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Friday, December 31, 2010

Victory Lap

Some of us who started this year are not now among us as it ends. If in the course of your day you have a moment to remember absent friends, I hope you shall, and do, because sometimes missing people is how we measure the cost of our own lives and love. Someday there may be an easier way to do that, perhaps we'll evolve as a gimmick-driven species with a display or a gauge on our foreheads, but we're not there yet and, speaking only for me perhaps, I'm not in any hurry to get there.

This last week of 2010 was special for me as I renewed the acquaintanceship of someone I knew when we both were in a previous life in another hemisphere. It was nice reminiscing with Karen and helps remind me that sometimes we gain and keep friends as we move through life-it's not always a series of hellos and goodbyes. In this case, it was hello again.

In that spirit of sharing I wanted to pass along a custom we observe every year in my house, brought with us to the New World from the Old Country. This is, I think, the first year in the last twenty-eight (!) that my wife and I will be alone for the New Year. We started watching this presentation when it was just us and I hope you enjoy it as much as we always did when we watched it with our children and still do by ourselves (again). Guten Rutsch!
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Arriving Somewhere

The year is nearly done, the race is almost run. For many of us, all that's left is the settling up of the tab for the year, with your significant other, your boss, your bank, your neighbors and family and friends. Maybe a foggy memory or two of this time last year and how bad things had been and the hope that the coming year would be better. Whoa. How'd that work out, eh?

Hard to believe for so many of us this will some day be part of the Good Old Days. Sure seems like there's something wrong with that idea, right? I mean, don't you feel like we've been running in place in a bowl of soup? We're not even leaving a hole with each footfall-it just fills in as quickly as we lift our heel up and out to place it forward again.

We keep waiting for things to turn around. When they do, somehow they don't. Earlier this week there was a report that the private sector in the US added 1.4 million jobs, overseas. So that adage about what's good for General Motors and the economic well-being of the Land of the Free is really and truly from another time, I suppose. And no matter how hard we try, we can't make it here anymore.

I could apologize if I'm harshing your buzz or, perhaps, your plans for tomorrow night but I won't because I wanted to keep something between you and your End of Year intentions so today is that day. I just want to make sure all of us calculate the total cost of a lifestyle that, for us in recent years may have seemed to grow harder, but is still the desire and dream of many people all around the world. And don't think for a minute, whatever we've paid is too much because it isn't, but if we're alive to write this and read it, we've gotten off light.

We began as a place of refuge in locales as diverse as Virginia and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, becoming thirteen settlements hugging the Atlantic Coast. It took us a century, and more, to cross the Mississippi, reach to the Pacific Northwest, to the Great Southwest and on to the coast of California and to both the Aleutian and the Hawaiian Islands. We fought natives, the British, one another and too many others as we reinvented ourselves to reflect people of every race, color, creed. It wasn't easy and was often less than popular but it was always the right thing to do.

Half a world away, today and every day, we have the flower of a generation, the crown of creation-whatever turn of phrase you come up with to make yourself feel good about people whose reports of service take up seconds a night on the evening news-squared off against as implacable a foe as this nation has faced in its history, and most of us in this country don't know, don't care and/or don't want to know. In case, you thought their sacrifice was forgotten because it seemed to be hidden, it wasn't. You, too are a witness.

"Never trust the sound of rain upon a river." No one steps into the same river twice as both you and the river have changed. For all those whose final steps of 2010 were forfeiture of their lives in defense of ours, let's promise one another to all do better, together, in the next year.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Here's to the Strangers on the Streets Tonight

Nothing like a weekend snowstorm to give you time for introspection as the year comes to an end and to look back and look forward, practically in the same motion. We're pretty good around here at seeing the half-empty glass so allow me to spend a moment and expend a few words on celebrating the contents of what every half-full glass may hold.

We generated a lot of heat here in The Rose City these last twelve months. How much light was created from all the flying sparks remains to be seen but after decades of talking to one another about doing something about downtown economic redevelopment, we started to walk the walk, albeit with halting steps.

For the villages that make up Norwich, from Laurel Hill to Occum, or Taftville to Bean Hill and all points in between, we seem to have finally agreed the City of Norwich looks to the Chelsea District the way the fingers on the hand look to the thumb. Whether or not this is as good or as important as we have come to believe it is has yet to be proved, but that's something we should be doing in the first months of 2011 which begins, in case you'd forgotten, this Saturday.

The best thing about unsolicited advice is there's no obligation to take it, so do with what follows as you wish. The more immediately and clearly a vision for downtown redevelopment is DEFINED (by those elected and selected to do so), the more effectively it can be REFINED into a plan with measurable goals and recognizable milestones by those city agencies and private citizens who are building the Next Norwich.

Perhaps, long before now, roles should have been laid out for those involved in downtown's economic development. Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted. I'm thinking we've learned (finally) that lesson.

Thus, as we demonstrated so often in 2010 (and earlier) we can continue to miss what we do not have, or we can choose to make the best of what we do have and create a blueprint for downtown economic development that enables interested businesses and others across the private sector to partner with city agencies and enhance the quality (and quantity) of life in the Chelsea District for the benefit of all residents.

Of course, we can also quarrel and quibble about who's driving and who's reading the map while we all take turns honking the horn (myself most especially included) until we've expended the last of the bond money, exhausted public enthusiasm (and patience) about redevelopment efforts, and change nothing anywhere for anyone, despite our best intentions. We, alone, must decide and then live with the consequences of our decision.
Happy 2011 and Let the Day Begin finally.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow Is a Four Letter Word

I felt sort of unclean claiming yesterday as a snow day-I'm already on vacation so I'm not skipping out from work or anything, and I did get up early because Sunday evening's forecasts had led me to believe that the overnight snowfalls across New England were to be horrendous.

I'd gone out late Sunday afternoon/early Sunday evening (thank goodness we've already had the shortest day of the year, eh?) and moved about four inches of snow. Yes, the wind was howling and the snow was falling horizontally but local TV weather forecasters and the Weather dot com brigade had calmly assured me that the worst was yet to come.

Around these parts when a storm is abrewin' we head to the local market and stock up on bread, milk and toilet paper. I'm not sure why, but trust me on this, we do it and we do it better than anyone anywhere has ever done anything like this before. Nowhere else in the universe has the connection from Charmin' to Armageddon Now (or even a little later) been made with the certainty that we have. Seriously, who among us wants to answer 'Nope' to the Got Milk question? That's what I'm talking about.

