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Monday, May 31, 2010

Seventy Words

There's a remembrance ceremony dedicated to a native son who gave his life in France during World War I, Peter Gallan at The Memorial Park in Taftville, around the corner from the Knights of Columbus starting at ten this morning.

There will be some remarks by local people who served in uniform in a variety of places around the world in both war and peace and who lived to come home and tell about it, as well as some words of comfort from a clergy person and if you're like me, you'll look around at the metal folding chairs and try to figure out how many of those who were here last year made it this year. The memory of sacrifice only survives until the last one who remembers has passed.

You probably have a ceremony very much like it where you live today and for all those who died in this country's wars so you and I could wear "Kiss the Cook" aprons and "I'm with Stupid" tee-shirts, cook raw meat over hot rocks and drink a little too much beer, it's never too late in the day to say 'thank you' so I hope you try to attend.

At the ceremony in Taftville this morning there'll be a contingent of Young Marines, who will serve as ushers and perhaps also as the color guard and after about forty minutes, we'll all go our separate ways. It's not really much time to honor those who spoke seventy words and meant them in their fullest measure.

We've been doing this a long time--not by other nation's standards, mind you. In comparison to the Great Nations of Europe, the USA is a snot-nosed kid (one admittedly who saved the aforementioned great nations twice in the last century) and who did a remarkable job of rebuilding enemies beyond both oceans, yes I mean Germany and Japan, while serving as a bulwark against the Soviet Union for seventy years. But in the Brave New World, it's 'what have you done for us lately?'

This afternoon, as part of continuing renewal of an old tradition, there'll be a parade from Saint Patrick's Cathedral on Broadway to Chelsea Parade with balloons, bands, veterans and lots of American flags as well as at least two folks NOT from here, one a prospective candidate for Governor and the other seeking to become a Senator in Washington D.C. A day honoring the sacrifice of those who died fighting in all the wars this country has been in really shouldn't be a platform for politics and posturing, so I hope the two of them do nothing more than smile and wave.

These are strident times in the Land of the Free. We have all manner of talking heads and websites pandering to every political flavor in the rainbow and tolerance and accommodation are in awfully short supply. We've become heavily entrenched in our own beliefs and less interested than at any time since the Nativist movement in what those disagreeing with us have to say about anything.

Perhaps, not as timely a reminder as anyone would like, are words that closed the second Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln, all seventy plus four of them. "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." Maybe we can resolve to use them as words to live by to act as a fitting memorial to all those we honor today.
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gnus Gnotes

The trouble with The Internet (I added caps to the definite article to make it seem More important, like I did just Then, and then, too) is there's too much stuff and not enough eyes to read it and brains to process it. Sort of like a forty gallon a minute hose pouring through a four quart a minute funnel. Things get lost and it's no one's fault.

As this century has progressed times have gotten tougher for news outlets in all media, and some have suggested that's not a bad thing. I know, if you're a fan of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation you're ready to argue with me about that statement but please note I did use the descriptive phrase, 'news outlets' as a fair and balanced qualifier. Seriously.

Today we use so many aggregators, services that scoop up stories we say we want to know more about, that we tend to forget where these stories come from in the first place. Folks like The Drudge Report don't author very much original material, they point visitors to sites which have the stories, sort of like Ed Sullivan at the height of the British Invasion.

Oldest child that I am, in addition to worrying about who pays the freight for the 'original' reporters when their outlets fold as advertising disappears, I also worry that we can become modern art paintings with both of our eyes on the same side of our nose or one ear above the other on the same side of our heads. That is, we seem to choose Lindsay Lohan (27,900,000 results in 0.25 seconds on Google) over the BP Oil Spill (About 23,900,000 results in 0.22 seconds, also on Google) when thinking of 'news we should know' and I hope you'll agree that's not a good idea. And to prove my point, I think, here's a story I'm pretty sure won't make the pages of the New York Times (anytime soon) or the C-SPAN airwaves, but I'm not confident we can say the same for local outlets across the country, especially the-well you know which ones I worry about....
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Company You Keep

I wound up taking yesterday off, which in light of the three-day weekend nature of the Memorial Day holiday, seems a tad excessive. I had the vacation time accrued and can't do anything else with it and I was a bit tired so I cheated and treated myself. It did make me feel a bit like a hypocrite some time when commiserating with a young colleague on Facebook about her work day which started at some point yesterday and runs, as I understand it, through Monday-with a television set that only receives Fox News and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to help her pass the time. What kind of a cruel Deity does that to a person, I wonder.

