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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vamping for Face Time

I'm vamping today as early yesterday morning I went into Yale-New Haven Hospital to have arteries in my thighs roto-rotored (I have no idea of the Latin terminology). It's actually a procedure called plaque excision, which doesn't sound Latin at all (take my word for it; I was Marcus Aurelius in an earlier life).

According to the physician performing the procedure, it's a routine remedy for peripheral vascular disease. I'm glad one of us is practiced in this because no matter how often I go under the knife (and I have a bunch of times, way more now that I think about it), the sweat pumps get to working overtime from about the moment I hang up the phone after being told the day and date of the surgery.

This one, like the ventricle exploration about three years ago, requires me to stay awake though I could have passed on that. By about the time you're reading this, I am hoping to be looking out a window at the "Q" bridge construction which would require my having Lasik surgery as well since the hospital is some distance from the bridge.

I have, as I've mentioned, a very high threshold for pain-as long as it's other people's. Unlike this situation from Crimestopper's Textbook of a couple of days ago, where non-traditional drugs were used to sedate and subdue, I suppose. The problem with street stuff, I'm told, is your mileage my vary. Of all the white coats in my medical posse, I don't have a plastic surgeon mainly because plain paper bags are still so much cheaper.

I do know the next time someone tells me I look good enough to eat, I'll be happy I chose to have the plaque excision and to buy new sneakers. I don't need to be so healed that I can outrun my complimenter-I just need to be able to outrun you.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Little Criminals

I have a very rich life on-line. My Facebook friends (with and without IPO sweetheart deals) outnumber my flesh and blood friends sixty-six to nothing. In a sense, connectivity is a variation of The Borg, an antagonist of The Enterprises's Captain Jean Luc Picard on some television incarnation of Star Trek. What one person knows on Facebook or Twitter or Google Plus, thousands know in the time it takes to type or text and hit 'send.'

Personal experience is tribal knowledge. That's why upon waking on Sunday morning, I was at first amused, then disquieted and finally enraged over a piece of video that the owners of Phillys, a small business with a big heart, posted from some point Saturday evening when two bozos (my apologies to clowns everywhere) attempted to steal the light bulb from his porch fixture as they ambled from some Point A to an equally undefined Point B. Seriously. He calls them Light Swipers-the name I call them makes my mom sad.

The clip, posted on youtube as Phillys Most Wanted,  lasts a little more than a minute, and now seen by who knows how many people, amply documents exactly why we cannot have nice things in The Rose of New England. The incident happened in the middle of what should have been a great Memorial Day weekend. We had the Rotary Carnival downtown with lots of feet in the street, mouth-watering barbecues happening all across the city and preparations for Memorial Day ceremonies just about completed. Except for last-minute light bulb shopping.

We do big things really well around here-build bridges, roads and schools, make sure the lights come on and stay on and that the water flows (except when there's a flood and then we have people who make it stop). Yep, the big things are easy; the devil is too often in the details.

After we have new sidewalks, no one seems to feel responsible for sweeping up the dirt and detritus that so often covers them. We all step over trash rather than pick it up and put it in a bin usually a few places from where we are and, as Phillys is finding out, we're all really good at the look-away when an unpleasant situation would disappear into thin air with just a glance of interest and concern.

If we take the 40,000 of us who live in Norwich and add to that number all of those on each of our lists of  'aren't there people working for the city who take care of that?' we'd have another five thousand residents. Instead of waiting for someone to catch the 'Light Swipers' or the 'Mulch Moochers' who visited a house down the street from mine over the weekend, or the 'Car Antenna Breaking Cretins' who think what they're doing is a joke, when we see something, say something.

It's foolish to insist it's the police's job to apprehend everyone who brings down our city's quality of life because not only is it not solely their job, they can't possibly do it alone . The same is true for every elected official, for every schoolteacher, and for every government employee. It's convenient to point fingers and blame others (and often very satisfying ) except three fingers on the hand point back at ourselves. Blame is one thing-responsibility is another and we are  responsible for what goes on in our neighborhoods, cities, state and nation-each of us and all of us.

Instead of shaking your head at the overgrown grass the State Highway department hasn't cut yet on Washington Street near the Sweeney Bridge, helping to make a really lousy impression at a gateway to the city, take some pictures with your cell phone and send them to the highway department yourself or, share them with the City Manager who'll forward them along with everyone else's.

If you don't think your one voice is being heard, you have two choices: stop talking entirely and people will assume your silence equals consent or, instead of simply raising your voice, improve your argument until people have no option but to listen and hear.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Ignorance Is Just as Good as Your Knowledge

One of the things I always liked about Howard Johnson's as a kid growing up was the choice of ice creams for dessert after dinners with Gramma and Grampy. At the time, this was the Sixties (GASP!), there were (I think) twenty-eight flavors. I'd always pick chocolate but it was nice to know there were so many others. Of course, Hojo's as they were then are not now, nor is the world in which they existed close to the one in which I grew up. Progress is what progress does-the dogs bark but the caravan moves on.

Thanks to the convergence of  technologies we have means of gathering and sharing information we didn't have when I was a kid (we had computers but no one 'normal' ever saw them as they were huge machines the size of  rooms, fed by punchcards) all gathering up news and notes we desire and delivering all of it to our desktop or the screen on our smart phone or device.

Remember when we referred to this jumble of wires and ether as The Internet (both with caps)? We were Such Hosers, eh? Now we have news aggregators that are so transparent and seamless we have no idea where the item that just showed up in our news stream actually began. Add to that, the growing number of readers and netizens who cannot distinguish between opinion and fact (the demarcation is stunningly simple unless you're sadly stupid), and we, as a nation or a neighborhood, descend into discord and disintegrate.

We were Athens-we are becoming Sparta. And don't mistake me, we are each entitled to our own opinions, but we are never allowed to have our own facts, be they on anthropogenic climate change, creationism or gay rights. I suspect you and I have very different views on just these three items not to mention the deeper and more fundamental issues such as the Yankees' trading Eric Milton for Chuck Knoblauch.

We can agree to disagree, which is how our parents functioned or we can hurl invective at each other like the morons we elected to represent us in Dodge City (and they do a fine job as they seem to be as imbecilic as we are-at least your guy is, mine is a genius (see what I mean?)).

How we view the world has a lot to do with the window and prism (filter) we choose. You pick Fox and I take CNN. You tune to MSNBC and I like the Cartoon Network. You read The Blaze and I subscribe to the Daily Kos. For me, it's perspective and for you it's propaganda. Tomato, tomato; potato, Dan Quayle.

Someday we'll have a meeting of the minds, as Isaac Asimov once feared, but it will be in the middle of nowhere, beyond the city limits of common sense or decency. And the first thing we'll do is argue about how we got there and, more importantly, who is to blame. After we round up everyone who knows more than we do. Leaving just us, as horrible a fate as either of us can imagine.    
-bill kenny

Monday, May 28, 2012

Heeding the Dream

We are a species who fortunately (for us) have selective memories. We took the commemoration of the birth of a person regarded by many on the planet to be The Savior and Son of God, Christmas, and turned it into a Festival of Conspicuous Consumption, unlike anything ever seen. Presidents' Day is a now a great time to buy a car-what'll it take to get put you in this spanking new Terraplane today?-and we've reduced to chocolate and jelly beans the celebration of Easter-just a slight repurposing of its original intent.

I get into trouble, emotional and otherwise, for saying aloud what other people think but are too afraid to admit that they do. I've been told repeatedly this is why I have no friends but who wants cowards as friends anyway? The only place we need cowards is in elected office, especially at the national level and these days, we're spoiled for choice.

Today is a day where you cannot swing a cat (no snotty PETA letters, please; no cats are being harmed in the making of this blog unless you're reading it out loud to them and then it's on you. Why did you think they're clawing the door?) and NOT hit a politician offering pious platitudes on the selfless sacrifice men and women in uniform make every day around the world 'to preserve our way of life.'

Today is Memorial Day, another holiday we've moved to a Monday so we can have a three day weekend with plenty of time for a barbecue, a run to the beach and some laps at the Brickyard. If we work it right, we don't ever or even have to think of those with whom we grew up who never got to be old, or whose parents and grandparents, having survived the Depression battled fascism to its knees in a world wide war and, more recently, we marked the start of our Second Decade in Global War on Terrorism.

Of those I've just listed, the last is the hardest for me to wrap my head around as I don't know what "victory" looks like--the Stars and Stripes waving from a minaret in Medina? Ron Paul elected President of Lebanon (from your lips to God's ear)? I honestly don't know when 'we win' and I suspect neither do the fools and ghouls who got us into this and who pop up on patriotic holidays to tell us how we are Waist Deep in Big Muddy and making great time.

