Friday, May 31, 2013

Hooked on Phonics: It's a Dry Spelling

There are days, I know, when I offer you an item that might best be regarded as "news from the newsroom floor" if you haven't already concluded 'Pshaw! This is outright balderdash!' All I can say to that assertion my good sir or madam, is please call me before you offer such an utterance as I have always wished to hear both Pshaw and balderdash said aloud.

Such is the case again today, but I can only insist I am offering you a double dollop of the truth stuff when I tease you by quoting just the headline, "North Carolina Couple to Give Birth in Company of Dolphins."

Before You Click: it's not the Miami Dolphins. Too late, I know.
And as a bonus to the story, I am offering to you the "Top News Arab Emirates" version of the story. They seem to be an online English language news aggregator whose command of my native language's idiomatic and syntactical nuances leaves a little bit to be desired. I think of them as Drudge in a keffiyeh.

I know you believe I love this story because I watched Flipper on TV as a kid but that's not strictly true. I watched it on TV as a kid and as an adult. Thank God, or Allah as they might say at Top News Arab Emirates, for Nick at Night. Let's just say somewhere Mike Heron just cashed a royalty check and smiled.
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tipper or Al

This is an interesting day in my house as my wife and I start the process to renew for the second time her resident alien registration--a process that wasn't a walk in the park when we initiated it in December of 1991 and which became part of the infinitely more complicated post 9/11/01 world.

We'll be in Hartford, actually near Hartford, for some time today accomplishing the mechanical aspect of the process (my wife is still under warranty; oh how I love that joke!) with the paperwork having already started (Sigrid is relentlessly organized and has been at this drill for some time).

The initial application in 1991 was very much a No Fun Allowed process as we faced a very large and, in my opinion as a fellow Federal employee, stunningly uncaring if not actually hostile staff of people with whom we interacted. We succeeded, I felt, in no small part despite their efforts rather than because of them.

Interestingly enough, a decade ago, the much more intense and complex renewal process was relatively painless and smooth so I often wonder how much my fear twenty plus years ago colored my original perceptions and suspect I know the answer.

I mention this because bubbling through our legislature in Hartford, albeit a distance from where my wife and I will be for part of the day, is a proposal, actually a proposed law, that would allow folks who aren't supposed to be here here, politicians call them 'undocumented workers,' to apply for and receive State of Connecticut driver's licenses.

The argument as best as I can follow is seductive even if the logic is somewhat tortured. In a state where property insurance is not only nearly a religion but where crimes against property are often punished more severely than those against persons, it has been suggested those who are not supposed to be here if they must drive to work or to live (because mass transit is something even in Connecticut cities that is close to non-existent) are currently doing so illegally (we are the Constitution State and sticklers for this stuff).

That means, as night follows the day, they have no vehicle insurance (you think you can smell what the Prudential Rock is cooking. No you can't.) and while public safety could and should be a concern, much more importantly there are taxes and fees involved in all aspects of purchasing insurance.

Did the light of cognition just come on? Welcome, camper! Connecticut has the beggar's bowl out for new "revenue streams" (= taxes) and the legislators in Hartford have already spent all the money projected to be collected from this insurance expansion/explosion. And let's not forget the costs and fees associated with the issuance of the licenses themselves. Ka-ching!

Meanwhile my wife watches the postman every day for official looking mail that will not contain a driver's license application proving rules are for people who don't know better. Adds a whole new meaning to 'you need not be present to win.' Actually it's easier to win if you're not really here (wink, wink). If we're not careful, we're going to owe Hughes Mearns royalties. And these days we're so tight for money we squeak when we walk.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Well-Known Thoroughfare

Sitting in City Council chambers last Monday night as they discussed money and metrics for continuing their relationship with the Norwich Community Development Corporation, NCDC, I thought about how  the road to a well-known warm place is paved with the best of intentions.

That adage not only explains all the folks in chambers that night wearing short-sleeve shirts but why our Public Works Department has to devote so much time to fixing potholes. For many years, in that delightful tongue-in-cheek style I've elevated to High Art, I used to suggest to anyone who'd listen (and many who refused) that NCDC was held in the same regard as The Illuminati and perceived by many as being responsible for about the same number of ills in the world. In recent weeks as discussions about its continued funding deteriorated into anonymous, on-line barbed innuendo and personal invective, I started to realize just how small a small town often is.

I'm dangerously close to being that guy who, if you could buy me for what I'm worth but sell me for what I think I'm worth, you could live forever off the profit. And guess what? I'm not alone, far from it.

Norwich, this city that we purport to so love, has been on a downward glide slope for a long time  probably since the mill operators went south in search of cheap labor in that first decade after World War Two ended. And aside from running in circles, and then changing the direction of the circles, we're not doing very much about it.

I don't pretend to be the City Historian-my family and I arrived here in 1991, not 1891- but I think the same attributes and characteristics that made Norwich such an attraction across the region since its founding are still extant. It is we, who live here, who have changed and maybe not always for the better but we can be.

Harry Truman once noted 'It's amazing how much you can get done when you don't care who gets the credit.' All the people on the City Council and Board of Education, the municipal department directors and the men and women who work for the city and those serving as volunteers on the dozens of agencies and committees this city has-are all trying to do good things for all of us.

And that includes the talented professionals at Norwich Community Development Corporation, which, by the way was created and is comprised of our friends and neighbors as well as elected leadership and local business people, not some off-shore faceless operation with no name and no number to trace. 

Norwich needs a multi-faceted, one-stop shop that specializes in everything as contradictory as that reads. From writing a business plan to applying for a construction remediation loan through using social media to build customer traffic to knowing how to file a permit, and in what municipal office.