Anyway, we didn't really have anywhere near the snow we were threatened to receive-I'm NOT complaining and certainly NOT boasting, just stating a fact. My cross-town friend, Jerry, dug himself out and, as a Christmas present, cleared two of his neighbors walkways as well. As random acts of kindness go, a pretty fine one, I think.

I used our snowblower to push back out into the street the snow at the foot of our right of way that the city plows had pushed into it, so that as I was finishing up, the plow could come back down the street and push it all back in again. The circle of life, I suppose.

I had enough time lounging around the house to work my cross country ski machine exerciser in the basement for an hour-okay not as exciting as the cross country skiing Grosse Patrick in DC talks about this time of year, but cardio is cardio though some people like the downhill stuff. I smiled watching ESPN as talk turned to the for-Tuesday rescheduled pro football game that Sunday's weather postponement created.

All the chitter and chatter about pro football players, or any professional athletes, as 'warriors' makes me want to throw up in my own mouth but this time I also felt sorry for how we ignored the fans who enable all of this goofiness by shelling out hundreds per ticket (plus who knows what for a 'seat license' whatever that is) while these guys have at it. Lots of folks I suspect who thought they were going to a Sunday afternoon football game, going home and getting up for work yesterday morning won't be able to go to a live game tonight, but thanks for the money.

I spent more than a minute thinking about the hundred plus thousand actual warriors, men and women in uniform and those supporting them, we currently have in Afghanistan whose service makes possible my, and permit me to speak for a moment for you as well when I say, our mewling and puking about bad weather, slick roads and cancelled professional sporting events. And let me repeat my observation from the other day in a different venue: for those who found a Flexible Flier under the tree on Christmas morning and were hoping for enough snow to try it out, I have something for you, vier beruehmten buchstaben. Genau!
-bill kenny

Monday, December 27, 2010

Look Around, You Find the Ground

At the end of each year, we have a tendency to take inventory-to grab a snapshot of where we are and compare it to where we hoped we'd be. Or maybe that's just me. Another year where the goal was to be six feet tall by Christmas, fluent in a half dozen languages and promoted to a Captain of Industry. All epic fail. Again. It's okay to have our reach exceed our grasp, or what's a world for? I'd be more concerned if we stopped reaching, if not for a dream then for one another. As it is, that you try at all means you have succeeded, and, because you need to try again, should not mean you have failed.

As the days of this year dwindle to none, the meetings here in Norwich of citizen volunteers are pared to nearly the same number, which may be just as well as clearing snow from sidewalks, passageways and streets might well be the larger order of the day in the days to come.

Today's scheduled meeting of the Redevelopment Agency was shifted to two weeks ago, so I guess the take-away here is that the roof on the Reid and Hughes building is still in whatever shape it was in previously (private joke, please forgive me) . Meanwhile the minutes of that special meeting held on the 15th have yet to be posted to the city's website in accordance with state law, so perhaps the joke isn't so private after all. Especially now.

The only meeting, says the city's website, that's actually taking place this week is Tuesday's Harbor Management Commission meeting at five. According to the October meeting agenda (the last item posted to the city's website in connection with these volunteers), the meeting is in the City Manager's office.

If you're looking for light reading (with some serious themes)to tide you over until the new year and hoped to read "handouts from the 12/17/10 Legislative Breakfast" with the City Council and the Board of Education held at the Rose City Senior Center, thanks to some patience from Josh P (who was kind enough to point me in the right direction), you'll find them at the above link. Sounds like a quibble I know, but they could be easier to find; but in fairness, they are easier to find than the notes from the weekly Mayor's meetings which have yet to make an appearance on the website.

We elected people a year or so ago whom I understood were committed to maintaining transparency in our municipal government. It's not too early to start thinking about who made that promise and who kept it, and deciding accordingly November next. Maybe we should all look to learn more from, and about, people who seem to enjoy playing keep away with information needed to make informed decisions.

That might make a nice New Year's resolution: be a light instead of a horn. Don't just make a difference, be the difference on your street, around your neighborhood and in your city. This time next week, the year has run and a new one has begun. Don't dwell on deeds that may not be done and the things behind the sun.
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Second Serving of Celebrations

In my wife's country, Germany, today is Second Christmas, known elsewhere on the European continent as the Feast of St. Stephen (of Good King Wenceslas fame) and in the United Kingdom, it's called Boxing Day (you wondered how a nation of shopkeepers had a world-wide empire upon which the sun never set for a century? Mindsets like Boxing Day, boyo, that's how).

Here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave we will trudge to the mall to return what we found less than thrilling under the tree, or perhaps we'd prefer it in a different size or style, all of which should be fun today if the weather proves to be as turbulent as advertised for the Northeast.

An ocean away people will devote today to celebrating Christmas again, this time more intimately with friends, perhaps dining out or some other social gathering. The first Christmas, yesterday, is for family while today's expands the circle without losing sight of the focus or the festivities.

As someone who will be exchanging three, no, make it four, sorry-make it five long-sleeve casual shirts for different ones which will involve who knows how much time jostling with, and being jostled by, strangers and those even stranger than strangers, I'll try to remember how we used to spend the day and hope some of that civility and sanity will help me through the day. I won't have that problem with my Bruce Springsteen book (put that in your Kindle and smoke it, Jamie), not only because I like it though that probably helps.

These are, with my apologies to Chuck Dickens pretty close to the worst of times for some of us it seems. As Elissa B's new venture reported earlier this week, just down the block from where our son Patrick used to live, a fellow attempted a daylight robbery of an Indian food restaurant with an iPhone (good that you traded yours for a Blackberry, Sally, though push comes to shove I guess armed robbery might be considered an app). From what I've unearthed, when not defending itself against iPhone wielding felons, the restaurant enjoys rave reviews.

At our pace and in our times, I'm hoping that the idea of a Second Christmas makes the leap across the pond and spreads from sea to shining sea as "I'm so hard to handle, I'm selfish and I'm sad. Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on." And Currier and Ives are nearing retirement age and working harder than ever to help keep the hue in human.
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Christmas Story

I first spoke to the woman I was to marry thirty-four years ago tonight. I had seen her, but hadn't worked up the nerve to speak to her, a few weeks earlier but I already knew I would marry her (to this day, I have no idea how I was so smart. But I was).

