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Monday, July 28, 2014

Sometimes the Good Guys Win

Back when I was a wee slip of a lad and sandlot baseball was the sole purpose of summer vacations, when you played everyday from a bout half hour after breakfast until somebody's mom came out to tell yo to go home for dinner,  I wanted to be a professional baseball player but since I didn't realize grown men playing my favorite game were called "professional" I just said ballplayer.

Like generations before me, but unlike most of those who've come since then, I didn't realize everything that had a cost also had a price. It wasn't until baseball ran smack up against the Steroid Era that even it finally acknowledged the price to be paid was too steep.

My attitude on that was when Jose Canseco is the most honest and virtuous man in the room, you either need to get a much larger room or declare moral bankruptcy. With the billions hat major league baseball turns over three guesses as to which one was going to happen first and the first two guesses don't count.

But for a sport that has produced a Barry Bonds, a Sammy Sosa, a Roger Clemens, a Mark McGuire and an Alex Rodriguez (an assumption and presumption of innocence can go a long way though hopefully not all the way to Cooperstown, NY), yesterday was a moment of at least partial redemption as the class of 2014 was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Especially the players with the might of Frank Thomas and the powerful arms of Maddux and Glavine, on behalf of twelve-year-olds everywhere with our chewed upon laces of the pinkie finger of our baseball gloves up against our right temple level with our eye in  as close to a salute as we may ever get, thanks MLB for doing something right. It was a great day to love the sport, no matter what team you root for.
-bill kenny

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Origins of the Old Lie

It's amazing how many journeys, across the globe or around the sun, result in a return to the spot of origin. Less amazing is how so much travel has failed to make us wiser.

One hundred years ago tomorrow, after simmering in anger and seething with resentment for a month following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia. Serbia's ally, Imperial Russia, declared and on Austria and Germany, Austria's ally declared war on both Serbia and Russia.

In short order, all of Europe was aflame.

Unlike the wars of the nineteenth century, one hundred years ago we had learned to harness the power of the Industrial Revolution and the mass production of manufacturing to populate the killing floor with engines of carnage and catastrophe that, where once we had killed hundreds on a battlefield, we could now kill many thousands and maim thousands more.

We called this progress.

And because we were unable, or unwilling to learn the lessons of the Great War we fought a sequel less than thirty years after its conclusion that resulted in ten times the number of dead and wounded.

In some way and form, it continues everyday and everywhere. No other species on the planet wages war on itself. Only the Crown of Creation, floundering like a man in fire or lime.

Dulce et decorum est.
-bill kenny

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Take It ‘till Life Runs Out

I suspect I’m morose because I’ll be attending a memorial service today for Bob, someone I’d long regarded as a friend for life without realizing the personal consequences of what is always an intellectual abstraction, death.

I have attended memorials and funerals. A previous friend (I don’t make ‘em or keep ‘em very well so my memories are very vivid) died in my arms too many summers ago and I wound up accepting another job some 90 minutes away as the BMW flies (drives) rather than walk through the same hallways in our building as he and I had done for years.

There will be a lot of people at today’s memorial. Each of us a spoke on a wheel that at the very center of the mandala, and the sole common point of reference for each, will be our shared though separate and distinct relationships with Bob.

His family, aching beyond any hope, will endure us and our efforts at solace because that’s what the family does at these moments. We try to make them feel better in an attempt to make ourselves feel better. It never happens and we know that even before we drive along the quiet two lane state road that leads us to the service. But we will try, because we know not what else to do.

There are no words I can offer them to heal the hurt at least that’s what I’m telling myself at this moment because I have no idea what those words might be or who could possibly say them. Our Earth became a bit more silent and cold last Friday with his passing-a little less kind, a little less understanding but another bit more brusque, caustic and calculating. There’s no going back now

We’ll have a moment at the service to face the enormity of the chasm Bob’s death has created in our lives, from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs, and to choose if the memory of the man we’ll hold in our hearts will be a souvenir of who we were or a map of who we are to be until our own time for coming and going has arrived.     

-bill kenny

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cosmic Prankster Strikes Again

Have no doubt my friend that while we may see ourselves as the Crown of Creation we are, too often to count, also the Butt of the Cosmos (if it helps, it's a fine but clear line between butt and butt and a suffix of the universe and we make out okay in this deal).

Despite what could be their envy of our big brains and opposable thumbs, there are times the rest of the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms find our pratfalls humorous though I'm not sure how I'd know an igneous rock is guffawing or how big a smile a wild rose could summon.

If you, too, believe that there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt in your philosophy, trust me; the next time you stroll through a copse of trees and nearly trip over a root in the path, there will be giggles that can be heard but not explained. How else to react to a truly West Coast news story that, as a child of the Sixties, makes me sad?

Truly, the dream is over.
-bill kenny

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A True Super Nova in a Galaxy of Bright Stars

Today, as a check of any of three dozen or websites will reveal, is a busy day in terms of commemorating a full circle of the sun.

Happy Birthdays to a diverse and talented bunch of people ranging from Simon Bolivar to Jennifer Lopez. Among those whose natal anniversaries are also today are Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers, and Zelda Fitzgerald, first wife of F. Scott.

On any given day, there's a who's who of famous and infamous associated with birthday cakes because every day nearly half a million people worldwide are born. I'm mentioning that today not as a mere abstraction-but part of what everyone who grew up in my mother and father's house thinks about, as our sister, Kara, celebrates her birthday. She's a little bit of all the famous folks I mentioned with a dash of Lynda Carter and Amelia Earhart thrown in for good measure.

The best thing about being the oldest child in a large family is you have often amazing and excruciatingly embarrassing memories of your siblings from when they were small and they can't stop you from musing aloud. Except there's nothing like those memories to hold over Kara's head. Trust me, I looked and looked hard.

