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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Whatever You Do, Don't!

There's a motivational poster we all know, or should. The image is of a basketball, at rest on the foul line of a hardwood court, with a backboard, rim and net above and beyond it. Underneath is written, "You'll miss every shot you never take." I wonder sometimes if art imitates life or vice versa, especially when I look at Norwich.

So often, perhaps too often, here every attempt to take a chance, try something different or look at a process in a new way is greeted with a chorus of voices working to shout down whoever wants to try something new. As reported in last Tuesday's newspaper, a native son returnee is pressing ahead to realize a personal dream and open a coffee house in downtown Norwich, inside the Otis Library. John Manuel Andriote has written more books than I will ever read (I stole this line from Jeff) but I suspect I've got serious game when it comes to drinking coffee.

But, while I love the java jive, I'd never have the courage to risk opening a business, making my living operating such a shop. The comments of on-line readers reacting to the notion of someone succeeding in downtown Norwich were eye-opening, to say the least as if success is somehow rationed and should his idea catch fire, someone else's dream might not be fulfilled. It seemed, as happens so often, for me to look good, you (whoever you are) need to look bad and I can only be happy when you fail. There's a philosophy to light the world.

Did you know, ten days ago, the Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center successfully concluded its
third consecutive Professional Bowlers Association Match Play event? Perhaps you caught some of the action on ESPN. Yeah, it happened in Norwich, of all places, because people with a plan and a willingness to accept risk, made it happen. You don't have to enjoy two-tone bowling shoes or know how to pick up a 7-10 split to recognize and celebrate what happened, and it's about time we started keeping track of following through and following up.

On the other hand, at the harbor's edge, after a decade and a half of paralysis by analysis, the beginnings of the
Regional Intermodal Transportation Center are discernible, even if the discussion on how to use it as a fulcrum for further development, hasn't reached critical mass. Perhaps another study is what we need, with a focus group comprised of people who don't have any actual real world experience in whatever the current issue is, but who are members of whichever party is in power because meritocracy is so over-rated.

Someone once told me if we put all the downtown Norwich development plans and plan writers end to end they still wouldn't reach a conclusion. We do what we do because we always have, which is why we always will. And that’s the trouble. Too much dreaming and not enough doing. Too many homefires burning and not enough trees.

There are opportunities for success in Norwich, professionally, financially, personally but each of us, in our own way, has to take the first step and be willing to accept the consequences, positive and negative, for our own actions. If you're waiting for an invitation to get started, you're already behind. How will we build tomorrow when we can't finish today?
-bill kenny

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

That's Why I love Mankind

Dante called it The Divine Comedy though he wouldn't have been laughing at what I said when I first heard about the latest looners ensnared by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (and how in heck did we decide those three went together like faith, hope and charity, or the Kardashians?) Just what we needed since we've had had so little for at least the last twenty centuries, more proof that we are God's special creatures, the Lord's punchline, assuming He takes us seriously as we dare to wonder if He exists (we might never see Him because of who we are, not because of who he is).

And you thought all we needed to be on guard against were Al and Eunice Kider and Tommy and the Taliban. What do you think this is? A Children's Crusade at Chuck E. Cheeses? Ladies and Gentlemen, put your hands together for a nearly seamless blend of anti-government, militant Christians who call themselves Hutaree. For just a moment when I heard the name on the radio I flashed on F Troop but that was the Hekawi.

The NY Times account quotes their web site (and who doesn't have a web site) “Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment.” I have to wonder if this is the same Jesus who helps professional basketball players make free throws or assists spring training pitchers in achieving strike-outs. Where does He find the time for ALL this other activity? Not only are the NBA playoffs just around the corner but baseball season starts this weekend!

As a child of the Sixties, I often wondered why the Zig-Zag rolling papers people didn't make a bigger deal out of the physical resemblance of their guy to the Son of God, but I'd like to think it had something to do with respect for the purity of others' beliefs. So now I have to wonder where these hockey pucks with hair found their divine inspiration and how much more of this My God Is Bigger than Your God most of us who travel on this Big Blue Marble will have to put up before some one someplace finds the biblical passage that talks about Blessed are the Reloaders and we start collecting paving stones as we search for those without sin. It's a cinch we won't find any. What's that bumper sticker? "Lord Deliver me from Your Followers " Amen.
-bill kenny

Monday, March 29, 2010

With no provision but an open face

I tend to place almost all of my life experiences in terms of music, because musical expression in nearly any form has been part of my life for practically my whole life. In childhood, I listened to Broadway soundtracks albums my father and mother preferred, in an era when 'the hi-fi' was a piece of furniture and you worried more about the wooden cabinet the guts came in than the equipment itself.

My father always bought his stereos from Liberty Music on Madison Avenue in Manhattan and they were nearly the size of the island. As teenage audiophile, I realized form and function didn't correlate when I discovered the speakers were one, each per side, three inch mid range cones and the Garrard turntable was gear-driven.

