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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Back and Forward

I finally, eventually my wife noted, got to the point in the holiday festivities where I read the Christmas cards we received (and exchanged) with others. I'm very proud of myself--some years I've failed to do this entirely and my wife has spent until close to Presidents Day glaring at me (I always blame Washington and she always blames me so we're even).

Again this year, as a continuation of the 'Gee, You are an Obliviot' portion of the season, I not only sent no one any cards, I have no idea what the card looked like that my wife sent on our behalf to people who have long since figured out that they know at least one boorish moron, me. I am fortunate to be married to a person with a marvelous set of skills and talents as well as a nearly terminal case of love for feeling impaired cretins. And yes, many people I know do believe I could have stopped the previous sentence after the sixth word and been entirely correct.

It was fun to see one of my sister's two daughters--had their photo not been in Jill and Joe's card, I would have had no idea who they were and would have assumed they were friends, perhaps, of my daughter, Michelle. Upon further thought, I realized that I would have difficulties identifying Joe and not fare much better picking out Jill. Perhaps that could be a New Year's resolution: NOT needing a DNA match to know what my five siblings look like.

We had a card from former neighbors who now live near New London, Wisconsin (how amazing is that I wonder) whose two children were much smaller when they lived here almost a decade ago and whose younger of the two, their son, now stands, at fourteen, head and shoulders over his older sister, his mother and his Dad. Welcome to the club, David. I, too, spend a lot of time looking up when my son comes to visit.

We had a nice note from a former boss and his family who has gone on to much bigger and better things, than knowing me, and whose wife, I suspect, runs his household the way my wife manages ours. He has a better personality than I do (we have a coffee table with a better personality than I have) so it's more a 'team effort' than in our house and I suspect he never responds to someone thanking him for a Christmas card, as I have annually, by saying 'you're welcome. Who are you?'

I used to get angry at Christmas, not at the Savior (I'm crazy; not stupid) and smelled hypocrisy in every greeting card and fruitcake and holiday cookie--after all, I reasoned (or thought I did) many of these came from people who, the rest of the year would cross the street rather than say hello to me as we passed. But as I've rusted (not mellowed) I've started to see a kind gesture of remembrance as just that and have stopped answering with a (rude) gesture of my own.

It's not that life is too short, though I found out this year in my own extended family, that is certainly the case--but because life is too important to not enjoy ALL of it, the hopes and the hype, the dreams and the dread. All of those make our lives singular and remarkable within our families, our places of work, our neighborhoods, our cities and towns, and these United States (with my apologies to Our Town). The trials and travails of 2009 will be here in a matter of hours, and in some spots on this orb, that year has already begun, so forgive me if I encourage you to linger for a moment in the Here and Now, not to look at where we were this time last year and where we are today, but to simply celebrate today and tonight for what it is and we are. After all, it's the same procedure as every year, James. Hurrah! Wir leben noch.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Art for Art's Sake

I worked for many years in broadcast radio with a colleague with whom I shared the same first name. When he went on vacation, I used to pull his board shift and sit in for him (much to the consternation of many of his listeners, based on the notes he'd get upon his return). We took to calling one another 'the other bill' or TOB for short, when referring to one another on the air.

The Other Bill, as I called him, was a great fan of adult-contemporary music, at a time when Mike Joseph was honing the "Hot Hits" format to a formula to build the perfect beast. I was always a bit more umm, less hit-driven (I'm not sure what the statute of limitations on some offenses is and I'm loath to find out by mentioning something that hasn't yet lapsed) and far more intrigued by folks pushing the envelope.

That I often heard people refer to what I did on the air as "diving for dopers" was, to my mind, their problem and certainly not mine. Prejudice is a terrible thing. That I was the only person, to my knowledge, on the staff whose fan mail was regularly swept by the drug dogs was not lost on me. And as a public service I used to suggest on more than an infrequent basis that enthused listeners who were tempted to share more than suggestions for radio playlists NOT mail those envelopes to the station (not that this idea made me any friends with the mail clerk).

TOB and I often had to pull newstank duty, which sounds a LOT more armed forces and the shores of Tripoli than it really is. Basically, for whatever, the news department would find itself short-handed and the dj would have to pull together four and a half minutes of news copy to read live at the top of the hour. TOB was a true newsie and was excellent at reading news. I, perhaps because of my more introspective nature (as reflected in my choice of music, such as The Allman's Mountain Jam or Pink Floyd's Ummagumma) tended to dwell on one story.

If you wanted to know what was going on around the world, the other Bill was your guy. If you wanted to know everything about the role of grain supports in the price of bread sold in the commissary, stick with me. I never let technicalities like 'only' four and half minutes stop me--or even confine my devotion to a story to one newscast. As I tended to work the 2200-0600 air shift, it was pretty much me, the guys and gals in the air control towers across Europe, the kids on the Fulda Gap (both sides as I discovered) and the grunts at Graffenwoehr and Baumholder. News is whatever passes the 'who cares test?' (actually, the test's real name involves the word 'gives' and a contraction of 'fire truck' that eliminates the first two vowels and the second through fifth consonants).

All of that was long ago and far away and I thought of it when the newsie TOB sent me an item that the NY Times didn't seem to contain, Erotic Gallery Owner Won't Fight Charge. Talk about crazy from the heat. I think I'm most taken at the violation of the law which seems, as I remember the account, to have something to do with the display of umm, personal parts, in an establishment selling liquor. It would seem to me that the Gallery owner in the story has suffered for his art--for a moment, I feared it was about to be our turn.
-bill kenny

Monday, December 29, 2008

Any Road will get you there

Normally on Mondays, I like to preview the week's meetings in Norwich. As this one, week #52, winds down, there are NO municipal meetings slated by any of the advisories, boards, committees. commissions or City Council. If you're looking to close a road in Mohegan Park this week, you'll just have to do it yourself (but do it quietly; we almost have a noise ordinance).

I'm not going to waste your eyes telling you what a turbulent year this one has been. If you're still above ground as you read this, you already know that and you know it from far more authoritative and knowledgeable sources than from a pinhead like me.

I had a successful year, professionally (= I didn't get 'right sized'. In this employment environment, especially in light of what I do for a living, that's a major achievement). Personally, I practically monopolized my wife's free time with two emergency room visits and one actual hospital admission. Towards the end of the year, I started on my own version of HBO's Entourage, but in this one my posse all wear white coats and have initials after their names. I have become a science project, not quite as interesting as a Plaster of Paris (hilton? "That's hot!" not) volcano and closer to one of the dice that God throws while playing with the universe (explains that black dot on my forehead.) My children, who are adults whom I still see as being nine and four years old, respectively (damn glasses!), are happy, which, as they explained in Dad School, is the crust of the biscuit and the point of the exercise.

I wasn't born here in Norwich, I just live here now, and so I already look forward to 2009 in the hopes that the brave start I was looking for this time last year, I will find this year, politically, economically and philosophically. Norwich celebrates its 350th anniversary of its founding and it looks like the celebrations may be a little light on some of the frills and thrills so many had hoped for. We have one another and the resolve to work harder and smarter and I think that's a big part of what we need, not just in the New Year but for for everyday and not just in Norwich, but across the country.

