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Thursday, June 30, 2011

I'll Look at the Graveyard while I'm in the Shower

They were founded before the last century was the last century and not only were part of history in the Capital of the World, but made some just about every day for six decades plus. Their all time All-Star roster rivals that of anyone, anywhere in professional baseball. Period.

They probably broke my Mom's heart and definitely those of every Borough Baseball fan when they hightailed their carpetbagger asses not only out of town but across the entire country. Some broken hearts never mend and a lot of those hearts still bleed but not Tommy's blue because that was the West Coast color.

Monday, long after Walter and the brood were gone, the current owner whom Major League Baseball contended had used the team as his private piggy bank in a contentious divorce, finally came up for air. He's got the right name, considering where he's been spending so much of his time and where he's gonna be for a long time to come. You can dodge streetcars; process servers and bankruptcy proceedings are something else entirely.

It was a lifetime ago, more than that for many, when the cold truth that sports is a business and no one can afford to have it as a passion was jammed home and hard to the those who lived for the (other) Lords of Flatbush. Turns out we always knew what they were but we couldn't agree on a price. Problem solved.

And for those who spent decades wondering whatever happened to the Brooklyn Dodgers and whatever happened to all the New York gentlemen? And I say son, you're looking at one. I wonder if they thought payback would feel better.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Decisions and Revisions

The first Farmers’ Market on the Waterfront for 2011 kicks off this morning at ten in Howard T. Brown Park. Local farmers will offer the best and freshest of their fruits and vegetables while artists and artisans have handmade products and art pieces. You’ll have a chance to get some fresh air, grab some lunch and spend a few minutes humming a verse or two of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.

Actually, initiatives like the Farmers’ Market are important and not just for the farmers. They are an opportunity to attract people who might otherwise not have reasons to be in downtown to do so and by their engagement and interaction create new or additional opportunities for themselves and others. It’s called change.

The Farmers’ Market is also another step away from that paralyzing fear of failure we have so often here in Norwich that mandates ‘if I don’t do anything, I can’t do anything wrong.’ Of course, not doing anything means nothing changes and you’re about to get a property tax bill that underscores what a good idea NOT ever changing really isn’t. Stasis is not the natural state of any living thing and our city is very much a living thing.

We have attempted our Adventure in Smart Growth and Economic Development (I figure 'adventure' and the capital letters make it all sound kind of sexy) before but that’s when the troubles and travails start. When you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. I think we’ve had enough scenic detours.

Our journey needs a map with a destination and agreement on a route and a timeline. We also have to agree on where we are starting from, and here in Norwich, that's a topic that can take all day to decide.

It's not like we haven't done this before. If you were to gather up all the studies, surveys, plans and proposals for Norwich in the past twenty years and stack them atop one another they might reach the moon, but they probably couldn't reach a conclusion.

A lot has been written about data-driven decisions and with good reason. No matter how much you believe something to be true, without provable and demonstrable facts, decisions, large and small, are often based on opinions and beliefs and when that’s the case, your mileage may vary and with it, the results for which you were hoping.

There’s a saying ‘measure twice and cut once.’ It’s as appropriate for suits as it is in creating a plan for a community’s economic development. Part of measuring is knowing when you have enough information to make a decision and then finally choosing to decide and following through with the consequences--accepting them, understanding them and using them to help take us to where we need to go.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

All We're Missing is the Stopwatch

It was a pretty busy mid-morning yesterday for national news. With all due respect to those on the outskirts of current events who use terms such "lame stream news" to describe what most of the rest of us rely on for information, the joint was jumpin' and the house was rocking with domestic problems.

At a minute before half past ten (Daylight Savings Time) halb-elf (auf deutsch), Congresswoman Michele Bachmann announced she will seek the Presidency of the United States. I think she should start looking for it at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in The District because that's where it was last seen. Our daughter has the same first name as the Minnesota congressperson except she spells her first name wrong. You can probably guess which 'she' I mean.

If there's one thing most of us can't stand, it's parents who will NOT be parents (unless it's our parents who were, of course, too strict). But, as it turns out, even more of us, especially on the Supreme Court, have less than no use for the Nanny State and the NWO (you wish! Nine Wise Ones) decided California went too far in regulating the sale of violent video games to children. Who'd have thunk it? California, of all places, going too far? Pshaw! Seems it's a free speech issue, according to the Court. Who knew?

Then Diana Ross and the Supremes moved us a little closer to Animal Farm by deciding some in Arizona, especially those seeking office who have money or friends who have money, are a little more equal than those who don't or don't have. I'm not sure what happens if those moneyed friends run afoul of the Arizona statute on who is and who isn't a citizen. I guess as long as you save your receipt you can probably get a refund or exchange for a very small restocking charge.

I mentioned Daylight Savings Time earlier because I lack the mad math skills to figure out how much more really cool news could get crammed into a standard daylight day but considering how much of what goes on everyday just seems to wash over us without a trace or a mark, it may make no difference to anyone at all. Good thing today has just started all shiny and new-and with it, the promise that anything can happen and the sobering realization that it may already have and we didn't recognize it among the noise.
-bill kenny

Monday, June 27, 2011

Everything's Got 'Em

It's hard to believe, especially since it seems like just last week we had snowstorms and chilblains, that it's practically July already. If this were Oklahoma, the corn would be as high as an elephant's eye, ruining forever the market for pygmy pachyderms I was hoping to pioneer. And I'm not real crazy about the part where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain (vanilla or otherwise) what with those zooming June bugs and all.

There's something to be said for consistency and constancy; not much, mind you, but something. Which brings us to a quiet week in The Rose City as one month ends and the next begins, starting with a regular meeting of the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) this afternoon at five in Room 210 of City Hall. The RDA is about to become a lot more active in new and exciting ways so a thank-you for the energy and engagement of the residents who volunteer to serve on that agency is well-earned and long overdue (even if the meeting minutes from the May meeting aren't posted on the city's website).

