Share it

Saturday, March 31, 2012

So Long, Sonic

I came across an item yesterday afternoon that made me sad only because I was too old when it all got started to love it the way our kids did. Sega, the creators of  Sonic the Hedgehog, is  folding up its game manufacturing operations as the corporation reaches for the clouds, marketing wise, to concentrate on digital distribution instead of wires, boxes and cartridges.

As a gaming console company, Sega is the air age equivalent of General Motors and the Too Big to Fail Big Band and we saw how that almost turned out, right? Unless you're someone who used to make or work for Oldsmobile, Pontiac or Saturn, because if you were, it really did happen to you. Looking for sympathy for the Hummer? You'll need to try in the dictionary, between $hit and syphilis, bunky.  

Anyway, who'd have thought that Mario, Mario of all people!, would be the last man standing. I guess Sega feels like Atari felt back in the 70's when the world was their oyster until everyone else showed up with a game cartridge or console that blew the doors off of theirs. I just hope Sonic invested its money wisely (notice how I avoided both the feminine and masculine pronoun? Mama didn't raise no fools) and can afford a nice spread somewhere South of Miami where it can play checkers and clip coupons, waiting for that annuity check to show up the first of the month.

"Let me tell you about the Proto Culture.
If you don't know the culture, here's the whole structure.
We've had enough of that lackluster, trust us.
We get the kind of games you can't rent at Blockbuster."
Least-wise, anymore. Word.
-bill kenny

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Best that Ever Was

Most of us go through life secretly proud of something we are or we can do. Whether or not anyone else can see how good we are at whatever it is might be a matter of debate but we tend to think of ourselves as ‘pretty good.’  Not so with Earl Scruggs who died Wednesday at the age of 88 and who lived more in those nearly nine decades than most anyone else you or I will ever know.

I love all kinds of music, some more than others and some perilously close to NOT at all (crunk, I’m talking about you). In the interests of total disclosure I will concede I am not a big country and western guy which is not very important in this context because Earl Scruggs transcended the labels so many people try to put on one another and always managed to not stay in the particular boxes that so many worked so hard to keep him in.

The obit shows the range of his musical involvement and if all you know about Bill Monroe is what you read a moment ago, go wander around the audio and video files online because he was amazing (I think of him, in his day, as the John Mayall of Appalachian Americana, in that he created a musical environment towards which talented musicians gravitated). If the only music Earl Scruggs ever made and played were with Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, his passing would still be noteworthy.

But, he played with, and for, everyone making Music, with a deliberate capital M for his enjoyment first and foremost and if the rest of us got something out of it that was fine, too. I met him, as a rock and roll kid on an early eighties Bob Dylan in Germany tour, where Dylan was born again and treating his catalog like it was someone he barely knew.

Scruggs wasn’t playing in Dylan’s band; he was friends with a pair of musicians who were and he was kibitzing with them backstage at the Mannheim Eis Stadion an outdoor arena with a cover, not unlike the Garden State Arts Center, but with concrete seats, as befitted an ice hockey arena.

He joined in an interview Dylan was kind enough to do after a sound check that had been similar to a cat dropped into a blender (electric instruments and hard surfaces make for odd bedfellows) and I was overwhelmed at the catholicity of his knowledge of various musics but also by the brilliance of his observations on any and every topic that came his way.

The interview was much more Earl than Bob which discomfited the former and didn’t faze the latter and was a huge success the late night I unspooled it on a rock radio show referred to in-house as “Diving for Dopers.” That I wore a snorkel and had Red Cross certification in CPR was, in hindsight, not the right message to be sending to management. The phones lit up to rave about the musician and the man. It was quite a time.

Earl Scruggs was a genius and a gentleman of the first order and we are all poorer today for his passing.
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Revenge of James Nasium

It's still dark when I go to work-it's not a requirement or a court mandate that it be dark so that I can go to work, it just is. I mention that because it's easier to understand there's not a lot of premium on what I look like stepping out our back door at the hour that I'm stepping.

On a hanger, most, though not all, days, are my work clothes-a dress shirt, tie, trousers, belt or braces (very rarely). I'm in some form of sweats from the well-known athletic clothing firm, Grunge Funky or is it Frunge Gunky? It ain't Aeropostale, that much I do know.

I have a routine as I carry my messenger bag (I gave up on briefcases; they don't hold enough other stuff and they are unwilling to change shapes to fit into tight spaces) on my left shoulder with my work clothes in my left hand as I hang on to my 'please let me in the building' credentials that -ta-da! actually let me in the building.

There have been days when I was more asleep than I realized as I left the house and I've arrived at work to learn as I've opened the rear door and reached for the work clothes they are still on the clothes hanger mounted on the cabinet nearest the back door so that I can see them as I leave and thus, never forget them. Unless and except when I do. We have a lot of fun in that wing of the building on days when that happens. Yep, it's a laugh riot.

I have about an hour after I arrive to finish whatever project, like Banquo's Ghost, is still lingering and get started on something new before I step outside and across the tarmac that's part of a large construction project that never seems to get done, and make my way to the gym, sorry, to the fitness center. It's like no one wears sneakers anymore, they wear sports shoes. That's because they don't go to the gym, they go to the fitness center to work off all that pasta, not noodles, from the night before. We are the only species on the planet with language skills so highly developed that we invent words to obfuscate, not illuminate, and prefer it that way.    

I'm in love with the elliptical cross trainer even though I actually hate it. I go at it like a maniac for thirty one minutes (don't ask, you don't want to know) and still don't understand what the heck the 'cool down' control is supposed to do or be. No matter-as it happens I have a lot of other questions bigger than that one and I added to them Tuesday by being a wiseguy. Again.

I know. Me? A wise guy. Happens to the best of us. I've been aware for days that at the next machine over, about ten minutes after I start, a guy shows up and works out while watching the Fox News Channel (one of the reasons I avoid that device; I like the brick wall when I look up). By the time I finish my vascular vacation, I am even less physically appealing than normal, steamy and sweaty  with an aroma that would cause roadkill to get up and run as I approached it.

Fortunately I always have my scintillating wit as an ally. Sometimes, early in the morning, it seems a lot more like snarkiness than is a good idea. That's why Tuesday, the guy on the neighboring machine made it a point to tell me 'you're always here before I get here; you must get up before I do' as I was puddling on the floor standing alongside of the Cross Trainer from Hades waiting for him to get to his point after flagging me down as I was leaving.

It took me a minute to realize Captain Obvious was already there and was actually waiting for me to volley the conversation back over the net. Here's the thing: I have three minutes to get back to my building, up the stairs to the fifth floor and into the shower for four minutes of slather and rinse and then change into my Clark Kent outfit (damn Yellow Sun!) and begin my workday. Synchronize watches and welcome to Not a Moment to Lose. He who hesitates is lunch.

I peered at the fellow since I'd left my glasses (seamless bifocals, it's what all the no longer young dudes are wearing now) back in the office as they get fogged up and sweaty before finally focusing on him. I explained without a hint of what I am told is a winsome smile that I didn't get up earlier than he did, but rather, that I was homeless and the folks in the gym let me sleep there at night. He actually stopped in mid cross-train, with a look on his face I can't quite describe and then stepped off the device and left. Didn't even wipe it down. I noticed yesterday morning he was nowhere to be found. Sniff, sniff. I smell trend.

Guess I didn't know my own strength. I've got my eye on one of those shiny new spinning bicycles they just got in. I even have my own bell and two thumbs. At last count there are only four folks riding those things-I figure in two weeks I'll be making like Duna at The Pension Grillparzer. And won't Bill O'Reilly be amazed.
-bill kenny          

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Break in the Battle

We're less than a month away from the serious part of the municipal calendar-when the elected leadership of the City Council together with the City Manager and his professional department directors sit down as the Board of Education and its Superintendent of Schools have done and prioritize and finalize funding requests, analyze the costs of goods and services and calculate and create an annual municipal operating budget.