That awakening happened almost simultaneously with the accidental exposure to The Beatles, The Kinks and all the others who crossed the bridge from Britain. I had no older brothers or sisters, so Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins and that whole generation left no mark and what little I heard of folk music left me unmoved. I had no bad habits to unlearn, I guess.

Years ago on Ally McBeal, Tracey Ullman was a therapist who wanted the series' heroine to have a theme song and I smile thinking about those episodes because I see the world as clips--before there was MTV or Miami Vice, which, let's face it was a long form music video pretending to be a TV show, I heard music when I saw events.

I mention this because if there's one thing, even as we've spent ourselves broke in The Land of Steady Habits, that we're proud of, it's our girls (even though they're not ours and none of them are girls), the UCONN Women's basketball team who have, as they pursue their seventh national championship, won seventy-five consecutive ballgames, all by at least ten or more points.

As a father of a daughter in her early Twenties, I cheered for the program as Michelle grew up because it seemed to prove everything I, and fathers of daughters across the state and the country, wanted our daughters (and sons, or that matter) to learn as life's lessons--always do your best, never give up and work on your left-handed baby hook (okay, maybe the last of those is a bit more specific to basketball than life). Michelle has, by the way, done wonderfully well growing into a woman of whom both her mother and I can take great pride. She is also not a fan of basketball, UCONN or otherwise (but she is an extraordinary musician, so who knows?).

Watching Geno Auriemma's team in action yesterday, I saw the lyrics before I felt the bone-crunching melody. "Talk and song from tongues of lilting grace/Whose sounds caress my ear. But not a word I heard could I relate/The story was quite clear.They talk of days for which they sit and wait/When all will be revealed." There's a lot of teams, men and women, left and many more songs to sing-the words, we know; the tune, we'll hum.
-bill kenny

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Faith of Our Fathers

As a child, this was a big deal Sunday in my house. And I have to be honest, I was almost a teen before I even fully grasped why--Palm Sunday was up there near, though not quite at, Christmas Mass and Easter, and when my first name still had a 'y' on the end of it, I never really followed the reasoning as to why. Behold the Man, indeed.

Palm Sunday always seemed to be the deceptive handshake. The New Testament has accounts of the triumphal entry of the Son of God into Jerusalem, being welcomed by those who (as John Lennon would offer later), were 'lying with his eyes while his hands are busy working overtime' as part of the inevitability of a week that had Him crucified on Friday (a more excruciating way to die at the time was unknown) and resurrected on Sunday.

I never impressed any of the nuns at St. Peter's School (now called Saint Peter the Apostle I guess to distinguish him from the St. Peter who played shortstop for the Newark Bears in the middle seventies) in New Brunswick with my scholastic aptitude or ability to interpret scriptures (I was almost married myself before I caught on to the importance of 'for I know not any man' and Joseph not having Mary stoned and why) and yet I still experience a dryness in my mouth dreadful foreboding as the events of the Passion Week unfold.

I couldn't stop reading about it as a child and I couldn't look away. When Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber cashed in with Jesus Christ Superstar, if nothing else, they linked the inquisition of Christ forever in my mind with a jaunty little music hall number that I can hear even as I type this. Another reason I'm confident of my destination in the next life.

Today is a day for many to visit the church of their choice. Sidewalks are crowded as families make their way to retrieve fronds of blessed palm (my mom's mother had a piece that never left its location, behind a framed black and white photo on the wall. Only now do I realize I have no idea of whom the picture was, nor any idea who I might ask). The blessed palm that doesn't end up scotch-taped to auto rear-view mirrors or suspended by a thumbtack alongside the front door will be collected after all the Masses today, at least in the Catholic Church of my youth, and then burned to become the ashes used on our foreheads for Ash Wednesday.

Intro ibo ad alteri Dei. I think I still know the words and know that I always will. I once had the faith to believe in their meaning but I lost that, or perhaps threw it over the side to help speed me on my way, and then I lost my way. I have the charts and maps spread out on the floor, but it's starless and bible black and I can't find my way home.
-bill kenny

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Potato Weather for Sure

I should feel terrible about complaining about all the rain we had this week in Southern New England. If you experienced most of the first week of Spring getting soaked then you know exactly what I mean, but you know what? I don't feel any better knowing your weather was lousy like mine. And if your weather was better, I really dislike you a lot. And if yours was worse (plague of locusts, rain of frogs, that sort of thing) then it sucks to be you but I still don't have very much from that.

Yesterday frazzled me because when it wasn't raining, which wasn't very often, it was cold. I'm such a myopic ingrate I seem to have lost sight that it is March, we have had snow this late and later on this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this (New) England and may well have it again in the days remaining. As for the temperature, doh! (Together now) It's March.

