Share it

Monday, June 30, 2008

Chisholm in my Bosom

Confession is good for the soul and since I've already had my fiber for the day, here goes:

The other day, when we had that rain come up out of nowhere at about 1100 with the torrential rains, and the gale-force winds and the incredible amounts of lightning and thunder? That was my fault. Sorry-I promise to try hard not to have it happen again, but that may not be possible.

I had the car washed--hey, it's a black color with gold or green reflective parts in it (I'm never really sure-and the only part of it I am sure about is when/if I have an accident that requires body work and a new paint job, it will NEVER match what's on the car right now.) that looks very cool when it's clean and shiny, and the wheels are black and the rims are clean. I have tinted windows, not Pimp My Ride tinted windows (how do the people who do that on that show see out those car windows at night?) and except that it's a Subaru Forester XS, you might think it's a cool ride. (And if you clinked on the link, and read Toups' review, him and AutoChannel can take a long walk off a short pier.)

And I have a garden (actually, another confession; my soul will be glowing!) my daughter has a garden. She and I have been at this every summer but one since we moved to Norwich, CT from Offenbach, Germany in 1991. Some years we've gotten a bit exotic-we had Lima beans one year and tried corn (not so successful) and we didn't get discouraged the first year a pest I had never before encountered, slugs, ate every single one of our started from seed in the house in late winter and transplanted into the backyard afte the last frost tomato plants in one night. But I neither forgive, nor forget.

I have since done a lot of very focused research on slugs, though mostly confined to how to kill them by drowning them in empty cans buried around the garden with an inch or so of skunky beer inside. For the slugs, it's like catnip and they cannot resist it. The trap really works but don't waste money on good beer-they don't have any idea what good beer is and I always use Golden Anniversary because I can buy a case for what a six-pack of domestic name-brand beer costs. Maybe I should ask them for an endorsement deal? Or not.

Anyway, in addition to getting the car washed, I watered the garden. Which is code for I turned the sprinkler on and forgot about it for about forty-five minutes until my wife, sitting in the kitchen with those bat ears of hers (she can hear a mosquito break wind-from across the street), looked up from her newspaper and asked 'what's that noise I'm hearing?' I guessed wrong for quite some time (thirty years of marriage has its effect), and then she demanded to know 'are you watering your garden?' and sonuvagun, if I wasn't.

About fifteen minutes after turning off the water, the heavens opened. So if I saved you a car wash or a moment of bonding in the backyard while trying to light the hibachi for that cookout you just learned you're hosting for your sister and her husband, the guy who says 'yo!' to start every sentence, you're welcome. I'm sure you'll return the favor, if you haven't already. As Arthur Brown would be the first to admit, it's a Crazy World.
-bill kenny

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Obvious, Blinding Glimpse of

I visited someone in their office building today--it's a nice building and nearly new (= less than twenty years old) with that pressure blasted formed concrete exterior that taggers see as a challenge and a taunt and folks my age see as a 'nice' building. You can park in his company's lot just around the corner and walk and hardly ever step in any dog poop on the sidewalk, which is especially nice if you're barefoot (I wasn't but it was still nice) and rarely encounter any homeless, or as I've heard them called recently, 'urban indigents.' I wonder if the homeless were all perfectly attired and impeccably coiffed would we then call them urbane indigent? Careful where you step.

From the sidewalk it's a climb of nine thick, high steps--when you have bad knees and killer math skills like I do, you pick up on this stuff right away. Normal height of a step into a building from a public venue is seven inches, trust me on this one, and usually, at least in homes, for interior stairways it's more like six inches and has been for the last forty years or so (it was closer to five inches when our parents were our age, but all those vitamins and the fluoride in the water have made us taller and as a result a lot quiet changes in our environment have been made to accommodate the new and improved homo sapiens, of which we are the more recent models . Shows what you conspiracy theorists know! All those CIA plots did help some of us.)

As for width, or depth from the base of the next step to the ledge on the one you're on, about seven inches is average. These steps were closer to twelve inches tall and at last fourteen inches deep--the kind of steps that tempt you to try, but not gracefully or successfully, to take them two at a time. Instead you walk like a toddler, always almost teetering and tottering but never quite falling over. Not an Everest ascent but not pleasant either.

At the top, two signs flank the two glass doors that open out onto a relatively short landing (which, I assume, if you have packages in your arms as you're exiting could help you tumble down the nine stairs) and the signs note "No Handicap Access" in white letters with a little pictogram of a person in a wheelchair. I'm sure there's a mandate, municipal, state or federal that requires these signs. I don't think anyone in a wheelchair is sprawled on the sidewalk, perhaps being righted by one of those urbane indigents of whom I wrote a moment ago, dusting her/him self off and readying another assault up the stairs.

The only thing that could have made it more perfect would have been, when you make the right coming out of the parking lot, instead of turning left to get back into the flow of traffic, if someone had put the 'Dead End' sign at the end of the cul-de-sac instead of at the beginning. Makes me wonder if the movie didn't say 'The End' would we all be found dead in darkened cinemas, surrounded by boxes of half-eaten, over-priced Milk Duds and flat soda?
-bill kenny

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Paper or Plastic?

Why, when we go to the supermarket, do we walk down the middle of each aisle? Do we really need highway markings and passing zones and such? We're supposed to all be sharing the store though I'm not opposed to the idea of scheduled times to hit the freezer section or the deli. That might actually work out better for all of us so maybe my local grocer can think about that instead of all the surveys they send me via email that want to know how I feel about their new 'we care a lot about you' slogans.

Bless them, all the slogans are swell though they sound like variations of Barry Manilow's Weekend in New England (ironic, I know, considering where the chain is based)--but when you get down to it, we're not going shoe shopping (I can't actually buy shoes in the store though I can buy insoles, socks and foot powder, come to think of it) or walking down the aisle. It's a grocery store not a junior high relationship. How about this: "We Got Food."

You'll need a TV campaign: a spokesperson, lady or man (I don't care), ditto for age and double ditto for race--wearing one of those open-necked shirts with your store's logo on it and the spokesperson says something like, "Are you hungry? Are you unable or unwilling to hook your own fish, grow your own fruits and vegetables or kill your own meat? Good News! We have people who do-and did! We've got a store full of food and if you have money, or plastic, you can buy some and take it home to your house and eat it! Stop in and Happy Shopping!'

TV commercials always have a LOT of exclamation points! Especially the ones for groceries. I guess twenty cents off on a bottle of Clamato Juice is a big deal, just not at my house. Not a big enough deal, mind you, that I have to wander down the middle of the aisle oblivious to the other scavengers in the hunt and do that impossible-to-predict complete stop while staring at the Chinese food in a can section of the Ethnic Food aisle before walking off without putting anything in the cart. Lather, rinse, repeat across the whole store.

