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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Measuring Twice and Cutting Once

I was fortunate to make yesterday morning's meeting in Norwich City Hall, called by Mayor Benjamin Lathrop, on possible roads ahead for the city and the region in the light of a projected 30 April closure of the Norwich YMCA.

There were, I'd estimate, about eighty-five people in attendance which, for a Monday morning at eleven o'clock meeting, is pretty good. As it happened a lot of folks in attendance probably went home disappointed--not only at the length of the meeting but in what they saw as its structure. I'm not sure they are being fair to the Mayor, the City Manager, the two aldermen who were in attendance or the board of trustees of the YMCA.

There's an expression I've heard, 'when you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.' I think, based on how the meeting went, I might not be the only one who's heard that before. I attended because, as I mentioned the other day, I don't know what I don't know (I did sit next to Mr. R, an attendee at many municipal meetings, whose insights and perspective are always welcome), and it sounded to me like Mayor Lathrop was suggesting the same thing was true for him.

There's always a temptation to 'don't just stand there, do something!' that's often complicated when exactly what the 'something' is can't be easily defined. And there was some of that on Monday morning as many of us filled the room in the hopes of telling someone how important the YMCA is to our lives and our community. I think the leadership of the city and the YMCA Board of Trustees already know that--and the Board, I assume, didn't arrive at its decision to close the YMCA on 30 April lightly or without discussion or regret.

The Mayor announced the City's Comptroller, Joseph Ruffo, will lead an informal audit of the YMCA's finances, which the Board agreed to earlier before the meeting, to better present an accurate picture of where the organization is right now and how grave the situation actually is (all I thought of was
Yossarian working to staunch the wound in Snowden, realizing (too late), another untreated wound was draining his life force, that results in his death).

It was, as meetings in Norwich go, very emotional--as well it should have been, I suppose. Many of us have had one or more contacts and interactions with the YMCA, either as children ourselves or through our children or because of the numerous community-wide projects and outreaches they have. Should the Norwich YMCA close its doors, its absence will be felt, in Norwich and beyond and for quite some time to come.

The meeting on Monday, aside from announcing the audit of the finances was a call for suggestions to be shared with both the Mayor and the City Manager--and to also announce there will be a 'next' meeting with a report on the current fiscal status and situation, next Monday morning, 6 April, at 11, this time in the City Council chambers. I'm not sure how many in the audience who demanded a meeting 'next Monday night so more people can attend' realize next Monday evening is when the City Manager will present his proposed budget to the City Council. Every one's plate was already full--no one needed the threatened shipwreck of a long-time community institution to be added to the schedule.

The Mayor spoke about the need to be proactive rather than reactive-though I think, technically, looking at the sequence of events, that's all we can do right now. We, as citizens and as a city, need to manage the events so that they stop managing us. We need acknowledge that people prefer problems that are familiar to solutions that are not and that these are extraordinary economic times, for all of us, and that in the ocean in which we find ourselves adrift it's not just my part of the boat that seems to have sprung a leak. We may, as some would like to think, each be alone in a wind-tossed vessel, but it is ultimately the same great big ocean for all of us. And, sadly, our boats are so small.
-bill kenny

Monday, March 30, 2009

House to House and Heart to Heart

Not sure how it fits, or even if it fits, but Paul Young's cover of a Marvin Gaye tune popped into my head a moment ago and seems to be as true a start as I can come up with to talk about community and municipal meetings this week in Norwich "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)."

The first item, this morning at eleven in Room 335 of City Hall (the former courtroom I think-it has what seems to be forty foot ceilings) is a community, vice municipal, outreach and, intending to NOT put too fine a point on it, a gut check. In the middle of last week, the Norwich YMCA announced it had come to the place where the road and the sky collide, and faced with a crushing debt and a diminished revenue stream would be closing at the end of April.

There were in both local papers for the next couple of days lots of comments that confused search for the guilty with attempted solutions and I hope the community-wide effort to assess the situation and salvage what can be saved will start this morning. There's a difference between lending a hand and pointing a finger, and we're running out of time to learn the difference. I'm hoping to be able to get to Room 335 Monday morning because I don't know what I don't know and I need to get smarter in a hurry--and maybe if you're already smart, you can sit next to me and help me out--and if you're not as smart as you'd like to be, we can keep one another company, since all of us working on a solution are, by definition, better than only some of us working on a solution.

According to one of the local newspapers, at six o'clock tonight "in City Hall" (which is a model of specificity) there's a public hearing by the state legislative Appropriations Committee. It's NOT listed on the city of Norwich's website, and by their own schedule, the Appropriations Committee would appear to NOT be in the Rose City this evening.

Here's what I found interesting on the Committee's web page: "The committee has cognizance of all matters relating to appropriations and the budgets of state agencies. Other issues under the committee's jurisdiction include matters relating to state employees' salaries, benefits and retirement, teachers' retirement and veterans' pensions and collective bargaining agreements and arbitration awards for all state employees." A pretty sweeping mandate if you ask me--and even if you don't.

The Committee has 58 members, thirteen from the State Senate and forty-five from the lower house--you tell me how many of these folks you voted for in the last election, and later over a tall, cool root beer, we can talk about why Eastern Connecticut seems to get dealt from the bottom of the deck when state-wide initiatives are developed. Yet another reminder that you must be present to win.

Six o'clock is a pretty popular time to get things done in City Hall, though the workshop notice for Tuesday (I think) jumps the gun by twelve hours. There's a workshop on "Bully Busters" scheduled for Room 335, beginning at 6 PM (as opposed to what the workshop notice claims is the start time. In fairness, I should point out the notice has an AM start time and a PM).

Also Tuesday, at 7 PM, about halfway across town in the Park Church, facing Chelsea Parade at 238 Broadway, is the monthly meeting of the Norwich Against Global Warming Action Group (NAGWAG), which, considering it wasn't that long ago that Norwich became a "Cool City", is a start. At first I thought we had elected Charlie Parker Mayor, which explains the 'cool city' designation but it seems Bird Lives was an ideal not an idea.

Wednesday evening at seven, the Republican Town Committee meets in Room 108 of City Hall. We're a little less than a month away from the special election to fill the vacancy on the City Council when Alderman Chris Coutu was elected to the CT Legislature. Everyone gets to vote (no matter your party affiliation) though the only choices who can be elected are either a registered Republican or an unaffiliated candidate (we have one of each, in case you didn't know). As the date draws closer we'll talk a bit more about voices and choices in terms of the Council seat.

And speaking of State Representative Christopher Coutu and community meetings of note, next week, actually next Tuesday the 7th, at 7 p.m. in the American Legion hall at 22 Merchants Avenue is a state budget forum. Representative Coutu promises to do his best to accurately outline Connecticut's current financial shape and outline what roads are ahead of us.

Thursday at seven PM in the lower level conference room of 23 Union Street is a regular meeting of the Inland Wetlands, Watercourses and Conservation Commission and reading their agenda you get a greater appreciation of how important getting as much help from across the city, every city, can be when you look at the scope and breadth of concerns in our neighborhoods across this country. Each of us is a part of the solution and each of us is someone the rest of us have been waiting for to arrive.
-bill kenny

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What we've left behind as we rush forward

I thought for a moment on Saturday, coming out of the NMNM (Nearly Moribund Norwichtown Mall) there was a person on the opposite side of the traffic signal holding a cardboard sign that read "Will Work for Bandwidth."

