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Saturday, June 30, 2012

George M. Cohan Looks a Lot like Jimmy Cagney

I'm making this my Fourth of July weekend even though according to the calendar we're not actually having one this year. Seems fair to me. When we celebrated the original Fourth of July, it's not like we staged it so we could have Saturday, Sunday AND Monday off. We were a nation of farmers, woodsman, blacksmiths, tradesmen and sailors-we had no such time for vagabond hearts. We had to keep muskets and munitions in easy reach.

We'd been at war with the most powerful nation in the history of the world (sorry, Roman Empire) for quite some time before events took their turn on the streets of Philadelphia. I'm not sure the Crown called the enforcement of the Coercive Acts 'a police action,' as just one example, but it was not the most fun you could have with your clothes on for a Hessian mercenary, that's for sure. And so it went.

I'm suggesting, especially in the light of recent events, much of them centered in the District of Columbia (or as an acquaintance, currently missing bike wheels in NYC called it, ''Dodge City') whose ferocity seems to have surprised so many of us, that we're born this way. We're obstinate, arrogant, ignorant, and perhaps flatulent. And we come by all of it honestly. We asked nicely of the people who ruled us if we could go our own way and they said over our dead bodies. All we did was oblige them.

But how about this weekend, or at the very least this coming Wednesday, the actual holiday date, we stop snapping and sniping (verbally, I hope, only) long enough about the politics of our private now to turn and look at where and how we started and admire the historic view.

There's no need to take off your thirsty boots and stay awhile. We have a whole century's worth of stuff to get done in a lot less time than it takes to tell to include making sure we have equality in our equal rights, health in our universal health care, dignity in our efforts for full employment and a return of the joy in everyday living we each experienced even when we didn't know its name when we were so small so long ago.

This is when we should catch our breath, hike up our britches or adjust our other garments (your mileage may vary) and make sure we're comfortable with the hands we are grasping in each of ours, or to get comfortable with them as we're going to be at this rebuilding the greatest nation on earth gig a little while longer.

And later tonight, whether we're hip deep in one another's back pockets as we line the streets of our not quite ready for Prime Time downtown, or find someplace to stand and watch the rockets go up and the sparks shower down, we can exult as the fireworks are hailin' over Little Eden tonight-forcing a light into all those stony faces left stranded on this warm July. And if only for that moment as we're bathed in colors that don't exist in nature, we can find a way to have, and to share, a moment of our Pilgrims' Progress.
-bill kenny              

Friday, June 29, 2012

Son of Poor Richard

In another lifetime, I used to shop around for the best deal I could get on a subscription to Rolling Stone Magazine (at one time they called themselves the New York Times of the Counter-Culture). I thought them more a Bible than anything else. Then they fell in love with stuff other than rock and roll-some of it was good, bordering on great-Dr. Hunter Thompson and some of it not so much.

I always return in memory, if not in hope, to the issue that had Diana Vreeland of Vogue Magazine on the cover. Rock and roll boob that I was I thought she was Neil Young's mom or something. I had no clue why she was the rock and roll magazine's cover and after reading the entire issue repeatedly,  I still had no idea. That was the issue that broke my back and a couple of other pieces of my anatomy and prompted me to cancel my susbscription.

Which stayed that way for decades until not that many years ago my son got me a subscription as a holiday present (nothing says Happy Arbor Day like a coated pulp paper product). Some weeks it used to show up in the same mail delivery with my AARP magazine. Strange Days indeed. Nowadays, many of the folks who once made the cover of Stone now are on the AARP magazine. And those who read the former now have seeing eye dogs and walkers to help them read the latter.

Last Tuesday having put off the renewal of my membership in AARP as long as I could ('what if I croak?' I asked my wife. 'Do you think they'll give you refund?') I extended the membership for another five years. Ever since the (successful) PVD surgery I've been walking on sunshine (sorry, I hate that song). And I saved some money, too,  because I got a five year membership at $63 dollars...where is that announcer to tell us about the savings off the regular new stand price? Oh? Will his widow be getting a refund? Tough Schlitz, I guess.

The glow faded to close to something whiter only Keith Reid could have ever imagined when I opened an envelope from AARP this Tuesday past, thinking it was my new membership card only to read what was another subscription offer, but for fourteen bucks less for five years than what I'd just done. Yipes!

I called 1-800-GROWN-OLD or whatever their toll-free number spells out and spoke with T. who moves at 33 1/3 in a 78 RPM world (look it up child; it has to do with turntables. Look that up, as well.). He had a little trouble grasping the depth of my unhappiness and reacted to my explanation like he was listening to golf on the radio. He got all mathy on me with a solution that involved refunding my $63 dollars to me, but 'that might take five weeks, suh.' I told him it took eight seconds to transfer the money from my account to theirs last week. Was gravity a problem now? Nothing but crickets.

I would then pay for another subscription, again at the new and improved rate. And that would be that. I made I am-not-very-happy-sounds and he gave me to his supervisor, R. I think there's money to be made by those who work these phone lines if you can do voices. I had the sinking feeling that was exactly what T was doing when R got on the phone, but fourteen bucks is fourteen bucks and I was not to be distracted.

R, in a truly Solomon like moment decided he couldn't cancel my 'old' new subscription refund the money and have me start again, but he could add seventeen months to the not-yet-started subscription. We're talking February 2018, sports fans; this is as close to winning as I may ever get in this life. Sold American!


Speaking of which, I still don't have a clear or complete understanding of the refund policy but am happy I won't be around when Sigrid has to sort that out. Step right up.  
-bill kenny  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Who We Are

I've made my living with words for a very long time. Before that I stayed alive in schoolyards by being able to talk myself out of jams prior to the stuffing in me getting kicked out and everywhere. I'm not often at a loss for words and when it has happened, those moments have been incredibly personal.

When I realized after I'd asked her to marry me that my about-to-be wife had said yes, I was staggered and nearly stoned by the audacity of what I had dared ask of her. Jetzt bleibt mir den spuk weg (right now I'm gobsmacked) and in that instant it was. Being present in the delivery room when our son was born was another such eye blink and when our daughter shared with us she had been accepted to Eastern Connecticut State University it was another of those too happy for words situations.


Later this week, a family will come to together for the saddest of all circumstances, not only to bury one of its members but for the parents to bury their child. And the circumstances, or what I've thus far understood of them, leads me to believe the sadness is only beginning


Molly Olgin was 19 years of age and will remain so forever. Mary Chapa may yet live and return to health but will never be healthy or happy again. There may turn out to be a horribly prosaic explanation for what happened to these two young women that will have nothing to do with who they were or someone's unhappiness about their sexual orientation though I'm not sure why that should be an outcome for which anyone would pray. Too much sadness is so much sorrow.


For too many years we have been a nation of angry ranters who demonize and dehumanize all those with whom we disagree. E Pluribus Unum has been replaced by What Are You Lookin' At? and it doesn't appear, especially in a presidential election year when tempers flare and the rhetoric is white hot, that civility and sanity will be breaking out anytime soon. 


No one wants to dial it down until they have had their chance to speak and, too often, to act and when we reduce everything to an eye for an eye, soon we are all blind. But even blind eyes can cry and tomorrow night in memorials across the country, many other tears will be shed for more victims who were hated and hunted for reasons beyond our understanding but, tragically, not beyond our control. 
-bill kenny     

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chelsea is the Red Bead Experiment

Dr. W. Edwards Deming made a lot of headlines if not a lot of friends in American industry a generation ago with his Principles of Quality Management. In the USA where all we're concerned about is winning and losing and nuance gets lost in the noise, people invoke him more as an abstraction than an applied idea. Too bad, because more often than not, he's be right at home in Norwich, Connecticut.

Deming insisted 'we should work on our processes, not the outcome of our processes.' His Red Bead Experiment was intended to prove flawed systems are responsible for failing outcomes, not those willing to work hard or those talented enough to lead them.  Quite frankly, if that's not Norwich in the summer of 2012, then I need to get a new GPS because this is where I seem to come home to every night. I'd know those red beads anywhere.

Tonight is actually an exception to the Red Bead Experiment I think, based on last year, that may prove to be the rule (fingers crossed). Tonight at six, it's the inaugural show of Rock the Docks, the Wednesday night free live performances at Howard T. Brown Park all summer long which showcase a whole lot of different performers and bands playing a variety of musics in the belief that everyone likes some kind of music.