There's quite possibly a meeting of the Building Code Board of Appeals tomorrow afternoon at four in the Planning Department's conference room at 23 Union Street (they're called on 'as needed' basis and judging from the (absence of recent) meeting minutes on the city's website, they haven't been needed too often in recent memory, perhaps as a consequence of the shrinking economy).

At five, there's a regular meeting of the Harbor Management Commission in the City Manager's office at City Hall. Here's their April meeting minutes which are, it seems, the last time they met. I find it interesting, that the operation of the commercial wharf at the Harbor, so large a topic three months ago, didn't seem a part of the review of the "Waterfront Vision." And, perhaps just me, I kept seeing frames of Steamboat Willie-I may need to get my glasses checked.

Also Tuesday, at six, in their offices at 16 Golden Street, it's a double header of sorts as the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners and the Sewer Authority meet. It looks like their most recent activity was a special meeting of the Board of Commissioners at the end of May.

Wednesday morning starting at ten, not technically a meeting but you would meet other people there, it's the Norwich Waterfront Farmers' Market in Howard T. Brown Park with local farmers and local artists hoping that you and I supply the local people. Fresh fruit and vegetables and a chance to enjoy the middle part of the day at the water's edge? Sounds like a deal to me.

Speaking of sounds, at six, kicking off the Rock Out with Your Dock Out (or something) concert series, it's a free show by a Jimmy Buffett tribute band, "Changes in Latitudes." I'd understood Warren Buffett to be the original inspiration but I'm even happier they chose Jimmy.

Thursday evening at seven, it's a special meeting of the Democratic Town Committee (as opposed to a different meeting whose date has yet to be determined). Not sure what's going on but if you either know, or are curious and want to find out, the meeting is open to all and rumor has it there's a promise of pudding (I just got that rumor started and think the promise adds a whole new dimension of elegance).

As we ready for the 4th of July, somewhere on your list of charcoal briquettes and cold tallnecks, please add a thank you to those in uniform who make this holiday possible. They are again in every corner of the globe on yet another holiday, far from family and friends, so that you and I can enjoy the blessings of a free society whose costs we complain about so often and so bitterly. And like it or not, that's the way it's going to stay.
-bill kenny

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Short, Back and Sides

This may be the weekend I get a haircut. Maybe. I'm getting tired of feeling like a shaggy dog and it takes me a long time to wash it in the morning, and get all the shampoo out of it, despite how thin my hair has become (too bad it's the only thing that's gotten thin). In the humid weather we've had for the last couple of days, it gets all frizzy and poofy and I look like a badly drawn conclusion for a Scooby Doo cartoon.

I hate haircuts so you can imagine how unkempt I have to feel when even I'm coming around to the notion of getting one, though I'm not exactly racing to get into the chair, if you follow my drift. I used to have to get them every ten days, like clockwork, when I was in the Air Force and I don't miss that at all.

The people with whom and for whom I work don't really notice or if they do, their comments and observations are so stealth, they have thus far eluded my detection. I think they're still processing my long and VERY grey mustache.

Actually, come to think of it, they are handling the mustache rather poorly as I've heard a raft of muttered 'gee, when did you get that?' kind of comments as if I'd ordered a lip caterpillar from one of those As Seen on a TV sites and it had finally been delivered.

IF only I could have afforded the separate postage and handling I could have gotten a second one, in a different color, for free as a special bonus during this TV offer. Push comes to shove, they could have doubled as eyebrows if I ever needed to go undercover as Groucho's stunt double.

Weekend's almost done and there's still plenty of snow on the roof but spring must be here because the bare spots seem to be growing larger. I just keep telling folks I've learned so much my brain expanded and to keep me safe, my head got bigger so, no, I'm not going bald. And no, I don't how to spell minoxidil and keep standing there and I'll spell a few other words, but you won't like any of them.
-bill kenny

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Redemption but No Salvation

Among the many attributes my wife possesses in abundance is patience. Not merely for marrying me though even more so for REMAINING married to me, but rather her ability to give you the benefit of the doubt (after almost 34 years, me not so much).

I mentioned some weeks ago we were switching Internet/telephone and television providers. We moved from one vertical combination in restraint of trade (in my opinion) that now owns its own network, NBC, and went with the 21st Century mutant version of The Phone Company.

Charter 6, one eight two six. That was the phone number of the telephone in the kitchen of the house we lived in at 33 Bloomfield Avenue in Somerset, New Jersey. Wow. My first reaction was to be pissed that somebody has put a sidewalk and steps all the way to the end of the lawn. And then I remembered we haven't lived there in forty-four years. I have some photographs, preserve your memories.

Anyway, I'll bet they didn't keep that yellow wall phone in the kitchen either. And it was all the phone we had in the whole house, which, by the time Dad got through paying people to add rooms, was this big, honking single-story ranch. Typical. But that was the phone company then-at some point while I was out of the country we went after them in court and broke them up, though decades later what was left got back together and bought one another out as well as almost anyone else they could put their hands on. And now they are far larger in terms of customer base and influence then when they were Something Evil the Department of Justice had to smash to bits.

The new, old, phone company made me an offer I couldn't understand and still don't. It involved a lot of 'you give us some money and we charge you for stuff but we also give you some plastic in return that's as good as money and that you can use like money except it's not.' Which explains how life insurance policies are sold even though all that seems to be is someone betting you ten bucks a month until you that you don't die. I'll see that bet and double your indemnity.