A lot of the challenges we face in 2009 we've been staring at for quite some time: energy independence, aging infrastructure, failing educational systems, an absence of affordable universal health care, the tenor and tone of our debates on those issues and a hundred others--this needs to be the year we stop looking away. If not now, when? If not us, who? Now is the time. We are the people.
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The White Rabbit versus the Forces of Evil

It was a front page story (albeit below the fold and (thankfully) without a picture) in one of my local newspapers, US Offers Viagra to win over Afghan Warlords, and probably in about the same place in your newspaper (somewhere Peter Zenger weeps, I know). And it just goes to show that decades after DuPont abandoned their slogan, "better living through chemistry", it is still so often the case.

As someone who uses Rogaine, this will sound untrue and/or unkind: I figure a man gets just so many sunrises and sunsets, allegorically speaking, and while I know men who use Viagra and whose partners claim they are the better for it, I just don't see it (or didn't, until reading this story). Let's face it, the guys I know who use it, don't know anything about the Taliban, much less where any of them are. And, says this story, the CIA gives some tribal leader up there in the Khyber Butt Crack region of Carjackistan a couple of blue pills and, BINGO! (not yet, JM, but soon), we're rounding up bad guys.

The article quotes a CIA case officer that 'other inducements' (= bribes) have down sides, such as guns that could end up in the wrong hands and money which might lead to conspicuous consumption, so Viagra is a win/win. I suppose the Taliban could see who's on the take by conducting a lap to lap search. If the tribal elder appears to have more than the proverbial camel's nose under the tent, so to speak, he might be a Pfizer Friend. (And who writes a priapsis warning like "in the rare event of an erection lasting more than 4 hours, seek immediate medical help to avoid long-term injury"? Guys don't ask for directions when they get lost driving. In this case, calling the Guinness people, maybe. Medical personnel? I think not. Far more likely "a old bois d' arc fence post You could hang a pipe rail gait from " while playing Choctaw Bingo. Happy now, JM?)

So as discomfiting as I find this kind of story (and maybe it only hurts when they walk, how would I know) I need only recall the admonition of Sister Grace (Slick) a banshee prophetess of the San Francisco Revelation all those decades ago, 'remember what the dormouse said! Feed your head.'
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Across the Universe

I started writing this blog, rant, bark at the moon, confessional, about fourteen months ago. I stumbled across the device to do it, otherwise I would have had to invent it, and being an idiot, that would not have been pretty. If this is the first time you've been here, I could tell you this is just part of an off-day, but then you'd look at another entry and realize that was untrue. If you've been here before, thanks for the use of your eyes and your brain--as you've long since figured out, I don't write this for you, or anyone else. I write it for me. I spend decades with no place to put my words and now there is here.

In a way, it's funny how the sins of one generation are visited, if not embraced, by the next. I don't keep in close contact with all my brothers and sisters, with the exception of Adam (who was always exceptional) and yet from what I've gleaned of our lives when some of us interact with others of us, we are all driven like the old man was. Be it getting up in the middle of the night, staying late, taking it home and working on it over the weekend, we each, in our way, accomplish the behavior we had modeled for us when we were younger.

For some of my sisters and brothers what makes this even more impressive is that by the time they came along, Dad was past the full-bore days-they got a taste and not the same treatment those of us on the front end of familius-crippled-insidus received and yet they arrived at the same conclusions.

We were raised, whether we knew it or not, by a parent for whom nothing we did would (or could) be ever good enough. We competed with one another for whatever passed for my father's affections. He never hugged, he never kissed, he never patted you on the head or on the butt. He had the heaviest hands imaginable and almost anything you did as a child, to and through young adult, would prompt him to use his hands while a torrent of verbal abuse, practically technicolor in the richness of its vocabulary, rained down upon you. All I ever recall my mother doing was growing sad, leading me to wonder what that relationship was like.

The only opinion in my father's house that mattered was his--he didn't care if you attempted to parrot it back to him when you talked because he wasn't listening. I learned to save my words, and ball them up like the fists I knew I could never use against him in anger, pick my moments and wound with a word until conversation was mooted by a backhand across the mouth. I carried around the anger from those not-quite-last-words for decades, oblivious to the toxicity I was harboring until I met a woman on Christmas Day in 1976 whom I knew the moment I saw her, I would marry.

And I did--it took me until October of the following year, but I did. And when we travelled home from Germany so I could show the old man the woman who loved me, barely a year later, I realized I was stepping out of his shadow only because she enabled me to. He neither knew nor cared that I had decided the 'next time' we came across the Atlantic, he and I would talk. We had our lives ahead of us, he and I--and now we were married men, and to me, equals.

I didn't know the next time I'd fly across the pond would be to bury him along with all the things we never got to say. It would have been a very deep hole, I admit, had it happened, but I swallowed the fear and pressed on as the husband in the only role I knew. And when my wife told me she was pregnant, and we learned it was a boy (we still have the black and white Polaroids from the ultrasound where the doctor showed us the telltale 'ornaments') I had so much to say and no one to whom to say it.

Through the birth of our other child, so alike and so unlike her brother, she made, and makes, me crazy to this day. To and through the Fall of the Wall, and the NATO Going Out of Business Sale whereby I didn't lose my job, but it lost me and I had two hours to pick one part of the world where my nearly-previous employer promised to seek a position for me. And I chose the Northeast because as Robert Frost noted in Death of the Hired Hand, 'home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in.'

I discovered Connecticut was really two states (not a clear concept when I was a child). There was the Gold Coast, where Buffy and Derick had ponies, and then there was the part beyond the Connecticut River, not so much the Land of Steady Habits as the Land of Sharpened Elbows. We have a house because of my ability to earn a living and we have a home because of my wife's talents at adapting to a strange and different environment that strains and challenges her and us every day and yet we rarely feel the shocks because she is that strong in protecting us.

And my children have grown into adults unlike their father, to my immense relief. Yes, sadly, a lot of their looks are from my side of the family but their easy smiles, the welcome in their eyes, their willingness to help a friend whom they've just met, they get from their mother. They are, as always, my favorite presence under the Christmas tree and my proof to my own doubting heart that there is a force greater than myself who does know when a swallow falls to earth or when the lilies of the field need to look splendid or when one person, crippled inside, needs to sit at a keyboard, but not one that composes music, and create a Song of Thanksgiving that only he can read.
-bill kenny

Friday, December 26, 2008

Not the fat Elvis

Merchants across these states, united, are battening down hatches and rolling back prices even as you read this. Across this great land, racing faster than even the sun from East to West, the Day after Christmas sales have already started.

Some stores, I've read, will have opened at six this morning or even earlier. As unconscionable as I find this to do to the people working in the store (many Macy's stores NEVER closed for the week leading up to Christmas) in light of the economic realities that drive our capitalist society, I guess faced with getting up two hours early to go to work, and the very real possibility that I might not have a job if we don't get close to earnings targets, I'd skip the shut-eye.

I've read a lot all week-being ill has had the advantage of slowing my always in bewegung butt to a crawl in the last few days-about the 'demise of capitalism' because of our current economic condition and the perceptions and realities of hard times that come with it. Gotta tell ya-my evil twin, Skippy, buys in on it, but me, not so much. I guess because I can remember watching the Fall of the Wall, live and in color, after having witnessed the death by a thousand cuts (and defections) across the Iron Curtain, as citizens from East Germany and elsewhere voted with their feet to live in a society where, at least in theory, effort was rewarded.