I watched a woman today stand in the frozen foods aisle, and after staring through the glass doors for at least two minutes, opened one and kept it wide open for five minutes while reading the back of the DiGiorno ultimate pizza box. Thank goodness it wasn't Tolstoy; we'd have all died of frostbite. So my unattractive choices for explaining her behavior are: she was oblivious to the rest of us who had to step around here and her cart, which was sort of cantilevered across from her or she just didn't care. Hmmm....
Did I mention "We Got Food" is still available? Well, sort of......
-bill kenny

Friday, June 27, 2008

Give Bees a Chance

I encountered an acquaintance at a bookstore (okay, the indefinite article is a bit kissing to be clever as in most areas there's the bookstore, Borders) with a copy of Fleeced by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann (who are husband and wife). He's a nice person who, in my opinion, has an ongoing difficulty distinguishing between news and commentary--he absorbs both the broadcasts of Bill O'Reilly and the Associated Press State Summaries with the same absence of salt, despite the (obvious to me) differences in the two products. My concern is when you've decided all sources are equally valid, in terms of establishing they have observable facts to support their perspectives or if they just feel very strongly about an issue, you have also decided that NO sources have validity (Deming's Red Bead Experiment).

I know enough about Mr. Morris to know he is a clever man--people who worked with former President Bill Clinton for as long and successfully as he did, did not do so only because they have a nice face (though I suppose it helps from the stories I've read. And good knees, too, apparently) but have quick minds and killer instincts. The White House is not for the faint of heart. I've never thought of him as a researcher or as a reporter and a quick flip through his most recent tome suggests it's more of the polemic that characterizes our politics than a sober assessment of how to improve them.

In a way, the book and the discussions that one, or the other, political party's leadership has (on an ongoing basis) about somehow limiting or curtailing discussion (especially from people with whom 'we' disagree) is a huge and negative difference between the USA I grew up in the 1950's & 60's and how we are as a nation now. Back then (there's a phrase that scares me), I believed people were good and would do the right thing instead of how we are in the here and now when more and more of us have to be shamed into it.

All the TV talking heads on all the '24 hour news channels' now are basically shouting at one another (not talking with) and they are watched by a nation who, more and more often, vote less and less frequently, not only than their parents did but how they themselves voted earlier in their lives. We've concluded bumper stickers are all the arguments we ever need to make life-altering, or affirming, decisions on who leads our cities, States and Nation.

We've moved from discussion to diatribe and hurl invective at one another, across the entire political spectrum, as a form of
Jungian therapy. We fear terrorists from without but have surrendered to terrorists from within, who demonize dissent, who eliminate a frank exchange of ideas and who can no longer disagree without becoming disagreeable. Comity and consensus at any price. Will that be cash or credit and do you have our card?
-bill kenny

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"No more for me, thanks," said Trigger. "I'm stuffed!"

I have enough adventure in my life now. Being a half-step slow in Contact Ballroom Dancing (at least that's life here in the Land of the Round Doorknobs feels to me on an everyday basis), I don't seek out or embrace the exotic or the out-of-the-ordinary. Home and dry at the end of another perfect day seems like achievement for me.

But it doesn't mean I don't know people who can, and do, live large. A score of years ago (I love that number, score-and thank you Abe for making its use memorable!) I was, in a fit of civic involvement (now treatable with injections of B12 and wood alcohol, I'm told), one of those Rose City residents on the Norwich Schools Building and Technology Committee appointed by the City Council in a process boycotted by the Board of Education to oversee the deployment of a technological infrastructure across the thirteen school houses in the Norwich Public School system (for eleven million dollars in bonding) and see to fruition the expansion at two of the elementary schools, Bishop and Huntington (another 11 million in bonds).

Those of us on the committee (with one exception, moms and dads of kids in the publuc schools) were, without realizing it, pawns in a shadow game and our treatment, all these years later still so angers me that there are folks from 'back then' that, when I see them now, I cross the street to avoid trying and failing to keep a civil tongue in my mouth (my guy says I have anger issues; he's very perceptive). However, perhaps because we were political punching bags, or we just all got along very well, many of us have stayed in touch and exchange notes and smiles, still, on a regular basis.

And one, Evert, is deceptive in that he appears to be a quiet, unassuming, capable bi-ped, successful businessman, husband and father, and he is all of those things. But there's a flinty gleam in his eye, a flash in his smile that gives you pause if only for a moment. Evert, as it happens, has a love of long-distances and later this week he'll be traveling to and through Alaska (wait for it) on his motorcycle, with four friends (and maybe some 'fly babes' He knows what they are, but I don't.)
Gotta tell ya, having spent thirteen months in Greenland, I have zero desire to visit Seward's Folly but admire his sense of 'what's beyond the next mountain' and really love the fact that I can experience some of it without ever leaving the Nutmeg State by checking out his blog. Dale and Roy said it first and best!
-bill kenny

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Political Science-equal parts of neither

Next Monday is closer than last Monday, which is a good sign. Last Monday, in Norwich, CT, the town where I live but not where I'm from, we discovered the other thing, like weather, that everyone talks about but about which no one seems to actually do anything. We found another situation in which we didn't miss a chance to miss our chance. We became a variation of that motivational poster you've seen of the basketball sitting lonely and abandoned at the foul line and beneath it, in somber letters, the observation that 'you'll miss every shot you never take.'

Except, here, we'd have a lot of roses, a baseball stadium with hardly anyone in it and a lot of vacant storefronts. Springsteen could remake that video right here-heck, there's probably tax credits from the CT Film Commission involved and it's not like we'd even have to watch the clip.

Some eight (plus a few days) months after two developers, Northland Investment Corporation and Bourbon Street Norwich LLC had submitted proposals for the slightly larger than 60 acre parcel of land called the Norwich Hospital, the Norwich City Council got around to giving them an answer. (The big chunk, 419 acres, is in neighboring Preston and I wouldn't be surprised to see them start to call it the Preston Hospital.)

Last Monday the Mayor and City Council decided to turn down both proposals and add the project, itself, to an economic summit the Mayor is hosting this coming Monday at 5 PM in City Hall. He's counting on many of the folks who stopped attending the meeting of the Administrative, Planning and Economic Development Committee (whose dissolution he called for about twenty-six months after he'd reconsitituted it), but who never tired of complaining about how little it did and how much of their time it took up, to participate and do something many of them may be uncomfortable about doing: plotting a route for economic development and taking responsibility for making it happen.

We like sidelines in the Rose City, and sitting on them, a lot. We like saying publicly it doesn't matter where a good idea is from (as long as the persons in charge can take the credit)-guess which part of that sentence we say out loud and which part, not so loud. Same as where you are, right. See? We are all the same, in too many ways for too many days.