The first bill, for over three hundred dollars, showed up last week, Thursday, I think. The plastic showed up this Wednesday and Sigrid set about activating the cards so we could use them to pay most of the bill. I have been wondering why The Phone Company just didn't subtract the value of the cards from the bill in the first place but I suspect it involves Horatio Alger, psychology, the American Spirit and the Gunner's Dream. Besides, as Mom used to say, don't ask the question if you can't stand the answer. I was seated and no one played the Star Spangled Banner.

After an eternity on the phone, from the same company now providing us television, where a taped announcement at regular intervals told her that all operators were busy but her call was important (just NOT important enough to hire one more operator to answer itl) the announcement told her they were experiencing unexpected call volume, activate her plastic on line and hung up or rang off (I'm not sure there's a difference. It's like quail and Quayle for the most part).

So she did--having been less than successful in what I assume is a still a sentimental favorite back in the home office, my wife waded into the web waters and in a manner of moments activated the plastic incentives we received to pay about 70% of the bill tendered by the same people who gave us the plastic. And we're wondering how we can be trillions of dollars in debt. I'm blaming the Internet though to be fair I guess we'd have to include the phone and the tube. And plastic, because we never had these problems with cardboard or styrofoam. If there were any more incentives we couldn't afford to go broke.
-bill kenny

Friday, June 24, 2011

I "Like" SWAT Standoffs

It's nice to think of ourselves as the Crown of Creation. Probably a bit conceited, too, and slightly hard to defend or rationalize when cornered I imagine. I have the sinking suspicion, looking at the various lifeforms here on the Big Blue Marble, we'd probably NOT win an open vote on that honor and might finally learn just how big our brains are when various large and angry members of the animal kingdom cracked us wide open like macadamia nuts with legs. Opposable thumbs can take you only so far (usually the city limits).

And then, as tenuous as our place in the food chain is you have a whackjob like Jason Valdez. That, for what it's worth seems to be his good side, the outside. The contents are slightly damaged, judging from his most recent 'look at me' stunt. You can't make this $hit up. With the worldwide number of Facebook accounts having passed 600 Million to start the year, of course Jason is another luckless, lunchless loser who lives out loud.

I blame OJ, not like Dennis Miller does (no one blames The Juice like Dennis Miller does), but for the whole grab your moment in the spotlight kopf durch wand approach to living life. So many of us called shotgun in Al Cowlings' Bronco the line is still there. And nobody could come up with an endorsement deal for AC? If not Ford (what a natural fit!) then in light of the dog's breakfast that the chase made of the California highway system, how about E-Z Pass?

We are sheep, but socialized sheep. Jason supposedly not only got tips on how the standoff was going from Facebook friends, he made SIX new ones while holed up in the Ogden, Utah, Western Colony Hotel (Hey AC! Didja notice how the hotel got a mention on the Standard-Examiner's website. Burns huh?).

And we keep thinking we should be afraid of crazies halfway around the globe who vow to hate with their (but preferably our) dying breath. Instead, the decay is so advanced all you can do is shake your head in dismay and disbelief. That Jason tried, and failed, to cap himself at the end of the escapade is almost parenthetically pathetic.

Be advised, homie, the writers may change the ending before we start filming for Lifetime Movie Network or ilang tulad ng basura. If the shirts at Network like it, we'll set up a series deal. If we could just get Kato Kaelin to 'like' our FB page we'd be in butter, brother.
-bill kenny

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Oben Ohne on the Interstate

We had on Tuesday here across Southeastern New England (I think that means we wash our clam chowdah down with mint juleps or perhaps add Jack Daniels to our coffee milk), the most perfect beginning to a summer you can have. It was bright and sunny but with a light breeze, high clouds for most of the day that thickened up towards evening as the humidity started to climb and we all started to look forward to a little rain to take the edge off. Some of us prefer pharmaceuticals.

As I drove home last Thursday I was behind a 1959 Studebaker Hawk Grand Touring Coupe as we headed over the Pequot Bridge into Uncasville. Tuesday afternoon I had the topless car guy leading the way. That probably requires more explanation-not as much as Paul Reiser for The Onion but close.

Someone in a recent vintage Saab (I love this model but am not wild about this one) with the top down, slid in front of me as the two turning lanes became one when we made the left. I have mellowed in my senility about people who drive like A-holes mostly, I suspect, because until recently I was their king. I've now decided there are two types of drivers on the road surrounding me: morons (the ones who drive slower than I do) and maniacs (the ones who drive faster). It's a torture to be the last sane man on the road but I wear it proudly because I got the Mercury Blues.

This guy should have been so lucky. In addition to having the top down on a model by half of all the car companies based in Scandinavia he was wearing a visor with a side order of burnt to a crisp scalp to go on the side. Carlin is right; half a hat is utterly pointless. And wearing any hat in a vehicle with no roof is not even counter-intuitive; it's like wearing a raincoat in the shower.

Off he zipped over the bridge, driving in a manner that gets you a lot of attention (the voice of experience typing here) even when you cannot understand why, past the cut off to the Mohegan Sun, conveniently located near the banks of the Thames so you can save time and throw your wallet into the river and skip the ambiance and anxiety. On any other day, I would have never seen him again-or to put it another way, I'd have seen him in the next five years as often as I remembered seeing him in the previous half decade (none).

But then a couple of miles later on 395 North just before the first of the Norwich exits (you'd think the Rose City was a megalopolis by the number of exits on 395) I caught up with him. I wasn't the first one; a trooper in a battleship gray Crown Vic with the 'No More Calls Please, We Have a Winner!" with the flashing Gum Ball Lights on the roof probably wanted to ask him how he was going about keeping the hair out of his eyes in that convertible what with only wearing half a hat and all, Cyril Connelly.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Cool Time in a Hot Town

This is the time of year when we make plans to head to air-conditioned spaces or to visit seashore and lakeside places. Cool is the rule or what's a summer for? Starting tomorrow we can be hometown proud and thrillin' and chillin' all at the same time as The Norwich Skating School at the Norwich Municipal Ice Rink hosts the 21st Annual Ice Skating Institute's District One Championships.

