Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Karen and Richard Would Be Proud

There's been a lot already written in our local newspapers about the upcoming Norwich elections this November. It’s been intimated we could be in danger of trading freedom of choice for freedom from choice. And there's more than a germ of truth to that fear.

There will be a lot more written from now through November in this space, among others, on who should build Norwich, what they should do and how they should do it. This may be a part of all that, or not. I can only promise no monkeys (so far) were insulted in its writing.

This happened when I was a Jersey Boy seemingly in another life. I was helping a friend on a renovation at his house. I should point out even then I had no mechanical ability-but I wasn’t alone and there’s safety in numbers if not on the job site. Bob was very much the brains and the rest of us were the brawn as we worked together to get the job finished without injuring ourselves. 

There's much to be said for enthusiastic beginners but you can't hear most of it over the whine of electric saws. One of the helpers, John carefully rooted through the nail bucket while sorting them out and placing them in three piles, one nail at a time. He worked with admirable single-mindedness of purpose.  

Bob was watching John as well as the rest of us and after about a half hour or so wandered over to ask John what he was doing (admittedly more directly and far more colorfully, but you probably already guessed that) when what he wanted to know was why. 

John explained how he sorted out the nails to Bob. The first pile, he said, were rusty-they had oxidized or been left out in a storm and exposed to the elements and John was reluctant to compromise Bob's project by using them. 

Bob explained how even the rusty nails could be cleaned with just a few seconds of effort and while they were not actually new, they could be made to look as good as new and in this case that was good enough. John slowly nodded his head in assent but you could see in his eyes his heart wasn't sold on the argument.

Turning to the second pile, and holding up a couple or three nails to illustrate his point, John said those nails, as Bob could see, were bent and twisted and entirely unsuitable for Bob's project.

Bob said a few taps with a hammer could straighten out most of the bent nails while pliers could work wonders to flatten the twisted ones. Bob scooped the nails up and assured John he'd take care of them himself. 

That left them to deal with the third pile. For this one John had the most direct of answers-the heads, he told Bob, were on the wrong end of the nail and he was preparing to throw them all away. Bob told him to hang on for a minute while he processed that answer and then explained those nails were for the other side of the wall. 

John, satisfied with Bob’s explanation and happy to help, went back to work. If you're thirsting for a moral, here's the best I can offer you (and it's pretty good): though none of us would have been anyone’s first choice for a construction crew, we were certainly willing to try. 

And as Bob found out in the course of the days we labored, sometimes we were more trying than others. But together, our hearts and his head built a house that stands to this day
-bill kenny

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It's Easy if You Try

In the midst of all that has been going on in recent days from turbulent weather to a nuclear winter of the Arab Spring in Egypt, was the passing this past Saturday of Garry Davis, an unceasing advocate for peace founded in a belief that national demarcations and boundaries, were a luxury mankind could not afford. 

I figured in the time between now and when the verdict on the Bradley Manning 'Wikileaks' trial is announced later today and the shouting from both left and right becomes even more strident and even less tolerable, this might be a moment to reflect on Davis, who would in all likelihood be bemused at the attention. 

Now that he is past tense he has become that which he had preached, as the Kingdom of the Dead requires no passports, no transit visas and no customs declarations (sadly, of course, that also means no duty-free shops). I'd hope he went out believing we were closer to his One World than when he had first proclaimed it 65 years ago. But I don't know for sure myself. 

George Bernard Shaw once offered "(P)atriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it." Garry, I'd suggest, underscored the deliberate and delicious ludicrosity of that position through his every thought, word and deed since creating the World Government of World Citizens

I regularly visited his blog on the World Government site and when it migrated to here, I followed him even when he did things like provide air cover to Ed Snowden, who outed the NSA secret machinations against US (and other nations') citizens but then changed his mind on facing justice. 

All water under the bridge now. That was how Garry was-he made you laugh, and sometimes angry but he always made you think. And then think again which was in all likelihood the point of the drill. I'd like to believe he would have thought this was a good hope with which to remember him-a man who imagined a better world for all and then worked to make it so.
-bill kenny

Monday, July 29, 2013

I Never Knew What You all Wanted

You think you're ready and then you learn, too late, you're not. After all this time, scientists still haven't put surprise on the Periodic Table of Elements though it's the one element most of us are the most familiar with and accustomed to.