Some have suggested the War of Terror's start could be the murder of the Marines in Beirut in 1983-or the killing of US service personnel at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. We've latched on to the cowardice of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon because it happened on our soil, but seem to have forgotten how the earth has been hallowed by the blood of anyone in uniform who lost her/his life in our defense anywhere in the world.

War is not an abstract geo-political game played out on a grand stage by dominant personalities-it is very local, extremely personal and heartbreakingly private. Those of our neighbors who choose military service have as many reasons for so doing as there are those who so serve. And while today we should mark the ultimate sacrifice of those who have served, we should remember in our thoughts or prayers (but most especially by our actions), those who have survived as well. They bear scars, often invisible and painful, of their struggles that often take a lifetime to heal.

We must never lose sight of all of those whose service makes us who we are and to whom we owe more than we can ever repay. They are a call to arms for each of us to be better than we are for ourselves, our children and our nation.
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Too Much Time

I've been a little pre-occupied in recent days (the competition for post-occupation is brutal) and I've had a chance this weekend to use the three days as an opportunity to decompress and reassess. I've been working on some things that were important to other people but didn't have much value to me.

We all live like that sometimes. We give our time to total strangers and then discover we need to shift scheduling priorities but those to whom we gave the gift of our time now see it as an entitlement and they have hard feelings when something they've grown accustomed to is rationed or curtailed. What were once vices are now habits and what began as voluntary is seen as mandatory.

I've gotten a little too old to continue to live for the reflection of approval in other people's eyes-I've discovered that for some time-maybe a few weeks or even months-I'd lost track of that hard-acquired fact. In the last couple of days, the sometimes petulant reaction of those who have no legitimate claim to my time and talents when I've placed myself first has reminded me that self-abnegation is not a virtue others applaud, but, rather, abuse.

We all work our way through valleys that sometime feel like chasms. This one has been a little deeper and little wider than I'm used to but I put that down to having close to a full lifetime's experiences now, unlike when I was a child. I'm putting away the things of childhood and what's left in its place has the attractiveness and the danger of the new and untried. That's a path I haven't walked in a long time. I'm thinking it's high time I went.
-bill kenny    

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Belated and Unwelcome Surprise

Someone with whom I facebook (maybe capitalization of a word now a verb? You decide) shared a Douglas Adams quote the other day to spark a flash quote mob I suspect.

I shared one that I enjoy though not my favorite, which is this one: The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at and repair. That it's true doesn't detract from its beauty. I'm not sure that has anything to do with this: I was surprised yesterday, going through my pay statement-all on line, of course; no more wages packet with large, worn bills and coins grown soft through years of use, all the while clutching my cap like some character in a Dickens novel to ask 'please sir, I want some more!'

Actually when I saw the statement I did very much want some-as my net earnings were down over seventy (American) dollars for two weeks. I complain bitterly about my salary which I am now starving on but once dreamed of making, but in truth, it's a more than fair wage and I am grateful to have it especially in these times. Imagine how much more grateful I'd be with the seventy dollars back in the check.

It wasn't a mystery or a comedy-but if you're an actuary, you may fined it amusing. I didn't but that's just because I was basically at ground zero for the joke. Near the end of last month, I celebrated a birthday-I, like you, have one every year but this time around it was my 60th birthday. I mention that before I tell you (though I was unable to find the clip anywhere) my favorite routine from Robert Klein (from Child of the 50's) was his explanation of life insurance as "someone says to you, 'I'll bet you ten dollars a month 'til you die that you don't die,' and you say 'okay!''"

Until my recent birthday my life insurance premiums for the last decade has been based on the mortality rates in a vast pool of humanity known as Guys Between 50 and 59. No more. Now that I'm a geezer I've discovered in addition to sweet, young and beautiful women seeing me as part of the landscape, I get a senior discount without asking and, tada!, my life insurance premium goes up 140%. Xxxx me to tears with a stick as we used to say in sunny Sondy.

I am aware of the irony that I am alive to complain so bitterly at the awfulness and unfairness of all of this and that I'm usually on the sender side of these exchanges rather than the recipient. I'm thinking I'm the youngest sixty year old man I know, or will ever know. I take a perverse pride in having outlived my father as if longevity were now an achievement (actually I'm hoping it is because I'm kinda light in that department) and am looking forward to my children crowing about the same thing. 

Except I also got a present earlier this week of an achingly beautiful new release by Loudon Wainwright, III, to whom in the early seventies, when bearded, I bore a stunning resemblance (not that I ever heard once him complain people told him he looked like me). The album is called 'Older than My Old Man Now' and features some marvelous funny, brutally true and also very sad, musical observations on his life and times, wonderfully arranged, lustily sung and meticulously performed. In C.       -bill kenny   

Friday, May 25, 2012

Let the Games Begin

One of the joys of my youth (okay, joys is a bit overstated but it sings just a  little, don't you think?) was watching the Olympics on TV. As a young person I thought Curt Gowdy had invented them-he seemed to know everything about them worth knowing.  I believe they are, and have always been, an wholly owned subsidiary of the National Broadcast Company, NBC, meaning that they are now a part of  the Comcast Xfinity Axis of Mundaneness.

It's okay, really-I no longer remember whether I was passionate about the Winter or the Summer Olympics and realized some numbers of Olympiads ago (I almost typed "X" number but it's closer to "VII" I suspect) I no longer care. I did perk up a  little bit when the winter guys at some point added snowboarding.

Stunts and stuff are or should be what any Olympics are about. Instead there's a constant rushing to the exits as a variety of sports tawdry and tawny are quietly placed on injured reserve to make prime-time pride of place for ...well, for stuff like women's beach volleyball. Oh yeah, and guy's, too, I guess, not that I watch it but it has its fans. The best thing about women's beach volleyball is there's no need for audio-as a matter of fact, I'm not sure there even is audio. And that's another good question, why not thongs? I don't remember any other questions about wardrobe.

But as I said, to make room for the new, it often means out with the old. I wasn't happy too many Games ago when baseball stopped being a Summer Olympic sport. Of course, these days, thanks to Roger and Barry (and Senator Mitchell, to be technical) we could add blood doping, inconspicuous site needle injection (talk about sticking a landing!) and cotton ball toss, but it wouldn't have the same feel as an HGH fueled amazon using an aluminum bat to drive a leather covered sphere into the bleachers.

I got to thinking about underwater syncopated ballroom dancing and when the last time some sopping wet dancer had gone for the rings and then remembered it had never been a sport anywhere, much less in the Olympics. And in turn, that led me to this article in the (New York) Times. I like the idea of liberating the pistol from just signaling the start of an event but suspect the organizers will howl in protest over the pallets of ammunition I'd want each contestant to use (hey! the Games last a fortnight) .

And why stop at twelve hour bicycle races? Why not have a race that begins when the torch is lit and ends when the last rider drops from her/his seat, sprawled out cold on the pavement? Injured, near death, unable to go on? Where's one of the semi-finalists from the dueling pistols? Squeamish are we? They shoot horses don't they? It's TV! You'll watch it!    

Truth to tell, I thought cross-country was an Olympic sport. Why else do we make children run it in high school? I mean, besides 'because we can.'  And tell me an obstacle course for swimmers doesn't make you smile? For Michael Phelps, we could make him inhale his own body weight in mary jane smoke and hold it while dong the breast stroke. But the capper, as the Times' list suggests, has to be a tug of war-but with everyone from every nation...pulling together to keep the greatest show on earth, or in London this summer, from becoming video wallpaper at three AM, East Coast Time.
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mencken's Napkin

We are as a nation (and culture) addicted to fossil fuels. I suppose we had to be addicted to something and it had to be cheap and it had to be abundant and we became so addicted to it, and shared that addiction around the world so that now every one has the habit and fossil fuels are no longer the former nor the latter and yet still addictive.

It wasn't until the seventies when the Arab nations exporting oil realized our dependence was so great we might succumb to the temptation to whore out our own mothers for a tankful of the good stuff for the Winnebago. I learned to drive when high test gasoline was less than forty cents a gasoline and the right to always buy it for that price was, we assumed, somewhere in the Constitution. Three and half decades later, welcome to four bucks a pop and the search for the guilty goes on.

You'd think if we're spending more now on imported oil than we were at the height of the Arab Oil Embargo, that we'd be looking to alternatives to the high costs and dicey supply availabilities we are facing and will face every day of the future as a nation. You might even be tempted to believe the people we elect to represent us in our nation's capital might have more than a passing interest in our future since they share it. But you would be wrong.

