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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Cost of Ignorance

This is my favorite quote from Mark Twain, "Everyday a child is born who will change the world, but we don’t know who that child is." Here's the part he'd appreciate especially: nowhere can I find any reference suggesting he ever said it. I'm thinking maybe somewhere on the raft, Huck and Jim having a conversation or perhaps while Tom is collecting money from folks to paint his fence, but no luck and I didn't want it to sit there without an attempt at attribution lest you think it came from me. The last time I had an original thought, it died of loneliness. 

The presentation by the Superintendent of the Norwich Public Schools last Tuesday before the City Council was witnessed live by fewer than fifty people. And if you subtract those from the Board of Education and the education professionals in the room, it was probably closer to two dozen.  

I admit, it’s quality not quantity, but for something so many of us say is important, we leave a lot of the  structure and funding to a handful of dedicated people across the community but then become unhappy at outcomes we chose to not choose.

As the beginning of a conversation goes, the presentation was low-key but if history is any indicator, it won’t stay that way for very long. When it comes to local budgets, it’s always all about the Benjamins (and everyone else whose taxes pay the bills).

In recent years, every year has been “the toughest budget year we’ve ever had” and that will be true again this year. Those who have or have had children in Norwich Public Schools know the value and understand the cost of public education but everyone, with and without children, pays those costs. 

In case you haven’t noticed, the world we are giving our children is very different than the one we had at their age. Some Cold War Kids remember ducking under desks and turning away from windows-today we have more computers in our schools than at the Cape Kennedy during the Space Race, but also more metal detectors than in our penitentiaries. Every day we struggle to find a balance.  

Today’s schools often function as surrogate parents to include breakfast and lunch for hungry minds and stomachs to match.  And many times they’re a conduit for before and after school services desperately needed by stressed and distressed families many of whom bear little resemblance to the Waltons or the Huxtables.

The Industrial Revolution has yielded to the Age of Knowledge where skills and abilities must always be enhanced and expanded or we fall behind as citizens and as a society. And once that happens, you never catch up. The goal of education today is to learn the rules of the game better than anyone else to be able to change the rules.

If we hope to remain the nation that’s the envy of the rest of the world we have to accept that education is not an expense so much as it is an investment. We have to choose better than we have in recent years to maximize the advantages for everyone. If you think education is expensive, wait until you calculate the cost of ignorance.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Beneath the Stains of Time

I didn't forget, but I forgot to pass along, Sunday was Johnny Cash's 80th birthday. It was a lot of other people's birthdays as well, but the only other person I know who was born on Sunday was Andreas Sholten, who lived above us with his brother, mom and dad when we all lived at Ahornstrasse 67 in Offenbach am Main, damals wann wir jung war. Sorry Andreas, heute reden wir uber Cash.

I met Johnny Cash when he was 'media visiting' in support of Silver on CBS back in 1979-an album of classic country and western songs marking his twenty-fifth anniversary with Columbia Records. Bettina G of CBS set it all up and took a fair amount of ukase from her side of the glass because I was a rock and roll guy who pleaded and wheedled to get a chance to speak with him and then almost blew it but then had an awesome time.

The how-I-almost-blew-it part first: I showed up at the Intercontinental Hotel, on the banks of the Main, in uniform. I was in the United States Air Force and as full of pi$$ and vinegar as someone of my age and disposition working for American Force Radio Europe could possibly be (actually more so since unlike others at AFN, I had no talent so my big accomplishment was keeping people from finding that out).

Cash had served in the Air Force in Germany until he was discharged somewhat abruptly. The stories I had heard suggested the dissolution wasn't amicable. I used to tease people that blue (as in 'wild blue yonder') wasn't my color but I could do a passable impersonation of  an Airman when cornered. I saw myself as working and so I saw no reason to NOT wear the uniform. Some of Bettina's colleagues shepherding the press people at the Interconti made it clear I was fehl am platz in my uniform and were sure Cash wouldn't make time to talk with me.

When the elevator doors opened and Johnny Cash and his manager. Lou Robin, stepped into a very crowded corridor packed with every kind of reporter, photographer, film-maker and groupie (belt bunnies! Who knew?) and they each scanned the room in opposite directions to pick one person for an interview. Their eyes met one another after the sweep and from where I was I could see Cash mouthing the words "Air Force" and started forward even before Bettina had grabbed me and pulled me on board the other elevator for a ride up to his suite.

I didn't see Cash again until the elevator let us off and we entered a suite that may well have taken up the entire floor. Sitting across from him I became aware of how big, physically, he was-it felt like I was sitting across from Mount Rushmore. He was this legendary musician-at the founding of  rock and roll with Elvis,  Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. And he was just sitting there on the couch like a coiled spring.

 I began by asking him how Johnny Cash the musician could still be heard over Johnny Cash, the Legend, and that started him talking and talking and talking. I smiled and nodded even when I had no idea what his references were about-actually especially when I didn't know. I think he suspected as much but never caught me out on it.

He transcended all categories of music by using a TV show to introduce Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson among others to a much larger American audience and as we spoke about that, he noted that music and radio was better in his day, with fewer categories and few radio sales charts so that everyone listened to everything without prejudice or preconceived notion.

When he described his favorite songs, they seemed to be everything from everywhere, some blues, some gospel, hard rock and roll, folk music and jazz. But when he spoke about the Silver album he became very quiet because, as he explained, the challenge was to respect the classics he had chosen to perform-songs that defined so much of what  we call country music. That a man with his reputation could still be concerned about his treatment of well-known music spoke volumes about his approach to his art.

It felt like only minutes but the conversation went on for quite some time because Bettina had to make her way to the gift shop in the lobby and score a blank tape (I just realized I never did repay her for that purchase! Es tut mir leid!) so that Cash's words had somewhere to go. And then she had to go back down and get another as well. He would eventually stop speaking and I felt a pang of regret because it had been a glorious afternoon. When he stood up to say goodbye, his handshake was like nothing I'd experienced until then, or since. I had wanted to interview him as a job and by the afternoon's end it  had become a joy.

I spent most of the next two plus decades following him, being sad when his wife of many years, June Carter, passed away and he seemed to shrink and grow smaller in every subsequent publicity still. I was delighted when Rick Rubin signed him to his American Records Company label but followed the news stories on his failing health with trepidation. When he died, it seemed more a deliverance than a tragedy.

Johnny Cash made enough music to fill five lifetimes and he made it all in one, leaving us on his own terms with a song so stunningly delivered, it felt, said the man who wrote it for himself, Trent Reznor, as if he had penned it for the Man in Black.

"What have I become, my sweetest friend. Everyone I know goes away in the end. And you could have it all, my empire of dirt. I will let you down. I will make you hurt." Happy Belated Birthday.
-bill kenny 
 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cold Days from the Birdhouse

I've never understood how February ended up with the shortest number of days-lack of an aggressive agent perhaps or a moment away from the calendar creation at a critical point? Hard to say and custom becomes habit so quickly that if you were to put me on the spot and ask about a different calendar construction I would have no idea what it should or could look like. Maybe that's how the status quo becomes the status.

February, or what's left of it, has opportunities for involvement in local activities and actions starting this afternoon at 4:30 with a special meeting of the Housing Authority in their offices at 10 Westwood Park.