Proved it to myself yesterday though I had some help. My sister's daughter, my niece (and technically my first niece so it was important she set a good example for all the nieces and nephews to follow) posted a photo of our family's past I had passed out of.  



This was the house our parents, Joan and Bill (Senior) Kenny, had for our summers and vacations starting in the early 1970's at Harvey's Lake the largest natural lake in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (it was just beyond 'The Big D', Dallas, which itself was just beyond Wilkes-Barre half of the Twin Cities, the other half being Scranton (only separated by eighteen miles). Cannot make this stuff up though others have had little trouble. 

Pole 274 as large as life and certainly larger than in my memory while it was on my monitor yesterday morning. A house that looked nothing like I remembered it and yet everything like it with current current owners who remain as blithely oblivious to my existence as I to theirs until yesterday. 

There were some interesting comments from relatives and people I don't recall whom, I am assuming, were, and are, friends of the next wave of Kennys who enjoyed the house while my parents still owned it. 

For my part, it reminded me that the past doesn't always stay where you put it. On your way to whom you wish to be next, you get lost, distracted and overtaken by events. You can move from leading to following in the same breath and never know where it is you're going until long after you've arrived. Pacing the cage
-bill kenny

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Girls Got Game

I and our daughter, Michelle, attended the Women's National Basketball Association, WNBA, All-Star Game yesterday a mere seven minutes from our house. 

The women of the Association didn't need to do anything special to get that close to our house. They were playing in the Mohegan Sun Arena, home of the Connecticut Sun, our hometown team who have had a miserable first half of the season (if I were being positive).


Don't let that photo fool you too much-this was taken twenty minutes before game time and when attendance was figured there was a hair less than 10,000 folks in the venue. The joint was jumping though not enough for Kate Fagan of espn.com.

The basketball was excellent-which isn't all that surprising when you take the best players in the world, and from around the world, and put them on one of two squads and have them play one another. 

Michelle and I were hoping to see the Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner and to see again Elena Della Donne (whose Chicago Sky beat the stuffings out of our Sun about a month ago in this venue). We were disappointed but just barely and only briefly.

Griner missed the previous five games with a knee injury to close out the first half of the season and she didn't suit up. But she showed up and cheered and clapped and danced with and for her teammates and for all of us in the stands. And when all the hullabaloo was over, the West had won a very entertaining game. 

Women's professional basketball isn't 'spoiled' by the obscene dollars in the men's game which is good news for the fans though not much of a deal for the women trying to earn a livelihood playing it. The disparity is so great that most of those on the WNBA rosters play overseas for much of the rest of the year. The women of the WNBA have no shoe deals or other perks but I hope those days are coming.


They play hard and for one another and they deserve to live well doing what they love to do for a living. As Noel Coward said, 'Work should be more fun than fun." Yesterday, in Uncasville, there was fun for all and all for fun.
-bill kenny

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Bang and a Whimper

Today, sixty years ago, the Korean War Armistice was signed. It is for many of us in the Land of the Round Door Knobs, a 'forgotten war' though if you are related by blood or history to any of those who served and died there, you probably can argue about the use of 'forgotten.' The dead never forget-it is we, the living, who too often do. Those who had John Kelly as a son, a brother, an uncle, a husband and a father don't forget.
But the rest?

Half a century and more ago, the world was very different but very the same. We lived in fear; then, of the Red Menance and the "Atom Bomb"- now, of war without end against terrors so profound and pervasive we can neither name nor number them.

I sometimes wonder, assuming there is another six decades left in this beaten and bloody pretty blue planet on which we live, what will our children's children think of who we were and what we did when we have been reduced to whispers and shades? Will they, as was the case for Carlos Bongioanni of Stars and Stripes, have an opportunity for a walk with those remembering without rancor or regret?

Will there be tears? Will we still be able to cry for what we had and for what we've lost or, like so much else from sixty years earlier, will those who have followed, like we who have followed, just look on in numbed bewilderment unable to understand and unwilling to try?

It's not yet too late to say thank you to those who served and survived to grow old in our midst. So many did not. There are far worse things than being dead. Being forgotten, reduced to less than a memory as if you had never lived, is very nearly all of them.

