Brenda Konkel was burrowed face down into her laptop computer at Falk elementary school on August 26 for the "Neighborhoods Restoring Safety" meeting when I approached.
Before she could hit "save" I bowed low and made a sweeping motion with my right hand holding an imaginary plumed hat.
"Madame Brenda, enchanté."
I moved to give the dear lady a formal baiser on the hand but she neglected to relinquish her grip on the laptop.
Many presume your Blaska Blogger and Madame Brenda are bloodthirsty rivals in the high stakes, on-line blogging business. Although I have won the Isthmus Favorites and Madison Magazine "Best of Madison" contests and Brenda has got diddly squat, we are as close as warlords in Waziristan.
Brenda sympathized with my electoral defeat of 2006.
"Let's face it, Blaska," (for that is her sobriquet for me) "you got hosed, big-time."
I returned the compliment, noting that Brenda was also voted off the island and expressed my gratitude.
I vowed to have the Madame over to Stately Blaska Manor "some day real soon" where she could walk down the fabled "Hall of Famous Politicians."
We would admire the personally inscribed portrait of Tommy G. Thompson and the 3:1-scale statue of Ronald Reagan.
Next, the rare books of the Bill Buckley Memorial Library. The George W. Bush and Family paper doll book shows him in his skivvies. A fine figure of a man. You can put a cowboy hat on him for a Village People effect.
Then on to the Display Case of Rare Artifacts, including the Hillary Clinton nutcracker. ("Place nut between thighs. Squeeze.") The Dick Cheney cigarette lighter shoots flames from two openings!
Then manservant Ruben Mamoulian, newly fitted with one of The Kathleen's ankle bracelets, would serve cocktails while we viewed a video of the little-seen parody of Michael Moore, An American Carol. It would be ever so jolly.
I read in Parade magazine that men should occasionally try listening to women so I inquired, trying to be delicate, "How are things going in your neighborhood since you got the old heave-ho?"
"Tenney-Lapham will never change," Madame Brenda chuckled. "Same bunch of bed wetters! Now we're throwing a hissy fit over the Edgewater Hotel's plans. They're actually trying to expand their business! With a public-accessible roof garden! The nerve!"
Blaska made a clucking sound in sympathy as Brenda's train of Leftist thought careened merrily down the twisting trolley tracks.
"It means more jobs but low-wage, entry-level jobs (Brenda wrinkled up her pink little face as if she had just eaten a sourball) instead of family-supporting, taxpayer-subsidized community advocacy jobs like mine."
"What are you gonna do? Fight City Hall?" I responded, in resignation.
"Exactly!" Brenda said on cue. She related how the city makes developers hold meeting after meeting with the neighborhood before they can rub two bricks together and when she was on Council, how she made them dance like tinhorns to the gunslinger's six-shooter.
I told Brenda I truly marveled at her contribution to Madison's well being.
"Blaska, it's simple. We use a little scam called 'This will change the character of the neighborhood.' It's like crying 'racism' in a crowded public square. Everyone stampedes for the exits while I scoop up the winnings from the poker table."
Blaska took out his notebook and scratched a pencil across the competing analogies.
"Now, if a developer (she expelled the noun from her mouth like a viscous wad of tubercular phlegm) planned a pitched roof we'd say, 'No, we want a flat roof.' If the architect called for brick we'd counter 'board and batten.' If the poor schmuck wanted to build four stories we'd shake our heads, put our hands on our hips, tap a foot like a spinster teacher - unionized of course - and demand three and one-half."
I interrupted. "Three and one-half stories?"
"All the while demanding the housing be cheap enough that a women's studies major could afford it!" Brenda cackled. "We wear them down. Sometimes, they give up and go away. To some place called Fitchburg. Oh, how the pinot grigio flows then!"
Blaska forced a nervous laugh.
"I got to say, Brenda, you folks on the isthmus sure know how to stick it to 'the Man.' We've had some changes here on the Southwest side, too. Changes that have 'changed the character of the neighborhood,' as you put it. And not for the better. The difference is, no one asked for our input."
I had jump-started my activist friend's well rehearsed indignation.
"What changes were done without your neighborhood's express permission?" she demanded.
I explicated, thusly: "Unlike Tenney-Lapham, portions of the Southwest side have become dumping ground for parolees, probationers, gang-bangers, Section 8 supplicants, and drug runners. Whatever it is, we've seen a 30 percent increase in crime. We're straining the capacity of our strained social service agencies. Then there are the quality of life issues: noise, litter, trespassing, jostling, gutter language.
"No one asked us if we acquiesced to these changes in the 'character of our neighborhood.' "
Perhaps my friend had to take an important call on a cell phone set on silent vibrate. Or - I prefer not to dwell on this - there may be a problem with incontinence. In any event, the space once occupied by the doyenne of the Progressive Dane movement was now replaced by the earth's atmosphere, so quickly did she disappear.
I had hoped- had she been able to tarry a little longer - that my bosomy buddy would have shared some of that famous liberal empathy and offered to take her fair share of recent arrivals looking for "a better life."
After all, Meadowood shouldn't have all the fun.
Brenda! BRENDA! (Cue Brandon DeWilde in Shane.) Come back! BREN-DAAA!
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