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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

When All of This Became All of That

It's hard to believe the golden summer for which we so yearned while slogging through all that snow and ice this winter, has, for all intents and purposes, come and gone. Those plans for vacations and days off we hoped to enjoy have had their 'best used by' dates disappear before our eyes and here we are at that place on the calendar where we start the next chapter and turn the page.

If you have children in school, the end of summer is old news. You long ago knew it was gone as you readied them for this week. School was to have started today for many youngsters in Norwich, but due to Tropical Storm Irene, it's now been delayed until next Tuesday. Regardless of when it starts, summer is over.


If your children are grown and gone, you're still aware of school as the buses wend their way throughout town while elsewhere groups of youngsters of all ages trip and troop across sidewalks and crosswalks, all in the name of learning.

In the days ahead, many of us will hit the stores armed with lists of school supplies and struggle to juggle after-school activities, our jobs, and fractious households that don't run themselves. Soon too many will be back to managing families the way a horse runs: one footfall at a time, rarely, if ever, looking far enough ahead to see if our path is taking us to where we want to go or, instead, leading us over the proverbial cliff.


Now, and when city budget discussions heat up in April, are really the only times we devote any thought to education which is unfair to children, teachers, parents, actually, to all of us. This is not an advocacy for more money for schools-there isn't any more money but, and it's a cliche, if you think education is expensive, try calculating the cost of ignorance.

You and I went to different high schools together-and, trust me on this one-different elementary schools, too. Our schools were so different from the ones our children attend, they could just as easily be from another planet. Actually, without putting too fine a point on it, it was a very different world and when you look at us now, the society and culture we inherited from our parents and then look at what we are giving to their grandchildren, the 'stuff in the middle' is our doing.

A glance at a newspaper, a TV screen or a computer monitor is all you need to confirm our world is a dangerous and different place now. Gone or going is the industrial age, being replaced often rudely and without ceremony, by the knowledge age. This is typed on a workstation keyboard-our children live in a world of hand-held digital devices that make our desktops and laptops look like Gutenberg's press. Access to information, the how-to and the what-you-do-with-it-next are the world our children and theirs will live in, and lamentations about how that's not what school was like when we were young helps no one at all.

Stasis in life and in learning is foolish and fatal. Everyone with an interest in education, and that means all of us, must recognize the purpose of education should be to learn the rules of life better than anyone else so that you can change the rules. Always a good thing to remember, especially as the seasons change yet again.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why Are You Wearing Your Shirt in the Pool?

When you don't know where you're going any road will get you there. Welcome to There, Population: Us, but mostly me right now. I had Ken Stringfellow's "Down Like Me" stuck in my brain because it popped up earlier on my Slacker radio station devoted to music from Black Rebels Motorcycle Club. No, I don't know how I got from music like this to music like this but that's not really the point (and when we get to to it you will NOT thank me), though the latter tune is just driven. YIPES! (and kudos for creative use of suspenders)

I've enjoyed Stringfellow from The Posies, through pieces of REM and including his work with parts and parcels of Big Star who, when Alex Chilton walked the earth, I always thought were brilliant. Stringfellow is a remarkable band all by himself and so he's a very pleasant guest to have in your head. But that's not getting us any closer to whatever point these words have today, assuming there is one at all.

While waiting for something resembling light to show up on the Down Like Me video clip I noticed in the margin a thumbnail for Fred Goes Swimming. This is a video I believe we will NEVER have to worry about youtube slapping a fifteen second commercial onto the header. I just do not see it happening and it's only when I squint really hard that I can see anything vaguely related to a point of a series involving this Fred rather than the one who was immortalized for all time in spray paint on the friedhof wall near Eschenhiemer Tor I used to pass every afternoon that proclaimed "United Freds gegen United States."

And if it makes you feel better, I had no idea who that Fred was, either. And let's not mention Judy or Kevin while we're at it, okay? If you're still reading this after all of that we're going to need to adjust the population sign. Downwards.
-bill kenny

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Box of Rain Will Ease the Pain

If that is indeed what it takes to ease the pain, up and down the East Coast, there should be piles of pills mixed in among the broken branches and other storm detritus as we certainly had ourselves a time in the precipitation department this weekend.

I'm not especially disappointed the "Big Storm" proved to be not quite and I hope that was true for where you lived as well. The only effect to our Sunday was not having electricity for about seven and a half hours--for those who lost much more, from property to lives of loved ones, I know we got off very lucky and if I knew how to be grateful I would be.

This is actually a quiet week for meetings which is just as well as we'll be cleaning up around here for the next few days with the first municipal meeting of the week being a doubleheader on Tuesday, at six, when there are special meetings of the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners and the Sewer Authority (respectively) at the Norwich Public Utilities' offices at 16 Golden Street. Based on the agenda it will another opportunity to learn more about the infrastructure proposals for Shipping Street. Or you can keep talking to a neighbor who knows even less about it than you do. I know exactly how you feel-my mind's made up. Don't confuse me with facts.

Wednesday morning at 8:30 in the Munson Room at the Mystic Seaport it's a regular meeting of the full council of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments. The agenda isn't posted but their July meeting minutes are available here and help me understand why the meeting was in Mystic Seaport and not in the Council's offices in the Business Park.

Thursday afternoon at three in Council chambers at City Hall it's a special meeting of the Committee of the Council that will very quickly go into executive session. Their findings will be part of the next City Council agenda and meeting on Tuesday, 6 September.

And finally at seven, in the Planning Department conference room at 23 Union Street, it's a regular meeting of the Inlands Wetlands, Watercourses Commission whose August meeting minutes are here.

