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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Already?

The only thing ruining my otherwise really swell weekend is the realization we start the eighth month of the year tomorrow and that, like it or not (and guess where I am on that question), most of the eagerly awaited Summer of 2011 has, like Jody, done got your girl and gone.

I hope your yesterday was half as gorgeous as mine, even if it got off to slow start. I did get to sleep in, which was sweet. I like to bank sleep hours on weekends to offset the quarter after three rise and shines I'm doing on weekdays, albeit not as easily as I once did. Yesterday was a get up and have blood drawn day-not like Adam with his fancy schmanzy lab and way-cool band aids when it's over. I got the 'hey we folded a gauze square in half and slapped a piece of tape on it and why the hell are you still here anyway?' approach to blood draws.

Outside, the day had started and it was a beauty. I went for a walk around parts of where I live, Norwich, Connecticut (I never get lost because the people who live here tell me where to go) and hiked along the Heritage Walk, which I love. It's mostly downhill from our house to downtown, or Chelsea as long time residents like to call it, and we're here for almost twenty years-longer than I have lived anywhere in my entire life (so far)- so I'm calling it Chelsea, too.

I got to hang out in Howard T. Brown Park (I have no idea who he is/was, but I like his park) and there were folks of every color and shape wandering around, some fishing, some feeding the birds, some watching their kids do one or the other with a guy with a hot dog cart and ice cold soda. Seriously ice cold and because of the sun and the higher humidity, certainly a brilliant idea as part of the pause that refreshes before I strolled past the Eyesore Parking Garage.

I'm guessing mid to late Eighties, we put a concrete utilitarian multi-story monstrosity across the street from the harbor so that anyone who might want to have a small business, perhaps a cafe or a bakery, with a view of the water would be completely fuqqed. Good job! And then, as the real estate bubble burst in the late eighties, and whatever businesses in downtown that had required parking either folded or moved, the parking garage not only remained incredibly ugly but added pointless to its resume. Turns out, all these years later, we're still fighting about parking.

But the walk back up past City Hall and where the Unitarian Church used to be and now the Spanish Church is there (do you think The Lord gets confused when His followers do that-or because He's omniscient, perhaps He already knew that was going to happen) and past St. Pat's on Broadway all the way to and then around Chelsea Parade was great. I had changed into a knockabout shirt before I started as I had feared getting sweated up and I did. I hate when I'm right.

I cheated a little later and drove to the Greeneville Spirit Day on Central Avenue. I can't figure out what's going to go into the not yet finished building from scratch a bit more than half a block down, on the same side as the Ravi Gas Station but I'll tell you this, that lady from the One City Forum meeting the other night is 100% right. There aren't a lot of crosswalks in Greeneville and by 'a lot,' I mean any. There's kids, everywhere, and crosswalks, not so much.

Thelma and Louise re-enacted D-Day by hitting the beach at Stonington and Sigrid came back with beautiful pictures of Watch Hill. I capped the day by deciding to stop talking about hitting Philly's, a five minute walk from my house that makes and sells genuine Philly Cheese Steaks, and actually getting one. I got a side of Pizza Fries without knowing what they were-I still don't but they are delicious and the cheese steak was the cheery on the sundae of a day I had for a Saturday.
-bill kenny

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What Made Milwaukee Famous....

Somewhere, Jerry Lee Lewis is smiling. He's quite possibly on the road while grinning though I suspect he's nowhere near Sheboygan-which, as a kid, I thought was somewhere extremely exotic and mythic like Timbuktu. I also thought that about Secaucus. Proving again, my mother raised handsome sons not necessarily smart ones. You can ask one of my brothers.

Wherever The Killer is and no matter what kind of a night it's been, it's not as bad as Bob Ryan's, mind you, though I can sort of recall nights like some of his recent adventures. Let me hasten to add I was neither in Sheboygan at the time nor was I the Mayor. Neither of which, as it so happens, can Robert claim.

This has all the potential of a Lindsay Lohan meets Mr Smith Goes to Washington adventure as soon as we line up, I don't know, let's say Bono and The Edge to write the music and lyrics. I, of all people, should not take nearly as much pleasure from this story as I am, since I'm not even close to being the 'there for the grace of God' guy in any comparison and yet...Schadenfreude ist die schönste Freude.

The Sheboygan City Council, which (I assume) like similar bodies across America, rarely achieves unanimity, did so earlier this week as every alderperson requested the Mayor resign. However Mayor Ryan, it seems, has more difficulty recognizing last call than he realizes and has decided the great thing about career advice he didn't solicit is that he's under no obligation to take it, and hasn't and won't.

I think Mayor Bob may be playing the 'love the sinner but hate the sin' card a little more than necessary but I defer to the good citizens of Sheboygan on what happens next in light of previous history involving Mayor Bob and Demon Alcohol. I was tempted to say the Mayor may have gone to the well too often, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out during happy hour, it's been non-stop at the well anyway. Barbacks are wearing track shoes and can barely keep up.
-bill kenny

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Diamond Necklace Played the Pawn

I've mentioned our family is reasonably Trans-Atlantic; except for me. I'm unreasonable but only semi transatlantic. My spouse is German and our children, both born in (West) Germany carried dual passports for a number of years even after we migrated zu das Land der unbegrenzten möglichkeiten. (As long as the money holds out; otherwise you're on your own.)

