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Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Candles on the Cake Set Off the Smoke Alarm

Sunday was my 57th birthday. You might have seen the pony ride droppings around this blog and wondered as to their cause or simply mistaken them for the usual random words. As Paul Simon sings, "I hung one more year on the line. I should be depressed-my life is a mess, but I'm having a good time."

Actually, I'm more nervous than anything else. My father, whom I've devoted decades to being nothing like (and failing as sons so often do), never lived to see his 58th birthday so I'm looking up 'precedence' and exploring all of its meanings. If I've learned to acknowledge anything in recent years when peering into the mirror on workday mornings it's that, we two, do (indeed) bear a resemblance to one another.

I look at my life in terms of what I've seen change (not always for the better) and realize for my children, much of the world in which I grew up doesn't exist and they would never know of it if they didn't have a nattering and doddering ninny for a father who reminds them of it unceasingly.

I was born in the spring we elected Dwight Eisenhower to the Presidency. We were still in a shooting war in Korea and the
Domino Theory was the State Department's mantra for how the world was choosing sides and was applied to all points east and west but mostly east, as in Southeast Asia, for decades, as it turned out.

I can recall John Kennedy's election to the White House, as I was in St Peter's (sic) School in New Brunswick, NJ, and his being a Roman Catholic made more of an impression than his political party. His murder always shifts me to a black and white state of mind as we mourned for three days and those of us who watched television will always remember
John-John's salute.

All the radio, and my children seem to think I'm making this up, we had back then was AM and the big deal was getting a small transistor receiver as a birthday present. It would have a thin, white wire and a plastic ear piece so you could listen at night, especially Thursday nights when
Bruce Morrow, "Cousin Brucie", unveiled the new Seventy-Seven WABC hit countdown. With The Beatles and all the other UK acts that crossed the ocean on the bridge they built, it was living large and the good times rolled.

For a skinny white kid in the Jersey 'burbs, historical events like Vietnam, Civil Rights and other front-burner issues were whatever was on the
Huntley-Brinkley Report. "Good night, Chet. Good night, David and good night for NBC News." It seems so quaint today that we would actually gather in the living room, face the electric fire in the corner, and watch The News, always with capital letters. There were three television networks and most cities and towns had at least two daily newspapers, one in the morning and one in the evening and large format magazines like Life and Look. And what young man's fantasies weren't fructified by surreptitious glances at the pages of National Geographic Magazine? Talk about 'inquiring minds want to know'.....hubba-hubba.

When I describe the America of my youth to my children I suspect they wonder where the dinosaurs were because it really does seem that long ago to them (and to me as well, truth to tell). I can still remember we had one telephone in the house, in the kitchen, and the number was CHarter 6-1826. That's memory that could be put to better use, I know, but that's what I hang on to-and stuff like my Rutgers College student number was 601333. As if thirty-five years after graduation that might be of some use.

The later decades (the "later decades"! I could have never imagined using a phrase like that and now, seems as normal as breathing out and breathing in) rush together--being stationed in Greenland, arriving in Germany, meeting and marrying my wife, having and helping raise (by staying out of my wife's way) our children, winning the Cold War/cutting the overhead/being a Poster Child for the Peace Dividend, returning to the Land of the Round Doorknobs and everything to this very moment. It just gets going faster and faster, practically becoming one continuous memory. Still savoring all the way. Keep the pony;
my ride's here.

"So God bless the goods we was given. And God bless the U. S. of A.
And God bless our standard of livin'. Lets keep it that way.
And we'll all have a good time."

-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I have the exact same pen, except it's different

Crossing a parking lot yesterday (when the weather is nice in Southeastern Connecticut we use any excuse to go outside. And there have been a lot of us outside in the last couple or three days), I passed a white Volkswagen Rabbit demurely parked between the lines, right where it should be and on top of its dashboard, over the gauges, atop the little bump behind the steering was another VW Rabbit, this time a model that was exactly the same car except it was orange. Another three steps brought me to the back end of the vehicle and there, on the shelf behind the rear window, again in the center, was another miniature model Rabbit, this time electric blue.

I don't really know the scale--my brother Kelly as a small child had Matchbox cars, as did my son Patrick, back when they were "Made in England by Lesney" (proudly stamped across the metal bottom; I never could figure out if that was the name of a company or a person). The doors opened and the wheels had feathered axles and there was always a little something special about each model, and if you had the trucks as well, and Patrick did, the panel door might slide or the dumper would tilt. They were real and they were small.

Now, the ones I see in the stores look a little Ost Bloc--pot metal fabrication and plastic wheels; not the ones you're gonna see on ebay as the Boomer's kids' kids, with no college funds or IRAs, try and fund the next sixty-years of their lives. We went from Fonzie to Ponzi in two generations, who could have imagined that?

The Rabbit(s) got me thinking, George, about the photos we carry in our wallets and purses (and often in our hearts and memories) as well as the pictures we save. "People take pictures of each other/And the moment to last them forever/Of the time when they mattered to someone"

I discovered, in a lock box where we keep our important papers on a shelf in a closet in our bedroom, photos of our children from when they were very small, but neither orange nor electric blue, but flesh-colored. I'm smiling as I type this, remembering the smile I had when I came across them-real and true buried treasure, in plain sight but still treasure.

Families are funny that way. It was just the two of us against the world, my wife and I, damals (Erich Fromm would be so pleased, though not necessarily because I invoked his name. Es tut mir leid, alte Kumpel). Then our son was born and, later, our daughter and every time we changed our lives, that change was reflected in the lives of our children as well. They grew up and grew into adults of their own. Our son has his own house with his own pictures on the walls in his hallway, I imagine, and maybe in a lock box as well. We see our daughter on weekends when she comes home from college-I think she's majoring in laundry.

Living daily with our children under one roof, I wondered when they'd ever grow up, which I think is something all parents do in moments of exasperation or as a response to yet another last minute, the school-bus-is-almost-here-and-I-need-a-check-for-an-outing-I-never-told-you-about-that costs-only-this-much-please? Of all the things to have wished for, it was the growing up wish that came true, go figure. As I've discovered when I look at the old photos, I didn't mean it and would take it back if I could, but I can't.

"Time it was, and what a time it was,
It was a time of innocence, a time of confidences.
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph;
Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you."
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Early and Often

Today we fill a vacancy on the Norwich City Council that was created in November when Alderman Chris Coutu was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives from the 47th District. Some towns and municipalities in the Nutmeg State allow officials to hold more than one elected office, but here in Norwich, where some of us sort of technically reviewed the city charter near the end of last year and decided for all of us that it was really okay (a judgment supported by a down-a-member City Council with NO sense of irony at all), it's a no-no.

We have fourteen hours today, in the Rose City, to choose between Peter Nystrom and Jay Gelfond. This link, outlines the polling places and who has to vote where and if you were wondering if I'm gonna tell you for whom to vote, one of us is new here (and it ain't me, buckaroo).

I'm happy that both Messrs Nystrom and Gelfond chose to offer themselves as candidates, not because of any unhappiness I have with the current City Council (who, to their credit, probably have things they, themselves are unhappy about) but because the City Council has been playing a man down for months, and we're accelerating towards budget decision time and we, as citizenry of a city under siege (so to speak), need as much help as we can get.