As I neared the light over the brook and was closest to where he was was standing, I realized I was in error and it was the same fellow I've seen in recent weeks and, sadly, the sign, promises "Will Work for Food". How nearly a decade into the 21st Century in what we proudly and loudly self-proclaim as the greatest country on earth, in the history of the planet, we can countenance one of these signs, much less the tens and hundreds of thousands that we both know have sprung up from sea to shining sea, is beyond me.

I've wandered alleyways and paths less travelled on the World Wide Web in recent weeks, at sites like that of the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, Barron's and many others, and as far back as I can pull references and URLs, we have been slouching towards the Armageddon that has seemingly so suddenly and completely engulfed us.

As near as I can understand what I've read, we actually had signs and omens that the rising tide of prosperity was no longer lifting every boat a very long time before we changed elected Harbormasters and decided to drill a second hole in the boat to let the water out.

Some of us have parents who were children of the Great Depression--I do. I can tell you that when we were children growing up, no one ever spoke of those times--neither our parents who had been us in an earlier generation nor our grandparents, the adults who had actually stared into the abyss of despair and hopelessness. I don't think a lot of us in high school made the connection between the Hard Times that Stud Terkel wrote about and the lives of our own grandparents and moms and dads.

I suspect they hoped and prayed we'd never have to find out first-hand and that having lived through and survived it once, they would be spared from another visitation. And yet here we are in the spring of 2009 and we've become obsessed with what we've lost and how much of that may be gone forever. Matter, suggested our friends in physics, can be neither created nor destroyed, but that's not true for college funds, retirement annuities or hopes and dreams.

Will we learn more this time from boom and bust than we have in previous cycles? Will we learn to control, if not throttle, our own appetites for excess that once we have enough we can then step away from the trough and let someone else take a turn? Instead of being hopeful as the spring days lengthen, I grow more worried. What if this is the year with No Summer and we go from a faltering and fading spring directly to the cold of the next winter of the human spirit? Who will know how to build a fire and light the world?
-bill kenny

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Liquid Acrobat as regards the air

Staying home rehabbing my left knee from a Total Knee Replacement, I can watch television during the day that normally my bosses would frown upon. I can also catch a lot more of the public affairs programming offered by CT-N of hearings and other aspects of state governance, often live as they happen in Hartford.

Thursday afternoon was a little surreal as there was a live hearing by (I believe) the CT Joint Banking Committee (members of both houses) into the AIG (because they're based in Wilton, Connecticut as I understand the story) 'bonus boondoogle' (I'm using that term in case small children are stopping by today and I don't want you to have to explain what, precisely, one of the more colorful terms being offered aloud in recent days, really means).

As I understood the news accounts, the Committee issued invitations to the top fourteen executives in the AIG food chain to sit with them Thursday afternoon and walk everyone through, from beginning to end, on the rationale and timing of the requisite bonus payments that AIG, citing CT law earlier in the week, had explained it had disbursed from part of the Federal Stimulus Package I call Unk's Handout.

Neither I nor my evil twin Skippy was surprised to discover exactly NONE of those AIG executives were available Thursday afternoon. Instead, one of the Senior VP of HR (sort of a higher up in charge of personnel, I think) was made available along with an attorney from a firm retained by AIG to assist in the gathering and dissemination of information. From my couch in Norwich, it looked like his role was to keep any information from being gathered at all.

I watched about an hour of the hearings, which I think meant I saw three different elected officials ask questions (the last of the three was from Groton, I think, and her hair style looked like something Edward Scissorshand might have attempted after one brandy too many. She seemed to have a giant bird's nest on her head, and knew it, as most of her questions were repeats of the earlier folks who got close to nowhere when first asked). I think the first question to the HRVP had to do with how AIG FP (Financial Products, I think) generated income and the answer was something like 'they sell financial derivatives'.

I didn't find this especially helpful or illuminating as answers go and neither did the State Rep who'd asked the question. In the ensuing ten minutes which seemed to come down to 'oh yeah, you're a personnel guy--how would you know? Would you tell me the name of one of the people in your company who would?' the Rep and the lawyer took turns reading from threatening email sent to the CEO (I think) of AIG sounding angry and aggrieved at having the writer's life savings evaporate and the attorney seeking to shield all the AIG leadership from such threats.

Oh, did I mention the AIG fellow who did attend had only started in Human Resources in September 2008, so not only did he not know anything about any aspect of the AIG bonus and retention policy (for him it was all in place and hearsay), he knew hardly anything about anything. He was, to give credit where credit is due, very polite with a nice smile and a thoughtful look at all times, except when the lawyer seated to his left was telling the committee that the Mouse Police Never Sleeps and (without actually mentioning your name or mine) suggesting either of us might know more about AIG than did his client (he must've meant you).

I have no idea if the AIG HRVP received a bonus, but based on yesterday's performance, he certainly earned one. And while I watched the Kabuki Theatre that is the miracle of democracy unfolding in my glotzkiste, I keep thinking about the Norwich YMCA, part of the city for 125 years, announcing it will go out of business forever in April. The money needed to keep it solvent being about one tenth of one percent of the bonuses and retention incentives that AIG expended less than ninety days earlier to retain talent in their critical leadership positions. I marveled, again, at the joys of the free market, even when it's not so free.
-bill kenny

Friday, March 27, 2009

Running Towards and Running Away depends on the object

I started this as a pep talk for someone who is a member of my family and very important to me though I get tongue-tied when trying to articulate the specifics of the mechanics of that. He has known me his whole life, which is terribly unfair, I know, but birth order does that to you. Almost from the time I can remember him coming home from the hospital, he has used his eyes and mouth in exactly the same proportion that he has them in his head, and I think it's stood him in good stead. He's always been quietly confident, not arrogant or brash or self aggrandizing-if he tells you an ant can pull a boxcar, don't argue with him, just hitch the insect up.

Some time back, as humans are wont to do, there developed an attraction from beyond his routine and he decided to see where it led. I'm not a very good person to talk about embracing change, though with a couple of decades' advantage, you'd think I might be a cheerleader for it. I'm a guy who puts his paper money in his wallet from lowest to highest denomination, and in the correct serial number order. I don't care how long the line gets--it's how I impose order on the universe and if you want to call me anal, feel free. I tend to count aloud, so I probably won't hear you.

I've told people 'the difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the habit' and while I'm sure I stole that from someplace, I haven't yet figured out either from where or from whom. Since the last time I had an original idea it died of loneliness, I'm sure someone, somewhere, is missing the credit. My apologies; just put your hand up and I'll eventually hyperlink to you.

I've spent a lot time thinking about what I can say to help him regain his equilibrium (because the first born is often the Catcher in the Rye) and realized, reading him everyday, he is sorting this out for himself--trying on the faces in the gallery, if you will, in search of the one to get him to where he needs to go. I've ranted so often about Captain Yossarian in Catch-22, "John" was his first name, did you ever realize that? And it turns out, a fictitious character is my source of insight to offer a fellow-traveler. His Snowden to my Yo-Yo? Not sure, it could be all a dream. "It depends on the dream." "It depends on the fish.''
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 26, 2009

more than a Martian Chronicle

I watched someone on one of the CT-based TV stations last night, as part of the evening weather forecast, use the turn of phrase in outlining the next couple of days of weather 'and there will come soft rains.' And just by the way he said it, suave, smug and disconnected, I knew he had no idea where he had first heard the expression or what it could possibly mean.