If you've lived here a year, a decade or a lifetime, you already know how this works. And across the country, perhaps there are variations in the calendar, but it's pretty much the same movie with a different cast. And speaking of movies, the plot rarely changes and the outcome, despite being known in advance is often still a struggle to accept.

We, the people, want as much as we can have from teachers through paved roads, secure bridges and tunnels to public safety professionals and equipment without having to pay any more for any of it than we already are. Ask anyone anywhere how much he/she pays in taxes and the answer (say it with me) is always 'too much.' Norwich is no exception, though we have many exceptional people.

A wag, living in a city not too unlike ours I suspect, once suggested if a fine is a tax for doing the wrong thing than a tax is a fine for doing the right thing. And if you've ever made a major improvement to your home or business, purchased new equipment or bought a new car, your property tax bill has probably made you a believer in that saying.

Where you think budget priorities should be set depends on who and where you are in the city. If you have a business, you'll want more investment for infrastructure and public safety. If you have kids in school you'll support the Board of Education's request for funding. And everywhere you go in terms of mission statements and dollars to accomplish those goals, every department across the city can make a case for why it has to have the exact number of dollars it has requested.

Our challenge as a city isn't so much our will to improve as the size of our wallet to purchase all the improvements we desire. If wanting to be successful were enough, we'd have a downtown jammed with destination stores crowded with people, generating rental income, sales taxes, utilities payments and enhancing not only our tax base but also our community's gross domestic product.

But until we have businesses willing to invest in moving to or enlarging their current Norwich address, much of the city's tax burden will be shouldered by the owners of private property-people who have been on the shortest end of the short stick of a terrible economy for too many years. Don't lose sight of a basic fact-when it was Boom Times here in the Land of the Round Door Knobs, it didn't quite boom so much in New England where all the infrastructure costs and investments were higher and larger and the good times weren't nearly as good or as long as they were elsewhere.

Drive-by slogans, bumper sticker mantras and simple solutions-whether in print from a once a week columnist or from anonymous on-line commentators at the bottom of those editorial observations aren't going to help the neighbors we chose as our representatives last fall as they sit in City Council chambers this spring and try to make the best decisions they can for the greatest number of residents.

Our representative system of government requires our participation in every budget hearing, in every workshop-don't leave it to somebody else- to both speak about our concerns and desires but also to listen to one another. Knowing the right thing to do isn't always the popular thing is of small solace when residents descend on a Council meeting with often competing demands for simultaneous increases and reductions in both services and taxes. We'd all like to lose ten pounds, but none of us like to diet. We can have both as long as we don't weigh ourselves and after we do, we have to agree to NOT blame the scale.
-bill kenny            

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pay No Attention to the Calendar

I'm afraid I'm becoming more brittle in a variety of ways on a daily basis. Yeah, the bones and joints creak and crack when I walk and when I rise-I've had enough of them replaced that in the event I'm involved in an accident I have a wrist bracelet listing medications, allergies, conditions and my favorite disclaimer "some assembly required."

The guy in the mirror whose face I shave weekday morning no longer looks like that Dashing Young Turk he persists in insisting he is (okay, the dashing part was always a fabrication). Point in fact, whether I like it or not, I'm not that guy anymore. Maybe I made it official when I traded my subscription for Rolling Stone in for AARP Magazine. Don't mock me-it came included in the price of a membership, and the newsletters have the locations of all the restaurants offering Early Bird specials. So now I have something to read while I play checkers while waiting to pass away. King me.

More and more of my generation are on the sidelines or up in the bleachers as the country we grew up in has become someplace we wouldn't want to visit much less have chosen in which to end our lives. The only thing we make here anymore are music videos and Lord knows I don't watch any of that crap (it's certainly not on MTV so where did it go anyway?). We have become our parents, you whipper-snappers.

Take a look through your wardrobe and at the UN of labels hanging out in your closet....everywhere from Sri Lanka to Lesotho and everyplace in between. I now live in a part of the country that had textiles as a core industry until after the end of World War II when cheap(er) labor in the non-union southern United States  enticed industries to leave and then a generation later, NAFTA, shifted those jobs to countries farther south, where a living wage isn't even a clever concept.

And I drink orange juice and eat seedless grapes from points in the hemisphere it takes me ten minutes to find on an atlas-another change, and not for the better, from when I was a kid. And it dawns on me as I write this at the end of a cold, grey day in March as we ready for the coming of Spring and those lazy, hazy days of summer to follow, that every day's the end of days for some and because we don't know with any certainty for whom the bell tolls doesn't mean it will not toll.

I remember a snatch of melody from a song on an album long past and no longer wonder 'how long' but, rather, marvel at 'how true.' "I don't see next year's crop and I sit here on the back porch in the twilight. And I hear the crickets hum,  I sit and watch the lightning in the distance but the showers never come. I sit here and listen to the wind blow. I sit here and rub my hands; I sit here and listen to the clock strike and I wonder when I'll see my companion again."
-bill kenny

Monday, March 26, 2012

Billy Blake Would Be So Proud

I confess to not being able to tell the difference between Ernie Els and Daniel Ellsberg, though I've been in the Pentagon often enough to appreciate the distaste in which the latter holds it. And not always without reason. But that's for another day and not this one.

Because on the one before this one, that is, yesterday, I planted my butt in a comfy chair and watched hours upon hours of professional men's golf on NBC-technically on the Golf Channel on NBC (and no, I have no idea what it means except that's what it said in the lower right hand corner of the screen). I make that distinction because there are women golfers as well, called Ladies, even though the guys aren't called Gentlemen, so I don't know what that's about.

I agree with Mark Twain on the merits and majesty of golf and  I'm not sure sometimes he's being overly charitable with the pleasantness of the walk, but I watched yesterday because the only name I've ever been able to recognize in the last two decades or more of this sport, Tiger Woods, was rockin' the house. I know nothing about clubs, shoes, balls, except it takes a set to do what these guys do for a living and then say it's a sport, but then again, they probably spend more time on their feet than pro baseball players and I don't even want to talk about professional football "warriors."  

I marveled at the lushness of the greens, the depth of the roughs, regretted the only thing missing from the sand traps were little dust storms and prayed for sea monsters in the water traps-but only because it gets a little bit boring otherwise. Guy in spiffy outfit puts ball on teeny-tiny ball stand stares at it, and looks downrange and stares at it some more and looks downrange even some more after that (lather rinse, repeat through at least one set of TV commercials for Deutsche Bank, some kind of a golf ball that travels transcontinental distances when struck and a set of golf clubs that will survive a nuclear attack, giving the cockroaches something to do or eat in the aftermath and afterglow).

Seriously-it takes like half a day to play a round of this sport and these are the good players! But in the midst of the mundane, the minuscule and the mediocre, we had four days of The Tiger. It seems he's back-though one swallow does not a spring make nor one weekend a return to form. That's why God made Sportscenter as we'll learn all this week.
-bill kenny  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

No Worries!

We each have peaks and valleys, good days and dark days, moments of pleasure and of pain. We've all had opportunities to regret choices and decisions that have taken us farther away rather than closer to that which we desired. Sometimes there are ways to get back and other times we must live with the price we pay.

We each have been a prisoner of circumstance, heredity, genetics or serendipity and we all have been victims of what we see as an uncaring and unfeeling universe. Meet Nick Vujicic and realize, again (or for the first time) that the effective range of any excuse is far less than a meter.
-bill kenny

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Is that a Jar Opener in your pocket

I'd always assumed the women I encounter on my way in and out of the gym in the morning for my daily argument with a cross-trainer, were there for the same reason I am: a relentlessly honest full-length mirror. While I have no doubt that exercise will improve my quality of life and enhance my health in measurable and immeasurable ways, I don't like working out and will never like it. Your mileage may vary-mine will not.