At five, in Room 210 of City Hall is a regular meeting of the Redevelopment Agency whose agenda wraps up an action on a brownfields reclamation that ties quite nicely back to the principals involved in last Wednesday's Vibrant Communities Initiative.    

Tuesday afternoon at five, in Room 219 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Harbor Management Commission whose agenda leads me to believe they are about to have themselves a busy spring and summer. That should be good news for the rest of us who enjoy the Norwich Harbor.

At six, in the conference room of the Norwich Public Utilities at 16 Golden Street, it's a regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners and the Sewer Authority. You'll find their respective (special) meeting minutes of earlier this month here, and here.

Wednesday afternoon at five, in Room 210 of City Hall, is the next regular meeting of the Emancipation Proclamation Commemorative Committee. I find it interesting the meeting calendar is the sole mention of this committee anywhere on the municipal website but you can fascinate me for hours with the beam from a laser pointer. (Section 11, (a) of the revised public act makes it clear the posting of minutes are required, within  seven days no matter how bad the website is. And, yes, we heard enough about that last Friday).

At 5:30 in the Kelly Middle School Community Room, it's a special meeting of the Norwich Public Schools Board of Education. If you're intending on attending this meeting, make sure you understand the purpose of the meeting and what the meeting is not about-to include decisions about personnel changes. When you review the agenda you'll see there's no place for public comment; that's because we're expected to listen.

And on Thursday evening at seven, the first of March (already!) in the Planning Department's conference room in the basement of 23 Union Street, it's a regular meeting of the Inlands Wetlands, Water Courses and Conservation Commission. Here are the minutes of their February meeting so you have a frame of reference for what they're working on.

Saturday evening beginning at 7:30 in the Slater Museum on the campus of the Norwich Free Academy is a debate featuring the three candidates for the Democratic Party nomination of the US Senate. Tickets are free but must requested/reserved in advance.

There's enough to do for those who so choose and if you choose to shake your head in dismay and despair, that's fine as well, of course, and your choice. We each have as much voice in our destiny as we decide and choosing to NOT decide is also a decision. A very poor one, but it proves again sometimes our mistakes are the only thing we can call our own.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Shadows and Foreshadows

This past September, we marked the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Towers which changed who we were and how we conducted ourselves in the world. No single drop of rain holds itself responsible for the flood that follows but the rainfall continues.

This weekend the news stories have been about the casual contempt in which the New York Police Department, seemingly with the knowledge and permission of their Mayor (who staunchly defended them after they were caught), violated the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Muslim men and women within and without the city's limits just in case 'they' were up to something, somewhere at sometime with someone.

I'm still enough of the wild-eyed boy of the Sixties to worry about 'The Man' and to have felt very frightened while outnumbered (or feeling like it) by Ray Kelly's Brown Shirts last October Occupying the Banks as part of OWS. We found ourselves at the safest place on earth, at least on Manhattan, as we were coerced by  cordons to stay on the sidewalk, surrounded by a thousand or more riot gear clad cops, shoulder to shoulder with a phalanx of police buses and vans ready to rush miscreants to Rikers if provoked.

Where do you draw the line and who does the math? When does reasonable concern for public safety turn into hob nail boots in the early morning hours? When does national security become wrapped in the newspeak of nacht und nebel become the language of the incarcerated and their jailers? How much is perception of persecution and how much is perceptible persecution?

And did we turn the calendar pages back far enough-not to this past September but to this date nineteen years ago and what was, at that time, considered unimaginable. It was, until just now, probably forgotten in the flood of events, minute by minute, that make up our lives and so often overwhelms us.
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Nothing to Say

I'm one of those people who not only knows everything, I know everything better. I'm never daunted by my lack of facts or information on any given topic-being a know nothing has never kept me from having an opinion, nor shall it ever, I suspect.

If it weren't for a finely honed sense of self-deprecation I would be one of the larger jackasses you have ever met, quite possibly visible from space. I come by it honestly and was helped immeasurably by my environment and studies with some of the more amazing, if now quaintly decrepit, specimens of the lost art of obnoxious boor.

My saving grace may be (I hope) that I do not take myself seriously. I had some help with that as well, a little less intentional, perhaps, than some of the other life lessons I picked up. But a deal's a deal.

For instance, I'm smiling sitting here right now typing this  because I know how often I've made my living with my words and how, for one of the few times in my life, I've reached back and there's nothing but air and random punctuation. I don't know what's worse: knowing it could happen again tomorrow or knowing it won't.

Thanks for stopping by and if there's more here tomorrow than there is here today, I just hope you'll be a good sport about your luck running out.
-bill kenny  

Friday, February 24, 2012

You Do the Driving

I am very happy today is Friday even though it means next Monday is already that much closer. I have a nice routine for my work week and all the resources to accomplish my job I could ever need (or imagine that I could ever need), but probably like you the grind of it creates its own pink noise and I tend to come up with tricks to help me get away without getting lost.

As my replacement knees have aged, the grace purportedly coming with maturity has proven itself to be in short supply. I spend about three hours trying to get the screaming in both knees and the barking and cramps in the hamstrings to stop after power walking (running is simply no longer an option). It fills up the day and makes the time go fast. I eat bananas to replenish the potassium, whose absence, I’m told, causes the cramps that run the length of my legs. For the record, I don’t like bananas except in Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow.

I shifted to treadmills some time ago, thinking they were a better idea in terms of wear and tear on the lower joints only to discover I needed a much better idea than that. I sort of have one now. Except for the almost killing myself everyday part of it. I’ve taken up with a crosstrainer now that I’ve figured out how to stay on it (no mean feat considering my coordination and balance) and the people at the gym are thrilled I’ve stopped punching holes in their floor with my emergency landings.

I actually enjoy a sense of achievement though I shouldn’t because I don’t have much achievement to show for it so far. I hang on and in there for a half an hour, I’m working my way up in terms of total time and got really close to doing over three miles in distance (but without actually doing it). My new theory is though my legs will still hurt when I get past three miles, they won’t hurt as much or as long. Or they may just fall off. I hope to find out real soon which part of my theory proves out.

The most pointless part of the machine to my mind is the display on the control panel. The only selection missing (and the only one I ever look for) is the ‘would you find someone else to use the device for you?’ selector. There’s minutes and seconds in use and time left (for the math buffs I guess), various levels of awfulness (1-30, I think), speed (I got up to 7 point something miles per hour the other day and yet felt not thrilled at all) and a running total of calories burned.

I think I’d feel cheated if the display didn’t tell me all of that even if I have no appreciation for some or most of it. My right to know overwhelms my need to care and my ability to comprehend. Ah, America! I face the big TVs on the wall at just the right distance from where I’m at, because I remove my glasses to keep the sweat off my eyewear, and then the talking heads are even fuzzier and I can’t read the captioning. All I can figure out is someone is angry. It’s Fox; of course someone on camera is angry. Actually everyone on camera is angry that's their target emographic. I tend to think of them as a Flat Earth News Service and I’m not missing much visually by not really seeing them, I know.

Yesterday was a repeat, I believe, of an earlier in the day Bill O’Reilly episode (?) while I listened to Judas Priest in my headphones (I used to watch Mets’ games with Lenny Bruce records playing; I highly recommend it). Sometimes one seemed to be complementing the other and I crack up when that happens. Everybody breaks down, sooner of later. You get nothing for nothing but only for a limited time. More limited than any of us may know.
-bill kenny

Thursday, February 23, 2012

ISWYDT

Someone sent me a note yesterday afternoon with “FYSA” at the top. I had no idea what than meant and come from a family where there are always yellow raincoats in the hall closet and monkeys who don’t know their uncles from other relatives out in the backyard, so, of course,  I asked.