This is the first time this event, which features skaters from across New England, will be held in Connecticut, period, and the Ice Rink is where it will all happen. For fans of competitive ice skating, historically, a significant number of those whom we'll see in the coming days will be competing ultimately for spots on the Olympic Team.

If you've been to The Rink, and judging from the number of skating lessons and hockey leagues that go on there year round, it's already a sizable number, you know what a great facility we have. Now, thanks to the District One Championships, a lot of people who've never been to Norwich will be coming to call.

The days will be long and the competition as fierce as it will be varied. If you're even a casual fan you'll want to call the rink at 860.892.2555 or visit them on line to get a full schedule of events and additional details. Even if you can't tell a forward sizzle from a crossover or you think all hockey revolves around the Stanley Cup (not around here it won't), this is big deal because it's another opportunity for Norwich to put its best foot forward.

And if that foot has a skate or two, so much the better! Organizers expect, at a minimum, twenty teams of competitors on each day of the championships and we're talking long days (now do you see why I told you to call the rink to learn about the schedule?). It's reasonable to anticipate hundreds (if not more) of visitors who could certainly enjoy a chance to see some of what else makes Norwich a great place to live and work (and if you don't think so, why do you live or work here?).

Should we expect to see an influx of new faces in places around town like the Leffingwell House Museum, Howard T. Brown Park or perhaps at The Rose Garden in Mohegan Park? I say we should count on it. Will residents get asked by passing motorists for directions to places to eat or to someplace to spend the nights between competitions? Ayup, and it would be great to have answers that helped assure our guests stayed in the city limits.

You gotta use what you got to get what you want. Amen. And this is as serious an example as I can think of. You know how we always talk about bringing the world to Norwich? Well the District One Championships aren't the whole world, but they're a piece of a bigger world that we've been yearning to be a part of since what seems like the last Ice Age. It's a beauty way to go.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

As Much Shadows as Light

Our Boys of Summer, NY-Penn League Single A baseball players who are farmhands for the Detroit Tigers, arrived last night with a home opener about sixteen hours before the 'official start of summer' today at a tick past a quarter after one in the afternoon. And not a moment too soon.

I love baseball, not merely because it's about the only sport I was ever any good at, because I really wasn't (I just like to think I was) but because there are as many different ways to be a fan as there are fans of baseball. At the pro level, I am a Yankees fan and have been for just about my whole life (so far). However, I will watch anyone play anywhere at anytime.

As I said, the team at Dodd Stadium is not affiliated with the Bronx Bombers but who cares. On a good day, downhill with a following wind, I can almost remember when I was an early twenty-something so I envy the kids, and that's what they are, who've got the world by the umm, tail (in honor of the Tigers). You have to root for them because we, each in our way, have had their dream as our own.

I've reached an age where summers get here faster and leave sooner than they used to. The kids on both sides of the ball trying to make it to The Show seem to get younger as each succeeding summer arrives. I've been watching our daughter, Michelle, who used to help her dynamic though now doddering dad with his backyard garden, together with her mom this summer, take the project over entirely.

I tilled nothing. I planted nothing. I weeded nothing, The trowel, so to speak, has been passed and I thought I'd feel something. And yet, that hole in my heart is about the size you find in a bucket of water after you pull your fist out. I hope, come harvest time, I can enjoy some tomatoes and other homegrown delights, but wonder if they'll taste as great as they always did when I helped. I think I know that answer.

It's as much 'my' garden as A-Rod et al are 'My Yankees' that is, maybe not so much. But on this, the longest day of the year (there's a better phrase, I'm sure, in terms of the division of daylight and darkness) as we get to the top of the seasonal roller coaster and make sure our hands are safely inside and we have our seat belts on, it's important to recall life is still a dark ride, everyday, for all the days that remain. They take just as long if you love what you're doing or are just going through the motions so maybe we should pretend we, too, have major league delusions and that everyone has decided since it's so nice, let's play two.
-bill kenny

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Watch the Patchwork Farms' Slow Fade into the Ocean's Arms

I'm glad I'm not a bird. I was watching some starlings yesterday wander the rock wall on the side of our house scanning the ground for anything that might have been washed closer to the surface in the last few days from all the rain. Another bird, I have no idea what kind, was in the driveway, drinking from a puddle. Ewww!

On the other hand, they might well look at the listing of this week's Norwich meetings and cough up that half a worm they were saving for the hatchling back in the nest (which is what they were doing in the first place; and pooping on cars out in the street). I find one of those two only vaguely appealing and let's not waste anytime guessing which, okay?

This is normally the night for the second regular monthly meeting of the City Council but that has been cancelled with the next regular meeting on the first Tuesday of July, the day after Independence Day.

The really good news in the shift of the Council meeting is we can all consider attending the home opener of the CT Tigers at Dodd Stadium starting at 7:05, against the defending NY-Penn League champions, Tri-City Valley Cats. A home team needs a home team crowd.
Tuesday afternoon at three-thirty in their conference room of the Norwich Public Schools' offices at 90 Town Street, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Public Schools' Policy Committee. If you wanted to know what's been worked on in recent sessions or the agenda for this meeting, you could go here, but you'd be Sorely Out of Luck.

At five-thirty, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Free Academy Board of Trustees in the Latham Science Center. Here's their revised meeting agenda.

At six, in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Personnel and Pension Board.

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. While the cessation of the Byron Brook development project has been getting a lot of ink in recent days, there's a lot more on the Commission's plate Tuesday evening and you shouldn't need me to point out that it's never eaten as hot as it's served.

