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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dial M for Muldur

I guess Dana and Fox will be tracking email and text messages instead of waiting for ET to phone home as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence has called it a day, at least in one area of exploration that many of us are most familiar with, the Allen Telescope Array. I've got to tell ya, with some of the goofiness happening down here on Terra Firma, I'm not sure this is the best of times to take the distant early warning signal about visitors from Somewhere Else off-line.

And yet, as Dylan suggested, money doesn't talk, it swears. And right now, for the SETI folks it's not saying anything. Turns out, just because we always have doesn't mean we always will or can.

Notice how I'm not taking a position on the question of 'is there intelligent life on other planets?' Heqq, somedays I'm not sure about intelligent life on this one. I'll admit it would be nice, though I can't really say why, to think that we're not alone in the universe. Yes, for those who have a religious faith, you do have an advantage on a wanderer like me but I think the trade-off may be in how much more easily you despair of finding your Divinity in the vastness of the void.

But, speaking of religion and extraterrestrials, what do we do if the latter do touch down on their way to Alpha Centauri for the holiday weekend, and tell us they created the God(s) we worship? Do we then worship them? What do the atheists and agnostics do? And will that revelation make it easier or harder to get a tee time on a Sunday morning in the middle of June at a golf course in the Carolinas? But then who we will get to caddy? Aye, that's the rub; okay it's a reduced part of the rub.

Bad enough NASA has been reduced to collecting redeemable bottles and cans to buy fuel for the Mars Rover, but now Buzz Lightyear may be the shape of things to come. Prayers they hide the saddest view and prayers they break the sky in two. Believing the strangest things, loving the alien.
-bill kenny

Friday, April 29, 2011

The World Will Always Welcome Lovers

Who knew I was such a romantic? Certainly not my wife....(kidding, dear; I hope). Today is The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, an event even bigger than the Superbowl Roman Numeral Whatever It Was (despite The Black Eyed Peas at halftime).

Talk about a fishbowl with zero room for second thoughts, even such as these, yipes! I'd not be surprised if MI-5 suggested to that clip's producers they were a little less reverential than is considered appropriate. I was out of country, away from my desk, so to speak when Prince Charles and Diana Spencer were wed, and I was amazed at the scale and scope of interest worldwide in those nuptials.

Here we are, a generation later with all the advancements in technology that hath been wrought and oh, boy, I guesss the only place we're not going to be is in the boudoir after the nuptials (I'm thinking a pay per view opportunity gone a glimmering that could have put the House of Windsor at the top of Rodeo Drive forever in terms of cash flow). On the other hand how would you and your main squeeze like to have been tweeted about? Yeah, no pressure and certainly no performance anxiety despite the (fore)play by play. And I thought John Madden was retired...

What's left to say? Heqq, George Michael even released a song to celebrate the wedding. How can there be any doubt that cold feet aren't part of the equation. George Michael is back (far MORE colorfully described as more than one comment on the clip makes clear), who's the main event (it's also a classic Stevie Wonder song but that's a sidebar). He didn't song a song for our wedding, how about yours? QED, this is important, okay?

As an American, I get a little confused at the hub-bub about The Royal Wedding since we fought an extended war to NOT be a part of the British Empire back in the days when the sun never set on it. And yet across this land of ours today, as it will be around the world, many will be planted in front of any device capable of receiving audio and video to just take it all in. I'm thinking that has something to do with our love of fairy tales and a desire for happy endings and who doesn't wish the young couple one of each for always and all time.

Tomorrow we can go back to the world as it is. Little will have changed and perhaps even less will have improved. Except, maybe the magic of the moment today will linger and when we think about it, and we shall, we'll smile at all the pomp and circumstance while remembering how the fundamental things apply as time goes by.
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 28, 2011

(Not So) Mad About Him

Somewhere in our basement I have an eight-track player and recorder from when Panasonic, outside the USA, marketed audio gear as "National" (for the trademark lawyers in the audience think 'mid 70's' and yes, nineteen seventies and bite me). I don't think I ever had blank eight track cartridges.

Just me, or was that a noisy format or what, even in the car. Who could forget that goofy piece of sort-of aluminum that switched tracks because there was only so many minutes per strip of tape (and UA, geniuses that they were, actually put a channel changer in the middle of Don McLean's LP version of American Pie because they obviously didn't hear a hit).

It's probably not located with another obscure purchase of mine, an elcaset player/recorder, a machine its proponents insist (to this day) was ahead of its time (it wasn't but sometimes to get things right you have to get them wrong).

My wife has made sure most if not all of my single-guy sartorial experiments like the plaid bell-bottom dress pants, with two inch cuffs and the platform shoes, can never come back to embarrass me as she threw those out within minutes (as I recall) of our getting married. Trapped by no track of ours, for they hang suspended; but not from the rafters of my basement.

Something that never made it to my basement, and never will, was the second coming of Paul Reiser. I know, 'who?' The guy in that show, "Mad About You," with Helen Hunt on NBC; that Paul Reiser. He, briefly had a show on his old network on Thursdays and when I say 'briefly' I'm not whistling Dixie (neither Winn nor Carter).

It aired twice and from how this reads, it seems the second episode was more by accident than deliberate. An acquaintance of mine (we're FB friends but it sounds presumptuous to say anything other than acquaintance about people whom you've never met) Elissa B, loves all things televisiony (except adjectives like that) and she offered not a word about the Second Coming of Paul. I should have known based on that silence and yet.....

If you like Curb Your Enthusiasm it might have reminded you of that a bit, except for the being funny part, of which it had almost none. Based on the published ratings for the second show, I may have been the only person on the Eastern Seaboard to watch the program when it aired.