First and foremost, they're interested in their own futures and as we all know the next election is just around the corner. And when you're running for office, you're only statesmanlike between fundraising dinners on the way to the next baby-kissing contest and county fair. After a while the audience knows the candidate's stump speech as well, if not better, than s/he knows it themselves. And believes even less of it than they do.

And it must be politics that would have one of the two major parties (the more stupid of the two, in my opinion and, yes, name calling never settles anything but I like the feeling), deciding that the armed forces, in this case, the US Navy, cannot, not should not, and WILL not, purchase biofuels if the cost of bio fuels is the same as or greater than the cost of conventional fuels.

For those lacking a decoder ring-with biofuels costing and selling for about 320% more than oil, guess what the Navy is going to have to buy, despite the strategic danger we are in because we cannot produce enough oil in this country to cover 10% of our strategic reserve. Don't get me wrong-I don't grow enough corn to think biofuels are a good idea, but if my kids were named Archer and Midland, I'll bet I'd love the concept and enjoy sipping their older brother Jack after I parked the Massey-Ferguson out in the North 40 someplace..

Meanwhile the wizards of Washington, so quick to search for the guilty everywhere but in their own mirrors, remain ever vigilant in their dedication to their definition of 'the American Way' even if neither they nor us have any idea what the heqq they are talking about. And don't worry about what it all means-because it adds up to nothing written in sand and blown by the wind. We've always been at war with (insert name of your least favorite nation here) and we have the history books to prove it.

If you remember it differently, you remember it wrong and you've picked a dangerous country at a dangerous time to start remembering things wrong. These are times when politicians, finding themselves with cannibals among their constituents, promise them all missionaries for dinner. No worries then about who would say grace.  
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Looking Forward but Looking Back

We had ourselves a great weekend weather-wise across the region and neighbors in Greeneville put their nice weather to good use with a great turnout last Saturday to clean up the Greeneville Recreation Area and Walking Trail, a pocket park that parallels the Shetucket River from the Eighth Street Bridge to the new Greeneville Dam.

Without getting all mathy on you, I'd estimate fifty or more people turned up in the course of the morning, filling between sixty and eighty heavy-duty extra-large trash bags and about twenty five recycling bins. At times all you could see was elbows and another body part we'll leave unsaid, as we worked from the parking area down to the river banks to get started on turning the area into a destination for hikers and picnickers.

Thanks to the firemen of the Greeneville Fire Station, we even had some extra muscle for those unwanted tires and discarded bedding materials. By eleven thirty, it was time to give pizza a chance and to savor the success of relying on no one other than a neighbor while working together to fix a problem.

Last year after the One City Clean Up of Downtown we had a carnival at the waterfront and sometimes there's a lot to be said for history repeating itself as the Norwich Rotary Carnival returns to Howard  Brown Park starting tomorrow at 5 PM through the holiday weekend ending Monday night at eleven. For all the times you've sighed and complained about nothing to do in Norwich, here's a chance to prove to yourself otherwise.

Try your skills at the games of chance, enjoy the concessions and the food offerings and make sure to check out the Ferris Wheel and the other rides. And the carnival is a perfect excuse for a stroll along the river to inspect the progress on construction of the ice cream pavilion (sounds classier that way, doesn't it?) and to stop into one of the growing number of great eateries in Chelsea for fine food and dining either before or after enjoying the Carnival.    

And while the Carnival is a great signal to start the summer season that kicks off with Memorial Day, next Monday morning at 10, in a far more traditional observance, the Taftville VFW Post 2212 and American Legion Post 104 will honor those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom in a commemoration at Memorial Park in Taftville.

Every year the ceremony honors a resident of Taftville who lost his life as a result of a wartime casualty. This year’s remembrance is of Machinist Mate Second Class Frederick Hassler. Petty Officer Hassler was a Taftville native who succumbed from his wounds at the New London Naval Hospital, October 3, 1918.

Some history behind the history of the ceremony: the two posts use Memorial Park to host this event and welcome guests and residents every year who are not even aware Memorial Park is a City of Norwich park. The property was previously owned for many years by the American Legion's Peter Gallan Post 104 before being gifted to the city.

The ten o'clock start time allows anyone planning to attend the noon's Memorial Day Parade on Broadway ample time to participate in both events reminders to all of the large and small sacrifices that have been made and are still being made by those in our armed forces, proving again that celebrities make headlines but heroes make a difference.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

That's Some Bad Hat, Harry

Last night one of my favorite leisure time activities came to an end by choice. House, M.D. which, much like Ferris Bueller though dipped in battery acid, is broadcast someplace in the world at all times, concluded an eight year residence on the Fox Network and in my television set.

I will so miss that b'tard. Hugh Laurie had a career as half of the UK comedic institution with Stephen Fry, Laurie and Fry though I'll wager Stephen often thought of it the other way round. Laurie was successful in motion pictures, if not always believable. But I suspect should he live to be 200, upon his passing, the first line in the obituary will be "...known to millions as Dr. Gregory House."

I had friends at work early on who insisted I reminded them of him, complete with the three day growth and the bad leg. I don't see much of a resemblance but I've considered wearing ball caps since we do have a similar bald spot though his is about ten inches farther away from the ground because he's amazingly tall. And I've given up having friends at work.

As someone who has too much experience with mechanical assistance in order to walk, I've never been happy Dr. House always walked with his cane in the wrong hand for the leg he had injured. I read where Laurie deliberately did that because of his understanding of the character he was playing who was so filled with self-loathing he had to denigrate himself even while suffering. I think I liked him better when all we had in common was the bald spot.

When I say I watched the show for Laurie I really should say for his interaction with some amazing people often in cameos, like Dave Mattthews, and short, recurring roles like Chi McBride and my favorite episodes of the entire series, the ones made with Franka Potente of Run, Lola, Run.

Thanks to syndication, the program will roll on forever, in all likelihood though even the repeats on the shopping channels, just above the police calls, will never be sponsored by Dos Equis because when all was said and done, as it was last night, Gregory House is, and remains, the most interesting man in the world.
-bill kenny      

Monday, May 21, 2012

What Kind of Place Did You Bring Me to This Time?

We planted the vegetable garden yesterday. And by we I mean my wife and my daughter. I spent the day working some aches and pains from being a helping hand on a neighborhood project on Saturday while Sigrid and Michelle were getting all the grunt preparation work for the garden accomplished.

The spectacular weather we had in early April made a wonderful comeback this weekend with blue skies and light breezes and moderate middle seventies temperatures. Saturday about fifty of us managed to bang out a decent piece of work along Greeneville's Walking Trail as part of a cleanup that was long overdue.

The women of my house went shopping and rounded up all the gardening supplies from humus mixed with manure (I became an expert on the light breezes in a hurry, believe you me), through the steel fence railing and five foot high fencing and an overhead mesh net (Michelle's way of telling the squirrels and birds she is NOT in the growing food for them to eat business this summer) to a variety of seeds that she planted (carrots, and lettuce, and radishes and sunflowers, because she likes sunflowers and if planted out in the open, as they grow the squirrels will climb up and snap off the heads of the plant which makes her very angry).

Yesterday she and her mom went shopping for pepper and tomato plants, pre-grown as as the marketing guys like to call them and she planted those in the garden as the long afternoon rays bathed the backyard in sunshine. I was worrying about a story for my job I needed to write by end of the day tomorrow, and I will, but I didn't get very much of it done yesterday because I just wanted to enjoy the sense of not having to do anything for anyone.

Our son stopped by and helped bring my replacement cell phone on line (I am horrible on cell phones, if they're called Droid II. I am now on my third one and have no idea why they hate me, but they should because I hate them because they don't work). Of course, I have no idea how to do anything with the phone except to hand it to someone who does and hope there's a happy ending. It's amazing how addicted I am to a device to whose existence I was oblivious less than a decade ago.

I've discovered our lives, yours as much as mine, are spent more with strangers than with the ones we love and who love us. We assume we shall have all the time in the world to share as much of our lives as we so choose with whomever we choose and are terminally surprised to realize how much of those lives are lived in other people's rooms.
-bill kenny        

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Amanda Walks the Panther

The Cadillac of German soccer, the Creme de le Creme of the Deutsche Fussball Bund (DFB) is, and has been in my memory, always FC Bayern Munchen. They were in the 70's, 80's and 90's the Yankees of the 40's and 50's, indomitable and a force of nature. They are known across Deutschland as FC Hollywood-you can guess why.

