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Friday, April 24, 2015

Back in the Saddle Again

I live too far from where I work to (realistically) take part next month in National Bike to Work Day, NBWD, on Friday, May 15. If I were being sincere instead of snarky (hey! They both start with ‘s’), I could ride a bicycle to our $22 million Inter-Modal Transportation Center on Hollyhock Island that took a decade to construct and whose existence, purposes and possible applications continues to confound local elected officials. 

From there I could take a bus, eventually, near to where I work. I mean, I really should do that instead of just typing I really should do that. The folks on the hyperlink had me at the artist’s impression of a bike, complete with a “cool bell.” When I was a kid, I rode a bike everywhere-not because we were saving the earth, though that’s a great reason, or to lose weight which in my case would be a wonderful idea, but because everyone had a bike and we rode them everywhere.

It wasn’t unusual on a weekend to have a “bike hike” where Mom packed you a brown bag lunch and a soft drink and you put it in the back mousetrap on your bike (where all winter you’d kept your baseball glove, smeared in neatsfoot oil to build a better pocket (I never knew that’s how it was made, ugh!)) and off you and a swarm of friends would pedal, usually from mid-morning after breakfast coming back at around dinner time.

We had nowhere to be and all the time in the world to get there. There were no cell phones-your mom would stand on the front stoop and call for you. At some point, no matter where you’d pedaled, you heard her or you were grounded for what felt like forever when you did get home. No one screwed that up a second time, if memory serves me correctly.

As we grew older, if not up, we traded Royce Unions and Schwinn’s for Chevy Novas and Dodge Darts-actually, for a chance to drive one of them, usually your folks’ second car because no one went out and got sixteen year-old kids cars, even though it may have been in the Constitution back then, too. At least that seems to be what the kids these days from the high school just across Chelsea Parade, who all drive 60K muscle trucks, think as they travel, usually behind the school bus, to the high school every day. 

In a perfect world we’d have bike paths so cyclists weren’t sharing with either pedestrians and/or motorists, and we’re working towards that without actually getting there, at least yet. Norwich is a good area to pedal your ass, ride your bike because the topography is pretty challenging as you move across the city but the scenery is also very rewarding and a treat you feel like you’ve earned. And it’s a lot easier to take it all in on a bicycle than from behind the wheel of a car.

Based on this news story, I’ve concluded Norwich is NOT Bridgeport and in this case that’s not a bad thing. Most especially if you’re Angel Ramos who would do well to remember to  use your thumb to ring the bell and your middle finger, well, as part of the whole hand to hold on to the handlebars. Tightly, very tightly.
-bill kenny   

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Turn the Page

You stay in one place long enough you’ll get a chance to put the chairs up on the tables and also turn out the lights. I always make it a point at those moments to make sure all the silverware is accounted for. 

I’m working to find the time later this afternoon, in theory on my way home, but probably later than that, to stop by and say farewell to Ray Hackett, someone I could have known when each of us was in another life but we ended up meeting in this one in of all places, The Rose of New England, Norwich, Connecticut. 

His employer, The Bulletin (nee The Norwich Bulletin) is hosting a do of sorts for him at Modesto’s in Franklin, through the early evening and I suspect he’ll only be allowed to attend if he’s turned in his column beforehand. The folks who manage the newspaper run a tight ship. 

He has been the editorial page editor, I think at one time it was called the Community Conversations Editor, and held just about every position within the newspaper that you can have in a career that spans more than its share of years (yeah, I know some really old guys; got to do something about that). 

Ray has been on a first name basis with the Governors and Senators and congressional representatives we’ve elected for longer than a lot of folks have been alive (really hope he’s not reading this or he may try to jab me with a toothpick this afternoon). If he doesn’t know a certain something about politics across this state and region it’s probably because whatever it is, it’s not true-otherwise he’s the encyclopedia. 

He and  I could have met, except for timing, never my strong suit, when we were both in the US Air Force working on opposite ends of the world and decade for the American Forces Radio and Television Service, AFRTS. But his luck was good and we didn’t but when it finally ran out close to twenty years ago in Norwich, he was a really good sport about it. 