We had a very hot, for May, day earlier this week in Connecticut with temperatures over 90 degrees but some ferocious thunderstorms swept the skies of humidity and most of the heat and we have had lovely days with more forecast. I invested part of Friday mid-morning to getting in as many of my at-least-10K-a-day steps as I could before visiting a physician late in the afternoon and my hike took me through my neighborhood until I reached the Yantic Cemetery and while most days I just continue elsewhere, yesterday I went in.

I think the Yantic was possibly the first Norwich Cemetery, judging by the size of it, the dates on many of the markers and how crowded it is (I doubt that it's been in regular use since close to the end of the 1940's). On Friday, I had the place pretty much to myself save for the landscaping crews from the Public Works Department (I think). They were cutting grass, trimming between headstones, neatening up the pathways for those who will come by in the next days as part of their observances of Memorial Day. The crews had a supply of American flags to place at the final resting sites of those who had served in uniform.

On the far side, beyond the center rise in the cemetery as you face Backus Hospital (yes, from the windows of the hospital, you can see the cemetery), is a flag pole with the national Ensign at half mast to mark the death earlier this week of Waterford, Connecticut, native son SSG Edwin Rivera from wounds received while serving in Afghanistan.

According to icasualties.org, SSG Rivera is one of nearly 1,100 American service members to die in Operation Enduring Freedom. I visit sites like this on a daily, sometimes obsessively so, basis because too many of us have stopped counting the human cost of being the greatest nation in the history of the planet and have reduced the unknowns' and uncounteds' sacrifices to some glib generalization we break out as a campaign line, 'the ultimate sacrifice' or for a speechy occasion.

Am I the only one who's exhausted that we can do so goddamn many things in the Brave New World of reporting about wartime wounded, captured, missing and killed in action except prevent them from happening? I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about that as I walked between the headstones of some of the soldiers of B Company of the Second Connecticut Volunteers to include a soldier who had died in captivity at Andersonville, the infamous Confederate States' prisoner of war camp, in Georgia. Some of these men had been part of the first wave when President Lincoln called for volunteers for the Union army as the Civil War began.

Many of the headstones indicated many who had died on the same date in the same battle in the course of that very long attempted national suicide but others had survived beyond the war and made lives for themselves and their loved ones in the world that emerged when the abattoir finally closed. I hesitate to call them 'survivors' because they, and all who passed through the crucible of war, no matter which one, are far more than that as we struggle together to work our way out of a rough patch, but can pause, I hope, long enough to remember all those whose blood brought us to this Memorial Day weekend.
-bill kenny

Friday, May 28, 2010

And all this time the river flowed....

You know how Christmas or your anniversary can sneak up on you? It's weird of course, because they shouldn't really. You know when those events are (unless you're an atheist and/or a polygamist), you remember where you were when they happened and yet suddenly there they are and you're surprised.

I have a more elaborate, self-created, challenge. Because of 'fog of life' issues, try as I might, I can't get into focus (for me) a defining moment, the death of my father. When I say he died twenty-nine years 'over the Memorial Day weekend', that's the best I can do in terms of specifics. I know and will always know, the moment my wife and I were married-the minute and hour of the births of both of our children, but I'm unable, actually unwilling, to nail down any better than 'over the Memorial Day weekend' as the date of my dad's passing.

I've wrestled with every aspect of that relationship for almost every waking moment and it's all added up to zero. I'm very much writing today to exorcise demons rather than for any other point or purpose. I thought I'd opened this cut up
last year and flicked the scab off, but as I sit here, I can feel my throat tighten, the rock in the pit of my stomach grow heavier and the taste of ash in my mouth become more pronounced. Again I'm eight, not fifty-eight, and waiting as I did most days, with dread, for him to come home from the City. And so it begins, never to end.