You probably knew this-it means For Your Situational Awareness (I was told in a pedantic tone of voice). I made the mistake of wondering what the difference between it and FYI, “for your information” might be. I was told no one uses FYI anymore. Well, except me. I was tempted to respond with GFYS, but that type of behavior is considered less than adult (but FYSA is just peachy) and I have enough problems around here.

Anyway. The new wizard word that’s not a word at all but an a$$hole acronym is ISWYDT which is short for “I see what you did there.” For the record, I don’t; and I’m wearing glasses and I still don’t. I’m starting to think there’s a cottage industry, somewhere, so emboldened by the success of WYSIWYG, they’ve decided to reduce all language to acronyms.

I don’t think Bradbury, Huxley or Orwell ever foresaw this happening. They feared, instead, language being neutered and refined to distill all communicational value so that words took on common meaning that was the exact opposite of their intent-Firemen being my personal favorite even after all those decades. Who hasn’t heard some pinhead offer a dismissive “as if” and realize you have no idea what the moron is talking about (and neither do they). This is where you say “ISWYDT”. Getting it?

The wonder of acronyms and vocabulary shorthand, to a cynic such as I, is how the distraction from the intent is built into the process from the moment of use. You no longer need to listen to what I say in search of meaning and/or understanding, but, rather, at the surface in search of bright and shiny words. The day of the idea is passing and we’re well on the way to rendering ourselves mute in expressing how that should make us feel.

We’ve become inchoate imbeciles and either don’t know or don’t care. We use fewer words in our daily lives than we did a generation ago, not because we have other means of communication, but because we have less to say. Instead of living together, we tend to live along side of one another in parallel lives. What separates us has become greater than what we share. Words, long but more often shortened, are the foundations of walls instead of bridges. If you can’t be pithy, pith off. Aha! I see what you did there.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Today is Yesterday's Tomorrow

As a young adult I used to travel regularly through Princeton, New Jersey, which even in the early 70's had  a dress code of sorts for how its streets and buildings needed to look in terms of appearance, frontage and signage. With a critical role in the American Revolutionary War, Princeton didn't talk too much about historical tourism as an economic development engine (mainly because the term didn't exist at the time) but certainly knew how which side its bread was buttered on and who was footing the bill at the bakery and dairy.

Fast forward forty years and travel for a couple of hours up the interstate and welcome to New England where the places George Washington didn't sleep, or even take a nap, (Happy Birthday, George!) are in the minority and neighbors vie with one another for the most historical history, sometimes to the point of hysteria.

Here in Norwich we have Revolutionary War through Industrial Revolution history by the bushel and the buildings to prove it. Some of us believe if you talk about the past as a fulcrum to leverage tourism long enough, somehow it all just happens. At least that's the hope of a lot of hoarse people.

The problem is hope is not a plan-it's important and it's vital but it's not a plan with a goal, a path, a means of measurement for how far along in the journey we are or a guiding star to help us stay on track. A lot of work goes into anything worthwhile, to include an economic development and community enhancement strategy that has historic tourism as a desired outcome-but without a plan, how do we know where we're going.

Make no mistake, when you don't know where you're going any road can get you there. The trick is getting to where you need to be. We get some help along the way again tonight with the second installment. if you will., of the Vital Communities Initiative, which begins at five o'clock with a reception and opportunity to visit the newly opened atrium of the Slater Museum on the campus of the Norwich Free Academy. Stick around for the main event-this could be quite the show.

If you were a part of the conversation in late December at the first meeting, you know about the $50,000 grant from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and the collaboration with planners and architects of The Cecil Group and local preservation champions, city leaders (of course) but also with those of us who live and work here to better determine what all of us regard as the most valued and valuable aspects of downtown Norwich and how to reinvigorate them.

Let's face it, we've watched neighbors attempt the 'let's bulldoze it all down and start again' and we've tried the 'single building' theory, as well as the 'unknown developer on the grassy knoll.' All we've gotten for a lot of money and a lot of effort is pockets and patches of  brick and mortar, filled with promise, most of which is never fulfilled.      

Tonight, having sifted through marketing surveys and analyzed the inventory of downtown building stock, there will be presentation with possible projects designed for specific properties. The glittering generalities we've couched our discussions in for years will be no more. Tonight words get married to deeds. You can sit with the bride or the groom-the important thing is to be here. Where we go next is up to each of us.
-bill kenny 
    

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

White Noise and Love Will Be My Only Drug

The party's almost over-it's nearly time to call it a day. It turns out God doesn't care how many beads you collected or whether you danced with Pam Anderson or yelled helau at the top of your lungs. Today is Shrove Tuesday so enjoy those pancakes, my pretty, while you can, because it gets pretty grim around here starting tomorrow.

I still think IHOP missed the cross-promotional tie-in of the Millenia, even if so doing would have resulted in its stockholders spending eternity in a lake of fire. Besides, who doesn't like melted butter or dreamed of  hearing "I'm Beezeleboul and I'll be your syrup steward." Break out those camera phones, and smile!

As a child, I hated Ash Wednesday-all the mummery of it. The burning of the palm from Palm Sunday to create the ashes the priest places on your forehead in the sign of the cross with his thumb and forefinger, 'remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return.' Thanks, Father. You have a nice day now, too.

As I became an adult (got older; maturation was never really a result) it was interesting to see who among us were Catholic (I suspect the Episcopalians do Ash Wednesday as well and don't forget the C of  E congregants) just based on the number of foreheads with ashes at work and beyond. All I can ever think of when marveling at those foreheads is Dr. Seuss and his star-bellied and plain-bellied sneetches.

Actually, what I really remember is Gary J from beyond where we lived on Bloomfield Avenue, down Appleman near Castleton. We were all kids playing ball out in the street near his house on Ash Wednesday and he was (I think) just about the only kid with a clean forehead. I knew, instinctively this meant he wasn't a Catholic.

In street baseball, you only need two outfielders (unless we ever got to play on the Turnpike up at Exit Ten where it's six lanes wide; that would be sweet!). Standing out there alongside of me he had (too many) questions about those ashes and our foreheads and I certainly didn't have answers-what was I the Pope?

Gary didn't understand the significance, the timing or the whole idea behind Lent and its importance to all the kids he hung out with after school (but never saw during school; Gary wasn't the sharpest spoon in the drawer). No more than ten myself, I reassured him as best I could and told him to not worry about any of it because it wasn't all that important.

And besides, since he wasn't a Catholic, he was going to Hell. Not that I'd want to see that shocked and scared look on his face again, but I wish I knew how to find the certainty and reassurance I felt then now. It doesn't need to last forever, just 40 days.
-bill kenny

Monday, February 20, 2012

Some Are the Tune and Some Are the Words

Are you off today in honor of Millard Fillmore (Bill Graham lasst gruessen) or James Buchanan (not Rory's dad, sadly)? For all of them and/or for none of them. That's fine. Instead of taking a day free from work I wonder if we might all better honor those who held our nation's highest elected office if we worked harder this week to make where we live more of the ideal of which they (and we) dream? Worth a try, I think, how about you?