We have a DVR thing, came with the cable package, but I don't know how to work it (our daughter Michelle does and I suspect it's full of Glee (the show not the emotion)). Because we have that, we put all the VHS player/recorders in the basement, too; soon I'm gonna have a whole museum down there.

So it's possible that when I pass from this earth all knowledge of this show will vanish as well. I wouldn't be amazed to learn that wouldn't be regarded as especially tragic in the Paul Reiser household. It seems that the Final Frontier was a damn sight closer than we thought, eh, Paul? See you in basement that time forgot, buddy.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rex Tremendae Majestatis

We say history is all around us in Norwich when we speak about life in the Colonial era and of our region’s role in the American Revolutionary War, but this Saturday we mark a different kind of history from a different, and much more recent, time in our history.

The expression goes “time heals all wounds” but the difficulty with the past can sometimes be that there's been no time for the scars to heal. And often, the scars aren’t even acknowledged. Thirty-six years ago this Saturday, the Fall of Saigon marked the official end of the longest war fought in the history of our country, the Vietnam War.

"No event," said President Richard Nixon, "…is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War...Rarely have so many people been so wrong about so much. Never have the consequences of their misunderstanding been so tragic."

A snapshot of Norwich's current population suggests nearly half of us who live here now weren't on earth during the years of the Vietnam War. I'd hope those of you to whom that applies, most especially, might find the time to join those of us who were, this Saturday afternoon at one on Chelsea Parade to remember those who fought, those who died and those who have yet to return from the fight.

Norwich strives to be a city, but we are, a gathering of villages each with a heritage of hard work and sacrifice found in small towns. And in small towns, war is not an abstraction or an account in a history book; war is a family matter. A lifetime ago brothers, fathers and uncles, as well as sisters, mothers and aunts, all traveled halfway around the world to a place few of the rest of us could pronounce or even find on a map, because their country asked them to do so. Those who fought in the Vietnam War came from everywhere we call home, wherever that is, to include fourteen from Norwich who died there.

Robert Cooley, Francis Donahue, Thomas Donovan, James Greene, Jr., Joseph Grillo, Jr., Robert Howard, William Marcy, James McNeeley, Harold Nielsen, Robert Pendergast, Franklin Renshaw, Aaron Rosenstreich, Alton Sebastian, and David Voutour are as much a part of Norwich history as Samuel Huntington or Edward Land.

We'll gather Saturday to honor their sacrifice and to pay tribute to all who served. The speeches and the poems and prayers will be for each of them and for all of us. Those who returned were often changed, some scared and scarred by what they had endured and others still struggle to come to terms with the world as it is, and their place in it. Saturday is when we tell them 'Welcome Home.'
-bill kenny
-Thank you to Chief Pudge for his detective work on Alton Sebastian and Aaron Rosenstreich both of whom lived in Preston, 'back in the day' when our neighbor did not yet have a Post Office.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Another Orbit Round the Sun

Today is my birthday. I mention this because family and friends (you might assume they are one and the same, in a very small number and somewhat reluctant to be considered either. You may kiss my grits) have congratulated me which is something we all do on birthdays but I've always felt we do it to the wrong person.

I always thank my Mom when she calls, and she always does, referring to her as 'without whom none of this would be possible' because she really is and was, together with my dad, the person who made it all possible. My role was mostly to behave according to the rules of gravity at that moment, which is how I went from inside to outside. I didn't have a plan then and fifty-nine years later, I still don't have a clue.

I am one of six and the first draft of a child so to speak. One of us had a bit of a scare in recent days but then put the 'good' in Good Friday with some excellent news. Each of us have run pretty much the same race, if on different courses and in different circumstances than those our parents had, and their parents before them.

I traveled halfway across the earth a lifetime ago and found someone who loves me to this day despite myself, which is leichter gesagt als getan (believe me). We have two beautiful children who are themselves adults, though one of their parents tends to forget that, a lot (and it's not their mother).

When I was a child, I desperately wanted to be a grown-up. I hurried through childhood as if there were a prize somewhere for being first without ever knowing what first felt like or why it was so important. It wasn't and it never will be and I've only recently discovered that, which would have been very useful to that little boy of eight standing in the big backyard on Bloomfield Avenue in Somerset, NJ. Too late smart, nothing new there.

It's taken me all this time and all those years to realize just how much I don't know and to accept that the list of things I will never know continues to expand exponentially into infinity. I could waste what's left of my life yearning for what can never be or be gracefully grateful for that which I have. The latter feels like a good choice at this point.

"It takes a long time to grow young," said Picasso and none of us have as long a time left as we think or hope. But it's what we do with what we have that defines us and how we live and who we love. Happy birthday to me. says the calendar but happy birthday to you as well, be it today or whenever it is.
-bill kenny

Monday, April 25, 2011

Zeros and Fractions

Happy Easter Monday and welcome to the working week.

The business of government doesn't take a holiday, or very much of one when it does close early, so this week in Norwich there's enough going on to qualify for the 'there's a lot going on' designation the the regular meeting of the Redevelopment Agency slated for this afternoon at five in Room 210 of City Hall has now been cancelled because of a lack of quorum (which is cousin of quid pro quo).

Tuesday afternoon, at 3:30, in the school's Central Office at 90 Town Street, it's a meeting of the Board of Education Policy Committee and their most recent meeting minutes are.....well, then perhaps over...nope....not there either. Maybe the blogger should handle the posting of meeting minutes or perhaps the Board should fold their website into the blogspot, based on traffic and usage.

