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Sunday, October 31, 2010

When Something Wicked This Way Comes

If ever there were a year to sell elections by the pound, this would be it, so far, as our Democracy continues to roll on. I've seen some rather frightening numbers thrown against the wall as the campaigns enter their last weekend, but all of them have one thing in common, mind-boggling huge dollar totals.

The big money seems to have been expended on the West Coast in California to include over one hundred and sixty million dollars by someone seeking to become the Governor. Ever since a Supreme Court decision equated free speech with campaign contributions (= you can't limit the latter without muzzling the former) some folks have been writing checks until writer's cramp sidelines them for the duration.

But here's the thing, said the guy from a tiny Northeast state where we have a moneybags campaign being mounted to be elected Senator by a woman who helped start the WWE (make your own joke here, I'm fresh out; and NO mothers, okay?), all across this country Tuesday we'll be voting for friends and neighbors trying to be elected to selectmen, burgesses, county commissioners, state senators, sheriffs, and a partridge in a pear tree (or not; that one may be an appointed position). Most of those running have full-time jobs (or did until the economy nailed them) and they do local government in their spare time.

You probably attended a forum in your local firehouse like the ones I've attended with those seeking your vote. At those events nobody called anybody else names, or accused them of being the Red Menace, the Black Death, the Yellow Peril or the White Christmas (I'm kinda tired and that's the best I can do). People do behave civilly, and there are NO TV cameras and no one getting her head stomped or any of the other rotor wash masquerading as campaign rhetoric. My brother, Adam, who was in DC this weekend with most of his family may feel differently about the Stewart/Colbert Rally (and I'll defer to him about it) but what I watched on line and read about it, was FINALLY someone is saying aloud what so many of us have been thinking.

For at least a score of years, American elections have just gotten stupider and stupider (sorry, Jill, but I love that word) and more strident with every ballot contested. Reasonable debates and measured discussions have been replaced by soundbytes that grow shorter by the news cycle until they seem little more than drive-bys. You could be elected a State's Attorney General with one thirty- second TV spot and this: "Fillet of a fenny snake, in the cauldron boil and bake. Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog. Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing--for a charm of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble. Double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble!" (Sorry, Christine; btw, we are NOTHING like one another).

The day after tomorrow is Election Day and we get to take back our own lives and governments from the pollsters, the spin meisters, the handlers and the bloviating talking TV heads and chart our own course for our own destinies as we are finally able to return to our own lives. "'Cross this evil land, ill winds blow. Despite the darkness, mushrooms glow. All will rot and decompose, for something wicked this way grows." But only if we let it, so don't let it. Oh yeah, I approved this message.
-bill kenny

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dohminus Vobiscum

There's little less pathetic than an aging hipster my children told me not that long ago (not sure why. No, seriously, no idea at all!) so I suspect watching organizations that have fallen out of step trying to be relevant is the aging hipster equivalent. Last Monday, the Vatican's official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano editorialized that "Few people know it, and he does everything he can to hide it, but it is true: Homer J Simpson is a Catholic." Yeah....about that.

Bear in mind, this is the same Vatican who put Galileo under house arrest for insisting the earth was not the center of the universe. Okay-different cast of characters, but the very same movie nevertheless. That's the problem with tuning into all the fun stuff just above the police calls, most of the high frequency responses get lost in the wash. That the editorial was based on analysis by a Jesuit of an episode from five years ago doesn't impress me nearly as much as the insistent paranoid delusion that the Society of Jesus influenced Heinrich Himmler when he sought a role model for a GTO (Guys Together Only) society he liked to call the SS.

The thing that's weird about almost all the press (nearly a half million media mentions; try "Wounded Warrior Project" how fuqqed is that!?!) on this 'news' is the paucity of references to the fact that we're talking cartoons here, boys and girls. It's like being hot to trot for Jessica, Roger Rabbit's girlfriend; sad, and then spooky sad when it's apparent you don't realize she's not really real. Or the media feeding frenzy when J. K. Rowling threw Dumbledore under the (presumably lavender) bus, so to speak.

Do you wonder where Dan Quayle is right now and what he makes of all this brouhaha in light of his trail-blazing work in pillorying products of writers' imaginations? Bet he's wondering about the statute of limitations on boneheadedness (and probably how to spell it). Look at all the trials and tribulations in this old world, L'Osservatore Romano, and tell me (hand on your heart and keep the other one out of your pocket while staring at the bunny babe) you really didn't think there were other items worth an editorial? And you had to do this last Monday when the week was still an hour longer? Reminds me of the Iliad. Not!
-bill kenny

Friday, October 29, 2010

As the Maples Scream "Oppression!"

Had an unfortunate vantage point yesterday as the grounds and maintenance folks did some autumnal winterizing. By the time they were done around the building I work in, I was grateful that my office windows are primarily for decoration and not egress as the longer they worked the sadder it all seemed to get.

About two weeks ago, I completed my nineteenth year of working for some very patient and forgiving people-I'm assuming that's how to characterize them, based on the number of trials and tribulations visited upon them as a result of our association with one another. I've been here long enough to have watched countless times as the lawn care people each summer come out three days a week, to include the days of hurricane rain, to fertilize and water the lawns surrounding our building only to return every week, usually on Thursdays, and cut the grass they've spent the rest of the week getting to grow.

