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Sunday, March 31, 2013

There's a Light

Today is Easter Sunday. If you are observing the holiday either in one of its festive mutant variants or in a more religious vein, best wishes to you and yours. Me and mine, or just me really as my better half tends to live in the moment, celebrate today differently than most (if you place an "i" before the "st" in "most" it looks really goofy. Trust me on this one.) but celebrate a little bit we always do.

Thirty-six years ago today (okay, not today today, but today, Easter Sunday) I asked a young German woman I was awfully sweet on, Sigrid Schubert, to marry me. For historians everywhere, the sole point of note is that she said "yes.". Back when I asked her in 1977, Easter was the third of April (and even though I was in US Air Force, I had far more hair on my head than I do now, so not everything gets better with age).

Sigrid told me later she had at first feared I was breaking up with her-perhaps I should enter one of those poker tourneys if I can bluff like that, except in reality, I have the emotional range of Rainman in a coma, so I should be grateful she held on and waited for the ride to get to....

...Here. Where she and I are now is, in some respects, not all that far from where we started.
Material conditions have changed-we had a two room cold-water walk-up off a bus line in Offenbach am Main a 'small' German city with more people in it than who lived in ALL of New London County, Connecticut when we arrived here in the fall of 1991.

Our home today is across the street from a landmark green space in the city of Norwich, Connecticut, an industrial-revolution-meets-the-American-Revolution type of town found so often in New England. That we are here, and will be very likely for the rest of our lives, isn't/wasn't part of either of our visions of our future,  proving again life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

Our wedding rings have both the date of our engagement (technically, that anniversary is Wednesday coming) as well as that of our wedding. I've stopped taking my ring off aside from that 'testing to see if I can still do it' drill I go through at random moments-and I mention that because I don't like jewelry and aside from my medical alert USB drive shaped like a bracelet, I don't wear any. My wedding ring is an unwavering constant, not that I need the reminder.

We were, with apologies to Erich Fromm, a coalition of two against the world from the beginning. I'm not comfortable with new people, taking forever to warm up to them-with the exception of the two who joined our lives, our children. We were three and then became four and then three again and eventually we'll be back to just two, which is where we started and I am with the person with whom I am most comfortable in the entire world of seven billion plus people.

For me, Sigrid is like breathing out and breathing in, though I have given her many moments where the thought of applying a pillow to my sleeping face must have crossed her mind (so much for breathing). Actually, that's fair-more than fair if I were to be honest and this is as good a day as any to do that.

I usually spend this day examining where we've been and where I hope we're going but this day, and this time, I'm enjoying more of the where we are and what we have, which as it has been for all these years, is one another. She brightens any room and always brightens my world.
-bill kenny

Saturday, March 30, 2013

End of Daze?

These are some thoughts, or what passes for thought, I had last Easter weekend. I'm not sure I'm any closer to understanding now than I was then and I may even understand less. To my memory they had nothing to do with egg hunts or chocolate or bunnies. However your mileage may vary. I'd say 'consider yourself warned' but far too many of us always consider only ourselves.

I have never been to the Vatican, nor have I stayed at a well-known motel chain, but I know my way around the Stations of the Cross and the Lives of the Saints. I'm always amazed at the number of people who think Christmas is the origin of Christianity-others consider the beginnings to be Easter Sunday.

If the former is The Promise and the latter The Promise Fulfilled-today, Holy Saturday, is the act of faith and hope that defines you as a Christian. The belief in the Resurrection which the New Testament portrays as  the reward for the faithful is never so near and yet so far as it is today.

The earliest disciples had nothing to go on, unlike we of the Brave New World Order. They had witnessed a crucifixion-one of the most egregiously horrific forms of death sentence at its time. Cowering in an upstairs room, huddled together while fearing any sound and every footfall was possibly a signal someone was coming for them, they had no way to see the glory of Easter Sunday. All they could do was believe.

For them to believe as devoutly as they did between the worst day in the history of the world and its greatest day, remains, for me-loyal son of Holy Mother Church, but a FARC  for more years than I care to recall-the day which created the Christian religion, today.

From childhood on, I struggled against the suffocation that surrender to the traditions and the rites seemed to signify. I took no solace in unquestioning and unswerving belief-preferring what I understood the path of Thomas to be and, finding no one who could answer my questions, absenting myself from the body of believers. How odd that this declaration of freedom has never created a sense of being free.

Not that I don't envy those of faith and think about the comfort that comes from that, especially anytime I read another account of another servicemember lost in the flood that has been our facsimile of a Middle Eastern foreign policy for over a decade. We've lost two sons of Norwich in those years, but at the risk of being thought cynical, it's always the same movie, with a different cast. And if the cost of what we are doing, or failing to do, hasn't come to your corner and village or city yet, give it time.

A year ago I was reading  the accounts of the death of Captain Nicholas Rozanski. He came all the way from Dublin, Ohio, to be lost in the fog of war, along with SFC Jeffrey Rieck and SFC Shawn Hannon, on the streets of Maimanah, an otherwise unremarkable spot on a map of a nation we have carried with us as a coward does an abscess for over a decade, unable or unwilling (I can never tell which) to do that which we know we must to conclude that which  we can no longer control.

Captain Rozanski's death should be another reminder to those of us who are alive to redouble our efforts to be the best people we can be in The Now because The Next, as the New Testament illustrates, can be so lonely and uncertain without a reason to believe. Either you have a reason, or you become one for someone else. When you do, every day is Easter.

Friday, March 29, 2013

I Really Didn't Come Here of My Own Accord

As a child at Saint Peter's (sic) School in New Brunswick, New Jersey, it was forcibly impressed upon us by the Sisters of Charity whose charges we were (and for whom many of us became crosses, and yeah, Kelly, I'm talking about you) that there was nothing good about Good Friday.

When we were old enough to mentally and emotionally comprehend the New Testament accounts of the Passion of Christ I couldn't imagine a more horrible way to die. As I grew older if not up and learned more of our species' history and track record in dealing with one another, I realized we could, and often did, behave like a life form beyond any Redemption.

Christmas gets all the ink and Easter all the lilies and chocolate, but Holy Thursday through the sunrise services of Easter Sunday morning are 'go' time for Christian believers. The events and circumstances of Good Friday, the sundering of the curtain in the Temple in Jerusalem (what a great word 'sundering ' is when you're in fourth grade; actually, it's still pretty cool), the forgiveness of The Good Thief, the testimony of the Centurion Longinus at the foot of the cross and a hundred and more sidebars, nuances, and obscured by time and telling points on the biblical accounts always seemed to make Good Friday the most important of the days leading to Easter.

Around the world today, processions and reenactments of the Stations of the Cross at or near three o'clock in the afternoon will cap observances for the faithful and faithless alike leaving them Saturday to recoup and regroup before the Promise is redeemed for saints and sinners all with the light of Sunday morning.
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Waiting for My Sun

It was an early day yesterday for my wife, Sigrid. I was able to rise and shine,or as close as I ever get to the latter, in the oh-dark-thirty part of the morning and get that elliptical trainer gizmo subdued (well, somebody has to do it and I didn't see you offering) and then instead of off to work, heading for the William W. Backus Hospital (or "Willie" as I like to call it when I don't think it can hear me) and same day surgery to repair a torn tendon in her left elbow.

We were at the hospital by a 0600 (6 AM for my fellow Americans) showtime and by 0728 (do the math yourself, My American Cousin (sorry Abe)), Sigrid was being wheeled into the operating room. Thanks to the two Jens, Lisa, Stephanie, Christina, Bob and Dr. S, in a little more than an hour she was in recovery with Crystal and by shortly after ten I had her here, home, again.

