Published in the Bay View Compass, October 2004
I am Bay View - by choice not birth. Bay View welcomed me. Twenty two years ago my fiancée and I wanted to buy in Bay View; our house hunting stumbled.
Though in love with a woman, I could not forget how Bay View had charmed me, even as my charms expired with my wife. We split; I married Bay View. My first Bay View landlord was slick. Borderline slumlord, still here today buying the politician. He is a Pacman, champing through the scenery, never pooping, with a firm belief in the well constipated portfolio — “wealth is more” — the Monopoly fantasy that works only if you suspend sin and temptation. He promised to finish the siding if only I would move in. Well, the spring rains came, inside, and I packed — after certain words were said. You cannot challenge a landlord’s cash flow, brains, and integrity and expect “happy ever after.” I refused to believe he was Bay View (even his phone number was Elm Grove); and so, Chapter Two. When I see him, aging now while Bay View is rejuvenating, I wonder if he still dreams of a game, Monopoly, and buying that red hotel on Kinnickinnic.
My next landlord cared for the house. He and his wife. It was their nest egg. He tinkered outside, she cut the grass, and they kindly housed me for thirteen years. Then I bought; now I’m my own worst landlord (or tenant); I deserve myself. But my neighbors! What planet is this? They stroll, visit on porches, the kids play hoops, bicycle, and chalk the sidewalk. They (almost) never scold, believe in (almost) unconditional love, and I believe I am in heaven. Pinch me. Talk is civil - about Iraq, schools, Sven’s, and our young. The children of my neighbors are sweet, polite, fun, and they hide their secrets from adults just as we did. Like an evening early this summer, the grown-ups were gone, and the hammock was — naw, I’m not going there. But, dear reader, I will take you to public spaces and private; let’s have civil dialogue and explore our mutual desires for a safe, diverse, and interdependent neighborhood.
But then, does the world need another white male telling us how to live? I make no apologies; I am guilty of white skin and whiter hair, the dinosaur of our times. But you will miss us when we are gone; your grandchildren will study our bones in college. Third World literature will feature our passing in languages you and I have never heard the sound of. Let me put some “meat” on those museum bones before I go. Not all white guys are the same.
Hey, men, we can be so stodgy. Let’s try this: open ears, activate brain, fire questions that make us vulnerable to new ideas. Compassionate? Or unless you mean it, stop saying that other “c” word. “Conservative” has been hanging out in some bad company lately breaking the rules. Let’s call a curfew and bring that word back to the American home, where it will work for a living. Wasting money, lives, and resources is not my idea of Bay View or Washington.
This column will leave the fast lane, write from a bus stop; from a park bench. Oh for a view of Our lake from Our bridge! We will stop and ponder: What is a city?
You can reach Bill Sell at the author’s eMailbox .