It's great, a decade and a half on to misremember the triumph of democracy over communism, but it really came down to Levi blue jeans and Sony Walkman crushing three piece suits made of burlap and concrete and soulless, faceless mass housing high rises that trapped their inhabitants in despair and self-loathing for generations.

If democracy, alone, were so wonderful, why is it we, the world's leading practitioner of it, even in an election as exciting and as startling in its contrasts as the one we just had, would have voter turnout, though the highest in forty years, that still didn't top 60%. Holy shortsightedness, Batman! A larger percentage had an opinion on the Yankees signing Mark Teixeira, and that didn't even include Boston (kidding! Though maybe not).

So we like to be rewarded for our efforts--that seems to be the simplest definition of capitalism I can imagine. And when you withhold the rewards, or hand them out like lunch and render them meaningless, the system gets screwy and we cheat one another. Could that be what has happened to us in recent years? Have we patched so many places and so often, that there's no actual original fabric left? Has anyone seen J. Wellington Wimpy, and is it Tuesday already and can I get a slice of cheese for this hamburger, today?

Instead of spending the days between the years mourning what we no longer have, why not concede we are close to having leveled the playing field of wants, needs and desires, and remap our routes, as we may have lost our way (how can one person swindle a system of 50 Billion dollars--and where is this money?) and agree we have the first opportunity since the Great Depression (and before that, the War Between the States, and before that, the War of Independence) to redefine, for ourselves and for all those who reckon by our lights around the world, who we are as a people and a culture?

Oh I used to be disgusted
And now I try to be amused.
But since their wings have got rusted,
You know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes.
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Everything but three ships

Merry Christmas. To you and yours, from me and mine. If you don't observe the holiday, I apologize for the salutation but not the sentiment. As I've gotten older, I've discovered there are many different customs and beliefs, but I've realized they aren't mine and I don't care.

And based on how my life has gone for 56 Christmases, I don't need snow or frosty weather or sparkling lights and boughs of holly or gift wrap and holiday cards--though all of those are very nice and help complement a contented and contemplative state of mind. I've spent a lot of this year getting sick, and less time getting well and realize I'm rounding the curve in the road where the ratio rarely evens out, so I'm grateful for the love of a woman for thirty-one years of marriage who promised to love me in sickness and in health, though neither of us thought either of those circumstances included Norwich, CT. Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

I'm filled with gratitude beyond words for the presents of the presence of our two children, Patrick and Michelle. From the memories of walking the floor of the delivery room in Central Germany with a newborn while I sang "I've Been Working on the Railroad" for hours on end, to holding my infant daughter, her feet in my hand and her head in the crook of my arm as she clicked her tongue just moments after being born. He is 26-she is 21 and they are both used to their old man dissolving in a puddle of tears and smiles as I talk about them growing up, as if somehow they had missed it.

The adults they have each grown to be are as wonderful and extraordinary as the children who blessed my life when I so needed those blessings. Through a move from the only culture and language that all three, my two children and my wife, had known to the rocky near seacoast of Southeastern Connecticut, to a people and lifestyle unlike that of my childhood. We have exchanged many gifts over many years among ourselves--and as German families do, we opened our presents last night.

Today, the first Christmas, is for family and we are all together as, too, I hope you and yours are, no matter the distance or time. Tomorrow, the second Christmas as the Germans call it (the Brits call it Boxing Day which may go some way in explaining how they colonized and subjugated the planet two hundred years ago) is usually a time for visiting with friends--the phone will ring often in our house as my wife reconnects with those from her previous life, wishing them well for the coming year, knowing that our chances of getting together anytime, soon or otherwise, is very limited. And also knowing we have given each other the best we have, ourselves. Merry Christmas.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

low sparks of high hoped dreamers

I spent about five hours on Tuesday with people who hoped to be elsewhere, but were happy with where they were, as was I. I've not been feeling well, or even fully wide awake since some yakking on Friday night, and my physician decided after one look the place for me was in the local hospital's ER.

I met Darryl who was hit and nearly killed by a drunken driver when he was eighteen and who never left the hospital for close to three months while he battled to stay alive. Now, not all that many years removed from that injury (I can't say 'accident' the drunk who hit him didn't 'accidentally' get his buzz on. It happened deliberately and I hope someone paid for the careless thoughtlessness that created it), he was an EMT and calling me 'bud' (which, for those keeping track at home, is one step above calling me 'chief'. It's a good thing I felt like fried crap, otherwise I'd have squared young Darryl away) and getting me started.

Mike, took over--and he was also an EMT, and had wanted to be one since he was in high school. All I wanted to do in high school was graduate. It was happy to meet a fellow successful graduate. Dr. G. had been on duty when I came in through the emergency room in July for renal failure and pancreatitis. He is NOT short; he is gravitationally impaired and was quite good at getting the tests organized that were to consume most of my afternoon.

Monday, I took my Thelma and Louise to the doctor and, yesterday, turnabout was unfair play as they waited wordlessly (which is hard for my daughter; she is her father's child, after all) as they were joined by my son, Patrick, who left his work in New London to loom over me (he really is a much bigger person than I remembered him as a child) in much the same way as I walked the floor of the Offenbach Krankenhaus roentgen abteilung when he cracked his forehead open as a toddler. He wouldn't sit still for the x-ray and so they had me wear a lead vest and hold him while they stood behind the plate glass of the wall and irradiated both of us. He was no more than four and kept calling them 'feigling' (coward) though he couldn't have known what was going on.

I met Lorrie or Laurie, I apologize for the spelling, who had wanted to join the Peace Corps and they only had room for people who meant well and who had skills, so she had trained to be an x-ray tech, and by the time she was really good at it, she'd met and married someone and they had a family. So much for the Peace Corps. She had spent part of last summer in Haiti, helping people whose poverty is, by every account I've read, soul-shattering and returned, with a renewed sense of purpose that had caused her to accept an assignment to volunteer in a hospital somewhere in Mexico sometime this February. She has to do it, she told me.

All of these people and a dozen more have lives that have nothing to do with mine, for 364 days and twenty hours out of a year. And yesterday when I needed each of them to excel and achieve for me, not because I was worthy of their effort but because I was a fellow traveller on Spaceship Earth pulled over in the breakdown lane, they were there doing what they had to do. Just as they had on Monday and just as they are doing today. It's Christmas Eve on the calendar. Mine came early.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Putting out a fire with gasoline

It wasn't surprising to me to be taking both Thelma and Louise to the doctor on Monday morning. My Louise, actually my daughter, Michelle, had come from college with a bad cough that the school's health services nurse had made polite, but ineffectual efforts to stop (I suppose if she went to an Ivy League school, it would be different; such is life in the CT State University system. Kidding!). My wife, Sigrid, sometimes known as Thelma, had been taking care of me with my bronchitis, and of my daughter, and was pretty much an inevitable victim if it all went on long enough. It did, and she was.

The nice thing Monday, unlike any of the days since the snow had started, was that we had sun and blue sky. Not much in terms of warmer temperatures, but the sunlight helped. What would have helped a lot more would have been municipal snowplows(did your local paper do a story on how preps for winter were going in the previous week? Ours did. A photo and everything as a fellow strode between the snowplows and dump trucks filled with salt. Still haven't seen many of those truck out and about, have you?). One of my neighbors wondered, in light of our budget negotiations, in recent years if one of the school teachers would be driving the plows. I explained that, to my mind, the money went to the administrators who as, as we all know, are no longer capable of teaching or learning.