I don't think I'm alone in being spoiled stupid or perhaps I'm stupidly spoiled (I often cannot tell them apart and even close-up they look about the same) as we may be a nation of self-centered somnambulists (and that might be an understatement). And then we realize, "that's what it's like to be alive. To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those about you. To spend and waste time as though you had a million years. To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion, or another. Now you know-that's the happy existence you wanted to go back to. Ignorance and Blindness."

You're thinking Wall Street banker, too-big to fail CEO. Think smaller. Think Simon Stinson.Think each of us, think all of us except in moments of extreme duress when we have to be nearly coerced into finally thinking of others. We cry over what we don't have and weep in vain for the moon, oblivious as we reach and fail, that from our grasp slip the stars.
-bill kenny

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bazooka Joe and the Poser Posse

Wound up one table over yesterday at lunch from young people enjoying their spring break from high school (I think; I have little ability anymore to tell much more than height about people) and who were quite taken with their own extreme coolness. In fairness, I'd like to think when we were that age, we were more circumspect and behaved, but we weren't-our, or my, saving grace was that I was a dork as opposed to a thug.

I knew fun time awaited when the young man, leading the parade was asked by the extremely thrilled-to-be-making-minimum-wage-cos-I'm-worth-so-much-more-except-for-that-dope-bust on-my-record employee of the week behind the cash register to please remove his sunglasses and ball cap. There's been a crime spree in the area and, as I understand it, people wearing sunglasses and ball caps are suspects. I fully expected to see Alex Rodriguez try to beat the check and dash out to the parking lot with his bag of food where Stevie Wonder was waiting to step on it as his getaway driver.

Phew! Sorry. Must have been overcome by all the naturally occurring glutamate in the fries .Was momentarily light-headed, now I'm permanently so. Seriously, I understand the concern and I also understand when you give impotent people even the smallest and most insignificant piece of power, they'll bludgeon you like a baby seal with it. Anyway, point made and the Pranksta Gangsta doffs his cap and slips his shades and pulls his tee-shirt up to just below his nose in a startling, to me, homage to Bazooka Joe (without the eye-patch). That I'm the only person in this scarfing establishment, and possibly the hemisphere, who sees this should be more sobering than it is.

Speaking through his shirt, Bazooka Joe orders with meticulous attention to detail, your basic burger and fries lunch (I find it amusing to imagine the grill master knowing what to make of an order of tartare for a hamburger as if that would happen). The duo behind , but somehow with him, Ursula and Zena (if you're gonna go Bazooka Joe go all the way, okay?), spend as much time talking to the menu and to one another about the menu as they do to the sartorial sheriff at the register all the while holding hands, and twisting one another's arms behind their backs. The sixteen year old equivalent of 'look at me! look at me!'

All three, I suspect, have waited for their parent(s) or guardians to leave for work before rolling out of bed, finding the clothes they're wearing and lounging in this joint while hoping that term paper someone always assigns for the break actually writes itself (in these modern times it's possible). I am a simple lad who orders simple food.

I actually have mine and am seated when theirs is ready and they walk away from the counter. The sole empty table in the entire establishment is next to mine and they mark their territory by having a brief, albeit loud, food fight with french fries (damn glutamate again?). My theory on their surreptitious outfitting is probably true since I hear one of them suggest they need to hurry up and finish so she can get home because if 'my Mom sees me dressed like this, she'll go crazy.' As if that were all the reason necessary.
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Putting the Coarse in Discourse

When I saw the headlines in the newspapers on Tuesday, and the follow-ups yesterday, I had a lot of shadows to jump over. After all, I live in a small Northeastern state regarded as one of the more liberal politically in all fifty of these United, and yet, here was proof positive that we cannot outrace our own prejudices and fears.

If, like me, you thought the Connecticut White Wolves, were a semi-pro football team, feel free to claim your dunce cap from our lovely assistant and grab a chair in one of the corners of our state, possibly The Quiet Corner, and think about what we have done, or, more importantly, not done. Understanding that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, the fellows of Battalion 14 have been allegedly busy doing what so many others only talk about. And that's the reason for my disquiet.

All of us can recall vividly the heat and hurt in the volumes of invective on ALL sides of the health care debate (assuming you define 'debate' as screaming at one another) over the last fourteen months. As a kid in New Jersey, we had a rule for our cut battles (the put-down contests we gnomes and trolls engaged in to make us feel like we were somebody): no mothers. It served us well, but it looks like we've abandoned that for the more universal scorched-earth approach that's been the default since the dawning of the time.

In recent years we had a 'village idiot' as President, a person many insisted had grifters and grafters for advisers. As a matter of fact there were days, if not weeks, at a time when it was hard to find anyone who had voted for this man-much less voted for him twice. But, in a way, that was okay because on the other side, we had liberals (I don't have a keyboard with a sneer font, because that's how some always say this word ) who somehow tricked us into electing a person whom some claim isn't even an American (GASP!)