I concluded, scanning the gym floor and watching all the stationary bikers, the spinners, rowers and treadmillers (they keep all the weights and the Spanish Inquisition machines in a room around the corner; the acoustics muffle the screams I guess), that while each of us was in the same boat, metaphysically, it was a large ocean.

A visit to the gym is capped everyday, as part of the cool down ritual, with the wiping down of the work-out gear. You've seen the little squeeze pump bottles filled with a mysterious disinfectant solution you spray into former towels now torn into one foot square rags that, after being drenched, are then applied to all the surface areas on the gear, rendering them safe for the next user.

There is no breach of etiquette more egregious in the gym world than NOT wiping down the equipment. Let me hasten to add that last fragment is not a euphemism for anything else especially after reading this.  In light of the reports of coregasms, I am having second thoughts about those Mona Lisa-like smiles I've seen on the faces of some distaff gym visitors.

I've been on thin ice, metaphorically speaking, ever since we got one of those electric jar openers at my house since its presence narrowed precariously the choices of response to the 'why are you hanging around here?' pop quiz question. I studied the MSNBC report on data from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University (I'm trying to imagine Debby Herbenick and Bobby Knight at a faculty meeting: epic fail), but having reviewed their published findings, I remain impervious to the brilliance of Olivia Newton-John.
-bill kenny

Friday, March 23, 2012

Live and Learn

I discovered the other day, to my surprise and by the purest of accidents, the National Invitation Tournament (the very venerable NIT), is still going on. I don't mean as in 'still playing for this season.' I mean as in they're still holding this tournament every year. What I'm not told is why.

Nothing smells quite like money and college sports, witness all the irregularities regardless of the sport, makes money for the colleges, for the conferences in which they all maneuver to be. The almighty dollar and its pursuit (in football revenues) is what almost destroyed the Big East, a marvelous basketball conference, and the sponsors and TV networks who unload this stuff on our TV's, computers, smart phones, dumb phones, hydrophones and saxophones (or would if they could) eat it with a spoon, but no pussycat.

The only people who don't make any money in or from college sports are the kids who are exploited by the suits who run the sports and the kids don't mind because they're all turning pro right after the season (except the ones who don't, which is the vast majority of them but they don't get that until it's way too late to change course). If dollars were cologne, olfactories everywhere would riot and revolt.    

When I was  a kid our Dad used to organize trips to Madison Square Garden to watch the NIT-at the time the premier post season men's basketball tournament. All the games were played in The Garden and we used to sit in the cheap seats that were so high I remember (but not how old I was) watching a game between the University of Dayton (the Flyers, I think, was their nickname) and the University of Wyoming (I'm assuming) Cowboys and we had a whole new definition for nosebleed seats.

How high were they? Glad you asked. So high that watching the action, you saw the point guard dribble the ball, and watched it touch the floor and return to his hand, before you heard the bounce of the ball on the court. Talk about the speed of light versus the speed of sound. Mr Physics! Pick up the white courtesy phone in the lobby. It was the first of like four games that afternoon/evening-remember all the games were played in the Cathedral of Basketball. And the games were sold out.

Now with 286 teams having reserved slots in the NC Double A tourney, or at least it feels like it, and all the at-large contenders decided by rock, paper, scissors, I have no idea who's left to play in the NIT except this year folks like Drexel, who felt they were going elsewhere and UMass who were positive they were. Like a walk through a prison exercise yard, none of the guys in shorts playing in this year's NIT feel they should have to be there-and perhaps they're right. Or Seton Hall (bad joke).

Could it be time to do away with the NIT? As long as the sponsor dollars cover the cost of TV rights and the TV rights help college athletic department bottom lines, concerns like 'is it in the best interests of the game?' will continue to be nothing more than a guffaw precipitant.

Hey, maybe we can expand the tourney and invite some junior colleges as well. After all, eventually high school players are going to be on trading cards. And we can all sing the praises of the free market, whatever that is, or maybe just sing.
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Inevitable Pinhole Burns

I stopped smoking cigarettes at 1330 on Monday, 30 September 1996. I was smoking about three packs a day at that time and stopped cold turkey.

Was I scared of cancer? Yeah, I guess. Especially when someone I knew would be diagnosed with it-but you never light the cigarette that gets you, I suppose or believed. Still miss it. Eventually I switched to 'light' cigarettes, a champion misnomer if ever there were one. And then I stopped altogether.

And then I got sick and now I spend a lot of time listening to people who aren't doctors tell me how much worse all of my health problems would be if I still smoked. I wish they'd take up smoking and get cancer. Just kidding (no, actually I'm not).

I mention this because light cigarettes are a lot like hands-free cell phones while driving, at least in my eyes and ears. Holding the phone in my hand while driving isn't what makes me a lot less safe though I concede I am unsafe, and if you don't think this applies to you, your cell phone and your driving, stop reading now and go do something else because it does.

Listening to that other person on the phone-whether I'm holding it against my ear, marveling at how it comes out of my blue tooth (I remembered the name!) or reading it as a sky-writer circles back to dot the eyes or put the umlaut over the U in F-nevermind the word, is what distracts all of us. We can think anything we'd like but we're wrong because we can't do anything else but drive when we drive or fail at everything we are trying to do. And because you didn't have an accident today doesn't mean you won't the next time.

There are too many distractions that get into the vehicle with us these days, if we'd all pledge to turn the phones off before we put the keys in the ignition, we'd all be a lot safer. From each other. Our vehicles are marvelous triumphs of technology, but brainless. That's why they need us to use the one we have. There are too many ways for our lives to end but by our own hand, or hands-free, shouldn't be one of them. Ever.
-bill kenny      

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Playing to Strengths

By all accounts, this past Saturday evening was a fine night to be Irish, or to say you were, especially in downtown Norwich where everyone "knows" just about nothing is ever going on. And yet, as the late afternoon became the early evening and, in turn, became later that same evening, wining and dining establishments had plenty of both wearing of the green as well as spending it.

I'm as guilty as anyone else, and sometimes more so, of clock-watching and tea-leaf reading when the discussion becomes economic development and Chelsea, downtown Norwich. The bonds for the Norwich  redevelopment projects were approved by us, the residents, some sixteen months ago. For many, we round our numbers up and say 'it's been a year and a half! What's the delay?'

Except: it hasn't eighteen months and we can get so daunted by the journey before us we lose sight of where we're going, how far we've been and why we decided this whole trip was necessary in the first place.

For the merry-makers observing Saint Patrick's Day Saturday night, there were more than enough feet on the street, as people headed to a favorite destination for their own celebration or texted and phoned friends who were already knee deep in the corned beef and good times. None of the downtown restaurants who had positioned themselves for shamrock shenanigans had any complaints by the dawn's early light of Sunday about the size of the groups who came and enjoyed themselves and one another's company.

The lesson we could learn is: Norwich should have a Saint Patrick's Day every month. But the lesson we should learn is: if you give people a reason to come to downtown, or anywhere for that matter, they will.

It's terrific the city leadership created economic stimuli for the most expensive, but least productive, real estate in Norwich. With some patience, some business acumen and strategic investment by the private sector, Chelsea can become every day what is was for Saint Patrick's, or is for Taste of Italy, Fourth of July, Wednesdays all summer long for Rock the Docks, every First Friday and (insert your two or three favorites that I forgot to list here ____).

Municipal government can make sure the sidewalks and streets are clean and well-lighted, that there's enough public safety on hand to assure the public feels safe and that all the available parking is clearly marked and as accessible as advertised. Our city can't put businesses in vacant storefronts or apartments and offices above those shops, no matter how large the incentives to do so are. Look at 146 Main Street, an eyesore if there were ever one. No municipal effort would/could ever help that address unless it was to drape a curtain across the front of it, but the gentleman who bought the property earlier this month wasn't waiting for a helping hand.