I am more than a bit disappointed that, at the forum last week sponsored by the Bully Busters, only 14 people were in attendance (I agree with everything else, Ray H and, as always, well said) and I've heard a lot on both sides, and from both sides, on the Norwich Bulletin's editorial endorsement of one man over the other in Friday's edition. Actually, on the front page of their web site, lower right hand corner, are various video clips, of the two men seeking office in conversation with the newspaper's editorial staff as well as in action from last week's forum. Watch all the clips as you very probably don't have any notes from the forum to review to help you make up your mind and then go vote. Freedom of choice only works if we all do.

When I stumble across boxing on ESPN Classic, invariably the announcer shares with us at home how 'Teddy Atlas is scoring the fight' (he may be Charles' brother, I don't know) and more often than not his scorecard is radically different than how the ringside judges are seeing the bout. Rather than shake my head at some of the 'stuff' that went in connection with this special election, I should be pleased that both men seemed to pledge themselves last week to running again for elected office this November, regardless of today's outcome.

Each of us will ultimately decide for whom we shall vote and I hope the total turnout is greater than the Salvation Army Disciples Plus Two. Because, with my apologies to Thomas Paine, "these are the times that try men's souls."
-bill kenny

Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm Walking a Line-Visiting Houses in Motion

A week ago it felt like early March outside--around here it now feels like late June. All we can do is talk about the weather, I guess, as it has exhibited no interest in changing to suit us (and in light of our inabilities to come to agreements on mundane matters ranging from war and peace to which nitwit should be voted off American Idol, I fear controlling the weather will remain beyond our grasp for quite some time).

Closer to home, at least in terms of geography from my keyboard are meetings of note this week in Norwich, Connecticut. They range from the formal to the not-so-much and all of them are important and have an impact on someone. Whether that someone is you might have a lot to do with your level of interest and engagement in the Rose City.

Today, and running basically all day (by appointment) is the Board of Assessment Appeals, in Room 335 of City Hall. We talked about this weeks ago so if you are unhappy with the recent evaluation, but didn't make an appointment with these folks to discuss and contest it, you have yourself to blame.

The Redevelopment Agency meets at five this afternoon in Room 210 at City Hall. In recent times, the volunteers of this agency have been working very hard on a series of projects, most particularly on one of the red headed step-children of downtown, Shipping Street, and, (perhaps just) my opinion, getting cut off at the knees by others, elsewhere in Norwich municipal government. See their March meeting minutes and tell me you don't agree.

At six o'clock tonight is a meeting of the Norwich State Hospital Review Committee in Room 335 of City Hall. I'm reminded of the meetings last fall, large scale events with casts of thousands (it seemed) at Economic Summits (that weren't really) to offer insights and map strategies on the road ahead for the 'Norwich' part of this land parcel. Not sure anything was accomplished then and would hope this meeting will prove to be different but can't lose sight of the fact that hope is NOT a plan. This committee, by its own definition of purpose, will, it seems, be reactive as opposed to pro-active. Not that we haven't done that before......

Tuesday there's a lot going on and I'll natter on about this first item at length tomorrow but wanted to mention it now: there is a special election to fill the vacancy on the Norwich City Council. Peter Nystrom and Jay Gelfond are both volunteering to serve as aldermen at a particularly precarious point in our city's history. They deserve our gratitude and one of them deserves your vote. You'll miss every shot you never take. Go vote and if you don't, you get the government you deserve. The polls are open all day as are many churches as well as bars. Coincidence? You be the judge.

This afternoon at three-thirty the Board of Education Policy Committee meets in the Central Office across from the Norwichtown Green in the Central Office. At the risk of spoiling your dinner, I'm offering an ice cream cone to the first person who can find this committee's previous meeting minutes and/or agenda on the NPS website. My point: I love the look of the new Norwich Public Schools website (it's even spiffier than that of the Norwich Community Development Corporation; my friends call me Pinocchio) but it has as little information on Board of Education activities as it traditionally has had. As my old buddy Dave M. used to say, 'like putting lipstick on a pig.'

The Harbor Management Commission meets at five o'clock in Room 219 of City Hall. If you're going to attend, based on a review of the March meeting minutes, you may be able to find out if the seawall construction project will be finished by the time of the Semiseptcentennial celebrations and, in conjunction with that, if the river walk and heritage trail that first closed after the mini-golf fire back in the day will reopen for the 350th and/or ever again. There's no warnings before you head around the bend and down the hill that you can't walk under the Thomas Sweeney Bridge; just a Suddenly, the Trail Ends Barricade.

Speaking of Semiseptcentennial, there's a meeting of the 350th Anniversary Committee at six o'clock in, I suspect, Room 335. We're running out of meetings to announce the progress of the transformation of the Limited Liability Corporation, LLC, into a non-profit organization that's been talked about for months, but between us, I never really thought that was going to happen anyway.
If you click on the 'event calendar' on the website, you'll discover the first event of the semiseptcentennial is this Saturday morning at Mohegan Park Pond, organized by Gerry M. (no relation to Dave), a Kids Trout Fishing Derby. Thanks for the generous volunteering, jetmec, and I hope a bajillion youngsters show up and fish and whistle all day long.

The Board of Public Utilities Commissioners, with the Sewer Authority, meets at six in the NPU Building at 16 Golden Street. Norwich Public Utilities has its own website, and there are copies of the Board's March meeting minutes, the Authority's minutes as well as both sets of agenda (I am curious as to how there can be only 15 minutes of public comment on the agenda, especially in light of some of the issues I know they handle).

Also at six, in Room 319 of City Hall, is a regular meeting of the Personnel and Pension Board. The Board's April meeting agenda is right here and here are the March meeting minutes. If you've followed the news of economic meltdown and despair in recent months and wondered about local impact, talk to a volunteer on this Board, or a city employee whose retirement plans are being shaped by the investments being made, to get a better appreciation for the work that being a member entails.

Wednesday at six, in Room 335 is what the municipal calendar calls a public hearing on the City Manager's proposed 2009-2010 budget. Interestingly, the description is, in essence, identical to the Budget Departmental Hearing last week (with different departments to include the Board of Education) though by definition, they should be two very different things. If turnout remains as it has been all budget formulation season, I suppose the distinction will remain moot to most of us. After all, if you choose NOT to decide, you still have made a choice. Even Free Will comes with a cost. Cash or debit?

On Thursday, there's a special meeting of the Youth Service Advisory Board at 8:30 in the morning in the library at Norwich Free Academy. If you were tempted to seek them out, don't, as I already did: there are no minutes of past meetings and no agenda for this one.

Also Thursday from six until eight, in the Taftville VFW, 36 Pratt Avenue, Alderman Bill Nash is hosting a Constituent Meeting. It's an opportunity for a dialogue instead of a diatribe, regardless of your political affiliation. I always go and ask about pony rides for my birthday (I've been increasingly strident for calendar-driven reasons lately) so if you go and talk about something else, he'll probably be thrilled (and rumor has it, he's bringing Chief Kenneth Scandariato of the Norwich Fire Department. I'm starting another rumor that a dalmatian will also be attending, and will be packing a Milk-Bone biscuit just in case.