Of course, all of the above is hyperbole and purple prose and it should fall under the heading of 'sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me', except words do hurt if you pile enough of them on top of one another and never correct, rebut or refute any of the mischievous misstatements or lies loosed in the heat of the moment.

Which brings me (back) to the Battalion 14 Book at Bedtime Group. When did we, a nation of as diverse a group of people as have ever been in one geographical location, become these people? When did the melting pot reach the boiling point and of more immediate concern, what are we (ALL) willing to do about it?

We have too many challenges facing us as a nation right now to return to the Gangs of New York Nativist Know-Nothing Nihilism that looks oh so fashionable in sound bytes on the evening news and solves NOTHING. We are not so much a nation as we are a revolutionary idea-a proposition so absurd on its face that almost no one, anywhere on earth at the time we told His Majesty to pound sand, gave us a snowball's chance in Hades of succeeding.

And yet here we are, not just an idea, but an ideal for the rest of the world, but so filled with self-hatred we cannot and will not encourage or improve ourselves at a moment so precarious, that we haven't been here in close to eighty years. And what are we expending our energies on? Gotcha with guns, it seems, when words fail.

We didn't invent this form of government-but we are its poster child to the world. Remember the faded slogans on the walls from back in the day? "Ballots not bullets. Choose or lose." What happened to the power of ideas to change lives? When did we decide to stop believing in the majesty of the thoughtful voice? Too many men and women for two and half centuries have sacrificed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor so that we could claim as our own, the right to be disagreeable and hateful towards one another, to EVER dare to decide to behave that way.

Each of us knows better. We must learn, or learn again, to respect the opinions and beliefs of others even when they are different from our own (even when they are wrong), and return civility to our civil conversations. Intolerance of others has led to insanity in our past on this planet. It doesn't take a lot for it to happen again, or many to make it so. Nein, sie brauchen keinen Führer nein, sie können's jetzt auch alleine. Leider.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Wings of Time in Flight

We're fond of history around here but we may not realize we're in danger of allowing who we once were to prevent us from becoming who we need to be. I've lived here in Norwich for a skosh more than eighteen years, which, for many people I meet, is no more than an eye blink, or so it seems.

I've heard a lot, though by no means all, of the 'back in the day' stories about Franklin Square, the sea captains who built houses on Laurel Hill, the Sears and Roebuck (whatever happened to Roebuck, anyway?) store that was downtown and Thursday nights so hectic in the center of The Rose City that small children clung tightly to a parent's hand lest they find themselves in the street and lost in the throng.

These stories, if you will, always have a sepia tinge to them, at least to me, and a soft focus in terms of detail. They make me smile because they always bring a smile to the face of the person telling me the tale. And then of course, we end up in present day and no one seems to know what happened, how or why. People woke up and downtown was a ghost town-the stores were all gone and so, too, were the people who shopped in them. Might I suggest the devolution involves progress and planning-one of which is relentless and inevitable and the other conspicuous by its absence.

My Norwich history starts (and stays) a little more black and white, with extreme contrast and hard shadows, coming over the Laurel Hill Bridge into a downtown with plywood for windows and not a soul on the sidewalks in the middle of October of 1991. That was the year of the petition drives at the local supermarkets to 'Keep the Boat Afloat' as Electric Boat was facing massive layoffs in the aftermath of the Seawolf submarine construction cutbacks. The same region that had no plan for the post World War II migration of the textile mills to the Deep South had no clue what to do with the Peace Dividend as these jobs are going, boys, and they ain't comin' back.

Almost two decades later, what are we still discussing? The same old same-old. We all realize Eisenhower isn't still the President and that your father's advice about never paying more than $15,000 for a house without a basement doesn't even get you a good used car but we're hobbled by our past, even when we weren't here to live it or remember it. Instead of it being a step on the ladder to tomorrow, it's a hurdle on the steeple chase we've made of our our lives.

Experience is what we get when we didn't get what we wanted-we should have, by now, all the experience anyone could ever need but we refuse to plan our work and then work our plan.

Like (too) many of our neighbors, Norwich doesn't suffer from Future Shock. We are smothered by Present Shock and the fear of taking action and having to own the consequences of that action. Maybe tomorrow will be better we sigh. Unless and until it's not, and then still we sit and wait because if we do nothing, we can't do anything wrong. Nothing ever happens, if you don't make it happen. Silence is NOT agreement and we've been too quiet for too long.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jean Paul-Sartre, Clean-Up in Aisle Two

Our local supermarket, feeling the competitive pressure no doubt of an Arkansas retail chain in a business where profit margins often disappear, has gone to a form of robo-shopping I find fascinating. You've probably have had it for a while but out here in the woods of Southeastern Connecticut where men are men and sheep are nervous (I offered that as a slogan for a recent municipal anniversary and was turned down cold. Humor-it's in the ear of the beholder, I guess), we have a bar-coded rewards card we sweep across a reader/scanner that releases for our use a handheld device that's tied to our card. That I should live to see such a day...