After a nap to help make up the sleep deficit for the early start to her day, and a result of some of the pain-killing medication she was given before surgery, Sigrid was nearly her old self by three in the afternoon, telling me what to do like she hadn't had surgery at all. Of course, as I've told her a hundred million kajillion times this is what she gets for poking me in the ribs with her elbow for the last 35 years. I'm hoping for the next three and half decades she remembers to use the other elbow. Know what I mean?
-bill kenny
 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

End of the Innocence

I haven't offered my unsolicited two cents on the Saint Vincent de Paul Place Soup Kitchen temporary relocation into Saint Joseph's School because I can't quite develop the necessary neutral third party perspective for an issue that speaks to us, transcending religion and municipal boundaries at so many levels that much of what is being said now is drowned out by other passionate points of view.

I've read on-line comments about news articles that 'the neighborhood' didn't support Saint Joseph's which closed in June 2010 and there's an element of truth to that assertion, I'm sure. But words and numbers are funny creatures and often behave in ways other than you or I might imagine and what is fact one day is sometimes very different on another.

At the time of its closure Saint Joseph's School was nearly half a million dollars in debt and after parents of the 100 or so children enrolled there had organized fundraisers and crafted a marketing plan to revitalize the finances and rescue their school, the Diocese of Norwich announced its decision to close explaining its belief  that there weren't enough young families in Norwich to continue to support the school.

And for about two years, until last summer, the school sat empty in the middle of the neighborhood it had been an integral part of for over a century. Generations of families had attended Saint Joseph's as had their parents and their parents before them. They were shocked and not a little disheartened when they realized their children would not complete their elementary years there as well.

I have a personal appreciation of the value and virtue of Catholic elementary school. I and my younger sister and brother attended Saint Peter School in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and our three youngest sisters and brother attended Saint Paul School in Princeton. It was not an easy financial decision for our parents but they had a strong sense of value for money and, more importantly, of values beyond money.

Norwich parents devised solutions of their own for their children's education and their lives went on even as the rooms in Saint Joseph sat unused through two falls, two winters and two springs. The Diocese of Norwich itself with a wide range of missions and a broad spectrum of services redoubled its efforts especially as hard times became harder for those with close to nothing and those with less than nothing.

When required repairs at the Soup Kitchen location threatened to halt those services, the Diocese sought and received permission to temporarily relocate to their unused property, Saint Joseph School. Many in the neighborhood and across the city understood the nature and definition of temporary but sometimes words have two meanings and how the situation has developed to where it is we all now know too well.

What is less well-known, at least to me, is where do we go from two intractable and unalterably opposed viewpoints when both sides in a matter that should have NO sides have resorted to name calling and the impugning of one another's character and integrity. Meanwhile those who need help and those who work to offer it must fend for themselves, isolated and alone.

Helping has created injuries, emotional and financial, and casualties among those neighbors who've worked hard for their homes near Saint Joseph School and has in all likelihood rended the garment of community and torn the trust that took generations to develop. Lawyers will clear up all details and court decisions in all likelihood  will settle once and for all what is and what is not legal.

But when all the anger has turned to sorrow, I'm not sure any of us will know or even care who was right and who was left behind.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Putting the Fun in Fundamental

Perhaps because it's Easter Week or, as of sundown tonight, Passover, I've noticed a lot of Facebook Postings either to or about God. Admittedly there are still far fewer pictures of Jesus than of Grumpy Cat, and I certainly don't wish to suggest they are interchangeable images or that anyone is keeping count (but they are, I'm sure). Did you know there is a website (and that should probably be plural not singular) that tells you when Easter Week is in Somalia...in 2028? Oh. Last to know, again.

Anyway, back to the Lord. An important part of may people's faith or the practice of it, better said  I think, is the public testimony and in that sense all the social media platforms offer an opportunity to do that (except maybe myspace; a decade-too-late snarky remark at their expense, sorry).

Expressions of faith always discomfit me. I think that's due to a number of factors like being a Roman Catholic. No matter how good the Good News is, we were programmed as kids in parochial school to wait for the other shoe to drop. And eventually it did. I'm thinking maybe Catholics in general have a less intimate relationship with the Deity than other religions. 

For my part, I was raised in the faith of my fathers and I didn't leave it so much as it left me so there's that sin of pride thing going on, adding to my problems on the Last Day and the Big Pop Quiz or however the final selections are made. (Add to that now the whole 'you compared Jesus to the Grumpy Cat!?!' I'll never explain that away). With my luck, they'll be a sing-off and won't that be just ducky?

I suppose if you believe in an All-Seeing and All-Knowing God, S/He would monitor Facebook. Kind of wonder if S/He would have an account. I know S/He has a fan page though a quick run through gets me to Darryl Davis' rather interesting philosophic and anatomic question (under the picture of the nearly snow-covered car with a testimony on it) that I notice no one rushed to answer or rebut. I did notice no one 'liked' his observation.  

I'm thinking for some of The Flock, the Lord may be a kind of McAfee or Norton virus protection and every once in awhile we like to wander off the beaten path just to watch the pop-up window signal us, and Will Robinson, of impending danger. I wonder how many 'likes' all of the loosely affiliated with Divine Providence pages manage to generate on Facebook in a day or a week and how that number compares to how many people play Farmville? There are Farmville Dollars you know-if you were looking for motivation and salvation in the next life wasn't doing it for you. Just saying. 

I mean, how many times can anyone thumbs up the Mckayla Maroney meme? Jesus is easy.
-bill kenny

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Ray of Light and Grace

This is a sad day for a long-time ally and acquaintance and her family. Her dad, Ray, passed away early yesterday morning, perhaps not entirely unexpectedly but I think more rapidly than anyone else in his family thought would happen.

I met him for the first time about four years ago in the lower level of a pizza restaurant that disappeared some time afterwards and then repeatedly at numerous neighborhood and community functions all across the town where we live, Norwich, Connecticut, in the years since.

He lived in Norwich a very long time with his wife whom he loved very much and their daughter whom, he (correctly) regarded as a force of nature, because she is. I first spoke with him when he stopped in to show support for an insurgent mayoral bid by a candidate whose ideas many people agreed with but whose 'not-from-here' pedigree and unsettling habit of speaking truth to power practically guaranteed no one would elect him. I always enjoyed his stories of what Norwich once was and his keen insights into what it would take to reinvent the city he had chosen to spend his life in.

I sat alongside of him at a presentation one Saturday morning in the conference room of our municipally owned public utility and throughout the entire presentation by the utilities' leadership he kept scribbling notes and questions to himself, barely pausing throughout the entire program.

When it ended, he folded the foolscap up neatly and placed it in his pocket. I asked him what he was intending to do with it and he told me, he'd throw it away when he got home. When I argued that by so doing he had wasted his time, he tilted his head slightly to his right and with a slight smile asked me if I'd read over his shoulder. After I admitted that I had, he assured me, "then it wasn't a waste of my time."

For me he was a bridge between then and what could be. I don't think I ever heard him not applaud an idea he'd hear at any of the meetings he attended-even ideas with which he did not agree. He was insistent that getting people engaged meant encouraging them to think and to speak out whatever their idea might ultimately look like. He sincerely believed you did indeed have to be present for the drawing to win.

He knew all the local movers and shakers, not in a braggy 'these peeps be my posse' kind of swagger way, though typing that and imagining him saying it makes me smile, but, rather, he was a one-man network. If anyone needed assistance on a project or an idea that was just too big for your own two hands, he was the man who knew someone who could help. And because he would ask, help was always forthcoming.