That, among other reasons, is why I’ll miss his notes and running into him, as opposed to over him, in downtown Norwich. He was instrumental in arranging for me to contribute my two cents every Wednesday to the print edition of The Bulletin-if you read it and it makes you angry, don’t blame Ray; instead blame a Literacy Volunteer. 

I can’t imagine how often he’s had to explain to people at his newspaper how and why I hang around but he has and I’m grateful or should be. After tomorrow he trades in all those headaches and other pains for a more measured pace and different circumstances.

I don’t really know what he’ll do next but I know I’m already looking forward to it. Ray, with regards to mutual absent friends, best wishes as you turn the page and start with a fresh sheet.
-bill kenny     

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Standing the Watch and Keeping the Faith

Right in the middle of your Spring weekend and its clean-up from a too-long and too-hard winter, through the scrapped-knuckle yard work reclaiming a flower patch or preparing a vegetable garden to maybe not doing very much of anything at all except taking in the lovely weather we’ve been promised and hoping there’s more (and lots of it) yet to come, I would hope you can find the time this Saturday to mark the turning of a page in a story that’s half a century old.

On March 8, 1965, the United States’ ground war in the Republic of Vietnam began with the deployment of 3,500 Marines. By Christmas of that year, there were nearly 200,000 soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors in country. 

By the time American involvement concluded, April 30, 1975, about three million American military members had served on river patrols, at base camps and on air bases. Nearly 304,000 were wounded; to this day 1,628 remain missing in action or unaccounted for and more than 58,000 lost their lives.

There wasn't and isn't a city or town in any corner of this nation that didn't lose someone. Norwich is not alone in honoring those twelve men who called our city home and who gave their lives in that conflict, but I would suggest the Rose City is a bit unique in that, even in the hurly-burly of this Brave New World of the 21st Century, there are  those who work hard to remember what many others seem sometimes to work hard to forget.

This Saturday afternoon at one on Chelsea Parade the Norwich Area Veterans Council (NAVC) honors those men and women who served in uniform during the three decades of military involvement in Southeast Asia, as well as their families and friends.

It’s not so much speeches being offered, and flags unfurling, or parading of the colors, though to some extent all of that will, and should, probably happen. Perhaps, more importantly is the opportunity we have on Saturday to pause from our everyday and to reflect on the selfless sacrifice and the burdens borne by those who fought and, in some cases, died so that we could enjoy a sunny Saturday with no more thought for their sacrifice than we have for the air that we breathe

In addition to ceremonies at Chelsea Parade, our Freedom Bell, in the David Ruggles Courtyard just beyond the front steps of Norwich City Hall in the heart of downtown will toll twelve times to honor the memory and sacrifice of  Robert Karl Cooley, Francis Charles Donohue, Thomas Edward Donovan, Joseph John Grillo, Jr., Robert Louis Howard, William Lincoln Marcy, James William McNeely, Harold Richard Nielsen, Robert Lee Pendergast, Aaron Lieb Rosenstreich, Alton Browning Sebastian, and David Vautour.

It will be the briefest of moments, especially in light of half a century, for simple and unadorned truths. Honoring those who made our today but in particular, our hope for each new day, possible with the sacrifice of all their yesterdays
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Weather or Not

One of the mysteries, and ongoing miseries, of life from the way I see things is why does it have to rain during the daylight when I want to do things? So full of myself am I and too stuffed to jump for the most part that the rain (actually for much of the day a drizzle bordering on a mist until late in the afternoon when it got kind stupid) on Monday was part of a day when I was working at my desk in my office inside a building and was nowhere near outdoors except to leave the car in the lot and walk into the building.

No matter-if I want to have a pity party for me and all those like me, why should I let facts get in the way of my opinion about how hard my life is. What would the point of that conversation be? I sometimes wonder. Jeepers, Wally, what's the matter with you is (not surprisingly) what’s the matter with me.

After the frigid and frozen winter we had, complete with snow the week before Easter instead of saying ‘at least it wasn’t the week before Memorial Day,’ I still have a sad heart (and a red behind) with anything other than sixty degree plus temperatures and blue skies (‘and green lights to you and yours!’) so I fear the choices I face, as the twilight years near, are to lower my expectations or my voice, especially when expressing disappointment.