I had been in (West) Germany only about two months, arriving shortly before Halloween, which, back in the day, wasn't a holiday of any kind in Germany at all-it was strictly a Yank Prank like Thanksgiving only harder to explain to people who weren't American. Chris and I had started out drinking and feeling sorry for ourselves (for being stuck in Germany for the holidays) earlier in the day in the Frankfurt am Main party district, Sachsenhausen, where millions of people, swarming like flies, made passage from anywhere to anywhere else almost impossible.

Eventually, though I have no recollection how, we were to be more in mid-town, down the street from CBS Germany (though we didn't know that at the time) near Eschenheimer Tor. Because I am relentlessly competitive, I got much drunker much faster than Chris who did a very good job looking out for me since, family tradition, once I get my drunk on I'm never confused with Mr. Congeniality. In the decades since all of this happened, I've tried to calculate the number of actions and activities that had to take place, just so, in order for she and I to meet. Since I chose to be a liberal arts major to avoid ever using math in my life, I cannot possibly execute the calculations.

I've long since given up trying to make sense of the world as it was or as it is. I will tell you I believe, because that's how I was raised and habit is often more lasting than logic, that there is a reason for everything we do and everything we fail to do. As attractive as I find the 'we're all hostages from Hades/We're all bozos on this bus' approach to questions about divinity, humanity and the universe at large, I can't really leave it there.

If Christmas is a time of love, and this is the night when I found mine, how can I not encourage you to be of good cheer and renew your faith even if you've yet to meet the person who completes you? A more luckless, lunchless, loser than I could you not have imagined, but a miracle was still mine. Keep your eyes wide and your heart open, there's magic in the air, if you want it.
-bill kenny

Friday, December 24, 2010

They Have to Take You In

Margaret and Adam yesterday evening welcomed Rob home for the holidays from Out West where he works. By the time they grow accustomed to his face he'll be jetting westward again. Thousands of service members from every branch are traveling from Coast to Coast and beyond and that's not including the units who are rotating from or deploying to Afghanistan as the rest of us stumble and mumble through the chorus of Adeste Fideles.

An acquaintance traveled to be with her family on the Other Coast after preparing for weeks for an Eastward trek that would have taken her far away from everyone she knew, but that didn't happen. In the house across the street, our neighbors welcomed home from college their youngest child on semester break into the New Year.

All of us know one or two people who are packing for, or unpacking from, journeys to near and far but mostly to and from someplace they call home.

In our house my wife is going through her checklist making sure everything is ready for Christmas in a household that blends German traditions and American ones to create something all its own and with which she and I are perfectly comfortable after thirty-three Christmases together (thirty-four if you count the night we met but that's a story for tomorrow). Sigrid, as always, did all the decorating inside and out, enlisting our daughter, Michelle, as a consultant and some-time pack mule as strings of light encircled the porch and various animals were assembled on the front lawn near the right of way.

They did a marvelous job of decorating the small Douglas fir I finally failed to kill years ago (unlike the two seedlings that proceeded it) with the lawnmower during the summer season so now it's bedecked in bulbs and glows and gleams on the small plot outside the back fence beside the garage.

We even had a few flakes in the course of the last few days--nothing of note and little that stuck (though I did pull the snowblower out of the garage, stowing it under the backstairs and making sure it was oiled and gassed 'just in case') which triggered an assault on the feeder boxes by the squirrels and made for some happy woodpeckers (Walter Lantz really had no clue) as they gorged themselves on suet, since this time of year no one should want for anything though far too many do.

With luck (and I'll cross my fingers (which will explain my terrible typing)) perhaps Patrick and Jamie will join us late in the day as we sit around the festively decorated tree and open presents while oohing and aahing. Maybe this year we'll post pictures directly to Facebook as some half a billion travelers on the Big Blue Marble do on a daily basis so that people we know, and others we don't but think we do, can share in something they believe they understand when its actual meaning is personal and private.

There will be enough glitz and spritz (not my first choice of word) to almost,but not quite, cause me to forget the insight a son of New England offered long before he stood bare-headed in the freezing cold a half century ago as another New England native assumed the mantle of leadership as Camelot began. And Mary and Warren learned a truth, thanks to Silas. For countless others, everywhere, "Echoes and silence, patience and grace. All of these moments, I'll never replace. No fear of my heart, and absence of faith. And all I want is to be home."
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jockstraps and Jerkoffs

I'm off from work for the next couple of weeks which requires some retooling in my house. My wife, who vowed when we married to love me in sickness and health isn't too crazy about the addition of 'for three meals a day, everyday, for the next two weeks' as part of the deal. Sigrid has her household set up to suit herself and if I know what's good for me and I do (despite numerous historical instances proving the opposite), I should stay out of her way.

For my part, I'm taking a break at getting up before the chickens so that I can hit my desk, start on my day and then break away to hit the close-at-hand fitness center before returning to work aglow from the goodness I've inflicted on myself either on the indoor track or on a treadmill that's so complicated you need to have scored at least 1250 on the SATs to operate. All we are saying, or at least I am panting, is give cardio a chance.

I've decided to live healthy, even if it kills me and the irony of that isn't lost on me. Between the seven days a week calisthenics and the every day fitness center regimen, coupled with salads for every workday mid-day (as part of my "lawn clippings for lunch" dietary initiative) I may not live forever, but I'm well on the way to looking like I already have (and certainly feel it as well).

I've noticed when I'm on the treadmills the liquid plasma displays facing our gerbil wheels are all tuned to ESPN and Fox News (there are enough screens to carry the pattern all the way down the row). I like sports, I do. Tell me the scores, show me the important plays and move on. Don't camp out on the coach's front lawn and do mini-specials on the art of the foul shot, the split-finger curve ball or the 88 Red Draw Right. Not only do I not care, it's not important.

How Nixon and Chou En-Lai came to an agreement in Beijing in 1972 to help end the war in Vietnam, important. What Rex Ryan said to Mark Sanchez on third and long against the Steelers in the fourth quarter Sunday in the snow in Pittsburgh, not so much. I don't mind ESPN too much because I have headphones on and I'm listening to Slacker radio but keep the visuals flowing okay?

One screen to the right (literally as well as figuratively), no such luck. I have to assume it's a repeat (and that brings up a whole lot of questions), but Fox News Channel has Bill O'Reilly and when all you see is the visual without any audio clues, let me tell ya, he is spooky. His guests sit beside one another and talk at the same time, judging from their mouths, then hold up paddles with letters or numbers in answer to some schtick the Billmeister is doing.