And that, in a week that has school openings and all the hullabaloo that goes with that, is a look ahead at the miracle of democracy here in the Rose of New England. See you at something?
-bill kenny

Sunday, August 28, 2011

And though I Wear a Uniform I Was Not Born to Fight

If I didn't know any better, and I admit that I usually don't, I'd wonder if I'm not a stunt double in a Leonard Cohen music video for Last Year's Man. I mean, it sure feels like what he's singing about and not just here at my house but across the region as everywhere you turn on the East Coast, Irene is the woman's name you keep hearing.

I'm not really concerned so much about the rain as I am about what Dylan Thomas referred to as the dying of the light. Almost everyone my age I know, and there's not nearly as many of us left as I'd have thought should have survived to this point, is, like me, bone weary all the time. We get up tired, slog through our days semi-comatose, and crash on couches in middle class fever dreams we never envisioned ourselves as ever living in to go to bed and fail to dream to get up and do it all again..

Don't get me wrong-I'm disappointed in myself and in my life, so far, but I'm not unhappy. I met and married someone who loved and who still loves me though I haven't done anything remotely lovable in a ridiculous number of years. We have two children who are now, themselves, adults and who are getting on with their own lives rather nicely without us, which is the whole plan as I remember the orientation briefing at Dad School from back in the day.

I, and by that I mean my peers and me, didn't crash or go down in flames, we surrendered a little bit everyday until we really ran out of things to give away. We traded our blue skies and beliefs for BMW's and shipped good paying jobs to low wage third and fourth world nations so that their people could have an opportunity to earn forty cents a day making sneakers that I buy at a hundred bucks plus a pop and never even think twice about.

In another fifty years, some of those places are going to have indoor plumbing and potable drinking water, and those people, or maybe only the ones who survive until then, will want to put up a statute to folks like me. Don't worry about it, you're welcome and keep the cholera blankets-hell may freeze over and you could use the warmth.

At some point, we turned into our parents, who are laughing their asses off now as they really didn't do as terrible a job as we kept insisting they had. And considering how we could fuqq up a one car funeral procession (twice so far and don't ask me about the wet dream in the desert), it might have not been a bad idea to quit while we were only slightly behind instead of pressing on and losing sight of the entire caravan.

We thought the future was Twenty Questions but, instead, it proved to be Hide 'n Seek in a dark room. And I take the one who finds me back to where it all began, when Jesus was the honeymoon and Cain was just the man. Same as it ever was and I knew coming in that going out would be the same.
-bill kenny

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I Don't Want Another Drink

Sorry for the red herring to start today. I'm not concerned about Hurricane Irene not because I'm an idiot (though I am) or impotent in being able to change the weather (which is more than certainly true), but because I can do exactly as much about it as I was able to with whatever kind of earthquake we had in these parts earlier in the week (the other spelling was often used to describe it, which is fine).

I know someone celebrating a birthday today, the first on a new coast though not their first and I hope it's happy if the weather does make it a bit of a struggle keeping the candles on the cake lit. Historically, it's a decent day to be born (actually any day is a fine day to be born), sharing a natal anniversary with folks such Alex Lifeson (I did not realize he was younger than I; bastard), Paul Reubens (ditto, for different reasons) and Lyndon Baines Johnson (ibid not ebay).

Don't know about your neck of the woods but school of all shape and size gets started around here next week (plus minus a day, maybe, for whatever damage the hurricane brings)--not so much in our house as our two are adults (except in their father's eyes, and don't I know who that reminds me of) but the neighborhood will soon have children of all ages at the foot of driveways waiting for buses to take them away. Sneak a peek at the littlest ones as they wait and try to remember when we last felt the excitement about anything you can see in their eyes.

"Open up your back screen door/ Let me see your face once more.
My hands are cold and my feet so sore/And I can't go on this way."
Whoa! Turns out I was fooling myself, again. Damn, I'm good!
-bill kenny

Friday, August 26, 2011

When You and Sleep Escape Me

Here across the Northeast, in varying amounts in the course of the next thirty-six to forty-eight hours, we are bracing for a visit by Hurricane Irene (probably NOT named for this one) who will behave in a manner say some forecasts that may cause serious harm, hurt and havoc before its course is run.

My wife spent a great part of her yesterday storm proofing our yard--securing all the stuff (benches, feeders, bird baths) her boob of a husband walks by everyday with open eyes and never sees. The stuff, that, in a strong wind, gets blown right through a window or lifted over a fence after which I react with dumbfounded shock and incredulity because I am incapable of linking cause and effect in a timely manner for any practical purposes.

In a way it's good that she did that since I can recall being a small child, when our mom and dad rented bungalows in Atlantic Highlands, watching hurricanes come in off the ocean while standing on the beach. Their sheer power thrills me still. I don't know why. My favorite part of the Wizard of Oz is when the house and everything else is lifted by the tornado and I used to wonder growing old (as I've never grown up) if you could really and truly ride a bicycle while in the funnel.

This is serious stuff for many people and I don't mean to trivialize it or minimize its might or its majesty. As a matter of fact, I'd point out I'm doing just the opposite. While many of us have already and/or continue to stockpile milk and toilet paper (that's how we roll here in New England, pun intended) because if you reach the magic number, nothing happens and Gravity's Rainbow passes over you, I'm somehow comforted by the thought that there are forces more powerful than any we can create or unleash.

And at some point on the horizon, silhouetted against an open sky, you, me and the most powerful or wealthy men and women in the world look exactly the same as the eye of the storm descends upon us. No matter who we are, what we own or do, we are all finally and fully equal and can only hope to hold on until the heavens clear. I'm just never too sure about the something good part....
-bill kenny

Thursday, August 25, 2011

So Much for Sports as Metaphor

This is a fun two weeks for me as a sports television viewer. I love baseball-of any kind at any time. I live in Norwich, Connecticut and we have a minor league affiliate, the Connecticut Tigers in the New York-Penn League (I know 'but you live in Connecticut' and earlier in the week we played a team from Aberdeen, Maryland. What's in a name, Rose?) and, warming to my subject and part of today's teachable moment, a very active Little League as well.