Not a meeting, but looming like Banquo's ghost, is the Norwich YMCA. Thursday, April 30th could be the Y's final day. What happens to the programs that so many across Norwich rely on is still an open issue as near as I can determine as efforts to rescue the building have been occupying many people's attentions in recent days, though the results of those efforts aren't yet clear. You'll want to watch our local newspapers for the latest information. "I'm walking a line-Just barely enough to be living. Get outa the way-No time to begin. This isn't the time-So nothing was done."
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Goodnight, Saigon

The sky yesterday in Norwich was so brilliantly blue it hurt your eyes to look up into it. In literally the last three days, Spring has arrived here in Southeastern Connecticut and the buds on the trees have exploded as new leaves so green it's almost impossible to believe they are a living thing have pushed out and started to cover bare limbs savaged by months of winter weather.

We were at Chelsea Parade in Norwich, across from the Norwich Free Academy, and, also, practically across the street from my house. We were many more this year than we had been last year. This time there was a fly-over by an Army helicopter--with their usual precision, spot on the dot at one o'clock while those on the ground were still assembling themselves. There were families and lots of small children, who sprawled out on the grass near the monuments where the podium had been placed. The children stole glances skyward, in case the helicopter returned and when they were satisfied it wouldn't, they settled themselves to listen to the grownups talk about long ago and far away.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart, Norwich Area Veterans Council, Norwich Vets Council, the VFW and American Legion as well as the Disabled American Veterans, and many others, were all there, as were the New London Fire Fighters Pipes and Drums. There were many older men who, as young boys we had sent off to a war more than ten thousand miles away and over four decades ago and whom we regarded as fortunate if, or when, they returned because over three hundred and ten thousand Americans were wounded during the Vietnam War and over fifty-eight thousand died.


There wasn't and isn't a city in this country that didn't lose a young man before his time in that war. Norwich isn't alone with its losses, but the Rose City is a bit unique in that we have tried, in the hustle and bustle of the 21st Century, to set aside ninety minutes or so to remember what many worked very hard to forget for a long time and to finally welcome home those who bore the burden of fighting an unpopular war and who were so often blamed for actions and deeds not of their doing.

Saigon fell on 30 April 1975, officially marking the end of the US involvement in the War in Vietnam. For many across this country who fought in Vietnam, the date is a footnote because they, themselves, still struggle everyday with often invisible wounds by a war so many of their countrymen wanted to forget ever happened. "Remember Charlie. Remember Baker. They left their childhood on every acre. And who was wrong? And who was right? It didn't matter in the thick of the fight."

Sometimes, in small towns like Norwich, we get very close to simple and straight truths. We stop speaking in code and pause in the pursuit of our secret agenda and talk, one citizen to another, about our dreams and our hopes. Together we remember those, known and unknown, who made our today, but more especially, our tomorrow, possible by the sacrifice of all their yesterdays.
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Will Work for Krill

In case, so far, the tightening of belts and the swapping of recipes for stone soup, haven't been activities at your house, how about this news story, "Cash-strapped Bronx Zoo Lays Off Animals" which showed up at mid-morning in yesterday's online edition of The Day (cynic that I am, I imagine it's somewhere in today's edition of the other daily New London County newspaper whose real name I shan't use, but is often called The Day (After)). Which is ironic since it first surfaced as a news item in the dead of winter (which, weather-wise around here could be mean 'earlier this week').

"Cash-strapped zoo officials told a New York City Council committee that they need to send away deer, bats, foxes, antelopes and other creatures to zoos around the country. Officials say they're also closing four exhibits to close a $15 million budget shortfall." The question being begged in the story is exactly where is the AWAY to which the zoo officials need to send animals? The story goes on to add, in addition to the right-sized species listed above, "(t)he exhibits that are closing include World of Darkness, which includes bats, porcupines and primates including night monkeys."

A couple of points. 'World of Darkness'?!? Did the Bronx Zoo hire a Goth to design exhibits and should we brace for a World of Thug and/or a World of Poser exhibit as well? Do we really want our children to watch Smoochy or Rainbow Randall 'represent' or a three-toed sloth party with Paris Hilton? And how many all night organ grinders are there, in the Bronx or the other four boroughs of New York City, for whom those laid-off 'night monkeys' can work? And is that straight shift or time and a half?

It's NOT funny of course. It's the tip of an iceberg upon which we all sit (reference to polar bear very intentional; no one is talking about sending away a polar bear); it's a symptom of the sickness and not the fiscal disease itself, though I'm unsure if the "South American relative of the llama" (why not write camelids, the actual name? No one uses 'a fruit very much like an orange but also different' to describe an apple) can grasp the nuance of a lay-off notice. Questions like tenure also come to mind. Do animals who've been right-sized get medical benefits while between positions? After how many years 'on the staff', so to speak, and is all of that pro-rated or still subject to negotiations with a union?

I'm thinking about the squirrels I feed from my office window. Should I tell them about the Bronx Zoo lay-offs? They're very greedy and fight with one another over the random peanut. What if they have to square off with a porcupine or a bat, not known for their 'get along and go along' attitudes in the best of times, after they get their pink slips and relocate here? Retraining is out of the question, I suspect. And meanwhile my wife and daughter are on a Cape Anne whale watch today. Michelle was joking, I hope, about taking a couple of small baggies 'just in case.' I've been looking at our household budget and don't think we can keep anyone connected with Moby Dick on the payroll for more than eighteen hours a week. As for Ahab, call him Unemployed.
-bill kenny

Friday, April 24, 2009

Seems like everytime you stop and turn around

It was a blustery Thursday wasn't it, yesterday? It sure was around here. We had one of those days in Southeastern Connecticut where the thermometer says a number and you sort of wrinkle your nose and furrow your brow a little bit because you don't quite believe it. At least that's how I do it. The outside thermometer at the window where I feed the squirrels read close to 58 degrees, Fahrenheit, in the early afternoon but I noticed none of my guys were running around in sweater vests. They still had their full fur and later, as I was walking to my parked car to head home, the wind seemed to underscore, in a less than pleasant manner, that it may be late April but that doesn't mean much around here sometimes.

I went from a cold day outside, to a bleak one, of sorts inside, later in Norwich City Hall as much of the City Council sat down with the City Manager, his recommended 2009-2010 budget and many of the city's department heads so the aldermen could get first hand updates on what impact the proposed budgets would have on city services for employees of the city and on the citizens for whom the services are intended. I smile looking at the cover of the proposed budget with its two shots of beautiful, new public sector buildings, both in Norwich though neither has anything to do with the City of Norwich. I lost the dollar bill in the basement, but I'm looking for it here in the living room because the light is better.

The workshop was slated to be long and I felt for the Council members, who in November of 2007 were elated to be elected (or in one case, reelected) to office and were eager to embrace the challenges they knew they faced. The elation has long since faded and their first budget as a City Council, last year, working with their recent hire, the new City Manager, had been hard times in the land of plenty, with a lot of unhappiness, tempered by hopes that things could be looking up by the Spring of 2009. All of us, everywhere, know how that fairy tale turned out, right?