Yesterday they were noisy and I was nosy. I worked out of a ground floor office in this same building for about a decade and I'm still getting used to the changes in altitude and attitude. From my old office it would have been far more difficult to appreciate how tall so many of the trees had become in the course of the years. I actually remember when we had far fewer trees on the lawn-not hat there were any big commemorative tree plantings. Just a large, burly workman heaving a scrawny stripling of a tree and dropping into a hole. Turns out this stuff adds up.

Looking down, at first I didn't see anyone but then I elevated my gaze to the junctions in the trees where the branches met the trunks. There, a swarm of aspiring arborists, like tent caterpillars on the attack, were chainsawing and hatcheting branches large and small, oblivious to the startled screams of tit willows and alarmed scamperings of the squirrels who consider the trees home. The branches have grown too big for their britches and some editing, so to speak, was called for.

Not that pruning wasn't needed in many instances. The maples on the far lawn near the parking lot have grown both tall and large with branches that obscure parts of the lighting fixtures intended to illuminate our parking area. Of course, at eleven o'clock on a sunny morning, no one is especially concerned about those trees and by the end of the day I already knew my traverse across the lot on Friday would be close to cave darkness.

I was impressed with the alacrity and precision with which all of this happened. In less time, or so it felt, than it has taken me to type these words, branches were felled, limbs amputated and the debris carted off. Between a lightly gusting breeze and a vacuum the size of Rhode Island, the crimson red leaves against the green grass of the lawn were soon enough a memory. And if for just a moment, it felt man and his technology had triumphed over Nature, I suppose all one has to do is look ahead a few pages on the calendar and wonder what we bipeds plan on doing when winter descends on New England.
-bill kenny

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Paul Outlasted Wayne

He survived the anger and later disappointment of German soccer fans when he correctly predicted the Deutsche Elf wouldn't make the World Cup Finals and seemed unperturbed by the audio assult of the vuvuzelas ('sounds like a duck on speed'). But Paul, the World Cup predicting octopus, has shuffled off his mortal coil, scoring an own goal (in a matter of speaking) in the soccer match of mortality dying earlier this week at 2 and a half years of age.

He shared English citizenship with Manchester United's Wayne Rooney who played more like Andy this past World Cup, while calling Obershausen, in the vicinity of Frankfurt am Main, home and his Lady Cleo impersonation fascinated the world, or at least that part of it correctly calling what we Yanks call soccer, 'football.' Gibts was wissenwertes uber Obershausen? Ehrlich gesagt, weiss Ich nicht. Uber Erlangen, klar aber, uber Obershausen, bin Ich mich nicht sicher.

Paul, as the news accounts relate, turned in on Monday evening hale and hearty and woke up dead on Tuesday. He died of natural causes, the account goes on to say. Not quite sure what's considered 'natural causes' for an octopus living in a municipal aquarium but if Jack Hanna's not raising an alarm, I'm good with the coroner's report as well.

The true victim in Paul's passing is his agent's career. You're not even surprised to learn he had an agent, are you? Actually, neither was I. Paul also probably had a couple of roadies and at least one groupie; just hope she wasn't a Plaster Caster (what can be said about Cyn? And you thought those stories about drugs in the Sixties were hyperbole. HA!). After you've repped for a squid who foresees the scores of World Cup matches, everything else is just stale beer.

Funeral arrangement are still pending, it seems. You could check with our daughter, Michelle, for the proper protocol of at-sea burial of her fish, but be prepared to be punched if you do. I'm not sure why she always expected a Viking (no, not this one) funeral. Could be worse, I suppose, Paul. You could be in the Ice House in Detroit (Brrrrrr!). Consolation prize: tartar sauce and a cameo appearance on a spiesekarte. As it is, brace for large quantities of Carbonara and Coca-Cola..
-bill kenny

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You Cannot Win, if You Do Not Play

Growth and adaptation are keys to success of every successful organism, from a single cell tag-along to a government spanning a continent. It shouldn't be that surprising to us, living in Norwich 2010 that our city has changed a great deal in three hundred and fifty years. And that's the thing about change-it relentlessly keeps happening because it's a process and not a product, a journey and not a destination.

Long time residents will concede that this Norwich is not their grandparents' city and the youngest among us are looking forward to the day when their Norwich doesn't resemble the one in which we live now. While we are very proud of our municipally-owned Norwich Public Utilities, NPU, and the level of service and professionalism they provide to all of their customers, and the beneficiaries of the revenues they contribute to our general fund, few of us have any illusions about the scale and scope of public utilities across the state and the nation as this century rolls on.

Allowing for growth and adaptation are critical underpinnings of the three point three million dollar bond question on the November ballot for the construction of new gas mains and an expansion of the natural gas service that will allow NPU expansion, at no addition to residents' tax rates or with any rate increase to their gas customers.

NPU would survey a neighborhood first and expand gas service only where there is enough support by new customers to pay for it. Efficiencies of scale would be achieved by targeting those areas most densely populated, first, and working with individual business and residential customers on items such as heating system conversions that would include energy-efficiency improvements. The expanded service base would mean lower rates for all and as gas-sale revenues increased, so, too would utility’s contribution to the city’s fund. The added customers from the expansion of the NPU service area would cover the costs of the bonds.