My children's childhood was filled with Benjamin Blumchen (I found the Scarlet Mouse Ears in the lower left corner interesting), die sendung mit der maus (actually they watched that one with me on Sundays), Pumuckl (my personal favorite for reasons we need not get into), evening visits from The Sandman (lots of clips with the WRONG song; what's that all about?) and we often hosted Peter Lustig's Lowenzahn (I still think he looks like Rik D, but may not be a Hertha SC fan).

The hands-down favorite entertainment was an import from Belgium, Die Schluempfe who were as close to an all-encompassing commercial presence as was possible before Al Gore invented the Internet and Steve Jobs perfected oxygen. We had no viral marketing and dinosaurs still roamed the earth and these weird little blue people were everywhere. Between them, Patrick and Michelle had hundreds of figurines (and at some point today my wife will explain to me, in my dotage that I have it wrong and she will, of course, be right as she has been for nearly 34 years-and if you don't think just ask her).

I have no idea why they haven't had theme parks built in their name on this side of the pond from sea to shining sea but that should be changing as The Smurfs in 3D splashes across all manner of movie screens, from Mom and Pop Kino Korners to multi-plexes starting today. My kids whom I still see as nine and four instead of the adults they are will avoid me like the plague for the next few weeks or they may never get to grow up, at all.

I lean more towards seeing Cowboys and Aliens but for reasons that have nothing to do with either and a great deal to do with Olivia Wilde leaving me to ponder the question posed by that anonymous school child all those years ago 'if you choke a smurf what color does he turn?' Pay attention, Gargamel, you'll know where to add the 'm.' Canvass the town and brush the backdrop.
-bill kenny

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Laughter Is the Best Medicine

I filled a prescription from one of the places I have my medications handled. I take enough of them that I'm required by law to not encourage monopolies by having more than one pharmacy handle the paper. At least that's what I'd like to think. I went for decades paying heath insurance premiums but never needing to do anything medical but that hasn't been my complaint for the last score of years or so.

How pompous was that? Seriously. What am I, the third runner-up in the "How Did You Like the Play, Mr. Lincoln?" contest. What were our mothers doing, I wonder, while our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation? And yeah, I am the kind of dork who uses score in an actual sentence just as I say enhance where you might choose to say improve (and be wrong). I've gotten enough Indian burns as a kid for being a bookworm and now I don't care what you think of me.

Anyway, I was picking up a medicine I only take once a month. I do question the sincerity of a physician who comes up with a medication a patient need only take once a month. What's the thinking there? "I want him to get better, but NOT too much better...once a month should be about right. Once a week and he'd probably be cured. Once a day and he'll be leaping tall buildings in a single bound. I don't want that! I've seen him in tights."

Just as well I'm keeping my day job; that's how I pay my insurance premiums. I went to pickup the prescription and the pharmacy technician explained my insurance would only authorize a ninety day refill-three pills. Somehow, my heart will carry on, I guess. She then asked if I had any questions. Unfortunately, for her, I did.

"What," I asked, "happened to Sandy?" She looked at me blankly. I explained to her Sandy was a dog I had as a pet when we lived in Wanamassa, New Jersey. I didn't add "when I was five years old." I didn't think it was germane to getting an answer to my question. The woman backed away slowly from the counter, which bothered me slightly as we were already on opposite sides of it and she was the one much closer to the drugs.

Fearing, perhaps, she hadn't heard me, I repeated my question only louder adding "Sandy was a Cocker Spaniel who tried to bite me." That is my whole memory of that animal. I hated that dog. So much for trying to get in good with the tech-not even sharing that extra little bit helped. She stared at me evenly while demanding to know why I was asking her about my dog. Because, I explained, you gave me permission when you asked if I had any questions.

"I meant about the medicine!" she sort of shouted. I offered easily and breezily it couldn't be my fault if I didn't understand what she meant since I could only hear what she said. The purchase was for less than five dollars-adding a whole new meaning to the phrase cheap thrill and I pocketed the change from a ten. I like to pay in cash sometimes when I'm feeling nostalgic; cash reminds me of when we were a powerful and feared nation and not a bunch of whiners afraid of a few questions about a dog that's been dead for decades.

The technician seemed happy, almost too happy, as I walked away from the counter. I wonder when she'll realize that it's only a ninety-day reprieve. And that it's not Ol' Roy who's coming back for the rest of his party favors?
-bill kenny

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Earth as It Is in Heaven

I'm always impressed by pictures taken from space of the Earth--not so much for their color, composition and contrast or for their peacefulness but because, from that distance, we all look very much the same. I'd like to believe that's how God in Heaven sees us, though I'm willing to wait a while longer before getting the answer to that question.

