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Friday, April 25, 2014

Rupert, though Not the Bear

Behaviors and motivations are two different and observable entities. You could see me drive by you very quickly and conclude from what you saw that I'm a thoughtless asshat with no regard for others' safety without ever knowing I was actually rushing home because of a family emergency (we were all out of saltines; did I mention I moonlight for First World Problems? Don't get me started on cell phone charging cords that are too short. Oh, the humanity.).

In my fitness center (they haven't changed the sign yet to "Bill's Planet Fitness" though it seems to me, staring at it from the parking lot hanging over the entrance doors like there's plenty of room, a fellow in the guy's locker room was quoting some famous fitness (or do they use PH? I get confused) person to a newly-joined club member about 'you lose weight to fit into your clothes. You get into shape to look great naked.'

Those are the kinds of observations within conversations that usually cause me to consider getting changed in the car, while driving if I have to. I don't know what to do with stuff like that-it doesn't fit me. I'm of average height, hopefully about average weight for that height; older today than I was yesterday while knowing I shall never be this young again and wear a medical alert bracelet suggesting to EMS people, "some assembly required."

I roll with the dawn patrol and am usually on a treadmill or a cross trainer by about a quarter after four in the morning staring at the large panel TV's halfway across the room that silently assail us with pictures of just about every passion imaginable.

After I start perspiring profusely, the only way I ever sweat, and my glasses get foggy and wet and I take them off, I can see just about nothing on the other side of the room which matters not as I have my earbuds in while listening, most recently, to ABC News on Slacker Radio so I have some idea of what's going on in the world. If I take a break while at work and end up in the gym near my building, all they watch there is Fox News which means I have less than no clue about everything.

I was concentrating, sitting on the bench near my locker in trying to roll up the cord from my earbuds so as to not need ten minutes tomorrow morning to get it undone, knowing as I do this everyday, I also fail at it. The appeal of the ritual, regardless of the outcome, is something I find very reassuring.

So engrossed was I in my Promethean Undertaking that it was only by the ensuing silence that I realized I had missed a verbal cue. Looking up and around I met the gaze of the Physically Phit Philosopher who offered, "and you? I see you here all the time. What's your goal? Fitting Into or Looking Good?"

I was going to remind him it was God, Himself, who told us, or at least Adam and Eve, to wear clothes but I don't think #TBT was ever intended to include the Old Testament. As I pulled on my jacket and  jammed my now wadded up headset into my pocket I conceded I watch what I eat and lean more towards strenuous than tenuous in my gym activities but my goal differed from his. I told him I'm trying to escape.

And in the echo of those words off the locker room door, I made good on one.
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Record Setting

Last Saturday was Record Store Day and I, having spent most of my life cultivating a vinyl jungle of  long players, singles and extended play pieces of plastic that now number into the many of thousands, needed little incentive to take a short car trip to a town at the mouth of the Thames River (we pronounce both the "t" and the "h" as in 'thame thit, different day'), New London (Connecticut), rather neatly bookending the one I live in at the river's headwaters, to shop at a local independent shop, The Telegraph.

Earlier in the week, based on pop-ups everywhere on line I had formed a vague plan to shop for a copy of Bruce Springsteen's American Beauty and my brother's notes gave me the rest, I suppose so shopping I went and returned home to wrestle with the turntable, the amplifier and the speakers.

The struggle was worth it. I had nearly forgotten what music sounded like in our living room, or any room for that matter. I tend to devour music through earbuds hooked into my phone while out walking or Planet Fitnessing* (*first use as a gerund in this hemisphere).

I'm not sure our neighbor upstairs was even home but had she been I'd have heard from her, I'm sure, as I had a reasonable amount of volume behind what is either truly a remarkable four song postcard of where Springsteen has been or a map of where he's heading.

Rock and roll does a body good-and when you play it loud enough your whole body can feel it, I suspect it's a work-out for your soul as well. I missed this at The Telegraph later in the day, but it makes me smile still and I admit I am ever so tempted to crank it up. But only to eleven, honest.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Days of W(h)ine in the Rose of New England

If one of your hobbies is complaining about how little there is to do in Norwich, in light of activities this weekend just about everywhere, if you're looking for sympathy from me you may have to check in the dictionary. Drop me a line. I'll tell you between which two words to look.

I'm sorry to be out of patience on that subject and its companion troll, 'there's no place to park downtown when there is something to do.' I suppose that means I won't see any unhappy folks, or their cars, anywhere near the Otis Library for the Friends of Otis Library Book Sale which starts Friday (with a private showing and a ten dollar admission that morning from nine to ten for those who want a head start on the weekend's steals and deals) and then continues on Saturday, starting at 10 before concluding on Sunday, from noon until three.