Last Monday night, the City Council seemed to realize it has a valuable resource and ally to assist in the efforts to revitalize and repurpose our city and to take the first, somewhat halting steps to articulating a vision of what needs to be done and providing direction and political will to do it. That first step is the hardest but after we learn to walk, running will be a breeze.    
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Yankee Doodle Would Be Speechless

I've mentioned before that I love the Internet. Even if we weren't supposed to capitalize it, I would because It's Just That Wonderful. And I'm not talking about just cat memes though they are easily worth the kajillion of miles of fiber optic that makes them possible, along with those hurtling electrons. 

Where else could we argue earnestly as if it were actually important that those little animated do-hickeys are called Jifs, as in the peanut butter but singular as in sensation versus Gifs as in short for Giffords even though that isn't it at all. Talk about being the skinniest one in fat kid camp.

My current favorite discovery aside from the battle between Edison and Tesla followers for who is the true genius and wizard (hint: the train station on the NJ Transit line is called "Tesla"; not so much) is learning that MTV's Jersey Shore whose appeal eluded me from its debut through its demise is Big in Japan as, wait for it, "MTV Jersey Shore-the New Jersey Life of Macaroni Rascals."

That factoid makes my accidental discovery this past weekend that Alicia Witt is very much more talented as a musician than she is well-known (so far) as an actress (and she must be well-known if I know who she is) seem tame by comparison but it is, somehow a feather in my cap
-bill kenny

Monday, May 27, 2013

And Deja Vu, Too.

This should read somewhat familiar. I offered it last year on Memorial Day. I don't always express myself well but I was pleased with what I wrote last year and how I wrote it. So I hope you don't mind my rewarming it and re-offering it. 

Pardon my cynicism if I point out that a year later we still have the Crown of Creation dying in countries whose names we can't pronounce primarily for corporate need and greed wrapped in the Stars and Stripes, Forever.

Actually that's how long the infamy should last when you send young, talented people who have their whole lives before them into meat grinders with allies of convenience who are the best friends our money can buy and the scum of the earth otherwise.

Here in Norwich, we have a remembrance ceremony in Taftville's Memorial Park at ten that draws a reverential and diverse crowd, sort of mirroring the city people in uniform around the world are defending, and then at noon a parade that will move up our Broadway to Chelsea Parade in the center of the city for speeches and quiet thoughts about those we've lost. 

To those who made today necessary, may you burn in Hell always. For those who made it possible, thank you for your gift. I hope we, the living, lead lives which prove we deserved your sacrifice. 
We are a species who fortunately (for us) have selective memories. We took the commemoration of the birth of a person regarded by many on the planet to be The Savior and Son of God, Christmas, and turned it into a Festival of Conspicuous Consumption, unlike anything ever seen. 

Presidents' Day is a now a great time to buy a car-what'll it take to get put you in this spanking new Terraplane today?-and we've reduced to chocolate and jelly beans the celebration of Easter-just a slight repurposing of its original intent.

I get into trouble, emotional and otherwise, for saying aloud what other people think but are too afraid to admit that they do. I've been told this is why I have no friends but who wants cowards as friends anyway? 

The only place we need cowards is in elected office, especially at the national level and these days, we're spoiled for choice.

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

Today is Memorial Day, another holiday we've moved to a Monday so we can have a three day weekend with plenty of time for a barbecue, a run to the beach and some laps at the Brickyard. 

If we work it right, we don't ever or even have to think of those with whom we grew up who never got to be old, or about their parents and grandparents, who survived the Depression, battled fascism to its knees in a world wide war and, more recently, together with us marked the start of our Second Decade in the Global War on Terrorism.

Of those I've just listed, the last is the hardest for me to wrap my head around as I don't know what "victory" looks like--the Stars and Stripes waving from a minaret in Medina? Ron Paul elected President of Lebanon (from your lips to God's ear)? 

I honestly don't know when 'we win' and I suspect neither do the fools and ghouls who got us into this and who pop up on patriotic holidays to tell us how we are Waist Deep in Big Muddy and making great time.

Some have suggested the War of Terror's start could be the murder of the Marines in Beirut in 1983-or the killing of US service personnel at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. 

We've latched on to the cowardice of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon because it happened on our soil, but seem to have forgotten how the earth has been hallowed by the blood of anyone in uniform who lost her/his life in our defense anywhere in the world.

War is not an abstract geo-political game played out on a grand stage by dominant personalities-it is very local, extremely personal and heartbreakingly private. Those of our neighbors who choose military service have as many reasons for so doing as there are those who so serve. 

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

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Other Football

It was familiar and it was strange, simultaneously. I got home yesterday afternoon in just the right time to catch the final twelve minutes of the Championship game of the Union of European Football Association, UEFA.

To show you the global appeal of the sport, well, everywhere but here in The Land of the Round Doorknobs, the game was played on the mother of all pitch, Wembley Stadium in London, United Kingdom, between two teams from Germany, Bayern Munchen who won the 50th anniversary season of the Deutsche Fussball Bund, in a record setting 28 games (!) {think clinching any divisional title in baseball a week after the All-Star Game; except the AL West which is usually in doubt three weeks after the season ends} and Borussia Dortmund who won the DFB title last season.

I was watching it on Fox Sports in Spanish, not because I speak the language (I don't), but because I didn't know where else to find it. Between watching Heineken Beer TV commercials voiced over in Spanish and listening to a booth announcer scream out and mangle Bastian Schweinsteiger's name, I never lost sight of the fact that I was in all likelihood one of about a dozen round-eye Anglos on the North American continent watching the beautiful game at all.

I'll root passionately for somebody come World Series time, but I'm reasonably certain all the teams will be based in North America. So as Shakespeare once asked, what's in a name?
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Or Teen Spirit

I'm always delighted by small children and infants though I often am annoyed at parents who don't keep better control of them in social environments. My wife and I were shopping yesterday and I hadn't realized it was 'bring your mewling child to the store with you' day because I was up to my butt in unhappy young people.

When that happens, I go with the flow and get cranky myself. Don't get me wrong-I'm not angry with the children. A newborn didn't decide to get in the car and drive to the mall. Mommy did. Or maybe daddy but based on what I saw yesterday, more than likely not, though mommy probably wishes she knew where daddy was.