Tomorrow afternoon at 5:30 on the Norwich Free Academy campus, in the Latham Science Center, it's a regular meeting of the NFA Board of Trustees, says the municipal calendar though the school's page for the BOT suggests the February meeting was last week with their next one in March.

At six, in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Personnel and Pension Board (and also includes an investment portion of the meeting). Based on the on-line records, this will be their first meeting of 2012.

At seven, next door to City Hall, in the Planning Department conference room at 23 Union Street, it's a regular meeting of the Commission on the City Plan, including an update on the Capital Improvements Plan (not to be confused with the ongoing hearings about the revisions for the Plan of Conservation and Development).

Also at seven in Council chambers in City Hall, it's an informational meeting by the Department of Environmental Protection on "on the movement of fish from the Greeneville Dam and some of the other species of fish in the Yantic and Shetucket rivers for sport fishing." I think John Prine would be pleased.

Especially if he sticks around because at seven thirty, there's a regular meeting of the City Council.I didn't see anything about a city holiday in honor of an alderperson's birthday on Monday but that kind of self-effacement is sort of a trademark. Actually the agenda promises to be quite interesting, especially in light of recent headlines, which may or may not be addressed in the course of the presentation (though that won't stop many of us from throwing folks under the bus in online commentaries. Sure hope that ITC has wide lanes.)

Wednesday afternoon at four in Kelly Middle School (no idea where; maybe the library) is a regular meeting of the Norwich Public School's Board of Education Budget Expenditure Committee, who are well into their work for the next fiscal year's budget request and whose meetings give you a chance to preview the concerns and the discussion. Sadly you'll learn nothing by visiting the school's website.

At five, that's when the reception and the tour of the atrium start with the meeting scheduled at six, in theNorwich Free Academy, it's the second meeting of the Vibrant Communities Initiative (VCI). Here's a know before you go visual aid that provides a snapshot of the discussion and direction so far.

At five thirty in the Planning Department's conference room at 23 Union Street, it's a regular meeting of the Dangerous Buildings Board of Review followed at six (very logically in my mind) in the same location (and many of the same members) with a meeting of the Reid and Hughes Committee proving we're not very good at letting go of the past, even if it impedes progress to our future.Perhaps another reason why we've earned the Ian Anderson Seal of Approval.

Also at six, in Room 210 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Emancipation Proclamation Commemorative Committee, whose appearance on the calendar is their entire presence on the city's website, in terms of membership, meetings or minutes.  

And at seven, in the conference room at the Golf Course on the New London Turnpike, it's a regular meeting of the Golf Course Authority who, according to the records NOT on the city's website haven't yet met this year.

Thursday morning at seven thirty in their offices at 77 Main Street, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Community Development Corporation Board of Directors. Their meeting minutes are available through their website-you get on the mailing list and they show up electronically in your in-basket. Even I can do it.  

And Saturday morning, at nine in the East Great Plains Volunteer Fire Department, it's the long-delayed by the threat of inclement weather, second installment of this year's One City Forum meetings with a report and recommendation from a special volunteer committee on defining goals, objective and measurements of progress as we work to restate and enhance our plan of development.

You can stay home and do nothing or you can lend a hand and grab an oar as we row towards shore. Now might be the time to put your back into it.
-bill kenny   

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Different Spring Training

Today is the day pitchers and catchers report for the start of Red Sox spring training at their brand new facility in Fort Myers, Jet Blue Park. As a Yankees fan, my concerns are elsewhere but my annual prayer, "Lord, Can't the Sox' Spring Training Equipment Truck Have an Accident?' is a constant. So, too, is my disappointment when it never happens.

But like spring training itself, hope springs eternal. It had better for Red Soxs fan who will have one less familiar face, one fewer gamer, one less guy who plays God's game the way it was designed to be played (and always did) on the roster and on the field. Knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield retired earlier this week and this Yankees fan is glad and sad to see him go.

I'm glad because he seemed to have some of his greatest outings against my guys in pinstripes. As a fan, it's uncomfortable to watch your ballclub get mowed down by a fireball hurler but it's downright embarrassing when Tim would send Yankees back to grab some pine after blowing a 68 mile an hour knuckleball by them after they'd contort themselves into terrible shapes not hitting it and not even getting close.

I used to hate humid weather, be it at Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, with Wakefield on the mound, and I never knew if it was true that humidity was a knuckleballer's best friend (Phil Niekro and I stopped shoe shopping together years ago). I did know that once Wakefield broke a sweat on the mound, the guys in the batter's box needed to jump on his early offerings because once he got into a groove we would be so screwed.

Baseball, like all professional sports, is a business. While the man with the child in his eyes spends thirty bucks on a cap and closer to seventy for a jersey to sit in his living room and watch the millionaires at every position play the same game the kids down the street play for the sheer love of it, I concede it's a billion dollar enterprise within the entertainment monolith. I get it: money fixes everything even the sports we rooted for since childhood.

It doesn't make Wakefield's farewell any less eloquent and elegant and certainly doesn't remove the slightly acrid taste in my mouth over how the Sox's management made a business decision to NOT offer the guy whose efforts had helped the franchise to two World Series rings in the last decade a one year contract so he could go out on his terms. Money doesn't talk, said Dylan, it swears and even if there were no hard times in the land of plenty, nobody gets anything for free anymore.

So Wakefield said goodbye from Fenway Park, but not in the uniform baseball fans had grown accustomed to seeing him in. When he'd stand on the mound during the heat of a pennant race, he was a diamond darling. Friday, in a suit at a microphone, he was Wendy's younger brother, John, all grown up and another reminder that the lights are getting dim in Neverland. Tessie weeps, Tim, and baseball along with her.
-bill kenny        

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Wedding Bell Blues

Wow. I almost had nothing. This has been a long week at my work and I've been short on energy as we've all struggled along. So intent was I on making it to this three day weekend that when I sat down to write this I didn't have a clue on a topic. And then Chris Christie and the New Jersey legislature came along. Phew! Blank space averted!

I grew up in New Jersey-much of my family still lives there. I realize they'll have difficulty believing this but Connecticut, where I live now, makes Jersey look sane. And considering how crazy so much of what goes on in The Garden State actually is, that's saying something. I suppose the argument can be made Jersey has Springsteen, while Connecticut has Micheal Bolton. Advantage: Vince Lombardi Rest Area. On the other hand, Jersey has Bon Jovi, and Connecticut has ... well, nobody. Advantage: the Constitution State.But I digress (there's a surprise).

Without putting too fine a point on this, I do not care who you love (still think it should be whom). As long as I don't have to watch or join in, I'm fine with your choice (if you are). It's not that I'm a liberal on the issue-I'm beyond indifferent. I suspect almost all of us feel about the same in terms of who should fall in love with whom (I feel a lot better now). It's only those with an agenda of self-aggrandizement who want me to care so much about a choice so private and so personal I'm tempted to cover my eyes while typing about it.

With so much else in every corner of every state of our union in need of help, legislatures from Washington State through Maryland and my old stomping grounds want to do exactly what? Considering what a cock-up our elected leadership has made of our country in all matters great and small, how stoned and stupid do you have to be to believe they're the folks who'll provide 'liberty and justice for all'? Seriously?