Wednesday afternoon at three-thirty in the Central Office conference room at 90 Town Street, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Public Schools' Building and Space Committee ('one small auditorium for Kelly Middle School, one major capital improvements project for mankind' though I do have to wonder if perfection isn't the enemy of good enough), not that you'll find either minutes or agenda here on the schools' website (a youngster matching the description of someone named 'Waldo' was located).

The special Board of Education meeting at four in the Central Office is an expulsion hearing and, aside from the opening and closing, is closed to the public as it well should be.

At six, in the Planning Department Conference room at 23 Union Street is a regular meeting of Reid & Hughes Committee, which is followed at six-thirty by a meeting of the 751 North Main Street Committee, both of which are part of a topic we'll all address more in the coming weeks and months, brownfields remediation and rehabilitation, because we don't have much choice since we don't have much land for development.

And at seven, in their meeting room on the New London Turnpike, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Golf Course Authority, whose May minute meetings are here.

Thursday morning at 7:30 in the 77 Main Street offices of the Norwich Community Development Corporation (NCDC), it's a regular meeting of the NCDC Board of Directors. Ask for copies of both the May meeting minutes and June meeting agenda with a note to admin@askncdc.com; Shelley has moved on but other folks are checking that mail and will respond.

And Saturday morning, it's the next installment of the One City Forum, starting at nine in the Norwich Public Utilities' offices at 16 Golden Street, one of the best examples of reuse of "old buildings" in clever new ways I can think of. You'd think so, too, if you came to a meeting there as there's always room for one more and as many great ideas as you'd like to share. And while I'm quick to concede we can't do everything, we can each do something and that time is now.
-bill kenny

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Synchronicity, Too

The memories are flashes more than full sequences. I can recall a white mug with a round soap in the bottom of it, a brush with the softest bristles I could ever imagine standing on its red handle like a bayonet not yet fixed next to it on the shelf to the left of the mirror and a double-edge single-blade razor that used Gillette Blue Blades (Look Sharp! Feel Sharp! Be Sharp!)-none of that multi-blade $hit or heated shaving gel.

On Sundays, we had every newspaper you could imagine scattered all over the kitchen table from the local (then called) Daily Home News (Nat C worked for it a lifetime later; enjoy the bigger and far better he went on to; breathtaking stuff) through the NY Daily News that, before our parents met and became our parents the Mayor of New York read on the radio during a delivery strike just before World War II ended, through the NY Times, America's newspaper of record and the dreariest newspaper with NO funnies of any kind and hardly even a photograph on the front page.

The good thing in going to church on Sunday was the breakfast that followed and entrance into the kingdom of Heaven (wanted to get that in just in case Monsignor Harding is reading this despite his being dead and all). After Mass there were hard rolls with scrambled eggs and bacon. Actually the bacon was cooked first and the grease used to cook the eggs that were made with milk and fluffed so big they looked like yellow clouds.

Our father died thirty years ago this past Memorial Day; my brother's recollections of his last day with Dad ring as true as any memory I have of the man. I'd spent part of every day since his death trying to have the last word of a discussion I never started with him, hoping but never believing, I could finally understand him. For too many years, I was terrified of him-his wit, his insight, his caustic observations, his heavy hands, his unyielding expectations that each of us be the absolute best it was possible to be, always.

For too many more years, I hated him. I vowed to be everything he never was and, instead, along the way became, in so many ways, the person he wanted me to be because he wanted me to be the best me I could. I didn't know that had a lot to do with my inability to see who he was and to know who I am. He was right, of course, you cannot define yourself by who you are not, but only by who you are and what you try to be.

We were six children but really more like two cohorts of three children, each group relatively close in age with disparate interests and ideas. We have all grown to be adults he would have enjoyed-whether he could have ever made us understand that is another matter entirely. Our father was very complex, with delights and demons in almost equal numbers. I see him when I see pictures of my brothers and I feel his nearness when I am with my own children, who are confident if not outright cocky, bright if not brilliant, fabulous if not also a little flawed and I realize the hardest job he ever had was in being our father.

I'm grown old thinking I could know everything and have had to grow up to accept I will never know everything better. I remember the fights though never the causes. I can recall the antics and reactions but never the background or the final resolutions. I can't tell you if we had a million arguments or just one that lasted for decades but I know now it took two of us to create a blaze that could consume two people so completely. I have scars that will never heal and the realization I gave as good as I got.

This year, after thirty, I can close the book on the bitterness of memories I can't change and put the shadows of what could have been to bed for the rest of my life. I can do nothing over but my children are proof I can do everything better because of what I learned and from whom. I cannot believe I finally got to this place. Happy Father's Day, Dad, and to you reading this, whoever and wherever you are on this Father's Day as well.

"Now the years have gone and I have grown from that seed you've sown. But I didn't think there'd be so many steps I'd have to learn on my own. I was young and didn't know what to do when I saw your best steps stolen away from you. Now I'll do what I can. I'll walk like a man."
-bill kenny

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Every day I get in the queue

One of the most amazing things to me, child of the library card since the late 1950's, is how the world of convergence and connectivity brings the world to a screen near me 24/7 and 365.

I don't even need to know what I'm looking for and a search bot will find me something, anything (animal, vegetable, mineral) bring it back to the screen and after I've cast it aside, review other sites it has retrieved for me, and via one or another algorithm (actually, he didn't; you can ask Tipper. She on other hand...) start to guess what I might like/want or need and finds that. Eventually, an Ethernet happy ending of sorts.

We live in a state well-known for its perceived wealth, Connecticut, one of the Original Thirteen Colonies with astounding affluence along what we call The Gold Coast (though not all that glitters is gold; in some instances it's bling) and crushing poverty and squalor in places such as our capital, Hartford.