He's put his own money where his vision and his energy is and when he turns it around and makes 146 Main another destination, we'll all benefit because of his vision and willingness to do what he felt he had to do. City government can create a positive environment for those it is seeking to attract. Let those who have the experience and expertise in making money from delivering goods and services do what they do with a partner working to help them, and by extension, all of us, succeed.
-bill kenny              

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wiedersehen Macht Freude

This is a day I think about two people with whom I was once close. And if absence makes the heart grow fonder, their absence from my life for the better part of three decades should be a special measure of my affection; except I'm a cad, but they knew that and saw it as part of my charm. They shared more than just a place in my life but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Today in a month defined by Saint Patrick, this is the Feast of Saint Joseph, whom the new Testament tells us was the husband of Mary (Mother of God) and, in a way, Jesus' step-dad. That could NOT have been the easiest job in the world in terms of keeping the young lad on the path of righteousness when running for instance, with whatever the Old Testament had for scissors. "You'll put an eye out!" Joseph might have said. "So?" Jesus might retort, "I'll put it right back in." Actually I can very easily imagine a lake of fire and Old Scratch wandering over to poke me with a stick and going, 'you had to do the Joseph as a step dad joke, didn't you? How'd that work out, chuckle trousers?'

Today is when the swallows come back to Capistrano. I have no idea if their return is connected to St. Joseph but many feel it may be and if that gives you a sense of hope then good for you and your belief. I don't know how the birds know today is the day, but they do. In NYC they painted the white stripe on Fifth Avenue green for the St. Pat's parade so I wonder if the village fathers paint their center stripe on main street bird droppings white with grey for their St Joseph's parade, or if they even have a parade. 

I knew two marvelous people who shared the Feast of Saint Joseph as their birthday. They are from a time when I was always in a hurry and knew the price of everything and the value of nothing (sort of like now, but much younger) when I worked for American Forces (Europe) Network in Germany. 

Bob was my first boss in Radio Command Information (we produced public service announcements, the equivalent of radio commercials). He drove an absolutely beaten VW Beetle, had a neurotic dog named Sandy and a wife whom he worshiped, Erika. He was a former musician in the Army band and that's how he came to Germany in the post-World War II era. 

Bob had wonderfully detailed stories filled with narrative intricacies that didn't end so much as they'd just stop and his voice would trail off because he'd just remembered the subject of the story had died or had some other sadness befall him or her and you'd look at his face and realize his eyes were glistening as he fought back tears from a long-ago memory.    

Gisela was the record librarian of the most amazingly organized collection of vinyl in the world (not a lie; even the Library of Congress was jealous of her system). She had a story about coming of age in the ruins of her country after the war and choosing to work for the besatzungstruppen over someone else (who'd offered a little more money), because the former offered a hot meal at mid-day. And that was what sealed the deal and why Gisela had come to work for AFN. 

Bob's wife, Erika, was 'local color' (a citizen of the country in which the GI was stationed;  usually guys marrying women though I can recall Mimi being the opposite) and he lived in Erika's hometown, far from the exchange, commissary and all the GI Joe trappings and looked like he was having himself quite a time. 

Gisela translated my permission letter from the Standesamt of Offenbach am Main (where I and Sigrid were to marry) because I couldn't read, write or speak a word of German. She'd read a line and then offer me the English translation. I still recall how brightly her eyes shone, how warm and broad her smile was as she translated the 'permission is granted' part and grasped me by both shoulders and gave me a congratulatory hug.

I remember both of them today on their birthdays as I have on previous years. I hope you'll forgive that I've told you a story you may have already heard. That's how us old people are. I hope Saint Joseph doesn't mind too much either since this is his day, but I knew them a lot better .What I don't know is how many others knew them or thought of them today. I worry about what happens when no one is left here who knows you ever even lived. I'm starting to feel the pressure, just a little bit. I told you a small piece of their story to help me remember to celebrate them and to remind you we are the sum of everyone we have ever known or, perhaps, known of. People change but memories of people stay the same.
-bill kenny

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Copulatory Vocalization

There's a title that should cause search engines everywhere to skip a beat, eh? Or is that more of a 'what the heck is that supposed to even mean?' look on your browser? I love the way we use language to mask meaning instead of enhance it-the difference between translucence and transparency. That phrase is actually grown-up researchers’ code describing (women) moaning during sex.  We both know the number of hits for that page on CNN was probably off the charts. I’m trying to imagine what the banner ads looked like, and failing.

I don’t understand why the article doesn’t talk about men moaning during sex or what that’s called, aside from ‘this is news, why?” (In which case it’s a multi-part series hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta). And I’m NOT going a lot farther speculating about this topic because I have zero desire to find out what it’s like to sleep on the couch in our living room, for the rest of my life.

I guess we all think about Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally” but my favorite passage in the on-line account was “(w)omen also reported making noise to relieve boredom, fatigue and pain/discomfort during sex.” Don’t know about you, but I’m seeing a whole new market for Playstation as the other adult handheld device if the Sony folks know what they’re doing. It’s very possible many women have either a Super Mario or a Sonic the Hedgehog as a partner. Batteries sold separately.    

I suppose, a good realtor can turn all of this research to their advantage in selling those homes that happen to be in airport flight paths to newly-weds. By the time, those couples realize the neighborhood schools are too far from the house for their children to walk, they’ll be looking to move because of all the aircraft noise they hadn’t noticed before. Concerns they didn’t have when the moving van first arrived. It hasn’t been easy lately for folks like Shields and Yarnell-a little too quiet on the professional and personal front.
-bill kenny 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

At Home on the Green Fields of Amerikay

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Let's treat the over consumption of dark beer and the ensuing drunken stumble-round in celebration of the day as read. Not all of us who claim the heritage are drunkards. I, to cite but one example, stopped drinking. About four hours ago. Ah, yes that scintillating "Irish wit" I claim to possess. Now I know how far my humor can take me-the next punctuation marks the demarcation. 

The Irish's arrival in America was, for its time, the largest and most prolonged migration of one ethnic group since the nations of the world had begun keeping track of such things. Those who fled Ireland for America, and they were not only family members, but extended families, whole neighborhoods and, in many instances, entire villages and townships, were half a step ahead of starvation and destitution.

To remain in Ireland was to die but fleeing to America was often death of another kind, only more slowly. Having already been made into outcasts in their own country, the immigrants hardly noticed how their treatment in the New World often resembled their handling in the old.

And still they came, by the thousands every month, by the tens of thousands and into the millions. At one point, very nearly twenty percent of all Americans were of Irish ancestry which is a statistic offered on Saint Patrick's Day to help not just those of us who were part of the Irish Diaspora to remember where they came from but to remind all of us how far we have yet to go.

"Farewell to the groves of shillelagh and shamrock.
Farewell to the girls of old Ireland all round.
And may their hearts be as merry as ever they could wish for.
As far away o'er the ocean I'm bound.

Oh, my father is old and my mother quite feeble;
To leave their own country it would grieve their heart sore,
Oh the tears down their cheeks in great floods they are rolling
To think they must die upon some foreign shore.

But what matter to me where my bones they may lie buried
If in peace and contentment I can spend my life
The green fields of Amerikay they daily are calling
It's there I'll find an end to my miseries and strife.

So pack up your seastores now consider it no longer,
Ten dollars a week isn't very bad pay.
With no taxes or tithe to devour up your wages
Across on the green fields of Amerikay.

The lint dams are gone and the looms are lying idle
Gone are the winders of baskets and creels,
And away o'er the ocean, go journeyman cowboy
And fiddlers that play out the old mountain reels.