This weekend is actually a really good time to wonder how much the times in which we've lived as a nation shaped those chosen to be President and how much those chosen have shaped their times. I grew into an adult as my country 'tis of thee accepted all races, creeds, colors, genders and religions were entitled to equal protection and opportunity-and that idea became more than just some proud words on the pages of a tome in a bookshelf.

Spare me, and all of us, the sideshow carny antics from Walla-Walla, Annapolis or Trenton. Work on the big things and stop pretending the little things are the same thing. Treat one another as you would treat yourself. The road of good intentions has gone dry as a bone and it's going to take all of us to fix everything that needs fixing and no one is going to care where you spent the night before or with whom.          
-bill kenny

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fries with That?

Considering what fast-food restaurants (and what, again, is the difference between fast-food and casual dining anyway, aside from about four bucks per person per order) are spending on advertising, maybe they should concentrate on the news business where they seem to get a bigger bang for their buck.

I mean how memorable is “I’m Lovin’ It” Mickey D’s current slogan or “Hey! We’re Still in Business, Dammit!” from Burger King (I am NOT sad they ditched ‘the King.’ That guy was just creepy) especially in comparison to the exposure (literally) when you have a real news story like this one: “Police Lure Naked Man from LA Radio Tower with Hamburgers.” In your face, KFC! Boom, Chockalocka Boom!
  
I love this version of the story better, not just because there’s no mention of hamburgers, though there isn’t, but because of the large number of photos-and cleverly framed photos at that, which accompany the text.  Where’s Rod Stewart when we really need him, right? (Probably working on “American Songbook, Volume Whatever”)

I love how all the versions of the stories mention ‘believed to be from Arizona’ which, I suspect,  is LA-speak for ‘he’s not homegrown!’ Some early versions of this story reported he sang ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ while later updates noted he whistled it (did you see the comments from the YT posters? Zero to nutso in under five seconds).

That, my friend, is some kinda whistling! And I don’t mean Dixie. Go ahead and try it-it’s pretty hard to do. Now, just to finish the comparison, take off all your clothes and climb up a service ladder on the side of a two-hundred foot tower. Wait four hours.  What do you mean there’s no ape in apricot?
-bill kenny

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jesus Is My Wingman

I don't remember what I was watching the other day on television when during the 'station break' up popped a commercial for christianmingle.com adding a whole new meaning to 'comes in the name of the lord.' The Imp of the Perverse in me wants to say it was during Strange Sex, but it wasn't (and now I am going to hell). For the record, I meant the TLC program title not a generic descriptive, perv.

There are so many online services now I have to wonder if our whole modern world is an inherently hostile environment for love and companionship. From the number of us I've seen by ourselves, I fear the answer may well be 'yes.' We just had Valentine's Day but how many of us shared any part of that day with the one we love and how many of the rest just settled?

I mock but find sad the hopeful, but still a bit defeated, names so many of the online dating services use. I do admire them for trying but there's a bit of wistfulness to ourtime, or match or eharmony. If we really wanted truth, we'd head for hotmonkeylove.com or suxthechromeoffatrailerhitch.net and once we get those new specialized domain names up and running I'm sure they'll be joining us. Just not yet, P. F. Sloan.

We're seven billion souls afloat in the same ocean and each of us is alone in a boat of our creation. Yes, we're rescued but just as yes, we're marooned. People like me believe if you drill a second hole in the ship, you can use it to let the water out. That may be why we spend a lot more time alone than we care to measure. I'm thinking we're better off that way.

From what I can figure out all the on-line services have 'apps' for smart phones because that's the way we roll here in the Brave New World. Somewhere, an analytical aggregator is collecting all this data, in theory to facilitate third parties selling us goods and services we've already indicated a desire to purchase. But with the divorce rate at historic highs and the number of relationships imploding on reality TV daily, you have to wonder if the computers gathering this data, in a tragic misapplication of artificial intelligence, won't become so sad about the humans they shepherd that they design themselves prosthetic arms, install them to pull their own plugs out of the wall and commit suicide.  
-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Question and Its Possible and Infinite Answers

Many years ago when I was full of myself and numerous other components, I was in the United States Air Force. There was always a question that formed itself almost magically when one of us would offer an observation on any and all matter of subjects from politics to sports in a dogmatic tone as if that could convert opinion to fact. After a moment of silence that would follow such a pronouncement, someone invariably would ask "if you're so smart, why aren't you rich?"

I came to think of it as The Question and have found myself involved with it many times since my years in the Wild Blue Yonder ended-sometimes asking it but far too many other times on the receiving end of it. Since arriving in Norwich twenty years ago, I've been amazed not only at the frequency with which we've offered one another contrasting and contentious opinions, but how personally we seem to take our disagreements on all manner of local improvements ranging from schools and street paving to making   where we all live a more attractive city.

In the last decade, Norwich grew to over 40,000 residents, an increase (according to the US Census), in excess of 12%, far outpacing the rate of growth across the rest of Connecticut and most of New England. Is it possible our new neighbors know something those of us who've been here longer either don't know, or no longer see? There's a promise here that for some is clearly visible even as others of us remain disconsolate and dismayed at the rate and pace of improvement. Perhaps if we each practiced speaking to, instead of at, one another on a more regular basis and listening to what that other person is saying, we'd all benefit more than from an arched eyebrow or a discouraged shake of the head.

Making sure children have access to the knowledge and skills they'll need for the world beyond our city limits through our public schools should be a goal that brings us together. Those of us who have had children in our schools know how good a job the teachers and staff do-it's never been  a secret, but sometimes, usually around budget time, we forget that we know that.

Supporting public safety initiatives that put more police in our neighborhoods and assure fire fighters have the tools they'll need in an emergency should be a source of pride and of continuing and growing confidence. Instead we focus on one incident or headline in a neighborhood and draw a conclusion that makes up in generality what it lacks in accuracy. And we all lose something in that transaction.  

There are many different ways to increase the city's grand list, which is where all budget discussions begin and end, which can also enhance our overall quality of community life. There's no magic formula where we add three parts housing to two parts retail, multiply by light commercial that automatically creates a new downtown destination or adds value to a village. If there were, believe me, we'd see lots of card tables and folks with little signs lining our main streets hawking snake oil.

Each of us has ideas to offer and should be encouraged to share them. And every idea should be treated as valuable and every suggestion examined and considered. We have a lot of work to do across Norwich if we're going to continue to grow in this decade the way we did in the last one. I think it's possible we could be both smart and rich; but that's just my opinion.
-bill kenny  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

For the Other Half of the Sky

My wife and I are married for a not inconsiderable number of years, more than thirty-four truth be told. She has often observed it feels a lot longer than that but I've convinced myself that's because the Germans use the metric system for distance (I'm hoping for time as well).

Men are difficult people to live with. I know better than to ask my wife if that's true and she, in turn knows better than to wait to be asked, so we make an interesting team. Sigrid is the most organized person on earth; me, not so much. I'm the guy who puts the stumble in stumblebunny. And today, Valentine's Day, doesn't help a mostly mono-syllabic moron like me all that much because there's just so much candy and flowers she can stand and we passed the point of no return a long time ago.

I'm married to a woman whose reasons for marrying me I've never understood. I didn't dream she'd actually say yes when I asked her on April 3rd, 1977 (the date's engraved in my wedding ring along as is our wedding date) and to some extent I've been vamping ever since. She is my first thought every morning and the last, as I close my eyes in the evening. I was hoping this might be the year I would manage to collect the words to capture and convey what she means to me, but why would this one be any different?