Maybe sports is more than skill and talent. There's always a portion of luck, the luck you make and the luck you carry with you. This has not been the kindest season for FC Bayern. Despite a payroll that many medium sized German and American cities would envy as their operating budget, the German First Division title was beyond their grasp as they were, no other word for it, humiliated by Borussia Dortmund. You don't have to know anything about soccer to know 5-2 is a beat down-simple math skills suffice.

Yesterday, the opportunity for redemption was there and then gone as Bayern hosted Chelsea for the Union of European Football Association's title and the Champions cup. Scoreless through 80 minutes, Bayern's Thomas Mueller drew first blood but Didier Drogba, with a nearly-beyond-belief header, tied the contest with less than two minutes left in regulation and it remained 1-1 through a two fifteen minute overtime periods (which also  included one missed penalty kick for Bayern).  

When all time was out, all that was left was alternating eleven meter penalty kicks, five a side and the storied franchise with history and tradition on its side found itself on the short end as Chelsea and its fans, on Munich's home pitch, danced the night way with the club's first-in-its-history UEFA Champions trophy. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. A preis is nice aber ein Bayer ist higher-ausser gestern. So isses manchmal.
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Untapped Guilt

Later this morning well after it gets light I have every intention to head over to the far side of town from my house on Chelsea Parade, Greeneville, to help some neighbors I've never met clean out their park and picnic area they haven't yet made near the 8th Street Bridge. Looks like a good size plot on the map. Yeah, you just read a lots of future pluperfects floating around in that previous sentence. Be careful you don't get anything on you and whatever you do, don't wear good clothes when you're helping out because no one offers to pay for dry cleaning.

I should point out, in fairness to both language and geography, if you live in Greeneville, my house is on the far side of Norwich as well (even though my house isn't on the far side of Norwich but rather, right here). I think that's Michelle's car out in front of the house. The car she has now, not the car that was stolen; the one the  police didn't find until it turned up in Hartford three weeks later with the brake lines cut. Who is Officer Cupcake anyway?

The weather promises to be much nicer today than it was last year around this time when we cleaned up downtown Norwich. It might have gone faster then had we had more volunteers but with about two and half  dozen folks it was all over but the bagging in about three hours. The organizers today, the folks who live in the neighborhood, have budgeted about five hours so that may mean we we don't have to rush or it could be that we may not have very many people. I'd be heartened if we had hundreds (only because thousands is a little ludicrous and the area isn't all that large).  Maybe if it's nice where you are today you can be the difference at some neighborhood project instead of always just talking about trying to make one.

There are a thousand things each of us can do to make where we live, be it a NYC borough or a small block of flats on a side street in the middle of nowhere, a better place for our families and our friends. Instead of waiting for someone else to get it started, be the start and the spark. Gandhi says be the change you wish to see in the world. I got the funny feeling today around here a lot of folks are going to want to be rakes and black trash bags. You might want to see what the mood is where you live and then elevate it.
-bill kenny.

Friday, May 18, 2012

In God We Trust

I am always impressed and depressed when I read about the phishing, spam, malware and spoofing hi-tech hi jinks that goes on out here in cyberspace. My favorites are the ones that purport to be from some form of a middle level US Army officer, usually, in Iraq, with a back story right out of Three Kings.

I'm supposed to believe this Captain or Major (names are over rated, except mine) is sitting on millions of dollars (I always call it 'war booty' because I'm a swashbuckling scalawag at heart and I enjoy the vaguely suggestive image the phrase creates to fructify my fantasy) and I'm the guy he's picked to help him move this abandoned treasure under the radar and into the country.

Yeah. My wife barely lets me touch our checkbook because I'm Houdini in terms of making balances disappear and I know where all the hidey-holes are in the US banking system? (Hint: NOT at JP Morgan). Almost all of this email cascades into my work email all day long, nearly unseen. It gets funneled to my junk mail folder because that's what Microsoft Outlook calls it and there it remains until I go to click on it and delete it. But first, I think, a quick look for one the way....

The mail is so formulaic, be it from the Captain Courageous or somebody's Minister of Underwater Softball and Watercress Sandwiches or the dying-of-consumption widow of some relative you actually don't believe is yours, after a while you wonder how anyone can fall for any of it. And yet, everyday there are stories about folks being conned for gazillions of dollars in some of the goofiest on-line cons I have ever read about.

Considering all the security and firewalls and other safeguards, I sort of admire the folks who sit in these boiler rooms and create this electronic troll trash, the digital foo, and launch it to a million or more addresses knowing they only need one person to have one moment of hesitation or vacillation and BINGO! they're in.

Because the stakes are so high, for them, if you're like me, you get something like this and become angry at the lack of effort--all this trouble to master the mechanics of the mainframe and your communications in my language is written as if you'd learned English by correspondence course, during a mail strike. Seriously? 
"Peace be with you
Dear one,
I am a window woman with out child recently; my doctor told me that I may not last due to my sickness problem. I want to use my ($2.800.000.00) to provide help to the orphans and schools childrens I will update you when I hear from you.
Yours Sister in Christ
Mrs Esther Nadis"

Esther, my sister, this is the best you can do? The crown of creation and you stick an 's' on the end of  children and do what? Make even more of them? Oh, dear. I suppose cash is out of the question now.
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The State I'm In

In another lifetime when I was a famous (albeit only in my own mind) radio broadcaster in the military, as opposed to a military radio broadcaster, I made a not too shabby living interviewing musicians. Where I worked in Germany, American Forces Network, was, until privat-sendungen were permitted about twenty years ago, the closest thing to USA radio and/or fun many German listener had ever had.

Because officially we were in business to broadcast to members of the US Armed Forces and their families and 'authorized Department of Defense civilians' (including federal employees and contractors) we rarely acknowledged the 'shadow audience' those citizens of the countries in which we were stationed. The audience was ludicrously huge (as well it should have been; Deutsche Rundfunk was like listening to paint dry).

Because we delivered a huge number of ears, we were a sought-after partner by European record labels interested in promoting their artists to a variety of audiences. This was back when there were many, many record labels, not just one as seems to be the case now and thousands of independents.

I hosted a program referred to in-house as 'Diving for Dopers' and while I had little doubt many of those hearing the show were toking the hemp, I assumed such conduct was between the listener and her/his Uniform Code of Military Justice. I was always grateful for what I pretended was the creative freedom the network management gave me when what it really was more often than not was benign indifference to my existence.

The first time I think the grown-ups in my food chain realized I was actually on the air and not downstairs in a studio attached to a Playskool transmitter was the weekend I arranged to interview Tom Robinson and his drummer, Brian "Dolphin" Taylor. Robinson had a hit in the UK with 2, 4, 6, 8, Motorway but was far better known (= notorious) for his 'open' gayness and his musical attempt to deal with it.

I had intended to chat with Robinson about his first band, Cafe Society (signed to The Kinks' label-I am a huge Ray Davies fan) and figured, as he desired, we'd address his sexuality though on the radio I figured people would tune in for the musical merits. I was invited to visit with a senior civilian staff member who relayed the Network Program Director's "concerns" about "Mr. Robeson" as he called him. I offered brightly, and a little too quickly, there should be no concerns as Paul Robeson was long dead.

I got a withering glance for my efforts and more serious talking to for my attitude and failure to appreciate the seriousness of the concern 'many people are having about this interview.' I figured two could play at this being a grown-up stuff and told my mentor that no link between listening to gay people and becoming homosexual had ever been found.

I suspect, to this day, were it to happen, Fox News would lead with it now that Obama's Kenyan citizenship is finally exhausted as a serious topic. Perhaps the two could be combined? I'm sure there are gay Kenyans.  
I mention this because I heard from a ehemaliger zuhorer over the weekend who told me he'd listened to that interview and it was, he felt, the spark that led him to pursue radio as his own career. And, because I asked, he told he hadn't turned gay from listening (neither have I, to my knowledge).

All of that to get to all of this.
Today is the tenth annual International Day Against Homophobia or IDAHO and in light of recent political events in this country, from the President's endorsement of "gay marriage" (= anyone can marry anyone they so desire) to a curious voter decision in North Carolina, where it's not illegal to marry your first cousin, unless your first cousin is gay, then it is illegal, and not forgetting some odd headlines from other corners of the globe-this could/should be a day we might all learn that's it's a pretty small planet and with so many people in the same device, it's foolish to create artificial barriers. But then again, we are who we are so I guess that means we'll be who we'll be.  
-bill kenny  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Clean-Up Redux

Just as no single drop of rain feels itself responsible for the ensuing flood, each scrap of paper, discarded beverage container, forgotten bottle or can is not itself, a trash pile but just a small part of one. And when we choose to do nothing about the bits and pieces we're part of the problem as well. That changes this Saturday, if not everywhere in Norwich then at the very least in Greeneville and you can help.