And later on, there are other talking heads who pop up, like a now post-operative pre-frontal lobotomized Dennis Miller who jabbers so much that whatever service is paid to do subtitles gets so far behind we're often half way through the commercial break following his appearance and the captioning is still going on.

I'm not sure we wouldn't be better off with HGTV or the Cartoon Network-it's only filler when you come right down to it. Eye candy, really, with no nutritive value but I've looked around and have seen the dozen and a half of us on our wheels, fresh from hitting the water bottles maybe taking a nibble on the carrot, jogging along mouths open and slack-jawed, staring at the screens in some kind of a seance. The glow from the electric fire will not light the world, sorry.

But for these two weeks I'm home, I'll have to content myself with power walking around the neighborhood (I was hoping for a cool nickname like "Blue Flash", in honor of my hoodie (except it's not blue), but will settle for Grey Gimp, because of the sweatshirt (I guess)) or spending time in our unfinished basement on the cross-country skier I rescued from someone's pile of junk a couple of years back.

I gave some thought to setting up a TV down there to keep me company and then feared I wouldn't be able to resist the temptation to drop it as I got to the head of the stairs. If I could get it to land on my son's old soccer ball or flatten my autographed life-size cardboard stand up of Michael Moore hawking his diet book, I might find myself on the big plasma screens with my choice of stations (maybe both!). Perhaps I should put up some paneling, just in case a satellite truck happens by.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In the Place Where I Make No Mistakes

There are six phases to most human interaction, be it between people in a family or residents of a city. Those phases are, in order: Enthusiasm, Disillusionment, Fear, Search for the Guilty, Punishment of the Innocent and Rewards and Honors for the Non-Participants. I'm not sure you'd call it a Natural Law or a Force of Nature-I suspect like a lot of the fables, failings and foibles of the human race, it's just evolved over a long period of time and now it is what it is.

I've lived in Norwich, Connecticut for close to two decades (for some, I know it feels a lot longer and your objections are noted) and watched as the Wauregan Hotel, Dodd Stadium, the Mercantile Exchange and the Intermodal Transportation Center just to name a quartet of 'game changers' were, each in their own way, the magic potion, the miracle ingredient, the silver bullet that would undo decades of decay and indifference and return life and people to downtown Norwich.

And every one of those projects has had, at some point, that six step cycle with special emphasis, it seems to me, on Search for the Guilty. We're just not able to move past setbacks or course corrections unless and until we have someone to blame. And we all know who we mean even if we never say anyone's name. Most people refer to the culprit as 'them' which is deliciously duplicitous because every 'them' is also an 'us' to somebody else, somewhere else.

The trouble with our Six Step Solution is, of course, it solves nothing. We get stuck on stupid and stay there. Anytime we try to revisit a situation and explore an alternative resolution, one of us is always reminded of a time back in the day when someone else had that very idea and 'they' (those mysterious sinister forces again) made sure 'we' couldn't make things right. It would almost be funny if it weren't not only true but in danger of happening again.

The first Tuesday of November, eight weeks and one day ago, registered voters in Norwich approved economic development bond packages to assist our public utilities and to provide a fund to partnership with downtown property owners and entrepreneurs.

I think we surprised ourselves when we voted 'yes' on the downtown proposal because almost since the day after the vote there have been a lot of what sounds like Step Three, Panic, on the way to Step Four, Search for the Guilty as a surprising number of folks who are usually pretty level-headed have gotten a bit wobbly about working together to make downtown a success.

Maybe it's human nature and maybe some of the caution is a good idea-that whole measure twice and cut once frame of mind, but I'd hate to have us fear failing so much we're really unwilling to try. Norwich has over 350 years of history and none of it happened by accident as on innumerable occasions in those years, someone somewhere stopped when others ran, and stood while others cowered and were the new starting point for whatever was to happen next.

We didn't always get it right the first time, either, you know, but we learned from our mistakes and we stopped worrying about who was to bless and who was to blame and started over again and kept starting over again until we got it right. It doesn't make any difference how you got here-it's where you go now that you're here, that's important. And where are you? Next to me. And I'm in the place where I have what it takes. And you do, too.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It began as a game

We take our women's basketball pretty seriously here in Connecticut. One of the most successful franchises in the WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association) is not only located in Uncasville, between New London and Norwich on Route 32, but it's owned by, and is the namesake of, the Mohegan Sun. But none of that would mean anything without the UConn Lady Huskies.

They have won seven national championships in fifteen seasons, have angered to the point of boycott one of the coaching institutions of the women's game, Pat Summitt, and may shortly after nine o'clock this evening have set a brand new longest consecutive win streak, at 89 games, in college basketball, men's or women's. Not everyone has focused on the singularity of that achievement but, rather, have decided to tear and compare the UConn Lady Huskies to John Wooden's UCLA Bruins.

People much smarter about basketball than I (the rim is still ten feet off the floor, right? That's my level of expertise) are all over the map on the accomplishment of the program from Storrs, Connecticut and whatever side folks are on is alright by me. As a dad of two kids who grew up in an America where 'goodness knows, anything goes' it was helpful to have an example of good people doing right things the right way about a fifty minute drive from the house. I've long admired the work ethic and the single-minded relentless pursuit of perfection with which everyone on the team carries themselves on the court.

We live in an era where there's a national broadcast schedule of high school football games every week--two years before the kid was playing Pop Warner and two years before that, Midget, and now he's Mr. Saturday night and he's fourteen and in two more years when he's getting into trouble and 'acting out' none of us will have any idea why. High school basketball has been on regional TV for years. All hail big time sports.

A study the NCAA released in 2009 (of research conducted from 1984 to 2002) of graduation rates of students playing sports tends to harden the cynicism of many about how much life-long learning is going on in the hallowed halls of higher education but all the indicators are women collegiate athletes graduate at a vastly higher rate than men.

I'm a graduate of a Big East school (barely, says my transcript) where basketball is taken very seriously, on both sides of the gender divide, and all of this has been fun to watch, never forgetting at this level that college sports is a money-making machine for the universities with the established programs.