In many respects, this bond is the most straight-forward and business-like of all three referendum questions. In looking at all three, the challenge we face is reinvigorating neighbors and residents who are discouraged experts. There are many here among us who can cite numerous examples 'what didn't work the last time' to talk themselves out of trying the next time.

Our refusal to let go of the anger and resentment created by past failures keeps us from grasping the promise of the opportunities before us now. Simply put: If we think we can't, we won't. If we don't even try, we'll fail. We'll miss every shot we never take. Between now and Election Day, look again at all the materials and read all the discussions (on both sides of the issues) available on each of the bonds and decide for yourself and your family what Norwich Next should look like. You cannot win if you do not play. Game on.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

If You Don't Swing, Don't Ring

A week from today, it'll be all over (I hope) at least for awhile. I saw a bumper sticker the other day on a car that read: "American Democracy: Designed by Geniuses, Operated by Idiots." It's becoming harder and harder every election season to argue against that sentiment and maybe it's just me but do the elections seem to start earlier and earlier and stretch so long so they seem to be unending marathons?

In some states, just initials please-okay, California- we're talking BEYOND millions or tens of millions of dollars spent to hold a state office. Not that we here in The Nutmeg State are too far behind those sums (actually we are, C'mon Linda, Go Tommy, you can do better!). And it's not that both of those names are Republicans, because, hand on their (greedy and black) hearts, if their opponents had the same financial resources, they'd spend it, too. Listen to the money talk (tailored suits, show of your cars, fine hotels and big cigars) if you can hear it at all over the invective and innuendo and when all else fails, lurid lies hurled at the guy or gal on the other side of the aisle.

I actually thought my mail was broken yesterday. I didn't have a single piece of literature from anyone seeking office anywhere in my state-you should be so lucky, right? But you know what, it's not the crap as content TV commercials with that "...and I approved this message" kiss-off (I certainly didn't approve them, you a$$holes!) or the really slime ball ones created by the national party folks who don't care if truth is the first casualty. Truth to tell, I have a remote and when the campaign slime and sleaze oozes out of the big box in the living room I hunt down another channel (somewhere Ferris Bueller is always on), so while I wax apoplectic at the insanity of the humanity, ain't nothing but a thang.

What really gets me grinding is the perversion of Alex's Bell #1 invention, the phone. The robo-call assault even in a sleepy little place like Connecticut is stunning and stultifying. And it calls in all shapes and sizes-if you've got the money, honey, somebody can be bought to do the dialing and thanks to technology, more often than not, I'm getting pre-recorded calls, personalized with my name as the candidate launches into the canned spam spiel. Who thinks this $hit works, the same cretins and croutons who respond to Nigerian email?

Three days ago I grabbed one of those calls (ringing phones make me crazy (ier)) and said nothing....not a word, didn't even breathe. About six seconds of silence ensued and then the 'volunteer' offered simply, 'Hello?' but still I said nothing. Another pregnant pause and another, this time more worried sounding 'Hellooo?' followed by a third query. My evil twin, Skippy, almost (but not quite) asked the only thing either of us was interested in knowing and I'd already practiced my dark, brown voice to ask 'what are you wearing?' Talk about a bustle in your hedgerow-we'd be on an express elevator to heaven for sure with any kind of an answer to that one...
-bill kenny

Monday, October 25, 2010

Love Among the Ruins

In less than a fortnight, across the country, we'll be rewriting our history. Again. We'll be choosing among more of the same, less of the same or for something that will prove to be completely otherwise. Exactly as we wanted, unless it wasn't. No one has ever said representational government is especially neat and tidy-good thing, because it isn't. And while the big mandala continues to spin, smaller and lower echelon wheels, where much of the real grinding gets done, continue to move.

It's a busy week in Norwich as commissions, committees and boards (oh my!) of all shapes and sizes continue to accomplish much of the heavy lifting that makes Norwich, Norwich (for better or for worse, depending on your perspective).

The Board of Education's Budget Expenditure Committee meets at four thirty this afternoon at 90 Town Street in the Central Office basement conference room. I can offer you August's meeting minutes which will have to do.

At five in Room 210 of City Hall it's a regular meeting of the Redevelopment Agency and they seem to have a very ambitious agenda before them, on our behalf. The expression my wife's countrymen use comes to mind, translated as 'it's never eaten as hot as it's served.' I have just enough napkins to go around.

Interesting item in Room 335 early Tuesday morning, at 7:30-an economic report on the local, state and national third quarter of the fiscal year from the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, CERC, with members of the City Council and Norwich Community Development Corporation, and members of the community who can make themselves available. Hope it's being videotaped for sharing later on public excess, I mean access, and that word gets out as to when that will be on.

At 3:30 in the Central Office's basement conference room, which has a growing reputation for being the cool kids' hangout, it's a regular meeting of the Policy Committee. For those who wondered about the 'oops!' lunch policy that's been in the news, had you followed these meetings more closely, you'd have seen the process as well as the product. Sometimes it's not the talking part we get wrong, it's the listening.