You wander the aisles, grabbing stuff you want, scanning it and putting it in bags (if you bring your own recyclable bags, you get a nickel credit per bag on your order). When you're done shopping, you head to a checkout and scan one final bar code that tells your handheld sidekick you're past tense, and it transfers your order to the register with the total amount in the display. You pay for your order and out the door you go.

I feel so brave new worldish every time I do it, assuming I can get it to work at all. I don't have performance anxiety, but my rewards card does. I can be a little slow in getting the master scanner to release into my care one of the handheld devices and as other shoppers start to pile up behind me, I have to do my best Coolhand Luke impersonation to compensate for the failure to communicate.

This whole process is a bit like Tom Sawyer getting people to paint his fence for him. It's not that the groceries cost less if we do all the heavy lifting, they don't. But this system isn't designed to make our lives easier. Once upon a time in grocery stores of a bygone era, there were actual employees who took the items a colleague was ringing up, placed them in bags (eggs and loaves of bread on the bottom, canned goods and automotive supplies on top of them) and placed those bags in your shopping cart and, if asked, would help you get that cart to your mode of transportation and then back to your abode where the unloading and putting away were your job.

Here in the new now, we've still got cashiers, baggers, courtesy desk employees, the whole kit and caboodle, who stand around as we wander the store with what look like Star Trek weapons at the ready. All we need are the communicators over our left breast pockets. And pointy ears, I suppose (check aisle four behind the breath fresheners).

The only part we're missing, but it's probably coming soon, are announcements over the store PA system that the Metamucil truck has arrived at loading dock two and twenty-of-those-of-us-formerly-known-as-customers-but-now-called-morons, are needed to unload it, and to stock the shelves in aisle eleven. Don't laugh-that day is dawning. We'll end up playing rock, paper, scissors to decide who's unloading the home pregnancy tests (they go at the header in aisle twelve beside the KY jelly display).

Yesterday, underscoring the perfect beast isn't quite yet where the Grocer in Charge would like it, I grabbed and scanned (in one motion; I've gotten quite proficient at this) a jar of lightly salted (with sea salt, no less) dry-roasted peanuts but, instead of a little peeps and a small green light, I got an electronic squonk and a near zen message in the device display: "The item you have scanned does not exist within your order." Oh? Hell is, indeed, other people, JP. Will that be paper or plastic?
-bill kenny

Monday, March 22, 2010

Kurt Would Probably Use Rice Milk

I am not a big fan of experimentation (I used to be a huge fan of things created through fermentation but that was another lifetime, one of toil and blood, and I make it a rule to not go there on Mondays) and plod along for the most part with one foot in front of the other in travel and travail from Point A to something like Point B. It fills up the day and makes the time go fast.

On weekday mornings I have a bowl of Cheerios for breakfast after I've gotten to work. I still spend more time there than I do at home because I live for the approval in strangers' eyes, I guess (keep your pity or contempt to yourself; I have my own). Perhaps true for you as well, I have a routine from the time I open my eyes to about a half hour after I'm actually at work. All the stuff in between happens, of course, because I'm the one making it happen, but it's an auto-pilot operation. I'm such a slave to how things flow that if anything changes or shifts, like one of those wind-up toys that walks itself into a corner, I just keep bumping into whatever the roadblock has become, unable to clear it or go around it.

Cheerios at work is my decompression food, I suspect. When I sleep, I cannot recall if I dream though my wife has told me there are nights (and early mornings) where I shout out and/or talk or get up, and for which I have no explanation because I have no recollection. My dream world is just black. I use the whole going to work and getting used to being there for the next twelve hours part of the day as the Re-entry to Earth part of the program. And the fuel for this is Cheerios.

I knew someone who called them bagel seeds-suspect the Big G folks wouldn't have been too happy about that but it makes me smile and I repeat it to myself every morning and crack myself up. I never tire of saying it or laughing at it. If I had but a million or so folks with my delightful sense of humor (someone had to say it, and it didn't look like you were about to) I could have my own cable news show-and oh, how we'd all laugh then. I have Cheerios in the next to last of the red plastic bowls we had when we lived in Germany and used for cereal there.

Some time ago, Sigrid finally (endlich!) found very nice and (actually) quite pretty replacement bowls and the red plastic ones went to the land of their ancestors on trash day. As the oldest thing still in our house, I get VERY nervous when anything is pitched out 'because it's really old.' You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows on that equation.

I eat Cheerios, and none of the generic brands (which all taste like cardboard and don't even feel like Cheerios) without sugar or milk. Actually, and I don't eat a lot of cereals, I NEVER eat dry cereal with anything other than a spoon and my mouth. Why do you think they call it DRY cereal?