I don't know when we became a country of the very young and the very old but having been the former and now being the latter let me tell you that all the other age groups, and food groups for that matter, had best starting pulling their own weight.

We spend way too much money in these parts on diapers and Depends. We built this nation for our children-that's the deal every generation worked with the one that followed except now we sold our children and their children out for off shore bank accounts and left them with no skills, no jobs and no hope.

We're so busy blaming the New World Order and the changing times that we have no time to look in the mirror and look at ourselves. When Gandhi talked about being the change you want to see in the world, he wasn't talking about the change under the couch cushions in the living room. He was talking about all of us to each of us, for everyone.


If being polite means being less than honest, maybe we should ask one another if that's too high a price to pay for comity. We owe each other the unvarnished truth in order to build the world we all want to live in. Hurt feelings are a luxury we most certainly can afford if they get us to where we need to be.
-bill kenny  





Friday, May 24, 2013

Playing Hooky

I'm staying home today because I can and because I'm sort of sulking because in five weeks I'll stay home one work day every week through the end of September and that absence will be reflected in my paycheck.

All that arguing that's been going on between the morons and miscreants in the House of Representatives and the White House over continuing resolutions, deficit and spending reductions and sequestration? You're heard about that argy-bargy, have you? I'm the poster child for it-me and a bunch of folks you didn't know you knew.

Here's the thing and make no mistake it will be crappy but it still beats the heck out of being in Monroe, Oklahoma or a dozen other places across this country where horrible things have been happening to people. It really is one of those 'I felt sad because I had no shoes until I met someone who had no feet' situations. Of course, I'd take his shoes. But you already knew that. ;-{P
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 23, 2013

From Dentistry to Daltrey

I have a dentist. I didn't used to even though I had teeth and actually, and more importantly, currently, still have teeth. What I lacked was dental insurance, so for quite a bit of time I trod and chewed very carefully and even that wasn't enough to escape with no damage.

But my dentist is close to setting things right and even though I rarely smile, I'll have a beautiful one should I ever need it. The idea I could ever need a good smile is more than enough to make me chuckle like a hyena so I spend most of everyday with a grin so wide the whole top of my head is in danger of falling off. Sadly, except for the improvement, no one would otherwise notice.

He mentioned at our first meeting not that long ago while I imagined him unloading a small truck's worth of tools into my mouth something about a US Mint quarter struck to commemorate the Northern Mariana Islands.  Where else are you going to get education like that double-scoop of smart stuff, but here?

Tosh 2.0? I think not, Pilgrim. Actually, I suspect the coin was struck to enhance the revenue flow to the US Mint, which like the post office, makes as much if not more of its money from collectors as it does from users.

If there were money to be made by having a set of stamps depicting the positions of the Kama Sutra, the USPS and the Postmaster General would be there so quickly they wouldn't have time to put on the knee pads. Stamp collectors are even better than coin collectors because they never use the stamp so the money paid is pure gravy.

Of course with self-adhesive stamps they lose the promotional help of having anchovy flavored glue to affix the stamps to envelopes. Want to pull the post office out of the red? Take me up on my idea and watch men buy stamps. That's when you'd really see the money.

While reading the CIA factbook material on this US Commonwealth (and not finding any Weapons of Mass Destruction there either) I realized I was softly humming an old chestnut by The Who that has nothing to with the South Pacific or anything of any monetary value.

I couldn't get it out of my head until I got it into yours. I feel much better now, thanks.
-bill kenny
  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In the Space Between the Heavens

Monday we observe Memorial Day, the traditional beginning of the summer season and usually a reason for a spectacular barbecue. At the risk of harshing your pre-holiday buzz, I'd offer Memorial Day is why we can say and do many of the things we say and do in this country without fear or consequence.

Some of us have parents who can remember when Memorial Day was called Decoration Day and even farther back than that, it was an attempt to honor the war dead of the War Between the States, evolving into a remembrance of all of those men and women in uniform who sacrificed their lives to preserve our liberties.

Across the country on Monday and throughout Norwich there will be memorials and remembrances. We live close to Chelsea Parade and I regularly walk among the various markers at Memorial Park to Norwich's war dead from the conflicts that have shaped and shaken our nation. Soon, thanks in no small part to the Norwich Area Veterans Council, a reminder and remembrance of Jacob Martir and Keith Heidtman, our two too-soon gone Norwich residents who died in the Global War on Terror, will join the others.

But it's not their sacrifice I want you to contemplate as you double-check the count on the hot dogs and buns for the weekend cook-out but, rather, the price paid by so many in uniform for opportunities and privileges to which too many of us seem oblivious. Freedom has a price and each generation pays its share. Memorial Day is a thank you to those who foot that bill and most especially those who paid the ultimate price.
 
It's ceased to be about picnics, previews of summer or a shortened work week and has again become a day to honor those whom we have lost. Those who gave their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq are first and foremost in our thoughts and hearts but we cannot forget those who are the original greatest generation of World War II, the heroes of the Korean War, the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who served so valiantly in the Vietnam and the First Gulf Wars. We remember those who died in Somalia, Grenada, Beirut and many other locations across the globe where we have put our sons and daughters in harm’s way.

But when we speak of honoring our heroes, we should ask ourselves what should we do in their memories? What is our responsibility to them? They gave their entire lives—we owe them more than a day. We live in a world of twelve-second sound bites on television where earth-shaping and history making events are chased and replaced by other breaking stories and memories fade.
We get confused but we shouldn't. Celebrities make headlines-heroes make a difference.

And the men and women we honor and remember are heroes. In the words of John F. Kennedy, himself a veteran of World War II, "A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers." On Memorial Day we honor and remember not only the men but also the women who died believing freedom is the most precious gift we have. Our heroes forfeited their lives to prove that and their sacrifice requires us to live as engaged and energized citizens of the world who deserved their sacrifice, because we do.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I Already Had a Line on a Saddle

It was treats day yesterday at work. Relatively speaking (of course), and very few of my relatives would have treated me so that's why I work in the Glass Menagerie because I'm dependent on the kindness of strangers and yet look nothing like Rue McClanahan unless you close your eyes very tightly.