I'm almost hesitant to mention this Saturday's Clean-up of the Greeneville Recreation Area and Walking Trail from 9 AM until 3 PM because the last time I did, back in April during the height of the dry Spring, we then had so much rain the squirrels in my back yard were playing rock, paper, scissors to see who could have berthing on the Ark. Needless to say it was washed out and rescheduled for this Saturday.

It's a very public gesture by the Greeneville Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, NRZ, who have been quietly reclaiming their historic village in a hundred small ways for well over a decade. All their networking, their neighbor helping neighbor, the block watches and the general looking out for one another has started to pay off with neighborhood policing and other initiatives designed to help bring back quality to Greeneville's quality of life.

The clean-up on Saturday is a similar of investment of time and talent, but on a larger scale with a more defined, immediate goal that's part of a much larger plan. The Recreation Area and Hiking Trail which starts where the Eighth Street Bridge and Roosevelt Avenue intersect (there's a small parking lot at the foot of the bridge that will serve as an assembly area for those of us helping out) stretches all the way to the (newer) Greeneville Dam up river on the Shetucket.

That's the area we're going to clean up and without sounding too much like Goldilocks, I've walked it and it's not too small and not too big. If a hundred of us show up, which is .0025% of the city, we should have it all well in hand, or actually in trash bags, in pretty short order. If everyone of us brings someone, we should have that number easily.

If you have never been on the Trail, Saturday will be the perfect occasion for your first visit. Ideally, you'll want to bring work gloves and sturdy shoes (I'm going to wear pants with pockets, so I have someplace to put all the fun). If you have a rake, bring  that as well, because there's a lot of brush and other detritus that's in need of clearing.

There's already an area scouted by the Greeneville NRZ that's ideal for picnic tables and we'll be working our way towards that rise which is too far from the dam, and with all the rain in recent weeks, we'll hear the roar of the rushing water long before we get to the riverbanks.

You might remember last May there was a One City Clean-Up of Downtown and then the following week there was a carnival at Howard T. Brown Park. I'm not suggesting cause and effect, but it just so happens the Norwich Rotary Carnival does return to Brown Park starting a week from tomorrow.

I have no idea what we'd need to clean for some pony rides, but as you can probably imagine, my cleaning supplies locker is full. Often the things we do speak much louder than the things we say. This Saturday be ready to shout.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Better a Horrible Ending

Near  the end of last week I had good news that probably is bad news but since it's not worse news than it is, it is good news. Let me explain (actually, if you're here-try to stop me). In recent years,  I've had a problem with my legs that I've spent years believing was part of the 'this is why I can't do nice things' aftermath of a lot of knee surgeries despite my orthopedist's physical exams to the contrary.

Anytime I've attempted to accelerate beyond a slug-a-bed pace of walking, through power-walking or even, bleary-eyed optimist that I am, actual running, within seconds I have shooting pains from behind my knees all the way to the tips of my toes. Warm-ups, no warm-ups, hanging upside down like a bat, slow pace that speeds up, a fast start that slows down, it makes no difference.

This has gone on for years and has resulted in nearly crippling cramps in my leg, in my foot across the soles of my feet all the way to my toes, usually when I am sound asleep. It scares the bejabbers out of my wife who thinks the dweeb she married is being attacked by Ninjas with pinking shears. And it doesn't do much for me either.

I couldn't get any of my doctors to successfully figure it out (= cure me). For a doctor, a successful diagnosis is a success-if you, the patient, feel better, that's a bonus. I learned that watching House-and with one episode now left after nine years, I have no idea what I'll watch on Monday nights and have no use for Fox at all. That I Did Love the Rupert, cried Desdemona hitting the TV remote. And we ain't talking bears here, brother.

I had started to believe I was crazy, which, much to my chagrin and dismay, came as nothing even vaguely resembling news to almost anyone who knew me. Nearly all of them greeted my voicing of that fear with but a one word response, more? I really hate people and then I wonder why they hate me. Turnabout, I guess.

When I went for a stress test last month, after hitting speed on the treadmill and the measurements had concluded, I grabbed the back of my legs as the lab tech wondered aloud what I was doing. When I stopped being in so much pain I could construct a sentence, she suggested I mention to my cardiologist what had just happened.

I was flummoxed, quite frankly. The rheumatologist had found more arthritis in my lower spine, a tale for another visit, and my primary care guy had run out of people to send me too, who didn't engage in discussions about the difference between Janov and Jung (at heart?). But, my cardiologist suggested lower body scans and he called me last week to talk about the near blockages in arteries or veins (I forget which because I went numb right after he said 'we found something' and heard nothing at all for a number of minutes) from my knees on down. (I also learned I'm not nearly as big an atheist as I think I am.)

Sounded like it was too bad I wasn't taller so I could have even more of whatever it is that's interfering with  the blood flow to most of my lower body when I start to exert and my muscles demand more oxygenated blood and my arteries/veins say "HA!" He explained he wasn't surprised since I'm the guy who smoked three packs of cigarettes for twenty three years; who has carotid stenosis every six months so he can keep an eye on how those blood vessels are holding up around my neck (not well, is the short answer).

And finally, we both recalled, I'm the man into whose heart he had to run a probe up from the femoral artery near my groin (adding a whole new meaning to Careful with that Axe, Eugene) less than a month before my left knee was replaced at the request of another of my other doctors who had feared I wasn't strong enough to survive that surgery. I showed him.

Neither of us chose to mention my least favorite part: how the flow of blood after the probe was withdrawn couldn't be staunched and wouldn't clot. I had two sets of nurses' hands as well as my doctor's applying incredible amounts of pressure dangerously close to the Mr. Whipple Zone. I looked him in the eye, he was three inches away from my face after all, and kvetched 'dinner first would've killed you?' He laughed like the crazy person I feared I had become at the worst joke of that day on the fourth floor of the hospital. He's my guy.

I'll see him Thursday and we'll talk about stents and other remediation. I'm lying. He'll talk about them and I'll listen the way dog hears, mumblemumblemumble MY NAME mumblemumble and hope like hell my wife, who is going with me, is concentrating on him and doesn't see how absolutely terrified I am of dying but also how afraid of living I've become.  
-bill kenny

Monday, May 14, 2012

Alternate Happy Endings

I'm not gonna lie to you. If Andy Pettite, back in Yankees' pinstripes in the major leagues for the first time since 2010, had won yesterday afternoon, I'd have insisted it was the sports story of the year, or at the very least the month but would have settled for the day.

But he didn't-he pitched very well (aside from two pitches in six and a third (not a tenth) innings)) but the run support was lacking and the story, instead, was Kevin Millwood's initial victory of the season and first one overall since the dove came back to Moses with an olive branch in his beak.

I was hoping the Red Sox would lose to the Indians, because schadenfreude ist auch eine freude, but the Indians refused to oblige me, despite my fanatical devotion to all two hundred and forty three Major League movies that have ever been made (it's amazing Charlie Sheen didn't go off the rails years earlier).

I'm thinking, because I love soccer nearly as much as I love baseball, that between Borussia Dortmund's thrashing of Bayern Munich in the Deutsche Fussball Bund Pokal Final and Manchester City capturing the English Premier League title for the first time in forty-four years, perhaps all the joy right now is on the other side of the Atlantic. And every once in a while, that's okay. Andy will be back and will win and there will be great rejoicing in the House of Steinbrenner. But that theme song needs a major reworking, seriously.
-bill kenny    

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"E" Is for Eggs

Happy Mother's Day to my Mom, Joan, and my wife's Mom, Anni, and to my wife, mother of our two children and to my three sisters, all mothers of children themselves and three of my sisters-in-law, who are also Moms. I guess babies went something similar to viral before the Internet, eh?

I hope like mine, your mom was tough as she needed to be, and as loving and supportive as she could be and that she's still around today to help you and yours stay on the straight and narrow as she did all those years ago when you and your siblings needed it most. Otherwise, like Ray Wylie Hubbard, you're enjoying the day in a less than Hallmark-endorsed moment but that may be just as well anyway.
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Every Day is Saturday

I attended a retirement ceremony for a career military officer yesterday. With apologies to F. Scott Fitzgerald, career military people, officer and enlisted, and regardless of branch of service, are not like you and me and have reasons above and beyond most of the ones we're comfortable with for why they do what they do.

