear of underage drinking tickets and their general lack of understanding about handling bad situations. It's worth looking into.

Now I'm off to stand in line for an event that also has lots of beer, but none of the mayhem and scary-level drunkenness- the tickets for Great Taste of the Midwest. Maybe this says something about people who drink quality beers over quantity ones- a economical tip that college students would be wise to learn. Wish me luck.

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