We, the six children he struggled to feed, clothe, shelter, and provide everything under the sun and in-between, are, ourselves, parents and in some instances, grandparents. I don't pretend to know the hearts of my siblings, but I'm pretty sure I speak for at least some of them when I say we have all worked as hard as we could to not become our father. And if the years have taught me anything (and that proposition is still subject to debate), it's that his intentions, like those of every parent, were the absolute best. And yet one by one, as we could (when we could) we disappeared, leaving those younger behind to be his children. Until he, himself, suddenly, left and no words could fill the void or cover the silences.

I'm never sure if it's the horrible son or the failed father who's to blame for all that was lost years ago, but I know the face I see in the mirror every morning belongs to the person responsible now for not letting go of the poisons of the past to savor today and secure tomorrow. It wasn't mere coincidence this time a year ago I needed to be talked from the edge because I'd become addicted to loathing the view when I looked down. I couldn't look but I couldn't look away.

Each of his children will, in the course of these next days, try, again, to make peace with the world he gave us and that we lacked the strength to reject aloud while he was here to hear us. Silence equaled consent and thus did we become accomplices in our own victim hood. I want to shout at the man whose knowledge often overwhelmed the nuns who tormented, rather than taught, each of us, "if Jesus exists, then how come He never lived here?" instead of nearly choking on the words, knowing I always shall.
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Approximate Bookends

I'm told you never step into the same river twice because both you and the river have changed so my Tuesday was enjoyable because I know, or think I do, to not make more of it than it was. I had an opportunity to host someone I hadn't seen in twenty-six years. I'm starting to think the key to my relationships is to ration having to deal with me. For instance....

Back in 2005, I had a friend from Rutgers, Nat (he was on contrapuntal harmony if you clicked on the link, btw), whom I hadn't seen since 1981 come up from Jersey and spend the day, for no other reason than he could. I haven't mellowed nor have I aged well and my toxicity is still pretty lethal but when you space visits by a quarter of a century, I can be survived. Who knew?

Lee and I, on the other hand, correspond on a regular, often repetitive, basis. He supplies the former and I mostly the latter and there's one or two others with whom we exchange notes, but he and I live in the same state and as I'm sure you remember from geography, Connecticut is so vast it takes days to drive across it. (It does when I'm driving it; you can ask my wife and kids about the night we went from Waterford, Connecticut, to Westerly, Rhode Island, without ever going anywhere near where we live in Norwich. No wonder my children are nervous driving in The Ocean State, it's sneaky.)

Lee offered about ten days ago, based on what was going on in his work and his life, to mosey over for a visit this past Tuesday at mid-morning and we could catch up. He and I worked for the same military organization, same crop/different fields, back in the day when none of the senior people in charge knew what they were doing and if they hadn't had us, Rik, Dave and The Other Bill and a few others, why it would've been grim. And we are, a little more than quarter of a century later, pretty good impersonations of the very people we disliked back then. And look at the kids these days and their lazy and disrespectful ways! They are nothing like we were, except for the parts that are exactly like us.

I was delighted to see him, though chagrined that he recognized me before I realized he was him (or him was he?). Since we'd set this visit up I had a need for some expert advice in an old area of my job that I'm working to return to after a long time away. Lee and I weren't shoe-shopping buddies back in the day but we'd gotten along pretty well in an organization that didn't breed lifetime friendships and it was great to hear his adventures, great and small, since arriving back in the land of the round doorknobs, and especially to listen to his thoughts on my situation and his always-thoughtful recommendations.

John Lennon offered, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans" and between us, our plans and lives took us and our families to places and faces we couldn't have dreamt of in the days of Bertramstrasse 6. Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly? I think, based on a projected visit in 2036, the next time around we won't do quite as much walking. I just hope we still have the strength for the talking and the kindness of listening.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hurrying to Beat the Rush

I had a note yesterday from a work colleague, actually we all did, telling us if we wanted something from him through next Tuesday, we needed to ask him by close of business yesterday as at the end of today he's off for 'the Memorial Day weekend.' That read really strange to me, but many of us have already started the countdown to the "unofficial" start of summer, Memorial Day, which we will observe this coming Monday with barbecues, picking over one another’s yard sales and softball games.