So last night I watched as sincere, well-meaning people who vowed to make positive changes and improvements when elected some eighteen months earlier sat across from sometimes decimated and beleaguered department heads and agency leaders and avoided eye contact while shifting uncertainly in their chairs as each of the latter, in turn, detailed dryly the depths of calamity and catastrophe they were attempting to manage as their 'fair share' of the next municipal budget.

I'm not trying to play 'can you top this?' with you and the budget your town, wherever it is, is struggling to put together. It's grim everywhere and last year's wan smile of hope for 'next year' has disappeared when looking from this year to what's ahead. The everlasting good time has run out and the dish has run away with the spoon. I sat through an overview of what's in store for those who go to the Otis Library, as just one example, and it's not pretty and it's no one's fault but it also seemingly cannot be averted nor avoided. The same cold and cutting wind is whistling through the American dream, lost and found, city to city and coast to coast. Spring needed to be here by now. "Broken idols, broken heads,People sleeping in broken beds."
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Practically Political Haiku

Attended a voters' forum last night in the Salvation Army Building in downtown Norwich for the vacancy on the City Council that will be filled by special election, next Tuesday, 28 April. The forum was sponsored by the Bully Busters and the Norwich Chapter of the NAACP.

The two men seeking office for the vacancy created last November when Chris Coutu was elected to the State Legislature are Peter Nystrom, endorsed by the Republican Town Committee and Jay Gelfond, an unaffiliated candidate. The alderman seat itself, per the Connecticut Constitution, can be filled by a Republican or an unaffiliated voter, but NOT a Democrat as the seven person City Council already has five members of that party.

I was very grateful for the opportunity to listen to both men, who are very kind in an era of 'every man for himself' to volunteer to run for public office, outline their hopes and plans for their possible inclusion as a voting member of the next City Council meeting on 4 May. You'll find accounts on the debate at the websites of The Day and the Norwich Bulletin. I was especially impressed after sharing that regardless of the outcome, Mr. Nystrom intends to seek elected office in November, he then encouraged Mr. Gelfond, his opponent, to do the same. More voices for more choices-what a great concept!

Did I mention I'm disappointed with last night's turnout? Meant to, I really did. Fourteen people were in the audience which is a little disheartening for a city of about 36,750 residents, with over 7,000 registered voters. And two of the fourteen witnessing the miracle of democracy are high school students, too young to vote.

The election, as I mentioned, is next Tuesday, April 28th. I fear one of these days we're going to actually get the government we deserve--I can only hope based on last night's turnout, that it's not about to happen here.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What Did the Ocean Say to the Shore?

I went back to work on Monday for the first time since my Total Knee Replacement on 9 March. My orthopedic surgeon last Friday was kind enough to endorse my wife's unspoken contention that while she did marry me 31 plus years ago 'for better and for worse' it didn't include for three meals a day, every day for what felt like forever I'm sure. He reviewed my therapy records, took an x-ray of both my left knee with the TKR as well as one of my unicompartmental right knee (I tried to order just the wallet size, but the photographer only offers the big package) and talked with me about the next ninety days of recovery before releasing me to return to work.

I, in a rare moment of clever clarity (previous instance was just before the most recent Comet Kohoutec sighting), saw no reason to share with him Friday that I'd be hiking and hauling junk for a couple or three hours on Saturday as part of a Mayoral Candidate CleanZ Norwich Earth Day event. Why upset the man?

I don't have a strenuous job, by any stretch of the imagination which is really good as I am not brave, not especially talented in any arcane skill nor very strong, swift or smart. I suspect if dropped from a great height I'd look an awful lot like hairy strawberry ice cream with toes (and I'm not sure I even need to be dropped to pull off that look). Those with whom I work are very forgiving, considering how bad their luck has been in drawing me as a colleague, but I don't always successfully interact with them because I have no actual people skills.

I got to work early, not as early as my brother the lawyer (who thinks he's a farmer who must get up with the chickens) but early in the way our father always arose in the middle of the night to ride the train into Manhattan to go to work. Another part of our genetic inheritance I guess; the gift that keeps on giving. Most of my colleagues arrive within two minutes, plus or minus, of seven o'clock. They are so consistent I can't help but wonder if they don't all actually meet up outside someplace, perhaps around the corner behind the outcropping of rock and synchronize watches. I've attempted in my idea of subtle and stealthy, to spy and see if my conspiracy theory is correct. I'm not good at finding the outcropping much less the grassy knoll.

Anyway on Monday, and I appreciated the gesture and the kindness, though I suspect he'll never believe that, someone whom I know only casually wandered by and, not having seen me 'in quite awhile' (= the amount of time from when it's noticed you are absent PLUS an estimate of how long it took to even notice in the first place) stopped to chat about nothing, but with a dogged single mindedness I almost had to admire. Compounding my distracted disquiet, in addition to the seven weeks of work sitting on my desk, my in-basket and on the floor and windowsills, was also that I couldn't remember his name. Total blank. It took me years to learn my own name (Mom actually sewed it into my underpants and for months at a time I answered to "Hanes" and "Jockey") and I know I should pay more attention but I don't. Besides, it's his name, let him remember it. I choose to Remember the Maine but will settle for just the former.

About five minutes into a conversation about I have-no-idea-what, perhaps attempting to sum up and then move on (I am an acquired taste and quite concentrated; a little of me goes a long way), he smiled and cheerily offered, 'well, you sound great!' I gave him one of those looks a bug splattered on the windshield of a freshly washed car gets, and explained loudly (but only for emphasis) that I had undergone knee replacement surgery, not a larynx transplant.

He winced as if stabbed and in a hurt tone made it clear he thought I didn't try too hard to be nice, which was and is, of course, absolutely correct. I offered him a deal: "I promise to be nicer, if you promise to be smarter. Which one of us do you think has the easier promise?" He hurried off in a snit, sort of a two-tone, late model snit with a six speed manual transmission and the six cylinder engine that whines when the tachometer nears the red line. And people wonder why I've never needed a second chair in my office.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Keeping the Past for the Present and the Future

Some days I try to write with my tongue in my cheek. Maybe you've noticed and maybe it's your fault if you haven't, though probably not. My apologies if that's what you are looking for today, because today I'm not writing like that.

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School. The most surprising aspect of the observances for me, and perhaps only for me, was how quickly a decade had gone by and how muted the response seemed to be. There was, on some of the television coverage I saw, an undertone of 'wow-that long ago already' jarringly at odds with the urgent intensity so many had reacted with ten years ago. "Now there's so much that time, time and memory fade away." Every ache and pain reminds I am not a high school student anymore--but every aspect of how we now live makes me grateful I don't have to be that age ever again.

We have learned to move so fast as a society and as a culture that it seems nothing sticks with us or to us anymore. I've shaken my head in dismay as I've ranted and raved about our politics of angry disappointment more times than I can recall (perversely underscoring my point about memory) but we seem so often to have elevated Attention Deficit Disorder to an art form. Some I know have suggested we may use it as an attempt to cope with the uncontrollable rate and pace of our societal changes. The effective range of excuse is less than a meter I learned long ago, and that excuse, at any and all distances, is completely ineffective.