Our kids didn't make it to this season's Little League World Series (but some of their parents might be seen on an upcoming episode of "Cops") and that's what I'm enjoying right now. I have absolutely no dogs in the hunt in terms of youngsters for whom I'm rooting. I watched a game Tuesday night where it seemed there were more wild pitches than hits but the players on both sides of the ball gave every pitch their all for the entire game. And yesterday's Mexico/Venezuela game was so beautiful it deserved to be framed.

The announcers remind me every half inning or so that kids learn a lot about life from sports. I learned a lot about cursing though I suspect that's not what they're talking about. Okay; from your lips to God's ear if you mean we learn that sometimes you win and sometimes you don't and often it has nothing to do with how hard you work or try but with how lucky you are.

I actually wish they didn't keep score in the games of the Little League World Series in (South) Williamsport, Pennsyslvania. Anything to make it last longer. The stands are filled every game with people who love to root for youngsters who love to play baseball. The tickets are free and the concession prices would lead you to conclude Ike is still President, except the Interstate highways are all constructed. Every team from around the world shows up as the epitome of sportsmanship and the players behave exactly as our own children would-when we are watching them armed with electric cattle prods. Norman Rockwell would paint the LLWS just the way ESPN broadcasts it.

As I said, the sad and essential part of the Little League World Series is that score is kept and some teams win and move on and others lose and go home. Winning and losing are the two sides of every coin and to savor the former you must suffer the latter but when you're twelve, the last thing you need or want is a mercy rule because you never believe you're out of it and your team is coming back in your next at-bat, you just wait (spit on the ground and hope to die).

I love the grit, the drama, the relentless optimism and the joy of being alive that everyone from the players through the volunteer umpires, fryolater cooks, parking lot attendants, parents with orange slices and Gatorade to the army of brothers, sisters and cousins who unfurl those giant banners proclaiming "We Love Leland!" (or whatever his name is) that are visible from space and cheer themselves hoarse at every opportunity. The championship game is this Sunday afternoon at three and it's a cliche to note that for all the teams it's an honor to have made it to the Series especially because when the championship game is over, the end of summer is that much closer. And autumn brings changes both welcome and unwelcome.

That's one lesson and here's the other. Women's collegiate basketball had most unwelcome change earlier this week when Pat Summitt, the Lady Volunteers basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, one of the premier programs in college sports, in any sport, announced she has early onset dementia. As a devoted UConn Lady Huskies fan who believes Geno Auriemma should be President of the United States, I was much more than saddened to learn of Coach Summitt's condition.

Tennessee and UConn, in my opinion, created the environment where professional women's basketball in the United States was economically viable. Without their classic contests a decade and a half ago fanatically followed by packed houses on both campuses and by millions on television across the country, women's pro basketball would be women's pro soccer in terms of market share and fan interest.

Coach Summitt is the best-known ambassador of her sport in every positive sense of the word and I know all, fans and otherwise, will learn a huge amount about life and living with grace in the coming weeks and months as she prepares her team for this season as if nothing were different when she, and we, know that everything has changed.

Yeah, sports is life and sometimes all the things, good and bad that come with life. Between the Little Boys of Summer and Coach Summitt of Rocky Top are constant reminders that hope springs eternal even if eternal spring is a fantasy and a fallacy. Look around, leaves are brown and the sky is a hazy shade of winter.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Tyranny of Tomorrow

It was Shakespeare's Macbeth, who may have been the first literary figure to offer an argument on the virtue of planning your work and then working your plan when he offered, "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day..."

In addition to its eloquence, it's memorable for both its utility and applicability-though in an era of diminished expectations and shortened attention spans it's easy to understand how quickly we can seem to get lost as individuals and as political units from cities to our national government.

There's always more than one way to get from here to tomorrow. The more successful paths seem to often involve inspiration and perspiration in nearly equal amounts, that is, a brilliant insight or an original idea combined with hard work. And don't forget some good luck.

My father was fond of invoking the Pennsylvania Dutch as the source of one of his favorite expressions "the harder I work, the luckier I get" but I defer to wherever your mom or dad say they heard it, too. Luck, like hope, is a four letter word and both of them have that in common with a plan. But critical to any plan are having definite, precise and clearly defined goals with a strategy of how to use the tools at your disposal to achieve those goals.

Without all of that, a plan is just a wish you make with your heart. And while that worked out very well for Jiminy Cricket, we're having a critical shortage of wishing stars right now so we'll have to make do the old-fashioned way. For what it's worth, don't take Pinocchio to any of the seafood nights at local restaurants, at least not for the next few weeks.

There's been enough words written on "how get ___ back on track" where we each insert the name of where we live, step two paces back and admire our handiwork seldom realizing that a good beginning is only that, a beginning.

Articulating a plan means making sure that everyone who needs to be on board with it, and that usually means everyone where you live, understands what you're sharing, the reasons for what you're proposing, the impact of the sacrifices they will need to make for a common good and then to get on board with the program and own the plan for themselves. All or nothing at all.