 Thank you.
-bill kenny

Friday, July 26, 2013

An Ounce of Prevention

Yesterday on a day off, of sorts, I caught up on medical errands to include blood tests. I usually take advantage of their appointment system and go on Saturday mornings but I was at the oral surgeon, literally a two minute walk away and decided to scratch another errand off the to-do list. 

Except....there are more folks in the waiting room on a weekday mid-morning than early on a Saturday morning. Not a big deal, I signed in behind/below someone, "S" (working to preserve confidentiality here, bucko) who noted she had an appointment at 0730. The time we both signed in was 0736. Hmmm.

There were five folks waiting when I sat down "S" and four others. Two were called in and attended to while from across the room I could hear heavy sighs, and slight throat clearing and watched as she shifted in her chair, all signs, as is the case for most of us, that "I'm Pissed at how this is working out and am about to erupt."

Which she did in short order when the technician came to the front and called out a name other than hers. She explained loudly, as she advanced to the front desk that she had an appointment and wanted to be seen right now. 

The technician, and there were only two of them who could draw blood and one of them was obviously no longer doing that, explained to "S" that she wasn't on the list of appointments (it was now nearly eight and there was an eight o'clock appointment and he was already here!). That was when "S" showed the Tech her iPhone with the confirmation e-mail so now whatcha gonna do, eh?

Well, yes but no explained the tekkie. Yes, you had a seven thirty appointment (made on line because computers , unlike the humans who design and build them, never make mistakes) but it's not here but at another location, in another town, "Cambridge" (don't bother looking, we don't have one in Connecticut but there is one just outside of Boston). Not the kind of thing a very important person like "S" who has to get to work wanted to hear. 

She repeated three times, growing louder in each iteration that it is very important she get this blood work done now so she'd like to speak to a manager. And then learned that she already was. 

She then wanted someone she could call (right now but you had probably already guessed that), and meanwhile the meter is running both metaphorically and metaphysically as now there's only one technician drawing blood and servicing patients.

"S" is NOT happy and when she finally does get inside to get her blood drawn, jumping ahead of an elderly woman with a claw cane, it's all I can do to hope they don't use a 64 gauge needle to draw her blood and a 55 gallon drum to put it in. All of us in the waiting room could hear a loud, but muffled voice (we couldn't understand what was being said but it didn't sound like 'Happy Birthday' if you follow my drift) that went for at least three minutes and maybe more but then, quite loudER, "Ouch!"

And I realized with a smile "S" had just experienced a teachable moment; in this case learning the foolishness of antagonizing someone with a long, hollow spike who's attempting to insert it into your vein. It's far worse than wrestling with a pig since you both get dirty but the pig enjoys it. 

And then I thought about how lucky the good people of Wherever It Was She Was Supposed To Go had been in missing her entirely. Hope their luck holds and ours improves.
-bill kenny

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Child's Play

As a philosophic, if not strictly speaking historical, descendant of those original tea party patriots, the Colonists who suggested King George go stuff himself and his dynamic dynasty, I'm having a rough week processing all the carnival trappings that surrounded the birth Monday of a son to Kate Middleton and her hubby, a/k/a Prince William, Duke of Cambridge KG, KT, ADC (P) (feel free to leave some letters for the rest of us your Royal Bubness). Why are Americans so gooey-eyed about this particular baby?


On any given day in this world, about 367,000 babies are born. In the time it took you to read that sentence another 4.3 (or so) came along. Wolf Blitzer was and is NOT standing by for any of them. But for George Alexander Louis (I had been hoping for John Paul George Ringo, but that may have been too British), we've got a double-wide uplink truck in the hospital parking lot and hot and cold production crews in the foyer just beyond the delivery room. 

Perhaps I am coming across as too much of a curmudgeon in a moment of deserved joy for the House of Windsor if not Pancakes. Be not deceived, I like babies. I was one a very long time ago, briefly, though my children when they themselves were children often doubted that, and with excellent reason.

I had trouble understanding the delay in giving the boy a name-and yeah, I grasp it's a tradition to wait but that still doesn't make it good or understandable. I'm glad they've got it sorted out because the whole thing reminded me of a Monty Python skit, though which one escapes me at the moment. Perhaps ? I suppose not. Well, at least I curtailed my Walpoling activities.

On Monday as will be the case again today, law of averages prevailing and where not taxed or void by law, we added the equivalent of the population of New Orleans to this cozy little posse we have here on the Big Blue Marble but everyone, everywhere, was fascinated with the public spectacle (that their interest created) in a moment of private, family joy. 

