Thursday, February 11, 2016

An Exercise in Ecstatic Optimism

If last night went as planned/hoped, right about now as this pops up on the Interwebz my son and I are on Route 2, just beyond where the Road to Nowhere (Connecticut Route 11) starts, on our way home. I wrote this before we ever started out because I knew I couldn't if I didn't.

Patrick got us tickets to see Bruce Springsteen Wednesday night in Hartford at what is now called the XL Center (though having been in it before, it's not even an "L" (copyright National Football League?)) but I've seen Bruce and the band in stranger places, like The Ledge, the commuter lounge on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers College in the early seventies.

We've all come a long way but since I don't have roadies setting up my desk for work tomorrow (I lie; I took the day off), I'm thinking Bruce made out better. Except I have Sigrid, Patrick and Michelle in my life and he doesn't.

I think, maybe in terms of The River, mine is the better boat. And after a show that clocks in at over three and half hours with the 'heart-breaking, love-making, Viagra-taking, legendary E Street Band', shouting myself hoarse to, well, Shout and almost three dozen other songs, I can only steal from Paul Simon when I tell you I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.

We had ourselves a time and what a time it was.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Limited Time Offer

We're nearly equidistant, on the calendar at least, from the start of winter and the beginning of spring. And don't let this 'February is the shortest month' stuff fool you; last February was the coldest on record and by the time this one ends (complete with its bonus day, because why would you want an extra day in June when it's summer?), we may be talking about the same kind of snow and ice.

Of course, we are very fortunate. When it gets too cold outside, most of us go inside and turn the heat up while we make ourselves something hot to eat. For us, cold temperatures are at their worst an inconvenience. But some of us don't have the opportunity to opt for one followed by the other.

For many of the over 300,000 people who rely on the Connecticut Food Bank, that heat or eat decision is a very serious one that they're forced to make every day when the mercury in the thermometer starts to dip. And be it February or August, there isn't a particular month or a day of the week that agencies like the Connecticut Food Bank and others who help people couldn't use our assistance.

Those in need here in the wealthiest state in the Union, seem to be our invisible indigent and that possessive pronoun is deliberate because when we think about it, all of us know at least one someone who is struggling. But we too often are distracted with our own situations to make the need of others a top of mind concern. We look but maybe we don't see.

If you're somebody who has trouble 'seeing' 300,000 people in need, imagine Bridgeport, Connecticut's largest city and then double its size. That city's population is still smaller than the number of people in need of help. And to bring it all the way  home to Eastern Connecticut, take Norwich's 2013 estimated population of a hair over 40,000 and multiply it seven times. We'd fill Dodd Stadium nearly fifty times.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent which, for Christians, starts the season of preparation for Easter, celebrating the Resurrection of Christ. Lent, I was taught by the Sisters of Charity, is a remembrance of the forty days the Gospels say Jesus spent before beginning his ministry praying and fasting in the desert.  

Growing up in a Roman Catholic house, Lent was when we kids were called on to give something up, from meat on Fridays to a dessert, or maybe a favorite cartoon show and to do without. We made a much bigger deal of what we were giving up than it really was.

So how about it. It’s not forever, just about six weeks or so, starting today.Sacrifice something, from a coffee to a pack of cigarettes or a dessert, nothing big and take the cost of that item you're forgoing and pick a charity that’s one of the helping hands in our community and donate to help those who need assistance. Give til it helps.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

We Are All of Us in the Gutter

Which would you choose, given the opportunity: A tank of gas (grade of your choice) at a buck a gallon or world peace? Don't snicker, I might not be kidding (actually I am)-there may be more of a relationship of one to the other than we realize. 

Do you recall less than a decade ago when ethanol fuel mandate was going to set us free and break the shackles chaining us to gas pumps from Middle Eastern sheiks and Venezuelan gauchos (no one ever talks about the Norwegian oil platforms in the North Sea. I've trying to imagine Sven and Uwe in a group photo with Faisal and Chavez)? 

I was thinking about that fairy tale a couple of weeks ago watching the election news coverage of all the fearless GOP candidates in Iowa kiss the ring of Pope Ethanol as no one wins in Iowa who doesn't take the pledge to uphold E-85 fuels. Look it up.

It's now another cautionary tale of 'be careful what you wish for' and we, here in the Land of the Round Doorknobs are relatively well off (in terms of gross numbers and percentages of the population with enough to eat). We complain a lot about food prices, but where we shop the grocers' shelves remain stocked. 

