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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Today and Tomorrow Made Possible Only by Yesterday's Sacrifices

I hate to be the one who clouds the sunshine of a three-day holiday weekend, but just think of it as part of the service. We're so used to each of our days rushing past us in a never-ending stream we sometimes forget others, elsewhere, sacrificed theirs so we could do whatever we choose with ours.

Even, and especially, when we choose to do nothing.

Sometimes words are not enough like this time.

Thank you to those who served and sacrificed your lives for ours.

I hope we prove to have been worthy.
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Let's Go Down to the Fairground

Let's go down to the fairground
Go down side by side
Let's remember what life was like
When life was a wild ride
Let's go down to the fairground
Before it's up and gone
Get your tight blue jeans out
And try to get 'em on

Let's go down to the fairground
Let's go down

We can watch the Carneys spin the cars
And make the young girls cry
They always seem to have bad skin
And one lazy eye
And one on them's on your money
And the others on the floor
They gotta keep their noses clean
And watch out for the law

Let's go down to the fairground
Let's go down

Check out that big black guy
Who works the Ferris wheel
He looks like he's been around
Let's ask him how it feels
Traveling around from town to town
With many a lesson learned
Putting up that giant wheel
Just to watch that damned thing turn

Let's go down to the fairground
Let's go down

See that girl in the tattered dress
Who runs the Octopus ride
She's no more than fourteen
And already one inside
And every tattoo that's tattood
Upon her hide
Tells the story of her life
A life of pain and pride
How her mother used her
And left her all alone
Her stepdaddy abused her
So she ran away from home
She set her sights on Hollywood
But winded up in Maine
Went the wrong direction
On a cargo train
But hey it ain't too bad now
She's movin' on at last
She forgot about tomorrow
And forgets about the past

Let's go down to the fairground
Let's go down

Let's go down to the fairground
Let's go down my dear
Watch those young tow-headed kids
Grin from ear to ear
Maybe the know something
That we forgot about
Our lives became so complex
We blocked the fun right out

Let's go down to the fairground
Let's go down

Well the girl who takes the tickets
For the ghost train around the back
Looks a lot like Courtney Love
You know a real class act
And I'll bet that that's her boyfriend
Who runs the Hoopla stand
Maybe he's a genius that no one understands
Maybe he's an inventor
Clever with his hands
Right now he's just small time
But he's got big plans
Or maybe he's just a shifty guy
That's got a violent streak
Maybe he's the one who murdered
That clown and and got away scott free

Let's go down to the fairground
Let's go down

Let's go down to the fairground
Before it's up and gone
Get your tight blue jeans out
And try to get 'em on
Get 'em on"
- Graham Parker, from Your Country, 2004

The Norwich Rotary Family Carnival is open today and tomorrow from noon until 11 PM and on Monday, Memorial Day, from noon until six. If you don't go, it's your own fault.
- bill kenny

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Walk to Clear My Head

I'm off through next Tuesday. If you have to work today, please don't think I'm rubbing it in when I tell you I was off yesterday as well. Okay, maybe a little bit.

This is a picture in some form you've seen before of the Indian Leap Historical District which is about a five minute walk from my house, not that there is a cause and effect relationship between those two things. But it wouldn't be so bad, perhaps, if there were. Just sayin'.

This is the view from a street I rarely walk on just below the Jail Hill Historic District (I don't know if it is historic, but I think someday it will be) over on School Street, just beyond Cedar Street. There may have been a school here a long time ago, hence the name. In honor of the occasion yesterday I called it Bill Boulevard (just don't tell the Public Works people who altered the street sign).

On my way back to our house, I stopped to admire this one on Church Street-and yes there is a church, so perhaps there's hope for School Street as well-it's a house I pass all the time but yesterday I thought it looked especially lovely so I grabbed a photo.

I'm not sure I'll take pictures today that I'll share with you but you will be the second person to know it if I do.
- bill kenny

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fate Is Just the Weight of Circumstances

I should tell you to begin  I’ve never understood the appeal of casino gambling, or gambling in any form. I don’t do sports pools, I don’t play cards (for money or otherwise) and as for the entertainment value of watching a wheel spin with a jumping ball that needs to land on a particular spot for me to make money, or wearing a work glove while I’m pulling a handle or pressing a button to “play” the slots, all of that makes as much sense to me as betting on a horse or greyhound dog. And that makes no sense.

I grasp the concept and here in The Land of Steady Habits, who a quarter of a century ago, permitted “Las Vegas Nights” one-night gambling only as fund-raisers for charities (as opposed to bingo, I guess, where some in my old neighborhood would grab six cards and the marker on their way out of the confessional), we now have two HUGE billion dollar gaming operations at the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos.