Perhaps we can take a break in the celebrations now that the Royal Couple have actually named their son and we can each take a moment, though more than that would be nice, to rededicate ourselves to the children of all ages on this earth who are growing up with and often without us.
-bill kenny
    

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Journey of Miles Measured by Two Feet

On average, I walk six miles every day. More if I get to use my hands and I have gloves and a little less when the streets and sidewalks are snow-covered than when bathed in sunshine. Sadly, for those who are less than fond of me, that six miles is a total distance and not in a straight line leading from Norwich. Better luck tomorrow.

I drive to work and to the market when we're shopping but for almost anything in the city limits of the Rose City, from Occum to Laurel Hill-from the West End to Thamesville, I am a pedestrian. 


The pace is a lot slower than in the car, but you get to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells that much longer and I think that's a better than fair trade. And the things you see and the people you meet when you take the time to open your eyes and your mind are more rewarding than you can imagine.

When I'm heading to the ball fields on Hamilton Avenue, I'll take the Heritage Trail and Howard T. Brown Park before crossing the Laurel Hill Bridge not just because I love the Heritage Trail even though we don't talk very much about it in Norwich unless to complain it's not (yet) finished. Even Rome (New York) wasn't built in a day.

I use it because there's always someone, and almost always more than one someone fishing in the shadow of the bridge at the far end of the park and while I wouldn't know a fish stick from a fish mac they don't mind the company and I enjoy watching them enjoying themselves.


Last week, when the heat of the day had subsided a little in the evening, I was returning home on Broadway from a meeting, the Commission on the City Plan, I think. 

As I turned the corner onto Chelsea Parade South heading home to Lincoln Avenue, I watched a one-woman beautification committee watering a parched lily at the foot of a metal sign across from Chelsea Parade. The heat had taken a toll on the plant but not on her determination to have something beautiful at the base of yet another ugly street sign. 

Had I driven, I'd have never seen her, or this: a large retriever-like dog (I'm as good with dogs as I am with fish and don't get me started on dog fish) with a star-spangled bandanna padding towards us as we stood speaking. He had a tennis ball he bounced towards me and when I threw it to him, he snagged it...in mid-air and rolled it back to me. Lather, rinse and repeat. He was amazing (and I was better than pretty good). 


Later last week, I was walking just past the intersection of Sachem and Lafayette Streets near where the bigger and better Phillys is being finished. Sitting on the ledge in front of what will be, I guess, an entrance when everything is done, was a young man with an unplugged electric guitar, brow furrowed in deep concentration as he worked on his fretting and chording

He sounded terrific, not that I interrupted him to tell him because it was obvious he wasn't playing for me but, rather, for himself. That he was part of the soundtrack of another day in Norwich was important only in as much as the music he was making was a song for himself. As it is for each of us, everyday, as we get into tune.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tomorrow Is My Sister's Birthday

And this might seem like an odd way to celebrate it. And you would be right; it is. I could/should celebrate it tomorrow, as an example, but that's what she will do and that's good and as it should be.  

My sister, Kara, is the oldest of the second wave of children my parents had. As such we've always been linked by the notional shared responsibilities that each of us inherited through the accident of birth order. Interestingly enough we each have as a next oldest sibling, a sister and as the caboose, so to speak of our very small train of thought, a brother. 

Neither of us can ever claim to have been bored while growing up in our parents' house. Lonely was also another emotion we rarely experienced. I think it was good training for the two of us. 

We each married partners who were, themselves, completed human beings and not in need of finishing or fixing. Kara and her spouse have three sons (insert a musical interlude from Fred MacMurray's My Three Sons here) who have grown and are growing into adults who are interested and engaged in the world around them. 

My wife and I have a son and a daughter who struggle every day to overcome the handicap of a father who still sees them as children even though they are both very much adult and in many instances far more wise about the world in which we live than their daddy-o.    

We are, I have been told, the sum total of everyone we have ever met and in turn, become a part of everyone else who will ever meet us. If that's the case, I think I know where you get your cheery helpfulness and instinctive kindness from and knowing her the way I do, Kara would say 'you're welcome.' Happy birthday, sis!
-bill kenny

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rhymes with Bucket

They say each of us has a twin somewhere on the planet. My wife, not normally known as a religious woman, has been heard to pray for the sanity of whomever has ended up with my doppelganger.

