Friday, January 20, 2017

359.1 Miles (definitely NOT Davis)

If you stopped by today looking for some cheery and cheerfully inspirational words as we inaugurate the 45th President of the United States about how we should roll up our sleeves and all move forward together, you will need to look elsewhere. Do it now, don't dally. What follows may not be what you were seeking. Life is funny that way.  

Big(ly) doings today in our nation's capital, appropriately enough at the Capitol Building as the Presidency of the United States, in a miracle of democracy and peaceful transition of power, passes from Barack H. Obama to Donald J Trump.

If you've visited this space at almost any moment for the last nearing a decade or so, you are more than aware that the President-Elect and I are like this (and you can guess which of those two fingers I regard him as being). It's unrequited animus as he would say "who?" in response to my name. That's actually more than fair and #ThanksDonald.

You are free to think me as an ill-mannered cur with my lack of respect for the man, but I would argue it's just my war on political correctness as I put a normal-sized finger of my regular-sized hand on the Cosmic Scale to counter-balance someone who left no one behind in a hateful campaign of conceit, contempt, injury and insult in pursuit of the office of President.

I am somewhat surprised the inauguration wasn't conducted exclusively on Twitter. I'm not a mathlete but the amount of characters permitted in a single tweet is probably double or more the total amount found in the entirety of his Cabinet nominees. Too harsh? Gee, I'm sorry; no, actually I'm not. 

If I hold my breath waiting on those long-promised income tax returns and medical records of the new Birther-in-Chief, I'd be as blue as his suit (you thought I was gonna take a shot at Nugent's anatomy? I just did. And all the campaign chatter was about small hands? Speaking of which...).

The party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt thinks we should now unite behind a man who accepts as fact the meandering mutterings of Alex Jones and his ilk and who has created a parallel universe in which situational ethics is the New Normal and Truth and Honesty are always lowercase nouns and relative concepts. I think I'll take a pass on all of that. 

For the sake of comity and not without some comedic value, I will say 'thank you for the kindness of that offer.' It's not you, it's me. I'm not a poor loser but I will concede nothing to this man, ever. And as you've probably guessed, I'm gonna stay this way for a helluva long time. 

Speaking of hell, @realDonaldTrump, I already have my ice skates on and despite your insistence that climate change is a Chinese hoax, all I can say is puck you.
-bill kenny  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Break in the Battle

I spend an inordinate amount of time wading through electronic correspondence most of which, in some form or other, I requested (not all of it, despite what some of the telemarketers want me to believe when challenged but a not inconsiderable amount of it is self-inflicted) but no longer read.

I've concluded I (and you, too) am actually responsible for the National Security Agency, NSA, bringing me the Second Coming of the Red Scare because I never, ever, read any of the those End User License Agreements, EULA, that come with every computer program and smartphone applications and to which the developer insists I agree before allowing its use.

C'mon, 'fess up; neither do you. I just scroll down and click the 'agree' box and go about my business. The EULA may well demand one or more of my children as indentured servants, or that I surrender my Klondike Bar as a condition to which I blithely agree.

I have no way of knowing as I NEVER read the small print and that, my friend, might have been just the opening through which the NSA came storm (troopering) as it trampled on my rights in order to protect them. It may take a village to raise a child, Hillary, but sometimes we have to destroy the village to save it. Sign here.

Meanwhile, I dig out an e-mail in-box which employs powerful and effective spam filters so all the hinky and many of the kinky solicitations have already been weeded out. Okay, every once in awhile, one of them, usually involving a palomino pygmy pony, rubber sheets, and cooking oil shows up but after a couple of days (and it depends on the number of photos, I admit) I manage to delete that as well.

The other day, I just had enough of skimming stuff I'd asked to be sent for reasons that only God and I once knew and now only one of the two of us (perhaps) still does and decided to stop the e-madness. There's no personal animus involved in this, as it's all automated. The sent email will have a line at the bottom on 'how to unsubscribe' which is good for the sender and even better for me.

I don't remember which one of the legion of senders whose unsubscribe link I clicked but I smiled as I read this confirmation of the termination of our (non) relationship: "You have been removed from the Daily Digest mailing list. You will receive one last email, and maybe a creepy voicemail because we know we can work this out."