Between them they employ many thousands of people who in the course of the (about) two decades they’ve operated have joined the “New  American Workforce” in the service sector, probably I guess because we have enough engineers, programmers, architects and mechanics and could use more bare subsistence wage earners.

Of course, we don’t call it gambling; how déclassé! Now it’s called gaming. Sort of like Scrabble or “Go Fish” except you can lose your life savings very quickly, but all in a family-friendly environment.

The best thing about the casinos in Eastern Connecticut was, aside from some smallish upstate New York stuff and Atlantic City in New Jersey, they were it. If not actually the Golden Geese, in terms of revenues generated for the state of Connecticut who took a 25% cut of all slot machine revenues, then very definitely some other yellow-tinged fowl.

The good times rolled as did the revenues to the state (to satiate its appetite for spending) but other New England states eyed our Connecticut casinos hungrily, as so many of their residents traveled to The Nutmeg State for family-friendly entertainment, and wondered “why not us?” Indeed.

Eventually the Massachusetts’ statehouse and Governor developed a licensing system to place a limited number of ‘gaming sites’ within the Commonwealth. Operators bid for the right to run those sites, obviously with  benefits in tax revenues to the state and perhaps some  to the ‘hosting’ municipalities (and in all cases, at a handsome profit for the operators).

Among those who bid, but unsuccessfully, were the two Connecticut tribal casinos who have now allied themselves with state representatives from both the upper and lower chambers to try to pass legislation creating additional casinos strategically placed along Connecticut’s borders to entice gamblers (‘gamers’ is just too stupid to use in this context) driving through our state on their way to Massachusetts.

This according to this news article and thousands like it in recent weeks and months, will “save jobs here in the region,” which is laudable except (and the point of my screed today), where was this concern to “save jobs” when the bidding for licenses was hot and heavy North of the state border?

Was there a concern, to say nothing of a plan, at that time while pursuing those bids about preserving and protecting the jobs that were back at the Mother Ship in Eastern Connecticut? If so, why not just share that plan now with the lobbyists and legislators who are being stampeded to support what is in essence an expansion of gambling throughout a state that had historically run budget surpluses until it discovered what it thought were Easy Riches?

If not, that’s the part of the  equation that should disquiet us, decades too late after we decided we could retain our balance while riding the tiger’s back, because now we are in danger of being in its belly.

-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Overcoming Ennui and Entropy

I fell across an insight earlier in the week that left me shaking my head at its directness and simplicity, but most especially because of its truth. It has to do with why so many of us stay in unhappy situations be it a job, a relationship or where we live.

It suggested people resist taking a chance because they focus on what they would have to give up and could lose instead of on what they would gain.

Sort of a variation of the old 'a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush' when we should be thinking you cannot win if you do not play, especially if you do not play, you feel that means you cannot lose. For many of us, the "not losing" part trumps the attraction of any potential opportunity.

I don't think aversion to risk is Norwich-specific; it's more true than not in almost anyplace you can name. As Pink Floyd once sang, "there's too many home fires burning and not enough trees." There's just about no place that couldn't use a lot more energy and engagement to overcome ennui and entropy; more enthusiastic beginners and fewer discouraged experts.

As I suggested in this space last week, the game's afoot in Chelsea and many other places across Norwich if/when we choose to see it. It's not smooth but it's steady and sometimes it's despite, and other times because of, our efforts. The dogs bark but the caravan moves forward. And life goes on.

Last week in remarks offered at a Global Entrepreneurs Summit in the White House President Obama said, "...we believe in the power of entrepreneurship -- the basic notion that if you’ve got an idea and if you really work hard and you’re able to pick yourself up (even) if you stumble a couple of times, you can eventually turn that idea into a reality.

"And this matters...because...the spirit of entrepreneurship can help us to tackle some of the greatest challenges that we face around the world...."

And while that should hearten those in down-turned downtowns everywhere working to earn a living and make better lives for themselves, their families and their neighbors, there's more immediate and tangible (as in fold up and put in your wallet) local help available, the Business Resource Roundup, this afternoon starting at 5 in the Mohegan Sun Convention Center.

This is a free event, open to entrepreneurs, start ups and small businesses who call today 888-835-2333 extension 2040, sponsored by the Community Economic Development Fund, which has two million dollars in loan capital available expressly to help existing Norwich businesses, start-ups or any (other) business looking to (re) locate in Norwich.

There will be information on the Norwich Job Creation Program, incentives on opening a business in downtown and participation from Norwich local banks and organizations like the Small Business Administration, the Southeastern Connecticut Chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives, and the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, among others.