After Doctor's we went to the pharmacy to get their prescriptions filled and then home again, for me. Not for the two peripatetic women in my life--nothing of the sort. I think we are now shopping for presents for children unborn and friends not yet yet met or made. But we'll be ready by Thursday. Perhaps we'll still have a sniffle or two, but that'll be all.
-bill kenny

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Raspberry Beret Can Help Prevent a Head Cold

Since there's not a lot of Norwich meetings this week to speak of (the last two weeks of the year are always the slowest in the entire calendar since none of us really want to start anything new and just want the old stuff to wind down) I thought I'd devote a moment to a great lyric from Prince who was so much a part of the Eigthties and has been so quiet ever since returning from that unpronounceable symbol while warring with his record company. Pyrrhic victories are victories I guess. I should know as I seem to collect them.

Quick catchup from last week. I waited in vain for the informational session on the Norwich Semiseptcentennial advertised for before Monday's City Council meeting. The Council meeting itself was a bit different from its agenda as the aldermen decided to accept a report (two weeks late, though it seems to have been submitted on time) by the five local attorneys the Mayor solicited to review the charter language whose recommendations seemed to be more oriented towards managing the white space than wholesale revision (despite the fact that in the last month, Norwich again, faced an alderman leaving the Council because of election to a state representative position. By Norwich charter, you can't do both, though you can work for someone in the state legislature, and other municipalities do allow for dual service).

I'm not sure if we are thinking this puts the issue of Charter Revision to rest, or hoping it does. I'm notclear why there's isn't a permanent committee that gathers up suggestions on an ongoing basis and once a year reports on them to the Council who opts, or doesn't, to put them on a ballot for the citizens to vote at the next election (pony rides for Kenny's birthday? again?). All I know is that the budget for this coming year will be a challenge for everyone and I'm not sure decision delay on something as essential as the operator's manual for the city, our charter, was a good decision.

Between last minute shopping excursions between snow flakes, you'll have two opportunities to discuss the recent property reevaluations and if you have any questions, now's the time to voice them. You can meet with the appraisers this morning at 8:30 in Room 335 of City Hall as well as tomorrow morning at 10 AM. Don't NOT use this as your opportunity, if you're so inclined.

As for the rest of the calendar, it's quiet with little stirring (not even a mouse) with the Redevelopment Agency meeting this afternoon at 5in room 219 of City Hall and the Building Code of Appeals meets on Tuesday at 4 PM at 23 Union Street, next door to City Hall.

I realize, technically, winter only started yesterday so forgive me for being a cur when I point out, that I'm done with it already. I've already had all the snow and sleet and cold weather and head colds and coughs I want or need. My daughter came home from college with a cold and between hers and the one I have we've managed to infect my wife. Now all we want for Christmas is a box of tissues with lotion. Hope the tidings are of greater joy for you and yours.
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 21, 2008

December delivers

Cannot complain about snow in New England-one comes with the other in a manner of speaking. We had a good bit of snow here in my corner of the universe--the newspapers suggest about nine inches and that sounds about right. It's more at one time than I remember in a couple of years and when this happens, I always find myself going 'so what happened to global warming?' as if one has anything to do with the other.

Tried snow blowing some of it last night and overdid it a bit. Wound up getting all ghastly ghostly pale and throwing up (not in the snow) and the evening sort of blurred to an end. Not to worry. Much like you, probably, woke to more than enough this morning. Actually not too much more than we had last night, but not helped, in my opinion, by the lack of municipal snow removal equipment.

Nor pointing fingers (well, not much anyway), I drove through Norwich and Lisbon (not the one in Portugal) and Montville, Waterford and New London and never saw a municipal snowplow--or much evidence that they had been out with any frequency. The neighborhood snow removal was kind of fun, if that sort of thing can ever be fun, and put me back in touch with my neighbors with whom I rarely interact (not that they are upset about that).

Because we just got our snow blower repaired we were able to help out clearing some of the snow from alongside the cars parked on the even side of the street. Norwich has a sort of snow parking ban where everyone needs to vacate the odd numbered side of the street when snow falls. In theory, it makes removal easier, but I do think if the city, like NYC, went to alternate side of the street parking in two days, with everyone having to move their cars, we'd be able to clean up the whole street on both sides, though I'm not sure where we would put the snow.

Of course, since I'm still battling a cold that's left me woozy and dehydrated (or more woozy as my wife might point out), I may not be the ideal person to suggest how Norwich cleans its streets. But based on what I felt and saw today, we each have enough neighbors to lend a hand, or a shovel.
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Days off and off days

I work at a job where I get time off in hours-sounds complicated and maybe it is, but not not to me. For every two weeks, I work (80 hours) I get a day (8 hours) off. Around Thanksgiving, I and my boss realized I was heading towards a 'use or lose' situation so I've been on vacation since Thursday and will remain so until Tuesday, 6 January. Despite all this 'free time', I'll still 'lose' something on the order of 80 hours of vacation time as one year transitions into the next one.

I hate going on vacation--I very much define myself by what I do, so days off are like being in limbo or on hold. I'm not actually 'doing' anything so I'm not being anyone. To compound matters, I've picked up a cold that's actually bronchitis and has made my day a bit more unpleasant than sitting around and doing nothing normally does.

We had snow yesterday afternoon and I had just gotten the snow blower repaired so my timing is better than usual (assuming the repair holds). I suspect I'll have short entries for a while since between the cold medications and the mind-numbing lethargy of sitting on the couch, I'm having trouble focusing much less concentrating.
-bill kenny

Friday, December 19, 2008

Herd of Cattle or a Swarm of Bees

I joined twitter the other day-actually, I'm not sure 'joined' is the correct verb; maybe 'signed up for', or 'linked into' is better although I think some time ago I did join something called Linkin. Maybe. I have no idea what these things do or are (or which is which and why). I got fifty-six plus years into this rodeo without them. so maybe I could, or should, have continued in that direction.

This is who we are. A sentient, self-aware species yearning to be individuals, right along with everyone else surrounding us. Each of us, heck with that!, ALL of us, all six billion or so on this planet, want to be able to rush to the shore or scream at the sky 'hey! look at me!'

If there is a God, how does He (or She; how ironic would that be to learn God the Father is actually God the Mother? And stuff like picking on your brother, taking the last cookie, not making your bed is REALLY the important stuff while faith and food works are as may be? What a hoot.) possibly keep track of us all?

I know that I need only look to the lilies of the field who neither toil nor weave and I realize that not one swallow falls to earth without His knowledge but am I the only one who has days like those of the fisherman who prays, 'Lord, Your ocean is so large and my boat is so small'?

I spend more time on line in conversation or interaction with real people, though at least in theory, the ones on line are as real as those in the flesh and in the here and now. My children are very much at home in this Brave New World, barely rememberingthe quaint old days of dial up and now part of the migratory electrons that are so many virtual meeting places. Each of us can stand alone-but it's easier to stand alone when you are together.

Maybe that's part of what separates us from the beasts (and all this time I thought it was these nifty thumbs), our knowledge of our finite future. The realization that tomorrow will dawn for some, though not all, of us and that there will be a day when the last person who knows of our existence, themselves, passes from this earth and we cease to be part of the communal context and conscience and become forgotten. And someone, someplace scrolls over whatever has replaced what we now call this community of connectivity and marvels at the primitive beauty of that which we've left behind.
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Clothes Call

Standing in line getting coffee at the in-store Dunkin Donuts in the Norwich Stop and Shop, four people in front of me, on Sunday, at least two of them dressed as if coming from church. That always guilts me out as a FARC, fallen away roman catholic, so I compensate by imagining one of them having a berry smoothie and a breakfast sandwich to chase Holy Communion. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned....America runs on Penance.