As it turns out, it had meanings of which I had no awareness. Another 'Global Village' moment of world-wide convergence and connectivity. I found this Russian animation interpretation, (actually a Soviet interpretation from 1984) of Bradbury's short story--paralleling the original well enough that I can easily follow it, but diverging at critical points so that I wonder what the animator was attempting to add.

"There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
if mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone."


If the Russians love their children, too.....
-bill kenny

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Just how cold does it need to get in a well-known place?

I saw it on the sign in front of the East Great Plains Fire Department yesterday morning where the New London Turnpike intersects with Route 82, just two, brave words, "Welcome Spring". That I was wearing my winter jacket, and had both the seat heater and the car heater on added, just slightly, to the irony of the greeting.

This time last week, when it was still winter, it was a lot warmer around here and all we could talk about was how nice it was going to be when 'spring finally gets here.' Seems talking about items in advance, in anticipation, can sometimes not be such a good idea. Praising the day before the evening has arrived can be risky, and not just in matters of weather, though that's what I'm talking about right now. I had already started wearing my lighter than winter jacket when my wife and I went out for a bit last Sunday and almost froze our keisters off.

People can be a lot like goldfish--we forget that times change and situations improve. Because it's been a slow spring so far, we fear spring may never get here at all. And then we'll watch someone on the weather report tonight who'll remind us about the Blizzard of '78 where it snowed for forty days and forty nights after Easter and destroyed all known civilization on the Eastern Seaboard and we'll brighten up a bit and say 'well, it's not that bad now, so it'll all work out.'

When it gets to 100 plus degrees in August or July or September (I'm not sure when it will happen, exactly, just that it will-because it always does) we'll look back with nostalgia and a bit of regret to the days we are having right now. We'll tell one another about the time the rivers froze and the birds were hanged in mid-air, suspended by their own breath in the sky. And then it got really cold......
-bill kenny

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

From Curt to Brusque

I was waiting to get a tire repaired, of sorts, when the ESPN folks let the cat out of the bag. After a report on the NCAA Women's tournament had Ball State (first appearance at the dance in school history) beating defending champion, Tennessee and not in a squeaker, but a real thumping.

My son who rarely has a day off and when he does I'm always stunned when he spends it with me, was my wingman as I had, yet again, a leak in a new tire (part of a set of four new tires) examined for the third time in five months, since purchase. I'm starting to think maybe no one is really interested in repairing the problem. Actually, the guys in the tire place did the best they could, they always do, and removed what they said was some corrosion on a piece of the rim that was keeping the bead from making a good seal. Read that sentence again, I'll wait. Sounds like I really know what they're talking about, doesn't it? No clue. I'm a parrot on this stuff able to memorize about seventy-five seconds of jargon that I can then playback to technicians of any manner on any subject at anytime. Johnson rods, Finnegan bolts, video go-faster connectors, I have a ready stock of pseudo-gibberish that helps me blend.

Surrounded by stacks of tires taller than either of us, we watched ESPN Sports Center while one of the battalion of tire folks dinked with the car. I don't understand tire stores--the guys I see going into them, again yesterday, disappear into the stacks of rubber piled on its side, in search of I know not what. It seems, however, that they do. And that they are very particular about what tire goes where on what. All I know about tires is they're round and seem to be black. Once you've satisfied those two conditions, I am a happy guy. My son speaks of 'directional tires' and wall weight and size ratios and I pray for a chance to work in my Finnegan bolt anecdote.

We hadn't gotten that far yesterday, when the ESPN story became the retirement of Curt Schilling from baseball after twenty major league seasons. Citing his blog, 38pitches, ESPN announced Schilling was calling it quits. He thanked, in order, the Lord Jesus Christ and his wife and four children, all of whose names begin with a "G". When you pull the string from his blog, you'll encounter hundreds, if not by now, thousands of comments, from all over the perspective and baseball nation that praise him and damn him in the same breath, and often in the same paragraph.

I am, as you must know by know, a NY Yankees fan--and so my feelings are rightfully suspect on Schilling's announcement. In light of what he did for a living-at the level at which he did it and with the rate of success he enjoyed for such a long period of time, of course he was an egomaniac. Anyone who is any good in major league baseball, and hate him if you like, but #38 was spectacular, has to be a consummate egotist. Almost everything they do or say off the field no one cares about--not true for Schilling and I didn't like a lot of what he said, but I had trouble disagreeing with a lot of it. His take on steroids and the posers and fakers who used them--made my teeth ache and yet, I had to nod my head in agreement.

When he announced whenever it was, some months back, after becoming a free agent, that he'd entertain offers from any team in baseball except the Yankees, I smiled. You've gotta love a guy who is that willing to be a horse's fanny, for the sheer principle of it. The TV talking heads yesterday speculated on his chances of getting to the Hall of Fame. He, and Randy Johnson, beat the Yankees in 2001 to give Arizona its only World Series and he altered forever the dynamic of the greatest rivalry in baseball, Yankees-Red Sox, just by signing on to pitch in Fenway. If he's not elected to Cooperstown five summers from now, it will only be because we've stopped playing baseball. "Turn out the lights, the party's over. They say that all good things must end. Call it tonight, the party's over and tomorrow starts the same old thing again."
-bill kenny

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hand-made (Norwich) local government

Lots of words this week about national politics (and the pitfalls of being the President of the United States on late night television) and state politics (we seem to have already established who the two people are running for the 2010 Senate seat from Connecticut; and neither face is a new one and none of the ideas are either) that just helps me remember that we might all be better off as we rebuild our country if we start at the lowest level and work our way up.

Monday afternoon at five, the Norwich Redevelopment Agency meets in Room 210 of City Hall. I'm impressed by the number of people I know who volunteer to lend a hand on this--and they're not headline seekers by any means; they mean well and try to do well. Here's what they're doing this afternoon and what they did last month. There's a lot of work to be done in rebuilding Norwich--this group of volunteers always seem to travel with buckets and spades and are always open to new ideas.

Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 in the Central Office of the Board of Education is a meeting of the Policy Committee. You're tired of hearing me say this, but I never tire of noting it: the Norwich Board of Education website is, being polite, a car crash and a waste of electrons. There's not even a current listing of the members of the board and don't even look for meeting agenda or minutes of previous meetings (this is for a School Building Committee meeting that happened three weeks ago). I never attribute to malice that which can be explained by ignorance so guess why I think the website of the most important function of municipal government is in disarray. First prize is a week in Norwich; second prize is two weeks.

At four on Tuesday afternoon in 23 Union Street (next door to City Hall) is a meeting of the Building Code of Appeals whose previous meetings and current agenda are a mystery to me. At five o'clock, in Room 219 of City Hall is a regular meeting of the Harbor Management Commission.