Top down, bottom up, there's no one path because there's no one destination-only a journey that has a beginning of each day and never ends. The only constant in our world has always been change and the need for change. There's never an end to progress-only pauses along the way and no matter what happened yesterday, tomorrow will be here in a moment and care not about those successes and failures. We can learn from them and we can build on them but we can't live forever on their memory or their meaning. As Banquo admonishes, "if you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak." Far too often, all that remains is silence.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Keep Those Cards and Letters

I spend a lot of time working with personal computers, often to no avail. Like so much else of all the machinery that comprises my scenery, the personal computers in my life have a tendency to do what I tell them instead of what I want. I suppose I should be grateful I don't have voice activated software for them because in my case, I'd need to replace the Idiot's Guide with the most recent update to Masters and Johnson, since many of my voice commands would be anatomically and electronically nonexecutable.

I stare into the depths of the blue screen of death a half dozen or more times a day-O death where is thy sting, I sing; well, actually it doesn't sound very much like singing when I do it but you get my drift. I've endured countless admonitions that I've attempted an "illegal operation" as the PC shuts down and goes dark to teach one of us a lesson (all of which is wasted on me).

My favorite PC fantasy in recent weeks (okay perv, let's try that again) my favorite PC operating fantasy has become the one where whatever I'm doing has stopped doing it-perhaps frustrated by me or just exhausted by my persistent insistence. There's a finite number of times you can hit Control-Alt-Delete (I haven't reached it yet, seemingly, but it's upwards of a hundred because I have done it that often in a single bound) and up pops a variation of this screen:

There's little in life less worth living than being judged to be nonresponsive. Empires have been overthrown for less and voyages of exploration have been undertaken to avoid its curse. I used to always click "Send Error Report" no matter what had happened or when it occurred because somehow, I just knew the boys and girls of Microsoft were sitting in their operator cubicles on pins and needles in downtown Redmond, Washington, waiting to read about the background of my latest computational catastrophe. Together, we would become better people and programs.

Not exactly as it turns out. Slowly, as time went by and the same stupid nonresponsive program messages kept popping up, it crossed my mind that The Gates Gang wasn't especially quick on the uptake or why else would the same program error keep happening. It wasn't like I was getting any smarter at screwing things up. Nope, not me. I had pretty much flat-lined on the learning curve.

And while even in the most recent of times I'm still generating computer error messages by the bushelful, I'm no longer providing hours of amusement to those whose pockets are protected from all manner or matter great and small. I alwys opt now for "Don't Send." It's as close as I can get to going commando in a spam-filled virus infested phishing pool. I need a unit to sample and hold, but not an angry one. A new design, a new design. And Kanye, turns out you weren't first or even close, so how about shutting up.
-bill kenny

Monday, August 22, 2011

And maybe just one scoop of ice cream

Someone years ago offered 'We can do anything! We can't do everything.' She also told me to wear a tinfoil hat outdoors so aliens couldn't steal my thoughts so not every word was a gem; besides, have you checked the cost of foil lately?

It's a good thing in a city as large, or as small (you decide which we are) as Norwich, we have people of all kinds with the time and talent to share so that we can all benefit from so many individual efforts.

This afternoon at two, and I mention it more as a matter of complete inclusion as I suspect it's most likely to become an executive session/hearing, in City Council chambers is a "Special Meeting of the Committee of the Council" that may, or may not, have anything to do with this locally published news story but certainly has a great deal to do with the right of personal privacy for any (and all) public employees. The Committee of the Council reports back to the full City Council at its next regular meeting, Tuesday, 6 September (Labor Day is the 5th) so we'll all know when we all know.

At five, you have choices. In Room 335 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Ethics Commission while in Room 210 it's a regular meeting of the Redevelopment Agency with a presentation by Mayor Nystrom as part of his continuing initiative to build support for consideration of infrastructure improvements in the Shipping Street area as a means to expand the city's grand list and enhance the community's quality of life.

Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 in the Central Office Conference Room of the Norwich Public Schools at 90 Town Street, across from the Norwichtown Green, it's a regular meeting of the Board of Education Policy Committee. The note about the meeting is on the city's website as the school's site has, its last posted minutes, the meeting from last September. Yet another not so friendly reminder Public Act 08-3 is not a suggestion, but state law.

At four, perhaps (they're only held when requested so check with the City Clerk), is a regular meeting of the Building Code Board of Appeals in the Planning Department conference room at 23 Union Street. The municipal website's notes on the Board show ALL of the members' appointment expired a year and a half ago and there's hardly even a rumor of meeting minutes in this decade (sounds really dramatic, doesn't it?).

The Harbor Management Commission meets at five in the City Manager's office (Room 219) in City Hall. I found the agenda for their July meeting but no minutes of that meeting on the city's website. I'd assume the HAC has been an integral part of the discussion on measures to enhance the value of the Downtown Harbor area, but the Feast of the Assumption was last week, so your guess could be as good as mine (maybe better).

At six in the Planning Department's Conference Room at 23 Union Street is a special meeting of the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), Commission on the City Plan (CCP). If you attended Saturday's One City Forum, you'll be more than interested in the role the Plan of Conservation and Development plays as a road map to the Next Norwich, and here's their June meeting minutes so you have a snapshot of where they are in that process. I'll note 39,981 (estimated) Norwich residents weren't at the Saturday meeting though it didn't stop an online reader from rising early Sunday morning to comment on the news report of an event they didn't attend.

Wednesday morning into the early afternoon is the Norwich Outdoor Farmers' Market in Howard T. Brown Park from ten until two for fresh fruits and vegetable as well as the creative offerings from a growing number of artisans and local merchants.

Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 in the Norwich Public Schools' Central Office there's a meeting of the Board of Education's Building and Space Committee (the cancellation reference is to the March meeting; I think we can take that down now). On the Board's website, it's the usual 'no soup for you' approach to the posting of agenda or most recent meeting minutes; I do so admire the consistency of non-compliance with state law.