Gotta tell ya, I was tempted to rejoin just for the unsubscribe part of the drill all over again, proving sometimes in the "It's not you, it's me" dance of a thousand denials, no matter what I say, it is you. Really, you.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Otis Library is a Mirror and a Window

Andrew Carnegie, who knew a thing or two about a thing or two, and whose Gospel of Wealth helped create and advance the idea of philanthropy in the United States, once noted "a library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in a desert."

With other weather and our three rivers, Norwich will never be confused with a desert, but I was thinking about how much the downtown Norwich we fret about so (too?) often in print and at public meetings, so frequently looks to the Otis Library on Main Street the way the fingers of our hands hand look to the thumb.

There are many brave beginnings across and throughout Chelsea, but whenever I'm in/near Franklin Square, I've lost track of all the places to eat that have sprouted up around Otis, like flowers after a spring rain. Talk about spoiled for choice, and where Epicure and Commerce intersect. The restaurants are there because that's where the ebb and flow of foot traffic, like me on Saturday, is.

And I was at the Otis Library on Saturday, to enjoy the traveling version of The Smithsonian's Exploring Human Origins: What Does It Mean to Be Human? exhibit upstairs in the community room through February 3. I wasn't alone, not by any means. A nice flow of folks, by themselves, with a friend or, in some instances, small children made their way around the room trying to take it all in and not so coincidentally helping me prove my previously offered point about attracting traffic.

And since we're talking about an exhibit that traces millions of years of human development to get us to where we are now, let me detour to before I and my family arrived here a quarter of a century ago when, I've been told, Walter Way, then as now active in city politics and community development, would tell anyone who would listen, and many who chose not to, that an alliance with an organization like the Smithsonian to bring to town just this kind of exhibit would do wonders for the region and the city's economic growth. He was right then and he's right now.

It would seem, and I say this after watching many of those coming out of Otis who headed to the newly-opened Asian restaurant on the corner across from the Buckingham Memorial and others who sought out Spanish and Chinese cuisine closer to Franklin Square that visitors to cultural events in the nearly-always underfunded-by-the-city library work up the same kind of appetites that folks who go to sporting events and vacation parks do. Who'd have thunk it?

I shouldn't be surprised. As I learned at the exhibit, no matter who we are or where we're from we share over 99% of our DNA with the person standing beside us examining those models of human skulls as you enter the exhibit. As for that double digit sharing of the same DNA with a banana, yes a banana, not you know why I wear a ball cap when I go to the produce section in the grocery. As well as a whole new appreciation for the origins of our President-Elect, somewhere in the snack aisle, near the Frito-Lay display.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Farewell to Wild Billy's Circus Story

It was everywhere and a part of every child's growing up years. And then when we were grown, we came with our children as the pretext for an encore helping of the magic that was The Big Top.
But come May, it will be no more.

The machinist climbs his Ferris wheel like a braid
And the fire-eater's lyin' in a pool of sweat, victim of the heat wave
Behind the tent, the hired hand tightens his legs on the sword swallower's blade
Circus town's on the shortwave.

Well, the runway lies ahead like a great false dawn
Fat lady, big mama, Missy Bimbo sits in her chair and yawns
And the man-beast lies in his cage sniffin' popcorn
And the midget licks his fingers and suffers Missy Bimbo's scorn
Circus town's been born.

"gratuitously added"? Say No More!
And a press roll drummer go, ballerina to-and-fro, cartwheelin' up on that tightrope
With a cannon blast, lightnin' flash, movin' fast through the tent, Mars-bent
He's gonna miss his fall, oh, God save the human cannonball
And the flyin' Zambinis watch Margarita do her neck twist
And the ringmaster gets the crowd to count along 95, 96, 97.

A ragged suitcase in his hand, he steals silently away from the circus grounds
And the highway's haunted by the carnival sounds
They dance like a great greasepaint ghost on the wind
A man in baggy pants, a lonely face, a crazy grin
Runnin' home to some small Ohio town
Jesus, send some sweet women to save all your clowns.

And Circus Boy dances like a monkey on barbed wire
And the barker romances with a junkie, she's got a flat tire
And now the elephants dance real funky and the band plays like a jungle fire
Circus town's on the live wire.
And the strong man Samson lifts the midget, little Tiny Tim, up on his shoulders, way up
And carries him on down the midway, past the kids, past the sailors, to his dimly lit trailer
And the Ferris wheel turns and turns like it ain't ever gonna stop
And the circus boss leans over and whispers into the little boy's ear
"Hey, son, you want to try the big top?
All aboard, Nebraska's our next stop."