I'm not known for patience-either having it or thinking of it as a virtue when inaction is so often confused for patience. But you already know that, right? It's not like we don't have a process here in Norwich to create Smart Growth and economic development. Just look at our website and the listing of boards, advisories, commissions , so many people in the same device.

There are hundreds of citizens through many of these committees with a role in the revitalization of the Rose City, and others, such as the Norwich Community Development Corporation, NCDC (350K doesn't buy much of a web presence it seems. Has the City Council seen this site?), who aren't listed on the city website but who should be included.

With this many well-meaning people, why does it seem to be so difficult to get projects in Norwich started and then accomplished? It took eight months to say 'no, but thanks' the right amount of time for a decision? Come to think of it, what's the process for finding out what 'Norwich' (= you + me who live here) 'wants' on the hospital property and how should we tell developers to go about it? Do we want a floor polish or a dessert topping-we can't have both at the same time (and I'm holding out for a pony ride for my birthday).

Working with the Mayor and his charter-mandated role in economic development, all the players in Norwich should be able to define the process and then refine the product. And yet, it doesn't happen. Do developers pass Norwich by because we may not be as 'user friendly' and transparent in their eyes as we see ourselves? And shouldn't we ask that of them, or of ourselves? Sorry-I forgot, I'm NFH (Not From Here).

You know what? I fear we don't think we have problem (only everyone else does) and that's why we have no desire or reason to alter our approach, which leaves us to always do what we've always done. Sadly, that will always get us what we've always gotten. Take a look at downtown Norwich, our tax bills, the growth (and lack of it) on the grand list and you can decide how well 'this is how we've always done it' is working out.

ALL of us, elected and appointed officials, the professionals who work for Norwich, and we, the voters, have to start working next Monday afternoon from 5 until whenever at the workshop/economic summit/pancake breakfast/hootenanny [I defer to whatever the Mayor wishes to call it] to define what the Next Norwich looks like, with as much specificity as we can, and then refine the tools and talents we'll need to make that happen.

Continuing to hope 'this all works out' is not working-hope is NOT a plan. And a plan without a purpose, milestones, course of action or method to measure results is yet another Monday evening City Council meeting. Here in Norwich we're all waiting for someone else. We're at a point where incidents and accidents are distracting us from building a better place for ourselves and our families. The gap between promise and performance is a chasm. We can do better-we have to.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Carlin's Curtain Call

I believe history, political, cultural, economic or sports, is driven by Ideas, but embodied by Deeds. That is to say, the American Revolutionary War would have been fought at some point in time because of the various pressures and beliefs, on both sides of the Atlantic. That it was fought when it was fought was as much the doing of George III as it was of a half-dozen wealthy white guys in Massachusetts and Virginia who decided they'd had enough.

Same thing, to me, holds true for Rock and Roll. I was born in 1952 and had no older brothers or sisters--for me, Danny and the Juniors At the Hop was the camel's nose under the tent but sociologists tell me, regardless of race, it was Elvis who legitimized rock and roll. When the Brill Building seemed to have co opted the fervor and the fever and gave us Frankie Avalon and Fabian, the outlanders in the UK, not realizing R&B wasn't on mainstream USA radio, gave us their version of it and forty-five years later we're still tallying the effect on our lives of all the bands and music that came over the bridge The Beatles built.

John Lennon remarked years after the group disintegrated but years before he was murdered that he fully expected, no matter what else he did in his life, when his obituary were written, the first thing it would mention was that he was in The Beatles. Of course, and sadly, he was right.

I mention that because sometimes we take mental snapshots of people and times in our lives and that's what we hold onto. As Ray Davies noted, people often change but memories of people can remain. When George Carlin died Sunday in Los Angeles, the obit from Reuters, in its first sentence, called him a 'counter-culture hero famed for his routines about drugs and dirty words.' And had he died in 1978, that would have been true enough-but he passed away thirty years later and Reuters couldn't be bothered to update the obit. I think Carlin would have found that funny.

I bought his debut album, for which he received the Grammy (and on his second elpee you can hear his reaction as that performance was taped for that album, interrupting the routine that would later get him to the Supreme Court) and went to see him with Sally Mary Atkins with whom I was madly in love for a semester while I was at Rutgers and she went to Boston College. Actually we didn't see him in the student center in New Brunswick because the performance was sold out ten times over but the campus radio station, WRSU-FM, and its program director, my classmate Bob Berman, received permission to 'broadcast' it through the university's buildings (the radio station had no transmitters nor license so there was never a danger children might hear George say words on the radio that their parent said during arguments in their living rooms. Thank goodness!).

George Carlin had been the hippy-dippy weatherman on Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson and had characters like Congolia Breckenridge. He was, I learned years later, an Air Force broadcaster at Lajes Field in the Azores. While I was in the USAF, as a disc jockey, I often ran across folks who claimed to have heard him while at Lajes. By my rough count, had half of all those who said they were there actually been there, the island would have been renamed Atlantis and been found on the ocean's floor.

Carlin was part of the changing times in comedy in a way The Beatles, Dylan and the Stones were in pop music. He owed as much to Nichols and May as he did to Mort Sahl, Bob Newhart and the man who would prove to be a secular saint, Lenny Bruce. And by being a sum of all those parts and others, he transcended them and became part of a larger comedic conscience and consciousness that shapes in its way the comedy my children enjoy as much has his predecessors shaped mine. (I expect neither Dane Cook nor I am entirely comfortable with that notion, and that's fine by me.)

My son, Patrick, and I almost saw him, not like me and Sally decades earlier, but for real when he was at one of the casinos the winter before last. The day of the performance, it started snowing at noon and didn't stop for many hours--just driving home, normally a fifteen minute exercise took hours and both of us decided that we'd skip him and the casino postponed the performance and, not that we knew it at that time, we'd missed our last chance in this life to see him perform.

I, along with millions, watched him on his HBO specials though I became frightened by the erosive, caustic wit he seemed to display in ever more abundant supplies as the years went on. The later shows I found more angry than funny-as if he were growing less patient with our laughing at his stories and NOT hearing his larger points. Perhaps he had realized there were more horribly obscene things to be thought than The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television and none of us had yet realized that. He became Elijah but we didn't even see the desert, much less the wanderings and now it's too late. He may have been the first to make me realize I had become the very people my parents had warned me about.

You must remember me, old man. I know that you can if you try.
Just open up your eyes old man and look who's come to say good-bye.
-bill kenny

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Insanity of Vanity

I'm not sure if anyone has ever studied this, but suspect if there's a government grant available a researcher will be visiting you soon.....are humans the only species aware of our looks, and then attempt to change them in the hopes of improving them?