At five thirty in the Latham Science Center conference room on the campus of the Norwich Free Academy (NFA), the NFA Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting to formally hire a new Head of School (some of the meeting will be in executive session though certainly not the announcement itself and hopefully none of the celebratory pony rides).

Also at five thirty in the Planning Department conference room is a regular meeting of the Board of Review of Dangerous Buildings whose meeting minutes are few and far between on the city's website, perhaps because their meetings are less frequent than announced (I don't actually know) though I just realized the public meeting a few weeks ago on the Greeneville and Buckingham Schools disposition and demolition was with the Public Works and Capital Improvements Committee and NOT the Board of Review so how dangerous does a building have to be to get a drink around here?

At six thirty, in the same place and with the same folks, it's a regular meeting of the 751 North Main Street Advisory Committee who seem to have last met six months ago, unless the city's website is out of date (my keyboard lacks a tongue in cheek font).

At seven, the Golf Course Authority has a regular meeting in their facilities on the New London Turnpike. Their July meeting minutes are right here and remember to sign your scorecard before leaving.

Thursday morning at seven thirty in their offices at 77 Main Street, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Community Development Corporation whose minutes aren't available on the city's website, but should be as a matter of course and public law. It's easy enough to get them by sending a note to here. In light of the role NCDC plays as the city's municipal developer, it's worth your while if you have the time to attend a meeting, I'm sure.

As the summer days draw down, it feels counter intuitive to head indoors to attend municipal meetings but there's lots to be done and never help for all of it. So maybe this is the week you roll up a sleeve and lend a hand by becoming a volunteer or perhaps just someone who attends a meeting and let your neighbors know you appreciate their effort and assistance in working to maintain a piece of the pie.
-bill kenny

Sunday, August 21, 2011

anyone lived in a pretty how town

When we were kids our teachers told us in America anyone could grow up to be President (at the time I was a kid, that actually meant anyone who was white, male, Protestant and married). We have now, in the course of my lifetime, reached a point where everyone can be President. Seemingly at the same time. Is it too late to make urinalysis mandatory before forming a political action committee? Please.

I was having a decent enough weekend until an acquaintance dropped me a note to ask if I'd heard Karl Rove's observation that Sarah Palin would be announcing her candidacy for the Presidency in the coming days. I hadn't. To tell you the truth, I so enjoyed Karl's work on the Valerie Plame affair that had I gone the rest of my life without ever hearing his name, or voice, again that would have been fine by me and I suspect with him as well.

I'm sure, one of my younger sisters, Jill, was NOT specifically describing American Presidential politics when she coined the descriptive phrase, "stupider and stupider" but I fear she somewhat presciently belled the cat. There's no break in the election cycle; we sort of downshift for a few months (weeks? days?) after we pick an occupant for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to let all the folks who ran in the last demolition derby pass the hat and gather up money and talent for a new pit crew and then it's back to the bricks.

For those who are champions of egalitarianism, I guess we should be happy that so many truly mediocre people, of all persuasions, would like to be our President. I voted for the guy currently there but that doesn't mean all sales are final but pitching candidates at me by the truckload is NOT gonna sway me as much as you'd think. There are so many bent and broken people already in the race that I'm almost tempted to run. Except no one would notice.

And that's too bad because I'm ready and this could be my time. I have a red tie which all men candidates must have when they talk on television about how much they love America, which is all you really need to do in order to campaign and be elected. I'm not kidding. Look at the folks on the hustings now and tell me you, too, don't wonder what the fuqq happened around here.

If Sarah Palin were the only 'weighed and found wanting' candidate seeking higher office, I wouldn't be too upset. Natural selection within the Body Politic will take care of Mama Grizzly and she'll return to whatever planet McCain's folks found her. But here's the deal: someone turned the crazymeter up to and then past eleven and snapped the knob clean off. She's just the latest turnip to fall off the truck and I'm thinking maybe she got pushed.

We should have people who aspire to be great not expire trying to fit in. When all you can offer me as you start a campaign for the most important elected office in the history of the world is every cliche you're ever heard, you need to stifle yourself. I've read enough US history to already know these are tough times but not Thomas Paine tough and it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. And lower cases aside, all by all and deep by deep and more by more they dream their sleep. Possessing the soul of a poet instead of the mentality of a three card monte artist might just be what we need.
-bill kenny

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Like a Watercolor in the Rain

I've told you I have a smart phone and it, in turn, has a dullard as an owner. I don't feel sorry for it since I get to carry it around all day long and not vice versa. Many of the things it does or is able to do are beyond my comprehension which is another reason I'm thrilled we had children, because one or the other of them can usually explain my phone to me.

As long as I don't call them because that's one of things I'm not really good at with this phone. To be honest one of the things I learned how to do, maybe the first thing if I were being honest, is listen to music-not just the kind I've loaded onto the phone via an SD card or whatever they're called, but also via a service I pay for every month, in my case Slacker.

There are a variety of services-I had this one on my Blackberry and I have the version designed for an Android phone because that's what I have now. There are hundreds of stations to choose from and I tend to pick one when I'm toddling off to the gym in the morning and maybe switch to something else while still there. I enjoy various styles of music unlike Carl with whom I worked years ago in Germany who liked "two kinds of music-country and western." And meant it.

A couple of mornings ago, in the middle of a station of artists like Fountains of Wayne, Al Stewart's Year of the Cat surfaced--an anomaly to be sure, I thought. Yesterday, while listening to a channel modeled on bands like the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Al and his cat made an encore appearance.