I'm hopeful tonight the women of the University of Connecticut triumph and they can then have a moment to themselves (maybe escort everyone from the Hartford XL Center and lock the doors) to jump and shout, run up and down the bleachers in the arena, sing and dance and straighten their hair and check their wardrobes in the mirror (all of these teams have dress codes for travel and no one ever looks like a dumpster threw up. No one) and then unlock the doors and let everyone back in.

The streak, to whatever number it finally reaches, will end. Whether it is tonight, in a week or in a month, matters not. I would hope the knowledge that such an end awaits should in no way distract the young women and their coaches from enjoying their moment. The effort needed for such an accomplishment is what matters (and should be what is celebrated) and by the time tonight is over it's very possible we'll never again hear the pejorative 'plays like a girl,' and that will be best thing about the streak.
-bill kenny

Monday, December 20, 2010

I Wish You a Hopeful Christmas

This is a week better served it seems if you catch up on last minute shopping and gift giving for Christmas and the municipal meeting calendar is suitably thinned out to help you do just that as the final fortnight of 2010 heads into the homestretch.

If, because today is the third Monday of the month, you thought there'd be a City Council meeting and perhaps you'd read about an informational meeting by the Norwich Education Excellence for Today and Tomorrow's (NEXTT) School Design Team, you can clear all that from your Hallmark calendar as both have been cancelled, postponed, rescheduled (choose your favorite verb) and are not happening this evening. An optimist might assume we have a plan of action for that downtown development bond we passed early last month and we've already gotten all the meaningful input on school redesign we need in order to start mapping that journey. Or not.

Actually, this afternoon at five rescheduled from last week, and thus becoming a special meeting, is the Ethics Commission in Room 210 at City Hall. I guess congratulations are in order for one of our local newspapers which often is the only window into the goings-on of city government many residents have (and that certainly explains a lot, doesn't it?) but, in this case, finds itself on the agenda. Perhaps the Commission is intending to issue a proclamation designating a day to honor the reporter for his accuracy and timeliness of coverage. Or not.

Unless you drink your whiskey neat, you might want to visit the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority at 1649 Route 12 (up the hill from the go-kart place, if that helps) which has a special meeting starting at 5:15 (I don't get quarter hour start times, I really don't) with a finance committee meeting following in the same room at 6:30. Don't kid yourself because Norwich isn't (yet) a member of the Authority. As regionalization continues and the costs of services continues to climb and economies of scale are sought, potable water and sewer services are going to be critical infrastructure as the area starts to grow again after the economic doldrums. He who hesitates will be lunch. Or not.

There's a twin bill of meetings at the Norwich Public Utilities offices at 16 Golden Street beginning at 6 o'clock Tuesday evening. Unfortunately neither the agenda of the Commissioners' meeting nor that of the Sewer Authority is on their website. More troubling to me, in terms of compliance with state law, is the absence of minutes of both November meetings. Perhaps nothing of interest or value went on. Or not.

The special meeting of the Recreation Advisory Committee at six in the Recreation Department offices, based on its agenda, may be the most interesting meeting of the week. They last met in May, and have cancelled three meetings since then, but their agenda for Tuesday doesn't have them reviewing and adopting their May meeting minutes so I'm curious as to how they are holding another meeting. Actually, the subject of the special meeting, an update on the community center (the former YMCA in need of six figures of capital investment just to open), in light of the city's current finances adds new meaning to what our friends from Britain call gobsmacked. Or not.

There's a six o'clock meeting of the Personnel and Pension Board in Room 319 of City Hall and at seven, next door in the basement conference room of the Planning Department at 23 Union Street it's a regular meeting of the Commission on the City Plan where the hearing on the development proposal for Hansen and Scotland Roads continues and an agenda item to place two members on the Conversation (sic) and Development sub-committee suggests we really do a lot of talking around here. Or not.

And Wednesday at six, in their conference room at the Golf Course on New London Turnpike, the city's website says there's a regular meeting of the Norwich Golf Course Authority who held a special meeting last week. Maybe at this meeting, assuming it's held, the discussion tabled from last week on benefits for their full-time employees will happen. (Say it with me) Or not.

And that, more or less through the end of the year, is the municipal meetings schedule here in The Rose of New England. I hope you have yourself a Merry Little Christmas though it's my experience that the Christmas we get, we deserve. Or not.
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 19, 2010

We'll Fill Our Mouths with Cinnamon

Today is my father's 87th birthday. It's also probably a lot of other people's birthdays, too, but I don't know anything about them, which is almost true for my father as well. I learned far more about him after he died than in all the years we shared the earth. He's been dead a very long time, more than twenty-nine years, and the only things I've accomplished since his sudden end has been to have lived longer than he did and to realize how much alike we actually are.

My father filled up a room like no one else I have ever known-and my points of reference are rock stars, movie celebrities and world leaders (yeah, I've done some $hit if I have to say so myself) but my father owned every room he set foot in. He wasn't physically imposing, standing about five and half feet tall, fighting and usually losing a battle of the bulge with a headful of gray hair, he told us, from the time he was nineteen. He had a line he offered people who thought he was an old man because of the hair, 'just because there's snow on the roof doesn't mean there's not a fire in the chimney.' I suspect he said it in French and Latin, as well, because he could and that's how he was.

He was also someone whom, no matter how well I did, I could never please. It seems pathetic for a man 58 years old to admit to something like that, but if you know me, you know I am pathetic and aren't surprised at all. Being named for him didn't help and if I had a dollar for every time he told me growing up it wasn't his idea to name me after him, I would never have needed to go to work.

What I got from that, within eye blinks of learning Sigrid was pregnant with our son, was to vow we would NOT name that boy after me. Unlike so many other instances in our married life, that promise was something I did follow through on. Actually, the other thing I did was to work very hard to not be the father or husband that he had been.

The jury's still out on the first part, as our children are 28 and 23, adults of their own but I would hope my wife thinks I'm a decent husband, maybe even a good man, who does the best he can with what he has. Ironically, that's a legacy of my father-one that for many years I wasn't willing to grant to him.

Maybe, in the decades since his death, I've come to better appreciate how much work it takes to be a man who's there for his family. You get up everyday and do the best you can for you and yours and some days your road takes you places you hadn't planned on and you look up and realize you've lost your way. The trick, I think, is in knowing that you're lost but more in being able to find your way back. Our children never met or knew their American Opa; nor he, them. That's a regret I'll have until the day I die.