This past Sunday, splashed across the front page of the Sunday Bulletin, and carrying over to its inside pages, was 5 Years Later, Norwich Fails Diversity Vow. It was for me, a white man nearing sixty, disquieting and discomfiting and for others a discouraging read that prompted a large volume of on-line comments many of which did more to underscore the article's basic tenet about realities and perceptions of realities being one and the same thing than to disprove it.

We are a month and a day away from the dedication of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial in Washington, D. C., and yet in many respects, we cannot (or will not) agree on how far we've already traveled or how much more we have yet to go in the four plus decades since Dr. King was murdered in Memphis.

Don't get me wrong. We have a nice remembrance on Dr. King's birthday/holiday in mid-January as well-meaning people from across the area gather at City Hall for a short celebratory march to a local church where fine words are spoken about living and working together after which, for the most part, we all return to our separate lives, already in progress.

Just how much progress we are making in being better at living and working together was the thrust of Sunday's article and, truth to tell, there are no easy answers but we can't stop having the conversation on race merely because the questions it produces upset or anger us.

Inter-personal human relations aren't like math problems or scientific equations where you plug in specific values of designated variables into a formula that produces a result which can then be applied in a particular set of circumstances. One plus one, despite our best intentions, doesn't always equal a well known outcome, but we should we all continue to strive to be One Nation.

And as much as I understand the numbers offered in the story, we are much more (and much more complicated) than sums on a sheet of newsprint. Reading it, I think we could be chastened; we should not be discouraged.

We are a nation, a state and city in transition. Racial, gender, sexual, religious, financial equality and freedom are all goals in many instances more conceptual than concrete. There will not ever come the day when all of us aren't working on any of those challenges and half of us will see the progress made and the rest of us will see all the miles to go before we sleep.

Dr. King, himself, knew the arduous path we were on, standing at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial nearly half a century ago when he spoke of the next American nation he and we would need to build for all of our children "...where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." A dream delayed can only be a dream denied for so long. Let all the dreamers wake the nation.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

See the Sky Weeping Tears for the Ocean

Too often there are too many home fires burning and not enough trees. The human cost of the murderous rage in Oslo, Norway is still being totaled but the preliminary numbers are mind numbing but still overshadowed by another variation of our usual reindeer games. Mistrust and distrust of The Other leads to Fear and then Hatred-and once we get on that escalator of emotional violence, we don't stop until we get to the top.

Even though the cartridge casings from the carnage were still too hot to sort and save after the assault, the rush to pin the blame on The Other had already begun. First out of the box, was the instant analysis aimed at Al Queda and Muslims (used interchangeably since if all ducks are birds, all birds must be ducks) as well as the usual suspects who fit the vaguest of descriptions.

That was followed by the righteous self-righteousness of other media partners mixed with what seemed to be an indecent glee as it became evident the murderous coward responsible had politics far right of center. Thanks to media operators on both side of the partisan divide, the usual danger about rushing to judgment when the judgment's set up wrong has been eliminated because we no longer run out of people who won't get fooled again.

I'm as guilty as anyone of 'gotcha' and 'no tag backs' in arguing about this story (and so many others and variations like it) while losing sight of the critical point: many, many innocent children, women and men died over some obscure ideological point of distinction. And no, I'm not offering links to the lunatic's world view, now or ever. It accords him a dignity and respect he attempted to strip from victims by pretending he could make them an abstraction, devoid of humanity before killing them. Fuck him.

Throughout the blogosphere and on countless media websites the war of words is waged and no one changes anything. No matter how much time you and I and the tens (and hundreds) of thousands of scribblers and scribes across the universe engaged in this very same exercise at this very same moment, argue about the politics which drove the decision to kill and murder, those who died will still be dead.

That we almost didn't even remember to realize that is what should be so frightening. I mourn their deaths though I never had the opportunity to know them or know of them. Speaking of Emergent Occasions, John Donne's Bell does toll, from Oslo to the deserts of the American Southwest and all places in between. And still we argue about the ideology that separates us rather than the humanity we share. Har du ikke hørt, er det en kamp om ord, ropte plakaten bærer. Hør sønn, sa mannen med pistolen, det er plass til deg innsiden.
-bill kenny

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back of My Neck Getting Dirty and Gritty

If it helps, fast forward six months and we'll be complaining about the cold and snow. Like I said, if it helps; it may not. Otherwise we can perspire or glisten (do you want to know a secret?) in syncopation and anticipation and wait for the heat wave to end so we can talk about it for hours on end.

A nice way to beat the heat, because so many of the sites have air-conditioning, is to attend a municipal meeting. Gives a you a chance to see the miracle of democracy up close and personal (perhaps a little more up close than you'd like, but you can't make an omelet without breaking a few legs as Tony Soprano might say), and despite (or sometimes because of) the weather, the calendar is full again this week, beginning with....

This afternoon at five in Room 210 of City Hall with a special meeting of the Ethics Commission. You'll have to leave when the commission goes into Executive Session (to protect personal privacy rights) but no decisions can be made without returning to the public meeting.

I am a little disappointed, in light of the unveiling of the Downtown Revitalization Programs details and the proposed Marina purchase (to name two recent headlines), to learn the Redevelopment Agency's meeting has been cancelled for this month and will next convene (I hope) on August 22nd.