At five, the Harbor Management Commission meets in Room 219 of City Hall (insert obligatory marina ownership joke here. Oops! Looks like danielsr12 beat me to that punch line). How about someone getting the commission's meeting minutes on the city's website in a more timely manner? Last August's and this January's are the two most recent and that's not even close to the half of them.

At six, in their conference room in their offices at 16 Golden Street, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Public Utilities' Board of Commissioners and (also) the Sewer Authority.

At seven, in the basement conference room of the Planing Department at 23 Union Street it's a special meeting of the Plan of Conservation and Development Sub-Committee of the Commission on the City Plan (PoC&DSCofCotCP) to lay out the scope and scale of services for whomever is hired to help write the next ten year plan (I'm way more concerned with who is going to read it. Sorry, inside joke).

Wednesday at 5:30 in the Planning Department's conference room at 23 Union Street, it's a regular meeting of the Dangerous Buildings Board of Review. At 6:30, the same members, as the 751 North Main Street Advisory Committee, will meet in the same location.

The city's website suggests there's a meeting of the Board of Education's Space Committee (motto: 'to infinity and beyond!') in the middle of this afternoon, but the Board's website, which I mock without surcease, suggests the meeting happens every other month.

At seven, the Norwich Golf Course Authority meets in their conference room at the golf course on the New London Turnpike. You'll find their draft March meeting minutes here, though there weren't a lot of sub-committee reports within the minutes so I didn't understand where the observation that 'the greens are in good shape' came from unless Mark Twain had finished his walk.

And at seven thirty, in Room 335 of City Hall, it's the next to last installment of the departmental budget hearings, conducted by the City Council with various city departments. This time around, the assessor's office leads off followed by the Board of Education. My evil twin, Skippy, marvels at how many of us turn up at Council meetings to complain about budget bottom lines without ever going to any meetings on how the budgets are developed. I've reminded we're not only entitled to our own opinions, but to our own facts as well.

Thursday morning at 7:30, in their offices at 77 Main Street, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Community Development Corporation. You can get a copy of their previous meeting minutes, as opposed to simply posting them online apparently (and in compliance with state law), from the same place you can get the agenda, here.

Saturday morning, after you've fed the chickens, you may want to join the City Council at eight in the Yantic Volunteer Fire Department, just down the street from the Hale Mill Hotel That Really Isn't (for another 25K, Doyle could have a marina!), for a public hearing on the emergency services budget submissions, to include the police, Emergency Management and both the volunteer and paid fire departments.

Hopefully, between and among all of these meetings, we'll see some nice weather (= dry and warm) with a chance to actually enjoy Spring since April this year, for the most part, "arrived like a day and passed like a cloud. I made a wish--I said it out loud. It was the Talk of the Town."
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Let Me Down

Karl Glogauer was the wrong man at the right time.

The protagonist in Michael Moorcock's novel who travels from the future to the time of Christ, Glogauer, instead, meets a profoundly retarded child of Mary who is, in Moorcock's account, most definitely NOT the Son of God. Glogauer then assumes the personae of Jesus of Nazareth, based on his recollection and knowledge of the accounts in the Gospels of the New Testament, culminating in his crucifixion to fulfill those accounts which shaped history to the moment in the future in which he journeyed into the past to complete the story.

Perhaps the most simultaneously unsettling and reassuring aspect of Behold the Man is not the death of someone else in place of the Son of God but its emphasis and reaffirmation of the importance in the belief that He lived at all. For you today for whom this is, an Ecce Homo experience, my sincere congratulations tinged with perhaps a little jealousy and envy.

Not everyone has the comfort of your beliefs and the reassurance of your faith. Some may not wish to have it while others who once did realize again the distance traveled from then to now involved a bridge of faith that, once abandoned, has been destroyed and which can very possibly never be rebuilt.

As even Mark reported, help for one's unbelief is not easily achieved and perhaps the realization that such assistance can only be given and never earned is part of why pride becomes the greater of the sins especially for those with so little reason to be proud. Perhaps it's doubt that creates the whisper of vulnerability in an armor of faith which then allows a wanderer to know the path but who refuses to walk it again. Sometimes it's the belief, and sometimes, the believer.
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A, My Name is Anna and I Live in Alabama

Earlier this week the computer I have at my work zigged where it normally zagged. I have spent years in a deferential and supplicant relationship to this box of wires and cards ostensibly purchased to facilitate elevations in productivity of my achievement but in actuality part of a larger obstacle course to the daily doing of my job.

I should confess that I'm not a very good typist. Or liar, since the proceeding sentence was an understatement of a scale and scope suggesting Susan Powter is a little different (that'll teach you to ask 'whatever became of...?'). I am a terrible, terrible typist (one terrible will simply not do) who has no concept of touch typing at all and who punishes every keyboard, hitting them with a unrelenting and frightening ferocity. It is very possible (and practically inevitable) that if you're very quiet right now wherever you are, you can hear me typing.

The keyboard I have at my job requires you to insert your identification card, with its magnetic strip, into a slot in the upper right corner, typing in your secret squirrel code, all of which then allows you access. Much like breakers on a beach, my unceasing pounding of the keys has resulted in the letter "A", the one below the "Q" and above the "Z", an anchor of the home row, to have worn away to nothing. The key is there but the letter is gone.

Not only am I not a touch typist, I'm one of those simpletons who has to look at the keyboard all the time I'm typing and also say the word aloud as I type it. Pathetic, I know. Perhaps the sound card in the computer chose to work in reverse and the keyboard was finally able to hear what I was doing with it all this time. Perhaps not. What actually happened was in the course of the morning, returning to my office and reactivating my computer, the keyboard refused to read my credentials.