The Harbor Management Commission, whose September meeting minutes aren't posted on the city's website, meets at five in Room 219 in City Hall. I didn't see an update on the Heritage Trail rehabilitation in the harbor district on last month's meeting agenda so I don't know how far along that has gotten but it should be close to being done (I hope) as it's been years since the Chelsea end of the Trail has been closed off.

And at six at 16 Golden Street in the Norwich Public Utilities (NPU) training room it's a twofer, Board of Public Utilities' Commissioners meeting and (at NO additional charge) a Sewer Authority Meeting. I can think of at least one person who'd like me to believe he thinks there's a secret stash of NPU meeting minutes-and if he says so often enough, it will be true. If that idea works, please try pony rides for birthdays as your next project, Florida, as I'd love one.

Wednesday afternoon at 5:30 in the basement conference room of the Planning Department at 23 Union Street, it's a regular meeting of the Board of Review of Dangerous Buildings followed by the 751 North Main Street Committee who, in turn, at least in theory, are followed by the 21 West Thames Street Committee. All three of these committee's meeting minutes are less than satisfactory and EXTREMELY out of date. My memory may be going, but I think some months ago the City Council appropriated money to fund the demolition of 21 West Thames Street so that committee may be past tense, or not (this is where meeting minutes come in really handy).

At seven, in their meeting room at the Golf Course on the New London Turnpike, it's a regular meeting of the Golf Course Authority. All I can offer you for background reading are the August draft minutes as, wait for it, there are NO September meeting minutes on the city's website.

Thursday morning at 7:30 in their offices at 77 Main Street is a regular meeting of the Norwich Community Development Corporation. The agenda for Thursday morning and the minutes of the previous meetings are an email away, just drop Shelley C a note at admin@askncdc.com (it does NOT work for pony rides, trust me on this one).

That's the highlights and some of the headlights of meetings in The Rose of New England for this week-leading me, and I'm not always alone on this, to wonder, how in the world did the excellent baby wind up in this hotel so broken inside?
-bill kenny

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Came in Here for the Special Offer

Spent a not inconsiderable amount of time yesterday afternoon in a sporting goods superstore-the kind so large it has its own zip code and border security force. It's been a long time since I've gone browsing for sporting gear.

As a kid I had a Whitey Ford pitcher's mitt-a right-hander's model which, since Whitey was a lefty, was quite the rarity. Every off-season, I'd stick a baseball in the pocket and my father would put a small amount of neatsfoot oil on a rag and I'd rub it in good, use those rubber bands kids in the Sixties used to hold up their shin guards when they played soccer, and stick the mitt in the back mousetrap of my bike. Then I'd wait for Spring. Probably similar to the routine that A. J. Burnett went through yesterday morning, though he probably also refrigerated the leftover whipped cream.

I have zero business in a sporting goods store. The only place more useless is my being in a hardware store-or, as they're called now, a 'home improvement store.' FWIW, I improve our home every weekday morning when I leave for work. My wife, Sigrid, is the handy person. I'm not even allowed to have tools-much less a charge plate from one of those behemoth stores. I LOVE when we go into one together and the folks on the floor start talking to me about the Finnegan bolts and Johnson rod adapters. It's a guy thing and I'm as close as they can get. She has to tell them to talk to her as the blank look on my face isn't enough of a clue....

All I wanted to see was what the store had for pedometers-the one I have is that classic example of 'you get what you pay for' and had pretty much spit the bit last week. I passed a whole section dedicated to darts which, and spare me the angry notes, I'm not really sure is even a sport. I mean, let's face it, is card playing a sport? How about slot machines? Folks play them all in bars across the country, but still. And don't give me that 'it's on ESPN!' crap-they broadcast spelling bees and unless we're talking jungle rules, that's not sports.

It took me over an hour to find pedometers-past all the fishing stuff, the running shoes, the not running shoes, the bicycles, and footballs, soccer balls, something called a golf ball adjustment tool (I did NOT stop to explore). My favorite item may have been the heart rate and pulse monitor with GPS; the box said it was manufactured to comply with NASA specs which sounds vaguely bogus as I have to assume the Johnson Space Center knows all of it astronauts would be in the capsule or in the space station in the first place. GPS for astronauts is like having FIVE run-flat tires for your car. With a starting price of $129.99, it did get my heart racing and I had a sudden craving for Tang.

I flagged down an associate in a short-sleeved forest green sport shirt with the store's name above the right breast-in this instance perhaps more than a little overshadowed by same, to help me locate the pedometers. She conceded she had no idea where pedometers would be but to be helpful yelled to a colleague 'this old dude is looking for a Ped-OH-meter-we got any?' Preferably something other than the old dude model, which they did, and I noted the prices and headed for the exit to do some comparison shopping elsewhere. Funny, I suspect unless I use GPS even if I cannot find a single pedOHmeter anywhere else on earth, I won't be able to find my way back to that sports superstore, dude.
-bill kenny

Saturday, October 23, 2010

And You Were Worried about Fruitcake.....

