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Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Approach of Winter's Chill

This time of year, I'm grateful Norwich isn't Buffalo but also saddened it's not someplace in the Carolinas. Having only driven through them I have this idea that North and South Carolina are delightfully temperate-weather zones where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.

We on the other hand, this time of year can see the Just Awful overheard in the winter grey skies days before it actually arrives. We had temperatures earlier in the week to start the day south of thirty and when I was out walking yesterday to my pharmacy, it was probably above freezing but my Galvanic Skin Response would have begged to differ.

The day was bright but the sky portends less cheerful days ahead. The sun's rays grow shorter even as the daylight minutes continue to shrink. Everyone's favorite coffee table book is the Farmer's Almanac, and the winter weather forecast.

I won't spoil your Sunday by telling you how it comes out, but I will give you a hint: don't worry about the paving job to a warm place; we're not headed there by any means.
-bill kenny

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What the Heart Remembers

I wrote this some years ago for an event that happened in another, more hopeful America that I think may have vanished forever on this day fifty-one years ago. That was the day John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, Texas.

As I type that sentence I'm stunned to realize how much has passed since that day. For you, this is like reading about the first walk on the moon's surface or the Fall of Saigon. For me and my generation, this is a part of who we are because we remember all of these events, because and/or despite what followed them.

JFK wasn't a better person than those whom we have chosen since to occupy the White House nor was he worse-if events and circumstances make a person who will master them, then he was a man of a different time and all of us can't pretend to be able to compare and contrast then to now. We were and now we are. And those we lost along the way have only us to bear their witness. That some of then looks a lot like some of now is as much a function of perspective as it is of situations.

All my memories of the days of coverage in the aftermath of his assassination are black and white. They are not the misty water-colored memories, the song would have me believe, of the way we were but rather, grainy high contrast black and white moments stapled to special editions of newspapers and hurled at us by television stations engaged and engaging in their first national seance. 

We gathered in our living rooms or those without a TV stood on sidewalks in front of appliance stores to watch over and over again the film clips as the Secret Service agent clambered up the back of the moving limo, Jackie struggled to cradle the dying man's head, and Walter Cronkite removed his glasses and gathered himself before reading the teletype news telling us the youngest man ever elected President was now dead.

Video on demand? I guess. 
What we had was when Dad turned the set on, you heard the vacuum tubes humming and warming up. Slowly the picture grew larger and clearer. When it didn't, he would smack the set on the top or the side, one short, sharp blow-that was your on demand back in the day.A lot of people, perhaps one whole generation and portions of two others, did a decades worth of  growing up "in winter 1963 when it felt like the world would freeze."
-bill kenny

Friday, November 21, 2014

November Holidays

Me and mine are heading to our local library tomorrow morning for some holiday shopping and gift-giving ideas at a crafts fair they’ve sponsored for the last half decade (and more). I like the smaller, homier stuff as a warm-up for the approaching A-Shopalypse Now that will launch in less than a week’s time.

But before we get to that place where the mall and the sky collide, and we shall (trust me on that even though, for the record, no one ever wants to (actually no one wants to say they want to; sometimes we lie to ourselves by not telling the whole truth)), I wanted to yammer once more about the absence of coincidence that we observe Veterans Day and Thanksgiving in the same month.

You may not think the two are connected or that they have even less in common than they don’t. You would be wrong on both counts.

Next Thursday we’ll pause (hopefully) at least long enough to not only count our blessings but to be thankful for what we have and then, even before the plates are cleared from dining room tables, rush off to various commercial enterprises’ efforts to steal a march on Black Friday and gather up (even) more stuff we didn’t need two hours earlier to go with our cranberries and sweet potatoes.

Two things we can do. One is easy and it’s a Scout’s Honor thing. Spare a thought for the uniformed Salt of the Earth citizens whose service and sacrifice through the centuries make Thanksgiving, and every holiday (and every day that’s not a holiday, come to think of it) possible.

And find six minutes, I timed it (once with my lips moving and the other time not so much) to read LTG H. R. McMaster’s Veterans Day speech at Georgetown University. See if you don’t agree with him as originally proposed by Aristotle that it is only worth discussing that which is in our power. (Otherwise we're just running our mouths.)

Then resolve to add your power of belief, of persuasion, of whatever you feel your power to be, to that of others like and unlike you to not only make a difference but to be the difference.

-bill kenny

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Having No Shoes Is Still Better

When I got up yesterday morning it was 22 degrees Fahrenheit and pitch black (okay, it was 2:30 in the morning and it had better be dark). Before I even went outside, I was unhappy about the cold and dark day surrounding me. I guess until I clean my glasses, I’m not able to see that in my neighborhood we have pine trees not palm trees.

I had a sad heart and a red behind from feeling sorry for myself for having to slog through the cold and the dark all the way over to the Planet Fitness gym (James? We hardly know each other) where I got to see the news footage of the Lake Effect snow pummeling Buffalo and the area. I thought I was watching The Jack London Story, told in real-time.

My family and I had been in upstate New York, Niagara Falls (go ahead and click it, I’ll wait), near the end of September. The highways we had sped north on just seven weeks ago are impossibly impassable, even if you have a dog sled (tucked in the back of your all-wheel drive vehicle). 

By the time I had done my hour on the treadmill (some days offering diction lessons for Tourette’s patients is preferable) I had an old Johnny Horton song stuck in my head, and my whiny mealy-mouthed complaints about our weather stuck in my throat. It seemed to taste a lot like crow.

-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

O Tis a Far, Far Better Thing

As you’ve been watching TV and reading newspapers, it can’t have escaped your notice based on the volume of advertising, that we’ve already entered the city limits of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Please Observe Local Speed Limits).