The screen saver, John Lennon in National Health glasses, stared as unhelpfully and blankly at me as I did, a lifetime earlier, at his Yoko sideboard watching Get Back, both to the same end and to no avail. From one moment to the next, I was unable to prove to a piece of formed plastic that I was whom I claimed to be. All those hours of Janovian Primal Scream therapy wasted (I do have exceptional lung capacity, ask Michael Phelps. Talk about MI.). The solution was so 21st Century--no need to fix the keyboard, we'll pitch it and get another. They don't grow on trees, admittedly, but it's not like mining gold, and it's actually cheaper than repair.

So here I now sit, with a brand spanking new keyboard whose letters gleam as they are bathed in barely flickering fluorescent illumination, not that my face is all aglow, still surprised to look down and see ALL the letters in all their glory and majesty. The "P" may be silent in pneumonia but the A in Aardvark is visible from space, even if it's only office space.
-bill kenny

Friday, April 22, 2011

Her Paint's All Over Town

Somehow, I don't think when Charlton, channeling Moses, spoke about his cold, dead hands, this was quite likely NOT what he had in mind. Sounds like we're adding broken hearts to bare arms, and quite frankly we haven't had enough nice weather yet this Spring to even contemplate wearing just a light sweater. And it looks like in one instance we actually might have an order for Kevlar.

Not intending to trivialize what happened (okay, maybe just a little) who tries to whack someone with a BB gun or conversely (in case this was a match dot com situation gone awry) how can one person inspire three others but only so far...and no farther?

I do appreciate that this wasn't a mob-style hit in the middle of the night with spent cartridges littering the area, chalk outlines and police tape. Norwich is, after all a small city of about forty thousand and the Chamber of Commerce doesn't really need to have any of the residents trying to take out any of the other residents. Even if it's Girlie Gangsters, and I'm not saying it is.

Judging from the ages of the alleged assailants, possibly one or more of them had a curfew (it was a school night, after all) so the decision to strike at four in the afternoon probably made a lot more sense in the planning stage than in the execution phase. Kind of like launching a rocket to the moon at night because it's easier to see.

And if you're positing the attack suggests there was no plan of any kind, you might well be correct in that assumption. This is definitely one of those newspaper stories that you hope will have updates and follow-ons perhaps even a Bill Kurtis' American Justice special but somehow you know your hopes will be dashed to pieces. He's not into miracles-sees life all too cynical and yet the song remains the same, except for the choruses.
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 21, 2011

So It's Not Just Blindness and Hairy Palms?

Talk about putting the fun in funerals and the hot back in hot sex, make a note whenever you're in San Francisco car pool with Scott McKenzie but avoid antagonizing Roger Huang. Between you and me, if you have to pick only one, Roger should win because he may have supernatural powers. I'd ask for a show of hands on that, but that could prove to be downright unhygienic.

Here's what I'm talking about. Yeah-I know what you're thinking, a lot of things can burst in a porn shop peep show, but I think we'd agree very few of them end up in flames. I'm not sure what to make anything called an "Adult Superstore." Perhaps it's a building that can leap over grown-ups in a single bound. Or not. (I was hoping to read a rating or two; that might have been quite the literary adventure. Which is more than I can say for the notion of sharing photos. That could have obviated the whole point of going into the Adult Superstore in the first place.)

According to the report, the object of (perhaps) divine retribution was thoroughly toasted. I'm curious as to what 10% of his body parts are reportedly unburned though I imagine my curiosity has no particular color. (I never knew the film's title was based on the Swedish flag until I read it here; of course, it took me eleventeen hundred hours to get to that part of the story.)

If you're shopping for a get well card, and don't we all want to know what Hallmark has up its corporate sleeve in this case, you can probably use this address to share your wish for a speedy recovery. I'm wondering if we just put "Attention: Richard" on the front, will it get delivered?
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Let the Day Begin

By now you may have heard about the developers from Ohio, or perhaps it's Pennsylvania, who are putting the finishing touches on a project that will place all of Norwich under a geodesic dome. We're talking about enclosing the whole city from Laurel Hill to Plain Hill over to Occum and Greeneville to include the Eastside and across to Thamesville, too. In very short order, we could be the eighth wonder of the world and maybe the ninth, too. Heard all about it from my barber's landscaper's babysitter.

Of course no one in City Hall knows anything about it. They are not alone. In truth, no one knows anything about it as I made up that entire first paragraph from whole cloth (I always wear a ski cap, so even the barber part is a lie) and even though I'm telling you it's a fable, some part of you still wants to believe it's true. And why not, we've talked so often about how we're thisclose to the big development idea that will bring Norwich into the Now that we overlook the small(er) steps we're taking every day to incrementally improve our town.

Could a geodesic dome large enough to cover the city be feasible? I'm not Buckminster Fuller and I didn't stay at a well-known hotel chain last night, but I'd suggest we're not quite as likely any more to get too emotionally invested in believing in the One More Big Wish theory of development. And that's probably just as well.

Maybe you've noticed, and maybe you haven't. We've stopped looking for people to blame when projects start too slowly to gain altitude and soar or never quite take off at all. We've begun to channel the energy we used to waste on Searching for the Guilty back into fixing the original problem (conceding the former has little to do with the latter) and, more importantly, agreeing we cannot simply talk our way into a better and more successful city, there's got to be doing and we're the ones who have got to be doing it.

By voting in support of the Board of Education's initiative to expand and enhance Kelly Middle School while reorganizing the entire public school system and, more recently, to fund downtown improvement efforts, we may have surprised even ourselves with our willingness to improve our reach and our grasp. Money aside, and yes, I realize I'm talking about a lot of our tax money, we've also been willing to turn out and turn up for public meetings across the city with our elected leadership and listen as they explain what they're trying to do and, when it's our turn to talk, to tell them our hopes for a future for our children and ourselves.