And while I think my kids can talk to me about anything (in Michelle's case, almost anything) even when I hope they won't, there's a hole in my heart my pride won't acknowledge and a hollow sound that no amount of outside applause can cover. There's a grinding of gears in the tears between the generations that I remember from my own youth and knew then, as now, I am powerless to stop once it has started. Arms to shoulder, we'll leave our tracks untraceable now. I think you'd have liked them, Dad-our Pat and Mike, you'd have loved them, I know. Happy Birthday.
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 18, 2010

See How Deep the Bullet Lies

We're almost to the shortest day already, and i cannot happen soon enough to suit me. Technically it's not yet winter but I'm already sick of what has been passing for it in these parts and I admit we haven't even had snow. And we don't need any. If you're seven or you were were asking Santa for a sled, maybe I can summon some sympathy for you. Hold on, let me try. Um, nope, sorry.

But it's really the darkness that gets me this time of year. I get in the pitch and by the time I come home, it's dark as well. Some people get SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder; I'm more liable to get CRANKED, Chronic Really Annoying Ninny and the other words are made up, too. Seriously. You thought there was such an illness and I was using the acronym? What was it Mr. Roark used to say? Oh yeah, got it now: brain so small if you put it in a mosquito's butt, it would roll around and makes a noise like a bee-bee in a boxcar.

I'm a little short with people, testy you might say, as the daylight disappears and that spring ahead fall back jazz isn't doing much for me and according to a person I know who says he's a farmer (he has the overalls for it), it doesn't do much for him either. So who gets helped? The folks who make batteries for the smoke alarms since the commercials for adjusting your clock always seem to suggest while you're up on the ladder check the smoke alarm and put in fresh batteries. How about if I sell the ladder and just remember to add or subtract an hour from whatever Mickey's hands say the time is and we'll call it even.

But by this time next week, with living rooms across the country knee deep in ripped wrapping paper (the ultimate consumable? Sure gets close if it's not), almost imperceptibly the days will start to lengthen again, a few moments at a time to start as we begin the steady climb back towards the light, even if the winter weather isn't prepared to relent or release. As a matter of fact, we tend to have the worst of the winter after the shortest day is past, so perhaps it's something more than only the darkness that troubles the likes of me and you. Maybe it's the wanting what we can't have or the not needing what we do have, or worst of all, not being able to tell the difference.
-bill kenny

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ezra or Dog?

As challenging as Michael Vick may find it Sunday against the Eagle's arch rival, the New York Giants, that contest may be the easiest part of his week in light of his announcement that someday he'd like to have a dog.

Oh dear. The reception to Vick's announcement suggests it's going over about as well Mahmoud Ahmadinejad volunteering to be the spokesman for the Jewish National Fund. Thought that pop music reference, in the interests of inclusion (I'm sure), was a nice idea in theory. So Tori Amos sang 'get off that cross we need the wood,' who could have seen that coming?

I'm not gonna rant or rail-here's the deal: Michael Vick was arrested for cruelty to animals and related charges, found guilty, sentenced to incarceration and was released to resume his life. He has, as the cliche goes, paid his debt to society.

Except pretty obviously, and we have how many news cycles to go before game time, he hasn't. Many have neither forgiven, nor forgotten. Perhaps that's a good thing but perhaps there's a danger it can become too much of a good thing. The only way this could get hotter would be if Michael Vick ends up being a television spokesman for Beneful. Now that's a happy ending to set both tongues and tales wagging.
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hello In There

Yesterday afternoon I shadowed a group of active duty military people, actually Sailors studying to become submariners at the school on the base in Groton, who've been collecting canned goods and other non-perishables since Thanksgiving and who were bringing a goodly portion of their collection to the Saint Vincent de Paul Place in downtown Norwich near the Otis Library.

It's a community meal site and food pantry for people many of the rest of us have either forgotten or would like to. You and I speak these days about 'tough times' as if either of us have any idea what that means, and maybe you do, but I have a job and my family has a hearth and home. Many of those helped by Saint Vincent's have none of that-and for them, the struggle is holding body and soul together today until tomorrow and then they start again.

The sailors were delivering about 3,500 canned goods and boxes of non-perishables to Saint Vincent's and to the Norwich Vet Center over on Cliff Street. In a way, both places bracket and bookend a downtown in small-town New England struggling as hard as those who live in it to remain relevant and vital as America of the 21st Century hurries by with hardly a sideways glance.

We have holiday decorations in downtown, but there aren't very many people around and about, which is pretty much the same story across the country as the enclosed mega malls, built a generation ago on cheap land near the highways, replaced village greens and downtown shopping excursions before, they themselves, were obviated by virtual malls and on-line shopping sites where you click, pay and ship without ever exchanging a word of conversation with anyone.

This time of year, perhaps because of the religious overtones or maybe the philosophic atmospherics, you'd think we might be a little more gentle with one another. We are, after all, somewhat fragile as a species and while some settling of contents takes place as our lives unfold, there are secret places each of us have for memories and moments others will never share. But the kindness of strangers is like most everything else, in short supply these days, though it was cheering to see all these young faces, like bright and shiny pennies, forming a chain to unload groceries to help those in need.

Instead of the rush and crush of the crowds at the mall and the big box store, where we all collide in pursuit of the same bright and shiny must-have holiday item, here were friends we'd never met before helping neighbors they may never see again-and while it was happening in my town, help like this is going on all over even where you live, even as we sit and discuss the notion that our social contract should have more contact with one another, regardless of race, sex, age, creed or need. Maybe this is the time we should start to make that happen.

We spend too much time alone in private plots of frozen space and all the news just repeats itself like some forgotten dream. We no longer see the poor, the halting, the lame and the lost. Any sympathy for the battered and beaten has vanished and our indifference makes no distinction between old and young, have or have not. And the reason for the season is in danger of being lost as the Three Kings are marked down for quick sale and there's a manger clean-up needed in aisle five slouching towards Bethlehem.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

As Long As You and I Are Here

Someone told me when my family and I were new to The Rose of New England that 'Norwich will be a really nice city if they ever get it finished.' The implication, I assume, was that we were, and remain, very good at beginnings, but come up a little short on endings (in terms of both quality and quantity).

A lot of that is the nature of the beast, the culture in which we live. In recent years, the only thing we seem to hate paying more than taxes is attention. We've become people who expect a pop-tart setting on our microwaves because the toaster just takes just too darn long.