We do the changing part a lot--I make my wife and children smile by growing a moustache and a beard (of sorts) on a regular basis. I think it looks really cool while growing in, though I am in the minority on this. Then, sadly, when the beard should be very cool, it is, instead, incredibly icky-grey making me look like a bedraggled street person searching for my cardboard sign, 'Will lick your leg for a quarter.' The upside is I get the senior discount at Dunkin' Donuts. Well, sometimes.

Hitting the gym or the weight room or the stationary bicycle. The Pilates workout in those skimpy please-look-someplace-other-than-my-chest leotards with the goofy pull up socks that always seem to bunch up at the ankles, you remember that stuff in Flashdance?, those socks. The sweatbands, headbands, wrist bands and, for all I know, boy bands. All of that rigmarole. And all we're doing is a version of shape-shifting. We're not improving the contents, just the dimensions and appearance of the container. But we still work at it.

Cosmetics is a multi-billion dollar industry here and I have no idea how much around the world and you don't see lemurs hitting the Revlon counter at Macy's (at least not around here) and I've never read any accounts of a spotted leopard forgoing a share of the gazelle kill because red meat goes right to its hips. I buy aftershave, because I like the smell and deodorant because I don't like to smell. Some wag suggested with all the potential and possibilities for violence in our world these days that we're never certain in the air, in our car or on the street-but under our arms, there we are safe. Call me bulletproof, Pepe. Safe as houses.

But I have problems with the stranger who shows up in my morning mirror (he sort of looks like the person on the driver's license, but that guy only vaguely resembles my mind's eye reflection) and the other day, coming up an escalator in one of the mall stores, I caught a glimpse of the back of my own head on the surveillance camera--yikes! That little, tiny, bald spot--I mean the one that's so small the only one who can see it is me and it's on the back of my head and so I can't see it, that bald spot--it's HUGE! It's visible from space. All that was on the monitor was that bald spot! Sweet Mary, Mother of all that's Holy! From overhead, I look like Friar Tuck!

On you, this is funny but I'm not talking about you. I'm obsessing about me and the least you can do is pretend to be interested and STOP SNICKERING! I went directly to the drugstore and got Rogaine. (I'd never seen TV commercials for the fifty-five gallon drum size and didn't even know it existed until they rolled it out to the car. I have no idea if it works but I'm avoiding department store escalators until it's had a chance to at least try to work. The stuff I use says apply 1.0 ml (it comes with a dropper like I'd know the difference between 1.0 and .01 milliliters otherwise) twice a day and massage it into the scalp in a clock-wise motion with my fingers (as opposed to what? I wondered, but only for a moment). If the directions had said 'hop on one foot while whistling' I would have trouble typing this right now, if you follow my drift.

I'm not sure what's in it--except there are numerous prohibitions and injunctions about women using it, or coming into contact with it and women are incredibly tough--they give birth to live children, remember, so it must be a serious health threat, right? The label also instructs me to wash my hands 'thoroughly with soap and water after each application.' My fear is that if I don't, I'll grow hair on my palms (I had this fear years ago but still had a head full of hair) and I'll have nothing on my pate to show for any of this. Hey! Isn't that Carly Simon over there, getting on the up escalator?
You wave 'hello', I'm too afraid to take my hands out of my pockets.
-bill kenny

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Old Billy Was Right

I've been assured by those with initials after their names that we are living in enlightened times (the more letters after a name, the smarter the person must be, right? It's Wheel of Fortune as life itself instead of as a distracting gameshow within it. 'I'd like to buy a Ph.D for two hundred, Pat' as Vanna's jazz hands show more emotion than she ever could.). I can only assume our parents and their parents, conversely, lived in endarkened times because their experts had way fewer letters, but such is our Brave New World, Alpha, and don't let any of those Gammas tell you otherwise. Careful with that axe, Eugene.

It's not so much that in America anyone can grow up to be President of the United States or a major league baseball player (as long as you have 200 million dollars to either finance your campaign or to buy the HGH and steroids that you can later deny ever using)--that's always been the American Way. We are enlightened now, my friend, because nothing is actually anyone's fault.

Make no mistake--bad things still happen. Truly awful calamities befall us every day, we've become desensitized to them because we're bombarded by them, but that doesn't mean they don't happen. We have crimes against and injuries to persons, from robbery and assault to and through murder most foul, my sweet Prince, and then we have disasters from flood waters and forest fires to sub-prime meltdowns, housing foreclosures and five dollar a gallon gas.

But none of this, I'm told, is anyone's fault. Stuff happens (and feel free to use a word that has an 's' and a 't', like stuff but it's also friendly and says 'hi', if you wish) and because it's no one's fault--no one has to take responsibility for any of the actions or for any acts of restitution or repair. No harm-no foul; it's not just for basketball anymore.

Some of our leading minds, you know them, too, the ones with the TV talk shows and the ones that are on all the news program as experts, will help us find someone else to blame for who we are and how we got here. Nothing is our fault and we're just hapless hostages from Hades. Say it with me, "I'm a victim, too" Did you just check out that last link? How Age of Tofu and Dawning of Aquarius is that, eh? A website where you settle scores in public without actually ever confronting the other person, or even identifying them. 'Sympathy and trust abounding' indeed-we've got a herd of Winnebagos.

There are six phases to every aspect of life here on the Big Blue Marble, be it personal or societal:
Enthusiasm, Disillusionment, Fear/Panic, Search for the Guilty, Punishment of the Innocent and Reward/Honors for the Non-Participants. All of us are somewhere in there at all times and in all ways. As a parent, I could be at One while as a spouse I'm at Four--perhaps as a citizen of a particular city and state I'm at Five and as an employee I'm aiming for Six.
"Complain about the present and blame it on the past/
I'd like to find your inner child and kick its little ass."
Really! Is that anyway for Air Age Americans "to dialogue" with one another?
-bill kenny

Saturday, June 21, 2008

He not busy being born is busy dying

Happy Juneteenth to you, where ever you are. I could offer you an explanation of Juneteenth, with nary a card to be found in your neighborhood Hallmark store, but there's a lot of unresolved sorrow, fear, anguish and anger associated with the origins and causes for the system of oppression whose end, in the United States as we knew it then, Juneteenth helps mark. It was on June 19, 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned that the War Between the States had ended and that they were now free.

In the here (and hear) and now, basically lasting all day today (a day later than is historically accurate but it's Saturday and what doesn't celebrate better on Saturdays, right?) at the Marina at Norwich Harbor across from Louis Brown Park, will be quite-the-do. And large fun has been a part of these annual celebrations in Norwich for the 20 years that the Norwich NAACP has sponsored them.

In a sense, holiday celebrations help bring different people, and peoples, together, to reflect on who they are, who they were and who they are on the way to becoming. Ideally, each of us sees in one another a reflection of ourselves as well as a better understanding of our unique talents and gifts-the stuff that makes you, you and me, me. That's why the Juneteenth party at the Norwich Marina is so large--not only all the people who are going to be there are at it, but all those who've come before them and those generations as yet to be born who will fulfill their promises and who will dream their own dreams and then live those as well.