Our infrastructure, from interstates to fiber optic networks, is aging (and near failure) as it is across the Northeast with little investment in any of it since the Korean War. And if you think our bridges are old, you should see our population. Actually, you're reading one of them now. I've lived here with my family since the fall of '91 when I was in my late thirties. I was 59 in April and get the senior discount at the local coffee shop. No one was more surprised than I to wake up this morning to fnd that I'm old. Except, it's been happening for years and not just to me.

But that's why I was mentioning search engines and items of interest at the top. Humor a geezer, willya? It takes us all night to do what we used to do all night and if I need an extra paragraph or participle to get to my point, what's your rush anyway? Whippersnapper. (I guess my old eyes just found the wrong link, eh? The look on your face was priceless.) I will, like many of us, probably end up dying in a place I had never heard of until I lived here. There's worse things of course.

It's nice enough-of course some improvements would be appreciated. A few more pony rides for birthdays wouldn't kill anyone and while there's always room for Jell-O there's not a whole heckuva lot of pie from what I've seen. Tell you what else we don't have a lot of-and not just us, but almost everyone east of the Connecticut River is mass transportation. If you don't have a car (or a truck) you are so screwed in terms of shopping, working, socializing, living in general. And from what I've been reading, it's going to get a lot worse for a lot more of us across this land and the prognosis isn't good in the long run or short term.

Never regarded mass transit as mythical or mystical much less magical. But we're going to have to start to change how we manage it and how willing we are to use it and make it pay for itself, especially before the kids put us in the home otherwise how else are we ever gonna see the grands?
-bill kenny

Friday, June 17, 2011

And Each Small Candle

In Germany, before the Reunification, today was a somber reminder of what could have been as seen in West Germany and as a non-event in its totality in the East. Heute ist der 17 Juni. Today marks the remembrance of June 17, 1953 when Soviet tanks crushed any illusion anyone in the world had that you can negotiate with sharks.

Without putting too fine a point on it, the rebellion in Libya, the blood between the tank treads in Tiananmen Square (you can only dream the world could ever forget), the slaughter of innocents in Syria, the victims of the Arab Spring, the death and destruction of families and friends in Hungary in 1956 and in the Prague Spring a decade later all began Unter den Linden.

The synthetic separation of one country into two nations that the division of Germany represented created two armed outposts for the military and political blocs that shaped the post World War II dynamic for decades, the Warsaw Pact (Ronald Reagan's "Evil Empire") and in opposition, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (a/k/a The Good Guys).

My service in the US Air Force-for our two children, How I Met Your Mother-was shaped by my years in uniform in places like Greenland where the airbases built on permafrost north of the Arctic Circle kept the Distant Early Warning sites fueled and fed as they warily watched the Russian Bear (and it, us). When I arrived in the Bundesrepublik, there were two full US Army Corps and I don't know how many air wings and Allied men under arms squaring off, we were told, against 22 Soviet divisions and a similar number Ost Bloc soldiers facing us from Poland through Romania and all points in between.

It was in Germany where I first heard the expression, now used everywhere bankrupt political systems operate, that 'a refugee is someone who votes with his feet.' It seemed everyday along a border that stretched forever was, indeed, Election Day and the stream of fleeing humanity threatened to become a deluge. It was obvious even to a thoughtless prat such as I that soon all that would be left from Leipzig to Rostock (and all points in between) were the lame and the lost.

What kind of a government would construct border towers and barbed wire fences with gun emplacements that face its own people? Ask Ulbricht the Geissbock, the liar. Another picture postcard from The Workers' Paradise. So terrified of the truth were the monsters who built "The Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart" that no historical mention of 17 June 1953 was ever permitted and don't wait for an apology. It's been almost six decades since those who yearned were told to shut up and sit down by those who ruled, and, except for the language and location (and weapons of enforcement), little else has changed.

Cairo to Khartoum and beyond. Benghazi can look like a lot like Damascus through a sniper scope. And when the light of day seems too distant to ever get here, just remember there was only one 17 June. Everything changed despite and because of the efforts to hold fast to a past that had stayed in the darkness too long. Each small candle lights a corner of the dark. When the wheel of pain stops turning and the branding iron stops burning, when the children can be children and the billion candles burning lights the dark side of every human mind, it will be time to turn the calendar page and start anew.
-bill kenny

Thursday, June 16, 2011

From a Smile to a Tear

I may have mentioned I'm a pack rat -- at least I should have. I save everything, even stuff I know has no value or meaning. The biggest example of this is hanging in our garage-it's an old children's chalkboard with magnetic letters that we used when our son, who is almost 29 years old, first started kindergarten. My wife spelled out 'my first day' and the date (alles auf deutsch) and then took a picture of me and Patrick. We have the photo in a frame and I have the moment in my heart.

So why some years ago, while cleaning out the basement, did I balk at putting the now broken blackboard out for trash pick-up? Hard to say. Yeah, I was also the reason why it was packed and shipped to the Land of the Round Door Knobs back when we left my wife's country damals. So here I am, refusing to let go of what's left of all my memories even it that means preserving only some of them.

Someone sent me a joke the other day 'that's perfect for you and your wife' (even though it really wasn't) and I'm going to share it even though I'm actually terrified to fly in anything, anywhere at anytime. That's not integral to making this joke funny (or not) but it is true.

Bill and Sigrid went to The Big E every year. And every year Bill would say, 'Sigrid, I'd like to ride in that helicopter.' And Sigrid would always reply, 'I know, Bill, but that helicopter ride is fifty bucks, and fifty bucks is fifty bucks.' The next time Bill and Sigrid went to The Big E, Bill said, 'Sigrid, I'm getting old! If I don't ride that helicopter this year, I may never get another chance!' Unmoved, Sigrid replied, "Bill, that helicopter ride is fifty bucks, and fifty bucks is fifty bucks. Damit, basta, ende."

