Saturday, May 28, 2016

From General Orders No. 11

Without putting too fine a point on it I guess, today, Saturday, is for all intents and purposes the official start of the holiday weekend. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you I took a vacation day yesterday because the people with whom I work deserved a break. 

I’m not going to get stuck in that ‘let’s check the weather’ trap to see what kind of plans I’ll be making because aside from attending some local observances on Monday I don’t actually do the planning in my house. Sigrid, my wife, does. Forty years on, she’s earned the right to do that.

I served eight years in the Air Force as, don’t snicker, a radio and television weenie (that’s what we called each other, but only when no one was around). Vietnam was ending (actually Saigon fell while I was in basic training), and the “All-Volunteer Force” had started as did my quarrel on behalf of language lovers everywhere (my point: since I was being paid, I was a ‘professional’ not a ‘volunteer.’).

It’s okay; no one ever paid me any mind when I hollered about it then, either. I spent 13 months with “The Friendly Giant of the North,” AFRTS Sondrestrom, ninety miles north of the Arctic Circle and went from there to American Forces Network, Europe, Headquarters in Frankfurt am Main (West) Germany. 

I lost a friend in Sondy, Jack, who drowned in a freakish set of circumstances involving the 24 hour a day Arctic summer sunshine, a wild river and a tipped raft and then, years later, we all lost Bruce and Mike when the rotors on an Army chopper they were aboard for a story about an international parachutists' jump at the Mannheim air show stopped rotating and all of them became the day’s only story.

All in all, for eight years, I’d be hard-pressed to tell you who in any service at any time had an easier duty. Oh, every once in a while a record might skip, or a cart wasn’t re-cued but nothing that caused the Russians to cross the Fulda Line. The hardest part was running into folks on flight lines or out on tank ranges who would tell me how much what I was doing meant to them while they were the ones always in harm’s way. 


Especially when in the decades since I stopped being in the Air Force we got very serious about how often we sent people into combat way and a helluva lot less concerned about the consequences for feckless and reckless foreign policy that resulted in Americans coming home in body bags.  Anyway. All of that is a preface to encouraging you to read all of this.

-bill kenny

Friday, May 27, 2016

Walkers and Crawlers

I'm always delighted by small children and infants though I’m often annoyed at parents who don't keep better control of them in social environments. I was shopping in my local grocery yesterday afternoon and hadn't realized it was 'bring your mewling child to the store with you' day because I was up to my butt in unhappy young people.

When that happens, I tend to go with the flow and get cranky myself. Trust me, it’s not pretty. Don't get me wrong-I'm not angry with the children. A newborn didn't decide to get in the car and drive to the mall. Mommy did. Or maybe daddy but based on what I saw yesterday, more than likely not, though mommy probably wishes she knew where daddy was.

I don't know when we became a country of the very young and the very old but having been the former and now being the latter let me tell you that all you other age groups, and food groups for that matter, had best start pulling your own weight around here.

We spend way too much money in these parts on diapers and Depends. We built this nation for our children; that's the deal every generation works with the one that follows except now we sold our children and their children out for off-shore bank accounts and left them with no skills, few jobs, and little hope.

We're so busy blaming the New World Order and the changing times that we have no time to look in the mirror and look at ourselves. When Gandhi talked about being the change you want to see in the world, he wasn't talking about looking under the couch cushions in the living room. He was talking about all of us to each of us, for everyone. As someone running for President who’ll never become the President keeps pointing out, “Be the Change before You See the Change.”

If being polite means being less than honest, maybe we should ask one another if that's too high a price to pay for comity. We owe each other the unvarnished truth in order to build a world in which we all want to live. Hurt feelings are a luxury we most certainly can afford if they get us to where we need to be.
-bill kenny  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

See the Sky About to Rain

I had an alert when I awoke yesterday morning from The Weather Channel on my phone about some tropical depression in the Caribbean with a chance to be the first hurricane of the season (!) Umm, I was still savoring the first butterfly of spring. I think we may be rushing the seasons faster than even Vivaldi would've liked. 

Touch wood (taps skull) we're months away from hurricanes here in the Northeast where all we really do is go to the store and buy bread, eggs, and milk (I typed that out of order and am so anal I fixed it). While homes get swept away along the Jersey Shore and towns disappear in Florida and North Carolina, we seem to make French Toast. Who knew?  

And even though I gripe about it, I'll head to the grocery store when the $*it gets real, because that's what I do. It's always the same. The aisles are jammed with neighbors whom I've never met and people I see all the time whose names I'll never know. So much for Norman Rockwell's portrait of America, eh? Though, I'm not even sure if the Saturday Evening Post is still extant. 