As I said, I didn't know him long, but I made up for it by also not knowing him well. I do know he loved his family and they loved him and that the next few days for them will be a little like dying themselves and that the hole in their hearts will never heal-but their memorys of his smile and his willingness to help will always shine brightly even on the darkest of days.
-bill kenny

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bit Off More than I Could Chew

Volunteered to help out a group of neighbors I'd never met on a project yesterday that more than one person had told me earlier in the week we were crazy (and some more colorful terms) to undertake, clearing out a building in our downtown whose owner is trying to sell it. Quite frankly the cleaning out part was absolutely necessary if he hopes to land a buyer. And I most certainly wish him well on that.

We worked through a two story building which was one too many stories for this guy. Luckily we had a surfeit of younger and stronger arms, backs and legs to get done in short order all that we needed to get done by day's end. I'm learning in my near-dotage that being a resident is pretty easy, get yourself an address and you're in, but being a good citizen is a chore and a half.

I smiled walking back from the project at about half past one, actually it was more of a grimace from aching in places about which previously I have only a notional idea about, and I was gimping instead of walking. I can do stairs-I have the legs of a dancer, admittedly, but the knees require some assembly and lots of up and down take a toll. But as I said, I smiled because it was a tiny step forward in a town I've called home or as close to it as I'm likely to ever again get, for the last twenty-one years.

And enough folks turned out to make the project a success. We didn't argue about who should do what or in what order to do which things. We just jumped in and did and we did good. When I got here I was struck by how many of the people around me seemed to have their eyes or at least their hearts closed to those with whom they shared the city. It's taken a while, okay, more than a while and we're not quite ready yet top get our swerve on but we're getting there.

Thanks for not just making the difference but for being it as well to Joanne, Patti, Jill, Sofee, Maria, Miria, Jackie, Debra, Susan, Beryl, Robert (can't see myself calling you Bob) Jason (don't know how to get the umlaut over the O) Phil, Gerry, Deo, David, a Coastie with the mostie who never said a word, and a few more folks whose names I failed utterly to recall if I heard them at all. I smile and nod and say 'sir ' and 'ma'am' and that seems to work. And yeah, I'm riding the enthusiasm handbrake a little bit-it was, after all only one building and we have a downtown filled with challenges.

If I were  realist I'd concede that perhaps we won't get them all squared away but a decade ago we wouldn't have filled a phone booth on a Saturday in March with people who would have been willing to try. Now, of course, phone booths are relics but we have more than enough folks rolling up their sleeves who are willing to say this is my town.
-bill kenny  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mirror or Window

I make my living in the periphery of the Blue Smoke and Mirrors Machine-at one time I was in broadcast news but discovered the truth was often too situational to be of any lasting value and today's hero was this afternoon's villain.

I decided not only that discretion was the better part of valor but that it also paid better. And as Dylan observed over half a century ago money doesn't talk, it swears. Since I've been told I have a colorful vocabulary, I feel pretty much at home with Benjamins in my wallet and normal hours. Principles are over-rated.

But, like you, I can't be everywhere so I rely on news operations to tell me what they know and I then come to conclusions about what I want to know and how important it is to me. As the years have gone by, however, the pickings have gotten slimmer, Jim, to the point of vanishing before our eyes and ears.

The Pew Research Center released earlier this week its State of the News Media 2013, its annual look at radio, television and newspaper news operations. Again this year, it's expanded its scale and scope to also reflect and ruminate on the role and function of social media platforms in our informational jambalaya.

Read it at your leisure, or ignore it at your  peril. I find it disquieting like so much else we moderns hath wrought. I grow more concerned by the day at how lazy we customers are about where we shop for 'news.' If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, some of us want to know how much a quack it costs.

We cannot or do not tell the difference anymore between talking heads and field reporters and those in the news biz work double-time to make one look and sound like the other. Far too many of us see Bill O'Reilly and/or Rachel Maddow as reporters when they're nothing more than talking heads and if I have to waste a word explaining the difference, you won't get it so I won't bother.

We all have neighbors who, when they read the local newspaper, cannot distinguish between a letter to the editor, an editorial or a news story. Yep, they can't tell one from the other and away we go down the rabbit hole.

And not helping is that news is now a business like it never was at anytime since Joshua went the battle of Jericho, 'and we'll be right back with that report on how the walls came tumbling down after this commercial for Sak-Rete.' What would Fred Friendly and Edward R. Murrow make of the dog's breakfast we have created? They'd probably join Newton Minnow in describing it and we'd ignore the lot of them.

Maybe the most terrifying aspect and I feel that way because it was supposed to be liberating, is the emergence of "new media" a/k/a "social media" or what I call Twitter Twits. The appeal for me as a reader and writer is the platforms are unfiltered but that also means I have an obligation to make sure I clearly tell you what is fact and what is my opinion. I cannot allow you for one moment to lose sight of the importance that you are reading a truth, not the truth, but even that is too much because it's my truth.

When a story from the Galvanize All Babies at Birth Guild and the Associated Press are treated by us, the netizen visitors, as worth exactly the same, it may be too late. And then we wonder how arrive at thoughtless and venal decisions (because we chose to).

It's the weekend and maybe things aren't so frantic. Perhaps after you've finished reading the morning paper (usually takes what? 15 minutes if you do the crossword?) or watch the Happy Talk News on the tube, broadcast or cable (all the anchors really do sort of look the same) you'll have the chance to have a good long read, if you can still rememeber how to do that because right up with listening to one another reading has become a lost art.

I'd feel sorry for us but we've created this world in our image and likeness. We wanted fast food for fast times-check. How about news by people who hate to research and report it for people who hate to receive it?  Double check. That order was to go, right? Coming right up.
-bill kenny

Friday, March 22, 2013

Slaking Our Thirst

Today is World Water Day which sounds like something Fuji or Evian came up with but it is impossibly earnest and deadly serious. We, meaning me as I don't intend to speak for you in matters audacious or aqueous, tend to waste more potable water than drink it every day than most other people around the world would dare to even use in a month.

We turn on the tap, let it run and fill a glass though more often than not we grab a plastic bottle from the fridge because tap water is so declasse, unless folks in bottling plants far away are doing just that and then shipping and selling (to us) their tap water. I am a big fan of capitalism but there's no one we won't f*ck for a b*ck, or so it seems.

Considering every carbon based life form on this planet needs water to survive, you'd think today would be a bigger deal in terms of public awareness and news coverage. It isn't and it won't be, much to the relief of car wash operators everywhere (and don't get me wrong, I love 'em, too, just not every week) industrial farms or a lot of folks west of the Rockies. I know, like it would've killed Hallmark to one lousy card, right?

Potable water isn't only life-sustaining and essential, it's a fundamental human right. And those of us who have it, even if our mouths are on the soda as Peter Gabriel noted decades ago, would do well-actually far better than well-to work to make sure everyone, everywhere has water they can drink. Otherwise the thirst for fairness, justice and human dignity will be overtaken by an unquenchable desire to satisfy one of Maslow's hierarchy of needs at any cost. And that may be a price none of us can pay.
-bill kenny


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sample and Hold

Last Friday, I moved from a somewhat distant 'then' to a point approximating 'now.' My family engineered, and I mean that almost literally, an upgrade from a computer I have used very nearly every hour of every day since late February 2005 with (I think) an Intel II processor and Windows XP (I write all of that like I know what it means; I don't)  for whatever the latest and spiffiest PC is, with a Windows 7 operating system because I'm way too ham-handed and fat-fingered for the touch screen heroics of Windows 8.

I'm thrilled with the speed and the robustness of the platform. If experience is any guide in a month however I'll be sighing about how slow it is, because that's who I am. I'm not Miniver Cheevy but I'm probably related to Richard Cory. I can remember junior year at Rutgers college scrambling for punch cards for upper level courses needed for my degree as the school, part of the Federated University plan the regents of the State of New Jersey had created, went to 'computer registration' and we all ended up hostages of Univac.