Ah and I mind the time when old Ireland was flourishing,
And most of her tradesmen did work for good pay
Ah, but since our manufacturers have crossed the Atlantic
It's now we must follow on to Amerikay.

And now to conclude and to finish my ditty
If e'er a friendless Irishman should happen my way
With the best in the house I will treat him, and welcome him
At home on the green fields of Amerikay."

-bill kenny

Friday, March 16, 2012

Wherever I Lay My Hat

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned my animus towards office cubicles. I’m reasonably certain, official and folk histories to the contrary; they started out as someone’s idea of a practical joke and then went very badly wrong very quickly.

 I’m imagining a couple of “Human Resources” types from “The Main Office” seeking to hire the next Under Assistant West Coast promo man. The process has taken longer than anyone wanted and out of spite, they decide to find out what’s the smallest box a candidate is willing to work in. No? Take a look at a cubicle and tell me why it’s not a shipping crate for a human soul.  Talk about no way out of here.    

How about this idea? It’s happening right now, if the story is accurate and I assume it is, in Austin, Texas, as the SXSW Festival winds down. The jury of public opinion, as embodied online and elsewhere, is split (between Sodom and Gomorrah?) 

I suspect this ‘discussion’ is just beginning and hope everyone who is, or will be, weighing in remembers there is no need to add volume to your voice if what you lack is a better argument. For years I’ve regarded Fielding’s novel as modern English literature, but still in the realm of fiction. I’m not sure if that has shifted or if we have and I’m not all that positive I want to find out.    
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Same Movie, Different Cast

As much as we’d like to think every day the world starts anew, and for some it does, for many that’s not the case at all. We don’t actually strike the set at the end of each day-we dim the lights and head for someplace home and dry, or close, and step back and away from the magic lantern until tomorrow.

Hamlet had some choice words about tomorrow. Mine, alas and alack, aren’t even close when  marveling at how all those yesterdays set us up for where we and who we are today. How can a people who move so quickly never reach their destination, or even a consensus on where we should be going?

A fortnight or so ago, Rush Limbaugh managed to anger, annoy and offend an enormous number of people who, until that moment, had little in common with one another. I guess a small ‘thanks, junkie, for bringing us together’ is in order, as is (I suppose) some forgiveness from me, for a personal failing in his history. I should do the high-minded thing and will eventually, but not today, chubby.

I don’t listen to/watch Limbaugh, Bill Maher, Keith Obermann (Grammatik wants me to spell his name as Doberman; what a sense of humor they have at Microsoft!), the AFLAC duck or Rachel Maddow-not (just) because of their politics (I think I worked with a pretty broad brush there; sorry, duck) but because one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor and I live in a tent. One that I’d like to think is large enough for everyone, no matter how cranky they are.

I don’t know when ‘fair comment’ transcends the protections of free speech and becomes hateful and hurtful but I’ll concede that defending every moron’s right to her/his opinion, including me, gets a lot harder when what they’re saying is just awful and close to indefensible.

I can tell you I’ve been chided by folks on both sides of my political spectrum for not being willing or wanting to denounce/support the guy and or the Liberal Media Cabal that’s ‘persecuting’ him. I’ve visited Bergen-Belsen and Dachau, skippy-I’d suggest we take it easy on the “P” word. Especially since all you have to do is what I do-use the on and off switch on the radio or grab the clicker. Afraid you can’t resist the temptation? Listen to this. Yeah, GACK! But we loved it and it sold millions of copies. You’re reset now, right? No need to thank me.

Besides, coming back to ceiling and floor-it wasn’t that long ago that (I think; I’m lying, I know) Bill Maher had some pejoratives characterizing politically prominent women of the conservative persuasion in tenor and tone that made me cringe. If you wondered why there’s no link back, it’s for the same reason El Rushbo didn’t get one. I’ll not encourage that kind of boorishness in this neighborhood.

As a nation, we’ve been through this demonization of the other side throughout our history. Admittedly, I’m not sure ‘Van, Van is a used-up man’ is analogous to announcing some village in Texas is missing an idiot or that the citizenship of the President is suspect. We are all entitled to our own opinions on any issue-but not to our own facts.

And if we don’t work a lot harder to bring back civility in our civil discourse we’re going to become the dysfunctional country in the middle of North America while Canada and Mexico develop an appreciation for situational relationships as postulated by Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty.
-bill kenny     

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Making Me Bullwinkle, I Guess

This year we've had a mild winter-that's an observation and not a complaint. I don't plow driveways or sharpen skates for a living and I didn't get a new sled for Christmas, so I'm not unhappy we came away from the winter months as lightly as we did.

What it meant at my house was that the squirrel feeding went on basically unabated. Years ago, our daughter, Michelle, discovered if you overcame your fear of the unknown long enough to allow the neighborhood squirrels to overcome their fear, you could hand-feed them until they ran out of enthusiasm or you had exhausted your supply.

I smile when I see the ones on my block climbing the overhead wires or making their ways out from under parked cars always heading in the same direction, towards my house on Lincoln Avenue when, for reasons they cannot fathom, at some point daily the back door will open and Michelle will have a container with perhaps as many as two dozen peanuts. And so it will begin.

We've been at this so long, to my mind, the squirrels seem to be a little larger than their brethren from Williams and Sachem Streets. That's what good living will do. Feeding was easier to justify during harsh winters past that, somehow, we were helping the squirrels and now we just feed them year-round. They've been at this along with us, and I suspect many of those stopping by are the children or grand-children of the original group, one of whom would walk up a trouser leg because it could smell a peanut in a front pocket.

The squirrels do not always get along-they tend to chase one another as the feeding gets started as if my daughter would run out of peanuts. Their behavior is comical but illogical. The first squirrel with a peanut has to quickly run or he will be chased by one or more of other squirrels who will pursue the first one running past other nuts our daughter has thrown to distract and reassure them. Ignoring the available (and plentiful) food, they continue to pursue that which they cannot have.

There are other times one with peanut in his mouth, will chase away other squirrels though there's no way he can bite them without sacrificing the nut he already has, something that will never happen. And yet everyday, the same tableaux play out in our backyard, until the last peanut has disappeared.

I think of us when I see them, when I'm being less than kind, because they oftentimes behave towards one another much as we do in terms of what we have, what we do with what we have and how we plan for our future. No fugues or fantasies, just no foresight beyond the end of a whiskered nose as we look no more than one footfall ahead of where we are.

We're not as gray as they are but our thinking is sometimes as fuzzy as they are furry. I worry about what they, and we, will do if habits need to change in order to continue to be successful. Plus, there's just so many recipes for peanuts I can come up with.
-bill kenny 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

You'll Need a Good Companion Now

If you've visited here before, you've learned I am passionate about rock and roll music in a way only a white guy with NO sense of rhythm (and sometimes of spelling) can be. I have seen Bruce Springsteen many times since our first encounter at The Ledge (the commuter student center on the main New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University) in the fall/winter of 70/71. I think of myself as a fan.

I think the first time was a night he performed under his own name, vice other Friday's where he and what was the embryonic E Street Band played as "Steel Mill" or "Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom." All of us, on stage and in the crowd, were displaced persons, emotionally if not geographically, looking for something and someone to call home. To some extent he was Peter Pan and we were the Lost Boys cruising the highways along the shore with Wendy and her sisters. I forget all of that was nearly forty years ago, not an eye blink.

In the space between then and now I grew old, though not so much up, fell in love and stayed there. We have a boy of our own now (and a girl) who are, themselves, adults. And Springsteen has evolved from a skinny, frenetic kid who wrote songs about hemi-powered drones to a choice for a voice of a generation (and beyond).