So celebrate with us here in Norwich or where ever in the world you find yourself today.Sometimes, unless and until you look back it's hard to see how far you've traveled. It can be easy to realize the journey has a distance yet to accomplished, and to feel daunted by the challenge of that task, but it is sweeter and sweetened by the knowledge of where we were and where we are now. "And if my thought dreams could be seen, They'd probably put my head in a guillotine. But it's alright, Ma, it's life and life only."
-bill kenny

Friday, June 20, 2008

So that's what Sirius means? You dog!

I drive a reasonable amount--tied to my being a Child of the Sixties when gas was cheap (Getty actually sold only one grade of fuel, premium, and it cost 35 cents a gallon (umm, when did they do away with the cents key on the computer keyboard? I can't find it-the dollar, $, I got it-right above the 4, but the cents is gone. Are gone. Am gone. Sic transit keyboard symbol.)) and was regarded by many of us of that era as a birthright. Look at the hot cars of that era, Mustang, Camaro, Firebird, GTO, Malibu SS, Charger, Wildcat, 442 and Barracuda....'good mileage' NEVER appeared in the advertising copy. Trust me on this one. Two certainties in the Sixties-stay away from the brown acid and don't fear the pump.

Bad habits, especially old, bad habits, are hard to break. So I still drive a lot. I have a better stereo now than I had back in the day when 8-Track players ruled the dashboard. All I can say about them thirty-five years on is that they seemed like a good idea at the time. I still have a player and recorder in a box in my basement (a Panasonic brand, as I recall-a multi-voltage model able to accommodate 110 volts at 60 cycles and, by swapping out the capstan, also 220 volts at 50 cycles. Right after hallucinogenic drugs are legalized, I'll make some nice money on e-bay, or not-especially looking at the price of shipping 45 eight track cartridges to some lucky owner, 30 bucks, ow!). And little then, or now, is better than getting your Drive on and cranking the sounds--assuming it's more Springsteen than Manilow and more AC/DC than Air Supply. But to each his own, I suppose (except in my car).

I spend a large amount of time behind the wheel talking to other drivers--technically, it's probably called swearing or muttering imprecations in their direction. I am, like most auto-Americans an obliviot once my right hand turns the ignition key. The only one in my universe is me, I and everyone else is cautioned. I scan my sector constantly and don't drive too fast or too slow (Goldilocks' Driving Academy closed before I was born), check my mirrors on a regular basis and watch the following distances.

As I mentioned, I'm not especially generous in my interactions with others behind their wheels and find myself asking aloud often, far too often suggests my wife over the tunes, what was he thinking? I don't really expect an answer and since I am at least half the time responsible in some way for the other driver's actions, it's just as well I never get an answer--but, at least in theory, I could ask and receive.

Yesterday on 395 South, I saw a husky dog, maybe a malamute or perhaps a small pony, I'm not sure exactly what, with her/his (?) head out the passenger's side window of a white Toyota Solara convertible (with the top up)--wind whistling through her/his umm, fur, its snout pitched forward and the sides of her/his mouth rippling slightly as the air rushed through her/his partially opened mouth. Why do dogs not merely like to stick their heads out of car windows, they LOVE doing it? All the 'fetch' in the world, all the belly rubs, all the 'who's a good boy?' in that stupid cartoon-voice humans use when speaking to a dog, all of that aside--I don't care how carefully trained the animal is, or the history and pedigree of breeding that resulted in its existence. Doberman, Dalmatian, Dachshund or Great Dane--open a car door and your dog calls shotgun.

I'd love to know what is going through their heads but suspect it's more towards 'damn! This is why I chase em! as opposed to 'Clay Aiken! Crank it!'
-bill kenny

Thursday, June 19, 2008

of Mice and Men

A week or so ago, there was an exhibition and information session at the Otis Library in Norwich, CT on city plans and the history of city planning in Norwich over the years. I didn't go, not because I wasn't (or am not) interested in what happens in the city in which I live but, as James McMurty says, "I'm not from here, I just live here." Based on what I read in the local papers, it seemed to go about the way I feared it would.

The accounts suggested those who attended were impressed but dismayed in almost equal amounts by the number of detailed studies accomplished (and the decades these plans covered) and how almost, without exception, they were shelved, left to gather dust until cleaned and moved when the shelf was reorganized to accommodate the next plan that was commissioned. There seemed to be an undercurrent of chagrin at the realization a lot of folks had asked a lot of questions, and gotten a large number of answers and then no one was interested in any of it.

Seems almost like a case of MADD, Municipal Attention Deficit Disorder, which is a challenge many small cities, with large numbers of volunteers, will always face that's compounded by the twin plagues of too much to do and not enough time to do it all in. In Norwich our City Council and Mayor all have full-time, and real-time, jobs and lives beyond City Hall. They have hired professional city management and department heads and municipal employees but when one of us residents says 'somebody oughta do somethin' about that (whatever that is on any given day) we usually are thinking of the Council and Mayor. Makes sense-we elect them--we don't vote for the Comptroller or the Personnel Director.

And, think about it: what exactly is a plan? It's a map, of sorts, that takes you from where we are to where we'd like to be and transports you from now to some time in the future. It's a little bit like going to Grandma's except, because we're a city, there's sometimes discussions about whose Grandma we're going to visit and what her house looks like. I always want a house with a yard big enough for a swing set (and a pony, of course)--but some think a Starbucks is a better idea while others don't speak up at all until after we've driven past Grandma's house. And don't get me started on what route to drive to get there or whose car we're going in! The discussions on all of this can get so heated, there's a danger we lose sight of what it was we set out to do.

That may be what befell a lot of the plans on display at the library. That so little of any of them has made its way into our daily lives is probably more a sin of omission than commission (you can take the FARC out of the church but you can't take the altar boy out of the FARC). The sad part is, to me, I have little doubt we, like towns and cities everywhere, have not gone around the same bridge twice (sorry, Captain Yossarian) for the last time. Unless (and until) George and Lenny agree on where to build the rabbit farm, the chances Steinbeck will ever meet us there or at his grandmother's house are moot.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Show Your Work

Growing up and attending Catholic schools, I encountered Sister Mary Jean, more a force of nature in a black habit than a member of the Sisters of Charity, who, today, we would say, was as interested in process as product. She didn't phrase it that way-- she wasn't so grandiose. She told us to 'show your work' on tests.

What she meant, of course, was she didn't want just answers, though they were always expected (correct ones, especially) but she also wanted us to show her we understood how things worked. It wasn't enough to produce an answer when the question had you multiply compound fractions. She'd been around the block often enough, despite the habit and the crucifix, to realize seventh-graders have excellent eyesight and my correct answer could have started out on Judy Burns' paper. (It didn't Judy, I swear. Your handwriting was terrible-you should've been a doctor. What? Oh-you are a doctor. Well, congratulations! I suppose there's little chance of a 'classmate discount' forty-two years on? Figured I'd ask.).