Funny story-sort of: last week as part of my rehab on my left knee, I walked (or tried to) the Heritage Trail that goes down along the river to the harbor from the Indian Leap Falls. Yeah, I was the guy with the walker--and the case of the sad behind after I'd walked past the church and the rolling hills to the river under the Sweeney bridge to discover the trail is still blocked off by the police department from when the miniature golf course caught on fire. How long ago was that? Two years or so? I enjoyed the little golf place-never understood the volcano, but what's over is over and that is so over now, it's not funny. The Heritage Trail was constructed with federal tax money and belongs to all of us. The property owner and the police have had long enough to secure the area and safeguard that which needs to be safeguarded. How about, just in time for the 350th Anniversary, public works and public safety do what needs to be done to let all of us enjoy it again. And yeah, I'm a skosh cranked that I had to walk back up the hill instead of being able to continue to walk to Howard Brown Park.

At six, the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners/Sewer Authority meets in the training room on the 2nd floor at the Norwich Public Utilities’ building, at 16 South Golden Street. There's no agenda and no minutes posted from their last meeting, which is no longer a surprise to me despite state laws to the contrary.

Speaking of no agenda and no minutes, Wednesday afternoon's meeting at 4:30 of the Norwich Housing Authority at 10 Westwood Park rings both bells. Without putting too fine a point on this: you're not doing the rest of us a 'favor' by posting the minutes of your last meeting--you are complying with state law. Also Wednesday at 5:30 at 23 Union Street is a regular meeting of the Board of Review of Dangerous Buildings who asked for some help, in my opinion, from the City Council last Monday night and for the life of me, I can't tell you if they got the assistance they requested or not. These are serious folks, who toil in relative obscurity and have a 'target rich environment' as a review of their minutes of the special meeting would suggest.

Capping off Wednesday's meetings, at seven over at the conference room in the golf course, is a regular meeting of the Golf Course Authority. In honor of their regular meeting, I have a golf joke: why does Tiger Woods always wear two pair of golf pants? In case he gets a hole in one. I know you're out there, I can hear you breathing.

Thursday night at six, the Norwich Recreation Advisory Board meets in the Rec Office over at Dickenmann Field; their January meeting was cancelled because of lack of a quorum and finishing off the week at 7 PM in Room 108 of City Hall is a regular meeting of the Democratic Town Committee. There was a reasonable amount of chatter earlier in the month about DTC sponsorship of debates between those seeking the office of Mayor-and right now there are two candidates, both of them Democrats and both, I think, on the DTC.

Not sure why the debates some people want to have couldn't be held inside the regular monthly DTC meetings. Set a time limit of (I don't know) fifteen minutes and hold a debate limited to a specific topic at every meeting between now and whenever the nominating process happens. I'm a registered Democrat who has never attended a DTC meeting (I'm told they don't have pie), not that some people are happy to know that I'm a Democrat. I can't understand why allowing the two people seeking the office to debate their positions should be so hard to organize. As for waiting for those who may want to run but haven't announced, get in or get out--that's my attitude. You cannot win if you do not play. As I said at the top, own the process at the local level and people will feel part of the system at the state and national level. Otherwise, government is something that is done TO us and not FOR us. Don't just make a difference, be the difference--everyday.
-bill kenny

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Radio Erehwon

My two children, one twenty-six and the other twenty-one, have heard me use the expression 'like a broken record' their whole lives. Unlike many of their friends and peers, they know what it means and what it's in reference to.

Before they were born, I worked (way too strong a word. I'd have done it for free-that people paid me to do it was the icing on the cake) as a radio announcer/music director/interviewer/spot recorder/librarian/music editor/reader card writer, and every other job in radio you could possibly have. I worked everything from 5,000 watt daytime AM stations to major market FM operations. I love radio--before and after everything else I have ever done for a living, I love radio. It is as close to magic and alchemy as is possible for one person to get and the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

Of course, my favorite thing about radio was and is always the music. We have a huge collection of music in my house, on compact disc, on mp3, on audio cassette on 8-track cartridge (I even have in the basement an 8 track recorder and player) as well as open reel (and no, I have no open reel player) and vinyl singles, extended play and long player records. I think the last time I checked, I know own four different turntables, because you never know when you might need one.

And while we have many hundreds of different musics in different formats, I have over seven thousand vinyl albums. Everything I own is alphabetically listed (and in chronological order) by name of performer (or group). Don't try to split hairs with me. "Jethro Tull" is is under "J" for Jethro and not "T" for Tull; The Beatles, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones are under "B", K, and "R", respectively.

I bought a turntable that went into my PC about a year ago, under the theory that I would transfer only my favorites (who could afford the CD's otherwise) from my vinyl collection but the number of steps involved and the amount of work, and the meager payoff (I goobered up three tracks for every one I got right) led me to quit my quest.

This past Christmas in a department store my wife found an all-in-one combo that claimed to be able to do all the heavy lifting and got it for me. It's a lovely cabinet--sadly, to cut costs, the turntable is a worm-gear (my least favorite type), but (and it's a great but!) there's an auxiliary input that allows me to use my component system, complete with a Pioneer direct-drive turntable that my son got repaired for me years ago at Radio Shack with an advanced circuit in the CD recorder that marks more than two seconds of silence as a separate track.

The impetus for all of this came from two different albums in my life and in meeting their CD reincarnations years later. In the early eighties, Neue Deutsche Welle, NDW, was sweeping West Germany and in the forefront of what was basically very peppy and poppy dance music was Stefan Remmlar and Trio. They had a huge hit with "I don't love you/you don't love me" (tell me this is NOT magic). I had the chance to interview him one night on a radio show I hosted across Europe and we talked for hours--he was brilliant and the listeners loved him.

Fast forward less than a year--in Ian Hunter's band is a brilliant musician, Martin Briley. As a side project, basically a "Waiting for Ian to get into the studio" filler, he has recorded an album, One Night with a Stranger that has the greatest top five hit single, The Salt in my Tears, to NEVER make the top 100. I have no idea what happened--it was spectacular and went plywood in Indiana.

Not that long ago, I was wandering through a mall record shop and I found a CD of Trio's debut Herz Ist Trumpf on sale for 'only $32.50'. I paid less than fourteen marks for it on vinyl two and half decades ago (and the exchange rate was about two mark and twenty pfennig to a dollar) so to suggest this offering was slightly overpriced was slightly understated. That very night, I went on line looking for the Martin Briley debut but finding only a repackage at $125.00 (American dollars? I shouted.) You betcha. Two reasons to grow my own.

It's a lot of fun but it has its heartaches--because of the technology at the time, the best sounding albums had no more than nineteen minutes of music a side on them--do I need to tell you how hard it is to find forty minute CDs? And if, as I so often do (or did), decide to 'add' another artist's effort to the CD, how would you file this stuff? A couple of weeks ago I bumped Steve Forbert's Jackrabbit Slim (with Romeo's Tune) and decided I could add Carolyne Mas (who was better at evoking Springsteen than Bruce was. I really should pass her music along to LR and Adam, so maybe that can be my project this week). Except when I have all this together, is it 'F' for Forbert or 'M' for Mas.