The computer (singular definite article deliberate) took an entire wing of Voorhees Hall which was  more or less hermetically sealed for its comfort and certainly nnot for the drones who punched the cards and collated the results all day long. I authored a paper on 'information retrieval services automating the broadcast news room' but no one, me included, ever thought it could or would happen as it came to pass. And now each of us with a smart phone has more computational power in the palm of our hand than all of NASA had when they put a man on the moon.

As it is on earth, some of us are not aiming for the stars but are looking for solutions to challenges that are blacker than the blackest night-the loneliness of the human condition. Disregard the title. It's crass and designed to stop you together with the visual long enough to read three paragraphs and decide if you wish to slog on. The idea that we are alone, together, is so ingrained we don't notice it's oxymoronic connotation. We've adjusted to our circumstances and have donned the face of the Stranger and if it's not Camus' Stranger, that's okay because we probably don't know it anyway.

The article offers a look into a world not unlike the one Bradbury foresaw in There Will Come Soft Rains but this time the absence of pain is joy, and the dearth and death of humanity is in a way, heaven. I found this account frightening perhaps because while I strive to have 'my space' I make sure to not stray too far from shore. And while I want to be left alone, I don't want to be too alone and truth to tell, neither do you.

I found this story ineffably sad because it's impressive the genius as a species we employ and deploy . to not be alone with ourselves, no matter how poor the alternatives. As inadequate and as incomplete as 'an encounter' with one of these personal pleasure towelettes could be or perhaps even is, there is no 'there' in any of this, no inside because every aspect of the transaction is all outside. By design.

What happens in being alone, together, in Love Plus, is actually a failure, drifting through a vast ocean of human(oids) who cannot see or celebrate their unity and union through the ocean surrounding and enveloping them but, rather who are frightened and fated to die in the splendid isolation from which to escape they invented this most perfect of alternative realities, except we've substituted circuitry for dreams and swapped out hearts for hard wire. Disposition, even; mood code, adjustable.
-bill kenny 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pick Your Passion

Tim was already in Howard T. Brown Park when I hiked down Saturday to be one of the Fishermen's Friends clean-up team at another of the popular fishing sites in Norwich. If you didn't know it, and the Harbor Management commission would be sad because they've spoken about it at length, and frequently, Norwich has tremendous opportunities for recreational fishing.

Tim had brought a couple of buckets, a shovel, work gloves and some trash bags, all stored  in the bed of his truck. He also had  a fishing pole, not so much because when you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime but because he and his brother, Mike, who arrived moments later with hot coffee and wisecracks for all within earshot, enjoy fishing the way you or I enjoy breathing.

As they waited to travel to the Greeneville Dam, they each used the pause to get a couple of practice casts in and compare notes with other anglers who were sneaking some reel fun in on a weekend morning where the temperatures were in the low thirties with every intention of staying there.


Tim weighed a quick trip home to get a heavier jacket but Mike assured him  that once they got going on the clean-up, they'd be warm. Practice casting done and some phone calls to other fishermen to alert them to the cleanup location accomplished, the pair headed over in their trucks to one of their favorite spots in Norwich, the Greeneville Dam. They were joined by Jerry Martin of the Harbor Management Commission and his mom (!) who are practiced in the art of clean-up.

I don't fish, not so much out of respect for Nemo or Ariel, but because I never learned how and the few times I went as a child, I didn't catch anything except either wicked sunburn from sitting in an aluminum boat with the sun reflecting off the water or a summer cold that didn't quit until it was time for school to start up again.

As an adult, or as adult as I'm likely to ever get, I've learned helping friends I've never met before on a Saturday not only allows me to feel better about being a city resident but also provides an opportunity to meet neighbors like Tim and Mike, with whom my path would not otherwise cross.

The Greeneville Dam is a recreational area that's a terrific place for many different reasons and every kind of people. It's great for a family picnic,to take your pet for a walk, or to fish and clam (though maybe NOT at the same time). Our trash bags quickly filled with fast-food containers, plastic in all shapes, colors and sizes as well as cans and bottles (some requiring assembly) not to mention a pair of automobile seats and what seemed like miles of tangled fishing line.


All of these discarded items are just the stuff you don't want a family member or a guest encountering when they accept your invite to spend an afternoon at one of the many recreation areas found all across the city. The investment of a couple of hours will benefit visitors to the Greeneville Dam and set a good example for the other areas we'll visit in the weeks and months ahead..

Norwich has many activities and attractions that need some helping hands to offer so much for so many. We have a chance this Saturday morning starting at ten on Main Street as volunteers hope to help empty Harry Lawson’s H & L Shop and clean it up for prospective new owners and tenants. Yeah, I know it’s not your job, and it’s not mine either; but here we are, you and me, with that familiar ‘somebody should be doing something’ and if not us, then who? And if not now then when?  
-bill kenny

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Celebrating Lights over Horns

Stop looking out the window if you live in the Northeastern United States. If this were the end of the world, I'd tell you, I promise. Remember, it's still winter (barely) and we are in New England. This stuff happens and by stuff I mean the word that starts with "S" and ends "T" but doesn't rhyme with "P" and has nothing to do with pool either playing it or swimming in one.

On the other side of our great nation (your mileage may vary-Armageddon is closer than it appears in your mirror, depending on your political perspective) at some point today, I've never understood it to be tied to a clock so much as a calendar, the swallows return to Capistrano. Unless (of course) they are using Apple maps. (HA! Look at me! I made a computer joke, sort of.) Though I can think of a trombone player who doubts any of it happens today, or any other day.

That's as may be. For a lot of people with whom I once had a close (too close for many) working relationship, the birds and Junipero Serra (you thought I meant the shortstop for the Dominican Republic squad at the WBC?) aren't what we associate with the Feast of St. Joseph at all. Though we do have to travel, east not west, to Germany.

Thousands of GI broadcasters for decades worked with two fixtures of the American Forces Network (AFN) Europe, from its days in 'The Castle" at Hoescht (a suburb of Frankfurt am Main) to its long-time residence next door to Hessicher Rundfunk (Hessen State radio (and TV)), a block removed from Miquel-Adickesallee.

Gisela B and Bob M, who shared March 19 as their birthday, travelled two very different paths to Bertramstrasse. Gisela a native of Frankfurt had survived World War II and the desperate days that followed it choosing to work in the schallplatten arkiv (record library) of the amerikanisher soldaten sendung because the Amis, in addition to a weekly pay packet, offered a hot meal at noon as part of the employment package. She never spoke very much about the time after Stunde Null but what she didn't say spoke volumes.

Bob had arrived as part of the bezatzung after the end of the hostilities as a musician. He wore a black beret and I am smiling as I type this because I can still see him in my mind's eye with it at a jaunty angle. He also wore a long, light brown overcoat and a plaid scarf. He was perpetually pre-occupied and there was a gleam in his eye that signaled this incredible appetite for knowledge and a curiosity about everything in the world around him, and I mean everything.

At one point he had worked for a US advertising agency, in Germany and had horror stories about trying to market American brands of cold cereal to Germans for breakfast and how he watched orange juice get poured over corn flakes until he was so put-off he stopped eating breakfast himself.  He explained to me on a very snowy day when the world seemed to be quiet the meaning for those in the advertising game of  "Go West" (see #9) and how he chuckled every time he saw an ad using it for a German cigarette.       

I worked with Gisela and for Bob for much of my time at AFN and could/should/would have learned even more about Germany,  broadcasting and life in general if I had listened more closely to their words and deeds. So tuned was I to WII-FM I often missed the learning that came from their teachable moments. I was in such a hurry that I missed, or nearly did, the whole point to the journey fixating on the destination instead of the view.