In a lot of ways, as I totter towards my dotage, I wonder why we don't have more Sister Mary Jeans, not just in our schools (though that would sure help, imho) but scattered across our society. We have reinvented ourselves financially as a Beggar Nation. living on OPM (other people's money) and well beyond both our, and their, means. We don't seem to make anything here anymore-aside from weapons of all sorts (and we spend a lot of money on them) and I can't be alone in wondering why it is we cannot harness the genius of design and construction that gives us the Virginia-class submarine, or the latest fighter jet or Stryker vehicle to produce livable and affordable housing, or to rebuild so many of our urban centers. (I just had an image of Xzibit, hosting Pimp My Ride with a Bradley, pop into my head-I apologize.)

For over two centuries, we were the envy of every other nation on earth. Citizens of every color and nationality aspired to be Americans, even if they had no actual idea of who we were or where we were located. We were as much a notion as a nation and we made friends by keeping our promises and showing our work. And now we have a short term memory, the doubtful handshake and situational ethics.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Bridge not unlike that of San Luis Rey

Except for the part about the bridge, and the San Luis Rey part, too if we're being honest.

I had an errand that necessitated I walk from the building where my office is located to another building, about halfway across the property, but up a steep hill. I have made this trip often in sixteen and a half years and habit is stronger than reading comprehension, sometimes. Even though I saw a sign telling me the cut-through I like to use was closed, I kept walking until I got to the rent-a-fence that blocked the concrete stairs that I normally take.

I chose to take a short-cut that, as is so often the case, proved to be a long cut though it was a nice day and the walk was pleasant enough, so I can't really complain. What was a little daunting was the elaborate metal stairs that had been constructed beyond the "lake" on the upper half of the property. I put quotes around "lake" because it's not really a lake at all; it's a man made puddle, with dirt and algae and plants that grow up through the water, but which has a concrete bottom (I haven't actually seen it, but I've been told by folks even older than I who claim it's been drained and they've seen it) but it has no fish of any kind (sorry JETMEC) so I call it the fake lake.

Anyway, near the (real) picnic area by the sand of the fake lake--which is very nice, btw; there are barbecue pits and grills and lots of benches and tables under the pavilion, there was a bug zapper, still plugged in. I am not a bug sympathizer by any means, but it's 1245 on a summer's day, no one is using the beach, the fake lake or the picnic area. I'm the only person anywhere near any of this and someone is electrocuting bugs for no reason at all. I note this for the record just in case The Great Scorer is keeping track-I would like at least partial credit for a mitzvah in mentioning this and my unease at the unfairness and meanspiritedness of it all.

The metal stairs reminded me of Led Zeppelin and, surrendering to my own power of suggestion, I thought about one of their tunes while I hiked up those stairs. I couldn't help but admire the art and artifice of their construction--every alloyed component, from the steps through the handrails to the nights and bolts (some the size of my fist) reflected the brilliant mid-June daylight like a thousand suns and I wondered what it might have looked like to anyone from a distance watching me ascend the stairs. Then I flashed on Yossarian in the tree watching Snowden's funeral and how the Chaplain, graveside, had thought the argument Yossarian and Milo had had about wearing clothes was somehow Old Testament.

My knees aren't what they once were-as a matter of fact half of one of them isn't a knee at all, it's a replacement of some kind of super compound or substance developed originally for the space program (like Tang? I asked my surgeon hopefully, but not at all like Tang as it turns out) and I had to stop about a third of the way up the stairs and then a second time somewhat later. It was on the second wheeze and knees recovery stop that I saw a deer, technically a fawn (I think) below me, traversing the terrain silently unaware that I was there and uninterested in my silver staircase.

A minute later (the stairs are steep and recovery can take a moment) I saw a hawk through the trees fly overhead and then plunge at what seemed to be a hopeless angle towards the earth only to pull up at the last possible moment and fly away. As he did (I don't know why I think the hawk was he, and I don't know how people know these things), I could see in his talon what might have been a frog or a lizard now about to be lunch. What a pity the hawk didn't want bugs-I knew where the deep fryer and a large supply was waiting--perhaps Kermit or the Geico gecko might have lived to laugh another day.

I was standing in the middle of 'raw nature' but only about 45 seconds away from some 10,000 people in any direction I so chose, proving as Descartes suggested, defining infinite space is a dicey proposition and more mental than physical. I could have been in Grover's Corners though without Professor Willard who always seemed to see everything but notice nothing. We can't all be Emily Webb, I guess, and we all certainly can't return to a happy day, now can we?
-bill kenny

Monday, June 16, 2008

When the nuance gets lost in the noise

Sometimes the things we do speak so loudly, I can't hear what we're saying. At the national political level, it seems that with as much and many differences as exist between the two presumptive candidates of the major parties we could find something more to talk about than the ethnic heritage of one or the age of the other. And yet, we persist.....

Here in Connecticut, during the special session of the Legislature being convened because the regular session didn't get everything accomplished it needed to (when you or I do this at our jobs we usually wind up having short, somewhat intense and vaguely unpleasant conversations with the people for whom we work--when we're lucky. Otherwise they just yell at us very loudly all the time we're cleaning out our desks and leaving. I have, as you can surely tell, experience in the performance expectations portion of the employment process.) and now these same folks will hold an abbreviated session to get done what they failed to do for the first five months (I think this session actually began in February). A new topic, I'm told, is an investigation into the price of gas in the Nutmeg State with the full intention to take action.

Perhaps I can save my representatives some steps...gasoline and diesel fuel are expensive because the oil from which they are made is expensive. We are, in little Connecticut, part of a nation's voracious appetite for fossil fuels, competing with a world of other nations, all of whom have appetites equalling or exceeding our own. Demand is driving supply and we have more money than common sense. Why else would we drive Hummers and other vehicles larger than the nation states of San Marino or Andorra, and be the sole occupant of such a vehicle--and then, wait for it, go to the filling station and whine about the cost of fuel? Class dismissed and good luck, if you're an incumbent, in persuading me to vote for you this November.

BTW, am I the only one who paused a moment at one of the hyperlinks when realizing that the CIA, of all people, has a fact book on The Holy See, Monaco and every other nation on earth, no matter how large or small? Aren't there better uses for the assets who research and develop all of that information? Perhaps instead (I don't know) finding the evil-doers or weapons of mass delusion or something? I must admit, I like their kids' page though, the secure server is a bit intimidating don't you think?

