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MADLAND: A group blog about life in Madison, Wisconsin
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Madland: Willy Street Co-op Reader sock puppets show off the best of neighborhood mania
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We don't always have to take everything so seriously.
Credit:Kia Karlen

The residents of the Williamson-Marquette neighborhood care so much.

They care about the decibels generated by neighborhood music festivals and dance clubs. They care about an increasing number of residential developments. They care about an increasing number of commercial developments.

And they care about the lack of nightshades in the salad bar at the Willy Street Co-op.

As someone who lived on Willy Street for four of the last five years, all that caring can get a little exhausting.

I remember one morning after a blizzard, I was shoveling my car out of the newly created snow bank when a very granola guy rode passed me on cross-country skis and said, "This is why I'm glad I don't own a car!"

That was such a helpful comment and not at all frustrating.

Despite all the passion for sustainability, animals, power line placement and homemade political yard signs, it never crossed the border to truly annoying because Williamson-Marquette has a sense of humor about itself.

When the Willy St Co-op built a second driveway onto Jenifer Street, there were those who acted like it was the end of the world. Cars were soon going to be zooming down Jenifer at 70 miles per hour with the goal of running over as many bicyclists and small children as possible.

It all got a bit silly. In response, a beautiful parody was born: the "Co-Op Driveway Stole My Jacket" Facebook group. Suddenly, the co-op driveway could be blamed for all the evils of the world. Even though the joke has worn a bit thin, the group still gets posts on a regular basis and has become the digital home for affectionate Portlandia-esque self-parody. It's a refreshing break from the passionate fires of neighborhood email listservs.

However, the one part of the neighborhood's culture that's been begging for parody are the letters in the Willy Street Co-op Reader. These missives offer a window into the world of our neighbors who find pre-washed produce to be a life or death matter. My personal favorite was from a patron (or "Owner") who hated that the cashier handed the patron a receipt with the ink side out, thus exposing the patron to dangerous ink toxins.

Madisonians have been giggling about these letters for years but now Sockrates Sock Puppet Carnival of Morals and Logic, itself having an incredibly Willy Street-esque name, is staging dramatic readings of memorable letters. As read by the eponymous sock puppets. The show on Saturday, May 31 at Mother Fools on Willy Street, only a few blocks from the Co-op. (The puppets previously performed back in February.)

A friend of mine suggested that this show like this might be a little too insular or self-congratulatory, but I disagreed. We should celebrate the neighborhoods we live in, even if that means indulging in an in-joke now and again.

More importantly, we should be passionate about things that go on in our community, and we should fight hard for the issues we care about. But we don't always have to take everything so seriously.

Most neighborhoods in Madison have issues they are important to them, from the health of Lake Mendota by Warner Park to hotel subsidies downtown to whatever things they care about over on the west side.

Williamson-Marquette offers a good example for the rest of the city, passionate with a pressure release valve. Write a heartfelt letter and then take a moment to laugh about it. And it's not a bad idea to bring in some sock puppets.

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