I'm packed. Let's get rolling.

One of Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ performing elephants enters the arena for its final show in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S., May 1, 2016. (Photo By Andrew Kelly/Reuters)
-bill kenny

Monday, January 16, 2017

Five Years On

I first offered the words which follow five years ago. In light of the rate and pace of change, and not all of it for the better, in the last half decade, I'm more than a little surprised how true this still rings.

If we here in the Land of the Red, White and Blue Round Doorknobs can't make it a three day holiday, we may not observe it at all. Yesterday was the 88th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
James Earl Ray made sure he would never have to blow out all those candles by murdering him almost forty-nine years ago.

The deaths of American icons I hope you read about in history class while in school, JFK, Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, I was alive for all three and lack the words to tell you what we were like as a nation before each of their passings. I trust you'll believe me when I tell you we are a better nation if not always better people because they lived.

I was a high school sophomore, a pimply too-loud white preppie kid, wandering around our nation's capital, Washington D. C., on a school trip my father organized that ended up right through the middle of Resurrection City, at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, just weeks after Dr. King's assassination.

I was stunned at the scale and scope of the settlement, the audacity and eloquence of the vision that propelled and compelled it into existence and the pervasiveness of the poverty and despair that made it inevitable and necessary. Reinventing American society so that the reasons why it had to be done would become history and aren't a part of our present or future, is a piece of the legacy of Dr. King.

Today across the country there are ceremonies and commemorations. Ours in Norwich at City Hall starts at half past one this afternoon with some speeching, a little preaching (I suspect), as well as singing followed by a march to Evans Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church for warming words on what is usually a typical New England winter's day and then we'll all go home, back to the lives we lead and the people we are.

I hope this year across this country we seize a moment from whatever we do today to celebrate the dream of Dr. King, make it our own and keep it in our hearts. And then, beginning tomorrow for all the tomorrows which remain, use that dream as a fulcrum, as he did, to change the world. Again.
-bill kenny      

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Furious Meets Curious

As we continue our rush to Friday's changing of the guard the newspapers and television news reports I tend to follow have had more than a double dollop of every flavor of economic news imaginable (and some unimaginable). In my case, it's like being the original Studebaker struggling to be in with the In Crowd

Doings on Wall Street, for me, are akin to black holes and gravity. People smarter than I shall ever be are telling me it's important, though the "why" eludes me, so far. I have the same relationship with the Dow Jones Industrial Average as a squirrel or chipmunk on the side of a road has with the passing traffic: I can only imagine what might happen to me if I lose track of where I am in relation to this creation beyond my understanding. Our reach may have finally exceeded our grasp, if I've understood anything of all of this.

Meanwhile brick and mortar businesses and politicians of all persuasions stand on tip-toe as seas of red ink and operating costs rise to their noses (the latter group tend to talk out of an orifice a far piece from their nostrils) and I try to keep my ear tuned to the roar of some metal-tempered engine on some alien distant shore and then head in the other direction.  

The line between tropical typhoon and business tycoon is way more notional than actual if I'm figuring this right. It's all a play of some kind and with all respect to Lin-Manuel Miranda, it's all about the Benjamins, my brother, and devil take the hindmost. The numbers get so large in all of these discussions, your eyes glaze over or should out of self-defense.

My part in all of this? I'm one of those folks who gets by. Puts a little, very little, away out of each pay packet for savings (actually I have it done automatically, because otherwise it'd never get done at all I fear) and who has enough to pay the bills and that's about it.In my house we turn the dollar over at least once before we spend it and that's not a bad thing. I'm not sinking and I'm not qualifying for the Olympic Swim Team- you're probably in that same situation. (Quick tip: don't wear Speedos. That 'banana hammock' is NOT cool; it's creepy.)

When I come home most nights, I have mail from one or more different banks or credit card companies. Everybody wants to be my friend. One bank card offered me the chance or choice (I've forgotten which) to pick my payment date (I see your smile; yeah, I picked the same date you just thought) and another allowed me to set my own interest rate. And all I could wonder is why it's odd usury never shows up in spelling bees anymore.

I didn't ask for any of the mail. I don't need the offers or the cards and I'm smart enough, finally, to realize I don't want them. I could have dropped them off at your house on my way in to work, but I suspect you got them, too. Here's an idea: If we play our cards (credit and otherwise) right, the recycling folks will have quite a haul on collection day, right? "Another guru in the money /Another mantra in the mail."
-bill kenny