I very much enjoy Al Stewart and have a not inconsiderable number of his elpees, but I was puzzled at how we were finding one another after a long time gone. I still remember the first time I'd heard, and heard of, Al Stewart. It was about this time of year almost thirty-five years ago, Jack P., an Air Force Technical Sergeant who lived down the hall in the same barracks at Sondrestrom AB, Greenland, had returned from two weeks leave back in the world with a present for each of the AFRTS jeeps, Kim Q, Joey H and yours truly.

We three worked for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, AFRTS, and listeners disassembled and reassembled the letters making up the abbreviation to form other networks to include the Far Arctic Radio and Television Service (my personal favorite). All three of us showed up on the same day and were the most junior guys on the base for at least five months until, thank gawd!, the Tower of Power, the ATC shack (air traffic controllers) got an influx of new meat and we three jeeps in the FARTS motor pool were now old hands.

I don't remember what Jack brought either Kim or Joey-but what he brought me was 'the record everyone at your station was talking about and playing' (my station was WNEW-FM, today less than a ghost but for years a presence like no other in the world's largest radio market) and the 'the record' was Stewart's Year of the Cat. I smiled remembering how really fine, new and fresh the music on that album sounded the first time I played it in my barracks room and what a good friend Jack was to each of us.

It didn't do him too much good, the warmth of our friendship, I mean, since a few days after he returned he hiked out to the Polar Cap with Stu and Pat from the Cop Shop and something. somehow, somewhere went very wrong and Jack wound up disappearing in one of the myriad of (sometimes) roaring rivers the melting ice cap produced, though the water was nowhere near as warm as the sun that had created it.

The recovery divers who were flown in from Iceland to find his body (and failed) estimated he could have lived no more than thirty seconds with that water temperature. They themselves could barely last ten minutes in their insulated gear as they searched. Everyone on the base lost a good friend when Jack drowned, exactly thirty-five years this past Thursday.

I'm not sure the universe operates like a great clock and I appreciate that some would wish me to believe that such a clock requires a Great Clockmaker. That's as may be but it would help me understand and accept as real the bridge of memories built by a song from back in the day. "I'm not the kind to live in the past. The years run too short and the days too fast. The things you lean on are the things that don't last. Then my line gets cast into these time passages."
-bill kenny

Friday, August 19, 2011

Running (Barely) on Empty

Spent a lot of time yesterday downing Tylenol and it was my own fault. I was hoping for the burn and ended up waiting on the worms. The years have not been kind to me as aches, pains and auto-immune weaknesses have done their darnedest to slow and hobble me, not without success.

I've been building a gym rat regimen at a rate of progress that would not cause a glacier to hurl. The big thing for me, says my rheumatologist, is to constantly exceed ten thousand steps a day and make more than half of them count for core strength. I have no idea what that means-he says it every six months and I don't want to disappoint or upset him so I nod my head as if agreeing. And maybe I am.

Meanwhile, a couple of hours drive south from me my younger brother, Adam, is running shore relay races and other such stuff, to include marathons. Not only am I not going to be Last Man Standing I've been assured by more than one specialist after finding more arthritis in the x-rays of my hips and spine, I won't even be the Last Man.

So yesterday morning, still tired and actually too tired to talk myself out of it on knees that are well and truly shot, I ran for an entire thirty minute session on a stationary treadmill. Let me be clear, if you are 5 and 10 K race guy, you are trying to be polite and not smile as you read that. I do appreciate the kindness, since in our much younger days, I changed your diapers and have incredible stories I am willing to recall or make-up (it's hard at my age to tell the difference anymore) if I don't feel the warmth of inclusion. But that's ochsen scheisse and even I know it.

Seriously-the pace wasn't much faster than a brisk walk, 4.2 miles an hour but when it's been six years since an upper compartmental right knee replacement and two plus a smidgen for a left knee Total Knee Replacement, you feel every step very quickly and more intensely than you realized (assuming you did any calculating at all; the Feast of the Assumption was this past Monday). Actually what I felt was like I was on my knees running in broken glass.

As I finished up, I became aware that a noise like a fire siren I was hearing was actually the sound of my voice screaming. My theory in the cold light of the following day was that I was trying to drown out the screaming coming from my knees. If so, I succeeded as I didn't hear them though I certainly felt them. I was disappointed to learn the gym doesn't have an ice-filled whirlpool and then angry and hurt that the local supermarket will not allow you to wade into their bag o' ice walk-in refrigerator up to your knees for ten minutes after you take off your trousers and give them your wallet. Point in fact: their security guy won't even let you put your own pants back on in their store and I had to hop with one trouser leg still a work in progress empty-handed back to the car. Bastard.

I'm not a Tough Mudder-I know someone who is (or will be in a couple of weeks) and she isn't, if you follow my drift and it's not my goal to ever get there. As a kid I used to run all of Harvey's Lake (Pennsylvania) everyday. Now, I'd be lucky if I could drive it and not get lost (except in the memories). I'm pretending I'm auditioning for SYTYCD, Jungle Rules Edition, but with my luck I'd actually make the cut and have to worry if those tap shoes make my butt look big. What do you mean 'too late'?
-bill kenny

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Who I Did Over My Summer Vacation

Can't blame yourself if you missed the start of this story and don't jump to conclusions as to why I would have remembered it. Admit it, for just a moment you had a film clip of Dustin Hoffman and Ann Bancroft spooling through the projector of your memory. Katherine Ross got her happy ending (pun intended) in the movie (no thanks to Alfa Romeo), Simon got Garfunkel, and, turns out the protagonist in today's Crime Stopper's Textbook got served.

As a parent of two children who've grown into adults, I'm keenly aware die börse sind immer und überall but I have to arch an eyebrow, based on my dim memories of being fifteen and lust-filled (or something like it), when the parent of the young man, a wee slip of a lad at the time of the infamy, offers I assume with a straight face, “this defendant took his high school years.”