Isn't it amazing how all of us, everywhere, fit together in a process people like me rarely think about and of which we understand even less? When you look at the history and evolution of us as a species on the planet and think of all the stuff (events/incidents/what have you) that had to happen JUST SO, for us to be where we are and who we are, it can take your breath away. 

During the (European) Age of Enlightenmentdeism postulated God (I'm going with the capital "G", in deference to those who believe. If (S)/He exists, why annoy Her/Him by NOT capitalizing Her/His name. I'm crazy, not stupid) exists as a great clockmaker who created everything in the cosmos and who stands watching all the events that unfold within it.

Basically, it wedded some of the tenets of theism to the notion of personal free will. Helped us explain ourselves to ourselves.

None of that gets you a tank of gas or a loaf of bread except, in terms of what you choose to do in and with the world we have, and how those actions impact on those whose lives go on Within You and Without You

Assuming every moment is both unique and singular and that the same is true for actions and reactions, it stands to reason once you make a choice to follow a certain course or use a particular tool you cannot simultaneously use those same items and devices for something else. 

With apologies to SNL's Shimmer, it's either a dessert topping or a floor polish, not both. So if we make gasoline from the grain we've been milling into food, what do we eat and which fork do we use to eat it with? (yeah, we could ask Marie about the cake fork, but she's still crabby about how all that worked out) 

Living in a country that launches five new weight loss diets every day I still have trouble intellectually grasping the number of people in this world who don't get enough to eat and never have the luxury to ponder a question like food or fuel Struggling to survive tends to dull the notions of civility. 

How long do you suppose it will be before one or the other of us runs out of patience and takes what can no longer be shared? If you think the world is a dangerous place now, wait until half of us are cold while the other half are hungry--and ALL of us are angry and many have weaponry on a scale inconceivable to simple minds such as mine, underpinned by the willingness to use it. 

Such is life on a cold, dark and hungry planet and that reality draws closer every day. "Look Round the room/Life is unkind/We fall but we keep gettin' up/Over and over and over and over."

From your lips to God's ear, Chrissie.
-bill kenny

Monday, February 8, 2016

On this Date, No Score but Seven Years Ago

I figured by putting 'score' in the title, you'd think this might be a post-Super Bowl 50 analysis. Nope. I have no idea who won, assuming somebody did; I had no money on the game and even less interest. 

Wake me up when pitchers and catchers report for Baseball Spring Training or when it's time for me and Patrick to go see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in Hartford on Wednesday. Actually, I may not sleep until we go so just worry about the baseball players. 

This is from exactly seven years ago; I changed nothing, not even the lousy punctuation or that really mean joke about your mom. I was kidding about the lousy punctuation. 

I spend a great deal of my time in doctors' offices. I'm not a pharmaceutical representative or someone who works in health care, I'm someone who treated himself like crap, heedless, headstrong and self-absorbed, for a very long time and now it's catching up with me. 

I'm almost the character in Entourage on HBO except my posse all have initials and lab coats. The only thing all of them have in common is me (I; Sister Jean taught me well). 

I was in the local blood drawing lab yesterday morning to prep for two visits a week from tomorrow to two different doctors. One is my endocrinologist whom I see for treatment of Type 2 diabetes and then my primary care physician. 

Now I see a nephrologist, a rheumatologist, a gastro-enterologist and a cardiologist in addition to the vascular surgeon and orthopedic surgeon (plus the first two doctors). Everyone is very nice, professional and reassuring and, considering they have me for a patient, very good-natured. There's a ritual that before I see anyone of them, there's 'blood work' involved. 

Yesterday was a tanker truck kind of day for drawing blood. I've had days where eight to ten vials of blood have been drawn as if somehow the answers to how I have gotten here are locked in the plasma or red corpuscles. Those answers haven't been found yet, but my medical team is keen to keep trying. 

While at the window to give the phlebotomist or blood services nursing technician (they are two different careers and neither likes to be thought of as the other) and, this time (surprise!) a urine sample was required ('Can you fill this please?' she asked me, holding up the cup on her side of the glass, seated at her desk. 'From here?' I inquired somewhat dubiously) when the door to the waiting area opened and more people shuffled in. 

Waiting rooms are bad places for me. I have to sit near other people and I'm not good with people at all. I cannot accept the fact that there's no expectation on anyone else's part that I be amusing or amazing or talk at all, and yet, the Imp of the Perverse will not allow me, or them, any surcease as I watch myself attempt small talk with diminishing results that always causes me to redouble my efforts until eventually the unfortunate next to me gets up and moves, or leaves. 