It's a good thing that Spring's coming with short sleeve shirts because we'll be needing to roll up our sleeves and lend a hand as our neighborhoods start to reinvent themselves as the hesitancy evaporates from our optimism and confidence and we rub the sleep from our eyes to greet the day. And let the day begin.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More to Freedom of Choice

This is the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the start of the War between the States better know by the epic misnomer 'The Civil War.' Despite murmurings to the contrary I have NO firsthand knowledge of any of the battles fought during those hostilities but I am a better than average history buff on that era. But today is not the day I'm writing about the war itself but, rather, the political frame of mind in the years leading to the hostilities and how history can we repeat itself and to what extent.

I'm thinking about all of that because in the freeze-dried, drive-by manner in which we live these days, we spend about a minute looking at a headline and maybe the cut line on a photo and move on to the 'next news story' as if involved in a marathon sprint contest. Whoever talks last or loudest tends to carry the day, even if they're talking trash. It seems that was as true in the decade leading up to the Civil War as it is in our current one.

I will point out in the period just before the winds of war swept everything before them a century and a half ago, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas engaged in a campaign for Senate in Illinois regarded by historians and others as a model of civility and extreme intelligence.

One of my favorite places in the on-line world is here, for information and more on every aspect of an election campaign whose outcome may well have influenced the rush of events that would produce the Civil War (I don't pretend to know how true that statement really is but I take comfort knowing that in less than thirty seconds you will have forgotten you read it).

Fast forward to the hear and now and scan any national political headline and tell me your flesh doesn't crawl with dazed revulsion at the motion and commotion on both sides of every issue. We've gone from "(A) house divided against itself cannot stand" to "(Y)ou think we're stupid?"

I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the level of rhetoric when we've chosen to offer a doorstop with a tan more acclaim and remuneration than a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize recipient. I'm not sure we let this hullabaloo go on like this because we're too tired to stop and think or because we fear if we stop, we may never start again.

Perhaps it's the fatigue of feeding the white noise generator that are the 24/7 news services that's numbed us to our core. With so many tongues wagging there's no effort being made to listen by anyone to anyone else. Somewhere along the line we've added "Nyah, Nyah! Hanny, Nanny, Do-Do" to the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and it seems to be the only part we can remember.

Often enough in the past, we've gone crazy from the heat two hundred almost two hundred and thirty-five years will do that to you sometimes, but our better angels have always intervened and interceded but this time they are conspicuous in their absence, leading me not so much to wonder as to what will happen next, but to dread it.
-bill kenny

Monday, April 18, 2011

Watching Your Crazy Ways and All the Lazy Days

Today is a big deal in Boston (no Anthony, not just at supper) as it's Patriots' Day (I prefer the possessive plural while admiring how each individual is a singular patriot). Admittedly, the Bruins stole a march on all professional sports teams in The Olde Town, but the main event today is, of course, the Boston Marathon.

Marathons are perfect figures of speech for much of how we live our lives--requiring, as they do, natural ability, endurance, conditioning, strategy and no small amounts of courage and luck in addition to just the right amount of speed. Sort of like our political process, except for all the qualities I just listed (money is the great equalizer for some political parties).

Beyond politics, this is a solemn week as Passover begins today at sundown and yesterday, Palm Sunday, marked the start of Holy Week for Christians. Political life goes on, of course, perhaps tempered by the realization and recognition of a higher power, though too often (I fear) that's not the case and we plunge headless and often headless into the rut of routine without thinking of other, better and higher, callings.

At nine this morning in the Rose City Senior Center it's a meeting of the Senior Affairs Commission, though a check of their meeting minutes on line leaves me at a loss to understand if this is their first 2011 meeting or if the City of Norwich continues to fail to comply with State of Connecticut Public Act 08-3. Hmmm...

Tuesday afternoon at six, it's a regular meeting (but the last meeting minutes posted on line are from February, so maybe not) of the Personnel and Pension Board, all of whose members' appointments, not the members themselves, have expired.

At six-thirty in Council chambers, it's an informational meeting of the City Council (always fun to see how many alderpersons show up, especially this time of year as budget deliberations take a lot of the focus) on the repaving project on Canterbury Turnpike.

At seven, in the Planning Department basement conference room at 23 Union Street, it's a regular meeting of the Commission on the City Plan, whose agenda you'll find here.

And at seven thirty , it's a regular meeting of the City Council (albeit on a Tuesday because of the start of Passover on Monday) with a refreshingly short agenda that could prove to be the tip of the iceberg in terms of the length and, perhaps, intensity of this meeting. Something about tonight's sole topic makes me think again of Tom Sawyer's once in a lifetime opportunity to paint and how eagerly so many of us reach, first for our wallets and then for our paintbrushes. (Sometimes, we reach for other people's wallets; confusion abounds.)

At 8:30 Wednesday morning in their offices in the Norwich Business Park it's a regular meeting of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, whose April meeting agenda on-line link is broken as is the one for the meeting agenda of their Executive Committee.

At nine, in their usual meeting place, the community room of The Dime Bank on Route 82, it's a regular meeting of Norwich School Readiness Council (Children First) about whom much is published and little is updated (in my opinion).

Thursday afternoon at five in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Historic District Commission, whose meeting agenda and March meeting minutes are here.