The turnout last summer was excellent, building from week to week and if the skies are half as kind as the acts promised are good, downtown should be jumping and that, simply put, is both the process and the outcome. Terms like 'thinking outside the box' get used for an idea like this which is all well and good except we can delete everything after 'thinking' and still be correct.

Elsewhere, it's more of the same thinking that got us here. Up the street from Howard T. Brown Park, like a sleeping beauty, say its proponents, is the Reid and Hughes ruin (building really does seem a bit of a stretch) awaiting just a pinch of municipal dollars and some tax credits for a developer to return it to life as something it never was, a mixed use building that will be another downtown destination. 


That the proposals to develop that property have no connection or correlation to a half dozen other private projects in various stages across downtown almost goes without saying. This is, after all, Norwich; hold on tight to your red beads.  


Rock the Docks costs us as a city very little in terms of overall expenditures and creates waves of commerce that reach from the park to the restaurants and bars blocks away as those attending the shows are the feet in the street we purport to be so interested in attracting across downtown. We argue among ourselves everyday as what 'Chelsea needs' and small shop owners and restaurants and pub owners seem to have figured it out already. 


When you add events like First Friday, like performances at the Spirit of Broadway, the Farmers Market (coming soon) and Meet the Author nights at Otis Library, discussions about perceptions of crime and/or the  lack of parking are suddenly mooted and muted because when we are attracted to an offering we choose to invest of ourselves and go. 


Success like failure is more habit than destiny and we can be (more) successful if we trust our instincts and learn to dress for success. And that means lose the red beads.
-bill kenny 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Smile as an Umbrella

It happens every summer in the parts of New England that aren't actually parts of any part of New England. When we think of Massachusetts we think of Patti Page and Old Cape Cod, but for an hour's worth of your drive out to the Cape, it looks more odd than Cod.

Same for Southeastern Connecticut. People think Mystic (curse you Julia Roberts and those great cheek bones!) and other touristy locales but a lot more of the area is mythic and pathetic and quite a distance from having any mystical qualities at all.

I think the rain cycle has caught up with me and cast me down a bit. We get this weather system every June. It rains like the dickens every day for hours, then it stops, and the clouds part and the sun comes out and then it starts all over again. Like the Itsy Bitsy Spider has been left in charge and found the keys to the liquor cabinet.

I become morose when the skies darken and stay that way even when they change as they did as I was walking to the gym (the same folks who want me to call noodles pAHsta want me to tell you I go to a fitness center; but I don't.) yesterday morning.

I've started to get a lot better at looking and seeing (physical and cognitive functions together) small strokes and nuances instead of looking at the big picture and struggling for meaning. Something Harry J taught me in video editing some twenty five years ago, 'watch the whole frame,' has uses beyond the box but I suspect he knew that and just wanted to start small. "Know your audience" was another thing he used to say, usually when talking to me. I have a sneaky feeling he was laughing up his sleeve when he said it.


When I looked overhead, I smiled myself.  It was early and maybe nobody else saw the brightness in the day before it was overtaken by the clouds that had chased it across the heavens, but I had seen it. And I knew, proof positive yet again that all things must pass. But in so doing leave a little bit of themselves for all to enjoy. 
-bill kenny

Monday, June 25, 2012

Feminists Don't Have a Sense of Humor

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, prohibiting discrimination based on sex in any school receiving federal money. As the father of two (now adult) children, I'd suggest its positive and lasting impact on all of our daughters and on our sons cannot be overstated.

I grew up in a house with a very self-assured mother and three sisters sure of themselves sisters-all of whom at every moment (it seemed to me) did exactly what they wished, when they wished, but ours was not the typical American household in the Sixties.

We forget now, watching the WNBA, women's softball, soccer, lacrosse and basketball championships on ESPN and the other permutations of All Sports TV that exist, that level playing field wasn't always so, but as big a fan of sports as I am, I'm more impressed with the expansion of opportunities in non-sporting fields and will let the talking sports heads analyse to death what Title IX means between the lines.

I was in the last generation of  white American young men who grew up in the club-areas of privilege to which women and people of color other than white had little access. My generational cohort became doctors and lawyers and generals and court officers but it was on our watch that women became our legal equals (they may have already been our emotional, moral and spiritual betters) as we heard more talk of a glass ceiling and then the sound of it being broken than had been the case for the previous one hundred years.      

If the Nineteenth Amendment was the promise of equality, Title Nine was its fulfillment and through its implementation, the redemption, if you will, of all of our souls. It helped make all of us feminists if you decide to define that term as meaning 'based purely on ability and nothing else.'

Though, again thinking of my mom, sisters, sisters in law, wife and daughter, having a sense of humor in the face of the failings and foibles of life on this small green and blue planet, especially when interacting with the morons and mopes of the opposite sex is certainly helpful.  
-bill kenny

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Opening for Jesus

Out walking yesterday afternoon as Thelma and Louise were on a road trip to wasweissIch a suburb of gehtsdirnichtsan and walking the Heritage Trail to the Norwich Harbor my choices for the return leg of the hike were back up Washington Street, which is a state highway and very loud and highly trafficked or through the downtown district and up Union Street to Broadway and Chelsea Parade.

I have little talent so the only way I'll ever get to Broadway is walking on it, so off I went and was just passing Monsignor Kelly Park which is sort of opposite the Cathedral of Saint Patrick when an arm from the past reached out and grabbed me.

Actually, he had no choice. I had ear buds on and was listening to a Fountains of Wayne station I've created on Slacker radio (I wasn't yet to the point where I was singing along, loudly and undeterred that I know very few of the lyrics of anything played on the station) so I hadn't heard him at all. And he assured me he had been hailing me from across the street, the St. Pat's side, so to speak for at least a minute.

When my family and I arrived in Norwich two decades ago, he had been an ambassador of sorts explaining to many of the people both at work and in the neighborhood as to where we were all from and how we came to be here-assuring them all we spoke English and there was no reason to speak slowly or loudly (which I had actually enjoyed for a couple of weeks).

We were never friends-I don't make friends because I'm not willing to be a friend so I can't be surprised when no one reciprocates. This guy was the kind of person who uses your first name a lot, especially with others around and creeps you out a little by ladling on the pseudo bonhomie just a tad thick and too often.

Same thing yesterday-lots of how you've been and very little explanation of  where he has been for the better part of a decade and a half. That's actually a guess-I don't know how long he was gone before I realized I hadn't been seeing him. As you can surmise it left a huge hole in my life. Truth to tell, I had trouble recalling his name and was working hard to NOT speak in such a manner that would require using it.

I realized with his palaver about 'going to Mass with the family' that I recalled a very different woman than the stunt double with two very small (maybe six, maybe not, year olds) youngsters standing in front of the cathedral. In the old days, my evil twin Skippy would have made this difficult but no more. He seemed to read my eyes if not my mind as he rushed to explain he and D-- had "gotten together" not long after his marriage had gone south (I'm not suggesting cause and effect; I don't care enough) and he was now living back in the area.

I'm thinking it had something to do with the heat, or the length of the walk or just because I'm way too old to make happy talk with mopes I don't remember, but I asked him if his divorce didn't keep him from taking Communion (something as an altar boy trainee we spent hours discussing) and he hurriedly reassured me he was 'a Catholic in good standing.' I told him I hadn't realized scorecards were being issued and wasn't even surprised that now he wanted to be anywhere which didn't include me.

I made it a point to look at my watch while pointing to the cathedral spire suggesting he shouldn't keep the Pope waiting and smiled as he assured me we really do need to get together while making absolutely no effort to make assure that would ever happen as he ran across the street to his 2.0 family to catch the Saturday matinee in the big room. All I had been was a vamp for time. The whole exchange had lasted about three minutes. I'd put the song I was listening to on pause instead of stopping it. It was like I never left.
-bill kenny          

Saturday, June 23, 2012

In the Failing Light of a Northern Sun

It could be just me as the dotage kicks in but I can remember the problem from earlier years, before I qualified for the Early Bird special at the Blue Bird Diner ("Nothing Could be Finer than a Meal at Blue Bird Diner"). We grab more than we can process. We have two ears and two eyes but only one brain and 'back in the day' there was still too much going on for us to always grasp and grab in real time. Now, of course, it's more hopeless.