My entire building got new hallway molding!! Of course, it's not actually my building, or it would be called Billding instead of building and I overdosed on the exclamation marks in the hopes that I might fool your eye into convincing your brain that this was more exciting than it actually was. And since it wasn't exciting at all, it was a fool's errand which is why I did it.

I think the new molding looks a lot look the old molding ('and the beard's have all grown longer over night') though I couldn't really tell you because while I saw it every day I really didn't, if you know what I mean.

I believe the color is the same as well and the height, but I could be wrong but I am not fearful if I am as I see no consequence for not being accurate. It's not like the fellow who did all of this will come back and take it away, or ?

I'm not sure what we did to rate the new molding and I'm a little uneasy at a rewards scale that has new hallway molding as a prize somewhere especially since I don't know if it's a top prize or a thanks for entering prize.

What if first prize in the drawing is actually a full week in the building? And second prize is two weeks? I've been here a little over twenty one and a half years, so where did I finish when the drawing was held? Outside the hat?
And what about those pony rides I hear so much about?
-bill kenny

Monday, May 20, 2013

I'll Never Look at Rice-a-Roni the Same Way

Our weekend sojourn South to my roots, Central New Jersey, went well over the weekend. Michelle and Sigrid enjoyed Suzanne's bridal shower as did the guest of honor, always the most important part and the weather held off being drippy and moist until we were home again, home again, jiggity-jig.

Patrick and I had a bit of a close call on Saturday after the Free Because No One Would Pay Money for It Continental Breakfast with the wood nymphs and the troll re-enactors from North Carolina, West Virginia, and Queens in time for we never did figure out what.

We decided to walk off breakfast and took off retracing by foot the route we had taken in the dark the night before in search of dinner. Fifty-seven minutes later in what we thought would be a twenty minute walk we found our way back to the hotel, but it was dicey for a couple of minutes.

Luckily our son has his levelheadedness from his mother. I'm not someone who finds things when he gets lost, like where he should be going. I end up in Westerly heading for Waterford or can see the skyline of New York City while driving towards Derby. History not hyperbole. In other words, skills, but not the kind you put on the resume.

That old adage about take only pictures and leave only footprints didn't work out at all. However, the old saw, out of sight, out of mind certainly did. Because, and I will insist on this forever, because the door to the room blocks the hideaway closet in the room to the right, when we opened the door to leave and check out, we managed to leave our jackets on the hangers in the closet, out of sight.

Standing at my back door Saturday evening, about thirty minutes after we returned, I flashed on the realization, I had no idea what had become of my new Members Only jacket that Sigrid special ordered for me for my birthday so she could finally bury perhaps in  the backyard the green one I had worn since very close to the birth of our first child.

Sigrid called the hotel and their housekeeping people rang us back Sunday morning to confirm they were hanging out in the old room waiting for the guys who'd dropped 'em off. No worries-Patrick is sending them a UPS label and they'll ship them back to us. I'm starting to get a hankering for cable cars and Tony Bennett, so I'm wondering where I left my iPod.
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 19, 2013

One Trick Pony Less than One Trick

The thing about real life is that sometimes it's surreal.  And the more different you think we are the more frequently you find out how much the same we remain when you remove the edifice and the artifice.

Who among us hasn't wanted to be invisible? Having been treated that way for prolonged periods of time by huge numbers of people, I confess to no longer seeing the appeal but I remember as a child the idea that this would be an ideal super power.

Maybe true for you as well, but my favorite part of Star Trek TV shows and movies has always been when one side or the other activates the cloak of invisibility and I remain fixated and fascinated by the idea of the Stealth fighter and bomber. The technology I don't understand and have no chance of ever grasping but the 'now you see it, now you don't' aspect pegs the Very Cool Meter.

So I can understand how this fellow could have been enticed, especially since the pay-off promised to be so simple and immediate. Considering where this story purportedly happened, I'm amazed and grateful we, the US of A, weren't blamed for this. Take a look at the picture again and tell me his eyes don't creep you out, just a little bit. And his explanation to the court was only lacking something to the effect, "I can burrow through an elephant" and he'd have gotten a walk. I just know it.
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Excluding Snooki.....

My family and I are spending part of our weekend, actually last night and most of today with my brother, Adam, and his family in New Jersey.

Suze, their older child and the one who loves chicken Marsala (and don't tell me you didn't think I'd work that in!), is getting married in late summer to a marvelous young man, Ryan, who, despite having met my brother, remains deeply in love with Suzanne.  He's a man with his priorities in place and intact.

I should note my niece, Suzanne is a remarkable combination of kindheartedness, exuberance and caring (with a touch of ninja Girl Scout thrown in for variety), despite now residing in The Lone Star State and that, like her mother, she's a Jersey Girl.

I have a pronounced fondness for two syllable girls as the two I live with are German girls. And I know a little something about Jersey Girls, having three as sisters and two as sisters-in-law. You can always tell Jersey Girls. You just can't tell them very much, but you usually don't have to.
-bill kenny

Friday, May 17, 2013

When in Doubt, Wear Red

Edgar Allen Poe grandly called it "The Imp of the Perverse" but that's a bit swell-headed ever for a Raven's fan-I tend to refer to it as "my evil twin, Skippy" and have it on good authority that many acquaintances refer to me as "Skippy's stupid twin, Bill." (Sadly, we're all correct which is a singular sensation of a sort rarely seen in these parts)

It's when your ears hear your voice and mouth say something that your brain refuses to believe it formulated in the first place and Michael Jeffries of Abercrombie and Fitch is the most recent and, admittedly, egregious example that comes to mind.