It turns out if you're looking for the gift that keeps on giving for a small child, I have two words for you: Happy Meal. As if there weren't enough people and organizations all frothing at the mouth and other orifices over these boxes of joy that comes with a toy, it turns out this really is a case of 'but wait! There's more!' (lots more)

Just me, or does your flesh crawl when reading a title like citizen journalist? Perhaps we're channeling Orson Welles and all that's left is the drawing to see who gets to be Rosebud's stunt double in the remake. Sort of like the days of 'comrade' when the worst thing we feared was the Red Menace, no relation to Red Auerbach, unless you're a fan of the ABA.

Anyway, back at the Golden Arches, the game's (been) afoot for some time now. Did you want fries with that? I appreciate these stories-what sentient human being wouldn't? Okay, wer so doof fragt...but proving I'm an equal opportunity sniper.....for your viewing disbelief, from the other side of the aisle.

I find it oddly comforting to know that if we manage to end our species' stay on this planet through one of those oops! moments with nuclear or biological weapons, the cockroaches who will survive will not be scarfing down any of those yummy treats they'll be able to reach right through the drive-thru window. How scared should we really be that bugs and bacteria want NO part of the stuff we're shoveling down our gullets with both hands?

As someone who actually enjoys eating fruitcake and puts up with an enormous amount of noise about that at the Christmas holidays (I now eat very little since even the smallest slice can put me in a diabetic coma), I'm looking forward to learning more about the ever growing number of other immortal foods we're eating.

I'm pleased to think that when the Rapture begins and it's really and truly Apocalypse Now, we'll have more than just loaves and fishes this time. And don't forget the Twinkies. Mmmm.
-bill kenny

Friday, October 22, 2010

Not Exactly Vivaldi

The calendar says it's autumn in New England, and the leaf peepers are out on weekends trying to catch that blaze of color across the countryside's woodlands that signals the beginning of the end of this year's cycle of the seasons and warms the hearts of lift operators, bed and breakfast owners and snow plow drivers everywhere in the Northeast-I'm just hoping we're not there yet.

Yesterday we had just about all the different kinds of weather within forty-five minutes in the middle of the afternoon that you can have without the use of prescription drugs (I'm told). And put the Cialis down, Casanova; the Titanic may sail at dawn but you're not gonna be sitting in one of the hot tubs, so ride easy.

After a mostly cloudy and punky day (I hate to be critical since I'm certainly not very good at creating days, or nights for that matter, but it was pretty crappy outside) the skies darkened almost beyond belief and then a hard rain fell on the just and the unjust, as well as those just being there. I heard later that Montville, a town not to far from the bridge over which I was driving, had a hail storm (how large were they, you ask; the Letterman clip is NOT available so do your own bit) but, thankfully, no injuries were reported.

As suddenly as the end of the world had started, it stopped and the clouds parted and the sun came out until about a half hour later when it happened all over again. I'd wonder if God had Alzheimer's and ADD, but if s/he didn't and does really exist, when I stand before the Throne of Judgement, I'll hear ALL about the beginning of this sentence. I'm going to be in enough trouble already so let's pretend you wondered about it instead, okay?

After the second round, it warmed up and became a quite nice, albeit very short, afternoon but I could see the lingering clouds as evening reached out to embrace us. I don't mind a biblical visitation of the plagues, if it's absolutely unavoidable, but I'm hoping we start with the frogs. After all, they're supposed to taste like chicken, right?
-bill kenny

Thursday, October 21, 2010

If Today Was Not an Endless Highway

The first time I saw her, my wife, Sigrid, in a club in the Sachsenhausen district of Frankfurt am Main, she was wearing a Buffalo Sabres hockey jersey-a souvenir and remembrance of an earlier relationship. I never met 'him' and, not surprisingly, we've never talked about him, which is sort of funny since I wouldn't be here, in these circumstances, without him.

She was, and remains, the most beautiful woman I have ever known. Then, her hair was dark and came to the small of her back, which for a very long time has been one of my favorite places. Now, she wears it much shorter and frets when she finds a grey hair (I'm one of the reasons why she has them) and I say nothing but smile at the wonder of it all.

I was tongue-tied for months after first seeing her and when I finally did speak, I told her I loved her because that's the way I am, and the way it was. We were engaged at Easter of 1977, before about forty percent of the people currently on earth were even born and were married thirty-three years ago, today, in the Offenbach Rathaus at shortly after ten in the morning.

Chris, who became Moni's husband and then 'becca and David's dad, then a widower and who now lives in Texas was my best man. He was the person who discovered my 'translator' (I spoke little to no German at that time) had memorized the ceremony's language in English and that was the extent of her knowledge of my language. Zwei hundredt deutschmark im arsch, wie Ich mich erinnere...

Evelyn, at the time Rick's wife and still Kevin's mom, was maid/matron of honor and afterwards we all went to a small restaurant not that far from the Rathaus for a celebratory meal that Franz, who passed some years ago, Sigrid's dad, and Anni, her mom, organized. Some time later we visited, as a married couple, one of her aunts who doubted we would ever marry, noting 'after I have triplets!' (I looked at her husband and thought 'it must be magic married to this one'). I asked as best I could, 'wie gehts den die drillenge? how are the triplets?' (which earned me neither language skills nor style points; two trends that continue to this day).