Previous generations used to observe, not celebrate, Memorial Day, by visiting the graves of relatives and friends who'd died in uniform and placing flowers and little American flags. Many called the holiday Decoration Day, and there was a wisp of solemnity, of measuring the space between, that we’ve long since abandoned. War was personal and not something we watched by double-clicking and turning up the volume.

We called everyone serving in the military when we had a draft 'our boys in uniform' because only men were drafted. After the draft was eliminated in 1973 and both sexes could serve, maybe because we thought it sounded silly to say 'our girls in uniform', we started saying 'our women in uniform' and once we did that it made sense to also say 'our men in uniform.' Odd how women made men out of boys, eh?

A lot of incredibly brave and talented people sacrificed their lives for the notion of this nation so we could cook baby-back ribs or check out the deals at the car dealerships over the next couple of days. But and this isn't secret but we don't say it out loud very often, it wasn’t just the brave and talented--a lot of very frightened, flawed and ultimately fragile men and women died while in uniform so we could complain about the price of gas, how the City Council does, or doesn’t, know what they’re doing with the city budget, how our favorite ball club is off to slow start again and worry about what we're going to do with the kids when the school year ends.

Life is millions and billions of interconnected moments, each one linking and leading to the next from the previous and each of our lives is really what we do within those moments, together and alone. For many of us, life right now is harder than it has been in a long time, but when you measure it against those who sacrificed their lives for ours, it is still to be treasured and savored.

We are, despite ourselves and to the amazement and admiration of everyone else on the globe, living in the greatest country on earth. About one and half million men and women in uniform have lost their lives fighting in our wars. Many of them probably had the same issues, questions and concerns that many of us do-but it didn’t stop them from doing what they could do, and had to do, to protect people, us, whom they would never know. We need to start living like we owe them something, because we do.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lost and Found

I'm still sleepy from sitting up waaaay past my bedtime Sunday to watch ALL the sturm und drang that came with the series (and in a way, epoch) ending of Lost. I stumbled across it by accident the night it debuted (I use the TV remote as a flashlight, shining it almost non stop across the channel selector, hunting for who knows what). Couldn't tell you,120 episodes later, what about the show got me, specifically, because it just seemed to be everything.

So much has been written already about what became a national and international seance Sunday evening as we peered into the flickering electric fire as much for light as for warmth. How much of either any of us found had a great deal to do with how much of each was within ourselves at the beginning. Sorry to bore you if you've read a lot of the reviews or if you've never had a use for the show. My life is such that I build my week around House and Lost, so the good news, I guess, is I now have Tuesday nights free and already have my own bowling shoes...

I could never be a Trekkie for any TV show-it requires a discipline I will never possess but I did very much enjoy every episode of Lost and felt, and still feel, a keen sense of emptiness now that it is over. That said, it's not a show I'd buy on DVDs to watch again--it was part of an extended moment for me as much my viewing was a moment along with everyone else who watched it. When I skip a Yankees game on ESPN for something else, it's serious, and this was that.

When it was all over and I could finally toddle off to bed, oh bright early comes semmlich fruh in these parts, I kept coming back to the church where so many of the characters, alone and sometimes together, came to be. I couldn't remember seeing David, Jack's son, in the church so Christian's explanation 'we all die, kiddo' resonated with me. Perhaps all the children we saw throughout the seasons, except Aaron, may have been Charles Lamb's 'Dream Children,' which is now merely another road not taken on a journey that has ended but never stopped.

As the survivors' collective awareness, and the awakening of that awareness, together with the love they felt (and feel) for one another, brought them all to the church, I remembered the first season, first episode warning 'if we don't learn to live together, we'll die alone.' Sunday night, for me, they did JUST the opposite. As the minutes ticked down to 11:30 all I could hear was The Beatles.