Anyway. All the time in line and it took me a minute or so to pick up on this, but there are two people, a couple--early twenties getting S&S doughnuts from over at the bakery. They may be talking to one another--I can't tell from the distance I'm at. I can tell the diving for doughnuts portion of the program is taking forever....I'm talking (without actually putting a watch to it) maybe a minute a decision per doughnut.


The thousand yard stare through the glass doors before one of the two opens them and then almost another minute, not conferring, mind you, before picking a doughnut up. All this in the time it took for the four customers ahead of me to get coffeed and sandwiched--and still these two are diving for doughnuts.

He had on one of those Hollister sort of hockey shirts, at least that's what they look like to me-stick of a guy with unwashed hair and sleep in his eyes. She hadn't been awake much longer and had done that woman's trick with hair when they yet haven't washed it, she had it up with a hair tie. She had no makeup and she didn't really need any but she looked very young without it but he looked like he might still be in high school by comparison.

She wore a grey sweat shirt with NFA Wrestling in red lettering that made me smile. My two children went to NFA, Norwich Free Academy. Pat played soccer and Michelle was in the band and orchestra. I don't remember either of them ever speaking about women on the wrestling team. So the doughnut diva was wearing someone else' s wrestling shirt, and judging by the size of the guns, or lack thereof, on the Hollister dude, it wasn't his shirt.

He kept glancing around and I recognized his look. I took to calling it the "Walk the Line" look, because I think that's what Johnny Cash had in mind when he wrote the song. And I knew it because I've had the look myself for 31 plus years. You find a someone who chooses to be with you (that's why the shirt doesn't matter my Hollister friend; the original wearer is gone) and you remain vigilant because it's so difficult to believe this person will stay. For what it's worth, it's how you live everyday and come to appreciate that someone more and more.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Not Knowing Jack (Lord or London)

Have you noticed how often our United States is less than the fifty we actually have? I caught a TV spot last night for somebody's restaurant (obviously not Alice's) boasting about always using 'fresh, never frozen' beef, or meat or employees (I was distracted, cut me a break!). While the announcer is talking and we're seeing cascading lettuce, tomatoes and onions or something that could be an onion, there's little, tiny words, barely visible on the screen, about how that statement only applies to the '48 contiguous' states', which is grown-up-speak for 'on your bikes, Alaska and Hawaii.'

Contiguous ranks right up there with disambiguation, which sounds like a made up word (okay, actually all words are made up, of course, but I meant by a prankster or someone learning English by correspondence course during a postal strike) which, has nothing to do with either Alaska or Hawaii, but seems like showing off by using a lot of letters for possibly nefarious purposes.

There's a different commercial for another restaurant chain where the pitch is 'buy this plate of now dead, cooked fish for only this much money, it's yummy' and the little words pop up in the corner of the screen to tell me the price is higher in Alaska and Hawaii (and in Puerto Rico; perhaps because of their continuing disambiguation?) though I would hope the fish are both as dead and as yummy as elsewhere.

'When you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there', to quote Christopher Columbus' mother (just one more thing- she looked nothing like Peter Falk), though I was somewhat surprised to learn he'd gotten lost just getting to the piers. Learn something new every day. I can't help but feel sorry for Alaska and Hawaii--the last two states to get their silk jackets and be allowed into the union and we still string them along.

Sure, we say to Alaska, you can be the biggest state (Texas doesn't mind, much) but we're gonna put this hunk of Canada between you and the State of Washington. As for Hawaii, it's like the kid always picked last for baseball (he's not very good, but he lets us use his bat), 'okay you're gonna play deep center field. Keep going back....no, more than that...a little more...just a bit more.' Until he disappears. If he's lucky, we remember to call him in when the game is over and he wonders what happened to his at-bats.

It just needs to stop. How can we have a family of nations when we cannot even unite the states? How would the rest of us feel if Hawaii and Alaska just blew us off. You fly into Juneau and the TSA guard asks for your passport. And you cry out 'but Alaska is a state! I don't need a passport to go from one state to the next!' And the TSA guard gets a tight little smile when he says, 'isn't that nice? Help yourself to one of those frozen meat hamburgers and take a seat, foreigner.'
Or you hit the Big Island to soak up the rays and your hotel clerk says, 'so you're from Norwich, Connecticut, are you? Your English is quite good-I can barely hear the accent! No, little man, I don't think you'll be enjoying Tiny Bubbles anytime soon. She has a headache from trying to read the small print on her TV.'

And we're left to watch Dan-O struggling to To Build a Fire and wonder what went wrong.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's a Wonderful Li(f)e

Probably not just me. It feels a little harder to 'get into the spirit' (of either generosity or mindless consumerism, depending on whether you're a half-full or full-of-it kind of guy) this Christmas season. I'm reaching the point, maybe you too, where there's less and less of the daily newspaper I read--skip the front page and the national section and the finances and the international pages and the political analysis and....wow, what's left? The professional Armadillo Full-Contact Wrestling League standings, Hi and Lois in the comic section and the personal ads over in the classifieds (not that ANY of us know anyone who actually reads those, or would admit to reading them). I don't even watch theTV news anymore (Is it true Jay Leno was named the host for Meet the Press?)

Go on line and look at news headlines this time a year ago and we were no happier than now, with, in retrospect, less reason. So while the 'how did we get here?' seems to be a sticking point, I'm more concerned that it's keeping us from getting to the heart of the matter and moving onwards and upwards.

Everyone has competing theories for our economic state so let me offer mine, based on ZERO knowledge and less expertise (I'm being honest (to myself) which is more than we might be able to say about others), you can shake your head in disbelief and dismay and then we can proceed to the "we gotta get outa this place" portion of the proceedings.


Businesses, I submit, used to be formed for the purposes of making something and were a creation to benefit all of those involved in that endeavor. Instead of 'we are together to make/do/be something' the mission statements now are 'we are in business to make X% return on our investors' money'. The visionary who brought us together and got us to the mountain has been replaced by a guy who knows how to count. All of a sudden we're out in the tall grass and can no longer see the path. And no one knows how we got there or how to get back.

Back in the day, when money was something and there was no cell phones, video on demand or even (shudder) Home Shopping Network, I was in the US Air Force with someone with a wry sense of humor who had a sign on her desk that said 'I am now starving on the salary I once dreamed of making.' Today, we would have outsourced her and her sign. We already outsourced our sense of humor.

Look at the house in which you live or where any of us lives. How much physical improvement did you make in it in the last five (ten? fifteen) years? (I don't know enough about things to know what the 'typical' municipal assessment and re-evaluation cycle is.) Your house is appraised and assessed at more this time than the last time, even if you did nothing. That's vapor (please don't be angry, I don't mean it personally). But then, you go to the bank with that vapor number and get a new line of equity. Now we've transcended vapor and are into voodoo (again, my apologies if you're a follower of voodoo, I use that term in a non-religious way).