What am I supposed to do with the milk? Drop little tiny people in the bowl, so they can be rescued? Perhaps I should get a recording of Nearer My God to Thee, and using sugar cubes to construct a fake iceberg, reenact the sinking of the Titanic. Of course, with that much sugar in my system, I'd be crayoning all the walls in the five story building I work in for three days, from the outside in, until sedated with a croquet mallet.

I used to eat Wheaties, back when Bob Richards (if I were shorter, I could ask him for a pony ride for my birthday) was on the cover (I don't how old I was before discovering he didn't invent them but was the first endorser of a cereal. I never count the Quaker guy on the oats). I guess if you had a box with Michael Phelps, using milk would make sense, but for that collector's edition on ebay (I'm assuming with contents), I guess you'd have to use the ultra-high temperature stuff that looks like white water. I've never understood how they get the cows to stand still while they heat 'em up. I suspect they catch them early in the morning.....
-bill kenny

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Stick Stays

I'm glad the selections have been announced for this season's edition of "Dancing with the Stars (in the loosest sense of the word imaginable) DWTSiTLSoTW" since I slipped on a wet floor at work Friday and have spent the weekend with ice packs on my left knee which suddenly straightened as my foot slid out from under me. I wouldn't have made the cut this time around for the show. I don't think I ever, even as a child, had that much flexion in any limb, so I'm sort of sad my orthopedist didn't get to see the split. Wish I could say the same. That it's sore and swollen (still) suggests to me that he may get a chance in the next couple of days, way ahead of the schedule he and I (but mostly him) had worked out. And bottom line, I don't get to tango with Kate Gosselin or Shannon Doherty (talk about spoiled for choice) which, because I can't dance a lick (or lick a dance) and neither of them are actually stars, works out just fine.

I'm smiling today partially from the controlled substance pain-killers I'm taking to manage the knee noise, and fear (if you've ever had limb replacement surgery, the adjective you NEVER want to hear is 'spoiled'). The pills make my sense of whimsy towards the foibles of others a little deeper so the clown princess in the over sized and soon-to-be-extinct SUV who looked me straight in the eye as she backed out across two lanes of traffic on Washington by the bank, and kept coming anyway, gets no more than a shake of the head from me, because it's all I can muster. I'm feeling sorry for myself and I do it well.

In the fast food place, standing behind a dad and his young daughter, based on the time of day and their clothes possibly on their way home from Mass (Holy Communion and a McGriddle, who could ask for anything more) I realize from the way he's speaking to the counter person about employment that he doesn't have a job. There's a discussion of shift availabilities (all of them) and pay differentials (doesn't sound like many) and he's nodding as she's talking while scribbling names and numbers down on a McNapkin.

It's funny, I think, as we age, it takes us longer to bounce back from the knocks and bruises of everyday life. I remember a coarse witticism that involves endurance at a specific act for the course of a night and how you know you're getting old, and how I laughed when I first heard it. Same with the rest of our lives, too. In our twenties, we went from position to position with nary a thought--as the decades advanced, each job started to look more like a career until the tsunami we're enduring at the moment swept away savings, self-respect and maybe home.

The child at his feet was no more than five and had a tiara on and a pink fairy-dress that parents think every daughter at that age loves, and maybe some do. He's making sure he understands the sequence in which to call the numbers, because 'if you call region before district, they'll tell you there aren't any vacancies' when the child squeals in delight and holds up her prize.

She's found a dime on the floor-perhaps someone dropped their change from a purchase, or, more likely, it didn't quite make it through the slot in the counter collection box for the supportive housing of parents of children with cancer the franchise has constructed across the USA and around the world.

I'm not alone in this latter supposition as the father bends to pick his daughter up and explains to her where the dime really came from and, by inference, where it really belongs. Without hesitation, safe in his arms, the child leans across her father and drops the dime through the slot in the top of the box. He smiles as his order is given to him and both dad and daughter head for the parking lot and home with breakfast and, perhaps, a new hope. For a just a moment, a bright Spring morning brightens even more. The past is gone, it's all been said. So here's to what the future brings, I know tomorrow you'll find better things.
-bill kenny

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Limited Time Offer, Seemingly

I'm typing as fast as I can and only hope that spell check saves me from the ignominy of reading like a Hottentot at a Hootenanny. It's my own fault really-I like to live on the edge, walk on the wild side, sail too close to the wind, hang on by just a thread and as many other cliches and bromides as I can get on a 24 hour loan from Billy Bob's Emporium of Previously Used Sentence Components located in Del Rio, Texas.

Went to make myself a little pick-me-up and decided to skip the Java jive and the tea leaves and made a cup of chicken bouillon from those cubes that are so dense I've always suspected they are actually made from the matter that comprises a black hole in space. I especially like how there's always one piece of the foil wrap you cannot get off until you're reduced to trying to scrape it off with a fingernail and then, uh-oh, there's bouillon fragments under the nail. Do NOT put that fingertip in your mouth. Ever. If you have to ask why, it's too late.