I know-you've seen the men, almost exclusively men, and white men at that (so white they glow in the dark) flanking the Secretary of Defense when he speaks at a Congressional Sub-Committee on Why Aren't We Lickin' the Taliban the Way We Used to Lick the Rooskies on C-SPAN IV or some such station. I'd argue when you look at the responsibility each of those people has and try to calculate the weight of the worry about what happens if something goes wrong and then look at the paycheck, you'd see they are poorly compensated.

A little more than a year ago a small SEAL (Sea, Earth Land and Air special forces Sailors) team took out Osama bin Laden. There are weeks the head bag boy at Kroeger's makes more than they do (and he probably also scores a couple of hot phone numbers taking the groceries out to the car, if you know what I mean) but it's obviously not a job where you're only in it for the money.

The ceremony yesterday wasn't for a SEAL, but for someone who devoted twenty-eight years of his life to defending our freedom to choose even if that choice is often to be a horse's hindquarters. To allow me if I want to go to work with different colored socks on, with no knock at the door at 2 AM from the hosiery squad. To protect you if you decide to take up the bag pipes and are lousy at it (and yes I was directly inspired by the playing yesterday) from your neighbors just beating you up (though if you were MY neighbor and played that way, you'd be packing, brother, and moving in one motion).

He has a wife and two children who looked to be a little younger than our two. And starting tomorrow, actually more like really on Monday, they get to see a lot more of him than they ever have, perhaps ever planned on. His wife, who married him for better or for worse now has him for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And when he opens his wardrobe in the morning to pick out clothes, he'll be confronted by a panoply of colors instead of the same old, same old stacked on hangers to the ceiling.

Welcome to my world, Sir. Thanks for your service. If you did your job right, and I have no doubt that you did, those whom you trained to follow will learn to lead in good time and carry your example on to another group of enthusiastic beginners somewhere at some point and the cycle will begin again. It's a long week for those who bear the burden but for the rest of us, today, at least, is Saturday.
-bill kenny

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dad's Threat Delivered

We were a large family and until my parents decided to purchase a 1967 Chrysler Newport station wagon, a navy-blue monstrosity of Mopar engineering excellence that was seemingly a city block long, when all of us rode in 'the car' it was a tight fit.

I have a dim memory of a black and white (yes a two-tone car) Plymouth, I always assume Belvedere because it sounds right (I might have been four years old or younger when Dad had it) that was followed by a Desoto, as black as night with fins, and the 'famous' Chrysler push-button automatic transmission (more on that in a minute). Desoto was a division of Chrysler along with Plymouth and Dodge back when everything was made in this county, not well necessarily but here anyway.

The Desoto was replaced by a white Chrysler Newport sedan with a red interior that used to get as hot as the Hades its color scheme reminded us of, during the summer, with bench seats in the front and back. Mom and Dad and whoever was 'the baby' at the time in a car seat between them were in the front and all the rest of us were in the back. We'd get restless if not downright asinine and then one of us would look up and see Dad's green/gray eyes in the mirror, staring at us (we'd grab the arm of the brother/sister next to us until ALL of us were peering into the mirror).

Once he had our attention, Dad would slow down to an ominous crawl (= pedestrians, assuming any such could be permitted on the Parkway (and no they aren't), would outwalk the Kenny car) and looking at each of us via the mirror would warn in a low-throated growl, "do not make me pull this car over." It always worked-we corrected whatever miscreant behavior we had been guilty of and the Newport would rejoin the stream of traffic at something approaching light speed (the only way Dad knew how to drive) and we'd go back to making great time, even if we were lost.

There was a day, our brother, Kelly*, always the mechanically apted one of the klan, inadvertently discovered the Achilles Heel of the push-button transmission: pushing more than one button at the same time caused ALL of them to jump ship and land in a less than orderly pile beside and, to some extent, beneath the brake pedal. It also caused Dad's face to turn colors not found in nature. I should note that Kelly's aptitude may well have come from the Montgomery Ward catalog as Dad had no understanding of anything even vaguely mechanical (and that included every car he ever owned).

Obviously, our father did figure out how to resuscitate the famous push-button automatic transmission (possibly with Kelly's help; I would NOT be surprised if this were the case) and it wasn't that many more years until Chrysler opted to not continue to be famous and went to a more conventional on the tree location for the automatic transmission selector.

I thought of all of this when I came across this news nugget the other day and shared it with my brothers whom, I suspect, had 'in the car with Dad' memories they can probably be persuaded to share with little prompting (I just remembered Mom's Renault R-5 also had a push button automatic transmission with 'electric brushes' come to think of it. Talk about 'good times').

Nothing, of course, will ever top the story of the cuckoo clock, oh-so briefly on the wall of the sitting room in the last house in which our parents lived together and the clock's sudden and terrible end. If Pete Seeger could have seen the carnage, he'd have doubled down on the emphasis of 'danger' and paid more attention to manic marauding marsupials, but too soon old and too late smart.
-bill kenny

* The older of my younger brothers (you do the math) dropped me a note way early this morning to advise my recollection is faulty. It was not he who had reverse engineered the Chrysler push-button tranny.
I'll wait for the actual miscreant to self-identify and would encourage you to move along now as there's nothing to see here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Day after Paul Newman Was Dead, He Was Twice as Dead

Tuesday, one of the more amazing people to populate the planet (at least in my lifetime) took his leave of us. Maurice Sendak, who was ridiculously famous for Where the Wild Things Are, but I most especially loved his In the Night Kitchen, died. He was and now he isn't. Sorry to be so brusque but it is what it is. When it's my turn you can repay the favor. Believe me I will not care and even if I should, there will be nothing I can do.

To luxuriate in all the Sendakness you can eat with a spoon, read this because it is so beautiful, it is so true that it hurts and you can feel the author's pain even through her punctuation. It is, quite simply, one of the reasons, as of when I found it, why I'm glad I can read. Maurice Sendak was another. And Meryl Streep makes reading Maurice Sendak magical just by listening. Did you hear what I mean?

I didn't even mention Chicken Soup and Rice which our children loved growing up and I read to them a bajillion times even as I grew old. I wanted you to have that link should you encounter someone today who is need of some (either reading or chicken soup and rice). You're never too old to have a happy childhood and I think, perhaps, Maurice Sendak very much did.

I have a very long list of people whom I have never met and if there's any justice in the world my name is on a lot of their lists as well. Somewhere on mine, I'm sure, was Maurice Sendak. Perhaps we could compare lists someday. Until then, I want you to have this quote from him for on the way because in three sentences he captures the essence of his greatest stories. "I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can't stop them. They leave me and I love them more."
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Comfortably Numb

Mother's Day this Sunday and Memorial Day near the end of the month mark the transition from spring to summer. They're perennial harbingers of our changing seasons even if we're distracted by ongoing murmurings and mumblings about the city's next budget and where the money goes (we know all too well where it comes from).

What we are now, as residents of Norwich and as neighbors of one another, is what were were when...we made the decision to live here perhaps because our families did or because a job relocation brought us here or maybe we saw an opportunity or the potential for personal or financial growth and chose to reside in The Rose City. In my case, I'm still waiting for those three magic beans I traded the car for to germinate. Any day now.

Whatever the reason, and the optimism and hopefulness that late Spring inspires aside, you now have also one for why you choose to stay. Let's face it, the last couple of years have been unkind to many across the nation and in these parts if you've been living hand to mouth, sometimes your fingers have been very close to your teeth.

We all have neighbors who've walked away from houses they can no longer afford, who have departed for points yonder where the cost of living is a bit less and where the dollars they earn go a little farther. But we've stayed. And therein lies my quandary. After living here with my family for a skosh longer than twenty years I still don't understand why so many of us have/ feel no sense of ownership for where we live.

We regard city government as something done to us and rarely, if ever, for us. I see the same handful of faces and engaged residents at City Council meetings. I confess, with our children grown and gone, I don't attend Board of Education meetings any more (to the vast relief, I'm sure, of its members) but I concede I'm taking the coward's way out because the success (and failures) of our schools are as much mine as they are yours.

I can recall a decade and a half ago, a City Council hearing on an annual budget that started out in City Hall and hours before the meeting started was relocated to the (not yet renovated) Kelly Middle School gymnasium which was packed (to include, I'm sure, a very nervous Fire Marshal) with residents who wanted to make sure their alderpersons heard them and their opinions on spending and investment.

Maybe those are the residents who have moved away because in recent years we've routinely seen sparse attendance in Council chambers. I keep suggesting we offer those in attendance pudding but the cost of cups and spoons is prohibitive.

We don't like many of the decisions made by the neighbors we elected, usually after the recommendations of other neighbors on the nearly four dozen (!) advisories, boards, commissions and committees we have here in Norwich. Many of those volunteer panels have vacancies that go unfilled for months and years-not that any of us in the public notice since so few of us ever attend those meetings.