Saturday afternoon, from noon to four in honor of Earth Day (and you forgot to send a card, didn't you?) it's a Repurposed Sculpture Exhibit at the Leffingwell House Museum. This has a little bit to do with picking up the leftovers of winter from around your neighborhood and bringing it to the museum to make into works of art (beauty and the eye, etc) and a lot to do with having some either hysterical or historical fun. You can get more information by calling 860.889.9440 or visiting their Facebook page. I don't know where you can get less information.

This has nothing to do with anything listed above, except that it's a beautiful thought wrapped in a delightful melody, magically executed. Everyone should have someone who inspires them to feel this way; I hope you, too, have someone like this. See you at something in the course of this week here on the Big Blue Marble, unless your luck is really good.
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Kool-Aid Wino and the Car Wash on the Corner

This should have been posted at one minute after midnight today, Saturday, April 16th, 2011. Today fishing season opens in The Nutmeg State. Coming back from an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon yesterday I watched the State of Connecticut trucks with their bred-fish hanging the left onto the 2-32 expressway that cuts across Norwich, Bozrah, Lebanon and other points yonder as it heads towards Colchester, Manchester and Hartford. The fish can travel light because they won't be staying in the lakes and streams that long.

We may not have a lot of money here in the Land of Steady Habits (even on a good day-the rest of the week, we're busted but we try hard to NOT think about it) but if you drive past any body of water today across the state, you'll realize we have a surfeit of anglers who are extremely serious about fishing. We should be so serious about everything else (but perhaps we're better off not).

Our Dad was a serious fisherman. I hated when he took us to the Shore for fishing, not because I hated going there or the fishing, but because of the bait. He'd buy a cardboard package of semi-frozen little fish, killies. The containers always reminded me of those Chinese take-out boxes, which might be why I don't eat Chinese food, except it's actually the food I don't like, not the boxes.

I was never good at baiting a hook and got really lousy really fast when the ice the killies were packed in would start to start melt and they began wriggling and you realized they were alive. The 'no fun' light would start burning brightly at that point and I would often watch my bait work itself free of the hook an eye blink after being placed in the water and say nothing for ten minutes or so since I didn't want to have go through the entire drill all over again.

Of course, I never caught a fish. How stupid do you think a fish would have to be for me to catch it with a naked hook? Not even close. I can remember Dad catching fish but have no recollection of what became of them. My Mom doesn't strike me, now or in my memory of then, as being the wife of a fisherman type. Don't get me wrong, she liked all kinds of seafood, as did my father. I'm a fish sticks guy at best and like to think that somewhere on an ocean floor right now a parade in my honor in gratitude for my dietary choices is going on. Look for bubbles that sound like cheering.

I'm thinking about JetMec and I hope he gets his boat out today to someplace teeming with trout because he enjoys fishing and is very good at it. He has offered to take me fishing though I think we both know how that would work out (good for the fish, not so much for those in the boat) and I'm thinking at this stage in my life, why disturb the natural order.

I'm also thinking about two somebodies whose today started a lot earlier than mine, JetMec's and yours, and whose efforts (and those of tens of thousands of others in uniform) help make possible all of our tomorrows to include idle thoughts about fishing. I shared one of my favorite books, Richard Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America, with one of them as a midway present (books are excellent presents, much better than fish; not as good as pony rides, at least for birthdays) because the assignment to Afghanistan lasts for six months.

I suggested saving it for dessert after reading the other books I shared as it is an excellent decompression book possibly best decanted right around you become a single digit midget because after returning, and a rousing chorus of Anchors Aweigh, the next chapter in life will begin and Brautigan is a tonic for a restless soul and a fearless heart. Petri Heil!

"Father forgive us, for what we must do. You forgive us and we'll forgive you. We'll forgive each other 'til we both turn blue and then we'll whistle and go fishing in heaven."
-bill kenny

Friday, April 15, 2011

Six Weeks Can Be a Long Time

I never need to use GPS where I live because I never get lost. Everybody tells me where to go. And yet, here I am today almost lost in explaining what has happened to get us to this point. You're right, I should start at the beginning....when all there was was darkness and a void, though perhaps that's farther back than necessary.

I've mentioned I have slacker on my smartphone, or as it likes to phrase it, I am the 'bi-pedal attachment that comes with the device holster.' I enjoy slacker a great deal and use it every morning as I listen to a variety of music, known and unknown (to me) as I get my power-walk on in the morning hours in the gym not far from where I work (and, yes, I do walk to the gym rather than drive just in case God is really keeping track of all the hypocrites).

Yesterday, I was listening to a station built around the music of Elliot Smith, of whom I am inordinately fond. I don't think you can listen to songs like Waltz #2 or Baby Britain or--don't get me started on his catalog-often enough. It's a cliche to say 'left too soon' but he did.

Anyway, a song I hadn't heard before really hooked me, "Wouldn't Mama Be Proud?" But in the course of looking for that song, I got the title wrong which makes finding it a LOT harder (remember when you'd ask dad how to spell a word and he'd tell you to 'look it up in the dictionary', seemingly unaware of the irony of his own suggestion? And then when you grew up you went 'waitaminit!') but that's still NOT the whole story.

The song the search bot found had nothing to do with Elliot Smith and has already slipped my mind. But on the right hand side of the page, ready to leap into the center of the screen with the click of a mouse, were other titles of songs that also had nothing to do with Elliot Smith.

Which brings us thisclose to the end for today, Pilgrim, right after you make doubly sure before clicking on the last link that no children under the age of (I don't know) thirty (?) are anywhere near a speaker. Consider that your warning (which means I don't want to get any snotty notes, okay?). I haven't decided which would be worse-that they've never heard any of the words in the song, or that they have.