This has actually happened to me. Someone named Lacey (I think, or maybe they called out 'Lucy', a couple of months ago, gathered her things and was gone in the blink of an eye--joining in the mists of memory a 'David' and a 'Robert' from bygone years). But yesterday, in walked two adult women with a child of, perhaps, nine or eleven (I'm not good at guessing people's ages or weights, and don't get me started on their IQs). 

The child, wearing a blue winter jacket and a blue knit cap (it was nice yesterday weather-wise but it was more than a little cold at 7:30 in the morning and it is early February and this is New England, etc....) walked the length of the waiting room to stand alongside me, practically on top of me, as I waited at the window. 

He stared without blinking upwards into my face as one of the adults, perhaps his mother, in an embarrassed tone of voice explained 'Alex is autistic'. Alex studied me, studying him and he smiled. I don't have a doctor for autism (yet) and if you know more about it than I, good for you, but to me, autism suggests Alex finds his inner world more interesting than our external one, and reacts accordingly. 

Having been accused by people for too many years of not having emotions (which pi$$es me off-proving the assertion wrong, I think), I was face to face, literally, with a person who was emotionally self-contained and was, in essence, window shopping. 

I gave him a ticket from the 'take a ticket' basket while explaining to him he would need that number when he was called and he nodded his head seeming to acknowledge that and was led by the other adult woman to a chair opposite the processing window where he sat down without loosening or removing his cap or jacket. 

In a few moments Alex got up from his seat and walked to where I was now sitting to stand in front of me at my chair and stare down as I sat. When my name was called, he started to follow me to the drawing area but was detained by the other woman and all the while, from the next room as the tanker truck filled with my blood, 

I could hear him (actually not so much him as the two adult women) struggling to keep him under control. He never sounded or behaved dangerously or defiantly--just very set in his ways and very determined. 

When the blood drawing finished, I got the spot of cotton to hold on the extraction point in the arm where they took the blood and then two strips of tape to hold the cotton and to grab thousands of little arm hairs when you tear it off later (fast or slow makes no difference; it hurts and stings). 

As I put my jacket on I could feel eyes and turning as I was leaving I saw him staring at me with his left arm raised at the elbow, moving two fingers up and down in a wave of farewell. 

There are six billion of us on the planet and we're pretty successful at avoiding one another for long periods of time. Yesterday, for a moment, I was reminded that we're all in the same ocean and so I waved back and was gone.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Arabic Numerals Finally Rule

After a season that starts in August, the National Football League plays its final game of the season today/tonight. In light of the number of past professional players who have had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, it's a good thing NFL Films preserves a copy of the game as some of those in it will not remember it later in their lives.

Pay no attention to a FAJF (Fallen Away Jets Fan); we haven't had anything to cheer about in XLVII years. I can remember watching Super Bowl III in Miami, when Joe Willie, Matt Schnell, Don Maynard, George Sauer upended Earl Morrall and Tom Matee 16-7, at friends of my parents' house, just outside of Philadelphia. They were summer home friends-both of our families had houses at Indian Mountain Lake, in Pennsylvania (it wasn't as posh as all this back then).

I and my brother, Kelly, focused on the television as our hosts, Vincent and Albert, separated by about as many years as we were, fought (punching, kicking and wrestling) for nearly the entire time the game was on. We got along about as well as two brothers normally do, but in comparison to those two jablones, we were saints (and we both knew we weren't close to saints).

There were two football leagues back in those days, but for not much longer as the merger of both had already started. Billionaires (and the owners soon became that) hate to share and rigged the system so now they don't have to and helped make professional football players ridiculously wealthy, and we pay ludicrously large sums to be allowed to watch all this happen.

Half a century on, the NFL has Sunday afternoons and evenings, as well as Monday and Thursday nights pretty much all to itself and will, I am sure, in the coming decades chalk up more days of the week as they expand to Europe and Asia because what's not to love about this game as it becomes closer to the reality Rollerball only hinted at?

If Denver and Carolina are bringing the circuses, we seem to be delighted to purchase the bread, beer, soda, pizza, TVs and chicken wings. I'd hope the best team would win but I'm not sure that's even the point anymore, or ever. 
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Stepping Back into the River

We had a lot of snow here in my piece of Connecticut yesterday. I shouldn't kvetch; we have pine trees not palm trees for a reason but I hope every winter season for no snow and I'm always disappointed sooner or later (and sometimes both) so I stayed home and telecommuted because those much-maligned forecasters got it 100% correct and the roads were a mess.

In the late morning, I had a facebook message and an email on an account I don't use very much from Tim Biggs a TV production fellow from Cologne, Germany, with a story I'm hoping you can help with.