And here in Norwich, the Rose of New England (okay the bloom, in some areas, isn't so pronounced) where a few of the police officers recently have made news all of us would prefer they didn't, the concern seems to be what should we do and less about who should be doing it. So far, we seem to be cozying up to the idea of talking about a study commissioned, accomplished and paid for in 2007 that doesn't seem to have gotten the visibility it could or should have. Like most bipeds, we are pretty good, when cornered, at facing up to our responsibilities and maybe, this time, we won't get lost in thinking that if we talk about a problem we have solved it. Perhaps we'll find out tonight at the City Council meeting. But only perhaps.
-bill kenny

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Wash in Cold Water, only

I'm not a Biblicist, whatever that is (I'm hoping I just made up the next 'buzz' word because I'm thinking there's money in that, right?) but I'm wondering if I should be paying more attention to all of those who speak of 'end times.' "Everybody I talk to is ready to leave with the light of the morning. They've seen the end coming down long enough to believe that they've heard their last warning. Standing alone, each has his own ticket in his hand. And as the evening descends, I sit thinking 'bout Everyman."

Self-absorbed egotist that I am, it's not everyman I'm thinking about. I'm not so sure we're not actually at, at the very least, Omega Flats (nice try, Steinbeck). Instead of being the most interesting election since Kennedy-Nixon in 1960 (I think most of us agree it's one of the more vital national elections any of us will ever have the opportunity to vote in, no matter how young we are or how old we hope to grow) this fall promises to be the ugliest and nastiest since Van Buren and Harrison.

We are using all the tools of technology to create information jets in a media hot tub--'I'm not one to look behind, I know that times must change....' and I can create a news service that will feed me only what I want to read about and let the world leave me alone. But I don't think I know where to turn anymore when I seek information without an agenda.

We have a New York Times, fearful of its own future, struggling to find its place in the Brave New World it helped create, which takes my breath away and we have their Fellow Travelers in the mainstream media, print or electronic, who, instead of elevating the tone and tenor of news coverage on this orb, have, instead, become TMZ and Perez Hilton.

We read 'news' stories, usually unattributed about John McCain collecting disability or 'voting against' the Next GI Bill and Michele Obama's thesis being embargoed from public scrutiny and Barack's lapel seemingly never having an American Flag lapel. Instead of a discussion, as a country and a culture, on how we think the road ahead could and should look as we continue into our third century as the world's oldest surviving democracy, and how the presumptive nominees of the two major parties (and there are others seeking the Office of the President but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting to hear a lot about any of them. Though, there's a certain something, perhaps the Jersey Devil, in Charles Maxham's somewhat quixotic attempt that makes me smile) could shape that discussion, we have diatribes on why the other guy eats bugs (except we're not honest enough to come out and say that).

If YouTube had existed at the birth of Christ, how many hits do you think that clip with Mary Magdalene in the Upper Room behind the closed Door would have by now? Would FDR be able to survive My Left Nutmeg and how would Richard Daley (Sr.) have handled the Chicago convention if he would have needed to step over the bloggers who will be covering the 2008 DNC convention (and those kvetching that The Bilerico Project wasn't accredited--neither am I. Life is hard, wear a cup).

How can we have so many channels of communication and know less than we did yesterday? We can do the innuendo. We can dance and sing. When it's said and done, we haven't told you a thing. We all know that crap is king, give us dirty laundry.
-bill kenny

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Under Milkwood

How many words do you have? If you paint pictures, how many canvasses do you imagine you have in you? If you're a legislator, how many efforts comprise a lifetime?

I started thinking about this last night driving home from Billy Joel at a sold-out Mohegan Sun. There was a woman on the opposite side of the stage, floor level (stage left) holding up a sign that said 'Billy Joel Concerts 50, 51, 52, 53, 54 & 55' which I'm suspecting means that she has tickets for a number of his performances at the Mohegan Sun and she has a great deal of passion and cash (because the seats are/were not inexpensive).

It was a little disconcerting last night--my face I see in the mirror every day so as it sags and puffs and ages, to my eyes, the changes are so gradual as to be imperceptible. I stopped listening to Billy Joel seriously (I was and will always be a fan) after The Nylon Curtain which was a great album and had a bookend to Springsteen's "Born in the USA" in his "Goodnight Saigon". After that elpee for a lot of reasons, we went our separate ways.

Undeterred by my lack of interest since his 1983 release, he's had another two plus decades of fine music and, for my part, I've gotten older if not better. I just hadn't realized until last night that he'd gotten older as well and at least as fast. At one point earlier in his career, he had built a band he took into the studio and that traveled with him--I'm hesitant to say his version of the E Street Band, because comparisons aren't valid across genus and between species (you can compare an apple to an orange but not successfully), but sort of.

Since our paths last crossed, he's swapped out his musicians--and his band last night was fine and played well, albeit (remember my ears are 56 years old) a bit louder than suited his material becoming such a sonic wall he eventually had to yell, practically, over it. Not that we minded or really noticed. We came to enjoy him and celebrate ourselves as well as him and he came to be embraced and enthused and we did that.

A lifetime ago I thought of two musicians associated with New York City who were auslanders, outsiders to Manhattan but who were perceived as such. I wasn't considering Lou Reed or Willie Nile, both of whom are true New Yorkers and who have a different take on the Great White Way than the starry-eyed weekenders. The two I thought of, of course, as I mentioned him the other day were Springsteen and Joel. And the reason why I wondered about the number of stories to be told, or songs to be sung, is in the aftermath of the horror that was 9-11-01, I and so many others returned to Springsteen who responded while Billy Joel, at one time in the same weight class, chose to develop and deliver a brilliantly played and staged two hour and ten minute package of musical memories, available for all occasions guaranteed to get us feeling all right.
-bill kenny

Friday, June 13, 2008

O'Sullivan's Sweater

My mom is celebrating her birthday today. A gentleman never tells a lady's age, and while I am not a gentleman, my youngest brother is and feels very strongly there's much to be said about saying nothing about age. Fair enough.

Both my wife and I were raised in two-parent families, though not the same family (see: Cheney, Vice-President; joke about West Virginia and relatives) with fathers who filled up the room when they entered and who, when they departed, left vacuums. With both Moms, I think, at least for me, I never fully appreciate how marvelous they were and are, as people, until they weren't sharing a spotlight of attention. My wife's Dad passed a couple of years back after a number of years of declining health, and the distance from here to Germany, compounded and exacerbated the heartache of that moment, I know.

My father died before my son was conceived, much less born, and all of that seems like it was in another lifetime. Mom awoke to find her husband of over thirty years dead in their bed from the final in a series of heart attacks he never acknowledged even having, with three children younger than sixteen still at home and in need of a home. She and my father had, as was so often the case for people of their generation, two families: I am 56 and my baby brother is forty. The 'munchkins', as the oldest children called the youngest with whom we didn't share the house, were in a precarious predicament but we, those who had flown the nest, never fully appreciated the severity of the dilemma Mom found herself in.