There's even a buffet dinner, so bring your appetite and an extra napkin to write down your next Big Idea.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

To Bee or Not To Bee

If you thought this had been a rough winter across large parts of the US, and you are correct it was, it was less than a cakewalk for bees, from spelling and quilting through knitting and honey. But whereas we have the spring and summer to look forward to and enjoy, the same cannot be said for that star-spangled bumbling pollinator, the honeybee. 

This, my friend, is a bad news story-but upon closer scrutiny it’s actually a worse news story. Not because it’s in the New York Times, far from it-but rather, because it’s buried somewhere in the bowels of America’s Newspaper of Record instead of on the front page above the fold.

We are talking about a situation, not intending to create panic, that should cause us to RUN WILDLY IN ALL DIRECTIONS SEEKING AN ESCAPE THAT DOESN’T EXIST. Sorry about that. Damm Caps Lock.  

Seriously-the food we eat, and if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, the food your food eats, very much depends on bees to be fruitful and multiply. And that ain’t happening like it used to.

Some are blaming Colony Collapse Disorder (which sounds like something that would have happened to bees in the British Empire, but what do I know?), others a parasite and still many others much of what man(kind) hath wrought to the environment and planet we share with the winged beasties. And no we don't know exactly why, but simply put there are 40% fewer bees than this time last year. 

I don’t have the answer and admit I have trouble fully grasping the question but 40% less of anything we need to sustain ourselves (and all other life forms) is quite the attention getter. I’m not a melittologist but I’m no fireman, either, and when I see a blaze burning where there shouldn’t be one I have an instinct that says “find somebody to help.” This time, too.

I’m not sure what needs to be done or even if we can do it-but we need to knock the Kardashians off the front page of our news feeds and worry a lot more about Honey and Hereafter or there will be very little of either very quickly
-bill kenny     

Monday, May 18, 2015

More Back Pages: Four Years Later, Don't Touch That Dial

Either we don't change very much or very well-I'm not sure I know the difference or can tell it either. What follows feels like it could have been written a minute ago but it's over four years old (Happy Birthday!) and despite its age, for the most part, is pretty much who we are, specifically in 06360 but in all likelihood in your neck of the woods as well. Reassuring monotonous stasis-at least there's something we can depend on. 

Germany's 19th Century Iron Chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck, once observed politics is the art of the possible, and it was Tip O'Neill who said all politics is local. Put both of those thoughts together and we really should have swarms of registered voters every time we have an election for City Council or the Board of Education.

While a great deal of newspaper and television coverage of Politics with a capital "P" tends to fixate on the statehouse and Governor's Mansion or on Capital Hill and the White House, for most of us it really is those closest to home, our local elected officials, whom we see as having the greatest impact on our community and our quality of life. Yes, the President is the Commander in Chief but I'm not asking him about a cracked sidewalk at the house on the corner.

We've got some time and distance to go before the next cycle of elections around here for both the City Council and the Board of Education. Lots of time for those who are incumbents to make (more) progress on those projects they took on as their terms began. And plenty of time for those who are contemplating a run at elected office to measure at least twice before cutting once.

When the time comes,I don't care how you vote so much as that you do. If you're registered to vote, make sure you do and if you're eligible to vote but aren't registered, make sure you do register. Click here for the Norwich Registrar of Voters or here's the Connecticut Secretary of the State's Web Portal. Democracy is a contact sport and we cannot win if you do not play.

Let's face it, the current terms of office of members on both bodies have not been a walk in the park for any of them. Some say we should regard a problem as an opportunity to excel and in that context those currently in office have been spoiled for opportunities. So, too, have we even when on more than one occasion I've disagreed with decisions the neighbors who serve in elected office have made.

There's a temptation when you're not Teddy Roosevelt's Man in the Arena to speculate about how well someone else might do in a particular office. Some hypothetical solutions always seem to lend themselves to much happier endings, whether those endings are real or not. I've contended had my mother married a Kennedy, I might be living in the White House-but she didn't, so I'm not. 
See how much more attractive fictional lives can be?

But in the here and Norwich in which we live, between now and November look at where we are as a city and where you see us heading. Nothing is eaten as hot as it's served and nothing's so marvelous it cannot be improved. We can always use another great idea and the energy to implement it and no one in any party has a monopoly on either.

Many believe we're rebuilding our downtown and enhancing our community's quality of life as well as our grand list. Many others are not so sure. There's room enough for both the hopeful and the skeptic. 

What we are now is what we were at the last election and the election before that. What we are to be is limited only by our willingness to find out. It's not how you start, it's how you finish and we're far from done.
-bill kenny