Look at the calendar.
Six weeks ago, we approved a bond issue to spur economic development for downtown. Some of us are already like those four year olds in the second seat of the mini-van heading for Grandma's for the holidays, 'are we there yet?' And truth to tell, we're not. But cool your jets-we didn't wind up with a grand list flat lined and a forest of 'for sale' signs in neighborhoods across the city overnight and the way back on the road ahead won't happen by the time I start the next paragraph.

Though that would be cool, I suppose. And, admit it, a piece of you wanted it to be because hope springs eternal, which is good since we need a certain amount of confidence and optimism in the efforts being made by community leaders as they continue to make Norwich a (better) home for those of us who live here and for those who will one day join us.

But hope is not a plan. A plan has specific, measurable, achievable, realistic targets-which is why SMART communities have plans and too many others have hope but little else. Planning involves candor-we need to be honest with one another, to speak in clear language that doesn't need a decoder ring and where yes and no are clearly and universally understood. We need to accept that it's okay to disagree without becoming disagreeable-to evaluate an idea and not the person who offers it.

We need to trust one another to bring our individual best effort to the rest of our community so we more successfully turn your idea into our goal. But we must be here now, in person and in spirit so that recent weekend meetings on the state of the state's budget and a conversation with the Mayor and city leaders has more than a dozen and a half people. Questions are integral to the process of rebuilding Norwich-and sticking around for the answers, even if that means more questions, is the rest of the equation.

Norwich, like the rest of our country and the world is becoming someplace else, someplace new and, depending on how we manage change, hopefully someplace better. Whether you arrived in the ship they called the Mayflower, or had it on the side of your moving van, we are all here now and each of us owns the next Norwich, whatever it is to be. We still welcome people who mean well, but more than that, we need those who do well. You may as well start to roll up your sleeves now, because we're going to need everyone's help.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Greetings from Form Four

I read a story online yesterday about A & P grocery stores declaring bankruptcy. I started reading it in Norwich, Connecticut but by the time I'd finished, I was seated in a tiny classroom on East 62nd Street in Manhattan nearly a lifetime earlier. Greg L. was at the desk in front of mine and to my right was George B.. To my left was one of the three floor to ceiling windows we had in the room, five stories up.

Our English Lit master, Mr. C., was also our homeroom teacher which, prior to first bell, was always bedlam. He wore what seemed to be the same wool grey-flecked suit everyday and smelled of too many cigarettes and had nicotine stained fingers.
We were the sort who don't know how little they know, making us both stupid and dangerous. Rumor had it that his unsteadiness was induced by alcohol. We all 'knew', though no one dared ask, to include the uppers or any of our parents, that Mr. C had been in "The War" (back then, the definitive article was reserved for WWII) and he had survived the Bataan Death March. We only thought we knew what that was.

My classmates, white, privileged, protected upper-class children and me, Roy O. and George, their middle-class mascots, watched Mr. C. warily as we waited for the bell to ring and the school day to begin. Most of us had seen him erupt with little provocation as he would began shrieking and keening in a high-pitched voice sitting absolutely rigid and straight-backed in the chair at his desk until, eventually, alerted by one of us running to the secretary's office, another faculty member would help him out of the classroom and take him around the block while a second colleague took over for him. One or the other of the two was always my father who was the lower school headmaster. I was a student on a faculty scholarship since we had no means to pay the tuition, however much it was, and I spent high school as an amiable leper, socially.

Decades later I met another man, a submarine Sailor, whose boat had been scuttled and was part of the crew captured by the Japanese. He had also survived the Bataan Death March. He didn't know my teacher but he told me stories that were far more horrible than any of those we had told one another all those years earlier. It made me realize what a horse's behind I had been to a man eaten alive by his own past.

Mr C. was a fan of John Updike and so we read all of the Rabbit Angstrom books so often all we were missing was a hutch (that was actually a Charlie H. joke, by the way). I enjoyed Updike's novels though it was his short stories that made me a fan and that has stayed with me throughout travels and travails up and down the East Coast and lands far away and very different with people who proved to be the same until the day when I had my own family and we came to live not far from Ipswich, Massachusetts from whence Rabbit Angstrom sprang.

The best day of all was the day we read A & P. My parents shopped in an A & P when we lived on Bloomfield Avenue in Franklin Township, near the Kilmer Pharmacy that reminds me of the one our daughter, Michelle, works in now down the street from our house. Someday, like the A&P fighting for its life, the small shops for neighborhood people will disappear and everything will be from online or a big box and we'll feel terrible but we will have done this to ourselves. And children will wonder what the point of the story was supposed to be without ever realizing the point was in the telling.

I thought of all of that, but especially the importance of the telling. Sara J shared some weeks ago a marvelous piece by Stephen Fry on Soundsex. In that same spirit I remembered a spectacular turn of phrase from that short story on a day so long ago "it just having come from between the two smoothest scoops of vanilla I had ever known were there." Half a life later, it still causes me to hold my breath in admiration, envy and despair.
-bill kenny

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lovely Weather for a Meeting Together with You

There's still a handful of shopping days before Santa and the Easter Bunny take the Baby Jesus to Disney Land as part of that big magazine readership promotion (I think). I slept through a lot of the catechism classes so I may have confused cause and effect, but I did see an after-school special on it. The good news may be that there are more shopping days than there are municipal meetings at this time of the year, at least here where I live in Norwich, Connecticut.

Even as the schools are working to get ready for the winter break, the adults on the Board of Education are still sharpening pencils for the math required for the next budget. The Expenditure Committee meets this afternoon at 4:15 in the conference room at the main office at 90 Town Street, across from the Norwichtown Green. If you haven't been paying a lot of attention to the Board's deliberations so far this school year, you should start and soon. Otherwise by the time we get to budget hearings in April and May, you will be ill from sticker shock.

The Volunteer Firefighters' Relief Fund Committee meets at five in Room 209 of City Hall. They meet every other month and the October meeting was actually a 'special meeting' because the meeting date changed. A review of the minutes helps underscore the important role the committee plays in making sure Norwich has enough volunteers to be part of the public safety infrastructure and protect all of us.

And at six is a special meeting of the Golf Course Authority on the ongoing negotiations with their course pro and their course superintendent, among other topics.

Tuesday at 5:30, The Norwich Board of Education meets in the Kelly Middle School cafeteria (bring a snack, as the very popular "Oops!" meals are gone). Pay no attention to the notice about this meeting on the city's website, which seems to alternate between having nothing posted (more on this when we get to the Mayor's meetings) and having only obsolete information (this time it's obsolete, as no one I know gives a fried rat's hindquarters about an April 21 2009 meeting, but thanks anyway.)