They were there when I, and so many others, got to AFN and both  of them said 'farewell' to me while remaining on the staff after my time for coming and going had come and gone. I never thanked them for their kindness and their generosity. There was no hurry-we all had time in the world and our paths would surely cross again. Man proposes but God disposes; our paths didn't cross.

I left Germany and they left AFN and then this world, in that order, many years ago. I cling to my memories of them, most especially Bob who had no family aside from his wife Erica and their dog, Sandy, with a tenacity that tries but fails to assuage my fear that I am the last person on earth who knew of them and should I somehow forget them, they will be gone forever.

At some point, I'll dig out and play, Music Box Dancer by Frank Mills, whom I interviewed and who, at Bob's suggestion, I introduced to Gisela because he knew how much she enjoyed that song and whose smile, upon meeting Mills, lit up what felt like the entire building a very long time ago.
Der gl├╝cklichste von Geburtstagen, ihr zwei!
-bill kenny   

Monday, March 18, 2013

Another Radio- Active Question

I've heard it argued the primary difference between man, the species, and all the other birds and beasts of the earth, is our development of language. Admittedly this would seem to ignore our mastery of tools but perhaps field mice shop in the Home Depot when I'm at work (hamsters drive Kia's while I'm home because I've seen them on TV) so maybe the language advocates have a valid point.

On the other hand based on the comments I read daily in just about any on-line forum, we don't seem to hold grammar or spelling in such high regard. Or one another, come to think of it. What I especially like with language is how it can be used to build bridges but so often creates walls. I'm an elderly married man who should know better than to fall for questions about my wife's wardrobe but I don't, so she helps me out by NOT taking me with her when she shops for clothes because I'll write a check with my mouth that my butt will have to cash.

If you're married or in a relationship (and those two are NOT always the same thing but you knew that, right? See? That's one of those vagaries of nuance that used to trip me up) and your significant other asks "does this (insert name of article of clothing here) make my butt look big?" do not even acknowledge the question. You cannot possibly answer it correctly so look away. Any response is placing your leg in the bear trap. Once in, you can't get away without having to gnaw it all the way off to escape.

And buying single shoes is such a hassle.

I mention all of this because I fell across a story in a recent Huffington Post that is trouble (for guys) from the headline to the deadline. Mull it over for a moment and do as I did: check the room for any easily accessible exits; failing to find any, estimate if you might successfully run through a wall or out an open window to safety. Nothing, right? Then, as discussed, practice your "I'm sorry, what did you say?" response and try to have six to ten variations on it because Jennifer is loaded for bear, my brothers, and the T word I'm thinking of while looking at her is 'trouble' but your guess was good, too.

Remember, we have no opinion on how much body parts should be insured for nor we do wish to even hazard a guess. Ever. You cannot win this my friend so don't even start. And any light-hearted banter about good hands and cupping them will get you the longest weekend on the couch of your entire life, so far. Especially if the couch is in the garage and you don't have a garage. Make your words soft and sweet-because you will eat them.
-bill kenny   

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Information & Entertainment

The 2010 US Census indicated slightly less than 35,000,000 Americans (that's the number with an M, if you blinked and lost your place) claim for themselves Irish heritage. If you're keeping track at home there are slightly less than 5,000,000 Irish in the Republic of Eire.

It has been rumored for decades that the celebrations by the first group are actually audible to even the most cloth-eared of the latter segment of the world's population. If you are observing yourself today perhaps you might wish to pursue the scientific method and check out the premise for yourself. Be warned it will be extremely loud and very drunk almost anywhere you go.

The most devoted to celebrating their Irish heritage among us, to include people who aren't really Irish at all, will have attended early Mass before starting their observances which may, or may not, cease at about the time the whistle blows tomorrow morning to start the day and the work week. God loves Irishmen and the Lord loves a drunk but there's no sense in provoking him by combining them at Mass now is there? See, there are reasonable men among us. Usually they are called designated drivers.

Many hateful, hurtful words will be shared between friends today that will never be forgotten. Fortunately there will be even more that no one will ever remember except in quiet moments and luckily the Irish have far too few of those for anyone to be concerned. The Irish tend to use alcohol to ward off their own sad permutation of Alzheimer's that results in an Irishman forgetting everything but the grudges.

It's thirty-five plus years since I last touched a drop (mainly because it never remained a drop) and I can still recall every single slight, real and/or imagined, to my intelligence and honor from anyone at anytime from anywhere. Yes, like so many, I, too, have Irish Alzheimer's; I forget everything but the grudges. However I don't suffer from it, I revel in it. Today's a good day to remember green means go and do so with dispatch.

"You may bury me with an enemy in Mount Calvary. You can stack me on a pyre and soak me down with whiskey, roast me to a blackened crisp and throw me in a pile. I could really give a shit - I'm going out in style.

"You can take my urn to Fenway spread my ashes all about or you can bring me down to Wolly Beach
And dump the sucker out. Burn me to a rotten crisp and toast me for a while; I could really give a shit - I'm going out in style."
-bill kenny

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Two things that are New Things

As a kid I loved word-a-day calendars. Now my tastes run more to Dilbert and New Yorker but I think that's because as an adult I rarely experience humor in real life so I go looking for it. In reality, it's all around us but so often we're steeped in stupid to such a degree we can't see the size of the self-pity party we're throwing.

Anyway. Thanks to someone I'll never meet but can say with a straight-face "I know" (a web denizen of elsewhere on the internet), made the acquaintance of the word, snollygoster. If you're a Democrat, you've been using the names of Republican congressional representatives and if you're of the Republican persuasion, you've been listing Democratic senators, as descriptives instead of an actual, under-used, real word that's fun to say and leaves a smile on your face. We're talking value for the money there, pilgrim, and I hope now that you know it as well you will use it responsibly and with parental supervision.

I'm not sure Craig Funches is a snollygoster but he's a story that, I am convinced as a lot about we're not knowing at least not yet. I'm incredulous in this day and age that anyone, a 42 year old woman it says here and her teenage son, would allow anyone into their (rental) car but then to add 'and we all went to the Taco Bell (you can't buy this kind of publicity!)' and then afterwards, pulled over and got out of  the rental car to have a discussion on a personal and family matter rather than conduct it in front of the back-seat passenger is just too much for even me to believe.

I am the original wide-eyed kid, perhaps a gollysnoster, how would I know, in matters of human relations and trust despite the dateline on this story. Heqq, I even still believe musicians play their own instruments....
-bill kenny      

Friday, March 15, 2013

Or Not

I enjoy life here on the ant farm far more than most and not merely because I called shotgun in the clown car, though I did but didn't get it (Mitch McConnell beat me to it, I think) but because I've conceded Charlie Manson is right: no sense makes sense. Now I keep my ears tuned to the distant roar and enjoy the flow.

I was once like you. I'd learn of something, somewhere so stupefyingly dumb it was beyond ignorant and my mind would just seize up as I struggled to somehow impose order and logic to make sense of people and their actions for whom such definitions were never intended.

Submitted for your approval, Santos Rodriquez of Bridgeport, Connecticut, apparently a chemist of some kind working on a variant of his own choosing, phencyclidine, a very special Schedule II hell for those who don't care which road they're on.

From what I glean in the article, it doesn't seem likely Parents' Magazine will be stopping by to discuss that photo shoot for the June cover-may as well go ahead and take the plastic slip covers off the couch cushions in the living room. (I always like the way they stick to the back of your legs and upper thighs when you sit down during a visit on a hot August afternoon).

And in light of Phil Hughes' back problems, Brian Cashman of the Yankees may be stopping by to see just how much velocity and movement Santos had with that Bible he threw at his girlfriend and to evaluate the effectiveness of his exorcism or 'out' pitch.