Of course, there’s always the wit (and wisdom, often in equal amounts) as articulated by Roger Miller who offered, ‘Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.” I always smile when I remember that ‘for I am a Rain Dog, too.’  
-bill kenny

Monday, April 20, 2015

Diem, from Per through Carpe and All Points in Between

We had a marvelous weekend, weather-wise in these here parts (I'm practicing talking like Yosemite Sam in case that ever becomes a thing, again) and I used both days to do absolutely nothing of any social value at all.

I observed National Record Store Day on Saturday by visiting a great shop I enjoy year-round, The Telegraph, in New London and finally meeting one of the engines who drives the store, Daphne Lee Martin, whose music I'm also inordinately fond of.

I, and my wife and daughter then traveled not that far, down Golden Street a skosh and a quick left to Berry's Ice Cream and Candy Bar for some ice cold delight wrapped in a chocolate dipped Belgian Waffle cone, of sorts. And yes, if you don't get it all over your face, you're not doing it right.

The troubles of the world will, I'm sure, make themselves known to me and to all of us later today as is their wont but the respite provided by the weekend was (of course) too short and entirely necessary.

I hope you had an opportunity to enjoy yourself, for yourself. You're all you have and are all you can depend on. So, what are you waiting for?
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 19, 2015

From Lexington to Oklahoma

History, I’m told by those who purport to know has no beginning or end. It flows like a river whether there’s any one to note or notice or not. Perhaps, but that we as a species do notice and (at least in theory) do draw conclusions from what we note and notice, may, along with these opposable thumbs and our command of tools, be what sets us apart from the other beasts of the earth.

Or not.

I add the 'or not' disclaimer when thinking about history because that’s the easier path. And if I’m about anything at all, it’s the ‘don’t think too hard, you’ll strain yourself’ school of exertion. Three names associated with three moments in our history that share this date; you do the math. Let me know how that straight line connecting them together turns out to be and then let me know what we should do about it.

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past,” said Thomas Jefferson. As Abraham Lincoln said some four score and seven years later, "(T)he best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time." 
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Record Setting Performance

This is one of my favorite days of the year and has nothing to do with either of our children’s birthdays, or that of my wife or our anniversary. Today is National Record Store Day. We used to have a shop here where I live in Norwich, Connecticut, University Music (with a rumored second location in Willimantic).

University Music is long gone as is the Norwichtown Mall that surrounded it. The Norwichtown Commons has a lot of nice and new businesses (hopefully thriving) but no record shop and so far there’s no record store in Chelsea, which is what some of us who don’t call downtown Down City (no idea why) call downtown. Maybe someday, but certainly not today, which in case I haven’t mentioned it enough is National Record Store Day.

I could go to the chain store out in the Crystal Mall and maybe before the day is over I shall, but I’m headed into New London, The Whaling City, to browse the bins of The Telegraph, an absolute must when coming to New London (it and the train station are my two reasons for going there; your mileage may vary but not by much).

As a Scarlet Knight at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey I used to trek out to East Brunswick on Route 18 into a house someone converted into The Record Setter, a vinyl shop so amazing it defied adequate description.

Just one example of why independent record stores rule: I’ve been told five hundred copies of Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka (Morocco) were ever pressed (the first release on Rolling Stones Records). 

I own it on vinyl and eight track (!) and on cassette (until it was stolen out of our VW Beetle in Offenbach, Germany). All of them were tracked down and sold to me by the folks who operated The Record Setter.

The Telegraph is owned and staffed by people who love music because they make music, selling it is their day job to support their avocation. Lots of independent record stores today are having special events, and sales and other patron thank-you’s (no pony rides, I checked) but it’s we, who listen and love music, who should thank those who eke out a living in the retail jungle.

I don’t care what kind of music you say you like (yes, Justin Bieber I’m looking at you-not listening, just looking) except maybe Rastafarian Country and Western, Polka-Swing or Thrash-Gospel. Today is the day to let the freak flag fly and go find your local independent record store and put some of your money where your mouth is and help someone somewhere who’s been making music for themselves for all these years become an overnight sensation
-bill kenny