You've undoubtedly heard George Santayana's "Those who cannot remember the past are fated to repeat it." That brings me to today, Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. We're Odd Species Out on this planet, which helps explain why we don't get invited to a lot of mixers and picnics. We take life for no reason, unlike any of the animals with whom we share this orb. We kill because we want to and we can.

The Holocaust was, I suppose,the first moment in time when ignorant, superstitious hatred was wed to the assembly line perfection of the Industrial Age. As we wandered this earth from the earliest of times, we exerted dominance and claimed domain over all manner of others whom we encountered and I leave it to those better versed in archeology and history and sociology to calculate how many tribes of 'others' we, in our brief stay on this planet, have destroyed and exterminated.

When I lived in Western Europe while in the US Armed Forces stationed in (West) Germany, I had occasion to visit Dachau and Bergen-Belsen--the latter well-known to some of my generation as the final destination for Anne Frank and her family. As a simple (minded) GI, I never understood how a nation of Goethe, Kant, that cherished the music of Bach, Brahms and Beethoven, could lose its collective mind and destroy its soul through genocide, staining like the mark of Cain, all Germans for all time.

Something else I've never understood: the oppressive and desolate silence at those camps. Decades after the murderous carnage and there were still no birds singing, very sparse vegetation and no color I can remember. It was as if God, Himself, ashamed of what we, formed in His image and likeness, had done had turned His countenance from us.

And yet, I think the intent of Yom Hashoah, especially in the cold light of the days of our lives of the last sixty-five years, the mark is, and must be, on all of us. As Columbine passed by, seemingly unremarked upon by so many yesterday, in places none of us can imagine and whose names we cannot pronounce, the very same type of inhumanity that we vowed could never again happen is visited upon some of us. Kampuchea, Ethiopia, Bosnia, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda are just some of the places, and in no especial order, all of us can recall without recoiling in horror because we've momentarily lost our way and allowed the unspeakable to become the inevitable and the unspoken.
Never Again, Always and Forever must include all of us. Each one must teach one. "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I should do and, with the help of God, I will do."
-bill kenny

Monday, April 20, 2009

"...that gives this fair city light..."

"Man, there's an opera out on the Turnpike. There's a ballet being fought out in the alley." You know how some people drink coffee to get a boost, or take a walk in the fresh air? Today is my first day back at work since my TKR on the 9th of March and I need to get charged up with my game face on and that means Springsteen. Bring it.

Unless of course, as is the case on Mondays, you're interested in mapping out your week of meetings, municipal and otherwise--last week was Tax Day and some Earth Day observances thrown in and this week we have the 'real' Earth Day so hopefully, you're as energized as I, so hitting some of the high points should be easy this week as it's a target rich environment. Hum a few bars of something catchy--I'm never at a loss for suggestions, if you need any. Here's what's on the horizon.....

Monday starts oh-bright-early at the Senior Center at nine in the morning with a regular meeting of the Senior Affairs Committee. I've always liked that the Senior Center is next door to the skateboard park, and is now across the street from the beautiful, new campus of Norwich Regional Technical High School and the soon-to-be-started renovation on Kelly Middle School. You can check out the March meeting minutes here and realize the range and scope of projects in which the Committee is involved.

The Design Review Board meets at four in the afternoon at 23 Union Street. Neither their minutes nor their agenda are available on line, and based on the expiration dates of their appointments, the members may want to worry about that as new business at an upcoming meeting.

As is the case, so often, City Council chambers are the place to be Monday evening, starting at 6:30 when there's an informational presentation by Janny Lam for the City Council on redevelopment plans for the Reid and Hughes building in downtown Norwich, followed at seven by a regular City Council meeting. To tie up a loose end from last week, and because it'd be nice to have some background if you wanted to offer some observations during Citizen Comment, the link to the City Manager's proposed 2009-2010 budget is working without a hitch.

On Tuesday afternoon starting at 5:30 in Kelly Middle School, and offered live on the "NFA Channel" of Comcast (I'm not sure why since municipal government meetings are usually offered on channel 97) is a regular meeting of the Norwich Board of Education. Their meeting isn't posted, but here are the minutes of their March meeting and (I think) when you read through them, and perhaps a random selection of other meetings' minutes, and review again the City Manager's proposed budget, you get an excellent sense of the level of investment we make as citizens and taxpayers in education--an investment, as a parent of two former students, I'd suggest returns handsomely for all of us throughout this city.

Also Tuesday at 5:30, is a meeting of the Norwich Free Academy Board of Trustees in Room 6109 of the Latham Science Center. A bit later, at a quarter of seven, is a regular meeting of the Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone Committee (that Witness Protection Program partnership is really working out!) in Artworks to Empower (I have NO idea where this might be) and while I also don't have an agenda or the March minutes, here (with some irony) is a copy of last October's minutes which should have reflected the then-new Connecticut Public Law on municipal website posting and availability of meeting minutes. At seven, in the lower level conference room at 23 Union Street, is a regular meeting of the Commission on the City Plan, all of whose members' appointments have expired, and yet undeterred, they have a full plate of actions and deliberations. If I were to go, I'd be especially interested in the Byron Brook project update; maybe if you go, you could take notes?

On Wednesday morning at 8:30 in NFA's Latham Science Center is a regular meeting of the Youth and Family Services Advisory Board, which, as I read the municipal website, has an alarming number of vacancies on it (volunteers anyone? Here's the application; fill it out and send it to the Mayor. Norwich works together only as well as each of us does.). Also Wednesday at 5:30 in the afternoon is a regular meeting of the Board of Review of Dangerous Buildings. I don't have their April agenda.

Wednesday evening, starting at 6:30, in the Salvation Army building in downtown, almost across the street from the Otis Library, will be (to my knowledge) the only candidate forum for the 28 April Special Election for Norwich City Council. The debate, sponsored by The Greater Norwich Anti-Bullying Coalition and the Norwich Branch of the NAACP, is between Republican Peter Nystrom and unaffiliated Jay Gelfond for the city Council seat vacated by Christopher Coutu, who is now State Representative Coutu. Also on Wednesday evening, at seven, is a regular meeting of the Norwich Golf Course Authority.

And on Thursday morning at eight is a regular meeting of the Norwich Community Development Corporation whose website is 'under development.' I'm still in search of the website hosting the minutes of their previous meetings (I figured out where they're not, which actually isn't all that helpful) and I'm reminded of Monty Python's Still No Sign of Land (if it helps, I don't think you destroyed the atmosphere). And Thursday night at six, in Room 335 of City Hall, is the second of the departmental hearings on the budget by the members of the City Council.

"And the poets down here don't write nothing at all, they just stand back and let it all be."
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Engaged versus Enraged

I'm so sore I can barely type (KIDDING!). I helped out yesterday as a bunch of neighbors, for Earth Day, took a crack (pun intended) at one of the Gateway's to Norwich for a blitz cleaning campaign. About three dozen folks toted the barge and lifted the bale as countless others across the country were doing and maybe if we're fortunate Tami P will have persuaded Z & W (the root beer folks? Not exactly) to add some of her pictures of the goings-on to the Z4 website, so I (and others) can just ache all over again thinking about it.