Tuesday afternoon at three-thirty in the Central Office of the Norwich Public Schools across from the Norwichtown Green is a regular meeting of the Board of Education Policy Committee, or so it says on the city's meeting calendar. It says a lot less on the Board's website but their chronic lack of timely information is almost no longer remarkable.

At five, in the City Manager's office in City Hall, is a regular meeting of the Harbor Management Commission. There's a June meeting agenda, but no meeting minutes posted on the city's website (imagine my surprise).

Wednesday afternoon, maybe at three thirty in the Central Office of the Norwich Public Schools, is a regular meeting of the Building and Space Committee. I'm waffling because it's on the municipal calendar but next to nothing is posted on the Board of Education's website.

At five thirty in the basement conference room of the Planning Department at 23 Union Street it's a sort of triple header as the Dangerous Buildings Board of Review has a regular meeting at five-thirty. Don't waste your time looking for minutes-there are none posted on line for the entire year. I admire that kind of consistency.

At six (in the evening, not at 6 AM as listed at the top of the page) is a regular meeting of the Reid and Hughes Committee who are a subset of the aforementioned board and who have no other listing on the city's website and, thus, no membership roster nor posted meeting minutes as referenced in their agenda or required by public act.

And because I enjoy a laugh as much as the next person (and maybe more), at six thirty, the 751 North Main Street Committee meets in the same location, with pretty much the same folks who started at 5:30 and with the same dearth of archived records of previous meetings as the other two bodies. You cannot make this stuff up.

Speaking of laughs and toe-tapping, for that matter, since you're only a block away while at the Planning Department waiting for whichever meeting is about to happen or end, there's Rock the Docks, with Dan Stevens, from six until eight o'clock. Then he rocks them himself, I guess (the NY Times called him "Connecticut's hardest working blues man"; perhaps that's why).

In the middle of all of this, across town at six in the Recreation Department, it's a regular meeting of the Recreation Advisory Board whose posted membership roster is in desperate need of refreshing and whose meeting minutes are poorly archived. It looks like the last meeting was in December of 2010 and if we meet that sporadically, why meet at all?

At seven, in the conference room over at the Golf Course, it's a regular meeting of the Golf Authority. I'm not sure where or when they replace their divots, but their meeting minutes are here.

Thursday morning at 7:30, in their offices at 77 Main Street, it's a regular meeting of the Board of Directors of the Norwich Community Development Corporation, whose agenda and previous meeting minutes can be easily enough obtained by asking for them but it would a lot simpler for everyone if they were just posted on the city's website (it's city business they do, right?) along with everyone else's except, waitaminit! so many of the others aren't posted...Hmmm.

Later in the day, much later actually, at 7 PM in the Greeneville Fire Department, it's a One City Forum and a chance to talk about issues that concern you-such as the repurposing of two former school buildings that were already in need of code compliance work when they were shuttered and seemingly allowed to deteriorate.

Perhaps the idea was that it would be easier to raze them and clear the land for reuse, except, well, nobody briefed the City Council on the preferred outcome and now we're still at square one with an increasingly contentious argument about possible uses that needed long ago to become either a fully articulated plan, complete with funding or be relegated to the dustbin of history. Lieber ein ende mit schrecken als shrecken ohne ende.

And that's this week's meetings here in The Rose of New England. We get the government we deserve and we deserve the best we can get, which means we need to be engaged and involved and to stop waiting for somebody, somewhere to do something. The movement you need is on your shoulders (okay, most of us need to keep our day-jobs).
-bill kenny

Sunday, July 24, 2011

They Say It's Your Birthday

Today is my sister, Kara's birthday. It's a holiday in her house and probably should be one on her block and across the State of New Jersey, though in light of budget cutbacks everywhere, unlikely to be the case.

The world is a much better place because Kara is in it and our family is fortunate that she is our relative even if, as Einstein predicated, everything is relative. (Could that mean everything is Einstein? I'm asking because it would explain the bramble that is often my hair when I awake.)

Kara and I shared a small overlapping childhood as I was transitioning away as she was becoming her own person. And in a sense, I suspect, she sees herself more often as Jill and Adam's older sister than as the younger sibling of our brother, Kelly, and sister, Evan, with whom I spent far more years, only because their luck wasn't as good as Kara's.

Kara and her husband, Russ, have their own family that is growing up, though I hope not growing apart, with RJ, Randy and Jordan all young men on a mission, in different direction at maximum velocity. When next they look, their boys will be grown and gone. I've discovered the easiest way to track the passing of time is to look at and to my children as they are better indicators of how far we have all come than any mirror can hope to ever tell me. I imagine I am not the only one who has made that discovery.

Kara should actually be our ambassador to the United Nations as she has a genius for talking people into doing things they would otherwise never, ever consider and, while so doing, convincing them that it was all their own idea in the first place while she is pleased and proud to help them.