At some point yesterday, with that tune still in my head, I realized, with a start, Monday was Bob Dylan's 69th birthday (I refuse to hyperlink Dylan's name. If you don't know who he is, tuck in your prehensile tail, find the drop down window and go ahead and double click on something, anything, else). Child of the Sixties that I will always be, he and they are linked even if they came from different points on the horizon. With a tip of the cap to Jagger, Richards, Townsend, Davies, Mitchell, and a hundred (perhaps a hundred thousand) others, Dylan, Lennon and McCartney constructed out of whole cloth, the fabric of rock and roll that we are still hemming and cuffing nearly half a century later.

None of them thought they were doing anything original-as Lennon once described Beatles' music, 'we were building our own chairs, that's all.' If you're under the age of thirty, it may be impossible to explain to you what pop, because there really was no rock, music sounded like before they showed up and tuned up. And if you're a Presleyite and I've hurt your feelings, I'll say I'm sorry but know that I'm not. For people my age who regard almost all the music my (adult) children listen to as an auditory abomination, I cannot explain why I'd choose Dylan over their flavors (or flavas, if I were a playa), but there'd be NO hesitation as I did.

We grew up together, Dylan and I (and a global generation that finally had a music of their own) and whether I like it or not, we've grown old together as well. And now when he sings, it's in my voice. "Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose. Any minute now I’m expecting all hell to break loose. People are crazy and times are strange. I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range. I used to care, but things have changed." Don't know if you find surviving to be worth celebrating, Bob, but when it's all I got, I do. And I'd encourage you to do the same.
-bill kenny

Monday, May 24, 2010

I Tried to Light Candles

I was out of state for most the new brooms sweeping old dust over the weekend in the state I call home (for now), Connecticut. Like the other forty-nine, recent economic times have been unkind to more than a few of us and as we enter election season, it's becoming time for payback. Many of us are descendants of the original settlers and behave as if we were the only ones who are undergoing hardships because we are, after all, the only ones who count. That sort of cracks up the rest of us.

For instance, I'd love to show you my DAR badge but it was lost in the relocation and my wife's hometown in Germany didn't have a local chapter so they couldn't issue her a certificate either. Strangely enough, hard times show up at our door as frequently as they do to the folks up the street whose family settled here three hundred years ago. Turns out it does rain on the just and the unjust alike. Perhaps you can please share my umbrella?

Anyway, this past weekend both major political parties, wading through a talent pool that barely comes to your ankles, offered Us (We?) Nutmeggers more of the same packaged as bold, new and decisive. Based on all those pony rides for my birthday I've not gotten, I'm an expert on what comes out of the back end of a horse and you don't want to step in any of those assertions. This November in the Land of Steady Habits we'll elect a new Governor, upper and lower chamber of the state house, a Senator, an Attorney General, a State Treasurer, a Comptroller and a Secretary of State, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree (among others, I suspect).

Skimming the newspapers Saturday and yesterday morning, I'm practicing my 'gee, Wally!' face when little changes and nothing improves after we make things better by making them different after the polls close on the first Tuesday in November. I was less than surprised when everyone who won, and everyone who qualified for a primary (meaning state nominating conventions are like the NHL regular season, except almost everyone has more teeth) had nothing specific to offer to anyone about anything.

That suggests we'll lead by following. First find out what the electorate's hot buttons are, adopt those buttons as your own and then go for the throat. Lather, rinse, repeat. And watching highlights of both parties' conventions (that's as large an oxymoron as I can use to describe it) on CT-N, I was struck by how Ozzie and Harriet the nominees all seemed to be in comparison to the demographics of the state they all wish to represent and lead.

That said, since for the most part, you can pick any two candidates competing for elected office and stick them in a sack and, by hitting the sack with a bat, you'd hit the right one, that doesn't bode well for an election based on a sober examination of positions on pressing issues but rather, dueling soundbytes and gotcha moments. Lord, I'm sorry to question your wisdom, but my faith has been wavering. Won't you show me a sign and let me know that you're listening?Ah, the electoral process in the nursery of American Democracy. There's magic in every moment.....
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Not Just This Wheel's on Fire

As a grade school child, today was one of the most difficult Sundays we had all year as Roman Catholics. As a loyal son of Holy Mother Church I struggled to wrap my head around The Holy Trinity and God as the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost (later changed to Spirit which I always thought was a great marketing idea as all I ever thought of was Casper and I'm pretty sure that wasn't supposed to be the point).