Sigrid is the last person I think about before I close my eyes and the first after I open them. She is very much 'like breathing out and breathing in' for me and I can only wish you, at some time in your life, will find and have someone who makes everything you do, good and bad, worth the waking. We have two children, themselves now adults, but always our children-Patrick and Michelle-who have enriched our lives more than words of any language can ever capture.

I have little recollection of my life before our marriage. Admittedly, I'm better off that way. I do recall being mostly unlovable except when I was unbearable. It matters not to the woman who married me. Even after all the years, when she looks at me, I can do anything--a feeling no one else has ever inspired in me. That I have nothing I need do for her to love me is amazing in ways I cannot explain. I'm pretty sure, especially in the years since arriving in the New World, that (at times) this isn't the life she signed up for under 'for better or for worse' and I, too, keep waiting for better days even as they grow shorter.

It still seems to me like we married last week though, I suspect, she feels it's longer than it actually is (because the Germans use the metric system, at least that's why I hope so) and I'm grateful for every day we've had and every memory we've made. I hope the years we are yet to have together are even more than the ones we've shared. You are an angel of snow-too lovely to hold and too beautiful not to try. Happy Anniversary, Angel Eyes!
-bill kenny

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Last of the Old Home Place

In less than two weeks, voters in Norwich, in addition to electing a variety of people to state-wide office as well as choosing who shall represent them in both houses of the state legislature will also have decided on three economic development questions on this year's ballot.

The three initiatives, while addressing entirely different projects, have similarities to include a demonstration by those of us who live here in ourselves through self-investment-putting our money where our mouths are and by beginning the process of shifting the tax base and grand list from residential to commercial.

A lot has been written about downtown revitalization, though at times it seems to me a lot less has been successfully communicated about it. Last Wednesday I shared what I understood to be the facts and salient points on that initiative. This Wednesday I'd like to offer some notes about the 1.5 million dollar bond to upgrade the Stanley Israelite Business Park.

The Business Park was established in the 1960's, and its 450 acres and fifty companies provide employment to over 2,500 people and also includes residential housing and is the home of Senator Thomas A. Dodd Baseball Stadium, the home of the Connecticut Tigers. The Business Park generates a little more than 1.9 million dollars in annual tax revenue while adding nearly$674,000 in utility payments.

Any investment of public money anywhere in Norwich should increase the number of businesses, enhance the growth of the Grand List, add jobs and positively impact the household income of those who live here. One of the rules of business, to include the business of government, is you have to spend money to make money.

A "yes" vote for the business park improvements would allow for an infrastructure investment and improvement that would include resurfacing roads, in many cases three and four decades old, heavily trafficked and in need of extensive (rhymes with expensive, but not as expensive as starting over which will be all that can be done in a few more years), upgrading to energy efficient street lighting throughout the business park and clearing the underbrush and overgrowth back from the shoulders and rights of way as part of creating pedestrian and bicycle paths for the use of employees of the businesses currently in the park as well as by the residents in the various housing units.

The 1.5 million dollar bond will help reposition an aging, but still vital, business park as a attraction and destination for new businesses while also helping retain current tenants thus expanding the general fund and public utilities' revenue streams while increasing and enhancing the overall quality of life for everyone in Norwich, no matter where in the city you live. And as the bloom returns to The Rose of New England, the glow of prosperity across the region will grow brighter and greater.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hopefully, NOT the second Monday of this week

I'm hopeful today, no matter how goofy it gets (and I'm hoping to attend a candidates' forum for candidates for state representative and state senate tonight), it will be a little less scattered than I was yesterday. I really am a creature of habit so much so that the slightest alteration in a routine can throw me for a loop and yesterday morning gave me an inadvertent opportunity to try my Jerry Lewis impersonation without waiting for Labor Day.

Not sure why Monday mornings seem to constitute a surprise attack for me to the depth and degree that they do, but it happens all the time. I try most Sunday evenings before turning in to get all the stuff I do on auto-pilot assembled and pre-staged so I don't have to do a lot of thinking (or better yet, ANY at all, until I'm out of the house). It's all pretty simple stuff, which is only fair since I'm simple as well.

I've gotten into an almost routine about working out at the gym around the corner from where I work every morning after I arrive in my office. Sometimes it's the treadmill, sometimes it's the elevated indoor track or the recumbent bicycle (no relation to the Hamptons' DNA, I've been told). Viva le Variete! More or less.

Yesterday I'd only just gone around the block when I realized I'd forgotten an outer coat to wear during the day. Not that big a deal as I squared the block, pulled into our driveway, let myself in through the front door and retrieved my jacket and was gone with the wind, if the wind were now a fifty-eight year old doddering idiot. Oh Rhett! Yes, Scarlett. Of course, your mileage may vary, wildly.

Back on track I sped to work, ready to head to the Jamesnasium (I don't know it well enough to be informal, yet) and discovered I'd forgotten a large towel for use after my shower (you only think you know where this is going? HA!). Much like the jacket I'd forgotten and then retrieved, the towel is an item I only use every day of the work week, so it's understandable how I might have lost sight of having one.