I would assume, they, too are doing what she does, leaving me to wonder what the shelf life on effective prayer must look like as it's done her no good, at least so far.

With the heat of the last week just barely in our rear-view mirrors, I was struck yesterday by an image I came across on line, actually on Google + by Jamil Nabi, not someone I'm likely to encounter on the streets where I live as he and I seem to be on opposite ends of the planet.

I know this image, without having been in this place, because it, too, has a twin.


I was thinking I was looking at a picture of Lorelei, Sankt Goarshausen in the Rhein Palatinate of Germany, on the way to Koblenz along the Rhein River. Jamil's image is of a small, nearly microscopic, city in Austria, Hallstatt.

I've spent many hours in the former and have yet to make my way to the latter but now that I know of its existence I have something cool and refreshing to think about on a hot morning when toiling on my exercise pad in the basement or waiting for the sun to be finished baking out my brains as I imagine somewhere I've never traveled.
-bill kenny  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Probably Legos or Farts

I have had a rather hectic last few days (I know, 'welcome to the club!') and have ended up in places with thoughts not unfamiliar to me though the circumstances by which I've arrived at them this time often is. 

I caught myself yesterday afternoon while trying to NOT fall asleep sitting up in our living room after we'd been to the market for groceries, thinking back to the most amazing moment I have ever had with our son, Patrick Michael, whose 31st birthday was earlier this month.

He would not have been much more than two at the time. And he sat in his car seat in the back seat of our car, a white, four-door BMW 518 (not available in the USA) at a traffic signal by Der Grosse Friedhof (the Big Cemetery) in Frankfurt am Main over near Eschenheimer Landstrasse.

"Weiss du," fragte er, als wir miteinander blickkontakt hat in dem ruckspiegel im auto, "wenn Mom jemand anderes geheiratet, wurde ich einen anderen Vater hab?" "Do you know," he asked waiting for our eyes to make contact in the car's rear-view mirror, "if Mom had married someone else, I would have a different father?"

Not only did I not know that then, or now, I could not even begin to trace the logic process that produced such a question. 

As I learned not that as long ago as I'd like to think, kids and human curiosity are the two greatest engines for change in the world. And one always accompanies the other, though how I would know that to be true is something I am not prepared to answer at this time.
-bill kenny

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Back Order of Rope

I am very much a whiner. I have a natural talent for it and after sixty-one plus years on the ant farm I've developed a better than rudimentary skill-set for it as well. I have a strong sense of self-a very real sense of personal hurt (real and/or imagined) and finely honed feeling of outrage about everything in the universe that's just not working out for me (whether it was supposed to or not).

I am a natural victim and the reason you may not have noticed is because you're one, too, in all likelihood. No shame, my brother or sister-it's what we do and how we roll. Besides, who has time for all this happiness anyway? Don't they say Misery Loves Company? And who of us wishes to be alone?

I offer this as my best effort at a cheering thought because we here in the Northeast and, it turns out across the country, are getting steamed and baked all at the same time this summer. Lovin' Spoonful were right on the money and John Sebastian knew whereof he spoke/sang. 

It's mid-July. Six months from now, at least in this area, more likely than not we'll be up to our keisters in snow and ice and these days of 97 degrees Fahrenheit will seem like fever dreams. In much the same way as this still image from the aftermath of Winter Storm Nemo/Charlotte from February of this year looks like some kind of a bad dream.


Except dreams don't leave footprints in snowdrifts. Those are mine and mine alone and while you can't see it from that picture, the snow was about twenty-six inches deep. Guess what I was thinking about while slogging through it all? Yeah, you're right, that was too easy, wasn't it?
-bill kenny   

Friday, July 19, 2013

Another Loss of Innocents.....

I've aged out of Rolling Stone Magazine's target demographic. It's not a hard feelings thing or 'and the horse you rode in on' dynamic; it is what it is. 

Hell, the band from whom they took their name has aged out (and are probably close to AARP's cut-off as well, come to think it; sorry Charlie). Funny how only Pete Townsend hit the nail on the head back in the day and now, he, too, is chronologically impaired.  