Just as I was getting used comfortable with the contradiction of three persons in one Godhead, along comes Pentecost Sunday and when you're a kid, because you don't know the words 'disquieting' or 'surreal' you say 'weird' (a lot). Now as a somewhat world-weary adult, I look at the Gospel of John, usually used as part of the Mass and envy that school kid with his unthinking faith and belief.

John, say the Scripture scholars, was (at best) reconstructing what might have been said at Christ's last Supper-but because of when those same scholars think the Gospel was written it's very possible that John, himself, heard none of the words spoken he quotes. Ironically, and in a sense coming full-circle, John himself becomes the proof of his own theory that belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, taken on faith alone, by those who did not witness his miracles is at least as powerful as belief by those who were present.

The tongues of fire, we were taught in catechism (when I was in public school and attended religious instruction in the church basement once a week) and later, when at St Peter's in religion class, were to cleanse our hearts and minds of doubts and questions. Nearly six decades into the journey, I guess they needed to be lot hotter because the former remain and the latter abound.

But honoring the notion of symmetry and hoping the truth in the lesson is so simple and obvious even I can grasp it, I cling to the example of John and his testimony of faith and belief in that which he had not seen. No man alive will come to you with another tale to tell. And you know that we shall meet again, if your memory serves you well.
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Suzy Mac and the Always Expanding Adventure

Last Sunday, Suzanne, whose parents, Margaret and Adam are two of the nicest people on the planet (and I'm not just saying that because I'm related to one by marriage and the other by blood) received her Masters of Science in Speech Language Pathology from Seton Hall University as well as an induction into the Honor Society and an award for academic achievement. I'm having trouble reading and comprehending the program overview. I'm hoping there's some ice cream to go with this humble pie.

She and her brother, Rob, who arrived
very early yesterday morning for a large festivity happening this afternoon (Uncle Clayton sends his regrets), fit rather neatly, though purely by accident, in the space between our son, Patrick and our daughter Michelle. While there's a nice symmetry to all of that, I suppose (not that either set of parents has ever found the time to admire, much less remark upon, it) the takeaway for me, not just this afternoon as a significant portion of The Connecticut Kennys celebrates the success of some of the New Jersey-based franchise, is how time flies and how what you do with that is so much more important than how much of that you have. And the best thing that you can do is take whatever comes to you.

Soon enough our children, and yours, alone and together will have to learn steps of their own as they make their way. No amount of parental concern and worry will make that journey any easier than that same concern and worry by our parents made ours. It will seem, for us watching from the shore as their ships move on, the saddest and hardest part of being their parents and for them,an unfair and painful way to mark the end of their childhood. Perhaps it is, but it has always been. So listen to the color of your dreams, it is not living, it is not living. Or play the game existence to the end
Of the beginning.
-bill kenny

Friday, May 21, 2010

You Are What You Eat

I've gone back to eating salads for lunch every work day. I'm not an adventurer so I don't like getting the ready-made kind available at deli counters and those kind of places. I find stuff in there that looks like it came out of the mulcher bag of my lawnmower and as unhappy as I am that some one thought I might eat it, I'm even less happy that they think I should pay them for what seem to be hedge clippings.

One of the local supermarkets here has a salad bar so I can make my own-one side is an olive bar, I guess, as there are close to eighteen or so different kinds of olives. I'm not used to seeing olives when they're not surrounded by martinis-some of them are kinda ugly and none of them look anything like the ones that come in the little jars with the dot of red, pimento I think, jammed into 'em. I've never been able to figure out what gets taken out of those olives to make room for the pimento, and don't even start me on the why behind doing it in the first place .