All of this works as long as each of us keeps moving-- like lemmings? Okay, sure. Lovely animal, beautiful plumage said someone, once, somewhere, perhaps. That movement for the last three to ten (or more) years (depends on who is telling the story and how much supply side cider they've had to drink) has been circling the drain, didn't matter until--YIPES!--suddenly it did.

As I noted at the top, that's how I see us getting here. Bottom Line: Not everyone is gonna get their money back from the Building and Loan, George Bailey. Ask Mr. Potter. It's a Wonderful Li(f)e. When will we decide to stop using the past to keep us from the future? Does today work for you? There may not be a tomorrow, that's why I'm asking.
-bill kenny

Monday, December 15, 2008

Addition by Subtraction (this week's Norwich municipal meetings)

With ten days until Christmas, unless you're an automaker from Detroit, the municipal calendar thins out for the holidays as more meetings are rescheduled because of time constraints, and (I suspect) some of the agendas of meetings that are scheduled are slenderized if not tenderized-more on that in a moment.

This afternoon at four, the
Design Review Board meets at 23 Union Street (that's next door to City Hall) but the City's website has no agenda (not required by public law) or minutes of previous meetings (very much required by public law). When I point this stuff out, I'm not punking anyone at City Hall-but obliquely (well, not so much now, of course) those on these citizen committees that they have a responsibility and requirement to report in a timely manner. And NOT doing so lets everyone down. And--WHAT?!?--oh. It seems we need to pack some of our scruples and values here at Tilting so I'll step down from my soapbox and let the movers use it. Sorry.

This evening at six thirty is an
informational session by the Norwich Semiseptecentennial Committee before the City Council meeting. I attended one of these on this event some months ago and came away disquieted by how little money had been raised and how much still needed to be done (and how few of those questions came from the City Council). Based on everything I've read in the meantime, I see no reason to not be as concerned as I was at that time.

I applaud those who've volunteered their time and talents and wish them well, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have a Plan B, Plan C and as many more letters in the alphabet as needed. This was a big, challenging project when economic times were good a year ago (though a year ago we didn't think times were so good, funny how that worked out) and now seven months away where are we?

Actually, that's a question, in a much larger sense, I have for the City Council, who meets at seven PM in City Hall. I was troubled, to say the least, when I reviewed their meeting
agenda and saw NO mention of a report by the committee of five attorneys created at their 18 August Council meeting, (page 16) to review the Charter of the City of Norwich. This despite, per that same August ordinance creating the committee: "the Council requests that said report be submitted to it by the first (my emphasis) council meeting of December 2008."

It's already two weeks overdue, gentlemen of the City Council. Will Charter Review and Revision (such a hot topic in the Council elections last November) join ethics review, the implementation of city-based business contracting preferences, and noise ordinances as issues you started to work on and then, well, lost interest in or did you just lose your way?

I'd suggest you pull your socks up and buckle down this coming year (and that way those of us in the cheap seats won't have as many potshot opportunities). The budget formulation will, no doubt, be brutal, but there are so many other issues of import that you haven't affected in any meaningful way. I'm not angry with you--though it probably reads that way. I am disappointed.

Tuesday at 7 PM is a public hearing in Council chambers by the
Commission on the City Plan, and this should be an interesting evening though hopefully not just for the commissioners.
There are, in reviewing the agenda, what seem to be three topics: a proposed 90-unit active-adult community development between Hunters Road and Merchants Avenue. The Ponemah Villa development is to be built in a heavily settled area with municipal utilities and includes units in size from single- to four-bedrooms, a community center, parking, and recreational trails through the heavily wooded property. This project has already been approved by the wetlands commission.

The actual first agenda item, a somewhat controversial (there's an understatement!) - and similar - project on Scotland Road was rejected by the Inland Wetlands, Watercourses and Conservation Commission, and could be withdrawn--but that will have to be done once the hearing is called to order. Right now it's on the agenda.

There's also an application for a sober house on Bentley Avenue. There have been a lot of headlines
on this house in recent months; actually on the way it opened and the methods used by those who own it to operate it. Our 21st Century Well-Meaning has created a not-so-cottage industry generating billions of dollars supposedly 'caring for those in need' who never seem to get better and whose numbers never diminish.

I'm not sure when we're helping them or helping ourselves. The owners of the property at Bentley had a similar operation, opened in much the same surreptitious manner not that far from where I live. And when found out, after their lawyers did some sabre rattling of briefs and writs, they closed up and defaulted on the loan they used to buy the house. And those whom they were supposedly helping were left to own devices. Same shirt, different day at Bentley.

There are other, important, meetings slated for this week--and I'd encourage you to seek them out at the City's fine
website, though you may need to do some calling around (the site lists a Board of Education meeting for Tuesday in Room 210 of City Hall that may not be happening).

Yes, it's hectic at the holiday season but for those among us who have volunteered to serve on the countless advisories, boards, commissions and committees that make wherever we live a better place for all of us, we owe each and every volunteer a 'thank you' for their efforts on our behalf, not just because it's Christmas time, but all the year through.
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 14, 2008

All this and Cracker Jack too

Times are tough all over, even in professional sports. Maybe not for the New York Yankees, based on the headlines earlier this week on C. C. Sabathia and A. J. Burnett (are they gonna hire anyone with actual first names this season, or we're just doing shorthand? And all those years ago, G. Gordon Liddy and H. Ross Perot were ahead of their time--who knew?). Is this the year we get to see the Kansas City Royals infield collecting cans and bottles by the side of the road to redeem for the deposit so they can pay Kyle Farnsworth? Strange Days Indeed (most peculiar, Mama).

Strange days as well here in the Rose City which has our very own Double A Eastern League baseball team, the Connecticut Defenders who are an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants (though, to my knowledge, neither GM wears flowers in his hair--which would be a stretch for Charlie D). They started out as a New York Yankees affiliate, transferred from Albany, New York in the middle of the last decade. We built a ten million dollar plus stadium in our then-Industrial Park to house them when they were called the Norwich Navigators (and Tater still wowed the crowd last Sunday at the Norwich Winterfest Parade) and for the first couple of years, fans flocked to the new attraction and then, as now, it was a great place to watch young baseball players chase their dreams, hone their skills, and have some fun for very little money.

If you've bought tickets for anyone's Major League team in the last decade, you know, before even getting to the ballpark and paying for the parking, you're out hundreds for four tickets, a soda, a bag of chips and a hot dog per person (and who does only one of each of those for nine innings?), so we've been lucky to have had great, reasonably-priced entertainment for close to a decade and a half. Attendance started to flag some years back in what is probably already the smallest market in the Eastern League (the Defenders play teams from Harrisburg, New Britain, and Trenton, as three examples, where not only is the host city considerably more than our 37,000 souls, but the surrounding areas put them over a quarter to a half million in population).

Jerry Seinfeld noted years ago, in light of the money involved in professional sports, we the fans are basically rooting for clothes. The Red Sox fans who loved Johnny Damon half a decade ago hate him now, now that he wears the most despised pinstripes in baseball. And so it goes. We have childlike and childish enthusiasms for our teams, but we lose sight that they are businesses and that means they have to make money. Same is true for minor league teams.

The Defenders had a lot of ink this past week for 'overdue' rent and other payments owed to the city of Norwich, to the tune of 310,000. It shouldn't have been as pseudo-newsworthy as it appeared in the newspapers. The Norwich Baseball Stadium Authority, NBSA, citizen volunteers appointed by the City Council to manage and monitor the relationship of Senator Thomas Dodd Stadium and its tenant, the CT Defenders, meets once a month with representatives of the team to review where all of them are and where they need to be going. The minutes of those meetings (and December is and was still 2008 for what it's worth) are shared with the elected and appointed leadership of the city.