I believe she (and my) younger sister Jill can actually pull off the Tom Sawyer paint the fence trick, but it's Kara who organizes the trip to the hardware store to get the brushes and the drop clothes. And she'll even help you muscle them into the van.

I wasn't around when our Mom was a kid-or a teen-or a young woman. I caught up with her as a young mother (and was, technically, the first reason why she was a young mother) but I have always thought Kara most resembles what our Mom must have been like when we were too small to really remember.

You cannot help but smile when you are with Kara-I am smiling now as I type this, thinking of her because she is relentlessly cheerful no matter the situation. Her children reflect the values she and Russ have instilled in them and are readying themselves to sally forth into the world, and by thus engaging, improve it, all by themselves. My brother-in-law has impeccable judgment, excellent taste and superior good fortune. Happy Birthday Kara!
-bill kenny

Saturday, July 23, 2011

You Can Come to the Golf Course Everyday

I went to our Borders store in Waterford, Connecticut, the other night to burn up my gift card before the USS Bankruptcy, having taken on too much water to stay afloat, heads keel-first, for the bottom. Between the really big box store in the Waterford Commons and the a-little-bigger-than-a-push-cart size shop in the Crystal Mall, close to four dozen people will be former employees probably by the end of September.

It was not a happy place to be Tuesday. I hadn't been in there since the fiasco after Christmas with the delivery (and lack of same) of compact discs I ordered on line to be delivered to the local store, vice mailed to my house. The problem wasn't the shipping- the problem was their system was too stupid to get out of its own way. I ordered three discs at the same time-the then-new Springsteen, a Best of Old 97's (though NOT that one) and a middle-aged Gaslight Anthem.

Springsteen arrived within forty-eight hours which proved a bar later orders could not ever clear. Eventually (preceded by a gerund that looks like 'firetruck' but shorter) the Old 97's stumbled in but Gaslight Anthem, after numerous false starts, reminiscent of Monty Python, failed utterly and epicly. Three times in two months after having been called to pick up my order only to learn there was nothing to pick up, I received in the mail unannounced (because surprise is an accountatnt's ally) a 'we're sorry you didn't like the thing you didn't like' consolation gift card, minus a restocking fee, and Borders.com went silent.

After a vigorous (see previous note on firetruck for adjectival descriptor) exchange on line and via telephone with folks more outsourced than in the loop, it was decided to waive the restocking fee and yet another card was snail-mailed to me to join the original gift card which still had a balance, plus the oopsadaisy card for GA no-show and the 'yes, we'd fuq up a one car funeral procession' gift card for the restocking fee snafu.

I had already decided to never shop there again, a vow I broke after realizing that once the S. S. Borders sinks beneath the breakers of bankruptcy, the cards will be worthless. Mom raised crazy children, not stupid ones (stop looking at me). I grabbed Elliot Smith music that was the best possible purchase given the locale and the situation.

I should point out none of my bad feelings about Borders had anything to do with the flesh and blood people in the brick and mortar footprint, where, just as they have been doing since the store first opened (in 1498, maybe?) people were sitting having a coffee and reading books and magazines as the afternoon bled out into the evening hours.

Had anyone been reading a newspaper, perhaps they'd have noticed the front page story about the impending closure of the store but, as it was, the only ones who seemed to know that were the employees, and, I assume, some nervous vendors hidden out of sight waiting for the rest of the vultures to form a really large swarm before zoning in and moving on. I'm not sure what people who used to work in bookstores next do for a living since all the folks I've ever encountered, in indy shops as well as Mega-Box, have always seemed to be genetically pre-disposed towards book selling.

Even places like Borders who, I guess, made a not inconsiderable amount of business from DVD's and CD's, the passion was always in the printed pages of the book carrels and stacks. For my part, and I've bought thousands and tens of thousands of books in my life, though very few in recent years (my seeing eye dog prefers the ones on tape), I still cannot buy a new, not familiar to me, book on line. It has to be in person; I don't know why.

And now, because the business model proved to not be economically viable, forty more people will join the 9.2% of the Connecticut workforce that doesn't work at this moment as state and national leadership continues to tell one another, and attempts to tell the rest of us, a story on how things are turning around and looking up. And all I can hear is "I can see me bound and gagged, dragged behind the clownmobile" and fear we're running out of places to store the big shoes and the red noses.
-bill kenny

Friday, July 22, 2011

Good Night, Moon

I was still still pedaling like Elliot racing with ET in the basket on his bike when NASA announced "Atlantis is Home"and with the landing of the final manned shuttle mission, the effort, sometimes tragic and other times triumphant, to slip the surly bounds of earth has changed forever.

As kids we sat breathlessly in our classrooms as the launch of Project Mercury capsules, then Gemini and finally Apollo, were carried on the school public address system (by placing the microphone next to the speaker of the radio tuned to the launch). Sister Immaculata, the principal, was a fervent space program supporter and had no problem integrating Alan Shepard and The Good Shepherd into the same lesson plan. She was ahead of her time and would probably be burned at the stake as a witch now. But she was right--it turned out rocket science really was rocket science-and quite heady stuff.