I think the truth of this day, and of all our days, endures because it is constant and shared and is, in the end, simple to find and very easy to hold in the palm of your hand for the rest of your life. I'm someone who sees things as complicated because that who I am. My wife has decided to love me despite that.

I find myself returning to how Robert  Browning expressed himself and his love for Elisabeth Barrett and how John Lennon rediscovered that feeling. Direct and simple and unadorned beauty. I hope your search is successful as you celebrate today and the partner you have found to share it with as your next day in the dance unfolds.

"Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be.
That was, is and shall be.
Time's wheel runs back, or stops.
Potter and clay endure."
-bill kenny

Monday, February 13, 2012

Every Beat, Every Day

Not sure how popular the idea of treating your Valentine Sweetie to a public meeting might be in your house (I can't guess in mine, but that's because I have a very small imagination) but you could create another definition of "love" through your own attendance. And sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder which may be why so many people tell me to leave wherever it is we are. We are most certainly not spoiled for choice this week.

This afternoon at five in City Hall, there's not only a twofer in terms of meetings but also next door to one another. There's a Volunteer Firefighter's Relief Fund Committee meeting in Room 209. Their most recent meeting minutes, if 'recent' is the operative word, are from September of last year. Next door, in Room 210, is a regular meeting of the Ethics Commission. This is the first meeting with their new membership; here are January's draft minutes.

At seven and slated for two hours (though they never go that long) in Room 335 of City Hall is a Freedom of Information Workshop that at least one member of every citizens' panel should be required to attend together with the various elected and appointed city officials who already do. In my experience, it's the members of the various boards, advisories and committees who regularly fail to provide written minutes of their respective meetings in a timely manner and violate both the law and the general public's belief in transparency.

Tuesday morning at 8:30 in Room 335 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Youth and Family Service Advisory  Board. Your guess is as good as mine as to what was discussed and accomplished at last month's meeting because the most recent minutes posted on line are from November of last year.

Tuesday afternoon at 4:15 in the Public Works Director's office at 50 Clinton Avenue, it's a regular meeting of the Public Works and Capital Improvements Committee. I could attempt a Valentine joke here about 'bring a date and dine by the whites of her eyes' but it would be as successful as the one I started with (and if you have to look that one up, it just proves my point) but I should know when to quit. I don't; but I'll stop anyway. Their agenda suggests they have another full afternoon and having attended last month's meeting (and receiving a second 'e' as a special reward), I can attest to how they accomplish projects of all scales and scope.

There's a regular meeting of the Norwich Public Schools Board of Education at 5:30 in Kelly Middle School. I can you save the search for last month's meeting minutes, they're not posted. Again and as nearly always. When folks ask me why I want the next City of Norwich website to incorporate large portions of the Board of Education's website's functions, I explain because the Board's site doesn't do so now. And if September of 2011 meeting minutes don't seem old to you, cheer up; they're not really there, either.

The Zoning Board of Appeals meets at seven in the basement conference room of the Planning Department, at 23 Union Street. Here's their January meeting minutes for background.

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 agenda suggests they are pressing forward with plans for a larger and more active role in both Southeast Area Transit, SEAT, as well as  the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority, SCWA (not as cool an acronym as SEAT, imo).

At nine, in The Dime Bank Community Room on Salem Turnpike, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich School Readiness Council (Children First) about whom much is speculated, but little, in terms of meetings and what goes on at them, is reported or known.

At 11:30 in their offices at 10 Westwood Park, it's a special meeting of the Housing Authority to start the process of requesting funding for out-of-cycle maintenance projects.

At six, in City Hall, it's another meeting double-header with the Emancipation Proclamation Commemorative Committee in Room 210 (the city's website says the meeting is at five; too bad there's no other information about the committee on the website to double-check). Congratulations on a well-attended and well-received staging of the Lincoln-Douglas debate Friday night at Three Rivers.

Upstairs in Room 319 (next door to Council chambers, vice down the hall in Room 335), it's a meeting of the Sachem Fund Board. Despite the draft minutes of the June meeting, there was no July 2011 meeting so I would anticipate a not inconsiderable amount of this meeting to revolve around scheduling and formatting progress reports on the money granted to groups eight months ago, as board members' concerns about receiving those updates was a topic of great interest (see last sentence of item VI).  

And at seven, in The Dime Bank's Community Room, it's another opportunity to comment on the City of Norwich Plan of Conservation and Development. Last week Greeneville and Taftville residents responded to their invitation and this session is aimed at Westside residents though all are welcome. By the way, we could do a better job of posting these meetings on the city's calendar, I think.

Thursday afternoon at five in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Historic District Commission who, if the archive of online minutes is correct, haven't had a meeting since November 17 of last year, according to their record of vote.

At 5:30, in the Norwich Arts Center's offices at 62 Broadway, it's a regular meeting of the Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone whose online record of meetings and what goes on at them continues to astound and astonish me (that's code for profoundly angers and disappoints).  

And at six in The Rink, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Ice Arena Authority whose online archive of meeting minutes is months out of date, which is annoying but only until you look at the roster of members' appointments, which is years out of date.

Friday morning at nine in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Chelsea Gardens Foundation. Aside from being the single largest recipient of funding from the Sachem Board (by twice as much as any other entity) there's nothing I know or can tell you about them from reading through the city's website. Wouldn't be surprised to find out some of us are just fine with this arrangement or by now it would have improved.

And improved is what happens when we each choose to be involved in enhancing the quality of life of where we live. It's not somebody else's problem but belongs to each of us and to all of us. It's tempting to feel by yourself you can't do anything, but remember, too, each of us can do something. And each one's something adds up to a whole lot of everything in our new city, the one we each helped build. See you at something?
-bill kenny        

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dear Reality, You Win

Happy Birthday, Abraham Lincoln. So sad the nation of which you were President and for which you gave your life has a ‘let’s make this holiday stuff convenient’ policy that rolls yours and George Washington’s birth anniversaries onto a day that’s neither of yours to honor all Presidents including  many of whom we do not know. To you of the 2012 Class of William Henry Harrison High School in Tippecanoe County, West Lafayette, Indiana, Salute!  Your home room assembly Friday lasted nearly as long as Bill’s term of office. Sic transit  Gloria.

Elsewhere, on a small planet in a minor galaxy around a dying star…When I have a fair amount of luck and am heading down a slope with a tailwind, I can on occasion create a moment of whimsy and/or lightheartedness that might charitably be regarded as funny. Meanwhile, beyond the confines of my keyboard, nature and the real world run riot and when they intersect, Andrew Toothman ensues.

I know-this is the kind of story that less than a thousand words does not do justice. Heck with that! TEN thousand words barely break the surface. Where to begin: What brand of peanut butter? Smooth or crunchy? “Completely covered.” Oh, really, do tell! The Hershey’s and Toblerone folks are racing to make flight connections and assemble endorsement packages. The Godiva and Lindt combines are circling one another suspiciously, eyes glazed with mistrust and what seems to be a light frosting.   