If it were the latter, you might want to call Parents Magazine and see if they're interested in doing a story. Or they might just tell you to keep it under your hat, or words to that effect.
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Combover Is as Combover Does

We have a ways to go before we next elect a President of the United World. I used to say States but let's face it, the President of the United States is really the President of the United World, whether anyone to include the person in the office likes it or not. You can most certainly disagree, that's your birthright.

Except, please tell me who is Prime Minister of Canada-that should be easy. They are our neighbor to the North, right next door. That name is....yeah, figured as much. Should we have a go at naming the President of Mexico? Why not? They, too, share this continent with us. How are we doing so far on this quiz? Ooooh, not so hot, eh?

Try this one: the Prime Minister of England (okay, that's a trick question since "England" is not the official name of the country). Still drawing a blank. Ditto for the Chancellor of Germany or the President of France. Should we switch to the other side of the world and have attempt to name the Prime Minister of Japan (he even has a blog). Care to guess the name of the Philippines' President? No.....

It's not that we're bad at world events, though in many instances we are. It's that we just don't care and we don't have to and feel we probably never will. How many Germans know the name of the US President? Here's a hint: ALL of them. Wanna play again? How many Japanese people know who the President of the United States is? It's the exact same as the number of Japanese people living in Japan.

What's my point? You can see it unless I wear a hat, which is more than can be said for a champion pouter and poser, Donald Trump who may be running for President (I suspect that cheers up the current occupant of the White House like no other news imaginable). I assume he is running as a Republican but there may be more to The Don than meets the comb and, as it turns out, he's open to a third (or more) party candidacy, just as long as he gets to run.

I confess that I have (so far) been immune to Mr. Trump's appeal (all this time on and 'birther' is still his hot button issue?), though I've little doubt he has some for someone, somewhere. I'm smiling now imagining a memorable moment yet to be where two German schoolchildren are struggling to remember the name of a recent Republican American president. One of them says, "Ich habs! Lincoln." And the other scoffs, "So ein quatsch!! Das ist doch das auto von Trump."
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

All We'll Need is U

Maybe you've said to yourself "Golly (insert your name here), I wish there were something I could do to make Norwich better." Might I suggest you've been saying that to the wrong person, you should be telling the mayor. Why not call his office today at 860-823-3742 and tell him you want to be a part of the One City Clean Up, OCCU, Saturday, May 21st.

Between now and then, you'll hear and read a lot about no-cost and low cost clean-up and fix up initiatives of all kinds to complement the start of the downtown economic redevelopment effort funded by the bond issue. And yes, three point three million dollars can go some ways to strengthening the heartbeat of the city, the Chelsea District, but there are a lot of other things we should do and can do before and during the start-ups of the new businesses, shops and restaurants that will be bringing new people to Norwich.

Quite frankly, we don't want visitors to get here today because there's more than enough junk and bits and pieces from a rough winter all across the city to scare 'em off before they even unpack. Spring cleaning is the next order of business and what are needed are helping hands, work gloves and trash bags. And we can get started next Saturday, the 23rd, when the Leffingwell House Museum celebrates Earth Day. From noon to four, join your neighbors in creating treasures from trash (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?) at the Repurposed Sculpture Exhibit. To learn more, call 860-887-9000.

Consider next Saturday a tune-up for the OCCU on May 21st. Starting at Howard Brown Park and working across downtown and beyond, Team Norwich volunteers will be picking up and fixing up whatever they can, wherever they can. This is the day we start to take back the largest city in New London County. This is when the over forty thousand of us who call Norwich home begin again to own the consequences of our actions and help one another get back on our feet.

Remember those discarded fast food wrappers over the week end you saw on Heritage Riverfront Walkway, and all that broken glass and other junk on the sidewalk on Water Street and elsewhere? Remember how you felt how 'somebody should do something.' That's you and me, Somebody One and sidecar. It has to start somewhere-if not us, then who; if not now, then when?

Call the Mayor's office and sign up for any of the different volunteer jobs that are being developed. We've got a lot of picking up and patching up to do and you can't have enough helpers. And when we're done with downtown, we'll move on to the next neighborhood, yours or maybe yours is the one after that. But don't worry, we'll get to it because we'll get to every neighborhood. We're starting in one place and we'll keep at it until we've gotten to every house on every street in our city. And once we get our clean on, we'll keep right on keeping that way.

We're expecting lots of company in the coming months and years. Norwich gained five thousand new residents in the past decade and we were just warming up. Who know how far we can go? The first 350 years were only a prologue, the best is yet to come. You don't want to miss this.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Karen Ann Was Already Taken

I've taken to stopping by the prepared food section of the grocery store on my way to the salad bar as I head home in the afternoons. I still make my lunch for the following work day salad but a couple of weeks ago I stumbled across a Reuben sandwich on what I call panini bread that spoke to me. Really, it did; it said 'hey, homie! Eat me.' So I did, that very same evening.

It was delicious and encouraged me to look for it every afternoon ever since. My efforts have not yet been crowned by success, and I fear they never shall. I was home yesterday for medical testing, a carotid scan (I do not enjoy listening to the sound of my own heart pumping or to my blood coursing through my veins and I definitely don't like looking at the movie on the monitor that goes with the soundtrack). Afterwards stopped at the market and decided, as a consolation prize for lunch, to have a honey ham on panini bread sandwich. I always warm them in the microwave, even the ones with lettuce. It was good but it was no Reuben.

Our daughter, Michelle, who has her mother's pragmatism, suggested I stop fretting about The Last and Lost Reuben and ask the deli counter folks if they can just make one for me. Great idea, unless they say no and then what? I'm a half full glass kind of guy; actually it's more of a paper cup than a glass. And, in the interests of honesty, I should point out that I like Reuben sandwiches but there's no need to open a can of sauerkraut just for mine, if you follow. Her point is without the sauerkraut, it's not a Reuben. Okay so maybe I like a Ben. But I live in hope at least until around four this afternoon when I pass the sandwich case and experience the universal kiss-off that I can call it whatever I want.