I decided on 'G' for the Glory of Rock and Roll. I'm surprised at how many entries I have at that letter. And they all sound great.
-bill kenny

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bookstores without Borders

I got thinking of how convergence, which has created fewer and fewer news outlets, radio stations, film studios, newspapers, et al (limited the number of voices) has disappeared where we buy our newspapers, magazines, books and periodicals. Growing up a half century ago in New Brunswick, NJ, there were a dozen bookstores (some of that driven by New Brunswick being one of the campuses of Rutgers, the State University) and each one was as different as you could imagine from the other. Now, if you find two different booksellers in a major city, good work and the basic difference always seems to be what kind of coffee each sells.

In much the same way as I used to treasure small record labels, I used to have books from arcane publishers. Now how many are left? Five publishers, or so it seems. You have whatever is affiliated with McGraw-Hill and seemingly everyone else as the 'other side'. I'm not saying that's bad or if that's good--I don't know. That's probably my point. I have no idea what books I might have read, other than the ones I have, had the publishing and retail aspects of the industry been different.

My son, before I went into the hospital, got me Paul Roberts' The End of Oil because he knows I've become fond of T. Boone Pickens and that I'm angry at how addicted my country has become to fossil fuel. And that my actual anger about this addiction is how it has warped the country I am leaving him and his sister. Our dependence has caused us to whore ourselves out for a gallon of high test and to pretend that our values and core beliefs are much better off when subjected to the vagaries of situational ethics. What's right and what's wrong has a lot more to do with the nozzle and the cost per fill-up than it ever did when we kids without cares.

He got the paperback on sale not that long ago in one of those book superstores that has 'everything' but also nothing at the same time. I'll mention this book a lot in the weeks and months because we need to reinvent ourselves and reinvest in ourselves and a good start for you might well be to go find a copy of the book for yourself. The trick, I've discovered, isn't just owning books-it's reading them and allowing yourself to possess them, no matter how much they cost.
-bill kenny

Friday, March 20, 2009

Piling On and more

I mean well-I don't do well (something about talents and abilities plus opportunities and motives that always screws me up) so I find myself in the midst of the anthill, with a messenger bag instead of briefcase and a Blackberry instead of a beeper.

To me, I try to compensate for a lack of ability to do good things by joining causes and offering support to those who can do good because good works are a key part to the road to Heaven, however it is you define Heaven (I'm not sure I believe in God, having watched His handiwork up close for almost 57 years and we are quite the piece of work, ain't we? But the older I've gotten the more convinced I am becoming that if there is a Deity, He/She will rescue/reward us because S/He loves us, not through anything we've done to 'earn' salvation).

So much for my impersonation of Fulton Sheen--not really sure where I wanted to go and sorry about that detour. I signed up a couple of weeks ago here in CT for a legislative initiative to expand the applications to those who might qualify for 'family leave'. Having lived in other people's countries for a long time, I can tell you we are very backwards on this and not especially kind to one another (or ourselves). The electronic lobbying effort seems to be aimed at heightening awareness and attempting persuasion and as such appeals to me as 'non-partisan', and lacking in ideology.

I'm not a big fan of the definite article. Tell me "I have found a way" and I'll listen to you with more of an open mind than if you tell me "I have found the way." It's not that I don't believe you, but I don't, and your insistence despite my feelings of unease will not persuade me. It's how I am.
I mention that because starting yesterday for reasons that their strat comms guys (strategic communications specialists) think are the 'right moments', the lobbying groups have decided to try to saddle the public resentment about the stimulus money that's been given to some companies and that, seemingly, they will use for bonuses. You've read about it, and seen the news reports and heard the voice bytes from 'the person in the street' and yeah, I get it except, I don't all at the same time.
About the only thing in the New Testament I remember fifty years after my First Holy Communion is the parable of the laborers in the vineyard and how all day long the owner hires people to harvest grapes and at the end of the day, it turns out, he pays everyone the same wage--those who were there from dawn until dusk and those who arrived an hour before quitting time. There's much mumbling and disquiet and unhappiness even as the vineyard owner explains that he set the arrangements and everyone agreed to them and what he pays each of those who toiled in his vineyard is between the two of them.
That's the God that I was looking for as I opened these email exhortations from folks wanting me to come on a bus ride this Sunday from Hartford to see all the fancy houses where many who are receiving the bonuses from the bailout money money all live. Maybe we'll get lucky and their families will be on the front lawns and we can jeer them, or perhaps throw things at them. That'll sure fix everything, won't it? And you know the best part? Those people are just awful-all of us on the bus agree-and it feels so good to pick on those so deserving. That one has nothing to do with the other is just me being rude when I point it out.
That in the less than four weeks I've been a member of these lobbying groups, we could have evolved so rapidly into a Correctness Posse and Thought Police is very sad. I can do nothing to stop these people except embarrass them by running away and so I've quit them, right after offering them a hearty, heaping serving of warm invective because I'm a giving kind of a guy. Meanwhile there are still so many in the vineyard, doing what they can and where they can. Perhaps the self-righteous among us should go tell them alcohol isn't good for them.
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Exactly what kind of question did you have in mind?

In the Land of Steady Habits, we prefer our revolution with a cup of tea (Earl Grey, please) and a shortbread cookie. Connecticut, rightly or wrongly has a a national personae among the states as being more of the Founding Puritan Fathers (and mothers) than our neighbors to the north in Massachusetts where the actual founding stuff mostly all happened.

After all, we, not they, have the two casinos that rock 24/7 and without whose cut of the slot machine revenues (25% I believe) we would, as a state, be much farther up an infamous creek without a paddle (or vessel, come to think of it) than we currently are. That's always been one of my favorite questions: 'what happened to all the casino money?'. Gee, standing in front of a new school, on a new road, with new sewer and water lines, and highly-trained and well-paid municipal and state employees, I give up. What did we do with the money? KIDDING!

As our incomes increased arithmetically, our appetites grew exponentially. The balanced budgets of 1991 and 1992, when I and my family were arriving here from another country and another mindset, seem quaint in comparison to where us Nutmeggers are right now--and I shudder to think about where we are heading.
Perhaps the most frightening part: Connecticut within the fifty states is regarded as relatively well-off as belts continue to tighten and we all learn recipes for stone soup. For those areas of our country who started off with less than we have, the 'where do we go from here?' question is a luxury they cannot afford.

We have a six step process for every problem around here, and elsewhere that has almost nothing to do with the problems themselves, but keeps us busy which we like to pretend is the same thing as being productive. There's Enthusaism, Panic, Disillusionment, Search for the Guilty, Punishment of the Innocent and Rewards for the non-participants.

In 2006, we in the Second Congressional District 'fired' our (Republican) Congressman, Rob Simmons, and elected Joesph Courtney. In 2008, we re-elected Mr. Courtney as the state went overwhelmingly 'Blue' (for Democrats, I think; I don't get the color-coding either but that's for another time).

Somewhere between the replacement of Simmons and the election of Obama, large sections of almost everything we own or know went South. The multitudes who had turned out to say 'Yes, We Can' are now doubting themselves and selectively re-remembering how they arrived at that chant. We have moved at light speed through Panic and Disillusionment directly to Search for the Guilty. And the easiest targets are those already in elected office, especially if their behavior has become cause for concern.