Anyway, The other side has the salad fixings (and the sneeze guard! What would this wordl be like without a salad bar sneeze guard?) to include some ingredients in which I have less than zero interest even though I've never had them...Beets are not something I have ever wished to try, but I don't have a reason, I'm sure I've never even eaten them. They've done nothing to me and they're supposed to be rich in vitamins and I'm still not impressed. I'm a beet bigot and that's all there is to it. The salad bar also has pieces of lobster without the shell. I'm not a big lobster eater so I stay clear of that. And there's oodles of different noodles all over the place and all cold--not a big fan of those.

I stick with the reliables: lettuce, spinach leaves, arugula, tomatoes (the store uses those 'grape' tomatoes as opposed to normal size ones. Who likes eating doll food?) and peppers, mostly slices of green ones but the other colors as well (sehr bunte mischung). My daughter told me all peppers start out as green peppers which not only impressed me (she's a college girl, like you didn't already know that) but dismayed me a little since I can no longer claim she gets her brains from me.

The last time I went crazy on salads for lunch (months ago) I was fooling myself. I was actually OD'ing on salad dressing, and the salad gave me something to put it on. I've contemplated microwaving a small bowl of just dressing and eating it like soup. I know, pathetic; but I haven't. This time around I'm putting into the salad two kinds of chicken pieces, one of them is all dusted in red powder and is, I suppose, the salad bar's idea of 'buffalo wings' and the other chicken pieces are naked, so I avert my eyes while eating them.

I've eaten enough salad in the last month and a half to have developed buck teeth and longer and pointier ears (not to mention a shiny coat), but in terms of the effect on my blood sugar and cholesterol, the results are amazing. So much so that my endocrinologist has radically reduced my diabetes medications making me and my wallet smile. Well, it did until the New York Daily News offered me this bon mot about the dietary preferences of Nicholas Cage. Now you can go ahead and make your goofy joke.
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Parsing the Body Politics in The Nutmeg State

At first I thought Tuesday was just a bad day for the Connecticut Democratic Party. They were confronted by the unhappy news that their presumptive candidate for State Attorney General, the current Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, was ineligible to seek the office because she doesn't meet the requisite legal requirements to be the Attorney General, even though everyone thinks she's really keen. Her party, by the way, meets this weekend to nominate all sorts of people for all kinds of offices, just not her, apparently, for anything. Perhaps we can arrange for her to get a table centerpiece...

But as they say in those infomericals, Wait! There's more! The current Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal who has been making 'I'm running for higher office' noises for about a decade without ever actually doing so, jumped into the contest to replace retiring Senator Christopher Dodd some moths ago and was the instant front runner for the nomination. I, for one, never understood how being the Attorney General qualified you to be a Senator but I'll also admit I'd never realized that forty-three of our fifty states elect people to serve in offices like Attorney General. Here in Connecticut we also elect Probate Judges, and my brother the attorney will smack me for sure this weekend, but I have no idea what that office does or how I can even begin to decide who is better qualified to be the probater or even the amateur (insert your double entendre here).

No matter-none of that is what got Richard Blumenthal jammed up. It turns out it was that damn liberal rag, the New York Times, who reported Mr. Blumenthal had a veracity gap while in uniform and his recollection of where he was and what he did was at variance with what his official personnel folder said. Should I mention that until the feces hit the ventilator on Tuesday, Mr. Blumenthal was quite possibly the cage match opponent of Linda McMahon, a self-made millionaire who is the former Chief Executive Officer of the World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE, and running for the other major party (hey! times are tough. You want Lincoln? Use the WABAC machine). There's a line about a choice between cancer and polio rattling around in that jukebox of a brain I have. Oh yeah, got it now.

Anyway, according to Mr. Blumenthal he didn't clothe himself in false colors when he spoke about his time in the military 'in Vietnam' when what we should have realized was that he meant to say 'during Vietnam.' During Vietnam, Mr. Blumenthal was a Reservist in the US Marine Corps where, it's reported, he helped fix a campground and organize a Toys for Tots collection drive. Mr. Blumenthal during his nationally covered remarks after the story, never used the turn of phrase "I apologize."