With 24/7 news operations and the unending stream of information pouring through wired and wireless devices alike on a round the clock basis, what can a poor boy do, 'cept to sing for a rock.roll band? I have a cell phone that I never turn off-it's in ready mode all the time, even when I'm not. I haven't figured out which is worse, trying to sleep when it buzzes all through the night as it receives some new pebble from a distant shore, or putting it in a different room so I can't hear the buzzing but can only imagine what it is doing.

Something about the devil and whether you know him or not. I still think if you sup with the devil you need a long spoon. And her face at first just ghostly, turned a whiter shade of pale. And so it was with this posting, unadorned and unbidden in one of my social media feeds the other day.


I saw it. I read it.I continued to scroll down and scan my sector and then I stopped. I scrolled back to where I had been and saw the image I had looked at, and this time I smiled at the thoughtfulness someone I'll never meet showed for me and others in placing a pearl of great price in the sole hope and purpose that someone somewhere would pause and appreciate it. Thank you.

Sort of like a terrific sunset at the end of a rain squall while on a beach vacation but without the booking fees and the airplane ticket handling charges or sand in all those inconvenient and embarrassing places. But no matter how far and fast I travel, I can't escape my own shadow and its meaning or overlook the sad shire horses walking home in the sodium light.
-bill kenny

Friday, June 22, 2012

Here Today

Earlier this week, Sir Paul McCartney turned 70 years old. Yep, you thought your work week got off to a terrible start-he celebrated his 70th birthday Monday, and considering the alternative was probably pretty happy about it. In the interest of full disclosure I should note I was sixty in April and he and I decided years ago, independently of one another, to never exchange cards so this is as close as I'm allowed to get, per the restraining order.

As someone who grew up and then old with The Beatles it breaks my heart two of them, John Lennon and George Harrison, never had the chance to do that themselves for/with their loved ones. And yet Justin Bieber is alive and well; giving me some terrific openers when I see Peter the Greeter at the Pearly Gates. For the longest time, Sir Paul looked like a man half his age but time and tide catch up with us all and wherever he's been storing that oil portrait, he might want to reconsider that location again.

I assume as a child I listened to music-whatever my father played in the car on the radio was what I would hear, though I have no recollection of it. Nor can I recall how it was we might have happened to have the car radio on seventy-seven W-A-B-C,  a Top 40 AM radio station (a bollocks understatement-THE radio station in NYC that broadcast up and down the Eastern Seaboard when all there was was AM radio) that even now I have difficulty believing Dad would have ever willingly tuned to. And yet, there it was...

I had no idea what The Beatles were or who was signing  or what the lyrics were though I think it was She Loves You and then later I caught up on the hand holding and loving me do stuff. The moment my brain processed what my ears had found, I knew I was home. The Beatles and the rock and roll music they created and influenced saved my life and the lives of I have no idea how many other people. As over the top as it sounds, I cannot imagine what our culture would be like, without the Fab Four.

I'm grateful I never had to try. There's a statistic someplace, actually right here, about how Yesterday has more cover versions than any other song in music to include Happy Birthday which, in light of the aforementioned Natal Anniversary observances Monday past, is both fitting and ironic. I am proud of myself for choosing to NOT say anything about Yoko Ono; well, except for that and now that. Oh dear.

Sir Paul McCartney has been part of the soundtrack, perhaps, of three billion lives. At least. Don't be so quick to dismiss that number! I feel pretty good about it having thought seriously about researching the total, and then talking myself out of it (I can be quite persuasive). I'll bet if anything I've understated his impact. Tell you what. Let's agree to disagree, if necessary and get together on Macca's 80th and compare notes, if we can still hit 'em. I'll bet he can, and will.
-bill kenny

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Before Midnight Tonight!

Some of us would bitch if you hanged us with a new rope. Seriously. I've lived most of my life in various permutations of a 'temperate zone' (okay, Greenland was more 'did you want frozen into stone or not frozen into stone? Kidding! It's all frozen into stone') and have come to appreciate the Four Seasons, whether Vivaldi was allowed to come out and play after dinner or not.

When you live in the northeastern United States (and not just here) you may as well buy all-weather coats because you'll use them. Some, more often some years than others, but it all works out. We've had winters, hard by our yardstick that folks in Maine would find laughable (but those in Georgia might see as terrifying). Paul Simon's admonition comes to mind but with my ADD, thankfully not for very long.

After enjoying (and I cannot stress the gerund enough) this past winter's mildness (and hoping for more in the coming years), I am ready for whatever Whomever decides we are having for summer weather. Notice that capitalization thing I did back there? Mom raised crazy children, not stupid ones. I'm thinking in case there is a Deity, no need to put the boot in every time, especially as S/He could do my Greenland joke only with fire and Hell that I wouldn't even find a little funny.

But here we are in Southeastern Connecticut (you go far enough to the right on the map, it's southwestern Rhode Island; do it politically and it's the Middle Ages), and after a spring with a lot of rain and brisk temperatures, summer arrived, suddenly yesterday, both on the calendar and in the thermometer.

Some of us are not very happy about this. But unless my memory is deceiving me, those who are unhappy in the heat (and they have much to be unhappy about) look very much like those who were unhappy last week and the week before in the rain (though we had superlative weather last weekend), except now they're perspiring. I've been told women do not sweat, only men do; women glisten. Whether they can ghear is another matter but three and half decades of marriage have trained me to know when silence is golden.

So here we are, and hopefully if you like summer weather it's true where you are too (though Chris and Dave in Texas are probably still a little touchy on how much/little rain is needed from time to time) pretty much done on one side and ready to be turned over. And the summer is just beginning. Already those who hated the rain last week are hating the heat now.

What can I suggest? Brown #10 paper bags-fill 'em up and keep them in the hall closet so when February's snows fall and chill encamps, grab a handful, tear them open on the sidewalk and save yourself some shoveling. You'll have the rest of your life to regret this single and singular one moment that you can only enjoy once, so why waltz when you can rock and roll? Turn off this song and go outside
-bill kenny

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Summer Held Its Breath Too Long

Sometimes timing is everything and other times, everything comes down to timing. Tonight at nine minutes past seven (Daylight Savings Time), the summer solstice marks the start of summer 2012.

If everything goes right, four minutes earlier, at Senator Thomas Dodd Stadium here in The Rose of New England, the boys of summer, the Connecticut Tigers, the Class A short season franchise of the Detroit Tigers, have their home opener against the Lowell Spinners, the Boston Red Sox affiliate (I call them the 'Sinners' but they're probably not crazy about that nickname so that'll be our secret, okay?).

As a kid and mostly indifferent student, I rejoiced at the end of each school year but never felt it was really summer until all we did all day long was play pick-up sandlot baseball games that went on for hundreds of innings with no one keeping score and the composition of the teams changing throughout the day as players departed to do chores or have a family meal and then return hours later, with the flow of the game unchanged (if not the score).

I doubt there was a kid among us who didn't think being a professional baseball player would be the coolest job in the world. Half a lifetime later, I know none of us ever became one, but that doesn't mean the spark and the desire have disappeared.

Single A baseball is a road map for fans and players alike. It's a chance to watch youngsters, literally and chronologically, most of whom were drafted out of college a few months or even weeks earlier, start to chase their dreams of being a big leaguer. I don't know about you but I've never run onto the grass at Dodd Stadium as the crowd cheers, but I bet it's a pretty heady feeling and a heckuva way to earn your living.

Dodd Stadium has been a Dream Machine for over a decade and a half. Last week's perfect game by Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants was historic for that franchise but it shouldn't have been a complete surprise to those of us who watched him pitch when he was a farmhand on the Norwich Navigators, back in the day, when they were a Double-A franchise of the Giants playing at Dodd.

Actually, the rosters of many major league baseball teams are dotted with players who have called Norwich home, be it as Navigators, Defenders or Tigers, and biased as I am about Dodd Stadium, it's a great place to enjoy a game. Already this season, we've seen Eastern Connecticut Conference high school baseball championships and some great NCAA college ball, but for thirty-eight home games (rain, rain stay away!), the field is all set for the Connecticut Tigers.