Of course, all of this is easy for me to smile about. I wasn't the infant in his arms who was returned to a mother who knows people who strip and go jogging on the interstate. That's one lucky youngster, let me tell you-as lucky as a kid can be.
-bill kenny

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Rhymes with New Hope

As of yesterday afternoon (DST), early evening (MEZ) the Roman Catholic Church has its next Bishop of Rome, Peter's Successor, Pope Francis I (named to honor Assisi and not Albert, the Chairman). I was raised a Catholic and took the sacraments through my days at Rutgers College. I tell myself I still believe in God, just not so much in His church but I'm only kidding myself. And not doing a good job even of that.

I lack the courage to have NO convictions and we would all be better off if I did and could. I abandoned my faith for a hundred big reasons, from reform through views on birth control and individual freedom and a hundred thousand small ones, like not using NECCO wafers on Sunday for the Eucharist and no wi-fi in the confessional booth.

See? I can't even be honest with you when I know you don't care. Point in fact, as I listened yesterday to the press coverage of the selection I became confused and not a bit disheartened that a 76 year old was chosen to be the Prince of Rome and that he had been a Bishop in his native Argentina but had stepped down from those responsibilities and duties because of his age. I was heartened, though I know not why to realize in over two thousand years, he was the first non-European chosen.

I can do that because I regard Peter, the first pope, as somewhat an Indo-European. As you may have just realized, in addition to theology my strong subjects also don't include geography. I spoke briefly to someone who had less appreciation than I thought possible for the centuries of tradition that shaped the process we oh-so-casually watched on CNN (I suspect Fox had Sean Hannity wondering why the College of Cardinals had abandoned the swimsuit competition), but who hoped Francis I would help build a church he could believe in again.

And I think, as the Papacy of Francis I begins, praying for that return to the faith of our fathers, and mothers, might be a fine goal, albeit a difficult task, for which to strive. After all, as someone else in another time once said, these are times to try one's soul. Not all who wander are lost and sometimes we must travel our own way of the cross as lonely pilgrims and find our own way home.
-bill kenny    

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Another Oar in the Water a Long Way from Shore

Someone in conversation a couple of weeks ago characterized me as a cheerleader for Norwich. I think he intended that as a statement of his fact but I'll accept it as a compliment and assume it's a metaphor since I turned in the pom-poms a long time ago.

I use this space on a regular basis to write about people and projects here in my own backyard about which I am passionate in the hopes of provoking you who are acquaintances and my neighbors to become and remain energized and engaged about them as well. Not sure, sometimes, how well that's worked out.

Long before I started to stand on this soapbox at regularly scheduled and published intervals I was suited up and working to be in the game because democracy is a contact sport and we need to not only remember Teddy Roosevelt's admonition about the (wo)man in the arena but to emulate it until it's second nature for each of us.

Years ago I discovered volunteering and serving with other Norwich residents on panels ranging from the Baseball Stadium Authority, the Norwich Schools Building and Technology Committee, the Charter Revision Commission and the Ethics Review Committee was a perfect opportunity to work with and learn from men and women whose politics and beliefs were both exactly like and completely different from my own-often at the same time. What I learned from each of them was to respect their dedication to improving where we all lived and to listen to others and hear both what is said and what is left unsaid.

That's a skill not a science and I'm not as good at it as I want to be, at least not yet. Maybe that's why when I was invited to be a part of the citizens' group examining a way ahead for the Norwich Police Station, I accepted. Maybe it's because I can't keep encouraging you to get involved if I manufacture excuses masquerading as reasons for why I don't. And because I volunteered, I had to tell you because after today, I will never mention this project again (unless Elvis shows up at a meeting on a pony with an extra saddle) because you need to know I have skin in this game.

What I have already learned is that some who want to help sometimes just can't. Because of  legal, business and/or personal relationships, for some who would serve there would (or could) be perceived conflicts of interest, creating distractions none of us need. Opinions and decisions about the police station and the costs and consequences associated with those decisions were so divisive last November that the bitterness and suspicion left in their aftermath lingers, unbidden, like Banquo's Ghost to this day.

We deserve better than that but we must be willing to work for it. I may not be one of the Norwich neighbors listed on a resolution for next Monday night's City Council meeting-and if your name is a better fit you have from now until then to make that happen and good on you. But I'm telling you I've offered my time and talents on this because when we look at situations across this city and say to ourselves "someone should do something about that," I've just remembered I am that someone. And so, too, are you.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

For the Other Side of the Sky

Today is my wife's birthday. Sigrid is remarkable because she is a force of nature as much as my wife. I am not, as you may have already imagined from any visits to this page, the easiest person with whom to share the planet, much less a life and a bed.

She is my human credential in the sense that she creates and sustains a life for me and our children which  allows me to put on this 'Hail Fellow, Well Met! Man of the World" artifice every morning, give my time to total strangers all day and return home at night to be the person I intended to be when we fell in love.

I will never have enough money, talent, good lucks or any of the conventional advantages and attributes to give to her all that she deserves. She doesn't care and she never did. That she has chosen to be the most important part of my life is the only thing that matters to me and as long as she is in my life, my life is complete and fulfilling. Happy birthday, angel eyes.
-bill kenny      

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Snake Finally Consumes Itself

Over the years, Lee has offered me some amazing insights and assistance made more so by the realization that we originally met one another, somewhat briefly about thirty years ago. I was to succeed him on the airwaves of American Forces Network when he opted to return to the Land of the Round Door Knobs and, then much later, I followed him back to the States to the Land of Steady Habits where we lived oblivious to one another for a score of years and more. He has been very gracious after his luck ran out .

He is, despite admitting to knowing me, a very intelligent person capable of amazement and amusement in a single bound and who discards or ignores bright ideas that don't quite meet his standards at a rate and pace approaching light speed.

I mention all of that because he shared a post with me the other day that in some shape, size or form, I think we both expected would someday happen, just not in a someday near our lifetimes.Cynic that I am, I'd suggest this has been coming since formatted radio of any kind, Top 40, Soul, Country, Rastafarian-Polka, created demarcations and boundaries in what our ears, hearts and brains all heard as simply music. When we put the hyphen in, we took the adventure out.


Across radio in the USA for the last decade or so, local station owners railed against conglomerates like Infinity and Clear Channel, and to battle them, became them without seeing either the irony or the end game of that strategy. I confess to having given up on listening to local radio years ago. I have connectivity on my cell for weather and traffic and had satellite radio as well as compact discs and, more recently streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and Slacker.

I had already stopped smoking when auto manufacturers stopped putting cigarette lights and ashtrays in their dashboards. I remember my Dad using the ashtray in his Ford Country Squire station wagon, off yellow with that fake wood, but really sheet metal, paneling on the sides, to hold the tokens for the Easton-Phillipsburg Bridge when we were going to the lake house in Pennsylvania, first at Indian Mountain Lakes and later out at Harvey's Lake. I keep eye drops in my ashtray in the Subaru Forester and use the lighter plug as an an outlet to charge my phone.

As a kid I listened to William B. Williams and the Make-Believe ballroom on WNEW AM and then when rock and roll hit, it was Bob Lundy, Dan Ingram, Cousin Bruce Morrow and Scott Muni on WABC-AM. Talk about Paradise by the Dashboard Light-and I had no idea as to Mr Loaf's meaning at all, believe me.

And now, it's all circling the drain, doomed to share the fate of Ozymandias. Somewhere Hudson and Landry are furrowing their brows while the hits just keep on comin'.
-bill kenny.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

It's Been a Long, Cold, Lonely Winter

If you're just reading this and you think it's early Sunday, it may be later than you think. While you were out, be it cold, be it cutting a rug or working a swing shift, we have leapt forward here in North America (void where taxed or prohibited by law) and at oh dark early this morning returned Daylight Savings Time to the vernacular.