It's strange how quickly we react to decisions which are the outcomes of meetings we choose to not attend, though strange may not be the best word. During our last city elections, less than 15% of us who could vote, did vote (it was really less than 14% but I was trying to be nice). It's okay to complain about the landings but it's better if you show up for the take-offs and learn to be less comfortably numb.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Creeps Like Me

You may have heard a thud around noon time yesterday-a bit muffled perhaps with a sort-of sigh smothered in disappointment to complement it. It emanated from these parts and while I should feel badly for taking credit for it, let's just say I was the precipitant.

I've worked for a very long time with someone who has convinced themselves if Gandhi had a son, I would be that son. Closer to reality, I couldn't even be that child's imaginary friend and total disclosure: I had an imaginary friend who dumped me for someone Else's imaginary friend so don't get me started on this.

Disillusionment was swift as they waited for me to get off the phone with someone, no other way to put it, who is a time sponge. The caller will take every second of the time you are willing to give without a thought or a regret and ask for more. I do all the usual stuff that people do with me (you didn't think I knew? How stupid do I look?): I make faces, I roll my eyes, I do 'wind it up' motions with my right hand while clutching the phone with my left but it never makes a difference as the caller drones on. The call runs its course as the river rolls to the sea and I always hang up frustrated as my day has been hijacked and I realize I have a hole where a half hour or more of my life once was.

Yesterday, conceding nothing I could ever do would help me reclaim the time I have lost, I resolved to stop acquiescing to my own destruction. I did one, and no more than one, 'I hate to take up your time' which is my generic white guy way of getting pests off the phone. Don't laugh, sometimes it works; sometimes. It didn't yesterday so I blurted out a mouthful and more of just how angry I was about always having to be the good person and the nice guy and proceeded to peel off a wad of sometimes poly-syllabic expletives in both English and German that may have caused ears to melt.

Confession is good for the soul. Here goes: I find cursing liberating. My father used to tell us as children that profanity was the mark of someone who lacked a good vocabulary ('goniff' had no direct bearing on his theory, but should have). Yesterday would NOT have been a good day to ask me about his thesis especially after I caught my second wind and reviewed our entire history in less than thirty seconds (we have known one another for close to two decades).

It was only after I had returned the phone to its cradle and looked up to see a stricken expression on my visitor's face that it occurred to me I might have been slightly beyond the pale. By a few megatons here or there. I think one of us was hoping for an explanation but the other one knew better-look around and you will see. The world is full of---.
-bill kenny  
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Monday, May 7, 2012

Roll Us Both Down a Mountain

In case you have any doubts that, as the Crown of Creation, we aren't the most arrogant species to walk the planet, let us concede our genius at making and using tools, combined with the niftiest thumbs in nature makes us the current undisputed heavy-weight champions of the world.

And then, after we've done that and ignoring the reality that we've yet to find a means of harnessing any of our genius to overcome hunger, racial and ethnic hatred and so many other failings and failures of human nature, what have we come up with, instead, to distract ourselves. Submitted for your approval: Stupid Human Tricks like Foam Fighters Pacific (or Britain or Europe).

I'm not being snarky about it because I have an android instead of an I-phone, because the 'app' is free for either (sorry Blackberry, again) and the game, I'm told by those who know about these things, is 'dirt cheap' at under ten bucks. Rather, I can envision a moment at the end of the world despite being a FARC, when God, or Someone like Her/Him,  regards all of us assembled with a mixture of disgust and contempt while turning to glance in a mirror and mumbling 'image and likeness, I think not!'

Not sure being able to win a dog fight while sitting on my couch or strafing an approaching army while reclining in a hammock is really the highest use of technology and of our brains with all the (real) worlds yet to conquer, but it seems on more days than not you can sweep a city block anywhere and pack all the ignorant SOB's you've gathered up in a sack, hit the sack with a bat and you'd hit the right one.

Unless, of course, we have an app for that as well.  
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Run for Home

Today is the day my youngest brother (almost typed baby brother out of force of habit-a habit that hasn't been accurate or a habit in half a lifetime, mine, or three quarters of one, his) is in the New Jersey Marathon. He took up distance running it seems to me less than eighteen months ago and by now has probably covered enough distance in practices and competitions to be nearly to the Golden Gate Bridge.

I know and have known a few people who are distance runners-thank goodness it's not contagious as my insurance doesn't cover vaccinations against it. Pat K from Germany, 'die Grosse Patrick,' as our son, Pat, used to call him, decided to take part in a triathlon after having covered one for a TV sports broadcast.

Sally F did the USMC marathon and more recently Tough Mudder and Joe B and James B (no relation) together with Jim McG run and bicycle at least five days a week (multiple miles at a time). I admire the determination and the stick-to-it tiveness such discipline takes and make myself scarce (a major effort considering my age and infirmities) whenever the word and volunteer surfaces in the conversation.

In high school every summer I used to run the perimeter of Harvey's Lake, Pennsylvania where our parents had a summer home. It wasn't that many miles but it was enough to convince me whoever invented a bicycle deserved whatever Noble Prizes we hadn't already given to whomever invented the automobile.

I think I know my brother well enough to know there will not today, nor have there been at any time in the course of his training, be a moment where he wonders why the heqq he is doing this. From the time he was able to form facial expressions, his have almost always been of the squared jaw, set in neither a smile nor a frown but more of an 'let's do this' indication. And  I suspect today as he, along with thousands of other runners launches and lunges along, he will early on find his pace and with an ease that belies how hard and how much work is involved in so doing, maintain it, uninterrupted, through to the finish. Just the way he lives.
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tin Soldiers

I should be using the abashed or chagrined fonts today, but they don't exist. A day that I believed I would remember forever came and went yesterday and I didn't note the date until I found a mention on line at someone's 'hopelessly liberal' website. Since my heart beats on the left side of my body, I tend to stop in on a regular basis but  I didn't get there until late in the day yesterday.

Yesterday was the 42nd anniversary of the murders at Kent State. Alison Krause. Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheur and William Schroeder died in a rain of bullets at the height of the (un)civil unrest over the United States' engagement in the War in Indochina. The link is from an essay two years ago that is probably a more intense read now than it was at the time, in light of the hardening of our political and ideological arteries as the contest for the White House this fall grows nearer.

The four who died were not the only students to die that spring. Less than two weeks later in Jackson, Mississippi, two more students, Philip Gibbs, a Junior at then-Jackson State College and James Green, still in high school as a senior were murdered as well for disagreeing about the conduct of a war half way around the world from them.

I was a year older than Green, a white child of some privilege in a prep school in The Oranges of New Jersey. Our class was less than a month away from finals-I was heading to Rutgers University that fall on a full academic scholarship and life was good except at dinnertime when the TV news arrived, usually with the main course on the table, and death and destruction were always on the menu.

I had, as had millions of other young men across America, registered for the draft, as required by law. I'd hedged my bets on the advice of older friends and had registered at the Selective Service office at 42 Banta Place in Hackensack. Four plus decades on I can still remember the address, and the reason for registering there.

The office in Hackensack served many of the tony towns, West Orange and Montclair among them but also the inner city of Newark where thousands of kids with no chance of anything close to the life that made me and my classmates unhappy would win at only one thing-the monthly pull of personnel as determined by the draft board. The Vietnam War had already become an action where blacks were sent by whites to kill Asians. The last people to figure that out were the white children who had life on a plate.

Color isn't and wasn't coincidental. The names of the (white) kids at Kent State I'll know until the day I die-but the identity of the two casualties at Jackson State, both black, I have to look up. And still I pretend I can't imagine why that is. Maybe four decades on, I should think of the first two weeks of May 1970 as about something more than a war fought faraway and think of the casualties continuing to pile up in our cities' streets every day and night. Strange how the more things change the more they remain the same.
-bill kenny      

Friday, May 4, 2012

An Addiction and Affliction

We're a little less than a month away from Memorial Day, which in popular culture is seen as the 'unofficial start of summer.' Considering it started out as a day to honor those in all branches of the armed forces who gave their lives in defense of this country, I suppose one should be grateful for any remembrance no matter how unrelated to its inception we still have. I'm thinking of a Christmas TV spot for Mary and Joseph and their needing new snow tires on the way to Bethlehem. Blasphemy! I doubt it, ka-ching! is more like it.