So here I am, struggling with eight fingers (the foil was really hard to get off), putting the cube container back in the pantry and checking out the label (thank goodness for that Literacy Volunteer!). There's some disquieting news all the way around, starting on the front that tells me there's chicken 'with other natural flavors'. Sure wish we'd be more forthcoming detail on that. And what about the LARGE yellow letters that brag NO MSG ADDED ('contains naturally occurring glutamates' Huh?) or the nutritional information that ONE cube provides 45% of your daily intake of sodium. Let the Morton Salt girl put that in her umbrella and smoke it.

And then atop the screw cap, I saw the fateful advisory, 'Best by August 2007'. OMG. I'm lousy at math (and English as we both know) but I knew there was trouble. The light grew dim and my life started flashing before my eyes. It's been so unremarkable, mine was replaced by the Jimmy Dugan Story and since that's so short, the second reel was the Song of Bernadette (Peters, which was disconcerting especially the excised dance of a thousand veils scene from Barney's Great Adventure).

And then, just before the darkness enveloped me, I tried to figure out how anyone, even the manufacturer (yeah, Hormel, I'm talkin' 'bout you) would distinguish among good, better or best in chicken bouillon cubes. Turns out it was getting dark because I was dozing, not because the mortal coil was assuming the shuffle off position. Talk about relief! Of course I'm still a little peckish-perhaps a slice of fruit cake will hit the spot.
-bill kenny

Friday, March 19, 2010

Taking Leave of My Census

It came in the afternoon mail earlier this week, and truth to tell I thought it was the auto club, looking for a renewal on a membership (I already have a lifetime membership but I can never remember if it's mine or the car's). Once I figured out it wasn't that, I assumed it was probably a statement from Usury International Bank explaining, in accordance with the new Credit Cards R UR Friend Act (reminiscent of the warnings Big Tobacco put on their products), that at the minimum monthly payment level, I'll need to believe in reincarnation to get their Plutonium Card off my back.

It wasn't either of those things, of course. After all the weeks and months of screaming and yelling on the THNs (Talking Heads Networks), it was only the 2010 Census. Anyway, since it was paper, I decided opening the envelope under running water was counter-intuitive, not that we didn't have enough running water on the Eastern Seaboard in the last few days.

But, to minimize the chances of Demon Spawn escaping the envelope, (of course) I opened it outside, behind the sandbags in the bunker where I watch both Glenn Beck ('The Fusion of Entertainment and Enlightenment.' Modesty is such an over rated virtue, just ask Courtney Cruz) as well as Keith Olbermann (I'll save you some time. The answer is"NO, He's not!"). Together, they're like a cranial colonic, though refreshed is never what they leave me.

I've been around these parts for close to fifty-eight years, and maybe there was a lot MORE brown acid at Yasgur's Farm than previously advertised, but I don't remember filling out a census form, ever. My evil twin, Skippy, 'blue or black pen' in hand, wondered if we should be living in a barn and if you can sell myrrh on e-bay. You have to offer it as a bonus for purchasing frankincense, I think. And cows contribute to global warming, especially when you drive to the store and buy pieces of them for cook-outs.

I've been eyeballing the whole form for a while and if there's a lyrical conspiracy behind it (Sorry, what? a liberal conspiracy! That makes even less sense), it's pretty slick, since even when I hold it up to the light I cannot see any aspect of it. Although, come to think of it (and maybe this is the clever by a half part), the ball point pen manufacturers might be up to something since no #2 pencils are needed (or even wanted) at all. And what the heck are the The Duggans supposed to do when they run out blanks before children's names to put in 'em? Move?!?
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Raze We Great Men

It wasn't just Julius, Orange or the salad guy, who needed to beware of the Ides of March. As it happens, and all of it wasn't strictly speaking WITHIN the Ides themselves, politicians from New York State have had a rough time and the month is barely over and it's not even all Empire State Fun and Games.

To place the more recent contretemps in context, I'm not sure if we need to revisit Eliot 'In Cash We Trust' Spitzer, or if we have to go back to the bygone era of an always controversial and more than occasionally absent from Congressional roll-call Representatives before marveling at the ham-handedness of Eliot's pinch-hitter, David Patterson. Speaking of hands, a round of applause for Eric Massa as well (don't offer to shake hands, otherwise this gets silly in a hurry).

Hailing from a state where a previous governor reduced a four year term of office to about half while currently residing in a state whose (suddenly previous) governor (literally) piloted an unscripted version of the Hot Tub Time Machine right into a federal correctional institution, I'm not sure why so many of us are surprised, even angered, by egregious behavior that makes headlines.

Since I live in the Northeast, I tend to use that as my frame of reference in terms of human weakness and malfeasance, so I have former New York City Police Commissioners who've covered themselves in something less than glory but that doesn't mean I, or you, should (or even can) ignore the Congressional Floridian or the people's representative in the Utah statehouse (there's that hot tub again)who've both been weighed and found wanting.