There will be fireworks after tonight's game and, I hope, enough fireworks from Tiger bats to get the job done as I always find the pyrotechnics much more enjoyable when we win. And that's the terrific thing about having a minor league team in our backyard. I can continue to root for my New York Yankees, to the dismay and chagrin of my neighbor who's a die-hard Red Sox fan but we can sit together and root, root, root for the home team, the Connecticut Tigers, because minor league baseball is about player development and is also a great value in family entertainment.

But you have to go to prove that for yourself. There are probably excellent seats still available for tonight's game at Dodd because we all know people who'll drive to Fenway or Yankee Stadium, pay a king's ransom just to park and take out a second mortgage to afford hot dogs, cold drinks and foam fingers but who won't go to Dodd because 'it's so far away', or who have one of the hundred other excuses masquerading as reasons to stay home and whine about how's 'there's never anything to do in Norwich'.

Keep ignoring one of the best nights out, and bargain priced at that, for you and yours and soon enough you'll be absolutely right-we won't have any more homegrown professional baseball to complain about. Bet we won't feel better about being right then, either.
-bill kenny         

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sharp-Dressed Man

There have been odd noises coming from one address in Southern New England for the last week and with any luck, the noises will continue for another week or so as Euro 2012, continues in both the Ukraine and in Poland but more especially in this instance in the TV in my living room in Norwich, Connecticut.

The Dutch have gone home, the Russians have taken their leave and various others have had the curtain descend on their passion play for European Supremacy in the years between the World Cups. I pay NO attention to the Asian Championships and about as close to zero as is legally possible to the North and South American contest (when you share the continent with Mexico why show up) but the Euro championships get me hopping, brother.

I don't care if they're on the Oprah Winfrey Network ('and how did the yellow card for that wedding tackle make you feel?') as long as they are televised. I watched an entire World Cup a number of years ago, through to the championship game which was actually carried on ESPN, on one of the Spanish language TV stations because they were the only ones who had all the games. All the Spanish I can speak is whatever sounds like Latin leftover from my altar-boy tryouts and since no one named Dominus was a libero or needed to introibo, I was free to enjoy the pictures (which I did).

My guys, the German National team are the youngest team in the tournament and won all three of their first round games in the Group of Death (they, the Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark were all together-only two could advance) but that wasn't the talk of the tourney. Rather the 'we are red and we are white, we are Danish dynamite' contingent got everyone buzzing.

And not merely because of the distractingly beautiful Scandinavian women who showed up in the bleachers practically wearing their nation's tricots but for the sudden and unsolicited appearance of the underpants of one of their strikers, Nicklas Bendtner. This wasn't like a decade ago when Brandi Chastain sank a penalty kick to bring the Women's World Cup back here to the Land of the Round Doorknobs. After scoring, she whipped off her jersey to reveal her, and Victoria's, Secret underneath, much to the delight of young men everywhere who developed an instant interest in women's soccer regardless of the score.

Nope, this time around Nicky B scored what at the time was the tying tally against Portugal, and decided to air his dirty laundry (so to speak) and shared a world-wide glimpse of his lucky underpants covered with advertising for a legalized bookmaking service (and I'm not talking about a library). Talk about product placement. It was inadvertent he suggested as if anyone anywhere ever says 'it was advertent' (unless they're also saying 'gruntled').

The spontaneous display of unmentionables has been deemed to be not entirely without preparation and planning or as it turns out, consequences. A six figure fine and a ban from dressing for the opening game of the 2014 World Cup qualifying round seems like a stiff (sorry) price to pay for lucky boxers that really weren't. I am surprised UEFA told him he couldn't dress for the game since that was precisely what got him into trouble in the first place.
-bill kenny

Monday, June 18, 2012

They burst your pretty balloon

Back to the working week and the grind of all that this entails. I shouldn't complain and I really don't as close to 10% of all of us who want to work and seek to do so remain unemployed (and that's a fake number because it doesn't reflect the total number of people without a job, just those who haven't given up looking for one. Yet.).

I'm not doing political agit-prop, at least not today. I don't care which party is to bless or who is to blame. A pox on both their houses (of Representatives and the Senate) if that helps move us forward and to hell with all of them if it doesn't. I'm starting to wonder as we near th 4th of July if one revolution really was enough.

Remember how our folks told us 'to get a good job, get a good education,' so we did. And that's what we told our kids and watched as they borrowed boxcars of money for college degrees that have qualified them to do what, exactly? Fill out crossword puzzles in Esperanto while waiting for a callback on that dental technician job that 145 other folks applied for? Time to downsize those big dreams, sweet-cheeks. Money doesn't talk it swears and empty pockets say nothing.

Last week our newspapers were covered with photos of young people just starting out, leaving high schools and colleges to take on the big, bad world. It's a little slow right now, we're telling one another, what with summer and all, things will pick up by the fall. Unless they don't and then what and don't even start on the why, because all that will do is make you sad and your children mad. In six months, those same kids will be popping up on the police blotter page for all the stupid stuff that those who are in despair see no alternative but to do.

Maybe it's always been this way or maybe I just never noticed how much closer to hopeless we've been sailing for nearly a decade now. We're going faster and getting nowhere-burning through our lives and resources so quickly the debt each of us owes is crushing us before we were even born. And still, we get up and go running up the mountain to see what we can see and stay plugged into a game that's long since played out.
-bill kenny  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Not Necessarily in Heaven

I became a man, a husband and a father, in that order on my way to the skin-covered doorstop with hair status I currently enjoy now. Two out of three of the transitions were really the result of others interacting with me.

I was a man, or thought I was, when I met the woman I loved and married. There's a joke that suggests a man marries a woman because he loves her for who she is- a woman marries a man for who he is and then changes him. I've been assured by my wife that I have no opinion on the veracity of that observation.

My children are who made me a father-and by whatever route you employed to get to this place, whether you're got a rack full of green and chartreuse ties or enough bags of golf tees to last you into the next century, if you are a father, Happy Father's Day.

In years past, I'd have linked my goodbye right around here to a wonderful Groucho Marx ditty but as I sat down to write this, a not-quite-as-old but -equally-marvelous bit from John Lennon's A Spaniard in the Works (his take on a spanner in the works) visited my memory. I used the selection as an oratory submission for the Browning School for Boys Annual Public Speaking Contest during my first spring semester.

I thought I was marvelous and far superior to the wet nap who won the prize, some stupid trophy of a guy waving his arms about in the air as if attempting to fly has anything to do with public speaking. Roger C, one of the most moneyed of youngsters in the entire school, and one of the thickest in terms of intellect, captured the trophy with a three and half minute reminiscence about a hunting trip he and his dad took to Kenya when he was twelve.

I'm smiling even wider as I type this now with that thought running around in my head as I try  to imagine me and my dad on a safari in Kenya at any age, perhaps best during the Ice Age. Buddy, friend and pal, indeed!
Happy Fathers Day.
-bill kenny    

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Be a Light, Not a Horn

Had about 11 thousand million cars parked on my street when I came home yesterday. I actually thought we were having a party and I had forgotten to bring the chips. Turns out the school across Chelsea Parade was holding its 2012 graduation exercises.

I always envision hundreds of kids in red caps and gowns doing synchronized jumping jacks and leg lifts counting cadence while their families look on from the bleachers applauding wildly. Hadn't fully appreciated how long those blotter hits stay in your blood stream. Had I, I might have helped myself to a few more back then.

This is the season across the country that youngsters mark milestones as they move from one level of schooling to another to whatever's beyond all school and even beyond whatever's beyond life as we know it. I wish I had some sagacious insights to share from back in my day, but we didn't pay any more attention then than you do now (maybe less) so I don't except for housekeeping notes.

Always have pens with black ink-blue ink sucks and if you have to make a copy of something you've signed in blue ink, it looks goofy and is barely visible. If you have to smell food in your refrigerator to see it's still edible, it's not and throw it away. Get the gas money up front, NOT at the end of the trip or you won't get it at all. And no, claiming 'I got the snacks in Butte, remember?' isn't the same as kicking in for a fair share of the gasoline purchases. And if that screws up your friendship, you didn't have one.