One of the pleasant memories I have with my late father was helping him on one of the innumerable IP (idiot projects-I came up with that all by myself) he had, hanging rain gutters from the eaves of one of our family's summer houses. Of course, we were attempting to do this in the rain-why else would he want to put them up? Dad was a brilliant man with no mechanical aptitude (I take after him except for the brilliance) who not only knew everything, he knew everything better, including how to hang rain gutters without reading any of the instructions. We had so many hangers, and wires and bolts it looked like a hardware store had exploded. I can still hear his words, 'anyone can follow instructions; a genius improvises.'

If that's true, I should've called the Mensa society because I was channeling Einstein. It came to me like a flash-just because I had forgotten my towel didn't mean I needed to forgo my apres-workout shower. Thank goodness, the locker room hadn't gone to those electric hand driers! It still had those large rolls of brown paper towels, one grade less severe than sandpaper I think, and I unrolled YARDS of the stuff (Christo would have been envious since my shoes matched the color of the paper), hopped into the shower, lathered, rinsed, repeated and jumped back out.

Of course, jumped was also what some of the other guys in the locker room were doing, very much underwhelmed by my improvisational aptitude. I don't think there had been this much hub-bub with a shower since Bobby Ewing. I never let on that anything was out of the ordinary-just me and my Bounty Buddy, the quicker-picker-upper. And yes, since you're asking as my wife did when I told her about this, it definitely works. Just not indefinitely. Sure hope I have a second set of trousers in my desk drawer since I can't shake the feeling I forgot something again this morning. Two Mondays in a row. Some guys have all the luck.
-bill kenny

Monday, October 18, 2010

Right Now (Norwich Meetings 18-22 October 2010)

This is a week of both political posturing and nitty-gritty governance in and around The Rose of New England and I leave it to your discretion to sort out the former from the latter as merrily we roll along (some will be easy to spot; some not so much).

This morning at nine in the Rose City Senior Center, it's a regular meeting of the Senior Affairs Commission. It'd be nice if one of the items on the agenda were an effort to enhance the currency of the information on their previous meetings as reflected on the city's website. A draft of the November meeting minutes from last year is the most recent posting and, simply put, that just isn't good enough.

At five in Room 209 of City Hall it's a special meeting of the Volunteer Fireman's Relief Fund Committee and at seven thirty, the main event (so to speak) in Council Chambers is a regular meeting of the City Council. There have been large headlines in recent days in both local newspapers over a question and answer session with the incumbent state representatives, but not their opponents, that could be, or not, political theater of the highest order. The timing is a bit curious (as is the motivation), I'll admit, and if you are as well, perhaps you'll be in attendance.

Checking the meeting agenda (and the Q & A kabuki theater ISN'T on it; color me unamazed) take a look at the return of an item (#1), in my opinion, that flies in the face of everything this City Council claims it wants to do in terms of economic development and public/private partnerships. I will not be surprised when the council vote on this looks exactly like 'business as usual in the bad, old days.'

Tuesday afternoon at 5:30 in the Latham Science Center on the Norwich Free Academy (NFA) campus, it's a regular meeting of the NFA Board of Trustees. Norwich Free Academy is more than just a high school for Norwich and a number of neighboring communities, and it should be interesting to learn more about the efforts to expand student enrollment and the impact on the institution and on the taxpayers of the sending towns.

At six, there's a regular meeting in Room 210 at City Hall of the Personnel and Pension Board. A glance at their meeting agenda offers, I think, a good snapshot of the scale and scope of decisions we trust our neighbors to make.

At seven in the basement conference room of the Planning Department, 23 Union Street, it's a regular meeting of the Commission on the City Plan. Based on the minutes of the September meeting, there could be a public hearing on a proposed development held over from the previous meeting.

Also at seven, across town in the Holiday Inn on Laura Boulevard, sponsored by the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce, is a candidate's forum for those wishing to represent Norwich in both the upper and lower houses of the Legislature. The newspapers call it a debate, but that's NOT technically what it is. Hopefully it will be as informative as the one held ten days ago by the League of Women Voters in the Otis Library and maybe this time all the candidates can take part whether their opponent is there or not. You can submit questions to the moderators via email, info@norwichchamber.com. See you there.

Wednesday morning at nine in The Dime Bank Community Room on Route 82, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich School Readiness Council (NSRC (Children First), who've sort of written the book, or at least a website, on how not to comply with Public Act 08-3. I wonder if the NSRC will have anything to do with the Norwich Education Excellence for Today and Tomorrow's School Design Team (NEXTT) initial meeting slated to start at 8 that same morning (check with the Board of Education as the location; I'm really fuzzy on that aspectand don't want to steer you wrong) and run until noon. But then again....

Thursday afternoon at five, it's a regular meeting of the Historic District Commission in Room 319 of City Hall. Their August meeting was cancelled and their September meeting minutes are among the many missing from the municipal website so perhaps history, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Thursday at six, at the Ice Rink on New London Turnpike, it's a regular meeting of the Ice Arena Authority who also cancelled their September meeting. And starting at seven, in the Betty Tipton room of the Eastern Connecticut State University student center, is a candidates' forum for those seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat in Washington D. C.