For guilty-as-charged Sandra L., I suspect it means no more involvement as a member of the Thompson Recreation Committee, though I imagine some of the suggestions for activities, not to mention positions, that were offered at their meetings would make even Maggie blush.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The View from Here

I was reminded the other day that the greatest thing about unsolicited advice is you're under no obligation to take it. That I had this realization at the moment I was offering someone a heaping helping of unsolicited advice only made the irony last a tiny bit little longer, though I believe I did hear God snicker, if only a little.

Years ago a colleague in the Air Force introduced me to what he and I came to know as "The General's Rule" (except it applies to well beyond just that rank and pay grade). Simply put: "Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn't have to do it."

Look around you here in The Rose City as I do at least once a week when I stand on my soapbox and channel Plato, Machiavelli and Lenny Bruce (often at the same time) in offering the finest in unsolicited advice on all manner of topics proving again that the line between surreal and cereal is often a question of how much milk goes in the bowl.

We each have our own ideas on how "they" should address challenges we have here in Norwich (and when you scan state and national news stories, you'll discover we're not so special, unique or alone in what we face or how we do it). To be clear, when I say "they" I mean the neighbors and often friends we know who choose to offer themselves as candidates for all manner of elected office because they want to make a positive difference. Until elected to office, "they" were "us." Oops.

Let's face it, the appeal of being on the City Council or the Board of Education doesn't have very much to do with money, prestige or power. If there are 'perks' to being an elected official, they must be stealth as I can't see them and I wear very strong prescription glasses. (Not always strong enough to see someone else's point of view, but close.)

For the last three years across much of New England and here in Norwich, but longer say friends in the Mid-West and in the Rust Belt, good economic times have been hard to find with every 'tough budget' year for cities and towns followed by one that's even tougher.

Trying to maintain municipal services for an ever-larger population without crushing local property owners under an unbearable tax burden or creating incentives to entice new businesses to our community without ignoring those who chose to settle here when there were no rewards, requires a skillset few appreciate and fewer, still possess.

We may not evaluate those who seek our votes for office in the same way. I choose those whose vision of mission and sense of self convinces me their judgement deserves my support on decisions that must be made on behalf of all of us.

You may wish to select those who best represent your position and opinions and who will be your voice in those same decisions. There's no 'right' or 'wrong' way to view or use government, be it local, state or national. I think the use of the indefinite article as in 'a way' is often preferable to the definite 'the way' but that's a discussion, for perhaps another time. What is critically important, every day and not just on Election Day, is open communication and honest dialogue. Anyone can speak-but everyone should listen.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Feces Collides with the Ventilator

The New York Times prides itself on a self-created sobriquet, "America's Newspaper of Record" and has striven from its beginnings two hundred and forty-three years before the letters of the alphabet were invented and decades before the creation of movable type (EPA estimates; your actual mileage may vary) to offer readers "all the news that's fit to print."

Yesterday, the Gray Lady tore the roof off the sucka' with a Bouncing Betty Op-Ed piece from the less famous but vastly more financially successful Buffett Brother, Warren. He advances a pretty straightforward proposition in and among the prepositions, "Stop Coddling the Super-Rich." Really nothing there that many of us, along with a pal or two after a bucket of chilled ponies on a work day night, haven't concluded while watching one of the talking heads on cable news.

Except, as F. Scott noted, 'the rich are not like you and me,' and Warren E. Buffett (I appreciate the use of the middle initial in the piece just in case you thought it was someone else) is an hellaciously rich person. It's a good thing for some of us, Warren doesn't know Lemmy-because we might otherwise have had a toothpick shortage after reading his observations.

I can't imagine how the dwarfs and the trolls (that was sheer meanness for which I apologize except it's true so they have to apologize as well) who are seeking to redecorate the White House are feeling about getting broken off at the knees by one of the folks whose need for greed they perceived as their cause. Buffett's editorial argues just the opposite, or seems to, at least to me. His perspective is stunning and his math is breathtaking.

As Dylan noted, 'money doesn't talk, it swears.' I'm wondering how many of those still left in the electoral demolition derby in the coming weeks will be swearing even louder than the money Warren has in such evident abundance as more and more people read his words and wonder just why we break the backs of those least able to defend their rights when it comes to the filthy lucre. It's small solace I know that God must love poor people, since He made so many of us.
-bill kenny

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Morning Always Comes Around Too Soon

Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans said John Lennon a very long time ago and while the long, hot summer may account for some of the slowing down of life as we know it in small towns across America, the rest of the reason, my Dear Brutus, lies not in the stars but in ourselves.

If all we're willing to do as the Jell-O wrestling in the Halls of Congress comes back to the home districts during the recess is watch, we'll never get ourselves back on track. For things to work well at the national level, we've got to keep the machine in order at the grassroots level and that means you and me, in the here and now.

This afternoon at 4:30 in Room 335 of City Hall is a special meeting of the Ethics Commission, actually a public hearing on a pair of complaints that the Commission has been charged with investigating.

At seven, in Council Chambers at City Hall, is an informational session on Harbor Area Improvements, to be funded by a publicly approved bond (should the Council so decide), that has generated an enormous amount of heat though, so far, very little light. Maybe we'll get some of the latter at the informational hearing. Come early, bring a date and dine by the whites of their eyes.

And remember, kids, the seven thirty show is completely different! Actually at seven thirty it's a regular meeting of the City Council-you may want to bring Sunday's front page story from one of the newspapers with you to keep track though I'd suggest a review of the meeting minutes from August First and a glance at tonight's meeting agenda. ("New Business, Item 1" underscores the criticality of growing the grand list especially to support an essential function of government, education)

Tuesday afternoon at five-thirty in the Central Office (across from the Norwichtown Green), it's a special meeting of the Board of Education-with a relatively short agenda one item of which should be of interest to everyone, even those of us without school-age children (and, no, I'm not talking about renting the auditorium).