And why would we want it when we have tabloids to tell me "Rachel Ray Throws Out Husband" and to read that Katie is worried about her marriage to Tom. I have no idea whose these people are but nevertheless, I feel sorry for them. A grocery store gawker like me is reading all about them and there's nothing they can do about it.Their as-imagined-by-their-press-flacks lives add a lustre to my own.

Where else, but standing in the checkout line at a supermarket can I experience, admittedly vicariously, so much so quickly? How goofy must we now be that Weekly World News, the tabloid that had 'Bat Boy' and the alien shake hands with everyone from H. Ross Perot through George Bush, both H. and W., ceases publication because of flagging sales?

I LOVED WWN because I trusted EVERY news report, photo and feature was utterly bogus and knew I was never going to be disappointed. And what about the folks who placed ads in there! What were they thinking and who buys that stuff now that the newspaper is gone?

Lots of rainy day thoughts and concerns until we stand bravely and mostly silently behind one another waiting for the register operator (they're not really 'cashiers' anymore are they?) to say hello and ask us how we are, without ever waiting for, or listening to, the answer. 

We're past 'paper or plastic' aren't we? We may have given Al Gore an Oscar and a Nobel for his eco-movie, but I drove in my car all by myself and bought enough items ludicrously over-packaged to single-handedly choke a landfill. Then I return home, enjoying the buzz from a food snack I bought and ate even though I shouldn't have. Empty calories are the best. They go straight to the waistline and skip the brain. 

I've waited all winter for sunshine and blue skies but I'm forced to admit: we need to have more hurricanes and more often-helps us get out of the house and mingle. Man, I can't wait but I guess I'll just have to, we still have all this spring and summer to get through.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Other Plans for Monday

We’re so close to the traditional unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day, that many of us can already taste the burgers and hot dogs grilling on the barbecue. Although it’s only Wednesday some have been checking the weekend weather forecast so often already, Jim Cantore called to ask if we’re okay (and to see if should bring a covered dish or something to the barbecue Monday).

We’re so set on getting our Summer On we might lose sight of what Memorial Day was intended to be, and, for some still is. Some of us have parents who can remember when Memorial Day was called Decoration Day and even farther back than that, it was an attempt to honor the war dead of the War Between the States, evolving into a remembrance of all of those men and women in uniform who sacrificed their lives to preserve our liberties.

Across the country and throughout Norwich we’ll have memorials and remembrances. My family lives close to Chelsea Parade, close enough I regularly walk among the various markers where Broadway and Washington Street separate to this city’s war dead in all the conflicts which have both shaped and shaken our nation. I fully expect to join others there for a moment of silence and reflection for sacrifices past that makes today and all of my tomorrows possible.

And I hope you, too, have an opportunity to remember. If I may, I’d suggest a perfect moment to say thanks would be this Monday morning at ten at the Memorial Park in Taftville, next door to the Knights of Columbus Hall on South Second Avenue.

Each year, the Taftville American Legion Post 104, the ceremony organizers, honors a Taftville resident who gave his life during wartime. This year Chief Motor Machinist Mate Leo Bedard who died on USS Grunion (SS-216) in July 1942 will be remembered.

The organizers are welcoming members of the Bedard family, and the day will be that much more special if an even larger than usual attendance helps underscore how much we value the Chief’s sacrifice.

Ceremonies like this, the Wreath Laying at Little Plains Park Memorial at eleven, and the Memorial Day Parade at noon at The Cathedral of Saint Patrick are poor compensation for the dreams and lives many in uniform sacrificed for opportunities and privileges many of us take for granted.

Freedom has a price and each generation learns its cost. Memorial Day is our thank you to the heroes who paid the price. But we should ask ourselves what is our responsibility to them? We live in a world of instantaneous communication and television sound bites where history and news are often confused with trends and ephemera that make memories meaningless. 

On Memorial Day, we honor and remember all in military service who died because freedom is our most precious gift. Our heroes forfeited their lives for that belief and their sacrifice demands that we live as engaged and energized citizens who deserved their sacrifice because we do.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

There's Probably a Catch

Sometimes life is so surprising. And sometimes it's us and has little to do with anything we might ever think of as life.

Here's a loaded question that was the online survey question in my hometown newspaper, The Bulletin, this past Sunday. Maybe you can see the trick in the question; I didn't and still don't but judging from the percentages of the answers, there must be something I'm missing.