It was years later and I can still recall sitting on the top stair that led to the second level of our parents' summer house listening to the TV as Mom and Dad sat downstairs in the living room watching the first moon walk. We walked on the moon, you be polite. But we weren't, not really; we were boisterous, exuberant, confident bordering on cocky even as the Russians, who'd startled us with Sputnik into racing to the stars, failed to ever even reach the moon. We were not to be denied.

And then followed the years, perhaps more like decades, when I didn't realize we had a space mission until I'd see the TV news or read a press report on a landing. I'd wonder what had happened to our modern love affair with faraway places and heroic efforts and then was captured again by workaday and thought no more about it. We still had so much passion, but romance was out of fashion and space missions, even those that were star-crossed and ill-fated, ceased to set our hearts racing anymore.

Our children have Tetris and Game Boy and 3-D devices that help appease and assuage the vast indifference of heaven though it can never match our own. And yesterday we hung a Gone Fission sign on the cherry picker at the launch site in Florida and told all who follow us to limber up those thumbs and read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy because that's as close we chose to dream. We had the moon and more in our grasp, but then we blinked and when we looked again, it was gone. The moon's a harsh mistress; she's hard to call your own. And now we never shall.
-bill kenny

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kurt's Blurt

I think we're well on our way to being a nation of impatient mind-readers. Don't furrow your brow or make that face (I know 'what face? I wasn't making a face!' Were, too.). You may phrase it more elegantly (I would certainly hope so) but, with apologies to Beckett (not Josh), we're NOT Waiting for Godot but rather hoping the other one shuts up real soon so we can talk.

It's taken me forever to warm to texting on my cell phone. I get hung up on spelling all the words with all the right letters in the proper places with capitalization and punctuation for all. In the wonderful world of one hundred and forty characters, such fastidiousness can make you roadkill with hair on the human highway and more often than I'd like, I've been reminded that he who hesitates is lunch.

I've had follow-up texts as I've been struggling to frame a response to an earlier note. It's hard to count to ten and get a grip on your annoyance while holding a piece of plastic with more computing power than our first three home computers had, put together, while some touch typist is kicking your thumbs.

We're about the same in person to person communications, too. Those Sunday morning public affairs programs the major TV networks used to have so the FCC would cut them a break at license renewal time, have evolved into snarkfests where folks who remind me of terriers in need of Ritalin just yap at one another when they're not shredding some 'guest' like an old chew toy.

We're all rushing to get someplace other than here and once we're there, wherever 'there' is, we're off again. My German wife calls it kein ruhe im arsch and she would know as she's married to one (mit ohren). When you next converse with a real, live person try to listen to the interaction between you, not just to the words but to the silences as well, and you may be surprised at how little of the latter breaks up the stream of the former.

I used to tease acquaintances and associates, disquieted at how rapidly I spoke, that people from my home state of New Jersey couldn't afford a pause to catch our breath or collect our thoughts, because with so many in such a small state, if you stop speaking you won't be heard from again for years. In light of Jersey Shore et al, that may not be such a bad thing anymore.

So now we talk, type and (for the most part) think in shorthand delivered in staccato, acronym and emoticon all masking, while masquerading as, meaning. Instead of technology and our tools helping language and literature to flower as arts and culture flourish we've continued to dumb down and throw majesty and meaning over the side.

I came across a quote from Indianapolis' #1 Son, Kurt Vonnegut that makes me smile and think every time I read it. If it does half as much for you, it's worth the inclusion, "...do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites, standing for absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college."
-bill kenny (Class of '74)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Talk versus Walk

Sometimes the things we do speak so loudly, it's hard to hear what we're saying to one another. Sharing information, and respecting the right of others to speak and to listen is all well and good, it seems, but there always comes a moment when, in a desire to make a decision that often looks like a rush to judgment, we default to banging a fist on the table and offering 'because I said so' as the excuse masquerading as a reason.

At the first City Council meeting in July, there was a great deal of public comment during the meeting on one topic in particular: a resolution to tear down two previously-shuttered schools, Buckingham and Greeneville, because of the claimed costs in maintaining and retaining them in the municipal inventory. Sometimes demolition leads to deliverance and redemption but sometimes it's just another world for destruction. Sometimes the commonweal is unable or unwilling to agree on the definition of the common good.

Both of our children attended Buckingham School and we all know parents who had children in the Greeneville School. Neighborhood schools were, and often still are, an integral and familiar part of the landscape in cities of every size and economic strata. Not just in Norwich, neighbors look to schools the way the fingers of the hand look to the thumb. The Board of Education's decisions to close each of those facilities were not made lightly or taken without exploring alternatives and considering as many contingencies as possible.

The night of the Council meeting, many in the public who spoke (and there many who did) were concerned at the speed, perceived by many as haste, in deciding to tear the buildings down. Concerns about burning boats at the water's edge and in not having a fully-articulated plan for 'what's next?' seemed to impress enough members of the seven person City Council that the resolution for demolition failed to get the necessary five votes.

The city has earned itself a breather and an opportunity to create the possibility of an answer to "what's next?" as we struggle, yet again, to understand how important both asking and answering a question can be.