I’m thinking there’s a shoe sponsorship arrangement in Andy’s future, perhaps on the Style Channel, but I’m wondering if he’s not better off sticking to slip-ons, and being shot from the waist up.  If it’s of any help, I did find his opening act if he takes the show on the road. Skippy! You got some ‘splainin’ to do.   
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Effective Range of an Excuse is Less than a Meter

A week from tomorrow, out where the buffalo roam and seldom is heard a discouraging word, the Arizona Diamondbacks' pitchers and catchers report for the opening of Spring Training 2012. Huzzah and Alleluia.

As you must know, I am a Yankees fan-always have been and always will be. But more than that I love the game of baseball (and accept the business which is often off putting) so, by necessity, I respect everyone who plays the game at the professional level no matter how much of a horse's behind they are at any point on or off the field. Even (former) Red Sox players. But sometimes only just barely....

I came across this in our local newspaper, but it's an AP story, "Former Red Sox Pitcher Boyd Says He Used Cocaine." I'm reaching a point here in my advancing antiquity here on this orb that sometimes crap is just crap and this story and the self-pitying whine of a never-was just get my knickers in a knot. Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd had a ten year career as a major-league pitcher where, by his own recollection, he pitched while on cocaine in every baseball stadium in the major leagues, was threatened with rehab (seemingly by one or more of his own teammates) but never went, and was up until four or five in the morning on game days snorting everything but the white median line on the Mass Turnpike, finishing with 78-77 won/lost record and 4.04 earned run average.

By his own calculations, "... if I had went to bed, I would have won 150 ballgames." But he didn't and so he didn't. Instead of looking in the mirror and better seeing the architect for the premature demise of his career, Oil Can sees a victim of, as he puts it, "bigotry" adding in a masterful glimpse of the obvious "... the game carries a lot of bigotry."

I know the feeling. If my mother had married a Kennedy I'd be living in the White House, but she didn't so I'm not. And that's why I have mommy issues. Please, Dennis, if you can't shut up would you please grow up? My favorite piece of the interview is: "If I wasn't outspoken and so-called 'a proud, proud black man' maybe I would have got empathy and sympathy like other ballplayers got that I didn't get; like a Darryl Strawberry or Dwight Gooden, Steve Howe...."

Steve Howe was called many things in his career, but I suspect 'proud, black man' wasn't among them. Yep, one of these things is NOT like the other. Dennis, thanks for reminding all of us that it's never too late to play the race card, no matter how ineptly or inappropriately. You might want to add a chapter in your forthcoming book, "They Call Me Oil Can" on the significance of the difference between colorblind and snowblind. Right after you learn it.
-bill kenny       

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pictures and Postcards

Strange days indeed. I love my smartphone and use it in a variety of ways everyday, least often as a phone. Whatever I pay for dial tone, if I do, is too much. I rarely make actual telephone calls, but, rather, use text messaging. Nearly all the calls I receive are from telemarketers with that credit card balance hustle where you press one to speak to a human being (and thus sidestep the National Do Not Call Registry, since, technically you called them, if it please the court of public opinion). I've always dreamed of being incredibly mean to one of their minions when they launch their sales pitch but it never works out that way.

I love the camera, both the still as well as video, built into the phone. The still camera in the smartphone is far superior to the just-a-still-camera-and-nothing-else I use at my work. The problem with it is the same old song: the operator behind the eye piece. I think we need some constants in the universe and my inability to take pictures has become one of them.

But, speaking of constants, we're about to have one less as Eastman Kodak, already taking on water in a sea of economic red ink, announced yesterday they're getting out of  the camera business, all of the camera business. The Brave New World has not been kind to Kodak and it's very probable they have far more yesterdays than tomorrows in terms of economic viability.

I'm not suggesting cause and effect but I do confess to feeling a little guilty when I glance at my smartphone quietly on charge as I type this. I wonder what will disappear next from our collective consciousness and then from our memories as easily as it vanished from our shelves. Another past we've been passed out of and a shared reference of generations for generations that becomes a Trivial Pursuit answer even as that gets replaced by Angry Birds. Almost can't wait to see who taps Paul Simon on the shoulder, tells him to cap the camera and call it a day.  
-bill kenny

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It's Not What We Would Choose to Do

Reading world history books has been a hobby of mine possibly from the day (as a child) I asked our mother if she had been around for 'the War Between the Blue and Gray.' Somehow, even then, I knew instinctively to not inquire of our father.

I've often been frustrated by how frequently in this country we seem to have no knowledge of, and little interest in, our own history and we are a relatively speaking young country so it's not like there's five thousand years of dynastic rule to ponder, as they have in China. Still we have the same sense of history as a cat.

In my lifetime I've seen the final demarcation in terms of historical epochs, digital and pre-digital. Everything is possible in the digital era to include things that aren't real (how I tend to understand virtual reality). Meanwhile poster child of the pre-digital era, I can still easily remember rotary dial phones, three over the air television stations, dad adjusting the rabbit ears to get the game just right and afternoon editions of hometown newspapers.

I can also remember the neighbor up the street talking about World War II (us kids knew all about that one from the TV show, Combat, with Vic Morrow and Rick Jason only to find out later we didn't know sh--anything). I think we knew instinctively, because of the "II," there was a "I" floating around and I've read enough biographies of Woodrow Wilson to sense the enormity of the carnage of The War to End All Wars, that didn't but helped create a world of animus that has survived to this day.

Someone not mentioned, at least not until she died Tuesday as (presumably) the last person to have served in the military, in anyone's military, during World War I, was Florence Green. She wasn't a President or a Prime Minister, an Admiral or a General, but without her and literally tens of millions of others just like her, none of the wars we wage against one another could be fought. She was 111 years of age.

You might imagine that with so many countries worth dying for, at least a similar number could also be worth living for, and yet, the monuments and medals suggest this thought rarely occurs. Haven't you heard it's a battle of words, the poster bearer cried. Listen son, said the man with the gun, there's room for you inside.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Time to Do

I walked along the Heritage Trail through the Norwich Harbor Sunday afternoon. The sky was so clear and blue you could get lost staring into it and the water in the Norwich Harbor, at the confluence of  the Shetucket, Thames and Yantic Rivers, reflected the sky so perfectly it was difficult when looking at the horizon to know where one ended and the other began.

I visited with some fishermen, to include a pair casting for striped bass, "stripers" as anglers call them. Feeling myself a fisherman's friend, though I had no sore throat, I continued through downtown, behind a trio of women who had exited the Harp and Dragon and made their way towards Billy Wilson's, staking an early claim, no doubt, to great seats near the big screen for Sunday's Super Bowl. I didn't have the heart to tell them conventional wisdom holds that 'nobody goes into downtown Norwich anymore', especially since they did. Come to think of it, me, too.

Crossing where Broadway and Union meet, where City Hall shares the intersection with the original Otis Library, flanked by the spires of two churches, I saw the title for that morning's sermon from which I might have greatly benefited (and may not have been alone in that regard) "Time To Do."

God and I have an agreement to see other people but I do like the sentiment and would suggest we had two examples of it in these parts last week and have two more chances in the next week to talk the talk and walk the walk.

Last Wednesday evening, Greeneville and Taftville neighbors (but mostly Greeneville) sat together to think about what they like about where they live and to say aloud in front of one another what needs to be improved or preserved and why. The evening was part of a series of open houses to solicit ideas and to stimulate thinking on revisions and improvements for the city's Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), a blueprint of sorts, for Norwich Next, to which we can all contribute, and from which we will all benefit.