When I came home last Friday in my mail, as their text had promised me, was my copy of his newest work, Wrecking Ball (Amazon.com not only texted me that it had been delivered but boast I had saved an additional thirty-six cents because of their price guarantee!!!) an album my brother, Adam, is enjoying and he is not alone (nor should he be).

I have spent the last couple of days listening to it-sorting it out (as he's matured, his use of language has become more direct and less ornate; more art with less artifice) and I think in a world of bookends and equal and opposite reactions, its closest cousin in his catalog of work is Born in the USA.

With yet another 'new' producer, and without the E Street Band in the studio, there's a sense of space between the instruments and the sounds they make unlike any of his work I can recall but I believe the most impressive aspect isn't the themes or their treatment but it's being able to see/hear the journey of his life, and by extension, our own, in this work. It's hard for us, looking in a mirror, to see ourselves age but we can see the passage of time much easier while looking at a friend or loved one.

Wrecking Ball is more window than mirror but its reflection, in its lyrics, subject and musical treatment helps me to realize whether or not it's done gracefully and thoughtfully, as Springsteen has done in the nearly forty years he has been making music for the same record company or closer to the five decades he has been performing in public, we all age as part of our passage on this planet.

The distance from My Hometown to Death to My Hometown, I'd submit, is made more sobering by the realization the singer in both songs is talking about the same place. No man, suggests Springsteen, steps into the same river twice because both he and the river have changed. And elsewhere you learn his hero, long past that point where the boys try to look hard has to concede "I been looking for the map that leads me home" while acknowledging he has "...Nowhere to run, ain't got nowhere to go."

This is all we have and all there is, suggests the music and lyrics of Wrecking Ball. And his tone and tenor lead me to conclude Springsteen and the rest of us, assuming we'll 'be there in that chair when they wrestle her upstairs, 'cause you know we ain't gonna come" can be still standing on the other side if we're willing to find a dream to call our own and hold on with everything, and I do mean everything, we have.
-bill kenny  

Monday, March 12, 2012

One of Life's Little Mysteries

Today, despite my decades-long wheedling, cajoling and lobbying, is NOT a national holiday, though we do celebrate it pretty large at my house. Today is my wife's birthday. That she has spent a vast majority of her years on this planet in my company is a testimonial to her patience and deep love rather than a refection or implication of any skill or ability on my part.

I won't go through the how we met on Christmas Day evening story again (well hardly), or how as I was proposing she at first thought I was suggesting we go our separate ways (even then I had a gift for speaking in tongues other than my own) and there are few around who know just how awkward and expensive the question "where do I sign?" actually can be as well as I and my best man, Chris, the day she and I wed.

Suffice it to say, the first time I saw her I knew I would marry her and from that day to this, I have enjoyed the life she has created for us and our children because she was the one so doing. When we met I didn't eat chicken and I hated rice (private joke) among other foods I now enjoy on a regular basis. My life is proof positive that anyone, no matter how crippled inside, can be transformed through love.

Little did she knew when she said 'yes' that when you buy a ticket, you get the whole ride, but she's been around for all of it, and, as far as I'm concerned, been the best part of it for me every day, sometimes the only part worth anything. I cannot imagine anyone more perfect with whom to spend my life and cannot help but marvel at how smart(er) I was back in the day to so rapidly realize how truly marvelous she is and to always hold her  in my arms and in my heart.

"It must be something only you can see, because I feel it when you look at me. So tonight I'll ask the stars above how did I ever win your love? What did I do, what did I say to turn your angel eyes my way?"
-bill kenny

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Burnin' Daylight

If you are recently risen from bed and slightly out of step with the rest of us, perhaps you failed to advance the clocks in your house before retiring (aside from *). If it's of any consolation, you are not probably alone. Some of us deal with the annual 'spring forward/fall back' routine better than others. Some, not so much.

To me, it's another way we're separate from all the other lifeforms on the planet. Animal, vegetable, mineral, most everything else adapts to the 'gets dark later/gets bright earlier' hot and cold parts of life on the Big Blue Marble, but not us. We impose, or attempt to, ourselves on our environment and surroundings.

We create a concept we call "time" and then work on its division into seconds and minutes that added together we call hours and then gather twenty-four of them (no other species does, aside from the rabbit in Through the Looking Glass), pronouncing that to be a day.

We then line up a bunch of days into something we call a week, combining them in various clusters of varying lengths called months  concluding here, my dear, with that which we call a year. Not bad for bi-peds with big brains and opposable thumbs (and basic cable).

For the next couple of days, most of us will be out of sorts and/or out of sync and will blame it on shifting of those damn clocks. I'm not sure that's valid for anyone other than the people working the 11 to 7 overnight shift (who had an hour shaved off their day today, but work nine and get paid for eight at some point this fall), but it sounds great and we all do it. Why we really should be ouchy and grouchy is that so few of us have a plan for what to do with the extra daylight. More's the pity.

We could start a garden, read to a child, go for a walk, visit with a friend, spend more time with a loved one, fly a kite, ride a bike, paint a fence (or a masterpiece) or write a letter. Of course, you could say, we don't need more daylight to do any of those things. And you're right-we don't. So why don't we just do them?
-bill kenny  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

If Knowledge Is Power

There was a time in this world when you said Uganda people thought of Idi Amin and the Raid on Entebbe, That recollection got reordered earlier this week by a presentation that, perhaps, said as much if not more about the power of social media, Facebook and youtube especially, until this video was all you could see and hear.

There are still those who can defend Stalin and rationalize Hitler and it didn't take long for some to take offense at what they saw as an over simplistic explanation to a national tragedy. Perhaps, and perhaps not. For millions the Lord's Resistance Army could have been the Denver Broncos' offensive line protecting Tim Tebow.

Hyperbole aside, my point is we here in the Land of Way Too Much ain't real good at picking out the bad guys from the quick and the dead when we spin the big wheel and land on "foreigners" (that is, people who are NOT like us). We've seen 'em on TV but we don't visit them and try very hard to not know them either. We're usually pretty successful with that.

It's not so much that we get confused-more that we don't care. This week, based on the traffic to the Kony 2012 video, it may have looked like we did. From your lips to God's ear. By Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest, the next game will be afoot and our momentary interest in perhaps the most evil man alive today will have waxed and waned. We'll be on to the next cause, but don't kid yourself and don't get fooled by the hullaballo-Joseph Kony is a right bastard as a quick read of his CV will show.

Our culture expects solutions in the 48 minutes and thirty seconds an hour's entertainment actually has as a program hour, ideally with credits rolling over happy endings at the top of the hour. This guy and his murderous thugs aren't the Happy Endings type. With them, when you buy the ticket, you get the whole ride. So strap in and hold on. It is a very dark ride.
-bill kenny  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Truth and Consequences

Today is a day of history and foreshadowing, of looking back and of looking forward and in both instances perhaps not seeing what was, is or will be. Such is the tragedy so often of our species, we see the danger without ever grasping its depth. And depth is a deliberate choice of modifiers in this case

On this date, before any of us were born, an indecisive sea battle was fought that shapes, to this day, the world in which we live.  It was 150 years ago today, in a clash of ironclad vessels, The Merrimac, a ship of war from the Navy of the Confederate States of America engaged in a ferocious fire fight of over four hours with a vessel described as ‘cheesebox on a raft,’ the Monitor of the United States Navy.

Man had, since close to the dawn of time, sailed the oceans of the world in wooden ships-plain and grand, slow and fast, puny and powerful. Much of the commerce conducted along the shipping channels of the Atlantic between the old and new worlds was done in all manner of frigates and clipper ships, beautiful and majestic and, in time of war, armed and dangerous.

The day before, The Merrimac (the Confederates called her “Virginia”but history has allowed her to keep her maiden name) in succession engaged The Cumberland which it sank by ramming, then dispatched The Congress whose barrage of cannonballs bounced off its deckplates before being driven into the shore and catching on fire and, finally, forcing The Minnesota to ground itself to avoid being attacked and sunk.  Hundreds of Union sailors died. 