Here goes: TAKE OUR POLL
Would you be willing to quit smoking, cut back on drinking, maintain a healthy weight and get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week in order to reduce your chances of getting cancer?

Need more time to answer? No? You're sure? Well, if you guessed 100% of those who took the on-line survey answered yes, you are wrong.
Serious, here it is:

Yes
73%

No
27%

I guess it's true.
"There's no cure. There's no answer. Everything gives you cancer."
-bill kenny




Monday, May 23, 2016

All Too Human All Too Often

On Saturday evening, shortly after eightish (more dark than light here in the Northeast, but still some light) the 'phone pole' behind our house, bordering the right of way and it was pretty scary.

Our daughter, Michelle, grabbed video as I stared out the back door without my glasses in the general direction of the brightness. I still call them "phone poles" because that's what they were called where I grew up. These days, the poles support electrical cables, phone lines and cable though in our case we'd only need two as cable and phone are brought to us on fiber optic I'm told.

Fire like this fascinates me. You can see how the flame tips arcs, as the energy that caused the fire looks for more consumables to feed into itself to continue to grow. I think too often we are like fires. Our brightness, as perceived by others can only be fed by their appreciation and admiration and even more so by their jealousy and envy of our talents and abilities.

Those same talents and abilities that we work to keep in check and under control until something somewhere happens that causes us to too volubly and visibly celebrate ourselves, the "look at me!" moment after which that which brought us to prominence is consumed by our effort to stay that way.

I'm more attracted, as I've aged to those who glow rather than to us who blaze against the night sky. No matter the flame, I retreat to the wisdom of Edna St. Vincent Millay's First Fig while standing just far enough from the light to see the flame without being scorched by the heat.
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 22, 2016

An Ancient Screed Indeed

 I wrote this seven years ago when I was considerably younger and much more naive and trusting, at least in theory. I was angry then and, hard to imagine even more angry now. Your mileage may vary.

Have you been looking at the numbers on your credit card statement in recent weeks -all that daily annual  percentage rate, and annual amortized percentage rate and other words that I'm reasonably sure someone, somewhere, is making up as they go along? It's kinda of weird until you get to the bottom line and realize, usually with a jolt, that 'hey, they raised the interest rate on my balance!' 

Yeah, about that.....in case you hadn't noticed, it's hard times in the land of plenty though the Lord and the Secretary of the Treasury (who may well be one and same Person; I've never seen a photo of them together at the same time, so you have to wonder) are doing what they can to make sure that some time is harder than others for different folks. 

Remember back when the Treasury was having a sale on money? Ask for a billion, and get ten billion more. Do you remember the line at the checkout? Nothing succeeds like failure and lucky us, from car companies to banks, we've got financial operations that are too big to fail. I have a whole new appreciation for Tom Hanks now. Heck, where could we be if only we, too, were large? 

Anyway, Treasury gave US Banks, and banks that looked like US banks, wheelbarrows of money to keep 'em solvent. Heck! Wheelbarrows doesn't even come close-more like fleets of dump trucks filled with moolah. I'm sort of surprised the auto industry didn't recover from all the really big trucks they should have had to build so the banks could get their share of our money, and not fail.

Yep, the important part, the news reports said, was that the banks NOT fail. Poppycock-the important part was that our government, starting with the last guy and continuing with the new guy, gave the capitalists running the financial institutions a healthy dose of socialism by using our money to bail them out from their own greed and stupidity. When then-candidate Barack Obama promised 'change we can believe in' I hadn't realized he meant change back from my dollar, which, now that I think about it, I haven't actually seen lately. 


Anyway, the same banks, back from the brink of disaster, awash with all of our money made business decisions that, surprisingly have nothing to do with cutting loose the bad risks and unloading the poor loan choices that helped trigger this whatever-it-is-we're-in. Instead, the same banks with our bailout money are raising fees and charging us more to get at our own money because there's only so far you can go on thirty-four or more billion dollars and you've got to have a plan for a rainy day.

Not to worry, though. Not only will our government lock the barn door after the horse is out, the horse will have gamboled its way across the field, jumped a fence, gone into the next county, been hit by a mysterious black dump truck filled with Treasury notes, killed and then used to feed the dogs of war, by the time our legislators 'save' us (probably for dessert). 

Yeah, I love that it's called a bill of rights with a straight face. That, I suspect, means it's due on the fifteenth of the month and you don't even wanna talk about a grace period. Oh yeah, and thank you for shopping the American Way, where what's mine is mine, but what's yours is negotiable
-bill kenny