Our daughter, Michelle, and I always hit the book sale on Sunday and come home with bags of books, but you needn't wait and do not get fooled by that banner on Broadway near Washington Street trumpeting a "Book Sale."

To be both honest and accurate, it should really read "The Gently Used Book Sale, to include, Biographies, Autobiographies, Memoirs, all manner of Fiction as well as Mystery, Arts and Crafts, Classics, Cook Books, Non-Fiction, How-To books (though almost no why-are-we books), History, Gardening, Sports, pony rides (wanted to see if you were still reading), Science Fiction and Books for Children of All Ages. As Well as lots of audio cassettes, CD's, DVD's and Stuff You'd Have to See for Yourself." Of course, if the banner said all that, it would stretch all the way up to 395 North, Exit 93, or thereabouts.

Let's just say the selection and the prices are both terrific. Don't be surprised if you rub elbows with collectors from across the Northeast. That's why I wear hockey pads-libraries are the next contact sport-who are panning for undiscovered and unrecognized gold and who know great deals when they find them. And they do.

And because Otis is situated in just about the middle of downtown, as you pass all the restaurants that line or border Main Street on your way there, you can see all kinds of folks, clutching newly-purchased books, mingling with the regular patrons and eating a late breakfast, or having lunch, before returning to one of the municipal parking lots that ring downtown and head home. The Book Sale is the perfect excuse to table hop and finally stop into one of those restaurants you promised yourself to hit 'the next time I'm downtown.' Enjoy.

Doncha hate when all that downtown stuff to do gets in the way of complaining about the lack of downtown stuff to do? Yeah, me too. But wait, as those late night infomercials say, there's more.

The Leffingwell House Museum on Saturday, starting at noon, is hosting readings of some of the historic sermons written by the minsters of Olde Norwich Town, from the Revolutionary War and other eras. Even then, it seems we needed all the prayers we could get. It's a great way to renew your acquaintance with the Leffingwell House Museum which many regard as a critical component when talk turns to historic tourism in the region.

And, in honor of Earth Day, "rain or shine," the Greeneville Neighborhood Revitalization Zone is cleaning up the Greeneville Dam Trail, starting at eight Saturday morning, as well as sections of the Village itself.

You know how you always intend to check out something new in the neighborhood over the weekend? Bring some work gloves and work boots-I've helped out on this before and these people are into serious clean-up and more helping hands are always welcome. Still complaining about nothing to do? Amazing what happens when we close our mouths and give our eyes a chance. See you out there?
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"We Have a First-Time Caller on Line One...."

Somewhere, Roz would have smiled though I fear Dr. Frazier Crain, having already left the building, might still grimace.

In a piece of political theater I would have assumed was last practiced when NBA players wore Chuck Taylor high top sneakers, my favorite coward, "Are You Ready" Ed Snowden, popped up, like John Hartford on Glen Campbell's TV show, smack dab in the middle, metaphorically speaking of Vlad Putin's televised call-in show last week in Russia. Let's hear it for planned spontaneity.

I'm not being mean or jumping on (or off) a bandwagon. I admire Mr. Snowden for his role in revealing egregiously heinous behavior my (actually our) government was, and presumably still is, engaged in supposedly on my behalf and for my safety and security.

I find myself recalling Poor Richard's observation "(t)hey who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." I suspect that it's a good thing he's been dead for the last 225 years or so because that's really the only reason we haven't rounded him up, slapped him in an orange jump suit with a Spanish English dictionary jammed in his pocket as a cell-warming gift and deposited his seditious butt in GITMO.

As I understood Mr. Snowden in the early days of print media's disclosure of his offered information and then the revelation of his identity, he, too, was willing to go to jail for his beliefs. I was going to say, 'think of Joan of Arc' but Chelsea Manning's supporters have the trademark on that. Actually, I guess, he watched what happened to so many recent others who had the courage of their convictions, emphasis on the latter part of that phrase and reconsidered.

The stipend you earn from working in the prison laundry will not help you build a retirement account and so Eddie became peripatetic and heavily ambulatorily airborne. That he and Vlad found one another makes me smile as they fit together wie eine Faust auf ein Auge. Wait until Ed fully appreciates that when he negotiates with a shark. Eventually you run out of body parts with which to negotiate. Ask the Georgian Republic or the Ukraine.

 "And though (s)he feels as if (s)he's in a play, (s)he is anyway." When you sup with the devil, Eddie, you need a long spoon.
-bill kenny

Monday, April 21, 2014

All We Have to Decide Is...