The list seems to go on forever, and if this were happening someplace else, it would be funny. How quickly did 'hiking the Appalachian Trail' become a euphemism for an inappropriate relationship and whom should we thank for that? I don't pretend to be able to count the human cost in terms of lives ruined, and opportunities that went begging because flawed men (and women, though we don't seem to focus too much on them, do we?) once they embarked on a path of self-immolation we all just held our breath.

We like our leaders to be larger than life, monuments wherever possible and, when we can, we build their statues with feet of clay, because we feel better about ourselves as we feel worse about them. We forget each of us are all of them and that I am he as you are he, as you are me and we are all together. Even when we are terribly and terminally alone.

The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the stars but in ourselves.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tabla Rasa

Times are tough all over-we feel it in our households, across our cities and towns, in our states and throughout our nation's capital. Money, and the lack of it, drives every discussion and the easiest way to trump anyone's argument about any initiative, idea or ideal is to ask 'and how will you pay for this?' The silence is deafening.

But here's the thing, especially as we in Norwich, CT, wrestle with a city budget that many fear we cannot afford in any form while the State stares into a shortfall of billions and Washington D. C. thinks in terms of tens of trillions of dollars in deficit spending. If nothing else, we have to assume there's not going to a lot of help coming from back at the fort, so we're left alone with a one hundred million (and more) dollar municipal budget question: can we afford to spend the money required to operate our city?

How about this, instead: Can we afford not to?

In the past year we've had extended and extensive discussions in Council chambers, the voting booth and among ourselves, on expansion and modernization of Kelly Middle School, a new public safety complex, a real estate purchase of former state property, final preparations on the construction of a regional intermodal transportation center and a half-dozen other projects. The discussions have been good though some might argue some of the decisions less so. Fair enough.

We can all agree that we want to enhance and enlarge the municipal revenue stream by expanding private sector investment in Norwich but if we don't recapitalize our infrastructure, reinvest in our public safety and readdress decades of make-do funding for our public schools, whom do we hope to attract to Norwich and what will we have left of Norwich for ourselves?

No one wants to pay more taxes, none of us like what we're paying now. But all of us want the services we currently have to remain exactly as they are, and maybe even get a little more. And each of us has an opinion on where (else) in the budget savings can be realized.

The only people who can get us out of this mess are already here. We are all we can count on and that's perfect, because we are all we need; but we have to be willing to take risks to achieve rewards. And we need to remember there are NO silver bullets. Rome wasn't built in a day and even Marcus Aurelius (I'm trying to imagine the Preface updated for our current 'how does this make you feel?' environment. No joy) found the real estate market soft when trying to lease the upper floors of the Coliseum.

There are as many reasons to NOT invest in ourselves as there are residents, but there's also over 36,000 reasons why we must spend our own money on our own city. Each of us is worth every penny of the current city budget as well as the one being developed by the City Manager and the various department directors. Soon enough the men and women of the City Council, the neighbors we elected last fall to make tough decisions like budget expenditures, will take out their stubby pencils and will need every informed idea and constructive suggestion we can offer.

Once we've decided we are worth saving, we'll have to reinvent every aspect of how we do business. The difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the habit.

-bill kenny

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

All Impressed and Half-Undressed

I guess it's like fire and ice, the shifting of the tectonic plates where masses meet but never mingle. I've gotta admit, the headline caught my eye and led me to the story, which is of itself very intriguing. The headline did its job and hooked my eyes.

I confess to never having heard the word nerdcore before, but now I'm starting to think that not all of the Lost Boys are sleeping on mom's couch in the basement and playing dungeons and dragons. At least NOT the ones who own calendars, I suppose. And notice, please, I got this far into the second paragraph without the obligatory 'for many, this is probably as close as they'll ever get to a woman' snarky remark.

In the fifteen minutes of fame egg timer, alphabetically, between Courtney Cox and Courtney Love, we can now add Courtney Cruz, and let's be honest if she's what George Lucas had in mind for a Vader Storm trooper, we may finally have a real idea as to why Yoda always wore a long robe and seemed to have one hand in his pocket. It may not have been The Force that was with him. Who knew?

My first reaction looking at the lady's body of work (so to speak) in tattoos was 'nice use of color' which was helpful as it allowed me to pretend I still had critical perspective. We're a culture of dreamers and sometimes (I fear too often) we're more comfortable there than in the real world. We idealize handsome men and beautiful women expecting more from them while also forgiving the frailty of their flawed humanity even less than other mere mortals, though this time around, we may have really put the object in objectify by rendering Ms. Cruz into something beyond fantasy. A flesh and blood daydream-the contradiction of her existence is actually part of the action of the attraction.

"Stop Sniffling!
You're gonna make some plastic surgeon a rich man.
Oh, but the prestige and the glory, another human interest story.
You are that."
-bill kenny