The pilot overheard them and said, "Folks I'll make you a deal. I'll take the both of you up for a ride. If you can stay quiet for the ENTIRE ride and not say a word I won't charge you a penny! But if you say ANYTHING, it's fifty dollars.' Bill and Sigrid agreed and up they went. The pilot did all kinds of fancy maneuvers, but not a word was heard. He did his daredevil tricks over and over again, but still not a word...When they landed, the pilot turned to Bill and said, 'I did everything I could to get you to yell out, but you didn't. I am impressed!'


Bill smiled sheepishly and replied, "Well, to tell you the truth I did almost say something when Sigrid fell out, but as she always used to say 'fifty bucks is fifty bucks!'"

Maybe you had to be there; but it's a funny joke. The mention of the helicopter reminded me of Magnus und Marchy (bear with me). They were two German kids popped for dope, actually hard drugs, as I remember the sporadic letters in tortured English arriving from JVA Stadelheim and, more often, Neudeck (where the women's jail was/is) who listened to a radio show I did thirty or so years ago. They weren't married, I don't think, but were boyfriend and girlfriend; at some point, on the outside, they had become junkies together.

When they started writing-actually Marchy did as Magnus knew close to no English--they weren't clean but they were in jail. I didn't know how long they were in jail for or how much longer they had but I did get the sense it was a long time. I'd hear from Marchy with a request, not always for Magnus but often, about every two weeks or so. You had to keep track of her letters since she'd reference something in one note and mention it in later correspondence in much the way you'd return to a topic in a conversation. Marchy's letters kept me on my toes.

I recall she requested for herself--"I'm Going Home by Helicopter", from Ten Years After (with Alvin Lee, whose blazing guitar licks were stupifying especially at maximum volume). TYA had lept into American rock awareness with a blistering performance in the Woodstock motion picture. I hadn't realized until I'd needle-dropped the record that Marchy was right-listen to the intro yourself, Alvin Lee does say 'by helicopter.' I had never heard it in all the times I'd listened to the song.

I smiled just now remembering the smile I had when I played it for her. A memory sparked by a helicopter joke and then I recalled the letter from Magnus, actually by someone else in the cell block who could write English, some days after I'd played the song thanking me for it and telling me how much Marchy would have loved hearing it if she hadn't deliberately overdosed the weekend before.

And then suddenly my smile gets very tight until the jaws ache and I realize you can lose people more than once and that no matter how often you do, the pain is real because the loss still hurts.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Just a Mile Outta Hell

Bob Dylan, perhaps channeling Ben Franklin, once suggested 'money doesn't talk, it swears.' The two most important questions we ask one another every day especially while we wait for the recession that we're told has ended to finally disappear are "what does it cost?" and "what is it worth?"

The dollars for the former question, be they federal, state or local, are usually pretty easy to figure out-but the latter can sometimes be harder to define. And, perhaps it's our (too) human nature, we tend to pay more attention to the dollars when they're large sums. Programs costing seven, eight and more figures cause us to notice a lot more and a lot faster. So if millions and billions shout and scream, thousands and tens of thousands seem to do little more than sigh.

In the last four years, the City of Norwich has adopted operating budgets that have exceeded, in total, over four hundred million dollars-a very impressive sum while at the same time volunteers have helped parcel out Community Development Block Grants totaling almost three million dollars to dozens of deserving neighborhood programs and outreaches.

Except for the size of the sums involved, that's pretty much the case from town to town across the state and throughout the country. However, in Norwich, as a result of foresight and cooperation between the City of Norwich and Mohegan Tribal leadership, we also have an additional resource, the Sachem Fund, which, with disbursements last week of nearly $183,000 have now provided nearly a million dollars in the last four years for fifty-five different projects, to include, in this most recent round, an internship program at the Otis Library, support to build two houses for Habitat for Humanity and assistance for the Norwich Historical Society to catalog historical assets throughout the city.

The Sachem Fund has had some hard times in recent years-but then again, who hasn't? Contributions from both the City and the Mohegan Tribe were suspended because funding just couldn't be made available and the scale and scope of assistance was offered had to be downsized as well. But a fund balance was still available and the volunteers on the Sachem Fund Board decided in light of last fall's vote by Norwich residents to invest in their own downtown to use a not inconsequential amount of the available funds as a stimulus for the economic, cultural and recreational growth and momentum Norwich needs to develop and maintain.

Not everyone got every dollar they needed but many deserving projects received help and with next year's city budget projecting a $50,000 payment to the fund, with a match from the Mohegan Tribe, all added to the thirty thousand or so dollars still remaining, there's still a lot of good yet to come from the Sachem Fund.

The members of the board will be meeting in the coming months to better address the types of concerns many had as the selection process went forward this spring, most especially in terms of better defining how a request for assistance measurably improves the city. For those who attended the meetings in May and June, it wasn't just a matter of picking one project over another. The board wrangled and struggled with defining what they wanted as a return on their investment for Norwich and in developing a measurement of the positive impact on our community. If those sound like the reasons why the Sachem Fund was created, you're right and the board members want to make sure the Sachem Fund remains true to its vision and purpose.

It might have been tempting-it most certainly would have been easier for the Sachem Fund Board to distribute the slightly more than $220,000 they had, pronounced themselves pleased with their work and go home. Except, funnily enough, Norwich is their home, too. And all the members agreed they can, and will, do better most especially because there better days ahead.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

No Worries Except My Own

It wasn't until I came across Adam's blog yesterday morning that I could finally exhale and stop walking on eggs, all at the same time. I had attempted, for one of the few times in my adult life to be a conscientious adult son and call our Mom Sunday afternoon and wish her all the best for her birthday which was actually yesterday (happy birthday, now belated, Mom).