The indoor batting cages and pitching mounds in the adjunct practice facility (I'm told it's beautiful, I've never seen it from the inside), the large screen video display and scoreboard, the the new playing surface, warning track and outfield fences and the to-be-completed-before-opening-day renovations to the concourse bathrooms, all funded by tax dollars (municipal and state) are all the result of those meetings and the collaboration between the volunteers and the Defenders' staff. And all of us who've ever been to the stadium are the beneficiaries and should be grateful for all of their work.

That said, $310,000 is a LOT of money. And it's good to read that the team will catch up by opening day, which is 16 April against the Trenton Thunder (with the proceeds of the game going to the Girard Family in Voluntown, CT), but how did they fall this far behind without the City's leadership NOT knowing. The NBSA, when you read their minutes, have done their job--but never had a means of enforcing rent collections. It was good to read comments by the City's Comptroller and City Manager on the resolution of the situation, this time, because, Gentlemen, that's your job.

I was a little non-plussed to read in the papers a note that the team will pay the back rent as well as interest on it, even though there's nothing in their lease agreement about having to do so. That's probably true, except I have to believe everyone involved in the lease operated from a belief that all portions of the lease would be binding on all parties and that both the city and the team would be as good as their word (judging from readers' comments in one of the papers, I wasn't alone in my reaction to the remark.)

Something I forgot I knew about, turned up in both papers on Saturday, the portion of the parking fee the Defenders donate to the Mayor's Food Pantry. One had the dollar figure at thirteen thousand and the other ten--three grand is three grand as my mother the accountant might say, so I'm curious as to which number is real, but even more curious as to where this number is in the Norwich City Budget (248 pages of fun, from cover to cover) as I can't find it.

Maybe because it's NOT a fixed, but variable, revenue stream it's just harder for me to identify-but that's not my bigger, or sole, question: where is this money, who gets it and for what? Somewhere is an accounting trail-it needs to be more visible-and the Defenders should be thanked and the Mayor applauded for creating and maintaining the fund, especially in these aforementioned tight times.

If I were to be $310,000 in arrears on my rent or mortgage, where might I be sitting right now while typing this? Orange crate under the Eighth Street Bridge (is that a Wi-Fi zone? How will I upload this to the site?) or seeking out a warm bed someplace? We all have obligations, to ourselves and to one another--that's sort of why we banded together as communities which, in turn, evolved into larger political-economic units.

I'd like to think we created government to better harness and channel the time and talents of some for the benefit of all-to do for one another as a group that which we couldn't do as individuals. Being honest and honorable with one another makes us better people and a better city and we improve one person at a time, one day at a time.
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 13, 2008

See the USA in your Chevrolet

From what I see in the newspapers and the greater minds who write for them, we may, or may not, become owners of auto companies. Is this a great country or what? As a child I dreamed I'd grow up to be a baseball player and an astronaut and the President of the United States (I'd figured this stuff out-there would be no rocket launches during the summer, so I could play baseball and when I was in space, the Vice-President would be in charge).

It would be a full life-busy, of course, what with the World Series and all. Back in the day we had NO divisions and no playoffs. You had the American League and the National League. The National League's whole function was to send teams to lose to the Yankees every fall in the Series. We had DAY games, where you could skip school for an outing to watch real baseball on real grass and sit behind grown men whose behavior you didn't understand because your Dad didn't get stupid behind beer at home. And there were NO designated hitters-everybody batted and if one of our guys got thrown at, then our pitcher nailed their guy next inning. Even the guy selling the Cracker Jack knew the drill. (And now that the Yankees have C.C. Sabathia we might even go for a little 'tackle baseball.')

And even the big stars, and the Yankees had a ton of them, did other things in the off-season to make money (we kids didn't know that. I thought Yogi Berra actually liked Yoo-hoo; it was all he ever talked about), so one year when my parents had rented a bungalow in Atlantic Highlands we all went to watch a night softball game (wow! what an experience that was) we got to see Yogi and Moose Skowron, the Yankees first baseman, play in an exhibition before the softball game called 'donkey baseball' that was exactly what you think it was. I'm thinking about Scott Boras who's a super agent for Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez, among others, and trying to guess how many shades of white his face would turn at the idea of one of his clients on a donkey. Probably the way he feels now when the Daily News has photos of his Bronx Bomber and Madonna. Vogue indeed.

Anyway, I never grew up wanting to own a car company, but it seems, thanks to the helping hand we're giving to the Moe, Larry and Curly of the automotive world, that's what we could be doing. I wonder if this will mean if I want to visit Washington D.C. if I get to use one of the corporate jets? Or do you suppose there'll be a sign-up for that? I'll bet Bob Lutz never gets told 'I don't think so, slick' when he asks to use one of the jets. I'd even get it washed and waxed before returning it.

I'd like to own my own home (I already own my own car, bought and paid for before I owned a car company. Bet I could've gotten an even better deal now. Heck with "Employee Pricing", gimme some of that Captain of Industry, 21st Century Plutocrat Discount action. That's what I'm craving) but I'll settle for the Fisher Body Works, I guess (beats going to the gym).

I'm thinking as a good first step to signify the emotional, and not just financial, investment each of us is making, we start naming the car models after the citizens whose money is going into the company. I have no idea what a LeSabre is (I took a year of audio-visual French in prep school and retained none of it), so tell me Buick is gonna start building four-door Bobs (Bills; modesty has NEVER been a virtue with me), with moon roofs and heated seats. Chrysler could have a Bernice mini-van as an homage to soccer moms everywhere and Ford can rename one of its crossovers, Pat, for obvious reasons. I'm not sure what the Hummer's new name would be, though Monica works from a marketing perspective.

Have your machine fax my machine and we can talk about it over lunch on the jet. -bill kenny

Friday, December 12, 2008

Where women glow and the men plunder

Dateline, Australia. This is the kind of story that makes you smile and then try to figure out how to apply it here and how much it would cost. Helps explain a lot, as far as I'm concerned at all levels of our government, local, state and national.

You don't have to be from Norwich, CT, or anywhere in New London County or elsewhere in Connecticut, New England or the USA. We each have the same 'you will not believe this, but' stories and each one is better than the last one, but cannot hold a candle to the next one. It's true at the state level as well, of course.

Disclaimer: I don't pretend to have ever been anywhere as 'interesting' as Illinois. If they make corruption an Olympic event, you may well find past Governors at the medals podium. That said, my adopted (kinda) home state had a governor in the not too distant past, who shall remain nameless (John R), resign after being caught with his hand, arm and most of his torso in the cookie jar of unreported favors and unrequited devotion. The state in which I grew old, but not up, New Jersey, had a governor who resigned and outed himself (or was it vice versa, Jim Mc?) and the state of my birth, New York, had a Governor, Eliot S, hoist by his own petard (that's what the kids call it these days? 'That little petard' wasn't really what I was thinking of calling him but it'll do).