I was a charter subscriber back when it was published in a long tabloid layout and nowhere near the glossy pulp paper pin-up it is now. It was chock full of music and very little else. Every once in a while Dr. Hunter S. Thompson made an appearance and I loved his Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail

So, too, did the RS editors as more and more of the magazine had less and less to do with music and it became instead the NY Times of the Counter-Culture, "All the News that Fits." 

I stopped RSM not too long after that metamorphosis began-actually unsubscribing exactly when they stuck Diana Vreeland on the cover and I had to read the article to discover she wasn't Neil Young's mother or wardrobe mistress for Alice Cooper but, rather, the editor of Vogue magazine. 

Since my wardrobe by that point in my life was mostly Air Force utility uniforms ('pickle suits' we called  them) and the occasional flannel shirt and dungarees, up close and personal with anything from Vogue was an encounter for which I had no appetite.

Of course, all of that snideness and snarkiness is yesterday's papers as, realizing nothing boosts sales  like controversy, the magazine did an extensive and extended piece on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused (and surviving) suspect in the bombing of the Boston Marathon. 

Doddering old fool that I am, I understand and have no argument with the pomposity of their advocacy supporting the decision to slap a rock star image of Tsarnaev on their cover (I'm not linking to it for the same reason I didn't buy books from Watergate crooks) even if their rationale gets awfully deep, smells pungent and I am wearing my good shoes.

The article is, I am sure, well-written and researched and is undoubtedly as balanced as the times in which we live will allow. I'll never read it that way just as I'll never chair a meeting of the Mensa Society at a Hooters Restaurant (because I, not the ladies, will never qualify for membership). And the words of the article isn't what will sell the magazine which is on news stands starting today; it's the cover.

I'm sad because Rock and Roll, the magazine's original Raison d'ĂȘtre, celebrated the joyfulness and exuberance of life, embracing the notion that we should live in and for the moment. With very little effort, see below, RS could have kept the their words as they are, while also remembering and memorializing those who were here for too brief a moment and who died before we ever got to know them.


But cash is king and the business of America, even (and maybe especially) for its music  magazine, is always the bottom line. And that's where you'll always find the biggest feeders.
-bill kenny 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

To the Strains of Nick Lowe

I work in a five story office building-not exactly 'a towers over the landscape' edifice or a landmark one might offer 'take at left at' to a lost traveler, but tall enough to leap over Superman in a single bound. As I said, we're an office building, so lots of desks, chairs, file cabinets and such. 

I started my work week with an early morning discovery that one of the window walls in a hallway  near my office had been turned into a sprained glass window. I thought at first perhaps over the weekend a (very large) bird (or very small airplane) had flown into it, causing the crackle but no snap or pop effect that I was viewing at the time.


Mind you, I don't find this style of glass to be without charm. Way more translucent than transparent, admittedly, but then again who isn't these days? However, I can also understand how the people who run the building fear the effect could get old very quickly. After we in the minion brigade had spent  hours daydreaming and postulating on what could have happened vice attempting to research what had actually happened here's what we had arrived at: the outside heat on the surface of the dual pane glass, when met by the chilled air from within the building, shattered the window whose frame is all that keeps the fragments from being showered all over us hapless bipeds.

I like that idea-dramatic with the added advantage of being pseudo-scientific without the burden of requiring any actual science or scientific proof. Of course when you point out that only the inside pane, where only the cool air is, is all crinkly and wrinkly but not the outside part where all the heated air is hanging out, I don't have a second cause, unless you count sinister force and I play that card an awful lot for someone who has lived his entire life within a short commute of the Age of Reason.


So here it is later in the same week, and the provisional repair would make the John Hancock (not the BIG lettering guy, the other one) Tower in Boston proud. We've traded Windex for Pledge (of course they're both from "S.C. Johnson, a family company") so it's all good (I guess), unless you're actually trying to see something out the window in which case not so much.

I'm starting a collection to purchase a set of water colors and brushes so selected staff, preferably those with their own berets and smocks, can treat the new, blank surface as an invitation to paint whatever kind of day they imagine is happening on the other side of the wooden plank. I hope someone knows how to draw a pony because I'm thinking this maybe as close to that ride as I'm going to get for a long time to come.
-bill kenny     

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Perspective and Contest

You may have seen news articles or TV reports on the continuing disagreement in Washington over the creation of a federal budget.

It's not exactly new, though it's been in the news. The federal government hasn't had a budget in almost four years. It's been getting by with continuing resolutions (stop-gap funding). 