Rather, the Attorney General "took full responsibility" which is only fair, I suppose, since he is the one who lied. I'm sorry, I mistyped. I meant to note that it is he who said something that might have been the truth in another dimension at another time, but wasn't in the here and now. It's a miracle, I guess, that so far, Chris Shays hasn't been blamed for all of this since he obviously felt someone should have spoken to Mr. Blumenthal, but no one did.

I blame English, the language, not the people who speak it. We have too darn many parts of speech (eight) and prepositions can get a fella into a peck of trouble. It's hard to know when to use in and when to use during. Jeepers, Wally! During actually has in inside of it! What's a guy to do?

Rule of threes, Sparky-and it'll be as easy as pie. Which one is correct, you decide:
Wilson Pickett's "During the Midnight Hour"?
10 CC and "I'm Not During Love" or, the tie-breaker when all else fails,
Tell me about the rabbits George, before Linda or Richard come back to the brier patch, but choose your words carefully.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Safety in Numbers

It's been an intense, if not productive, fortnight here in The Rose City as we creep towards a decision on the next municipal operating budget for the fiscal year starting 1 July. Last week, two City Council members asked Norwich Public Utilities for $202,000 to fund the salary and benefits of two school resource officers the Board of Education eliminated from their budget as part of their financial reorganization that included closing two schools and reallocating students and functions.

A day later, underscoring the pain throughout the state as revenues continue to fall short of both projections, and actual expenses, the State Police announced they would be removing nineteen troopers from schools across Eastern Connecticut to save an estimated 1.2 million dollars.

Meanwhile the Norwich Police Department received a federal grant of over $230,000 for a river patrol boat that some have wondered if it's necessary, without ever defining what the present posture is or asking what the true needs are. I keep seeing Crocker and Tubbs speeding across the Harbor in a cigar boat with Jan Hammer in the background and hope, really hope, there's more involved here than that.

The Norwich Teachers League was the subject of a LOT of on-line commentary from local readers for not offering contract concessions to the city without assurances the City Council would fully fund the Board of Education's budget. Many home-owners across the city feel they are at the end of their financial rope and insist the City Council hold to its own vow of a flat budget while suggesting those who live here with school-age children, as renters and not homeowners, are not carrying the same amount of the tax burden as they are. Not just they see public education, and the percentage of the municipal budget needed to fund it, as an expense rather than an investment.

We're a funny lot, we really are (though it's probably hard to see the humor right now through the pain). We prefer problems that are familiar (and the more general the description of the problem, the better) rather than risk solutions or ideas that are not. I listened and read as people argued about the costs of policemen in classrooms as if it were the most normal expense in the world, except in the world in which most of us grew up, there were no police in our classrooms.

Twenty-first century schools have more metal detectors than our airports, for, sadly, very good reasons. Instead of expending the time, talent and resources, to understand the underlying causes and mitigating them, we've expanded our notion of 'the cop on the beat' to include the hallways between the school cafeteria and the library. We're arguing about the price of gas instead of wondering why we got into the clown car in the first place. An argument I heard debated how nineteen state troopers can cost 'only' 1.2 million dollars while two Norwich police persons are over two hundred thousand dollars. I think that ignores the larger question: how did we become people who need to do this to our own children?

Some of our Brave New World looks a lot like the old one that technology, access to tools, equality of opportunity and enhanced diversity were all going to change. The gap between the promise and the performance has grown not only exponentially but obscenely. We've got more children having free or low-cost breakfast in schools than ever before because how we live with one another has shifted from when you and I were school-age. We have health clinics in schools because we've concluded we need to have them someplace and can't figure out where else they could be located.

We've spent, literally as well as a figuratively, a generation using government to accomplish programs that have little to do with why we created government in the first place, offering the argument to one another that 'someone has to do it!' Unless and until we can agree to define and then refine those tasks our government should be doing and which ones are our responsibilities, we can hold budget hearings until the cows come home (and guess who'll pay the dairy subsidy?) and never fix the fundamental problems. We'll continue to put out fires with gasoline and take solace that our mileage may vary, but sadly, never the outcome.
-bill kenny