As I said, a century and a half ago today there wasn’t much to see in the waters off Hampton Roads, Virginia (I was down there not that long ago and it still holds true). Play by play was a refinement and innovation of the late 20th Century. By all accounts the two ironclads traded shots for hours with some damage but no extensive destruction as most of the crew struggled to keep their respective vessels afloat. The Merrimac concerned about approaching low tide and her rapidly diminishing ammunition stocks chose a tactical withdrawal and the Monitor, its Captain blinded by an onboard explosion, decided half a loaf was better than none.

By the time both vessels had made safe harbor, though no one of either crew could have yet known, war on the high seas would forever be different. There are six navies in the world with nuclear powered submarines-the most complicated and complex platform, perhaps second only to the International Space Station, ever conceived and constructed by a mostly hairless bipedal species with opposable thumbs. The same thumb that so tightly  clutched a rock it chose to use first as a weapon instead of construction material. Every choice has a consequence, even the choices you choose not to make.  
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Other Half of the Sky

Today is International Women's Day. I'm reasonably sure holding a celebratory repast at the International House of Pancakes is not considered appropriate, if that's what you were leaning towards. I'm neither an expert on, and certainly not myself, a woman-but more of a visitor, a beyond-interested bystander, on an extended and extensive tour of their world.

I live together with two adult women under one roof, my wife of thirty-odd years (don't get her started on how odd) and our recently-completed-college adult daughter. I am very aware of the importance of closing previously shut closet doors when through rummaging around inside. I know well the notion of turning off a light I turned on when entering a room when I leave it. And there is nothing about a well known lid on a well-known seat in a particularly utilitarian room about which I have not been thoroughly schooled.

In recent days, in this country, women of all ages, and the people who love them and live with them, were reminded of how far along the road to equality they have come, but how long, still, the journey ahead is, thanks to a medical coverage discussion that morphed into a political litmus test and then became Searching for Hester Prynne's Goodbar before being doused in gasoline and set aflame by a prescription drug addict with a microphone. However, this, too, will pass.

Those who celebrate our continuing advances in achieving equality will eventually revel in triumphs that today are unimaginable but by tomorrow will be commonplace. I came across a thought the other day (I have so few of my own I almost didn't recognize what it was) from Joseph Conrad (Mistah Kurtz, he dead. That Joseph Conrad) which captures, I feel, the moment and many of the moments so many women live through every day: "Being a woman is a terribly difficult task since it consists principally in dealing with men." Perhaps speaking only for me, thank you.
-bill kenny      

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Be Here Now

Thomas Paine, patriot and pamphleteer, offered in The Crisis, penned during Christmas week of 1776, "these are the times that try men's souls." He was eye-witness to the birth of a nation, often in the arena, marching and fighting with the soldiers of Washington's Continental Army and never hesitant to chide those whom he called "the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot."

He was very sure of his course and confident of his ability to achieve his goals. I mention him at all since it seems to me that we here in The Rose City are continuing to have second thoughts on our second thoughts about reinventing ourselves and improving both our overall community and our tax base via our Grand List. So, with apologies to Paine, these have become the times to try our collective patience.

(Too) Many of us, even (perhaps especially) those who supported a bond initiative for downtown economic development in November 2010, were pleasantly surprised it was passed by our residents and electors. I'm still having difficulty, sixteen months on, understanding why so many who claimed to back the effort had at some level written it off. Instead of taking part in the defining and refining of the program in terms of stimulus and participant qualifications, they sat benumbed by an unexpected turn of events they should have counted on in the first place.

Meanwhile, let's be honest about Chelsea. Sir Isaac Newton, not a redevelopment specialist noted in his First Law of Motion that a "body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion...will remain in motion." That is to say, it's easier to jump on a bandwagon that's moving than push one that's standing still and then try to hop on.

A lot has been offered, including here, about when American small-town down towns, and in particular, ours, started to disappear and all of the theories, to include the ones offered by on-line commentators who think their dogmatic tone converts their opinions into facts, make valid points, if finding a solution included searching for the guilty.

Unfortunately, that doesn't really get us anywhere or bring anything. It's really not a who's to bless or who's to blame situation. But we abandon that notion only with the greatest of reluctance. The key should be a solution that benefits the greatest number of our residents and businesses at the most reasonable cost at an acceptable rate and pace of change. It's not where we start it's where we finish and it matters not where we've been but where we're going. We can argue summer and sunshine through winter and snowstorm about what was and why or we can be here now. You decide, I already have.
-bill kenny        

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Crank Up the Crazy

Gentlemen, start your sweater vests! It's Super Tuesday for members of the Grand Old Party who haven't been behaving in any way even close to approximating their name in recent months. As I understand the math, and we have a multi-trillion dollar deficit to attest that I'm not alone in not being good at math, there are close to 420 delegates in ten states all in play today. On a planet with slightly more than seven billion people, it might be hard to muster double digit headcounts of people who care about this, but they should because this is seriously important process stuff.

We're talking 'the miracle of democracy' here, campers, though based on the way the Republicans have been waging war on one another it seems more like a demolition derby. What did the candidates still standing do with  the 11th Commandment their purported idol, The Gipper, used to offer? And talk about making up in volume what they have lacked in ability, you have to admire the number of people who have sought the Republican party's nomination, if for no more than an hour or so. Less than ninety days ago the menu included Michele Bachman and Rick Perry, both now departed (I checked with Randy and he didn't know her. I was afraid to ask Steve just in case he did) and now there's the Fantastic Four.

If life were only as simple as a Marvel comic-we could skip to the last page and see how it all comes out, but we don't have that luxury (I am seriously considering writing in Jessica Alba but write-in ballots with drool are not accepted). In an era of hyper-partisanship, no matter who becomes the nominee of the Republican Party and I'm assuming President Barack Obama will be his party's choice for a second term, the noise will only increase-and I'm not sure, no matter who the victor is on November 6th, any of us end up winning.

I can remember exactly where I as and what I was doing as the Berlin Wall imploded and a sense of exuberant optimism and joy permeated the planet. The hangover has been a bitch. Not sure how long it took for  the starry-eyed to become the thousand yard stare but I do know if we're waiting for someone, somewhere to pick us up, dust us off and set us back on track we better start looking in the mirror because the person who is that reflection is all we have left. Or right-as if affiliation mattered anymore.
-bill kenny        

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Thames not the Danube

We spend a great deal of our lives waiting. We wait until we're old enough to go to school, we're old enough to ride a two-wheeler (have my fingers crossed this year; makes it hard to ring the bell), until we grow up and then, suddenly, we're waiting for God and somehow we've missed the Main Event.

It can seem like that around these parts, as well. You just wait until we have the money for the infrastructure upgrade or the new police station or the expansion on the school (you're waiting for a pony rides reference, aren't you? Hope you're happy). And we wait right to, and, sometimes, through our moment. Let's try to do that a lot less as we start toward Spring.

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 Government whose website gets a little goofy after you try to click on the February meeting minutes. The Regional Water Committee meeting scheduled for later in the morning is cancelled however, the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority (I don't get the difference, either) is having a special meeting at 5:15 in their offices on Route 12  in Gales Ferry.

The City Council meeting at 7:30 in City Hall, looking at the agenda, would seem to be a straight-forward and relatively swift meeting, which some, especially those who sit in the back row, always find refreshing.

If you saw Thursday's newspaper article on the search for a site for a boat launch in the City, then Tuesday morning's special meeting of the Harbor Management Commission will be of interest to you. But "Shipping Street Area" as the meeting location? That's it, seriously? Judging from the agenda, 'evaluation and review of two potential...locations' I have to wonder if in the interest of negotiations, the HMC won't be headed for executive session and if so, will that, too, be in the 'Shipping Street Area?'

Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 is the start of this iteration of Norwich School Governance Council meetings beginning in the Uncas School library at 4:30. There's a whole raft of these on Wednesday and Thursday; a quick look at the city calendar will give you the rundown for Mahan, Wequonnoc, Thames River Academy, Moriarty, Veterans Memorial and Kelly Middle School.

Wednesday afternoon at 5:00, in Room 210 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Emancipation Proclamation Commemorative  Committee (no idea where any meeting minutes are as they're not on the city's website).

At 5:30, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Public Schools School Building Committee as the myriad of details in the construction of the Kelly Middle School dwindle down to a manageable million or so.

And at six, in the Greeneville Fire House Community Meeting Room it's a regular meeting of the Greeneville Neighborhood Revitalization Committee, whose last meeting, based on the draft minutes posted on the city's website, was in December 2011.

Thursday night at six, in Room 210 at City Hall it's a regular meeting of the Mohegan Park Improvement and Development Advisory Committee, though I suspect that's of moot import to Doug McIntyre. I'd urge everyone driving on Union and/or Broadway during the Committee's meeting to drive within the posted speed limits or we could end up with a walking downtown faster than you can jump to a conclusion, which some would argue we already have and with an alacrity that is stunning.  

Saturday morning at nine, in the Yantic Fire House (I think the most beautiful fire house in Norwich but I imagine I'd like any fire house where the firemen came from to rescue my house from a blaze), it's a One City Forum meeting. Rumor has it Tom Sawyer is offering a presentation on paint brush rentals as a form of economic development, but any number of topics can surface at these forums.

One City is an opportunity to take the heck out of the hectic tempo in which we sometimes all get caught up. We've had folks who've inhaled, why not exhale and unwind a bit. You've got your passion, you've got your pride, but don't you know that only fools are satisfied? Dream on, but don't imagine they'll all come true. When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?
-bill kenny

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cheap Seats

There are stirrings in Florida and Arizona as Major League Baseball shakes off the winter doldrums and readies itself for another campaign. There is no sport I love as passionately as baseball-I'll stop channel surfing to watch two ball clubs about whom I know nothing play an exhibition game and was notorious while stationed at Sondrestrom AB in Greenland (a/k/a "The Miami of the North") working for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, AFRTS,  to come back up the station, on the shores of Lake Ferguson three miles above the base and set up the telecine so I could watch the 16mm print of the Game of the Week, usually two to three weeks after it was played by the time we got it. No matter. A bag of chips, a jug of juice and thou-as close to heaven as you got ninety miles north of the Arctic Circle.

This season to make it more exciting for the fans (= more money for the billionaire owners and the millionaire players (see Albert Pujols)), MLB has expanded the number of teams eligible to make the playoffs to twenty-eight. I jest, but only just. Point in fact, your eyes just glided over that number just like any other day on the phonics pharm. We're closing in on the point where MLB looks exactly like the NHL in terms of the regular season being a warm-up for the post-season.

Right after baseball teams who finish below .500 get to play in, what by then will be the, December Classic, someone in the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, in whose name most of the assault on common sense and intelligence has been waged for the last two decades (and yes, designated hitter, I'm talking about you) will realize this has all gone a little too far.

By then, of course, it'll be too late as pseudo psports like professional jousting will be the hot topic on ESPN. The saving grace in that catastrophe will be they'll assign Chris Berman to cover it around the clock, and I'll never hear of him or from him again. Attention Guys in the Sky Boxes: I root for the game-your team not so much. Play ball, preferably in alphabetical order. By height.      
-bill kenny

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Different River

I heard from someone I hadn't thought about in over fifteen years yesterday. Nothing dramatic like Banquo's Ghost-just a quick email. I actually didn't recognize his name for a moment and then I did. When I'd last seen him, he was young, in a hurry and going places. The days stretched out before him like a blank canvas and he was hurrying to make and leave a mark.

From what I understood yesterday, very close to none of that seems to still be the case.That, of itself, doesn't make me sad as that's the way we are as a species on the big blue marble. The sad part (and I'm not sure that's the word I'm looking for) is how he gave up and gave in. I'm treading carefully here as I'm not nearly as good picking up on nuances on a screen or on a page as I am in a conversation. I can hear shadings and intonations that, staring at the cursor, as the little message flashes "J--- is typing", will never be able to do for me.

From what I could sort through near the end of a back and forth touch typing contest I lost, very early on a person with great promise made some bad choices and compounded those with others designed to extricate him from the first ones and he wound up surrendering piecemeal the gifts he'd brought at the start.

We were the same people we had been the last time we had stood together in the same room as he popped in to visit before heading to, literally, the other side of the earth. But what he'd seen and done had maimed and marked him. I, the stay close to shore guy, had imagined a world of adventures for him not unlike the world he had hoped for himself. But he had chosen otherwise, neither wisely nor well, and had difficulties accepting the consequences of those choices as his own handiwork.

I tried to remind him as gently as a keyboard allows that being an adult means owning the consequences of your own choices-all that you chose and all that you chose NOT to choose. As the typing went on, I realized whatever had brought him back to visit would not keep him too much longer. As I said, we were the same, and yet we were different, perhaps because we had assumed we would somehow be constants, though nothing in this life remains as it is.

I hesitated as I bade him 'all the best' knowing he would no longer recognize that if he were to see it and would certainly no longer pursue it for himself. The waters now were deeper than 'back in the day' and the current more powerful and purposeful. Or perhaps just our resolve to resist it had weakened just so.We were farther from shore than we realized and no longer had the time or strength to return.
-bill kenny

Friday, March 2, 2012

Learned the Truth from Lenny Bruce

I'm home for the next couple of days and have to stop drinking coffee. Actually, I have to stop drinking coffee with creamer in it and since I cannot drink coffee without a boxcar's worth of artificial sweetener and enough creamer to turn the coffee light brown I've stopped. I only drink coffee for the effect, anyway.

We have tea-and we have a variety of them, even Steffi Graf's favorite (says so right on the box). We don't have Tetley's tea bags. I can't remember if they're the folks that had the sayings on the labels attached to the strings on the bags, but whoever that was, they were good too. I'm sitting here at the monitor, paused, trying to remember what the tea bags looked like, as if that would change anything.

I can remember being a child and before going to sleep, finally, attempting to remember every night, every person I knew. Not just the people I had met that day, but all of the people in my entire life (when you're five, not a lot of effort; at fifty-nine maybe more than it's worth). I convinced myself no one ever really dies as long as someone, somewhere, remembered them. I took that job on.

Sitting here drinking my Lipton's Berry Tea, I remember Wednesday as part of my end of every month maintenance I do, going through my email address book and coming across the name of  Bob S, whom I never met but had known for over a decade and who died early last month. I hit the delete key and hurried along but as I sip my adult beverage now, I'm still that kid from then under the covers. What I don't (still) understand is the whole who gets to live and who doesn't part of the equation at the end of the day.

I know a dozen Right Bastards who are in perfect health and may live forever. Point in fact, we'll have to run them down with a truck to reduce them to deceased. And from one minute to the next, Bob's body betrayed him, trapping him for a few days before slowing, powering down and fading to black. He was a TV guy and would have appreciated that reference.

I'm probably on somebody else's RB list-or more than one (I've been busy) and am working very hard to make sure, since I have a ticket, that I get the whole ride. I watched the kids on the far end of the street gathering to catch the school bus-we were supposed to have a bad storm here Wednesday into Thursday and didn't so the kids have to go to school. They're all loud and laughing though when a grow-up walks by they quiet for a moment as they part to let him pass. There's just a tinge of envy in their eyes. They can't wait until they're big like we are. Trust me, you can; you really can.  
-bill kenny