Today is Patriots' Day in Massachusetts and also the traditional running of the Boston Marathon. That order of precedence, if you will, was altered last year and very probably forever for circumstances officially recalled last week on the one year anniversary of a day exactly a year previously, we all recall.

Last year at the Marathon, Dzokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev those evil, ungrateful bastards whom we took in and who repaid that kindness by killing, broke hearts, destroyed lives and shattered our national illusion of insularity and insulation from the other horrors of the rest of the world altering forever anyone's memories and imaginings of the Boston Marathon.

Both brothers will be long faded from memory before what they did is forgotten, but better remembered, and hopefully always remembered, is what they failed to do. Just ask Jeff Baumann, who gets stronger every day and whom I fervently hope gets angry and powerful enough some day to kick the ass of Dzorkhar all the way to Boston Harbor and then hold him under until the bubble stops.

Yes. I understand American jurisprudence and the presumption of innocence. Enough of that was murdered a year ago, don't you agree? But being an angry old man will get me nothing but an even more premature grave and I should take my cue from those who not only survived but triumphed over the tragedy of that day. Perhaps I shall, starting tomorrow.

I have the good fortune to have a friend, in the Facebook sense of the word, a Fenway denizen and Grammy-nominee who spent a lot of years on the Jersey Shore and has now followed the advice of Horace Greeley and gone west, Linda Chorney, who molded her sorrow into a beautiful celebration of a life taken terribly, suddenly and far too soon. And a song perfectly suited for today and all those enjoying it.
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard

These started out as some of my thoughts (or what passes for such) some years back. Some things like wine improve with age; others, like sweat socks, not so much. You decide.

I used to be a Catholic--actually that's less than accurate. It's like saying I used to be an alcoholic. Those two statements have no past tense, or pretense (literary joke)-they just are and in this case I am both. 

The jaded, faded imitation of a person I am looks at his faith as a child and finds it easy to mock the boy on his way to manhood, but also envies him the beliefs that he had. When I threw the faith of my fathers into the ocean of doubt, I had nothing to hold onto in its place as I never had the courage of my own convictions and could not trust those of any other.

Today is Easter Sunday the most important feast in the Christian liturgical calendar and (pardon my pseudo-theological seminary sermon) precipitant of the article of faith that makes us Christian, if that's indeed what we are. I, of course, didn't actually attend classes at any seminary His Holiness, Pope Francis I, would recognize but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express (and have the towel, and the drinking glass 'sealed for your protection' to prove it).

Christmas gets a lot of press and songs and cards and window dressing and don't look for a Macy's Day Parade to mark the start or end of Lent because that's not happening. In these parts, Christmas gets marketing help from every wholesaler and retailer imaginable and why not? Christmas is a lovely story, wonderfully symbolic and simply beautiful if you don't want to think too much about it.

Take a look a today in the New Testament of your choice and foreboding's afoot in every verse of every version about the events leading to Easter (those are the versions of my choice). And in one of the most ironic choices of terms associated with any aspect of Jesus Christ, is Good Friday, which marks His Crucifixion and Death (I went back and made the "h" a capital, not because there's hope for me but out of fear that there is no hope). And as you read the accounts, let's face it, the events of that day are absolutely horrible.

The crowd, the occupying forces, everyone, it seems has abandoned the Son of God who is sentenced to die (I'd say 'murdered' but some might argue the state does not murder) in an extraordinarily, excruciatingly manner. 

And it is both that death by Crucifixion but more importantly the belief in the Resurrection that so many commemorate today that is the defining event for every Christian, even the ones who seem more like Simon Peter than even they could ever admit in this life.  I want you to remember this. Come on, try to remember.
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Not Even an Original Sin


James Tolgo, realizing the presumption of innocence until proven guilty may not apply to the same degree to knuckle-headedness and stupidity, what's the matter with you?

In the words of Howard R., the (late, I assume) athletic director at Carteret Academy for Boys, in reacting to boorish, bull-necked stupidity on a very long bus ride home after we got our buttocks beaten badly in varsity football by the Blair Academy Bozos (I have no idea of their mascot but Squirrel would be perfect, would it not?), and he berated a defensive lineman for trying to moon most of the Garden State Parkway with 'if they put your brain in a mosquito's a--, it would roll around and make a noise like a bee-bee in a box car.'

In my house, we go through six to nine pounds of peanuts a week, all for feeding squirrels. And here you are, Jimbo with an assault rifle (at the ready?)-kinda takes the sport out of it, especially since there wasn't any there to start with.

What's your take on badgers? Spoons at ten paces. Begin.
-bill kenny