I'm not sure why we do it early on Sundays-what would be so terrible about a Friday afternoon at four suddenly becoming five? Good night, Everybody! And have a great weekend. Instead we do one of those 'say! isn't that Elvis over there riding a bike?' MOVE THE CLOCK FORWARD maneuvers.

For a while, whether winter is now finally in retreat in the Northeast or not, what we'll have is more daylight in the afternoons. I'm a big fan of daylight, period; unless/until I'm trying to sleep then I like it dark as, well, as dark as night (really thought that was going somewhere; need to contact Simile School and ask about their refunds policy).

Having the time is one thing-doing something with it is something else. I'm not going to lecture or hector because your mileage may vary but there are people and projects in need of your time and talents, be it on your street, neighborhood, city or state. Consider it an exercise in bread upon the waters and unless you're expecting soggy rye to show up on the shoreline, the return on the investment, from reading to a child in the local library, helping an elderly neighbor grocery shop or just visiting someone who's a shut-in will benefit more people than of whom we can conceive in our poor imagination.

Outshine the sun. Start today and fall through like change in the daylight. It's alright.
-bill kenny



Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Lion or the Lamb

We've lived in New England for over twenty years. I recognize when I look out my front windows those are pine trees and not palm trees but please cut a nearly decrepit aged gentleman some slack when I tell you that by this, the second week of March, I am so over winter it is no longer even vaguely amusing.

Our winter storm started out earlier in the week as Saturn somewhere in the Mid West or perhaps Middle East. What a hoot that would be, right? Eighteen inches of snow in Damascus. Might cool off that revolutionary fervor just a skosh and allow cooler heads, literally as well as figuratively, to try and calm things down, Of course then everybody would fight over lift tickets, ultimately blaming Israel and the Zionist Occupation Government of the United States (of course), so maybe not a good idea.

Anyway. By the time it got here, the storm was called David. I think in honor of International Women's Day yesterday it should have had the name, perhaps, of a woman scorned which could have explained its winds but it didn't and yet it still had some fierce ones.

Thursday which was the advertised day of its arrival was pretty uneventful. Things started to get stupid Thursday evening close to supper time and when I got up early Friday morning (nothing like a couple of trips to the hospital to convince you sleep is over-rated) it was sleeting tending and trending to snow.

It got there by about eight o'clock and stayed for quite some time, far longer than anyone I know had wanted or needed. Don't know about your weekend, but a lot of us around here had some severe changes of plans as Friday wore on and here it is Saturday, and the best I can do is make my joke about pine trees and palm trees as the temperatures slowly warm. Leno will love me. Especially if I come on looking the way I feel:


"And the snow is coming down on our New England town."

-bill kenny

Friday, March 8, 2013

It's The Promise of Life

I make it a point to never praise the day until the evening arrives but (so far, so good) I'm the Least Disappointed Guy in the Place that the abject awfulness of Winter Storm Saturn did not materialize anywhere near the scale and scope feared earlier in this week.

I went for a walk yesterday afternoon after a terrible meeting on the phone.  I kept falling off, which explains my lack of enthusiasm I guess. The meeting was with lots of people I don't know or care to know and they know feel likewise. The same thing happened last month but I hung up. The blow back from that convinced me that this was a career-enhancing opportunity (at my age I worry about a career; ha-ha THUNK! Just laughed my head off).

It was incredibly blustery here in Southeastern Connecticut but we were extremely fortunate to NOT get belted about the way some forecasts had suggested we would and like many other people across the country most certainly did.

Poor March. We get some more daylight, sort of, starting this Sunday. Meanwhile, Spring, we keep telling one another, is just around the next corner and yet winter clings to our clothes and to our souls and chills our hearts. While I was walking, I realized I'd stumbled across a half-forgotten (by me) song  from an old Art Garfunkel album, written by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Its memory and meaning warmed me for the rest of my day. I offer it to you and hope it does likewise.

"A stick, a stone, it's the end of the road.
It's the rest of a stump, it's a little alone.
It's a sliver of glass, it is life, it's the sun.
It is night, it is death, it's a trap, it's a gun.

The oak when it blooms, a fox in the brush.
The nod of the wood, the song of a thrush.
The wood of the wing, a cliff, a fall,
A scratch, a lump, it is nothing at all.

It's the wind blowing free, it's the end of a slope.
It's a bean, it's a void, it's a hunch, it's a hope.
And the riverbank talks of the Waters of March.
It's the end of the strain, it's the joy in your heart.

The foot, the ground, the flesh and the bone,
The beat of the road, a sling-shot stone,
A truckload of bricks in the soft morning light,
The shot of a gun in the dead of the night.

A mile, a must, a thrust, a bump,
It's a girl, it's a rhyme, it's a cold, it's the mumps.
The plan of the house, the body in bed,
And the car that got stuck, it's the mud, it's the mud.

Afloat, adrift, a flight, a wing,
A cock, a quail, the promise of spring.
And the riverbank talks of the Waters of March.
It's the promise of life, it's the joy in your heart.

A point, a grain, a bee, a bite,
A blink, a buzzard, a sudden stroke of night.
A pin, a needle, a sting, a pain,
A snail, a riddle, a wasp, a stain.

A snake, a stick, it is John, it is Joe,
A fish, a flash, a silvery glow.
And the riverbank talks of the Waters of March.
It's the promise of life in your heart, in your heart.

A stick, a stone, the end of the load.
The rest of a stump, a lonesome road.
A sliver of glass, a life, the sun,
A night, a death, the end of the run.

And the riverbank talks of the Waters of March.
It's the end of all strain, it's the joy in your heart
-Antonio Carlos Jobim

Thursday, March 7, 2013

And Upon this Rock?

As the College of Cardinals gathers in conclave to select a new Pope, questions abound. Mine are admittedly a little different. How many other colleges can you think of who don't have a football team. Even Texas Christian has one so what's with the Vatican? No money for a football stadium? Be like the University of Phoenix. They have a stadium named for them but they are a virtual university. Makes changing in those locker rooms quite a challenge, I'll bet.

And tell me-if they had a basketball team would they not be just a perfect fit for the new Big East Basketball Conference set for next season. It's already basically all the Catholic universities that play college ball in the current Big East and some buddies. I don't really think their Eminences have anyone to play power forward (hear confessions and bless palm, yes; take a ball off the rim, or hit the open man on a fast break, not so much), unless they can get one of the younger bishops from Kenya to red shirt for a year. He already has the red hat so how hard can this process be?

This is a keenly sought-after office, make no mistake. Excuse me but this is a lobbying pitch for your support of my brother, Kelly, who is totally unencumbered with Latinate lingo or any other holy-moly stuff and who would like to be the Pope. As I recall The Book, Jesus was a carpenter; Kelly is in the construction trades. Thank you, check please. Talk about a hand in glove fit. Okay, Kelly had a few more brothers and sisters than His Lord. JC was an only child and that may have had something to do with how things were to work out for God's Son.

Kelly is perfect with all of that. Because of birth order and personality, he plays well with others. Not sure how much experience he has with dress-up but he can learn and has a terrific sense of style. I can see him in the papal tiara with Bermuda shorts while walking on water. He wears hats so headgear is not much of a stretch. Okay, he wears hard hats right now, but let's face it those have more in common with a tiara than you might think, or even want to.

Have you ever visited the Vatican, set in the heart of Rome, the Eternal City? It may be eternal but with God as my Judge, it won't last forever. Let's face it, it's in need of serious renovations (look at the Coliseum! No wonder Al Davis moved the Raiders back to Oakland). With all of his  experience, who could possibly be better than Kelly to oversee all of those repairs?