She was a very easy-going child with an even temperament that should have been a cause for concern in a household as tumultuous as ours. She was the oldest of the Second Wave of Kenny Kids and was the emissary to the three (considerably) older siblings on behalf of herself and the two younger who were to follow.

Her ability to maintain an even keel no matter how provoked (and some of us were geniuses at provocation; not pointing fingers here, just sayin') has been a lifelong talent that has stood her in good stead and come in handy I imagine more often than she'd like to admit.. She and her husband, Russell, have three sons (I can hear the theme from that Fred MacMurray show playing as I type this) and a universe of friends stretching from all those years ago to all those yet to be.

Kara, I lack the power to declare today a national holiday in your honor which is too bad since my proclamation would have included pony rides for all relatives especially your most oldest of brothers, but one can't have everything I suppose.

But what I hope you do have because you so deserve it, is a terrific and marvelous in-every-way birthday, with way too much cake and far too few candles.
Happy Birthday!
-bill kenny     

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rolling in the Dough

On a jaunt through Taftville recently, my wife and I made the acquaintance of the Poppy and Rye Bakery Cafe. We went late in the afternoon, actually really late in the afternoon and they hadn't had anything like a 'grand opening,' so the store was filled with word of mouth customers who were enjoying everything from bagels to cookies, Russian rye bread to crumb cake muffins. We purchased two pretzels, with apologies to David Letterman, that "were bigger than canned hams."

The cafe is on Norwich Avenue, also known as Route 12. The easiest way to tell you how to get there, if you're driving is to roll down your window, take a deep breath and follow your nose. If you have a head cold, you deserve wherever you end up instead. More for the rest of us.

You've read about Poppy and Rye-it was in the pages of The Bulletin not that long ago but after Gutenberg invented movable type which helped make the daily newspaper possible, he decided to NOT pursue scratch and sniff technology-which would certainly help when talking about Poppy and Rye.

I went back Sunday morning and grabbed an almond something or other and a baked apple dessert in a pastry pocket so light I was afraid to breathe on it, some everything bagels that simply demanded to go in the bag and a loaf of rye bread that was so fresh from the oven it was too hot to slice.

I placed my baked goods in the front seat and am still proud of myself for resisting the temptation to put a string on the rye and hang it from the mirror. The aroma lingered in the car for hours and don't ask how I would know that or about the bite marks in the passenger seat. As great as everything smelled-it tasted even better.

Standing in front of the glass display cases in the shop waiting to be helped, I was surrounded by folks who'd come from near and far all making the same movie I was. Just as you'd decided what to order, you'd catch something else out of the corner of your eye and suddenly your sense of certainty would disappear.

On Sunday the trio in line before me struggled mightily in trying to make up their minds and I suspect I didn't help very much by offering to the person I think was the Dad, 'who says you have to have only have one thing?' They decided to have some coffee and sweet snacks, grabbed a table to sit and enjoy them all the while discussing what else they would have for the ride home. I wonder if their choices survived the ride.

I get excited about a venture like Poppy and Rye not merely because it's a new business (the owners have a world of experience and are no strangers to Norwich) but because of what it represents and what it could portend for the city and those of us who love living here.

Norwich isn't Bedford Falls, and few if any of us feel like we're starring in "It's a Wonderful Life" but in deference to Zuzu's teacher and what happens every time a bell rings, any time a business, large or small, opens in Norwich, it makes it easier for the next business to try us out.

And don't think I'm waxing overly euphoric. The only thing harder to do than opening a business is remaining open and growing by building a following of raving fans based on quality, price and service who'll keep coming back because they want to.

Sometimes here in Norwich, we do the big start really well, with ribbon cuttings and balloons (but no pony rides) and then we move on to something else. Like every other merchant in Norwich, large or small, Poppy & Rye Bakery Cafe are worth searching out and enjoying. Once you find them, you'll wonder how you lived without them. And after you've had a slice of their rye bread, you'll wonder why you'd ever want to.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Urban or Urbane Explorers

Decades ago, as part of a radio series we were working on for some holiday programming (my evil twin, Skippy, wants to say “Arbor Day”; I want to tell him to shut up), a colleague and I trooped and traveled amongst and betwixt Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Berchtesgaden and (Lake) Chiemsee (“see” auf deutsch means lake) back when the US forces occupying West Germany constituted a 51st state (and with our own shopping centers, libraries and license plates, we were in many respects larger than Texas and Alaska combined).

One of the places that we went while at Berchtesgaden was the General Walker Hotel, a former barracks/headquarters for Hitler’s bodyguard detachment of the SS during the Third Reich. You could see many reminders and references to past glories throughout the hotel used as an economy stop by US Forces on leave in Southern Bavaria (spectacular views of the Alps from just about every window for (maybe) as I recall ten bucks a night in the early 80’s).

But getting to go into the basement and into the sub-basements of the place, where all manner of dark and dastardly deeds may have been carried out by the previous tenants was the high point, at least for me as the dust and disuse the corridors and endless series of connected rooms well below the earth had fallen into just added to the intrigue and the allure. I don’t consider myself a spelunker, but long before urban explorers helped remind us of what we had buried of our own pasts, the AFRC guides did a good job of making sure some of us remembered.

I hadn’t thought about any of that in decades until a moment ago while at one of my favorite stops on the entire (to me, so far) internet, I fell across this incredible imagery. Nearly all of it scares me so much, I can't watch; but it's so amazing I also don't dare to look away.

We cannot know everything there is to know in the world, but what a terrific goal, isn’t it? If each of us learned one new thing every day, and told/taught that new thing to one other person, how much smarter would or even could we all be by the end of the day? The week? Our lives?

Smart enough to remember our history? Perhaps wise enough to respect it?

-bill kenny