Stop telling yourself, and the rest of us, that it doesn't matter for whom you vote, because it does and it always has. But if you don't believe it, we can't change anything, ever. "What are you waiting for? It's your tomorrow. Catch that magic moment and do it right. Miss the beat, you lose the rhythm. Turn this thing around."
-bill kenny

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Never Ending Now

An acquaintance who serves in the Connecticut Legislature's lower house is seeking re-election and because God has a sense of humor, I enjoy his energy and engagement a great deal and don't live in his district and cannot vote for him. Of course, since he's a pragmatist, he could just as easily point out the good news is I can't vote for his opponent. Sort of the grey cloud surrounding the silver lining (they just don't get the good press the way they used to).

I read in an article someone posted on Saturday a by-District analysis of every candidate seeking elected office across Connecticut (you probably have some kind of a voter's guide similar to this where you live) and there's been lots of chatter about who's a 'liberal' or a 'conservative.' And, from the way some of the comments on the reader boards are flowing the L word isn't the one the Showtime producers were banking on. I'm surprised at the number of folks I know seeking office who exult in calling themselves one or the other of the terms, like it was some sort of a badge, when it's a label for the thinking impaired.

Remember in high school with too much homework due at the same time, you'd grab a Cliff's Notes version of one (or more) of the mandatory reading assignments and rationalize it with 'what's the harm?' Let's face it, it's not like they made cheat sheets for trig or chemistry like they did for Tolstoy, right? I look back and realize some (or more) of my English teachers had to know I was dialing it up and phoning it in. They figured, correctly I'd argue, that the guy getting the short end of the deal was I since I was depriving myself of actually enjoying and learning from some of the best of 20th Century American Literature. Probably still not caught up.

And that's the danger of the label and the drive-by analysis. All ducks are birds, but not all birds are ducks. If you can reduce the world in which we live to a one word political perspective in how you will be guided, and or how you will lead if chosen, I have a very different word to describe you and it's a lot more accurate than you'd like. I cannot believe you just clicked on that link and now you're angry at anyone other than yourself for so doing! C'mon....

My point-nobody eats just chocolate ice cream, or just vanilla or just any single flavor at all. We see the world through a perspective developed by everyone we've ever met and ever known. We are all of those people, just not all at the same time. We are the most complex organism on the planet, the crown of creation (with apologies to Marty and Paul) so it's silly and stupid to limit yourself to one-dimensional thought, especially in a world as complex as the one in which we are living. We owned all the tools ourselves but not the skills to make a shelf with. The Never Ending Now becomes a prison and not the sanctuary. Too late, we recognize the face of the jailer as our own.
-bill kenny

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I hear you're mad about Brubeck

I had to go back into my work late last night. By late, I don't mean at the midnight hour, though comparatively, it sort of felt that way. I was done for the day, came home from work, ran a few errands, ate dinner with Sigrid and Michelle and then found myself with little choice but to return to the office and get a task accomplished that had slipped my mind.

I all honesty, that's only half the reason why I came back to work. The other half is I knew it wouldn't slip the minds of everyone else to whom I had promised it for Monday. Like so many others I've had the good fortune with whom to work, I've become a prisoner of my own reputation. My own sense of good and bad, in terms of performance, will not allow me to offer other than the best effort, even if the person I'm working with/for is a clueless bozo who couldn't tell a cool breeze from a cold steel rail.

We've had some junky weather the last couple of days mostly as the result of a hurricane moving across the Carolinas (I say that like I know more than traffic and weather together on the eight's, which I don't) and it's not the most pleasant time of the year to have it happen a sit gets dark earlier and the leaves change and then fall off, usually all over the roads where the wind and rain just add to the fun.

Not helping last night was driving behind someone overly cautious-always under the speed limit by about six to ten miles an hour, creating more of a problem on the state highway than any of the weather conditions that precipitated her/his exaggerated sense of caution. Whoever the driver was, they are a huge fan of the dog from the TV show, Family Guy, Brian Griffin. I have no idea why though the vehicle did have Rhode Island plates. Seth McFarlane? I think not.

Oh yeah, and lots of stickers of Massachusetts based sports teams, sometimes combining the two (seemingly starkly different) motifs so that on the back window you had Brian, back to us, upright and peeing on the Yankees logo (how's the off-season hanging, Theo? Fahr'n wir nach Lodz? Denk nicht dran), One-Trick Brian watering a NY Knicks logo and a NY Jets logo as well as, well, you get the picture.

When I noticed in the upper left had corner of the rear window, Brian emptying his bladder on a circle with 'Obama' written in it, my sense of whimsy exited the building along with Elvis. I remember learning about democracy in Mrs. Hilge's class in Saint Peter's--we had a projector with a movie and a speaker and when the lights came on, also learned we had a bad take-up reel as the film was all unspooled on the floor. The movie was 'How Democracy Works' and to this day, fifty (!) years on, I can recall we all sat slack-jawed with amazement at how cool elections were (in the movie) and how important it all was that we always remembered to vote.

So much for the best idea-make it personal. Get down in the dirt and roll with it. I don't recall the movie having a single frame with Brian in it, or that damn monkey pushing a wheelbarrow full of money. But it was a half century or so ago. And when I really get to know you, we'll open up the doors and climb into the dawn. Confess your passion, your secret fear. Prepare to meet the challenge of the new frontier.
-bill kenny