Seriously. Here it goes.

I've never seen the program (our antenna on the roof isn't tall enough) on Germany television produced by Endemol Shine that arranges for family reunions with long-lost members.

The show gets 30,000 requests a year from viewers seeking to find relatives who left, usually during the four-plus decades of a divided Germany, and have never returned.

Tim asked to speak with me because he hoped I could help his show find Jorg Guthknecht, or as he was known by his friend, me, Joseph (Joe) Lee Davis. According to a letter from his sister that Tim read, Joe and I became friends in San Diego where we shared an apartment for three weeks during training.

If you can't read German, that link tells you Jorg attempted to illegally leave East Germany (Flight from the Republic), which was a crime. He didn't succeed and (I'm assuming after a jail sentence) afterward was deported.

This happened literally thousands if not tens of thousands of times in the former Workers' Paradise. It still pisses me off when apologists for the SED (the East German Communist Party) and its present-day mutations, the PDS (Partei Deutsche Socializmus) and The Left (Die Linke) rhapsodize about damals mit rosa-rot brillen.

Jorg/Joe was, according to the same letter, later in the Air Force, as a Corporal and wrote a letter, auf deutsch, to (one of) his sister(s) in Berlin, telling her he had asked his friend (me) to play a song on Nightside on AFN Radio, for her and their parents, Neil Young's Helpless.

Here's where things get weird (yes, I know: 'that other stuff wasn't weird?'). I have never been to, in or near San Diego; I hosted Nightside for about six years and, for whatever reason, do remember a listener request for that specific song (I was and remain a huge Neil Young fan) though requested for and by whom I have no recollection.

The sister's letter, quoting his note, claims, as I said, that he was a Corporal but I thought the Air Force never had that rank (the Marines and the Army do, and according to a source I found, "Joe" was in the US Army) but I was wrong but that rank did not exist at the time he was supposed to be in the service.

Here's where you come in.
This is a photo Tim sent me from Jorg/Joe's sister (she is now the sole survivor).

According to Facebook, that famous six degrees of separation is now, they say, barely more than half of that, so using their math, we (all of us) somehow know what became of Jorg/Joe, but we may not know that we know. I took Tim as far as I could and it wasn't all that far.

I'd hope together we might use The Power of the Interwebz to do more than send one another Richard pictures (NOT all of us can send them just based on simple biology) and grumpy cat memes. Life is a series of changing partners and while people often change, memories of people stay the same.
- bill kenny

Friday, February 5, 2016

Morning Musings, Unless You Sleep In.....

I admire people whose lives are so organized they can sub-specialize and multi-task on daily hygiene routines like hair washing. I’m a guy who uses a “3 in 1” soap while in the shower that purports to be shampoo, conditioner and body wash all at the same time. I was raised a Roman Catholic and am comfortable believing in things I don’t necessarily see with my own eyes. 

I don’t why the manufacturer stopped at three or how they figured that was the right number. If I get some in my mouth, does it help strengthen my teeth? It’s on my hands, isn’t it? So it helps harden my nails? We’re not going there today? Wish someone had told me; would have been nice.

Meanwhile, if you ask me what percentage is shampoo or conditioner, I’d have no clue. I’d probably say ‘enough’ since the few hairs I have on my head left don’t get all frizzy after I towel-dry them. Wish it worked on the ones on my back and knuckles.

As for the body wash, I don’t think our bodies are all that smart in realizing a certain soap is actually coming out of a bottle and that it started out in my hair. At least, I hope not.  And I should tell you I use the combo products not because I am so busy and important that I just don’t have the time to measure out shampoo and conditioner separately because that’s not it. It’s just easier.

If you’re one of those (and I’m told they exist though I don’t think I know any) who does use the “products” separately and always has the latter run out when the former does, bravo I guess and here’s a medal. By the way, I think you’re wasting your talents and should aim higher, a lot higher.

You probably have a loofah too, which is one of the goofier named things of all time (jumbo shrimp, I’m looking at you as I type that). I use a washcloth or flannel so I guess that makes me an accidental and coincidental exfollianter. Yeah, it’s important but not to me (thanks, Don). I’ll put it this way: those extra pounds I’d like to lose aren’t unshed skin, but thanks for the alibi.

And since I’m getting all lathered about really nothing, why is “No Tears” shampoo only for children? I know, “Be Quiet, Big Boys Don’t Cry” but there are people other than Godley and Crème wandering the planet, to include Eric Stewart, and maybe we don’t want to whine when we wash our hair. Just sayin’. Now, rinse and repeat.
-bill kenny