Be what you want to be-I've spent most of my life being what others have told me. Look at what it's gotten me and proceed with caution. I'm fine and you will be, too. Don't let people whose lives have foundered sink you and your dream no matter how stupid your dream is (sarcasm as humor). Oh yeah, no dream is stupid if it's yours and if you find someone who shares it, sees it or gets it, marry them, regardless of your sex or theirs and you'll be ahead of the game and definitely ahead of most of the rest of us here on the ant farm.

Return the gowns to the graduation coordinator immediately after the ceremony to make sure you get your deposit back. When you choose to use the word "truth," always use it with the indefinite article, "a" rather than the definite one, "the." Something about sunscreen but I'll be damned if I remember what. I learned the truth from Lenny Bruce and all my wealth won't buy me health. Be an exclamation, not an explanation.
-bill kenny

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Story Best Left Untold?

Walking through a parking lot yesterday, I passed a Chevy of some kind (I think) with Connecticut tags wrapped with a chrome frame with black lettering inset that, above the plate, read: "Sexually Deprived" while below it, "For Your Security and Protection."

I had walked perhaps three full steps beyond the car when my brain managed to make my legs stop as it finally processed what my eyes had told it and I walked back to take a second look. Yep, that's what it said.Would that there had been nothing more, both I and Edgar Allan might have been content, but no.

On the back window shelf, facing whomever would be following the car, was a stuffed brown and white toy bear, maybe ten inches high or tall, wearing a red negligee and black racing goggles. Looking again at the car (tearing myself away from the Teddy in a teddy was an herculean struggle) I realized the car's tires had four different rims, not wheel covers, as well. If the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse decide to use the HOV lane, I have a funny feeling I've just spotted the vehicle.

I've spent a great deal of time between then and now pondering all of this, and not just because my life is surprisingly empty (not to anyone else but to me, constantly). I'm looking for an explanation that would, in turn, lead me to a conclusion as to meaning and I have to tell you, I have nothing. Nichts, Nada, Zip.

I'm left to wonder if it's part of a postcard from a brave new world tomorrow or just more roadkill on the human highway. I fear it's a whole lot of nothing and a little bit of everything.
-bill kenny

Thursday, June 14, 2012

So That's What It's All About

Don't know what your Saturday looked like but mine was devoted to walking to downtown Norwich over the that-away direction of the Sweeney Bridge to the Regional Intermodal Transportation Center for the grand opening of a facility planned since almost the moment my family and I arrived in Norwich.

Not that I'm suggesting cause and effect because, as you'll see when you read the comments to the news article in one of the newspapers, there are plenty of Hottentots and Forget Me Nots willing and eager to blame anyone at anytime for anything. That's sort of how we roll around here and if you think that's a heaping helping of pretty screwed-up you won't be surprised when I tell you that a lot of us already know that. (I love the pseudonymic coward who vows to urinate and defecate to christen the new facility. What a charmer!  "GovIsTooBig"'s Mom would be so proud of (assuming she knows how to read.))

Anyway, that's what I did (okay, and spar with nit-wits). Perhaps you went grocery shopping or one of your kids is close to graduating (from something, anything) and the moment was opportune to pick up a present. Or maybe you had a rough week and chose to sleep in. He who hesitates is lunch, my brother, which explains those mayonnaise stains on your socks.

But it wasn't that way for everyone. Nope, not in Poughkeepsie at the Walkway Over the Hudson where by the dawn's early light a new Guiness Book of World Records was set for the most people at one time to be dancing the hokey-pokey. I still think the slide show should have been designed to present all the imagery the way you actually do the hokey-pokey: you put your right slide in, you take your right slide out and you shake it all about, lather, rinse and repeat. You can't have everything but as long as it's synchronized it counts, says Guiness' Judge Danny Girton, Jr., in making it official that 2,569 folks shaked and turned themselves about somewhere over the Hudson if not over the rainbow.

No idea how many were FOD, but I'm sure as the sun hit the waters of the Hudson there were rainbows and ribbons for every hokey and pokey alike. It was the most colorful thing that you've seen.
-bill kenny      

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

We Should Be in the Company of Angels

When you have a history of 350 years plus as a city, you show your age and that's not always a bad thing. When you go out walking, there are streets on which you can still see the outlines of the cobblestones beneath the blacktop on the edges where the curbstones have worn away.

Elsewhere, walking through Franklin Square on your way to Burnham you don't so much see the trolley tracks as somehow feel their presence and if you've lived in Norwich for more than twenty-five minutes you've heard the stories about Abraham Lincoln's stay at the Wauregan Hotel.

Thinking of Lincoln is a good idea starting tomorrow, Flag Day, as The Rose City transforms into the Bell(e) of the Ball in preparation for January 1, 2013, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Tomorrow morning at 8:30, the Bell Foundry on Wheels of the Verdin Company arrives in Howard T. Brown Park direct from Cincinnati, Ohio, with a Patriot Guard Escort. The Foundry will have a busy weekend.

Throughout the day there are all kinds of family activities including flag ceremonies (and explanations of customs and etiquette) as well as educational events sponsored by the Norwich Area Veterans Council to include the Boy Scouts as well as the Young Marines and other groups. 

Friday is Native Heritage Day and an opportunity throughout the entire day to attend demonstrations and educational events conducted by various Native American tribes from across the region. The Verdin Mobile Foundry will be completing preparations for the casting of the 250 pound commemorative bell being poured Friday night. The bell pouring ceremonies will begin with music and speeches; spectators will, I suspect, be able to tell them apart easily, starting at five with the actual bell casting happening in the early evening.

There's also an opportunity to get even more close up with our American history as tours of the Amistad Freedom Schooner will be offered all day, on both Friday and Saturday, beginning at eleven. The Amistad America is not only a reminder of the Amistad slave revolt incident of 1839 but also symbolizes the universal struggle for freedom.

And that yearning for freedom, an integral part of our American heritage, will be celebrated all day Saturday, which is also Juneteenth Day, commemorating the announcement in Texas in 1865 of slavery's abolition. In addition to a wide variety of exhibits and demonstrations in Howard T. Brown Park, there will be a walking tour of Norwich's African-American Downtown history.

Encamped on the Norwichtown Green will be re-enactors of the 8th and 14th Connecticut Regiments offering soldiers' lives as they were 150 years ago at Camp Aiken where the volunteers mustered and trained before marching south to preserve the Union and end slavery. Shortly before six there will be a parade from Brown Park to Norwich City Hall capped by the presentation of "The Norwich Freedom Bell" and the laying of the cornerstone for the Freedom Bell Tower in front of City Hall.

This will be an active and busy three days, as Norwich welcomes guests from across the state and throughout the region for history and heritage celebrating both where we have been and where we are heading as we let freedom ring, again and for all.
-bill kenny   

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Expecting Me to Remember

Timing is everything and if I wait until tomorrow to do this, she'll probably be at the beach, just leaving for the beach or returning from the beach. Tomorrow is my mother's birthday and when you live in Florida because you hate the snow of New Jersey that's how you roll.

My mom married my Dad shortly before she celebrated her twenty-third birthday and was my mother before she was twenty-four. She lived with and loved a man who loved her and all of us very much but didn't how to say it or show it. She could hear it and see it and that's all that really needed to count.

When I was a kid she was my intermediary in every transaction with my dad-walking a fine line between a proud man and a headstrong son who were so alike they couldn't see the forest for the family tree. She negotiated not only safe passage for me to adulthood but for all of my brothers and sisters to include the youngest three for whom she was all the parent they were to have at a critical point in their lives when Dad died.

My mother is not a sweet old lady-she is a tough broad who has stared into the maw of terrifying illnesses and diseases and never blinked. She doesn't meddle in the lives of her children or those of her grandchildren but when you ask her for advice, you get it with the bark off. When you buy a ticket from Joan, "Joanie" as her younger brother Jim always called her, you get the whole ride.

It was about four years ago, a bit more I guess, when we all traveled to Maryland, or Delaware, I've lost track, so our Mother could bury her brother, having already buried her youngest brother Paul half a lifetime earlier, and her other brother John and her older sister, Ann. It's just Mom and her sister Claire, and John's widow, Marion-The Girls, and it's always go time with the three of them.