Apropos of what's in a name, my wife showed me a Facebook online ad and I confess to NOT remembering what it was about but I do recall the name of the spokesperson, 'Celerie.' I'm sorry but what the f(iretr)uck is the matter with this woman's parents that they sort of named her for a vegetable some nutritionists see as structured water locked into a vegetable matrix (to my mind, this easily explains Keanu Reeves) that many of us will only eat when covered with ranch dressing or peanut butter. I was so inspired, I suggested we consider having another child and, were he a male, calling him Russell Sprouts. Her counter proposal involved my being hoist by something other than my petard, rendering procreation moot.
-bill kenny

Monday, April 11, 2011

Your Mileage May Vary

I encountered a person in the grocery Sunday morning while I was grabbing a newspaper who let me know in no uncertain terms, 'you're not nearly as funny as you think.' I was confused as to what he actually meant-that I think funny or that I think I am funny. Both are true, to varying degrees. He didn't appreciate my wan attempt at humor; as a matter of fact I don't think he speaks any Spanish at all. For him, I'm another failed audition on the ant farm for Zen stand-up. I guess it's nice to start the week knowing what you're not, to include elsewhere.

With the return of Spring to New England, especially before the Norwich (CT) City Council passes the next municipal budget, you see an uptick in attendance at Council meetings, which is good (of course) except if you missed all the discussion and explanation on why x amount of dollars are going towards z number of projects, sometimes your comments and input are less helpful. We're all entitled to our own opinions, but we're NOT entitled to our own facts. Was that a disclaimer before looking at a preview of this week's meetings? Sniff, sniff. Sure smells like it. Just try not to step in it.

This afternoon at four in Room 319 of City Hall it's a regular and seemingly organizational meeting of the Community Development Advisory Committee who last met in January, according to their agenda, but none of whose minutes (and they've been around since 2002 it seems) are on the city's web site). Don't know about you but I'm thinking we have way too many folks with piece of the city's development that don't communicate especially with anyone beyond their own membership (and do NOT get me started on working well with others) and maybe we need to have City Council fold some of these operations into one another just to cut down on the traffic in City Hall meeting rooms.

At five in Room 210 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Ethics Commission whose March meeting minutes (in draft form) are right here.

At seven thirty, is the first opportunity to offer comment and feedback on the City Manager's Proposed 2011-2012 budget. That's the full version (still think it's more than symbolic and a little disquieting to offer a downtown street as the cover with no one in the picture), showing all the work and math-the Cliff's Notes version is here but I think you're better served with the unabridged version to better appreciate how everything fits together.

Tuesday at five thirty, there are a pair of meetings, both involving education. The first, is a regular meeting of the Norwich Free Academy Board of Trustees in the Latham Science Center on the school's campus (not sure what the deal with the * is all about, but it breaks up the page). And here are the February and March meeting minutes to which the agenda is referencing.

Also at five thirty, it's a regular meeting of the Board of Education in the Kelly Middle School library. Perhaps the Board might consider providing both the meeting agenda and the minutes of previously held meetings to whomever is maintaining the Norwich Public School Blog as that is both current and accurate while the Board's website is a delightful combination of neither.

The departmental budget hearings resume tonight at six in Room 335 and include the Office of the City Clerk, Recreation Department and office of the City Manager, among others. Think of it as VH'1's Behind the Music without music, or VH-1.

At six thirty, across the corridor, in City Hall's Room 335 it's a public meeting by the Community Development Advisory Committee on the policies and procedures for public services agencies (the fire and police departments and the give a dweeb a pony ride for his birthday department), to apply for Community Development Block Grants (a dollar figure that gets smaller every year as the number of applicants grows). There's another session Thursday afternoon at 4:30 for community facilities (and organizations), also in Room 335.

And at seven, in the Planning Department's conference room at 23 Union Street it's the first meeting of the year (I assume) for the Zoning Board of Appeals (there are NO minutes of any previous meetings posted on the city's website for this year, so here's hoping their first one goes off smoothly).

Wednesday morning at a quarter of nine, it's a regular meeting of the Rehabilitation Review Committee in the Planning Department's conference room at 23 Union Street. It seems that Wednesday's meeting, judging from December's draft of minutes, will be their first meeting of the year as well.


The Baseball Stadium Authority meets at six in Room 210 of City Hall ("No Pepper Allowed"). Digging through the city's website, they, too, seem to have no meetings yet this season as nothing is posted on the city's website.

The Public Safety Committee meets, this month at the Laurel Hill Volunteer Fire Department, starting at seven. The March meeting was cancelled but the February draft meeting minutes are here.

I already mentioned the 4:30 Thursday afternoon meeting on the Community Development Block Grants so let me close with Friday morning's meeting of the Chelsea Gardens Foundation at nine in Room 319. Their membership and meeting minutes aren't listed on the city's website. so they have a bit of work to get done in order to comply with state statutes on Freedom of Information and sunshine laws. What better time to do that than in the spring-after all, what could be more important to a garden than sunshine?

There's a team Norwich meeting this Saturday, starting at nine, in the Central Fire House. The guest speaker is John Bilda from Norwich Public Utilities, an engine and critical component of Rose City Economic development. Rumor has it this week there's pudding (I started that rumor myself so I know it's accurate). Bring a runcible spoon as they can hold so much more. We'll let the Owl and the Pussycat worry about their own utensils after they're through dancing.
-bill kenny