Our senior Senator, Christopher Dodd, has been a fixture in Washington D.C for many years--his colleague, Joesph Lieberman, didn't endear himself to the party faithful by running as an independent during his last campaign when his own party gave the senatorial nomination to someone else. He then won anyway-and spent most of last fall campaigning for his colleague and friend, the man running against now-President Obama. My somewhat puckish sense of humor finds it amusing that in recent weeks, it is with Senator Dodd that so many of us are angry and we have found our next champion, the man we didn't want representing us in the 2nd District. It seems being a Senator is a much better fit. I'd also point out that we have well over a year and a half before any of this conversation needs to get serious, or even cereal.

In the meantime, I suspect (and expect) we'll read more and more blogs, smogs and cogs involving 'questions for Senator Dodd' that neatly side-step the 'what will you be doing the day after election? question. "The only thing you done was yesterday/And since you're gone you're just another day. Ah, how do you sleep? Ah, how do you sleep at night?" We'll leave for later what is you dream about when you sleep.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The magic of math

We have a couple of weeks before Major League Baseball begins its season. I've been sitting at home, rehabbing my left knee for the last week or so, enjoying the addition of MLB Network to my cable provider's service (some of the stuff it gets packaged with, I don't understand but the great thing about freedom of choice is I don't have to watch the stuff if I don't want to).

I'm not a sports guy--can't tell you the batting averages or on-base percentages of anyone on any team, to include the teams for whom I root, and baseball is my most passionate sports interest (okay, tied with European (NOT MLS) soccer. MLS, for me is like watching PAL soccer and since none of the people playing it are my kids, it has zero appeal), in the the sense of I love the rhythm of the game and the visual grammar of how the action takes place. Until I had MLB I would spend all winter watching NESN and YES rerun old ballgames from seasons' past-I didn't care about the score.

Now with MLB TV I can watch the World Baseball Classic--I can, but I usually don't. I'll actually choose an exhibition game over the WBC since it appears to be baseball's equivalent to PAL soccer. Not that many years ago, the Olympic Committee removed baseball from the Summer Games; that so angered me I refused to laugh at any of the thousands of Mark Phelps' bong jokes circulating on line (you realize, with his lungs, his huff would make the big, bad wolf look like a piker, right?) and I confess to NOT getting the point of the WBC. Because of my love of the symmetry of the game, I think the WBC gets in the way of spring training, adds a bunch of distractions and doesn't help me appreciate any more of the game.

Yeah, it was weird one day last week to see Ramiro Mendoza and realize he's maybe the only player I know to ever be in a World Series starting roster for both the Red Sox and the Yankees. And then, Skippy, my evil twin, asks me if I'd like a quarter to call someone who cares--but wait, it may be long distance, so here's a another bright shiny quarter and instead I settle back to watch the KC Royals split squad take on the Cleveland Indians. Where do you think the Japanese teams have spring training? South Korea, Okinawa? How about Italy? Perhaps Sicily? And what about keeping in touch with the Dutch--how does the South Antilles strike you?

Next season, maybe, one of more of these squads might be able to work out in Norwich in our stadium, Senator Thomas Dodd, as it looks like our decade and a half romance with the business of professional minor league sports has ended. Monday night, our City Council, already owed close to 350K by the team in the stadium allowed a reassignment of the lease to a possible new ownership group who'll, we are told, attempt to take the Double-A team to Richmond, Virginia.

Regionally, we've already started the search for the guilty as to what happened--basically, another small business failed. We feel a bit differently about it because most of us, as kids, played this game, before it was a business, and we forget that you have to make money to remain a viable economic venture. Maybe the stadium was in 'the wrong place' as so many have have said, except lots of us went up there over and over again in those early years, even after the Yankees stopped being the major league partner. It was a great place to enjoy a very simple game--played by people on their way up the career and professional achievement ladder.

Sometimes a thing is only worth what someone will pay for it--and maybe that's what happened to the Defenders (I still almost type Navigators ("I have a photograph, preserve your memories; they're all that's left you")). And when Tater, Cutter and the memories of Roger Baker, the first voice of Dodd Stadium, have all been packed away and somebody comes up with a great idea to put a Single-A team, with a shorter season and almost the same overhead and expenses that the Double-A team had, maybe we'll all caravan through the Business Park and root for the home team, no matter how far from home, they, or we, are.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

the faithlessly discarded

Happy Saint Patrick's Day. Here in CT we stole a march on all of this with a parade in Hartford on Saturday that packed the streets, I'm told, and then on Sunday, the annual New Haven St Pat's Parade which is regarded as one of the ten largest in the country was held under beautiful clear skies and middle fifty temperatures. Not that I was in attendance for either-I'm continuing to wiggle my whole foot and squeeze some kind of muscle on the top of my leg to force the back of my knee into the bed, and then lifting my left foot and ankle, from the knee off a bolster a number of times a day all as part of the rehabilitation of my new and very much improved left kneecap (still has that new knee smell!).

My wife and daughter were in Boston Sunday, not so much for their annual parade (as you might imagine in Boston, it's more like a religious procession of sorts; I've been there for a couple in my younger days), but to see the Blue Man Group as part of an outing organized by Eastern CT State where Michelle goes to college.

As I understood it, the collective has taken up residence in a Boston theatre (a hatbox to hear it described) and plays to packed houses I have no idea how often. I've caught them on TV in dribs and drabs and don't pretend to imagine I'd enjoy them live. I can take about two minutes at a time of them in performance so I don't know what I'd make of being six rows from the front of the stage for an hour and a half, but Michelle really liked it (I still think it's too much like kabuki theatre in blueberry jell-o for my taste but her mother has a great shot of my daughter getting touched on the cheek by one of the blue men (persons?) and eventually I'll add it to my facebook page even though it has nothing to do with me, technically speaking).

Walking through Quincy Market before the performance my wife and daughter found 'just for you' a Pocket Jesus (less than an inch tall), made in China (tell me the Lord loves irony) complete with a bumper sticker that says 'Shock your mother! Go to church!", which, I suspect, would be the exact effect on my Mom. And a Ganz finger puppet (guess its country of origin? I knew you would) that was some sort of Pirate of the Caribbean though it looked like neither Johnny Depp nor Orlando Bloom (nor Keira Knightley for that matter).

I love finger puppets and keep a set in the car at all times, for when I do end up in urban traffic situations. Nothing takes the sting out of critiquing (as I like to call it) another road warrior's driving talents than signalling your total score, but with a finger puppet riding atop the rigid digit. Besides if you have a co-pilot to help you out, you can actually drive with ten finger puppets and have yourself a rousing singalong. And if the traffic continues at this pace, I can always get out and put that bumper sticker on your car, get back in and never miss a beat.
-bill kenny

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Magic of Democracy (begins with Municipal Meetings) Norwich 15-21 March

I admire those who bestride the earth in seven league boots and see the largest idea and the smallest detail in the same eye blink, but I'm a plodder. I figure if we (and by that I mean all of us) take care of the small stuff, the big stuff will take care of itself. I offer a preview of municipal meetings in Norwich every week, not because I think you should attend every one of these meetings (and if you're reading this in some of the places I'm told people do read this, the commutation cost would kill you) but if you are a Rose City Resident (a 'Rose Buddy' as I like to type to the sound of grinding teeth everywhere) you should know what goes on here.