I’ll admit I wasn’t feeling the Spirit of the Season when the marketing barrage got started in the run-up to Halloween but maybe that almost-snow last week, coupled with a sprinkling of holiday lights cheerily blinking in the dark as I head to work have helped me feel more festive.

For those who currently live or who have lived in my house, this is a BGO, blinding glimpse of the obvious: I am not a fan of shopping at any time of the year but especially now. If speed gift-buying is ever made an Olympic event, you will find me on the medals platform. Meanwhile those to whom I give presents will be opening horribly wrapped gift boxes with equal measures of fear and trepidation.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the holiday season but, possibly like you, I’m overwhelmed by the whole Schlep to the Mall and the hunting and gathering of presents that finds me instead of hoping for peace on earth and goodwill for all, wishing every person between me and the cashier would end up in a place so warm there’s no need for scarves or sweaters (especially that one).

I’m a shopper in need of the gift of patience and since I’ve yet to see it on the shelves or at Amazon, I’ve adopted a coping strategy that I hope you’ll consider my gift to you and a boon to downtown Norwich.

This Saturday from ten to three, it’s the sixth annual “O’tis A Festival At Otis Library.” If you haven’t been in the library since the renovations were completed earlier in the fall, you now have the perfect reason to go check them out.

And if you’re a competitive shopper who relishes the hunt for the just-right something for a Someone Special, Otis will be packed to the rafters with crafters offering a variety of handmade items, including jewelry, woodworking, and pottery along with events for children and those who are young at heart.

Downtown Norwich looks to Otis Library the way the fingers of the hand look to the thumb. Located practically in the geographic center, Otis is the heart of Down City and events like Saturday’s are an important part of its lifeblood.

Downtown Norwich is very compact with many of the shops, restaurants and scenic harbor locales all within easy walking distance of one other as well as to the free municipal parking that gets you step-for-step closer to it all than if you opted for The Mall. I’d recommend inviting someone who believes there’s nothing going on in Norwich and smile as they learn otherwise.

The O’tis Festival is a gift to ourselves. We talk about ‘shopping local.’
Here’s our chance to not only talk the talk but walk it. 
- bill kenny

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Compassion Fatigue

Sometimes I wonder if we're living more but enjoying it less. Actually, I know I am so I guess my question is am I the only one? And thanks to Lee, I think I know the answer (and yeah, it's starting to look like you don't have a real speaking part in today's rant, or even much of a walk-on so you might want to hit the amazon dot com and get a head-start on your Christmas shopping. Sorry.).

And yeah, I deliberately didn't say 'holiday' shopping because I was a grown man, or pretty close to it, when I met someone who wasn't a Roman Catholic and it took me forever to accept that he could be a pretty great guy and also still be going to the same heaven I understand the nuns to tell me in school that only Catholics got to be in.

Instead of life in these United States getting easier as thanks to the Modern Age, it seems it's just getting harder. More and more less of and less of the systems and processes we grew up taking for granted seem to work at all.

And it's not just governmental operations and areas of oversight and interaction that's broken, though more than enough of that is a mess-we're seeing private sector goods and services simply evaporate and leave no trace they were ever there in the first place.

When we our kids were in grade school, Sigrid and I were those parents who volunteered for everything (we gave the only resource we could afford, which was our time) and tended to see the same handful of parents at the library book sale as we did at the spaghetti dinner who were also the same folks who had a child in music lessons and on the traveling soccer team.

Lee offered an article on an aspect of the whole 'Ich habe die nase voll' life of quiet desperation that I found fascinating, and Sara whom I've also known for as long as Lee (and nearly forty years) suggested, quite rightly I think, that such fatigue isn't limited to those who attend a church, but rather, to those whose involvement in "The Big World" wears them out.

Leading me to wonder if we need to create rosters, where all the community chores are scheduled and get divided up across the entire adult population so we stop abusing the same two dozen people, or if we should just shrink the size of the world we are responsible for and lighten the load that way. Sort of like removing six inches from the front of the blanket, and then sewing it onto the back, making the blanket a foot longer.
-bill kenny

Monday, November 17, 2014

Too Busy Being

I'm sixty-two years old. When I was five, I would have typed "I am sixty-two and a half years old" because halves were very important then; sometimes they were how you distinguished yourselves from the babies. And never mind that at five I had no idea how to spell much less type-another point lost along the way.

I'm married to a person for the last thirty-seven years I cannot imagine ever knowing in any other circumstance than in the one in which we met and as I may have shared once or more in this space already, I have a very active imagination.

I still see myself as one of  the Young Turks, despite the lines and scars on the face my bathroom mirror offers me every morning. You are probably correct to suspect my grip on reality is some days more tenuous than others.

My wife and I have two adult children-I confess the Young Turk in me is always surprised to realize that as he wasn't a big fan of children when he, himself, was one but after being my wife's husband, being my children's father is the most important job I will ever have. I just wish I were better at both.

We live in a small city in southeastern Connecticut that, prior to my arrival in this part of New England about this time of year twenty-three years ago (actually my wife and children arrived here exactly twenty-three years ago Friday last. She remembered; I failed to do so. Again.), I had  never heard of.

I didn't plan on staying here which probably makes some of the people with whom I share the city sad (that I didn't follow through) and I'd be lying if I didn't confess to still hoping to go elsewhere even if I don't know where or when. I've learned the "Why?" question is often the least important.

This isn't a lesson from Lennon, though it could be and if I were capable of deep thoughts, perhaps it would/should be. Thank goodness being deep in thought in my case comes barely to your ankles. Except, I don't think I'm alone. Yes, it's quite possible perhaps in the ship of my life that's more than true, but it's a big ocean and we're all charting our own courses.

Sometimes you can't feel the change in yourself, you can only see the change when you look at others. Enjoy the view.
-bill kenny