As I mentioned, we weren't alone on the clean and green frontier and that, for me, was part of the appeal of getting out and pitching in to pick up (and there was a lot of stuff to pick up!). I worry sometimes that too many of us see where we live as someplace we store our stuff and sleep when we're not working. And these days, in this economic environment, defining yourself by what you do for a living can be a setup for heartache when the image I'm making is not the image I see when the Man in the Mirror is talking to me.

I'm smiling as I remember how many folks showed up to pick up discarded coffee cups and other detritus on the human highway, because I think it was more than usually turn out for City Council meetings (certainly more than were in Norwich Tech Monday night for the first of the budget hearings) and that's more than too bad for both the elected and the electorate.

Somewhere, as we built this nation of ours, with its high tech heartbeat and speed of light soulessness, we may have lost our way. Maybe it's just where I live, where in the last municipal elections, registered voter turnout was less than 28% and, this past November, despite the historical portent and intent of the choices, no records were set for voter participation. But I suspect not. It's a good thing we fought for and won our independence when we did, maybe, because perhaps we'd feel differently now. 'Across the Delaware in that, General Georgie? Gotta tell ya, dude, don't like your chances all that much. What's so fricking great about South Central Jersey in the dead of winter anyway? Paramus is at least two hours north and the Turnpike doesn't get built for another 140 years!'

And on the other hand, as I watched and learned last week, when people of all political stripes and beliefs decide they've had enough, sometimes other folks question their right to express themselves. We had three (I think) in Connecticut--Tax Day protests/rallies it had a lot of names--and one of them was in Norwich (I had physical therapy, though a lot of good that did me yesterday), while another was in Hartford. (I don't know where the third one was). There were close to a thousand as I understand it, across the country, and aside from a lot of folks who live next door to each other standing shoulder to shoulder to shout about how they'd like a little more regard paid to them by what they perceive as 'those guys in the government.'

The Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights were empowered by the authority they received from 'we the people', all of us for all time, but we've now gone for decades where government has been something done to us, not for us and every debate and discussion has to have an inside and an outside, an 'us' and a 'them'.

From what I'd read about the Tax Day rally in Norwich, and had seen on a variety of news channel, political leaders from across the spectrum were involved. It wasn't just This Party against That Party and most of those involved think of themselves as private citizens, husbands, wives, taxpayers, neighbors well before they slap a political affiliation on themselves. And yet, in the days that have followed the rallies, I've heard more and more of what sounds like the Star-Belly Sneetches against the Plain Belly Sneetches with media pundits serving as Sylvester McMonkey McBean.

We've spent years labelling what were once The Loyal Opposition, Spawn of Satan and worse and we have commentators with enough news networks cheer lead 24/7 for every pig-headed ideology under the heavens so that we never need to consider someone else's perspective or point of view--much less if it could have any merit. I'm not real smart, but I'm smart enough to know we can't keep on keeping on like this where we shout down on another for sport. We've gotten ourselves into some tight places where we need all the hands on the oars on both sides of the boat, and all rowing in the same direction.

"Changing their stars every minute or two. They kept paying money. They kept running through until the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew Whether this one was that one or that one was this one. Or which one Was what one or what one was who. Then, when every last cent of their money was spent, The Fix-It-Up Chappie packed up. And he went. And he laughed as he drove In his car up the beach, 'They never will learn. No. You can’t Teach a Sneetch!'
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Earth First, Moon Coming to Bat

Today is being celebrated, because it's a Saturday and in theory a day off for many people, as "Earth Day" in many places across the country even though it's not really Earth Day until Wednesday. Here in Norwich, Connecticut, there are two neighborhood cleanups going on, from 11 until two along Harland and Scotland Roads and from 10 until one from the area around the Sweeney Bridge to Howard Brown Park. If you've caught up with this late in the day, don't worry, there's trash enough for everyone to pick up, which to me is one of the things you can do whether it's really Earth Day or only very close to it.

Ann Lathrop, the wife of Norwich's former Mayor, Art, sort of nudged me (without realizing it) in that general direction years ago when she founded NAG, Norwich Against Garbage. Her whole point, as I understood it, was that the big gestures are over-rated. Taking ten minutes a day to make where you walked and lived cleaner would, by addition, eventually make all of Norwich better and brighter. I got into the habit of going for a walk with a plastic bag (and if I were organized enough, work gloves because some of the detritus you find on the streets and sidewalks is spooky and messy) and picking up the empty cigarette packs, the broken cassette tapes, the shattered CD's, the empty soda cups and the discarded beverage cans and bottles.

I've always been impressed by how heavy empty fast food containers are: when the food is still in them, it seems we can carry them with no problems. But when we've scarfed the last bite of that cholestobomb, with bacon, suddenly that burger box is too heavy and gravity triumphs, though judging from the distances the boxes are often found from the street, it's a good thing the car windows were open. I'm not the world's greatest garbage picker and even I amaze myself with how much stuff I gather up walking around my neighborhood. (and now a little light went on over Josh's head--yep, it's on my walks that I come across the items that I then visit the city of Norwich website and accomplish a Citizen Service Request.
You probably have something similar on your hometown's website--and it works, it really works! (I'm almost channeling Sally Field in honor of it almost being Earth Day).

Of course, what works better than filling out a form, or having a day on the calendar, is having a quarter of an hour to choose to make a difference. In honor of the new Yankee Stadium, let me put it into terms yesterday afternoon's Yankees could understand. You don't have to hit (five!) home runs, singles are fine. Admittedly, nobody pays $2,600 a game to sit in a box seat for singles, but that's another matter altogether.

If you can devote all day today to help neighbors and friends pick up and clean up, that's great. If you can spare only a couple of minutes, that's fine as well. We'll add your helping hands to everyone else's and pretty soon we've got a lot of folks worrying about trash, separation of recyclables and starting to look again at CFL bulbs (which really put the right into bright ideas), alternative fuels, hybrid fuels, mass transportation. What did Mom always say about picking up after ourselves? If you have the time, after you've picked up, give her a call and tell her you're catching on to what she meant. She'll be able to tell you where you missed a spot. Even on the phone. Moms, they have x-ray vision.
-bill kenny

Friday, April 17, 2009

Taking the Gross out of GNP

If the script had been perfect, the score would have been different in the New York Yankees' season opener in their new ballpark, which has the same name as the old ballpark. The old one was the House that Ruth Built and the new one, well, I guess, it's the House that George Built. I've never been a big fan of either George III of England's management style (it cost him the Colonies) or George I of The Bronx.

I will say this for the Yankees' King George, he's never been afraid to spend money, his own and/or others and sorry, Hank, he seems to have the brains of the clan. And opening Yankee Stadium yesterday on a gorgeous day, weather-wise, if not a great day for the Yankees bullpen, I was struck watching YES by the majesty and beauty of the facility. Cynics might say it should be beautiful as it cost over one and a half billion dollars to build (to help place that in perspective, if you have any memory of high school geography at all, think Central African Republic. Its Gross National Product (the value of all goods and services)
ranked 167th of the nations of earth, and was less than the construction costs of the new Yankee Stadium.