When the first time I called she didn't answer, I did that stare at the wall clock thing and noted to myself 'she's probably at church' (minus five hundred points if you just noted to yourself 'Why wasn't he at church, too? Wasn't it Sunday in Connecticut as well?'). I rang back a couple or three hours later and this time when there was no answer I figured 'she's probably at the beach' (which is, I'm told, across the street from where she lives in Florida).

Our Mom is a seashore type of person. She did a lot of lakes when we were kids and, to my knowledge, she ain't done any since we are all growed up. Yes, I am suggesting cause and effect and thank you for noticing. Can't blame her-she was a child of the seashore herself and some things are deeper in your blood than habit. If our Mom wants to smell salt air, then that's what she's gonna do and I wouldn't stand between her and the ocean when she has the yen, if you follow my drift.

However, that didn't help me understand the phone situation especially when even later, after I rang, I wasn't getting through. I need very little excuse to go to the little projection booth in the inside of my head and put a reel of 'really awful things that can happen to' insert the name of a relative or loved one here. I'm good, trust me on this one. As an oldest child I've had ample reason my entire life to not just fret but to take fretting to another dimension.

Not only was I in Full Fret Fever on Sunday evening I had to stifle myself because I didn't want to alarm my wife, Sigrid, that Mom wasn't answering the bell. My wife doesn't fret and wring her hands like her husband-she leaps into action and gets things done. I am always impressed and grateful but I didn't say anything to her because I wasn't sure and had nothing really to go on except Mommy wasn't picking up the phone.

It never occurred to me that she would be have decided to beat the Florida heat by traveling North and catching up with her children and grandchildren and, in some instances, people who look like both but are possibly neither. She's only been doing the North Trek for a decade or so-not sure why I thought this year would be different.

Anyway, reading Adam's notes I discovered again proof that the brains of the genetic inheritance were placed on the opposite to Bill end of the family tree. Aside from my not having to worry my brothers and sisters for what would have really been absolutely nothing at all, the even better news is that I now have an empty take up reel from that scary movie I don't have to show and I know just how to use it.
-bill kenny

Monday, June 13, 2011

...A Long, Lonely Taxi Ride Going Nowhere

Small towns spend a lot of time in a chamber of commerce equivalent of pecker checks and score keeping which is why this week could be a good week to be Norwich whereas last week was an awful week to be our neighbor, New London. And we thought it was a bad thing when that proposal for fountains near Howard Brown Park went nowhere...

This afternoon at five it's a regular meeting of the Ethics Commission in Room 210 of City Hall and it looks like they have a full night ahead of them, especially when you read the May minutes as a prelude and background for unfinished business for June (and beyond, I suspect). At five thirty in the Latham Science Center on the campus of Norwich Free Academy, it's a special meeting of the Board of Trustees who will be in Executive Session so save yourself the trip (the school's motto strikes me as a little Twilight Zonish or maybe that's just me....).

Though I thought otherwise, Karen B was correct. Admittedly reading and re-reading page eight of the 6 June Council minutes might lead you to conclude differently, there really and truly is no City Council meeting tonight (I'm sure the alderpersons are releived to learn of this except they already knew). Should I have assumed as much when I couldn't find an agenda? Pshaw! I refuse to take the hint.

Tomorrow at 5:30 in the Kelly Middle School cafeteria, it's a regular meeting of the Board of Education and you can expect a lot more discussion and decisions on the dollars for the next school year though I wasn't able to locate the meeting agenda.

And at seven in the basement conference room of the Planning Department at 23 Union Street, it's a regular meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals. You can review the May meeting minutes to get a flavor for the community issues that make up so much of the ZBA's workload.

Wednesday morning at nine o'clock, in the community meeting room of The Dime Bank on Route 82, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich School Readiness Council (Children First). I'll spare both of us a reprise of my well-worn rant about the amateur manner in which these people manage public awareness. If you have a child dependent on their advocacy, you have my sympathy.

At five thirty in the Norwich Arts Council Coop Gallery, it's a regular meeting of the Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, it says on the municipal meeting calendar. But remember, please, the website hasn't updated the membership of the board nor posted any of the meeting minutes so I don't know what's real on the city's site or surreal (or cereal, come to think about it and breakfast is the most important meal of the day).

Also at five thirty, the city's website says "A.M." but I think not, is a special meeting of the Dangerous Buildings Board of Review on the next step to take with the (former) Buckingham School.

Thursday afternoon at five in Room 319 of City Hall it's a regular meeting of the Historic District Commission though this note can be removed from the city's website as it's outdated (and don't get me started on that topic). At six, in The Rink, it's a regular meeting of the Ice Arena Authority, and no minutes of any of their minutes for ALL of 2011.

And at seven in City Council chambers it's an update and progress report by the Redevelopment Authority to the members of the City Council (and the rest of us) on where they are and where they're going, on a variety of projects they have been engaged in. You can stay home and listen to gossip on what's going on by people who have no clue, or you can be part of the discussion. We wanted a more proactive and engaged local government-when you buy a ticket, you get the whole ride; strap in and hang on.

And Friday morning at nine in Room 319 of City Hall it's a regular meeting of the Chelsea Gardens Foundation about whom absolutely nothing is posted on the city's website-no listing of members, no enabling ordinance, no posting of previous meeting minutes. Maybe that's what the Sachem Fund Board grant can help pay for? Would certainly be a start...

Don't forget Saturday morning, starting at ten (Jill B is correct it's on city's website), in Howard T. Brown Park it's the 23rd Annual Juneteenth Celebration, a cause worth supporting by everyone of every race, creed, religion or background. Just another reminder of where we live is more than a collection of buildings and an assembly of streets and sidewalks. We are our city.
-bill kenny