Whenever I call her at the holidays, be it Christmas or Mother's Day, she's on beach time. Hell, I could call her on Two for Tuesday's at Hannafin's and she'd be calculating high tides at the beach which is on the other side of the road from where she lives. I promise her someday we'll get down to see her but I am my father's son and she knows that won't happen and she's okay with it.

I'll spend a great deal of time tomorrow trying to get her on the phone and when she answers she'll be surprised that I called as she always is even though I always do. Some Moms are frozen in a moment and others seize the day and live every moment of it and more. Happy Birthday, Mom. Life's a beach.
-bill kenny          

Monday, June 11, 2012

Feets Don't Fail Me Now

I'm going to start sleeping with my sneakers on, in case I get caught short. About a month ago, I fractured my right ankle, walking around the block after dinner (because walking is good for your health) and I have a brace the doctor has scared me into wearing at all times except when I'm sleeping. That I got hurt while I was doing something good for myself suggests there is a God and S/He has a sense of whimsy as wide as North Dakota is interesting. Perhaps more.

Anyway, a couple of weeks afterwards, I had a blockage in a leg artery removed in a more acute setting than my insurance carrier preferred and that means a lot of correspondence back and forth and, I'm sure, less than cordial telephonic exchanges and possible unkind references about one another's mothers (not a good idea in my case as Mom will beat your behind clear off your body) before it's all settled in some form or other.

I have enough other stuff, professional and private going on right now that I don't need a lot of head-noise and could use some good news. Yesterday morning I decided to make my own. While you were on your way to church or, more likely, to a tee-time, I was at the still-so-new-it-has-that-new-artificial-surface-smell-to-it track at the private-public (but really private when push comes to shove) high school a three minute walk from our house. It's even closer if you run and feels even gooder if, when you run, there's no pain at all.

To make sure, I ran two laps around the track-not consecutively (Mom raised crazy children, not stupid ones and  I do have six decades on the odometer) as I haven't done any running for any reason in decades, and certainly not at anything approaching a world record pace. But since I figure I haven't been able to walk/run at all without pain for the last half a decade or so, it went pretty well considering.

We had a lovely day weather-wise and, as I mentioned, with most of the planet either in a pew or approaching a second shot about a hundred and ten yards from the pin, I didn't have to worry about being embarrassed because, truth to tell, I am one of those morons who, when he stumbles and gets hurt, is more concerned at who might have seen me make a fool of myself than in whether I have sustained an injury. Even when all that's hurt is my pride, I'm in pain.

So far, nothing feels awful or painful. I got up this morning expecting twinges if nothing else as if I'd put the legs on upside down but nothing. I still look like a little old man when I see my reflection, but I'm starting to slow the inexorable decline down just a little bit. Rediscovered an old friend yesterday, Richard Thompson,  "The dusty road will smell so sweet paved with gold beneath my feet. And I'll be dancing down the street when I get to the border." There's the signpost up ahead...
-bill kenny          

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Daylight or Headlights?

This time last week I had pretty much gotten over the surgical intervention I underwent the previous Wednesday. I'm not so sanguine about the outcome of the next encounter.

I underwent a stent emplacement in my left thigh because I had a 95% arterial blockage plaguing me for an indeterminate amount of time (I say for years but I don't have letters after my name unless b.o.z.o. are short for something). I had none of the hard work or heavy lifting as some amazing people made short work of a problem they assured me was 'routine.' Not for me.

And seemingly not for my insurance carrier who shared via letter yesterday they are not authorizing inpatient treatment or surgery, of a procedure that has now happened ten days ago. "It appears the procedure and the post-operative care of your condition could be safely performed in a less acute setting..." I think that's 2012  insurancespeak for 'payment is a matter between the physician and the patient.' I may yet learn the truth of physician heal thyself.

I am supposed to see him this Friday so he can see for himself the progress and explain the next steps in the recovery journey. I now imagine I'll be getting in a lot of steps patrolling roadsides for discarded bottles and cans to redeem the deposit. I don't think I've ever seen a coin operated scalpel before but I'll bet I shall in the real immediate future.

I was teasing people last week I hoped to be healed in time for the fall auditions of So You Think You Can Dance. I suspect I'll be soft-shoeing for whichever network has the show with the biggest cash prizes. I can't hardly wait to find out what it will cost me to have worn a gown with no back for a day and a half in a building full of strangers and nowhere else to look. I'm happy I didn't catch cold-the insurance probably wouldn't pay for that either unless the remedy is homeopathic.
-bill kenny        

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Weaker but Not Meeker

I was raised a Roman Catholic and had the hat trick: Baptized, Communioned, Confirmed. Didn't manage to check off the Married box because I incorrectly answered the chaplain's quiz in Germany: "Is your intended a Catholic?" 'No, Father.' "Are you thinking of converting her?" 'Why? She already operates on 220 volts.'

How surprised would I be meeting The Lord at the Heavenly Ice Breaker to learn He was a Protestant or perhaps a Jew or a Moslem? And He says 'meh' when I ask about the One True Faith? Huh? Who and how could anyone forget the Crusades and so quickly?

If I am made in the image and likeness of God, as the Baltimore Catechism explained all those years ago, that would mean, God looks like me, unless He looks like you. And if you're a woman, that means He is a She. Oh dear, that could be awkward because here on earth the Church of Peter has hit a rough patch when speaking with women. Yankee Doodle Dandy that I am, I should also note that this happens mostly with American women (with apologies to Burton C.).

It's probably not political and possibly not personal. It might not even be biological. Or is it? I only mock because I can. The Vatican seems impervious to my scorn and indifferent to my joy. My best and worst days look exactly the same to it because it is so large a collective that to care about any one parishioner, except in the abstract, is nearly impossible. Unless or until we disagree with it and then you realize the first time round, there was no comedic relief.

Ask Sister Margaret Farley because she is an expert on what happens when you disagree with the Vatican (Hint: Nothing good). As someone who wouldn't know the Apocrypha from Acapulco (except for the teeny-tiny swim trunks) I've always wondered if Jesus came back today, would He find a home among the prostitutes and publicans as described by the New Testament or would He be hanging with His homefries in the Curia? More importantly, theologically speaking, would it be Red Box or NetFlix? Any other questions?
-bill kenny

Friday, June 8, 2012

Krebs oder Cholera

I have attempted in recent years as America's two major political parties have taken turns going off the rails-I think it's the party of Lincoln's turn (again; hope you saved those Goldwater/Miller campaign posters) to draw out Republican friends who are now 'conservative' (and yet don't practice recycling) on their assessment of the chances of The Rail Splitter being admitted into the party tracing its lineage back to him.

I am being ironic, to a degree, but since Faux News' Sean Hannity hasn't yet reported on metals, precious and otherwise, the concept escapes them. Their loss, as I'm here for my own amusement most days. I must point out they are surprisingly (to me) comfortable in their desire to be right rather than be President and I'm fervently hoping, come Election Day, that remains the case.

The Democrats are such a train wreck, one is tempted to look away but I have no idea what happens when you're not watching them, as their bad behavior when we are watching is astounding. I don't mean just their morality--what kind of boob sees the outcome of the John Edwards trial as a victory? And do we mention Anthony Weiner and his well, you know what or Charles Rangel and his elastic ethics? They are, however, and however flawed, closer to being 'The Big Tent' their-across-the-aisle colleagues were when I was a kid.

Today's Republican party has purged itself of its Nelson RockefellersCharles PercysBill Scrantons, John ChafeesEdward BrookesClifford Cases, Millicent Fenwicks and Peter Freylinghausens (those three, I'm proud to say, are Jerseyans with Case a fellow Scarlet Knight ) and is about to push Olympia Snowe onto an ice floe and cheer while shouting 'good riddance.' If Mitt Romney is too liberal for your base, as a wiser and hairier creature concluded many years ago, it's probably time for new head gear.

Earlier this week my brother Adam, known in some parts of the Kenny Klan as 'Finally! A Son with Brains!' offered his own Election 2012 Prayer of Assisi. As a statement of intent, it's a fine place to start and an even better place to end up. We won't, because we love the dirt and the hurt and shame on us.