Humans form communities, not packs or warrens or nests, because of our bigger brains and (I hope) our larger hearts and our sense of a need to help one another. There was an excellent feature on the front page of Sunday's Bulletin (that's NOT a sentence I thought I'd ever write) if you can overlook the lack of spelling in the headline (I obviously can't) in observance of Sunshine Week 2009 and its emphasis on open and transparent government.

We in Norwich, Connecticut are spoiled because our city's website can probably kick your city's server. The only thing I'd like to suggest to Josh P is to consider abandoning the email notification listing, which still doesn't work (I've signed up for it a dozen times and received nothing) and consider something like Twitter (I know, 'but yesterday you wrote...' that was yesterday, okay?).
In small cities across this country, every day of every week there are neighbors of every size and shape stepping up to lend a hand-here's what that looks like this week in Norwich.

Today - At 9 this morning in the Rose City Senior Center is a meeting of the Senior Affairs Commission, who, it appears wading through the city's website last met in November of 2008, according to the minutes, but are supposed to meet every month. I didn't find an agenda.

This afternoon at four at 23 Union Street (next door to City Hall) in the basement conference room (I suspect) is a meeting of the Design Review Board; I found no agenda and no minutes and am not happy at the pattern I think I see. Sunshine go away today, indeed.

There are TWO City Council informational meetings, one at six o'clock on the way ahead proposed for 26 Shipping Street and, I think as informative because of its scope and scale, at 6:30, a presentation on the Community Development Block Grant Program whose application window is about to close.

The Council itself meets at seven. As a former (and long time) member of the Baseball Stadium Authority I'm sorry to see how our Adventure in the Eastern League may be ending and I'm trying to figure out how the team could be two plus years in arrears in rent. Per the lease, if they leave Dodd Stadium at the end of this season, there's a fee of one hundred and forty thousand more dollars owed. With budgets as tight as they are, a half mill is real money. I'll be curious as to how much of it will exist in the city's general fund when all is said and done. Later, someone can explain to me how a Single-A franchise will make money in the same market, with basically the same overhead, when the Double-A franchise couldn't. And then George can tell all of us about the rabbits again.

Tuesday - Public Parking Commission meets at 5:15 this afternoon at the Buckingham Memorial Building. Here are the January minutes as I think the February meeting was cancelled.

The Norwich Free Academy Board of Trustees meets at 5:30 PM in the Sidney Frank Building, on the NFA campus.

And at seven PM, there are two meetings, One of which I know a reasonable amount, the Commission on the City Plan, at 23 Union Street. The Bentley Avenue Sober House is on the agenda. The other is the Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone Committee also at 7 p.m. at Artworks--however the city's website has NO membership, NO meeting agenda and NO recent meeting minutes. These are the October 2008 minutes. I'm not sure that's enough sunshine to work up a tan but it will, seemingly, have to do.

Wednesday – This morning at 8:30 Southeastern CT Council of Governments has a full council meeting (as opposed to a half-nelson, perhaps?). They're located in the Industrial Park, at 5 Connecticut Avenue (I think where the soccer thing was all those years ago?) but there's NO agenda and no February meeting minutes posted

Not sure what to make of this meeting slated for 9 AM by the Housing Authority in Room 319 of City Hall. That link says they meet at 4:30 in the afternoon but the city's schedule says it's at nine in the morning and then there's this link, that says they meet at 4:30 in the morning. In terms of sunshine, a bit more overcast than I'd like and not enough shadows to see anything.

Also at nine this morning, it's Children First Norwich, in the Dime Bank (over on Route 82)Community room. Stop me when you’ve heard this before—they do good things, and need help to do more and better things but I have no idea how much and when since their website is in tatters. I love the idea of newsletters-but am really comfortable with meeting agenda and minutes to help place everything in context and they have NONE.

Wednesday afternoon there's a meeting of Integrated Day Charter School Board at 5:30 in the Media Room of the Charter School at 68 Thermos Ave.

Thursday – The Norwich Community Development Corporation has a special meeting at noon in the Connecticut Economy Resource Center in Rocky Hill. I never tire of pointing out two things: NCDC is funded directly and indirectly with our tax money so its activities should be a matter of public record and posted on the City of Norwich’s municipal website though NEVER are. AND this is the world wide calling card of the agency to whom our City Council has entrusted the management of the engine of economic development. You choose a word to describe it, I refuse to. It’s been like that since I cannot remember when (I know someone who offered to do their website FOR FREE and never even received the courtesy of a response). We don’t suffer from Future Shock (and yes, you can find all five, if you search) My Rose Buddy; we suffer from present shock.

At five this afternoon is a meeting of the Historic District Commission, 5 p.m. in Room 210 (or Room 319, I'm a little confused) in City Hall. When you walk or drive drive through practically any village within Norwich, you can’t help but be amazed and delighted by some of the architectural treasures we have and there are many people to thank for this, to include the Historic District Commissioners.

The Ice Rink Authority meets this evening at 6 at the ice rink on New London Turnpike. It might be a good idea to put on an upcoming agenda the renewal of appointments for all the members since they expired (the appointments not the members) almost two years ago. And then if you wanted to add the minutes of previous meetings and the agenda of upcoming meetings, that’d be swell too.

Friday - At eight this morning in Room 319 in City Hall is a meeting of Chelsea Gardens. I didn’t find minutes or a meeting agenda, but it was a pleasant way to spend a few minutes on line. Which is more than can be said for this rant on most days, today included I imagine.

Rediscover your passion for excellence and share your time and talents with those around you.
-bill kenny

Sunday, March 15, 2009

So the root word would be Twit, right?

I'm not sure how much I enjoyed Doonesbury this week as Gary Trudeau put Twitter squarely in his sights and skewered the always hapless and completely oblivious Roland Hedley (though I did appreciate the insight into the upside of going gray, dude).

I got one of these accounts through a link on one of my local newspaper's websites. I think I joined about a month ago. Spent a couple of days confused when I had messages, sort of like instant messages (I guess; I don't know how to do them with email so I don't) and felt bad I hadn't responded to discover that wasn't necessary a problem or bad thing. I was heartened by what I thought was a very interesting piece of narrowcasting within a broadband medium.

In theory, as my (very flawed) understanding (as it turned out) of all of this connectivity stuff worked, a reporter at the NY Times (yes, the Gray Lady twits or is it tweets? Arthur O how could you do this to yourself?) working on a story I was following, could, at least I think so, provide private insights into aspects of the story that weren't being published for mass consumption. A peek behind the curtain, so to speak.

VH1's Behind the Music without all the mandatory obsequious and sycophantic ego-stroking required so that copyright material might be used to dress up fawning and otherwise patronizing and trite observations. (I really like that show, can you tell?). Problem was I couldn't really control the flow of information from the Times' feeds, and all of it is limited to 140 character bursts. It was like reading the history of the world, being written in real time, by someone with Attention Deficit Disorder while locked in a cardboard box with a peephole perched in the backseat of a speeding automobile.