As a reward for what I'm sure he sees as unflinching and a to be admired and emulated corporate fearless honesty in defining whom he sees as his company's customers, Mr. Jeffries has been pummeled from Pinterest to YouTube and back. As someone who used to fantasize incessantly in prep school about strafing the cool kids' lunch table, I haven't shed many tears over the beatings.

Some have been high criticism, sharp as knives and as caustic as lye while others have made him a victim of a smug self-righteous kind of holier than thouness which makes me throw up a little bit in my own mouth.  Perhaps I am a little jealous-as I can't afford to spend so much and get so little so I avoid A & F the way a bulimic skips an all you can eat buffet, but I can't help but concede to the eternal inevitability of the  wisdom of Messrs. Beard, Gibbons & Hill.
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sometimes You Feel Like You Live Too Long

I've been stuck on standing for some weeks now and as a cause and effect guy I'm flummoxed by what is happening, or better phrased, not happening in what passes for my life.

Maybe I'm another casualty of this graceless age in which we live but I can't get to sleep or stay asleep at night, awakening around three in the morning (though the last two days I've been 'sleeping in' to nearly four) only to run out of energy at some point close to mid-day and drift for hours not sure if I'm waking or dreaming until I come home in the evening when the cycle starts again.

Perhaps it's spring fever, delayed onset? A malaise that starts in the joints and eventually devours the spirit as well. It's like having a head full of stones and having to stack them in order to move forward.

I've looked around at work and in the shops and I think I see others with it as well which makes for some tricky negotiations as, in my case, I'm not a convivial person to start with and give me a serious case of the "meh's" and I am not anyone's idea of a day at the beach.

I keep waiting for something to happen to cause me to be here now and at my age, that's not always a good sign. The Young Turk that I was a lifetime ago still has a place of pride in my heart, but the arteries are narrow with plaque and somebody needs to tell the Wild Child to set the rheostat to mild or getting even older will be a lot more of a chore than it has been for the last year or so.

There's just so long you can channel swim and not get farther along before you settle and sink. I know what I want to do, what I'd like to do and what I need to do but I can't summon the strength or stamina for any of it for anything resembling a prolonged time. And I can hear the footsteps of others departing in a dozen different directions, all without me. "It's as if the thing were written in the constitution of the age.  Sooner or later you wind up pacing the cage."
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

From Status Quo to Quo Vadis

In the last couple of weeks around here we've seen the part about small town life I've never been especially fond of, the small people. You know who I mean. The ones who don't have a dream of their own anymore so they enjoy stepping on those of other people, questioning their motives and motivations, abilities and aptitudes and their courage and competences.

Across the pages of our local newspapers we've had folks, on-line anonymous assassins offering pellets of poison and arch advice to those struggling to help fix problems they didn't create. And right now, in terms of 20/20 hindsight, it's a target rich environment for all those who not only know everything but know everything better.

As you may have noticed, we're in quite a pickle with our municipal budget. Not intending to dazzle you with my mad math skills, let's just say it appears our wants and appetites have grown geometrically but our means and abilities to pay have only increased arithmetically.

In that gap between the desire and the deliverable is where we are, and no one seems very happy about it to include the City Manager, the City Council and at every public hearing on the budget so far, nearly everyone of those who will have to pay for all of it, the residents.

It's probably a trick of my memory (and yours as well), but every year it seems we are told 'this year's budget will be very challenging' or 'economic conditions aren't right' for some big, new initiative for public education, public safety or economic development.

We're counselled "when things pick up" we can have a discussion about restoring foreign languages to schools, adding an additional fire-fighter or maybe paving another street that's turning into a wilderness trail. Never a word about pony rides.

We weren't doing all that well when times were good. We did not need a Not So Great Depression (or market correction or other, more obscene name for the last half a decade) experts are telling us we are slowing climbing out of to fall so far behind in our lives that giving up or giving in seem like the only two options.

Everyone knows a neighbor who's lost a house or who packed and left in the middle of the night. You know we didn't get in this mess overnight and we're not going to get out of it without working very hard. And you think you're working hard, and you are but we still have a long way to go. We can plan our work and work our plan or pray for a simple solution and whine when it doesn't happen. But we can't keep doing both because we really suck at that and the constant practice isn't helping.

If talking about a better tomorrow made it happen, we'd be there already because we love to yak. Ideas? Please! We have them by the bushel but are we willing to offer them aloud and work to make them real? I go to a lot of meetings and rarely hear any idea except "don't."

"Don't" is not a great way way to live your life, but it's an especially lousy way to run a city. And when we add a heaping helping of 'if only' to create a hypothetical situation so bizarre it's painful I start to believe if my mother had married a Kennedy, I'd be living in the White House, but she didn't so I'm not and that's why I didn't wish her a Happy Mother's Day on Sunday because she ruined my life.
It certainly beats accepting that responsibility myself.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Full Circle

I can remember sitting on the top stair leading to the bedrooms in my parents' summer house in Harvey's Lake Pennsylvania, watching and listening surreptitiously as Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. It was a remarkable moment to be alive-kids on every continent imagined themselves walking across the lunar surface, daring to dream they could one day do so.

It was a long time ago. The workaday world has ground down most if not many of those dreamers but as of yesterday we now know of at least one exception, a child of the Canadian farmland, incited by Armstrong's efforts to dare to do and not just dream, who grew up and took to the heavens over our heads, Chris Hadfield, most recently the Commander of the International Space Station. Hadfield spent five months on the ISS and used all the social media at his command to reinfuse space exploration with more buzz than it has had since To Infinty and Beyond.

That he capped his return to terra firma by releasing a cover of David Bowie's Space Oddity, a song David Bowie was inspired originally to write by Neil Armstrong's long ago walk on the moon, tells me for every beginning there is an ending and that we must play the game existence to the end of the beginning.
-bill kenny

Monday, May 13, 2013

My, My, Hey, Hey

I have a subscription to Vimeo because I know a few folks who are seriously into various forms of visual expression and vimeo is a platform they use to share their work. They are quite good, said by a man who can barely reach a conclusion and who cannot draw a straight line and I very much enjoy not only their time and talents but the projects of those whom they like and are kind enough to recommend.