Here's the deal: if you want the Mass in Latin, and grown men hanging out with ten year olds, look elsewhere for your next Bishop of Rome. But if you want the colors in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to just 'pop,' to have drive-through confessionals and buy-one get-one-free deals on both bingo cards and plenary indulgences, mark your ballot for Kelly Kenny. He will fix everything. He has already fixed the election.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Little Houses

A city, large or small, is much more than the sum of its brick and mortar structures, its thoroughfares and infrastructure, its public safety systems or its schools. All of those are, of course, important, but what helps define who we are is the degree of sacrifice and work we are willing to invest in developing and maintaining all of those material things for the betterment of all the residents who share a zip code.

In Norwich we seem to keep having the same arguments over and over again and it's not as simple as 'us vs. them,' though it's often reduced to that. Point in fact we more often to be 'our past keeps me from seeing the present' allied with 'my fear of the future keeps me nailed to the Now.'

We all know people whose perception of who we are as a city is heavily colored by what we once were. Not all that long ago I had someone give me directions in my neighborhood by telling me to 'go past where the school used to be at the intersection of Sachem and Oneco.' Okay not exactly GPS, but still accurate, but only if  you go back more than few decades. In other words, yesterday covers a multitude of sins.

So, too, does a fear of what tomorrow may bring that becomes so great we not only choose to avoid risk-taking we choose to avoid even talking about risk-taking. We've decided it's better to have a horrible ending than horrors without end, except we have no proof tomorrow will not be a better day than the one we are having. It's another case of 'the pool ain't in but the patio's dry' and all that means is we'll save a fortune this summer on swimwear.

My family and I have lived here for twenty-one years, not that this length of time has brought with it any revelations of blinding glimpses of the obvious other than people prefer problems that are familiar to solutions which are not. I arrived here as a relatively young man but have no illusions I am one now, so I have to guard against situations where I become part of the obstacles that keep Norwich from being a place our children and theirs will want to come home to.

I listen with a combination of fascination and dread when people speak of "historic" downtown buildings, some for sale and some foreclosed or seized by the city, as if there were actual history connected to structures whose best days were before I was born. Imagine how alien that must sound to nearly a third of our city, those residents under thirty-five.

What the 'preservationists' espouse isn't a reverence for the past but more a preservation of their past. That doesn't mean those buildings have a place in my or anyone else's present or future, much less that we should mortgage the latter to artificially enhance the former.

When a past isn't a shared past I'd suggest it indicates a time whose past has passed and point out that in Norwich the time is long passed to throw good money, private or public, after bad on little boxes on the hillside or on dreams our children will never see.
-bill kenny          

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Rose. A Newspaper and a Hamburger

The last person to see me last week in the hospital and critically important to my being allowed to leave was a delightful young woman on their staff, affiliated with Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. It's a pretty good commute from those parts to Norwich and I was going to ask her if she'd lost a bar bet but decided that very type of question might reveal more about me than I'd like. A thought process which I thought was incredibly clever and I awarded myself a ''get out of the hospital free" card. It wasn't and I almost didn't.

She had a series of word problems of graduated difficulty  for me to solve. Thankfully, nothing that involved speeding locomotives leaving different cities at the same time at different speeds. I hated those problems as a child and especially hate them now as I never get them right. Her whole focus was to see if I could actually develop a logical thought and articulate it from formulation to fruition. Considering my last original thought died of loneliness, I was more than a bit worried.

The last question, the make-or-break scenario, involved my listening to a rather elaborate narrative she was reciting and remembering three particular words. In case I lost track of what was going on with each of the three words, she would pause and say 'remember this word' then say the word and then repeat the word before moving on. When crunch time came, I hit it out of the park, for purposes of this story.

However, I don't think she intended that a week after the quiz, I should still be remembering any of them much less all of them, but I do and since I can't seem to forget them, having now told you about them, I can take solace in no longer being alone in remembering them. American Beauty. Daily Planet. Wimpy.
-bill kenny        

Monday, March 4, 2013

M Is for the Way You Look at Me. Or Not.

At breakfast yesterday morning, for reasons unknown I was channeling Nat King Cole. I serenaded my bride of 35 plus years with "L-O-V-E" though as I was to prove within an eye blink of beginning to sing, I have no idea of the lyrics except when you reach the end, you warble "Love was made for me and you."

As I recall from listening to the "hi-fi" in the living room of my parents' house as you're holding the last lyric, a  small combo swells and caps behind you at the crescendo. Budget cutbacks precluded the engagement of the small combo (and we really didn't have the space in the kitchen anyway). It was, her brave smile to the contrary, a kinda grim rendition.

I'm great at the singing solo stuff, as long as I don't have to show my work. How fortunate for me there was no one to show it to except the woman who's been looking at it for decades and yet still doesn't look away. I'm not quite the Master of My Fate or Champion of My Soul that I once saw staring back at me in the mirror every morning, but if she's noticed, she hasn't said anything to me.

As if I'd listen. Not sure I've listened to anyone for more than one day at a time since touching down here on my way to wherever it is we are all supposedly going  (I did stick the landing I was told) so let's just hope I don't fall over anyone else's songbook, especially anyone you like between now and Tuesday. Deal?
-bill kenny

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Splendid Isolation

Except Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. Leave them to one another and hope for the best. I do.

Lock the gate, Goofy, take my hand and lead me through the world of self. Or at 80 frames a minute, try this on for size. No matter how often you watch it, you'll find something new every time but two things never change: all you see of her beloved is the hand and arm and you'll never see the woman's face.

"I'm putting tinfoil up on the windows.
Lying down in the dark to dream.
I don't want to see their faces.
I don't want to hear their screams."
-bill kenny

Friday, March 1, 2013

Relying on the Kindness of Strangers

I've read where the 'average' American heterosexual adult man thinks about sex every seven seconds (perhaps). At the average reading speed pause; and we're back. By the way, buddy, my words are up here. And all this time, you thought sex was the nummer nach funf auf Deutsch. Please....

To underscore a point on this subject torn from the headlines, I have a joke, I'm thinking the type of joke Jackie Mason might have once used while 'working blue' in the main lounge of a fancy resort in the Catskills. A little naughty but not dirty; cover one eye.

A balding, white haired man walked into a jewelry store on a late Friday afternoon with a beautiful, much younger woman at his side. He told the jeweler he was looking for a special ring for his special friend. The jeweler looked through his stock and brought out a $5,000 ring.

The elderly fellow shook his head and said, "No. I need something much more special than any of these; what do you have?" The jeweler sensing a big sale, reached for his upper line of high-end rings and bracelets. The customer picked up a ring priced at $45,000. His sweet young thing squealed with delight. Her eyes sparkled and her whole body trembled with excitement. Her older companion smiled, nodded and said, ‘We’ll take it.’

The jeweler asked how payment would be made and the man said, ‘by check. I realize you need to make sure my check is good, so I’ll write it now and you can call the bank Monday morning when it opens to verify the funds. I'll come back Monday afternoon to pick up the ring if that's okay with you.’

Monday morning, shortly after the banks opened, the jeweler phoned the old man and angrily shouted, ‘You cheat! I wait all weekend and there isn't a damn dime in that account!’
"And don't I know it," laughed the man, "but let me tell you about MY GREAT WEEKEND!" 

Oy. If it helps, think of me as Kenny Youngman. It doesn't, does it? Didn't think so-never works for me, either. And this definitely won't help so don't think about it too much at all but, rather, regard it as life imitating art.

I do wonder why older women with younger men are cougars while older men with younger women are, well, lucky, it would appear. Couldn't we just consider them Gentlemen Callers or should we ask Laura?
-bill kenny