Since I like her music, I signed up to 'follow' (appears to be the same as stalk, except the object of your affection knows you're out there) Sara Bareilles, whose music I enjoy a great deal but not nearly as much as I used to. Getting notes about buying shoes and being referred to as 'you guys!' and learning that she was all warm and toasty after a bowl of noodles in New Orleans (I think) really exceeded my need to know and totally maxed out my need to care.

And again, old dog that I am, what's the etiquette for this stuff? Should I respond? She's not much older than my daughter, Michelle, who regards most people on the planet with a measured and jaundiced eye (I have no idea where she gets that from) and how much like a dad do I have to be to someone who's just dithering in the ether? Come to think, where the hell is her dad to tell her to pipe down? Why am I always baby-sitting other people's children? My own two barely survived my limited parental interference. What is the world coming to when I'm the lifeguard at the sanity pool?

And then the weekend before going for knee replacement surgery, through the same newspaper, I got my very own Facebook page (eeek!). It's like being in sixth grade again, and I had so much fun back then. I can't help but wonder what I'm missing in all of this (I am also in Linkedin, or however it's spelled for copyright purposes which I was signed up for about two years ago and still cannot understand) as all of these social networks are like the barbershop's infinity of mirrors trick enabling you to, indeed, see the back of your head while in the barber's chair, to infinity and beyond but once you've done that, what next?

When all the convergence and connectivity Kool-Aid started to get passed out in 70's, I'd have assumed by now we'd have found ways to better manage conflict, regulate weather, control pollution and feed the hungry. It seems to me the same tools that could have carved a second David or Pieta are being turned to produce Spinal Tap's Stonehenge and my very limited supply of Eleven's is almost entirely gone.
-bill kenny

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A week in rewind

I woke up in my own bed for the first time yesterday morning since Monday. I realized with a slight start, sleeping beside me, was my wife-she wasn't actually sleeping she was watching me as I had been sleeping. I didn't ask her how long she's been doing that because I'm afraid of what the answer would sound like: 'all of our married lives.'

Things happen to me. I don't ask for it, unless you consider being born 'asking for it'. And then we'd have to define the gerund and parse the object and we'd be back in the tall grass, where I spend so much of my time.

Having coffee yesterday morning I explained to my wife that this time I had no memory of ever leaving prep for surgery. One minute I was stripping and donning a special operating room garment with holes where they blow warm air in because the hospital is cold to minimize the spread of germs (as I understand it). I've tried all week but cannot find a tactile memory of that sensation, and yet it must have happened. In the past I've been able to recall the transfer from one gurney to another in the operating room, sometimes indistinctly remembering the music and seeing everything at least for awhile through a gelatinous, strawberry haze.

None of that Monday. I awoke, thinking I had gargled sand, in a corner of a room on the fourth floor of Backus Hospital in Norwich, though I only knew any of that from previous experiences as I wouldn't get beyond the room door until some point on Tuesday. I remember not eating very much of anything for at least two days, but then I have trouble eating fremde food and avoid doing so whenever I can.

There's a lot more about what went on this week I wish I remembered. I recall something in my sleep so frightening me on Wednesday evening (probably really Thursday morning) that I shouted aloud and woke up and scared the bejabbers out of my roommate who had his hip replaced on Monday morning. He thought that was the hardest thing in his week until he drew me as a roomie. Sorry, Steve, and hope your rehab goes better than your initial post-op did.

The Visiting Nurse made her first visit yesterday afternoon and I learned that years of 'making do' with a 'bum knee' came with a high cost. I have a terrible set of habits right now on how I walk that I will need to completely break and relearn. At six weeks shy of 57 years of age, something about an old dog and new tricks keeps playing through my head. I just checked my driver's license and it appears ready to expire before I do which is how I always like that to be.

I'll see the Visiting Nurse three times a week and work on the exercises she's laid out for me by myself everyday of the week, on multiple occasions, and perhaps by the time I return to see my surgeon in the middle of April I'll be ready to be an outpatient for rehab. At some point after that, it'll be permission to return to work and reinsertion into the hive.

I'm seeing the whole screen much better right now, mainly I suspect because of the pain killers I took earlier, but I'm still only catching a few frames and the audio sync isn't always there. I'm hopeful the frame buffer will start to salvage the missing bits, but I'm also a little afraid of what I'll see when I look at it. I know the one thing I can't do is look away-those days are over.
-bill kenny

Friday, March 13, 2009

Walking on four, then two and then three legs

I was released from Backus Hospital yesterday afternoon to my wife and daughter (who took an excused absence from a class at Eastern to come and get me. My son had taken the early shift on Monday to get me to the surgery by six in the morning so my perfect record of achievement as a moocher remains unblemished).

I am, says my physician and the hospital's physical therapist, Dmitri, doing very well. I was, said Dmitri, only the second person in his experience at Backus to get around without assistance of a walker just two days into recovery (I carry a variety of baits, as I'm always fishing for compliments and Dmitri's just flopping on the dock right now, hook in his mouth). I didn't ask about the other person just in case it's one of those 'he walked down an open elevator shaft' or 'he was carried off by flying monkeys' and the happy ending is not so much very happy.

I am overwhelmed at the skills and talents health professionals, of all walks and jobs, possess, and am saddened at how much of their effort is spent battling with insurance companies (in theory, one or the other is on my side) in terms of payment. I don't know how much a heart transplant is worth or what a liver surgery costs a family when the patient dies. I'm not a car, but I can offer the prospective customer a practically all new undercarriage. Now how much would you pay?

It looks like interesting things almost happened in Norwich politics this week, but just getting up is such an effort right, I'm punchy with exhaustion. You won't catch me on Dancing with the Stars, but I'm hoping to be better and stronger tomorrow than I am today. Not really much of a hope, come to think of it. And exactly who's flying monkey is that one over there anyway?
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 12, 2009

...Like Breathing Out and Breathing In

I've never been a hockey fan-actually, never much for ice skates. We have a beautiful Ice Rink in Norwich that we went to when our children were younger (and so were we) but I don't think I've been in it for the last eight to ten years. It's me, not them.

Back to the hockey. The first time I saw her she was wearing a Buffalo Sabres hockey jersey-a souvenir, so to speak (as I was to learn) from an earlier relationship. (I'm fine with the memory because I got the girl in the jersey.) To be honest, if the Sabres, or any hockey team had looked as good in their jerseys as she did in this one, I'd have become a huge fan of the struggles to capture Lord Stanley's cup years earlier.

She was tall-probably taller than I, thin, with long straight hair. I had seen her in a club Chris and I went to in Frankfurt am Main's Sachsenhausen district and this was later and we were at another place, "Old Smuggler's", beyond the Hauptwache near the Eschenheimer Tor district.

She was, and is, so beautiful, I forgot to breathe and the moment I saw her I knew I would marry her. I didn't know her name, know how to meet her, or know anything about her but I knew I would marry her.

I'm not a person with a strong religious faith (me, not Him) but by the time we got engaged thirty-two years ago last Wednesday (the 4th of March; it's engraved in my wedding ring) I came to believe that it wasn't, and couldn't be coincidence or happenstance that had crossed our paths.

I cannot conceive of how wretched my life would be without her--how, in a hundred different ways every day, everything I do and everything I am is because of her. She almost makes the day begin. Happy Birthday, Angel Eyes.