Yesterday, I came across a video that is not easy to watch nor is it short. It clocks in at over an hour and is not the most cheerful of subjects (I'd tell you what it's about but I want you to watch it and after I tell you the name I fear you won't). Still, I can hope you will admire the artfulness of it, because the purpose of art is to conceal art and its artful deception is superlative.

I know no other way to sugar-coat it. A Certain Kind of Death.
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 12, 2013

An Ounce of Mother Is Worth a Pound of Clergy (Slight Return)


I wrote this a couple of years ago and it's as true now as it was then, except maybe more so. I stole the title from a remembered proverb and with it being both Mothers Day and a Sunday I couldn't resist. After all, I am my mother's son, as well as the husband of my son's mother (and of my daughter's mother as well, but I was on a roll and wanted to balance the sentence).

I've read "The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." And the image that came with that quote is a beautiful bonus, like one of those 'it came with the frame' pictures we all have in our homes.

Families look to a mother the way the fingers on the hand look to the thumb (said the middle finger of our family, me) so I hope wherever you are today you can reconnect with your family, however you see them, and celebrate both mothers and Mothers Day. I have one, my Mom, in Florida,  (she's very peripatetic and the the last time I looked that's where she was) and one, my wife's Mom, in Offenbach, Germany.

Each of their husbands passed away years ago after being married to them for a very long time leaving them alone, but never lonely, and even from the long distances we are from them, I can feel their attention, their concern and their love in every waking moment. 

I see in their eyes what I see in my wife's eyes when she speaks of our children and know that all mothers' hearts are the same, not just on this day but on all days. Happy Mothers Day.
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Call Me Traction Jackson

By Sunday night I may not have a thrill left in my body. I'm buying new tires today for my car, though it's not really a car, it's more a personal sports utility vehicle for not many, or a PSUVFNM. I call it a Subaru but have no idea what that acronym stands for, or stands against.

I need to get new tires because it's been a long while since I last got tires for it. When I bought it, the Subaru, and it's a Forester, I meant to tell you that earlier (sorry), had Mastercraft tires-I have no idea who makes them or how good they are, or aren't.

At some point in the Sixties we all started driving cars without white sidewalls and I've been sort of lost ever since. The tires on the Subaru now are directional radials. It has been explained to me repeatedly why they are more than superior to conventional radials and vastly superior to conventional bias-ply tires.

Did you see what I just did there? I rolled some tire lingo at you and didn't even blush or stutter. I have absolutely no idea what that sentence meant but it sounded pretty good and I'm fairly certain those were the words used to describe the tires I had. They were excellent tires.

They were completely round and touched the street at all times going forward and backward easily. They were and still are black and went really well in snow and rain and ice and dry weather too and I hope whatever it is I'm getting are as good as what I had. If after they are on,  it were easier to explain why they are good-er, well, that would be cake.  
-bill kenny

Friday, May 10, 2013

Not Sure What Getting Better Looks Like

I've been carrying around a racking cough for the last ten days that caused me to visit my primary care physician twice in a week and a half. The first visit was short fused and I had to see her colleague as she was the only one available. I am an acquired taste and a rapid infusion situation doesn't help me.

I suspect made a very vivid impression on her so much so that when I called on Wednesday afternoon to make yet another appointment to get stronger meds or just have someone smother me with  a pillow I ended up with 'my' doctor.

This time of year we all get those annoying colds-the ones that aren't too bad in the day time but at night you feel like you're gonna cough up a lung. Those are the worst and I have a bad one.

My doctor came up with a cough syrup that puts you lights out in less than an hour after taking it. Not only did I not believe her and slept most of the night in a state of undress some might think of as fanciful because I was ambushed, but it camps out in your head for the next twelve hours.

Most of yesterday I spent walking waist deep in pea soup, or at least that's what it felt like. In fairness I will point out that when the fog finally cleared (around eleven) my cold felt almost gone but I had also eaten about a dozen brownies and could not explain the Steppenwolf's Greatest Hits poster on my office wall.
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Nutmeg Variation of Happiness

Northern people, John Lennon was once quoted as saying, are blunt. He meant Northern people in England but could have just as easily meant those from New England as well. At least I hope so as we have folks with all the fingertip sensibility of turnips.

The heartbreak and catastrophe of Newtown, and no I'm not about to launch into a a skit on the Second Amendment or gun safety but this is interesting and worth a discussion in the near future, but I could with little provocation, still fresh in so many people's minds, though not very many in the Senate of the United States, what should you think when you see this headline "Connecticut School Board Members To Open Gun Store?"

I would never say Tom Sirard, a person whom I have not met (nor likely shall), is a cloth-eared lout but, hand on my heart, how does the explanation 'the timing appears awkward' sound to you?

I'm leaning towards the word unfortunate but that's because I'm hoping to get that "Soul of Helpfulness" Merit Badge real soon. Point in fact, the irony is so rich in some of this, you'll be tempted to eat it with a fork but please use a spoon, because you'll want to get every drop.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Life in a Northern Town

When Spring arrives here in New England, it does so often unannounced and in full bloom which is how I see this past weekend. Don't get me wrong, we had some nice days in April-and after some of the ones we had in February we very much deserved them but this year April was all about the promise of spring without a lot to show for it.

Like you, I had plans for the weekend and hoped for good weather and (I think you'll agree) we had terrific weather. If a little sunshine brightens everyone's day, what does a weekend's worth of blue, nearly cloudless skies do for your frame of mind. The only thing broader than the smile on my face were the smiles on the faces of others I encountered all weekend long.

I witnessed a small business grand opening , of sorts, on Saturday as another one man operation, London's Lemonade opened for the season, or maybe it was just for the day on Yantic Street heading towards the Uncas Falls. An energetic mom or dad had crafted a festive sign from colorful crayons and white poster board and, together with a couple of balloons, proudly announced London's grand opening.