A week from tomorrow, next Thursday evening, starting at seven in the Greeneville Fire Department, the next installment of the One City Forum wants to hear from dreamers and schemers (and everyone in between) on ideas for what to do with both the Buckingham and Greeneville Schools. Bring your poems, prayers, and promises, but most especially your plans, and don't leave the meeting until you've had a chance to make yourself heard, and to listen while others do the same.

As someone who attends a lot of these meetings and who sees himself as a relentless pragmatist (others might say pain in a lower extremity), I would hope for a massive turnout of energized and engaged citizens from across the city and the region who seize this opportunity and use it to define a goal and refine the means of reaching that goal. We are much smarter together than we are alone--and we need to not only change our city, but to become that change.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Praise Be to Nero's Neptune

I was off Friday so my back-to-work-after-the-weekend routine was a little more labored and rusty than usual so I was still reorienting myself that I was navigating the suspended indoor oval track barely beneath the roof above the basketball courts, treadmills, bicycles, weight machines and dumb bells. It's brisk up there in February as there's not a lot of insulation and the heat from the building only slowly rises. The good news, by mid-July, is the heat is fully risen and we could make pizza on the track.

If only we could reconfigure exercise to make you feel as good as the number after five in German, we'd go broke buying spandex. But in much the same way as we cannot make broccoli taste like chocolate, exercise is what it is and not much fun is a large part of that. But yesterday morning the headbender for me wasn't the heat from the indoor track or the mind-numbing dumbness of the laps (I think I actually like that part-I just have to aim and go).

Below me, the flat panel displays of the electric fire mounted on the walls facing the treadmills were silently offering, as if it were actual news, continuous coverage of the release from jail of Casey Anthony. This is the story that keeps on giving, better and bigger than OJ if he had Susan Smith in the Bronco with him.

When we have nothing else to tell one another about this American Tragedy (if Dreiser were alive today he'd be writing copy for Geraldo), we talk to ourselves about how low we've sunk as a country and then, morally reassured we aren't this blackhearted b*tch of a mother, return to our self-serving coverage, already in progress.

You haven't experienced America's 24/7 assault on the senses until it's still so early that for some it's still the night before and while you're watching pictures that make your flesh crawl, you're listening to Radiohead's Creep and it makes as much sense as a day pass for the cholera ward at Bedlam.

And then I get to work and dig through my backlog of weekend email and the news we had no room for on the plasma displays jumps out from Sunday morning: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Staff Sgt. Wyatt A. Goldsmith, 28, of Colville, Wash., died July 15 at Camp Bastion Hospital, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered July 15 when insurgents attacked his unit with rocket-propelled grenade fire in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington."

Almost ten years since the attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, the deaths of US service members are now so routine I cannot remember the name of the Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine who pre-deceased SSG Goldsmith and by this time tomorrow my recollection of his passing will be fading as well. And yet we reset the shot clock of notoriety and salacious celebrity on ...."All those people that you mention, Yes, I know them; they’re quite lame. I had to rearrange their faces and give them all another name. Right now I can’t read too good, don’t send me no more letters, no! Not unless you mail them from Desolation Row."
-bill kenny

Monday, July 18, 2011

A New Week, Another Chance

One year, a long time ago, I had a wall calendar that began the week on Monday, much as I did and still do. I was more than half way through the year before I got even close to comfortable with that arrangement-just habit, I guess.

So much of our lives work on a Monday through Friday rhythm even though many of us enjoy lives that reach and stretch beyond those blocks on the calendar and more and more of us are working in environments where days of the week are more notional than viable. Meanwhile, here on earth, the business of government, at all levels, discussions on calendars aside, continues as we reach the near mid-point of the summer (already?).

At high noon today in the Planning Department's conference room at 23 Union Street, it's a special meeting of the Commission on the City Plan, probably driven by agenda item L1.

At seven thirty tonight is a regular meeting of the City Council (I think we can do away with the resolution from the December 7th 2009 meeting now)-you'll find the full agenda here, and I wonder, when reading Resolution 8, what is/has been the interaction between the public safety leadership and the committee revising the Plan of Development (possibly the same amount with the Board of Education).

Tuesday afternoon at 5:30 in the Buckingham Memorial Building, it's a regular meeting of the Public Parking Commission, whose last meeting, I assume, based on the posted minutes was in May (and whose convenings so far this year have been less than regular).

Tuesday night at six, in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Personnel and Pension Board, whose memberships have all lapsed, at least online. The Board always has a full schedule of activities and decisions as a check of their June meeting minutes underscores.

And at seven, in the Planning Department's conference room at 23 Union Street, it's a regular meeting of the Commission on the City Plan whose June minutes help demonstrate and illustrate how inter-connected the various volunteer and elected boards across the city are with one another. If you sense a pitch to help out when you hear of a vacancy on an agency or a committee, you're right, that's exactly what this is. As long as you and I are here, put it there.