I know. Given the opportunity to look at that number for a moment, it's hard to not think 'it's only a baseball stadium' and you're right, except you're also not right. Yankee Stadium is bigger than baseball and larger than life. With all due respect to their cross-town neighbors, it's not the Mets' Citi-Field and it was always bigger than Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds which is where the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants spent their summers before the great Westward Ho! movement of the mid-1950's.

I've been to games in 'old' Yankee Stadium (pre 1976 renovation if my memory serves me well, as well as post renovated Yankee Stadium) and I loved everything about the place--okay, not the getting there part, and not the parking there part and definitely not the getting out of there after the game was over part. But everything else was really swell and nothing tastes as good as a frankfurter in Yankee Stadium and nothing sounds like a ball tagged by Posada, sitting dead on red, and we all roar as it clears the fence.

Still one and half billion dollars is a lot of money and if you're not a Yankee fan (and it may not be your fault, perhaps your parents sold you to a family of wolves) it might be hard to appreciate how that kind of money isn't too much to spend for a place to play baseball. Even if you're a Red Sox fan, you have to regard Yankee Stadium as the first address for major league baseball. It may not be the home of the World Series Champion, right now, but give me the names of five other ballparks, American or National League. See what I mean? And if it helps, let's not forget sports is a multi-billion dollar business so while we fans are important to our teams, we're only important when we pour through the turnstiles, buy the souvenirs and purchase the sponsors' products. Otherwise, as that sage of YES broadcasting, Michael Kay, is fond of saying, "see ya!"

And so the Indians ruined the inaugural game--one and half billion dollars can only buy so much. Did you see that shot of Cliff Lee, the current Cy Young winner and Cleveland starter, in the dugout in the top half of the seventh as the Indians' bats were lighting up the Yankees' bullpen for nine runs? Worst case of hat hair I saw all day. Man should be ashamed of himself. Sitting in a brand new ballpark looking like a crash test dummy for
Edward Scissorhands.
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Noise not News

I had my car in the shop Wednesday morning for a while. It was in mainly because earlier in the week my son had dropped by and we were hanging out (my generational characterization) and when I backed the car out of the garage he wanted to know 'how long has it been sounding like that?' I had no idea what he was talking about so he called a friend who is mechanically apted and has access to tools and all the other garage accessories and Wednesday morning I headed over to have a mesh heat guard removed from my catalytic converter where the weld had broken. I have no idea what any of that means--except the sound the car used to make when I started it, under what felt like my seat, is gone. The coffee maker in the kitchen is brighter than I am-why am I surprised that the car is as well?

Siting in the dealership's customer waiting area while the car was worked on I was able to watch one of the network's morning news shows. They're all very similar, to include the sunny and cheerful personalities of the battalion of hosts and hostesses who populate the sets of each one of them (this one had an audience--I've worked in news and don't think I like the idea of folks on bleachers in the studio while I'm reading wire copy. Maybe just me.) and this was a rare morning for me since I'm usually at work and don't really watch the Marconi Mafia too closely at this hour. Between us, don't think I'll be doing too much more.

The big story, more of an extended feature, was on how Steve-O and whatever her name was, are no longer on Dancing with the Stars. Somewhere in the world yesterday morning, people were interested in the ongoing expansion of talks between Iran and some of the major world powers on nuclear power, a topic that has been a source of disquiet for years in the Middle East. Not on the television I was watching. Not sure where the transmitter was located but, with my apologies to Marshall Efron and the Nutrino News Network, there's a field of folly someplace with a metal tower.

In recent weeks, we've all watched and read stories that have caused us to furrow an eyebrow and wrinkle a nose and wonder WhatTimeFootball? (You're right Jeff, that's not offensive at all). Is the news making us stupid or are we making the news stupid? The discussions on applications of the economic stimulus package make my head hurt but reports that Lindsay Lohan is solo and single again opens my sinuses right up.

And even if Southeast Connecticut is a bit out of the mainstream in terms of hoopla and hurly burly, we have newspapers that try to report on issues touching the lives of those who live here, even those NOT named Jack Cochran or who aren't fans of New London (CT) High School Football. Somewhere, oh yeah on the front page of both daily New London County newspapers yesterday, were stories on crime, local budgets, returning military service members from Iraq, but the big ticket item, in terms of on-line reader response and comments was JC--and, sorry to disappoint His Holiness, the Pope, not that JC.

Intending no disrespect--how many teachers do you imagine New London High School (or any high school) has and how much ink do you suppose a daily newspaper devotes to changes in status of any one of them, on average? So what should we deduce from the tumult and turmoil in the Whaling City at the moment? Do those posting and counter-posting positions on this issue not realize that Mel Gibson is getting a divorce? That Kevin F and Britney S have been reportedly swapping more than spit? Who the heck is left on American Idol? And what are these Somali pirates doing on my TV? Is this the next season of Survivor, already? Is there any chance we can teach Paris Hilton to surf off the coast of Yemen? How hot is that?
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

When the familiar becomes the comfortable

Today is a mad rush to mailboxes and post offices as it's the deadline for filing federal and state (and in instances, municipal) income tax returns. Brace yourself for lots of stories on TV all day long about the lines forming at post offices, with coffee and other beverage services being offered by any number of folks in any number of locations. There will be follow-up stories, because we're all thinking 'taxes', about Tea Parties this year to protest the rates of taxation (my imp of the perverse enjoyed the fact that the organizers originally called these events 'tea bagging', oblivious to that phrase's other meaning) and all of this is fine without being of any actual value because it generates heat but no light.

Here in Norwich Monday evening, the City Council held its first scheduled public hearing on the City Manager's proposed 2009-2010 budget and the forty-eight of us I counted (I didn't include the two reporters, or any of the City Hall employees who traveled to Norwich Tech to stage the hearing) who showed up were lost in the beautiful and brand-new auditorium of the school (fwiw, the clock on the back wall over the doors is right twice a day, and only twice a day: at six AM and PM. It never moved while we all sat there sullen and silent the other night) and about fifteen offered their reaction and suggestions to the proposed budget and collectively we all went in different directions and canceled one another out, leaving the aldermen and Mayor (whom we elected to lead us by doing what we want (yeah, I know, oxymoronic)) surely to scratch their heads over what exactly we told them.

Tonight at six in City Hall, Room 335, is the first of the council sit down session with the individual departments-it's almost all of the fire departments and the emergency services folks to talk about their requests. Last year, as I recall it, no more than four of us, in a city of over thirty-seven thousand, showed up to listen and learn (ok; in my case, just to listen). What I found curious in the days afterwards was how many (more) people called into the local radio station and rang up the cable excess (access if you want to be polite; I want to be accurate) TV shows to vent without any knowledge of the scope of the challenge or the severity of possible answers.

People prefer problems that are familiar to solutions that are not. Perhaps we should make that the city motto, just in time for the semiseptcentennial. It would look mighty spiffy on a rose red tee-shirt, perhaps as part of a gift set with two Earl Grey tea bags.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Son also Rises

I had a chance yesterday to spend a lot of time with one of my favorite people on the planet, and I'm not just saying that because I helped make him, my son. I am (almost) insanely fond of my two children--as marvelous as yours may well be, and I'm sure they are, I get the goofiest grin in all of creation when I see 'my kids'. Lest you think I'm somewhat biased, nepotism and blood relationships and all, I must point out that my wife, living saint that she is, is responsible for how they turned out and did all the heavy lifting while I'm in charge of looking at the pictures of their growing up years. I'm a big fan and she did a wonderful job.