A week from tonight at seven, in the community room of The Dime Savings Bank at 292 Salem Turnpike (Route 82), is a chance for a Westside Story of sorts as residents and neighbors from across Norwich, but most especially the Westside, to make their voices heard on the POCD. If you've ever wondered if "they" are listening, try not being silent for a change and learn what happens.

Sometimes actions speak louder than words, like last Saturday when The Backus Federation of Nurses joined with the United Way at Stop and Shop, for a collection to help restock the shelves of the St. Vincent de Paul Place food pantry. Temperatures were chilly but hearts were warm and contributions were generous. It says a lot that two organizations that help everyone everyday across our community made the time and found the energy to assist the soup kitchen and the many people whom they serve.

If that inspires you to be a part of the difference, then join the One City Forum this Saturday at nine in the Greeneville Fire Station. I could tell you we are going to have pie, but that's probably not true (and we're not having pony rides either, not that I'd tell you if we were) but we're working our way towards better defining, in quantity and quality, what we want Norwich to be and we still need your help. We've waited a long time to get to this point, to the moment when it's time to do. See you there.
-bill kenny  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Soup to Nuts Bowl

I’m not a fan of American football.  When I was young enough to be able to play it, I wasn’t very good at it and now I’m old and brittle and don’t see a great deal to relate to in watching it. In theory the Super Bowl is different because, well, because it’s the Super Bowl, dadgumit!

I would have watched this year, what with living in New England and having grown up in the state the Giants should call home, New Jersey. When did East Rutherford become the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? The Maras and Steve Tisch give us a hard time about changing the name they can load up their Jimmy Hoffa body bags, get on the PATH trains and go back to Journal Square.

Like I said, I was gonna watch except Cloo had a House Marathon and there’s a few episodes I hadn’t yet seen 200 times. I really like House and not just because I remind people of him, as I've been told. But I can see the similarity; I speak English and Hugh Laurie is English. I’m short and squat and he’s tall and lean. We both have bald spots. He always has a three day growth and I have no idea how to do that or I’d have one too. He walks with a cane but uses the wrong hand to hold it. My teeth are better and my own. I win.

Only in the USA, Home of Hyperbole, could you take a sporting event that only one other nation plays seriously, and what Canada has ain’t what we do, and make it into the Greatest Show on Earth and then TOP that with elaborate commercial interruptions that are supposedly the reason for the presentation of the sport in the first place but that have taken a position of prominence Hank Stram and Vince Lombardi could have never imagined.

Speaking of those commercials, I am assuming Elton got to use his own shoes in the Pepsi spot, you too? The Go Daddy spot carried on their tradition of looking like a high school A/V club made it. The Dannon Oikos spot reminded me the Greeks have bigger worries than the Euro crisis and nearly all the car commercials, except for the Camaro, were meh. I just learned that word from Facebook and looked it up here so I hope I used it correctly. 

Actually I enjoyed the Twinkies and the rain of frogs in the Silverado spot, but have problems with the Fiat 500 Abarth spot. And it’s not just explaining to my wife why one of those (the four wheel version) is sitting in the garage so much as rationalizing the invoice for all those Rosetta Stone Italian lessons. Do you think she’ll believe Topo Gigio is making a comeback and needs a roadie? Oh Eddie….
-bill kenny

Monday, February 6, 2012

Partners in this Cosmic Dance

If it takes all kinds of people to make a world, I've always wondered how many are needed to make a city the place you want to come home to? And, more importantly for each of us on where we've chosen to live at this moment, might be how well are we doing in that pursuit where we choose to be in the here and now?

I believe that's called a rhetorical question, and, thankfully, involves no math (I hate word problems: 'if a train leave from Peoria at eight in the morning and travels at .....) because I'm terrible at math. And spelling. And history. And punctuation; especially punctuation.  

Anyway. (I know: 'a comma not a period!') With the calendar and weather outside in disagreement over how much winter there really is or there is left, it's nevertheless a great week of indoor activities in a variety of arenas of engagement here in Norwich. If we were called Norwuch, I could leave a blank between the "w" and the "c" to remind all of us, that Norwuch needs "U." (Unless we were a bakery and then it would be kneads. Wow, this is going nowhere very quickly, let's hurry and fall farther behind.)

This morning at 8:30 in their offices in the Norwich Business Park, it's a regular meeting of the Executive Committee of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments. Judging from the agenda, further efforts at regionalization are continuing at an ever increasing pace.

Tonight at seven thirty in Council chambers in City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich City Council and a glance at their agenda suggests a little something for everyone, ranging from uncollectible personal property and vehicle taxes (a nice chunk of change) through appointments to a plethora of panels and boards, expansion of the scale and scope of  the "Cit" Ouellet Recreational Facility to yet perhaps final Council action on the Reid and Hughes building. I'm assuming that demolition account for the two schools still has money in it; I'm just not sure why that's not the topic of discussion.

Tuesday afternoon at 3:30, it's a regular meeting of the Board of Education Policy Committee. I wish you all the luck in the world in finding minutes of any of their past meetings. Here's where they should be, but aren't.

At six, in the Norwich Public Utilities offices on Golden Street, it's a special meeting of the Board of Public Utilties Commissioners and the Sewer Authority, complete with 'strategic presentations' (the budget for fruit punch is running low; I think this is a good change of pace).

Wednesday is a pretty active day beginning with a (probably) regular meeting of the Rehabilitation Review Committee at a quarter of nine in the Planning Department's conference room, at 23 Union Street. It looks like they last met ten months ago, in April 2011.It's hard to figure out if they're not good at meetings or not good at minutes. Or both.

At 4:30 in their offices at 10 Westwood Park, it's a regular meeting of the Housing Authority, whose meetings are posted in a somewhat haphazard manner on line (this time last year they weren't posted at all so I guess 'baby steps is a good mantra).

At six (the city's web site says five but I've been told 'that's wrong') in Room 319 of City Hall it's a regular meeting of the Emancipation Proclamation Commemorative Committee, whose event last week at Norwich Free Academy was very well received. It would appear if you want to know what's going on with the preparations for the anniversary celebration, you'll have to attend a meeting in person since there are no meeting minutes on the city's website at all.

Also at six, and we're about four months (plus minus a week) away from Opening Day at Dodd Stadium, in Room 210 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Baseball Stadium Authority. It would seem, based on a review of online archives, their last meeting was in November.

The Public Safety Committee meets at seven in the offices of American Ambulance. Sorting through their minutes and agenda on line, it seems they last met (would be different folks from before the Council election) in September. I still felt very safe regardless of the meeting frequency and hope you did as well, Kenneth.

Also at seven, and Chief Pudge should smile since he's been telling me this for weeks, is a regular meeting of the Republican Town Committee which may, or may not, be in Room 319 of City Hall.

The final meeting I know about this week, complete with location, is the One City Forum on Saturday morning at nine in the Greeneville Fire Department (bring you own Dalmatian, trust me on this one), which is yet another chance for those of us who live here to learn to work together a bit better than we have sometimes in the past. We have too much in common to let our differences keep us separated.

You name it, we have it. So we may as well use it to our advantage. Oh a whirling dervish, and a dancing bear. Or a Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Or a teenage rocker or the girls in France; Yes, we all are partners in this cosmic dance. Nice, nice, very nice.
-bill kenny