We have two plus wars bleeding us dry, literally and figuratively-an economic recovery that may well have been designed by the Terrier sitting in the Wheelbarrow out of the Monopoly game with a concomitant concentration of wealth and power last seen just before the French Revolution, and just as obscene. I suspect the futures market for knitting needles is at all-time highs and nobody at Smith-Barney has any idea why.

So let's see how close we get to calling Romney the "M" word and Obama the "N" word. I still think if the President inserts an apostrophe between the first and second letter of his last name, he's looking at a five point bump in the polls. As for Mitt, short of dragging out a brother named Bat and a cousin Glove, you have to dance with the one that brung ya.

The Lincoln-Douglas debates set a standard, since then we've had Laurel and Hardy, as well as Stiller and Meara. We are selecting the most powerful person on earth, NOT electing the next Prom King, and if  we don't start to realize this we'll pass from the stages and pages of history faster than we may already be doing.

We get the government we deserve-sounds more ominous than optimistic. There's just so many times we can dodge that bullet and this November we may find out we've exhausted our good fortune. Stop voting for bumper stickers and voice bytes (yeah, I mean Linda McMahon and all the flying monkeys like her)-insist on debates of meaning and merit. Each of us, our time, our talent and our treasure, is worth the world-make the man who wishes to be our next President treat us with the respect and intelligence we have earned.
-bill kenny

Thursday, June 7, 2012

One Less Ray of Hopefulness

Ray Bradbury, 91, died yesterday. His passing leaves our universe just a little smaller. He was a literary force of nature to such a large extent that it's only in reading his obit that I was forced to remember he was so many other people and all of those jobs were so much more important not just to him but to the world.

He was the husband of Marguerite “Maggie” Susan McClure for fifty-six years (!) until her death in 2003 and father to four daughters, Susan Marguerite, Ramona, Bettina and Alexandra and grandfather of eight.

Yesterday's reports were filled with discussions of his work but he was so much more than his work as multitudinous and brilliant as they were (read this-you already have-but read it today). And yet, because so many of us have a 'favorite' Bradbury story (such as the one in the previous sentence), adding them all together, in a way, extends and expands his scale and scope. I suspect, based on everything I've ever read by him and about him he would have little of the sentiment and none of the logic of this at all.

I am another traveler on the Big Blue Marble who never met him but who was touched by his work and in particular one story from his marvelous-beyond-words collection of short stories, Martian Chronicles. It was the only one I ever read aloud to my children when they were very small and we all lived in Germany a long time ago. I doubt they remember it-it was a very long time ago.

Because I found it to be so achingly sad I used to read it in English though they spoke only German so that they wouldn't be sad, too. They would laugh loudly in delight at the variety of voices I would have to concentrate to use and all the sound effects I would have to attempt to capture the atmosphere and poignancy.

That was the trick I used to not be too sad, all the mechanical work of reading aloud to my captive audience with words not my own. They would clap happily when, after reading the last line, I would snap the book quickly shut, startling them even though we did it every night. I'd kiss them goodnight, sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and turn out the tischlampe. Dunkel night-time would descend.

I thought of that moment-I had no will of my own, actually, the memory simply arrived, when I saw the news brief of his passing. I'm sorry Mr. Electrico's magic spell wore off before the wonder-Live Forever.We could do worse than to try.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Edifice Complex

Saturday morning at eleven it's the dedication of the Intermodal Transportation Center, ITC, a building whose construction was awaited nearly as long as that of the Second Coming and whose location has only been slightly less contentious.

We seem to think in snapshots in Norwich rather than in sequences. We have isolated moments rather than shared memories and almost all of them are tied  to what I call the Single Building Theory. For the twenty years my family and I have lived here, there has been a series of brick and mortar projects, many of them in what I call downtown and others call Chelsea, that are assumed and presumed to be endowed with magical powers to attract people in large numbers and return Norwich to a position of prominence and prosperity last enjoyed in the early Sixties.

I hate to harsh the buzz of that glow but less than 30% of all of us who live here now have any idea what Norwich was half a century ago. But what we are now is what we were then and even then there seemed to be a sense of 'just one more building and we'll turn the corner.' So instead of creating a cohesive and coherent vision of what we want our city to be, we have concentrated on one-off construction projects that we believe, with no facts in evidence and even less of a plan, will somehow kick start perhaps the Age of Aquarius.

Meanwhile, Monday night, we watched our current City Council, the one less than 15% of us could be bothered to turn out and vote for, wrestle with another annual operating budget that documents all too eloquently the philosophic and economic bankruptcy of planning the way a horse runs-one foot fall ahead.

No one is happy with the concentration of property taxes on private individuals instead of broadening the taxable base with commercial growth because that growth is not happening. And it doesn't happen because despite changes in the cast for a generation and more Norwich has been the same movie.

The part of the Wauregan Hotel in the Renaissance of Downtown may, in the coming weeks, be played by the Reid and Hughes Building Restoration. Every project in Norwich has a twin from the Otis Library to the Haymarket Building-from Dodd Stadium to the Ice Rink. Wonderful individual efforts without any collective impact.

If the ITC is to be anything other than a parking garage where buses pause on their way to elsewhere, it's what we do after the dedication on Saturday that's vastly more important than anything leading up to it. For those who are still angry 'it's not in downtown,' you're right, it isn't; so what are we going to do? Continue to waste time having the same old argument or can we lean and look forward to not only what's next but what comes after what's next?

Is there a way to leverage the flow of visitors through the ITC to attractions at Thayer's Marine, or the Marina and beyond? We have the Farmer's Market and Rock the Docks starting soon, what else can we pilot this summer to see if it's robust enough to attract visitors to and through the fall?

We should map, measure, monitor and adjust whatever the plan ahead is to look like and remain agile when change is required. And it will be because the only constant in life is change. Otherwise, if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten. Welcome to Norwich. Still Revolutionary? That's yet to be determined.
-bill kenny                

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Blink and You'll Miss It Theatre

Last week, just me, or did it look like the Zombie Apocalypse was upon us. Paranoid, suspicious old man that I am, I still cannot buy in on these conspiracy theories making the rounds. To me, all of the hullabaloo is just easier to explain as 'crazy from the heat' although if you're reading this in Baffin Bay, that's perhaps a bit more of a stretch than you can make without hurting yourself.

Speaking of which-and this is a gruesome and grotesque story, but it's so compelling you can probably overcome the off putting elements easily, this headline jumped out yesterday at mid-morning. I was able to resist the temptation to stop work on my defining treatise, "We Are Everybody We've already Met and Some We Haven't" for nearly ten minutes before scurrying to the CNN site and reading the initial news report.

I'd have tuned to Fox News, which would have made my friend Dave smile, but their writers hadn't figured out a way to blame the story on President Obama. Yet. Glenn Beck gets in at three and will fix everything-he's already fixed the news. Besides their news crayon was worn down to a stub from the weekend. If it's of any consolation, I used the link from USA Today a national daily newspaper by and for people who hate to read newspapers.

Y'know how someone always says 'it takes all kinds to make a world?' Nobody is saying that about Luka/Eric/Vladimir or whatever he's calling himself. I cannot imagine the USPS is hoping for any form of a promotional tie-in to boost use of their facilities and I imagine the porn industry, with challenges to its existence through on-line sites doesn't appreciate having done for it what Ryder got from Tim McV.

Much like any aberration shared in the media and already part of the scenery, we'll spend inordinate hours attempting to explain the inexplicable in the belief, if not hope, that by thus naming the Strange we won't have to turn and face it. It's not until the next inevitable confrontation we'll concede the actual reason we fear these monsters is because we are these monsters. Koo-koo-ka-choo.
-bill kenny 

Monday, June 4, 2012

And I Do Believe in Miracles

I hope the week, filled with not only the work ahead, but the work that accumulated last week while I was away, is a bit less eventful than the last seventy-two hours have been. I work hard to forget there are a huge number of us on a relatively small orb and that while we sometimes think we are saying 'so long,' we are sometimes saying 'good bye' and never realizing the difference until it's too late.

On Saturday evening, via Facebook, I remade the acquaintanceship of someone of whom I had last thought about twenty-seven years ago and whose circumstances now are truly an underscoring of what my Mom always calls 'there but for the grace of God goes I.' He lives many hours from me now, on the same side of the Atlantic but I can't imagine we'll be shoe-shopping together anytime soon since all we really ever had in common was where we worked and now we don't have that.