Also at five-thirty, in the Latham Science Center on the Norwich Free Academy campus, it's a regular meeting of the NFA Board of Trustees.

At six, in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Personnel and Pension Board-here's their meeting's agenda, and here's their previous meeting's minutes. My motto: if you're gonna go, go informed.

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 with an opportunity to preview the next generation of the Norwichtown Mall.

Wednesday morning at nine in The Dime Banks' Community Room on Route 82, it's a regular meeting of the School Readiness Council (Children First) who did such a marvelous job in facilitating new student registrations for the Norwich Public Schools over this summer but whose website is so outdated and obsolete it's impossible to know what other projects they are working on or how any of us can help. I'm hoping maybe Jill B will intervene and persuade them to maintain a current informational bridge.

Don't forget, even as the summer days dwindle down, there's the Norwich Downtown Farmers Market at Howard T. Brown Park every Wednesday from ten until two with a few more folks stopping in to visit with every passing Wednesday, which is good for the vendors and artisans as well as our downtown. Think of it as a fruits and vegetables adoption service, for money, if that helps.

At five thirty in the Norwich Arts Council Coop Gallery, it's a regular meeting of the Downtown Revitalization Zone, whose initiative also include the Farmers' Market, but whose meetings continue to NOT make it to the city's municipal website (so I guess there's a consistency thing going on there). The city's website has all the members' appointments as having expired anyway so perhaps I should take the hint.

And because of a rain-out on a previous Wednesday, the Rock the Docks concert series continues tonight at six with Jay Dempsey and Highway Call who are here, it seems, for the party (hopefully without folks walking in front of your view of the stage) so consider yourself warned.

Thursday afternoon at three in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a special meeting of the Committee of the City Council who, I expect, will go into executive session because of the rights of personal privacy and nature of their discussions right after convening.

At five, also in Room 319, it's a regular meeting of the Historic District Commission. And at six, in the conference room at The Rink, it's a regular meeting of the Ice Arena Authority, whose members' appointments expired in 2007 and last meeting minutes are from April.

Friday morning at nine, in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Chelsea Gardens Foundation and that's all the information on the meeting or the foundation that's available, which does seem a little skimpy in terms of folks receiving public funds, but maybe that's just me.

Saturday morning, it's a One City Forum at nine in the Central Fire House with an opportunity to ask (more) questions about the proposed Harbor Improvement Program, get an update on the Downtown Redevelopment or the Norwichtown Mall Rehabilitation, ask about the more aggressive collection of delinquent taxes, plead for pony rides for bloggers who have April birthdays and/or a myriad of other items.

Or you can stay home and wonder what's going on where we all live and hope a neighbor will stop by and tell you. "I was getting more frustrated at the longer that I waited...Monday morning always comes around too soon." Though for some of us, never soon enough.
-bill kenny

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon

I had a boy's night out yesterday except I was by myself, almost, and it was afternoon. My wife and daughter, Thelma and Louise, were off gallivanting because that's what they do and I don't tag along on those jaunts because I get saddle sores and when they're together there's always a critical sympathy shortage for doddering simpletons.

Instead, I had an invitation from our son, Patrick, who lives in Mystic, to stop by and sample some of the 54th Annual Mystic Outdoor Art Festival (a/k/a The "If we had polo ponies, we would be entirely unbearable" Festival by neighboring towns). I have missed in their entirety the previous fifty-three festivals and since I feared starting a trend, I figured I'd give it a whirl.


I managed to find Mystic which, in light of having lived in the region for nearly twenty years and travelling to an internationally famous destination may not sound like much of an accomplishment to you, but I have the sense of direction last seen, briefly, by the Donner Party. So approaching Mystic from the exact opposite end from where I thought I was, thus finding myself looking at all my landmarks and navigation points bassackwards, I still figured out where I was going without anyone having to tell me. And yes, I know exactly how that last sentence reads and you and your Literacy Volunteer can STFU now, okay? See, that wasn't too hard, was it?

Patrick's business, Advanced Improvements, was hosting friends on the front lawn, Kismet Letterpress, who, in turn, were putting free art into the the Art Festival and I came away with a nice card that I hadn't lost by the time I got home (major progress) and I got to finally meet Elissa B currently of Patch (in addition to Where's the Remote?), and as a bonus (a twofer as they say in the biz) also Kristina D, both of whose writings I have enjoyed for years though they are still the same age as they were when they began (I almost stepped in it right there, didn't I? Phew!).

Saying hello to Elissa got me some swag (it did nothing for her but she was a very good sport). Actually it got me and Patrick some swag since he was showing me around and actually needed to have a conversation with the Patch folks whereas I got to stand there and do my Rainman social interaction simulation. If they ever make causing people to feel ill at ease for reasons they cannot fully explain or even grasp an Olympic event (I'm thinking Winter right now, but am open to summer, too) , you will see me on the medals podium, looking awkward of course and trying to not fall off.

I would think there will be a better than average chance I will have my Patch water bottle with me not just because it's BPA free (British Press Association perhaps?) but because it was free and it can come in mighty handy when you're working up a thirst. If I were marketing them I would have a slogan like "Thirst things Thirst" and next thing I'd know, I'd be on the medals platform and somebody would be playing the national anthem.

The Outdoor Art Festival is also going on today, and it is really cool and very much worth a trip from just about anywhere. Even if you have other things to do, actually, especially if you have other things to do, I think it's worth visiting because you're never too old to have a happy childhood, even if only a day at a time.
-bill kenny