The foot traffic towards the Falls and the Heritage Trail was just starting to pickup when I walked by perhaps driven in part by the viral marketing of what I can only assume was London himself shouting "Fresh Squeezed" to cars rolling past on Sachem Street.

Sunday, many of us do what we do best in small town New England, take care of one another. There were different charitable outreaches across Norwich, each separate and yet similar in intent if not the scale and scope.

There was  the 1st Annual Eastern Connecticut Walk Against Hunger centered at Chelsea Parade and involving hundreds of walkers, many local businesses and regional friends in working to rebuild supplies in food pantries at historical and perilously low levels because of the prolonged recession/depression/hard times that have hit so many families across the area.

In recent months, charities have often found themselves helping people who in years past were donating to their causes. Statistics suggest one in seven Connecticut families are at risk for hunger, meaning they don't know where their next meal is coming from and one third of all those receiving food assistance are children. When you can see the faces of your neighbors behind those numbers, it helped you walk a  little faster on Sunday to help raise money.

Up in Mohegan Park, you had an opportunity to do yourself some good and to help others do good as well. The Flying Monkeys Race Team, whom we've seen for years at the Walk for Life races sponsored by the American Cancer Society, were offering a fundraiser that took you around Spaulding Pond or, for the more adventurous (or in my case, foolish), across the park itself.

I enjoy Mohegan a great deal and Sunday was a tremendous opportunity to see up close just how many other people enjoy a taste of the forest life in the middle of our city. There picnickers, barbecuers, birthday party celebrants, fishermen and women and children of all ages, mountain bikers, and hikers, and folks just out enjoying a beautiful day.

We're in the middle of another work week with no promise that this weekend will offer the respite and relaxation of the one just past, but we are fortunate to live where we do with the resources we have to help us enjoy our lives and to build and treasure our memories of great and glorious times.
-bill kenny 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Highway Star

I drive a Subaru Forester. It is not a turbo. It doesn't have a hemi in the boot for added torque or anything like that. It's a pretty straightforward, boxy-like vehicle that smells vaguely like cheese, but in a good way.

I drive it rather unadventurously back and forth to work five or more days a week. The great thing about not having a life is there's little to interfere with being a drone and I have been a Drone's Drone for decades (and have the trophies on the fireplace mantle now that you ask, but you didn't).

I putter the twelve plus something miles from my house to my work in the oh dark thirty of the early morning, between the casino shifts at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun before the first shift at EB takes to the road.

I use the state highway to go to work. It's two lanes, a lot repaved last fall so it's in pretty decent shape unlike so much of the infrastructure with which we surround ourselves, and traffic, at the hour I drive it is okay and not too much of a problem.

Coming home in the afternoon, because now, psychologically we're on 'my' time, I bang the left at the Mohegan Pequot Bridge which has been the subject of constant expansion discussions for the last decade and a half (all the time the Mohegan Sun casino on the far shore of the Thames River has been open) but nothing has been done.

The Q Bridge near New Haven on 95 is well over half way finished but that was done with mostly Fed dollars and boxcars full of 'em and this one would be about the same cost but there's no money and there's no work-around while they take the bridge apart so this isn't happening any time soon.

The drive home is a LOT more intense. Yesterday the guy one car behind me in the right lane, the lane that disappears as you head over the bridge  after you make the left at the light. I believe, based on his behavior, thought he had a Testarossa. He actually had a Tiburon.

And that, my friend, is why you only saw the back end of a Forester all the way over the bridge, no matter how much skittering you did back there, but also why I offered you a rigid digit salute as you passed me horn honking but then missed your shift and fell off the pace, badly. Laugh? Not even the half of it. I thought I'd die banging my head on the dash.
-bill kenny

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sometimes a Thing Is What a Thing Is

Early yesterday evening on one of the social media outlets, I happened across this image and found it to be arresting both visually and emotionally.


I'm not sure why I got stuck on it, but I did and I abandoned it only with reluctance. Seeing it made me feel like I was five years old again when the world was filled with limitless possibilities, though as a five-year old I knew neither of those words.

It reminded me of how much more magical a place this life is when you are young than when you are old. The same eyes that saw adventure hinted at in the shadows now curse the weak light and worry about the dangers that lie within.

And then I realized, sadly, it was a man and not a boy with the wheel barrow. A man who was seeing as much and as little of the mystery of the moment as I was staring at the screen watching his struggles on my monitor. And then I thought about Jimmy Webb and smiled.
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sort of Like Saint Patrick's Day

Across the USA today many of our friends and neighbors will celebrate Cinco de Mayo even though many can speak no more Spanish than is used at Taco Bell.

For a lot of us, today is a good reason for a party and we certainly don't need a second invitation to do that. With the exception of parts of the American Upper Mid-West, the weather should be conducive for frivolity and debauchery. As if either had anything to do with the origins of the day, today.


Hi.Lar.I.Ous. Yes, lots of jokes; some hateful, some hurtful, but only if you're the subject or the object. If you're the teller of the tale or part of the audience, it's a laugh riot. Somewhere beneath all of that attempted humor and synthetic bonhomie there might come a moment of reflection on the importance of this day for those of Mexican heritage. And a realization that we're more alike than any of us might have dreamed.
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Lawn Ornaments Riding Horses

Today is the 139th running of the "Fastest Two Minutes in the Whole Dam World or Something Like It" Yes. It's Kentucky Derby Day, the Race for the Roses and a hundred cliches that those who follow the Sport of Kings (and I wasn't sure what they meant for quite some time about that growing up) take as seriously as those who follow the World Series, the Super Bowl or the Stanley Cup take their sports.

The difference being you don't get to ride a team mate around a track in anything resembling a counter-clockwise direction (I think; and do they change directions  in Australia for the obvious reason) which is too bad because I imagine a placekicker riding around on a linebacker would be quite striking visually.