Anyway, I digress. I know, 'that's news?' Getting gas the other evening, I watched a guy with a double axle pick-up truck rail against 'those greedy b'tards' for what he's paying for (I'm assuming) is diesel or high test. I've never owned a fuel pig, so I don't know what you feed them. I do know the bed of that truck was so clean you could eat off it, because I looked, which tells me his health insurance doesn't pay for penile enhancement surgery which is why he bought The Beast in the first place. Pays to advertise.

I've been here before, back in June of 2010 when I ranted and at the risk of appearing lazy, I don't think it can be said often enough so I'll say it again. When I last shopped for a car, I spent more time wondering about the leather seating than I did on the hydrocarbon emissions. Because I'm a bad person? I don't know-are you? Not really, we're just a little mutton-headed and set in our ways. Leather trim I understand, but breathing air I can't see....not so much.

Look at our coasts, north and south OR east and west. All this offshore drilling who is that for? Us or U.S., you choose. If we were being honest with one another (but we lie as often as we blink and in the blink of an eye commit atrocities against one another), we'd eliminate nozzles at gas pumps, and replace them with heavy gauge syringes so we could just mainline the oil, diesel, kerosene and gasoline, because our appetite for 'the ooze' is practically insatiable.

It's not as public decoration that those platforms and rigs ring around the coastlines or those derricks raping the landscape hammer into the earth in search of fossil fuel. It's cold, hard commerce, my brother and sister, coin of the realm. If it didn't pay, it wouldn't happen. The Oil Companies sell as much of it as they can pull from the earth, and three and a half decades or so after millions of us stood in lines on odd and even numbered days to buy gas, we are more even more dependent on the same folks who cut us off back in the day.

It's okay because here in 2012 we could kick the petrol habit at any time; assuming, of course, we all wake up tomorrow morning and are Amish. How do you bake bread anyway? Yes, I'm mocking them-it's not like they're surfing the Internet and will read this. And if they did, what's going to happen? Are they threatening to build a barn in my backyard? Don't get your shawl in a bunch, I'm kidding.

But I'm not about this: We all "would prefer" wind, solar and other alternative energy, unless it costs more than what we're paying now or involves changing (in any way) how we would prefer to live. If it does, well, sorry about the seagulls and those tarballs and fracking for natural gas and benzene in your drinking water. It is really too bad about those coastal animals in the marshlands who were destroyed, but (what's that expression I love, oh yeah) you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs (it's a fine line between free range and Free Bird).

So don't worry about the price of gasoline because we're oblivious to its true cost-until the next time we have to send 18 and 19 year old kids halfway around the world to sit on the lid of some third or fourth world garbage can of a country whose sole value to the Bastion of Democracy is they have oil. If you look really hard in the mirror you already know what we are-it's all down to agreeing on a price. And picking out who has to pay it.
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Nattily Attired in Post-Natal Anniversary Apparal

I had a self-inflicted adventure yesterday morning that began with leaving the house, twice. I was in the car, engine running and backing it out of the garage, when I became concerned at how fuzzy everything on the rear wall of the garage appeared in my headlights (as it was VERY early). The good news was that I wasn't having a stroke-I had forgotten to put my glasses back on after shaving.

While I understand the indignant curiosity and respect an argument that says 'you're nearly as blind as a fruit bat without them! How could you forget them?!' I would offer it's very early in the morning, so much so that for many people it's more like a part of the previous night so visibility is only a conceptual notion with little practical application.

Besides, I had other things to worry about. I was to wear a generous helping of my birthday clothes. Not my birthday suit; that was on under the clothes, but a shirt, tie and trousers I have received as gifts for my birthday last week.

Make no mistake-I'm not living in or from Appalachia-I own more than one pair of shoes (though you'd not know it by the way I wear shoes) and have a full wardrobe of outfits my wife has either purchased or approved (ideally, both) as my judgment after asking her to marry me, seemingly, fled never to be seen or heard from again.

I felt like I was heading to First Holy Communion-except the tie wasn't one of those on a strap that went around your neck and hooked with a snap, but a real Pierre Cardin. I had a crisp white oxford shirt on (I am convinced 'oxford' is shirt code for 'not a button-down') and pleat-less black trousers because I hate those goofy folds up near the belt loops and between the pockets where all that fabric just billows and flows.

I had been warned by my usually loving wife to NOT make a mess in my new clothes or I would, presumably, be buried in one of the other sets she and our children had gotten me as gifts. I found the irony of being threatened with a fatal pummeling for dirtying clothes hysterical until I looked into her sweet face and saw in her eyes the soul of a dry cleaner.

I tease her about the restrictions and the constrictions but I know she has my best interests at heart. That, and I've long since accepted it's her way or the highway if I ever expect to try on those Christmas socks from Yule '99.
-bill kenny    

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Dangers of Pronouns

If you're like me, you have a pretty high threshold for pain. Sounds like a good thing until I concede in my case, I'm talking about other people's pain. I can be surprisingly stoic when we're talking in glittering generalities about how 'somebody needs to take on for the team' right up until I get in the batter's box and beanballs start whizzing around my head.  Then my ardor and interest in jungle rules whiffleball cools noticeably.

We have the same aversion to pain when the calendar rolls around, as it has again, to municipal budget time since it is our wallets absorbing the pain. Our motto tends to become 'what's mine is mine, but what's yours is negotiable.' This Monday in all likelihood on the Norwich City Council agenda will be a motion to adopt in some form, to include revised beyond recognition, the City Manager's proposed budget from April 2. It will be interesting to watch the negotiations at the front of the room, realizing they impact everyone in the room.

You remember the City Manager's proposal: another opportunity in the hearings and discussion leading up to Monday night to use pronouns like "us" and "we" where, instead, and as always, 'them' and 'they' wound up as culprits for everything in that document no one liked, to include the type font. ("A little too Bodoni Bold for my taste," I heard no one at all say.)

Our language reflects our perspective. Even though the farther out in space you go the more alike we look, down here on terra firma, we can elevate differences and distinctions to an artform when it suits our purposes. "Those people" in City Hall have no idea what "we" are going through. Maybe you didn't say that, ever, but I know I have. It's not important who says or thinks it, but rather, how it colors how we act after we do.

Every year we have the same furtive tug of war for finite public dollars among those of us who want more  for education, public safety, employee recruiting and retention, infrastructure, pony rides (had hoped to slip that one by you), capital improvements and investments.When "we" wonder what "they" were thinking of, something close to the reason we formed government is getting badly lost in the noise and language.

Someone tells me s/he is 'for education.' Of course you are, what's the alternative, ignorance? The insistence on turning out dozens or hundreds of school children to serve as human shields at Council deliberations has gotten old, but still we do it and those who believe it is effective swear by it and those who are unmoved shake their heads.

Don't forget all of "us" support enhanced public safety but do you seriously believe there is anyone who doesn't? When we define which ones are inside, we are also creating an outside. What we mean by what we say is where we tend to disagree. Maslow's hierarchy of needs helps us articulate and prioritize our desires and wants as well as our abilities and capabilities of satisfying them. Here's the Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious (BGO): 'they' are 'us.' It is only together, me and you can become 'we' and 'we' need all of 'us' all the time.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I Will Say the Only Words I Know

Our daughter, Michelle, gets annoyed when I write about her, even when I write nice things like she's the world's greatest squirrel wrangler, or wranglette (I'm never sure) so I expect she'll be less than happily surprised I'm mentioning her today (I checked with her Mom on this because Adam isn't the only one whose natal anniversary goes aglimmering sometimes).

Michelle, who explains to people she has 'my father's wit and my mother's charm' has a birthday all of her own tomorrow. I cannot believe my itty-bit is an adult -from such small beginnings but she is and in hindsight, I'm thinking maybe she was born an adult intellectually and just grew into the size of one.

I can tell you we were NOT big fans of project day when one of us was enrolled in Buckingham School's Integrated Day Program. The teacher would videotape each child's presentation and the Q & A afterwards and Michelle's mother and  I would take turns sitting in stunned silence as she departed from her carefully rehearsed script and descended into participatory educational chaos. On more than one occasion, I'm pretty sure I saw  Conrad's Mister Kurtz, but it was awfully dark.

Michelle has a quiet intensity about her that can take you by surprise. She is in many respects, most especially intellectually and emotionally, a quiet riot and amazingly confident in her own judgements, actions and decisions. She may be wrong, but she is never in doubt.

She has a myriad of attributes and strengths from both the Schubert lineage as well as the Kenny clan but she is far more than the sum of her genetic inheritance or philosophic leanings and her character and intellect are very much her own. She celebrates her birthday tomorrow and you'd be well advised to join in, if you can or be prepared to explain why you didn't. And Mike, I went the entire column without mentioning the squirrels! Oh. Shi---HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
-dad