But, she worked like a coal miner for years, without comment or surcease, to make sure those still at home never wanted for any of their basic needs. Whatever any child needed, they would receive and she did without until she had saved enough. And if another child wanted something, then that's where her savings went and she started yet again. She and the munchkins have a very different relationship with one another than her oldest children have with her or with one another, and some/part/all of that dynamic was shaped by those moments, and the decisions made in them, all those years ago.

I can always call her for advice about my children-she never volunteers an opinion, but is there when I ask. She's always seems reluctant to do so, as if somehow her offering an insight to someone to whom she gave life could be overstepping her bounds. As the Amish say, 'the older I get, the smarter my parents are.' I can only hope that the wisdom is hereditary and in a box someplace on a low shelf in the basement--because I sure don't have any wisdom on or near me right now-you can check with my kids. Happy birthday, Mom!
-bill kenny

Thursday, June 12, 2008

You ain't just whistling, Dixie

My wife and I are going to see Billy Joel tomorrow night at Mohegan Sun. Based on the number of sold-out shows he's doing there, it's possible everyone in New England has, or will have, seen him by the time his residence (if that's what it is) is over. I don't pretend that he has the vitality or applicability a contemporary (or at least always thought of as a contemporary) Bruce Springsteen has, but I have always been very fond of him and we have a history even if the only one who thinks of 'we' is me.

I first saw Joel perform in 1973 at the Rutgers University Field House, not the RAC-the old field house with the Olympic pool upstairs in the balcony behind the stage. He was touring behind Piano Man which was his second album, though he was reluctant to talk about the debut, Cold Spring Harbor, because the master lathe for the pressing had been a tad too slow and unless you had a variable speed turntable (like we did at WMMR-FM) he sounded kinda whiny and squeaky.

Anyway, halfway through the encore, he was joined on stage by Springsteen who was still struggling to rise above "the Next Dylan" label that had been slapped on him with Greetings from Asbury Park and for about six minutes on stage, neither one of them seemed to care what had been written about them. They were Elvis and Jerry Lee and they hit all the high points of that whole "Good Rockin' Tonight" vibe like two twenty-something guys, full of sass (or other four-letter words that end in double s) and vinegar going for it and loving it.

We roared for more and got it. It was a great night for everybody on stage and everybody in the audience and the only bummer was the realization the following day that the WRSU-FM engineer (the station was closed-circuit in those days and had no transmitter) had left for the night and NOT threaded up and started another reel of audio tape so NONE of the encore was recorded.

I saw him twice in Germany in later years-once in the Frankfurt Palmengarten (he was, to put it mildly, underwhelmed by the venue, calling it a bus station and having short words for Bettina and Dagmar from CBS Germany backstage like they had had anything to do with booking the gig) for The Stranger and in the Jahrhundrethalle for Glasshouses. He was a great interview, deeply in love with Phil Spector's Wall of Sound (whom he, and another Phil, Ramone, successfully channeled for some classic elpees and a greatest hit, "Until the Night" that was never a hit but was a perfect evocation of The Righteous Brothers).

I was working for American Forces Radio and he had a great line that he wanted me to believe he'd come up with when he failed to graduate high school, 'back in the day.' He told his mom "I'm going to Columbia Records, not Columbia University."
As for dealing with fame and fortune and all that it brought, he observed, "if you look up 'star' in the dictionary you'll find that it means 'a ball of gas, surrounded by flames'-helps me keep things in perspective."

I look at recent photos of him and in the mirror and am grateful that if one of us had to be married to an Uptown Girl, better him than me (and talk about 'don't ask the question if you can't stand the answer', eh?). But I'm not really looking at the present or the future when I go to see him, and I don't think anyone else is. He was an important part of the soundtrack of my life at a specific point and place in time so if all I have are memories, leave me to enjoy those. They're the faces of The Stranger and I love to try them on.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Even Martha Finds it Warm

These last few days have made me remember Mom's advice about 'be careful what you wish for.' When we had all that rain and chilly weather in May, was I alone in wondering 'when will summer get here?' All that snowy, sleety stuff we had back in February, when we hated the weatherman/woman for telling us about the three to five inches we'd be clearing tomorrow (like we'd have hated them less had they lied to us? Talk about confusing cause and effect. I always forget they report the weather, they don't actually make it)--where is any of that now? (and will we not whine piteously again next February when we're sneezing and freezing?)

Let's not get distracted by the rising mercury-we wanted this weather. We longed for a heat index so high we would break a sweat just reading the thermometer. That's why we traded that wind-chill index in for something tactical, yet decorative. So, for the last couple of days we've been sticky. C'mon, as we used to say in my old neighborhood, you can't make an omelet without beating a monkey with a baseball bat (we moved when I was very young. Thank goodness!). Push comes to shove we can always go to the beach or to the movies....

When we were kids, that's how our parents handled hot summer temperatures. The movie houses used to advertise they were air conditioned (with banners that always said "KOOL inside" with icicles hanging off the letter "O") and patrons would to flock to see anything as long as we could sit in the cool and dark of the cinema. (Explains why all those Elvis Presley movies were hits and why they were always released in late May and early June.).

Malls and stores didn't really get into air conditioning into the late Sixties and early Seventies--until we had an extensive network of nuclear powered electricity providers, merchants were reluctant to attempt air conditioning. And the cost of the original window units was staggering. Your parents always installed the first home air conditioner in their bedroom, accompanied by a lot of huffing and and puffing and torrents of urgent, angry whispering (dammit! I told you to hold that foam rest! I almost dropped this thing!) that consumed most of the two hours or so it took to get the unit in, and get it turned on. You used to invent reasons (actually excuses masquerading as reasons) to go into your parents' bedroom so you could cool off.

When/if the day came that your house had more than one air conditioner, your popularity on the block went through the roof (and if you had pool, either in-ground (a/k/a 'a real pool') or above ground, double Yahtzee!) and everyone wanted to hang out with you. And every time somebody came in or out your dad would bellow, 'how about a little faster with the door? I'm not air-conditioning the whole backyard!' Except, of course, he was.

Forty-five years on, the characters have changed and it's all on a Blu-Ray DVD instead of Super Eight film. And look at how life-like the color is! The parts of the huffing and puffing mom and dad struggling with the a/c units are now played by my wife and I. And there's no pool because whenever we go outside we're covered in suntan lotion so thick it would leave a slick in the water like the Exxon-Valdez (get that gull out of there before it drowns! Oh no, the PETA folks are here!) and who can afford the water or the electricity to drive the A/C.

Meanwhile Martha Reeves is on the City Council of Detroit and there's alternate side Dancing in the Street (except on Thursdays when there's sweeping).
-bill kenny