Wednesday morning at 8:30 in their offices in the Norwich Business Park it's a regular meeting of the Full Council of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments whose July agenda is not available on line but whose June meeting minutes are right here (If I presume the meeting will call on Governor Malloy to restore his proposed budget cuts and (also) NOT increase taxes would you think I'm cynical or planning a run for office?).

Also Wednesday morning and lacking an agenda but also absent any form of meeting minutes of any kind, it's the Norwich School Readiness Council (Children First) meeting in the Dime Bank's Community Room, beginning at 9 AM. If the road to a very warm place is paved with the best of intentions, it would help explain why the road to the meeting is so nice and why it never needs to be plowed in the winter.

On your way to or from one of those meetings, remember between ten and two to stop by the Norwich Waterfront Farmer's Market at Howard T. Brown Park; and, same location, later in the day, starting at six, it's Rock the Docks with Eight to the Bar. Suspect I can guess one song Collin doesn't play.

The Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone meets at 5:30 in the Norwich Arts Council Coop Gallery. The June agenda is on the city's website meeting announcement perhaps to compensate for the continuing absence of meeting minutes (and when posting minutes, please update the members' terms of office, too).

It's not on the City's website, but one of the local newspapers reports there's a Republican Town Committee at seven, possibly in Room 335 (that's my guess). The same paper also lists a Democratic Town Committee meeting on Thursday at seven that the city's website doesn't mention. I think this election season, instead of candidate interviews, there should be auditions. You must be able to tap dance, sing show tunes, do card tricks or juggle-stuff those (few) of us who go to municipal meetings would enjoy. Bring out the lions and open the cage.

Thursday afternoon at five, it's a regular meeting of the Historic District Commission, whose role in helping tourism become an engine of economic development cannot be overstated. Here's their agenda and though the note says the June meeting minutes are enclosed as well, they're not. Those you will find here (I'd love to read a LOT more about item C. b. and a plan to make it a reality).

At six, the Ice Rink Authority has a regular meeting at The Rink on New London Turnpike, the first one since April, judging from the posted meeting minutes. The Rink very successfully hosted the twenty-first annual ISI championships this time a month ago.

A Saturday activity, close to home, historical and a lot of fun, is a visit to the Leffingwell House Museum (noon to four). Sometimes it's easier to see where we're going when you can sneak a peek at where we've been, instead of running headlong into tomorrow with our eyes closed. Only close-up is the future frightening ..."everything looks perfect from far away. 'Come down now,' but we will stay..." See you at something?
-bill kenny

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mothra is My Homeboy

Brace yourself. There are about to be a lot more empty couches in the basement bedrooms of Moms everywhere in the United States as San Diego's annual celebration of the surreal, Comic-Con gears up and officially opens this Thursday.

I thought Harry Potter mania or whatever last week's outpouring of support by devotees of Harry Potter and the Final Payday (yes?) for the last movie in that series was overwhelming, along comes Comic-Con and the scale shifts again (I think the Potter movie is only the last one until someone figures out a way to resuscitate the franchise, and if there's enough money, someone will).

I should be careful where I tread. I'm the guy who gets up on Sunday mornings to read Prince Valiant in the newspaper so I really should find rocks that are as hard as marshmallows or get thicker curtains for my transparent walls. The kinds of devotion people have to comics, or should I say graphic novels (and are they separate items or extensions of the same art-form or....y'know what? I don't care) is harmless or, for the most part, harmless. Especially when you're eleven. Too much beyond your 'best if used by' date and the cuteness quotient declines precipitously as far as I'm concerned.

Right now, we're loving the comic book heroes (or we're making a lot of movies about them) with Transformers, Green Lantern, Captain America, Tim Pawlenty (okay, three out of four and Tim doesn't even know Megan Fox, whom it turns out doesn't know Michael Bay or a money-making franchise when she sees one). But, child of the novelty that I am, and with every manner of revival in full ka-ching mode, I wonder why no one has revisited Godzilla and that entire genre of cheesy lunacy.

I don't want them remade with a kabillion dollars worth of effects, cameos by George Clooney, Jessica Biel and Matt Damon or music by the London Symphony Orchestra. Heck, they don't even need to be in color. They were almost perfect the way they were, right down to the obvious toy truckness of the 'army' vehicles one or the other of the horrible creatures destroys on their rampage to and through Tokyo (I LOVE the narrator of the clip; anyone this serious about anything this silly needs to chill).

The greatest thing about any of these movies are the ones where Mothra puts in an appearance, along with her pin-sized posse, the "Cosmos" (okay, maybe some special effects money invested here wouldn't be such a bad idea; and feel free to hire a coach to teach Mothra to swim, please). I wouldn't be surprised to learn there are studies somewhere suggesting when economic times are tough(er) the appeal of fantasy, as books, records, movies, you name it, increases. And I believe we need all the pint-sized people singing in high-pitched voices we can get, even in Congress.

Their appeal? I think it's because so many of us want to believe in something bigger and beyond ourselves. If Jesus is just alright, then Yoshimi, they don't believe me but you won't let those robots defeat me. At least until we have a prequel and sequel deal plus merchandising rights on three continents. Our machines will call your machines and do lunch.
-bill kenny