At seven, the Zoning Board of Appeals meets in the basement conference room of the Planning Department at 23 Union Street. Among the items on their agenda, based on last month's minutes, will be the continuation of the hearing on a bakery shop at 520 Boswell Avenue.

Wednesday morning at 7:30 in the 77 Main Street offices of the Norwich Community Development Corporation is the next installment of the Team Norwich/Mayor's meetings. So far the only thing I know about the meetings is what the Mayor's middle initial stands for, because if there are meeting minutes posted on the city's website, it's not obvious (to me) where they are as I haven't found them. We talk a lot about transparency and thank goodness that's all we do is talk, since doing something seems to be much trouble.

Speaking of no meeting minutes, and folks who have made NOT posting them a tradition, there's a nine o'clock meeting of the Norwich School Readiness Council (Children First) in the community room of The Dime Bank on Route 82. With the even more difficult times facing the Norwich Public Schools in the coming budget season, I would assume an organization like Children First would be keenly interested in having an ever enlarging body of citizens who are informed and engaged on issues and challenges facing our children and their educators. The Feast of the Assumption is 15 August, just so you know.

And at five in the afternoon it's a special meeting of the Redevelopment Agency whose November special meeting minutes produced this bon mot on page two: "Planning is not a function of the RDA." Oh? Can't help but be concerned that while we may be lost, we're making great time.

Thursday afternoon at five, the Historic District Commission meets in Room 319 of City Hall. I applaud the desire to leverage historic tourism as an economic development tool, though I confess to being unsure, based on two readings of the November meeting minutes, what role the HDC sees for itself, aside from creating lists of other agencies' responsibilities to make such development a reality.

And at six, at The Rink, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Ice Arena Authority, whose November meeting minutes aren't posted on line, but here are October's, sort of as a consolation prize where no such prize should exist.

Knowing how popular the Saturday meetings have become with folks from across the city, it's with sadness I share that there are no more meetings for this year. I'm hoping authorities have ordered additional personnel to be standing by to counsel the droves of disconsolate and disappointed who will be in desperate need of their services. I only hope their hearts will carry on-I know I do and will-at every opportunity.
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Can't You Hear the Horses

Three weeks from today, the first day of the next year will be drawing to a close. How is that even possible? Two thousand and ten was just arriving, filled with challenge/fueled by hope and here we are with the remnants of those hopes tracked across the living room carpet like so much of so what.

This was the year we were to do, we were to talk, we were to live large and to be. And what happened? We allowed so many others, too many others (who've already given upon their dreams) to creep in as poor players and poison what wells of hope we'd held for ourselves.

We can blame the economy for the politics of anger, though we know the reverse is just as easily as true. For my part, I'm exhausted, physically and emotionally. It's like I'm running through soup and sand, my feet never quite lifting from and clearing the ground, each stride a broken parody of what it once was with my arms pushing through air I can taste rather than feel. And the harder I try the farther behind I fall. I started out beside you but have spent the year watching you disappear before me, long strides taking you over the horizon and when I get to where you were, you're gone with no trace, no track and no regret. Sic transit humanitas.

This is the year I've been forced to concede the face in the mirror has aged and that the man behind the face hasn't nearly as many springs left as he thought he had and more on point, has squandered, rather than saved, those moments of meaning he thought would come along again as easily as they did the first time. I've actually felt the dullness of the ache in the pit of my stomach that the shocked realization of regret the next time can be the last time always brings with it as a constant companion.

Like many these past months, I blinked at critical moments and lost sight of the important in the rush of the real as the latter became surreal and unreal before disappearing by the dawn's early light. The year in which I had vowed to sort myself out has nearly run its course and the next one will be over even faster than this one, with less to show for it as the distance already traveled never equals the distance yet to go. The sense of adventure is replaced by dread as the days draw down and the year ends. The toast we'll make for much success in the new year assumes both will exist but accepts the implication that neither is promised. "The dog days are over. The dog days are done." But it remains the what's next that keeps me awake.
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Worms and the Gnomes

We crack me up, seriously. I'm driving home yesterday afternoon and the car in front of me, a mid-Nineties Stutz Bearcat or something, has a bumper sticker on the lowest part of the rear window (because, let's face it, cars don't really have bumpers to stick things on anymore) that reads, "Give Wildlife a Brake" brought to me by some animal habitat group. Aww, that's so cute.

Fine idea, you say-what possible problem could Skippy have with such a sentiment? Well, none if that's all that was back there but, as the ads say, wait there's more. At the very top of the rear window, perfectly aligned with the brake for wildlife sticker is one that reads "Sarah Palin 2012" and one slightly below it that recalls the ticket that ran for the Republicans in 2008, and that introduced the former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska to The Show.

I prefer my Sarah Palin leavened with a touch more Tina Fey seasoning than most of her supporters, I imagine. It would be hard to refudiate their desire, though I guess they can't revoke your soul for tryin'. And for the most part, she is one of the more trying people I know. Sitting behind the car at a traffic light, the deliciousness of the irony, in terms of the juxtaposition of the stickers, one atop the other, took the edge off the BGO since I get cranky when things we do are so loud I can't hear what we're saying.

I'm talking, of course, about the moment in her TLC program where Mama Grizzly takes out Donner (though not of the party) or perhaps it's Blitzen. It ain't Rudolph, or his brother, Jack, so it's fine with me ('there you go, baby!). It doesn't seem to set too well with Aaron Sorkin who obviously has waaaay too much time on his hands and who ends up playing right into the hands, and tweets, of yet another member of the 'I know you are, but what am I?' debate club dropout crowd who are doing their best to elevate the tenor and tone of discussion in this _and of the Free (I wanted to avoid using the letter after "K" since there's a _ot of controversy about "The (other) 'L' Word" GASP!) difference of opinion (and that definition really lets the healing begin, doesn't it?).

We're getting so bad at maintaining civility with one another in political dialogue, I can easily imagine a scenario where Franklin would IM Jefferson to suggest tearing up the Declaration of Independence and make all of this hooting and hollering HRH Liz's problem again. Except George Bernard Shaw's lawsuit would bankrupt us all financially, but no worries, morally and philosophically, we did that to ourselves, long ago.
-bill kenny