I don't really think if we had breathalyzers or drug testing for elected office, it'd make that much difference. For how many more years do you suppose MLB will continue to NOT find ballplayers juiced up (George Mitchell and Demosthenes are in search of a utility infielder who hasn't experimented with HGH) and why does the NFL want me to think normal human can get to be 380 pounds without chemistry? Point in fact, I never attribute to malice that which can be explained by ignorance and while the Misadventures in Oz make for great copy and a fun read, and I whack elected officials in this hemisphere like they were piƱatas, in reality we DON'T get the government we deserve, we get far better.

For every Rowland, McGeevey and Spitzer and their counterparts in every democratically elected government around the world, there are a hundred, more likely a thousand, and even more likely a hundred times a thousand, officials who are just like we are, trying their best on behalf of all of us. I'd imagine we don't have quite as many dirty dancing in their underwear, at least in New England in the wintertime, outside, as they may have elsewhere. A free hot tub has its price, as does the choice of partners with whom you share it, and/or other fluids.

Sometimes the punishment fits and sometimes it doesn't. The farther out in space you travel the more alike we look and act. "I said, do you speak-a my language? He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich." I asked for the crusts to be cut off, but instead something else was. G'Day.
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 11, 2008

No Strings attached

This is embarrassing. I don't pay much attention and I don't use very many of them, anyway, but I just noticed this the other day. I was feeding a squirrel at home off my back stoop (landing is what we call them here in New England, 'stoop' is what we called them in Nu Yawk and Joisey and it's been a lot of years, and still hardly a day, simultaneously). Because my hand shakes (one of those 'when you buy a ticket, you get the whole ride' aspects of aging of which I'm so fond) one of the squirrels stood on its back legs and used its paws to hold steadier a finger and the thumb of my right hand, which was holding a peanut.

Despite the hundreds of Nails 'N' More places within the sound of my voice across this area, I am surrounded by squirrels who don't believe in manicures, or maybe it's pedicures. In steadying my hand, the animal inadvertently scratched me. And pulling my hand back very quickly in surprise didn't do much for those trust issues these rats with better press clippings and I have with one another.

There was the tiniest drop of blood, one on each finger but in just a goofy enough place to make getting Band-Aids on them important (and I can't believe anyone thinks the website needs a 'where to buy' button! Is there a store on earth that doesn't sell them?). I apologize if you do not call all adhesive bandages Band-Aids-you should. Unless, unlike me, you didn't grow up near New Brunswick, New Jersey, which is the international headquarters of Johnson & Johnson (don't ever use 'and' instead of the ampersand, okay?). When we were young marrieds and shopping in the BX, base exchange, out at Rhein Main AB, my German wife bought somebody else's brand of Band-Aids. I missed it at the checkout, but went back the next day and corrected the error.

I grew up with the thin red string that you used to open the wrapper on the Band-Aid whose "Sterility is guaranteed unless seal is broken" (or perhaps if the walrus is hobbled. I knew it wasn't that kind of seal, but always wondered how many people actually read the Band-Aid wrapper). So I opened the medicine cabinet (that has everything but, now that I think about it. I even keep my tie clip on the bottom shelf. The bathroom is where I put on my game face and work clothes and tie my tie (raffles always promise 'duplicate prizes awarded in the event of ties', but I've yet to get close to one of those raffles)) and grabbed the Neosporin and the box of Band-Aids, ready to give NO quarter to any bacteria as I repaired my fingers). I didn't know until just now, both are made by the same people. (I lead a very sheltered life, it seems.)

And, wow-maybe you already knew this. My wife reacted with a shrug and a 'it happened years ago' observation, but the J&J Band-Aids don't have the skinny red string anymore! What happened and when (and why)? Did I miss the memo--should I fire off a note to the J&J people (with my fingers in their current state, how much will that delay the healing process)? This is like discovering Lincoln's Gettysburg Address actually begins with, "Yo, Peeps!", that a kid'll eat the middle of an Oreo first and throw the chocolate cookie outsides away (it makes more sense my way) or that the AFLAC duck isn't related to either Donald or Daffy (proving, again, that while all ducks are birds, NOT all birds are ducks. Which way did he go, George?)

My chagrin at discovering the packaging change is tempered by the realization that in all of my years of scrapped knees and elbows-it was Mom who opened the Band-Aids. I never could figure out how to use the red string to open them and always wound up pulling it completely out, leaving me to tear the wrapper open with my fingers. If I'd saved those red strings I'd have enough, probably, to make a tunic like the ones worn by those Beefeaters we see in the pictures at Buckingham Palace. If they played soccer against the Vatican Swiss Guard, who do you think would win? (and do the latter have knives and do the former drink gin?) Would the match be decided in regulation, or would we have to go to Penalty Kicks? And do you hate PKs as much as I do? It's like deciding a baseball game, tied up after nine innings, with a home run derby.

Anyway. Yeah, I managed to pull apart the new (to me) Band-Aid wrapper, reassured that at least the warning is intact (it's like that other constant in my childhood universe, the 'do not remove this tag' from the couch cushions. I could have sent my Gramma and Grampy to jail for years if the Couch Cushion Cops had shown up, let me tell you). Of course, by the time I got the Band-Aid opened, my wife had the aerosol out, the one you just spray the adhesive bandage on and was back making dinner before I could even protest. You have to love that German technology, especially if you run out of places to store the red strings.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

from Ozzy Osbourne to Ozymandias

I'm fifty-six and closing on fifty-seven with each passing day. I've already had two members of my generational cohort elected to the office of the President of the United States (what's that look of feigned surprise? 'I didn't get that memo! I'd have run if I'd thought someone was keeping track.' Spare me, please), William Jefferson Clinton and George Walker Bush. I'd suggest, in the interests of keeping the union united, we forgo any more attempts at the Oval Office Ring.

I thought about this because someone the other day spoke about who should perform at (one of) the Inaugural Balls for President Barack Obama. He speculated it would be Bruce Springsteen in much the same way as Fleetwood Mac had performed at Bill Clinton's. Having preached from the Gospel of Bruuuuuuuuce! from his days as Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom as well as Steel Mill (I wonder if The Ledge still exists on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University?) through my days among the heathens and Hottentots of Western Europe (listening to German members of the Blue Jean Army annihilate Born to Run on his first tour to the BRD in April and May of 1981. Nothing screams 'go away!' like 'Beyond the palace, hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard...' rendered in an accent only Sgt Schultz could love, or understand), I just don't think so.

In a way, to steal a thought from one of his own tunes, it's the Price You Pay. Nothing personal, for him or for those of us of his generation. We're irrelevant to the process--which as part of the Baby Boom Generation, the post-World War II pig in a python (in terms of population impact), is kinda hard to take. Our time on center stage is past--it would have been anyway--how much longer should my (youngest) brother's generation (and that of his two older sisters) have to wait before we checked ourselves in at the Shady Rest?

Remember how we couldn't wait for our parents to move aside so we could finish remaking the world in our image and likeness? They'd created polio vaccine and the Marshall Plan and started us on our way to the moon and beyond. They left us to find our own way out of Vietnam and we found our way into disco, cocaine and the plague of Aids. I'd like to think someday that piece of the Berlin Wall I have in a plastic bag in my basement in Norwich, CT (Mark C, it was the VERY first thing I packed when I knew I was leaving Germany because I knew I'd never come back, at least in this life) will be part of my generation's legacy and not just those platform shoes and the side burns that went down to my thighs with moustaches that went to my ear lobes.

Perhaps I, and we, can use Percy Shelley as our map:

"I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled hp and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my works. Ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
-bill kenny