All I know about the event today is what Dr. Hunter S. Thompson wrote in 1970 when I was barely eighteen years old. It tore my mind in two; your turn.
And, you're welcome.
-bill kenny

Friday, May 3, 2013

P. T. So Good

Somewhere, the √©minence grise of Bethel, Connecticut, Phineas Taylor Barnum is smiling. Heck, he's doing way more than that-he's probably laughing his butt off and the object of his derision is, in all likelihood, the luckless, lunchless, Henry Gribbohm.

What's not to love about this story? The whole 'lost his life savings' angle? He's thirty years old, for crying out loud. I am much more impressed if, at 85, he loses his life savings. As it stands the line should read 'his life savings, so far.'  Perhaps I should be impressed with his pluckiness (rhymes with luckiness, of which he has none).

Do the math with me. His object and desire was to win a $100 gaming system (or something, I'm hazy on what a Kinect actually is but I don't think that's the story, yet) and after he blew $300 NOT winning it, he went home, got the rest of his life savings (out of his sock drawer or coffee can) and came back to the same game of chance where the first $300 sank without a trace and lost the rest of the money.

I love his reference to the little ones. "You’re expecting the kids to win a few things, let the kids have a good time,” except the photo that comes with the article has a child in a stroller so I'm guessing the gaming system wasn't for Henry (or Henriette) Jr., unless they now drool-proof the controllers (wish they'd done that for mine).

Not enough emphasis, I believe, is being paid to the banana. Historically, bananas are a wonderful source of protein and the staple of countless, timeless, physical humor routines. And the whole notion of it being a rasta banana just cracks me up eight ways to Sunday.

In another time and place, after an encounter with what might be seen as the Duke and Dauphin (for considerably more than ten cents, each), Henry would have gone home wiser and lighter in the wallet for the experience. Maybe he'd have contacted the police but you know you're in 21st Century America, and only knee-deep in Maury Povich Country, when you call a TV news outlet and don't mind that your tale of woe makes you look like an idiot.

Andy Warhol just asked P.T. to pass him a cruller and he's getting comfortable, though not too, because Henry's fifteen minutes of fame will be over in the blink of a young girl's eye. Life is a carnival, Henry, believe it or not. Life is a carnival, two bits a shot. And in light of your companion, mon, perhaps a little more.
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Final Piece of the Puzzle

I don't really care about the world beyond my window today. I should, and at some level I do, but in reality I don't. Today is our daughter's birthday. Happy birthday, Michelle.

You will always be my little girl even though there are more times than I care to admit when I recognize you are an adult. There will come a time when you will take solace in that thought. It will probably not be before lunch today, but thanks for playing.

Michelle spent months after we arrived in Connecticut from Germany looking at everything and everyone with her big eyes as if trying to memorize everything. I think it worked out pretty well because 21 plus years after all of that, it's still pretty much in the same places and with the same faces.


Okay some of us have gotten old(er) and our mileage may vary but I really hope you have a marvelous birthday and that the rest of the year is equally swell. And yes, I know you expect I'll finish up with a ridiculously well-known composition by Sir Paul McCartney back when he had a day job, but I've always enjoyed a song of the same name from a small and somewhat obscure movie that's best known some forty years later for giving us the music of Bernie Taupin and Elton John. Happy Birthday Mickey Mouse.
-dad.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

John Donne's Dilemma

The telephone is a device taken for granted in every home, office and, until recently, glass booths on nearly every street corner across the country. From the first switchboard in New Haven, Connecticut in 1878, the telephone has come to be more a ubiquitous utility than the revolutionary communications device it was when first introduced.

I cannot remember the last time I saw, much less used, a pay phone. Cell phones are nearly universal and may have been most responsible for hastening their disappearance. Somewhere I fear, Clark Kent weeps, but history marches on.

Not too far from New Haven and that first switchboard is our state capital, Hartford, and what is basically a third attempt to author the next chapter in the history of the telephone here in Connecticut, House Bill 6402, officially called  "An Act Modernizing the State's Telecommunication Laws."

As I said, this is the third time for this legislation and while that may be the charm, it might be worth a closer look.

As kids growing up when we said 'the telephone company' there was no confusion-everyone knew whom you meant and who they were, but in recent years, there's a proliferation of providers. In addition to land lines and dial tone from 'the phone company, we have cell phones, Voice Over Internet Protocols (VOIP) and telephone service offered by cable companies. It's all the Department of Public Utilities Control can do to keep track of quality of customer service, prices for services rendered, who's on first and well, you know how that one goes.

You and I might assume any legislation 'modernizing the state's telecommunication laws' would be unanimously endorsed and embraced, and in looking at the press coverage on the behind the scenes skirmishing over the bill, the arguments aren't over the language but the impact.

Fifteen years ago, time flies when you're having fun, SBC which had purchased SNET which had been one of the Baby Bells before the Big, Bad Phone Company monopoly was ended in 1982, bought AT&T and realizing the bigger name recognition adopted the AT&T name as its own.

The new AT&T asked for and received approval for the merger and may have sealed the deal in The Nutmeg State with a promise of increasing Connecticut employment by about 1,400 jobs, always a siren song to legislators and regulators trying to bring home the bacon. Except, as the decade unwound and the economy fell apart, jobs disappeared and there are now fewer, many fewer jobs (about 1,800) with AT&T now than there were in 2001.

I'd like to believe modernizing the state's telecommunication laws will guarantee those jobs, but not only will HB 6402 not do that, it doesn't force AT&T to honor its current commitments to what you or I might see as universal happy endings for customers like better (or continuing) service, newer technologies and products or even reasonable prices.

AT&T, not surprisingly is in favor of the bill's passage. They are its direct beneficiaries and I don't deny them the right to what they claim should be a 'level playing field.' But how do you suppose our state representatives and senators feel about us as the casualties of a bill with very few consumer protections and even fewer corporate penalties. Maybe we should call them up and ask them. We don't need a brother to lend us a dime, but we may need to borrow some dialtone.
-bill kenny