My children are actually adults--I can concede this point effortlessly when I type; I have considerably more difficulty at almost any other time. And if you want to see an aging Hipster turn as white as a sheet, be in my house when the telephone rings after ten o'clock at night. Neither of my wife's children (who look just like mine--I typed that in case today is the day she stumbles across these scribblings) live under our roof, as Michelle is a full-time student at Eastern Connecticut State University, and comes home on weekends and holidays, and Patrick has his own life not all that far from us, in Gales Ferry, Connecticut. She is nearly twenty-two and he is almost twenty-seven and when the phone rings at night, I make horror movies about what could have befallen them. I have a very vivid imagination--I make Stephen King look tame, if you follow my drift. That I will always be like this when darkness falls is how I know I am a parent.

Monday, though, was a day I got to spend with my son because he finished his medical appointment early. His, and my daughter's, genetic inheritance includes diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, shogren's syndrome plus an illness traded for a third round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. All from my side of the family. After complaining for weeks about the very things that, in hindsight for me, were the portents for my medical mystery tour, his mother and I talked him into finally seeing someone. He's handling what's happening very well and I shouldn't be surprised he's so adult about it all--after all, he is an adult.

Anyway, after his stop at his physician, he stopped by the old homestead where I was in the process of changing after yet more of the most fun I can have with my clothes on, physical therapy to rehab my left knee. Neither he nor I had anyplace to be or anyone to please, except ourselves, so we rode out to look at itty-bitty computer notebooks in the last remaining big-box electronics store. Neither of us need one of these teeny-weenie computers but they're cute and cuddly and crammed with features and possibilities. Admittedly, the vistas are considerably wider and the horizons more inviting when you're almost twenty-seven than when you're barreling down on fifty-seven. Still, bright and shiny though tiny, works its magic, no matter how jaundiced and jaded the eye of the beholder otherwise is.

We talked about everything and nothing at the same time-for hours and hours. I've read where the technical description is 'elliptical conversation'; such a pity I don't play Scrabble as I suspect there's bonus points in there somewhere. Whatever it's called, it was an experience I've enjoyed with both of my children on more than one occasion but never frequently enough to reduce it to the routine. It's still magic when it happens because I never had the opportunity when I was the lad with my dad. He was too busy being busy and I could never figure out what I needed to say to him and by the time I did, he was gone.

I still remember everything about my son's birth, absolutely everything despite my wife's insistence that this is impossible. I waited my entire life for him to be born--I have forgotten nothing and treasure the joy of his, and his sister's, being in my life everyday. Monday was another bright and shining page in my book of memories, to be revisited and enjoyed over and over.
-bill kenny

Monday, April 13, 2009

Alvin Toffler Builds a Fire (and gets burned)

This is a light week in Norwich, CT for meetings, though the ones I know of and the one I'm hearing murmurs about are all important (actually, I'm being unkind-all of a city or town's meetings are important, to someone, and their impact is often felt by many who aren't in the room when decisions take place) and actually more important than they, at first, seem.

If I may offer an observation that hasn't exactly endeared me to some living in the Rose City, Norwich doesn't suffer from Future Shock; we suffer from Present Shock. We are so consumed by the doing of everyday life we have no energy or inclination to map the direction of our city for the next five to twenty-five years-and Norwich is not alone in this. Perhaps it's the malady of a young nation, and the USA, in comparison to others around the world, is young, but shouldn't that mean we still have the engagement and enthusiasm to look beyond ourselves and our children, to their children and beyond? In Japan, strategic planning is done in five thousand year increments; here, five days is an eternity by which time the bananas are ruined.

Tonight at seven is the first public hearing on Norwich City Manager Alan Bergren's proposed 2009-2010 budget (here's the version he presented last Monday night, as well as his summary of its highlights) in the Norwich Regional Technical School auditorium (the brand-new facility that formerly housed the Mohegan campus of Three Rivers) near the soccer field and Kelly Middle School and across the street from the Senior Center and skateboard park (yeah, that looks goofy when I read it back, too, but it's true). I can't offer you on the line link to the entire budget, which is available as a paper copy in City Hall, because the link doesn't work. Give it a couple of days and it'll be repaired, I'm sure. Besides, the first night might be a good night to go and listen to what others have to say. But, as the TV pitch people say, 'but wait, there's more!'

Later this week, Wednesday at 6 PM in Room 335, is the first installment of the departmental budget hearings, with the paid fire department, each of the volunteer companies (except Taftville who'll talk two weeks from tonight on the 29th), as well as the emergency management and office of the city clerk, outlining their requirements and goals for the next fiscal year with the City Manager, Mayor and members of the City Council. Because, as is so often the case, I don't know what I don't know, I found last year's small group meetings to be very educational and instructional.

And, intending to nudge at least a few from the sidelines a bit closer to the action on the pitch, I'll note the departmental budget meetings last year were very poorly attended by those of us who live here and pay for, and expect, goods and services from 'the city' (we are 'the city' in case you're just joining us). So with the bar as low as it is, surely this year we can exceed the attendance and participation records--at least one can hope. There's another round of departmental hearings I'll mention again next week, because they're next Thursday, the 23rd, also starting at six, and the whole schedule for the budget process is right here.

Tuesday at seven, at 23 Union Street (probably in the conference room (of sorts) in the basement) is a regular meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals, whose plate, based on the agenda, looks more than pretty full.

Thursday, and it's not a municipal meeting but should be a community celebration, it's the fifteenth home opener of the Connecticut Defenders playing the Trenton Thunder at 6:35 PM at Dodd Stadium. There's a concert before the ballgame and fireworks afterwards and it is very probably the last home opener for Double-A baseball in Norwich, so it's a moment to look back since looking forward is not something we do well or often (enough) around here. And feel free to root for the home team-if they don't win, it's a shame.

Last Monday, I attended a meeting on the status of the YMCA in Norwich and tried to listen to plans to "Save the Y!' There weren't any. As I mentioned last week, the deficit that needs to be filled by 30 April is over eight hundred thousand dollars and then the financial situation is merely horrible, as opposed to hopeless. Those programs operated by the YMCA that this community still wants and needs must be identified and a rescue plan developed and implemented now. Arguing over how the financial situation at the YMCA happened, and/or who's to blame for it, is pointless and counter productive. There may, or may not, be a meeting this Tuesday evening so check the newspapers and the Save the Y page.

"There were no signs of a fire to be made, and, besides, never in the dog's experience had it known a man to sit like that in the snow and make no fire. As the twilight drew on, its eager yearning for the fire mastered it, and with a great lifting and shifting of forefeet, it whined softly, then flattened its ears down in anticipation of being chided by the man. But the man remained silent. Later, the dog whined loudly. And still later it crept close to the man and caught the scent of death. This made the animal bristle and back away. A little longer it delayed, howling under the stars that leaped and danced and shone brightly in the cold sky. Then it turned and trotted up the trail in the direction of the camp it knew, where were the other food-providers and fire-providers." Hit the road, Jack (London).
-bill kenny