Truth to tell, I was both surprised to see a request from him and also touched that he sought to contact me. However, I wasn't surprised, looking at his profile, to see he had scads of not only FB friends but flesh and blood ones as well that I, too, know but who would never contact me. Perhaps for him I'm the parable.

Someone whom I first met while toiling in the rock and roll circus shared a song she rescued from a nearly lost  memory entrusted to audio tape that she posted to youtube. She had a moment in the late seventies/early eighties and then the planets realigned, record company politics changed or we, the listeners, went somewhere else and I ended up with some great pieces of vinyl and a bunch of 'I wonder what happened to' questions.

The song she posted reminds me of a snowflake. If you hold  it too long and try to parse it, it will melt in your ear-but it is a thing of beauty and I hope if you choose to listen to it, you'll enjoy it and remember it's just another facet of a very expansive body of work has she assembled and produced in extremely challenging situations. She is but another chapter in the story of my life whereas I am less than a footnote in hers, which is just as well. I continue to be impressed by the size of the library and while I'll never read or meet all the tomes on the way to the tombs, it's a comfort to know they are there.
-bill kenny      

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Beginnings and Endings

While I was busy learning a happy dance last week after successful surgery, halfway around the world a friend I've never met, nor now shall I, was organizing his exit. I don't really have the words to capture the courage and class he has shown.

About a year and a half ago I heard via Facebook (where else?) from someone who listened to a radio show I did a very long time ago on another continent in vastly different circumstances. I had always been aware, at the abstract level, there were listeners (sometimes they showed in places and with faces I never quite got used to), but it was all long ago and it was far away and so much different than it is today.

His note was very kind and humbling for someone who has rarely been accused of modesty (and with the stunning lack of talents and abilities it's quite a stretch to be egotistical). He had been a former GI (US forces active duty) who had married local color, as had I, and stayed on in Germany working for a private sector company, sort of like Red and Christine. He had been dabbling in blogging and had a site that he has since switched over and reinvented as an intensely personal place. Because of differences in philosophy and geography, he often offered a different perspective on world events than I might have otherwise had the chance to learn about.

After we first reconnected, we spent a lot of time typing at one another but, as is so often the case, after a while the workaday crowded out the 'us' and the visits became shorter and the silences longer. I would have very likely eventually seen his May 16 entry, and the ones leading up to it but not for a couple of weeks, if not longer as it's about to get excruciatingly stupid in my life. He doesn't have the luxury of time to wait for remedial readers.

One of us is rapidly arriving at the place where the road and sky collide and it will not be a gentle good-bye as I have some experience with what he is, and will be, going through. Grace under pressure is, I think, the greatest of all character attributes and one that I know Curt Sherwood, whose nom de plume is Tony Forest, has in abundance. He will need it and your prayers, if you're so inclined.

"To the fields we are scattered/From the day we are born/To grow wild and sleep rough/Till from the earth we are torn. And a soul that is free/Can live on eternally/And the spirit can live on/Though it's scattered in the world beyond."
-bill kenny        

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sharp Dressed Man

This was a good week. I learned something and not necessarily what you think I did. I learned, well after the fact (technically in the ride back home from the hospital on Thursday) the attempt at angioplasty didn't work-the balloon didn't go up so to speak and that's when the medical team put the stent in. I thought the object of the exercise along had been to do that, but that was actually Plan B-and when they needed to pull it out and run it, they did and it worked.

But that wasn't what I learned. And while I had stir fry and liked it. learning that I liked stir-fry was also not what I learned. After the stir-fry I thought I deserved a treat for having completely failed to notice anything happening in the Operating Room after speaking with Darcy, the nurse, about bamboo as an invasive plant how asparagus made your pee smell (she's a nurse and knows these things) and with Mike, the X-ray technician, who'd been to the Mystic Seaport and sort of knew where I lived.

My after-dinner reward, I decided, was to be chocolate pudding but then guilt kicked in and so I ordered the sugar-free one. Bleech! Oh Lord, it was awful. I only took a  second spoonful because my brain refused to believe my mouth when it reported the hand with the spoon was trying poison me. Yeah, sugar-free chocolate pudding-not a good idea but also not what I learned.

It came to me very early on Thursday morning when I realized I was 'through the night' and all still where I had been placed the afternoon before so I knew I would be going home. I realized I would be moving gingerly because of the various visible and less than visible holes that had been punched in me so it would take me about five hours to get dressed. But that's not what I learned either.

What I learned was that I felt like a human being again right after I put my underpants on. I had spent thirty-six hours (indulge me, okay?) or so in a shapeless sheet with a flimsy (and in my case broken) tie back with a slit down the middle of the gown so that I was a walking peep show. I realize the people who work in the hospital are used to seeing the human body (in all of its variations) but I didn't find it funny that a guy in an orange jacket waving a flag walked in front of me when I came down the hallway.

But the second I slipped on my underwear, The Kid was back! It was like my super power had been returned as my self-confidence was off the scale. And no one said anything about the My Little Pony figures on the fly and on the butt. Clothes make the man so if you want to prolong the Arab Spring, drop some Dockers on Yemen-flat cut, not the pleated ones.    
-bill kenny  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Slapstick

I was just the right age when I read Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, and loved it. It was of a piece with Joseph Heller's Catch-22-both written about one war by those facing the prospect of being in a different one. I was a student of Rutgers College at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and had registered for the draft (it was that long ago, the USA had compulsory service) with the Selective Service Board on Banta Place in Hackensack because they had a HUGE pool of eligible men available for conscription and if I worked it right, absolutely no need for a college-boy pussyfooter like me. Hi-Ho.

I had been in school my whole life to that point and saw no need, Vietnam War or no, for me to stop. Just to make doubly sure I wasn't rudely interrupted, I enrolled in the campus' Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Yep, I was a ROTC Nazi as we called ourselves when no one was listening. In addition to a 2-S (student) draft classification, it gave me a second draft deferment, 2-D (studies in the national defense). All I got out of two years in ROTC was college pals who hated me for being a fascist and instructors who hated me for being a college student. Guess how many of both with whom I still I exchange Christmas card. Hi-Ho.

It was in a different life that I read Vonnegut's Slapstick, actually two different lives, his and mine. A lot of people have gone out of their way since it was published to say how awful it is and I, in that same spirit, am going out of my way to not provide a single link to any of those reviews because those people are whiny crybabies and utterly wrong. Hi-Ho.

The Kurt Vonnegut of SH Five had no choice but to write "or Lonesome No More!" I had even less choice in deciding to read it. I've given you links to three superlative books of the latter part of the previous  century, a time when a great many people were working on a great number of marvelous things. I wasn't among them. Don't say you got nothing out of reading this, because now you have and be grateful there isn't a pop quiz on American Lit. Hi-Ho.

For lunch everyday I ate a sandwich with a slice of yellow American cheese between two pieces of white bread. No mustard, no mayonnaise or condiment covering of any kind. I fancied myself a thinker rather than a doer but I was little more than a skin-covered doorstop with hair and paisley shirts (even when no longer fashionable). I was afraid of living and I still am, but I have found something else to now fear as well and even more, dying. Hi-Ho.

Ideally, you would never read this. It was intended  to be a placeholder in the blogging machine in case there'd been a bump in the post-operative road. No chance. I was released from the hospital yesterday, exactly as I understood the conversation two weeks ago the doctor thought he was having with me but his words washed over me and swept me downstream beyond the coastal shoals. I came home after my release at mid-morning, slept for a few hours started to work on this and realized a hospital, any hospital, is the world's worst place to get some rest and stretched out again to sleep. I'll rejoin my life, already in progress, but tomorrow, poor player that it is, seems a damn sight easier to do it than today. Hi-Ho.

If something had gone awry, this epistle would be more than a little awkward, but only for me and certainly not for any length of time either of us could comprehend. For you, I'd be another roadside attraction (with hair) you passed everyday but who, by tomorrow, would have been the 'I wonder what happened to that somebody that I used to read?' question. (Name is after the dash.) Walked off the Earth perhaps or, fearing coercive consensus,jumped. Hi-Ho.
-bill kenny