Sequestration was supposed to be both the carrot and the stick to force all factions in Washington to produce a real budget - "or else."

No one seriously thought there would ever be an "or else" - but, surprise!, "or else" won out.

Sequestration, the "or else," mandated across-the-board reductions in every federal department, program and agency. Norwich is just 12 miles from the Groton Submarine Base, and probably having a neighbor or acquaintance who works there, you may already know about the 1,300 or so Department of Defense civilians who took a 20 percent weekly pay cut starting last Monday. That will continue until the end of September. No one is really sure what happens then.

I'm one of those civilians but I didn't tell you looking for pity. Do us both a favor and don't feel sorry for me, I do an excellent job of that all by myself (and I hate competition). 

Times are tough and we still have our jobs while many other people across the region do not. I think we understand the idea of shared sacrifice. Speaking just for me, a 20 percent pay cut is absolutely no walk in the park, and I do a lot of walking.

Twenty percent less means less cash for goods and services we buy and use every day. While it was feared the belt tightening might impact military readiness and training, it will most certainly affect every business and merchant across the region.

A 20 percent pay cut hurts. But we're grown-ups, and it doesn't hurt as much as a 100 percent cut, especially when the 100 percent getting cut are 3- to 5-years-old.

The Thames Valley Council for Community Action (TVCCA) administered a home-based Head Start program for 60 or so families across New London County,not just here in Norwich but in Griswold, New London, Stonington and Waterford.    

TVCCA had six specialists in early childhood development who worked with children with special needs, developmental difficulties and socialization issues all needing one-on-one educational support before they ever reached a traditional school classroom.

All of that is past tense because the program is history, a victim of an "or else" threat no one ever thought would be used. The disappearance of this small program locally is happening all across our country, crippling the preparation of a generation needing all the help we can give it.

Except we can’t help because we can't get out of our own way, politically and ideologically, long enough to figure out how to work together for the common good and towards common goals. Sometimes the world looks different when fiscal restraints look like your neighbor or are no taller than a four year old. It’s a matter of context and perspective. 
-bill kenny

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Eighteen Legs and Catches Fly Balls

That's the set-up to one of my favorite baseball jokes of all time-'What has eighteen legs and catches flies? A baseball team.' A knee slapper of the first order. 

The All-Star Game game is on tonight on Fox and of course, as both they and MLB have taken to saying in recent years, 'this time, it counts' because whichever league wins the game assures home field advantage for their team should they reach the World Series. I'm supposed to believe that's what all those guys are doing out there on the field, trying because it counts. Sure, big wink, whatever you say. 

As a child I remember watching TWO All-Star games every season and those guys played for blood. One year, on a grainy black and white TV while watching with my dad in his chair the afternoon game, somebody threw at Willie Mays and it really got crowded on that little tiny TV screen (baseball players fight like girls, or like girls of my age fought-not the crazed beotches these days). I cannot imagine that happening tonight. 

I wish I could say the same for Fox TV coverage of it as well as I don't dislike when they televise the NFL games mainly because I don't watch it. But I adore the ebb and flow, the game within the game, the nuance and the romance of everything to do with baseball and Fox grabs some hip-hop with auto tune music to slide underneath all the pictures, dawg, and thinks it's just off the hook. Nope, ain't dope and I can't cope. No soap. 

Even though I know Fox is NOT responsible for it, I blame them (anyway) for the Home Run Derby that aired last night as it traditionally does, the night before the All-Star Game (Fox doesn't even air it). It's simply stupid pandering. 

If we keep allowing it then Tim Duncan and Lebron James should have played H-O-R-S-E before Game Seven of the NBA finals or, changing sport deftly, moments prior to the coin flip to start Super Bowl Whatever RomanNumeralItWasThisTime, there should have been a punt, pass and kick contest with the winner getting a touchdown and point after to begin the game or a field goal and the ball to start each half. Winner's choice.

Do NOT roll your eyes at me! Of course, both of my examples are ludicrous but so, too, is the attraction the Lords of Baseball manufactured. I really can't expect any better from a management model that created the Designated Hitter, another excruciatingly stupid idea created by people who secretly hate baseball and want to kill it. And I'm not just saying that because the best DH in baseball, David Ortiz, will never, ever, wear Yankees' pinstripes, but, yeah, it does help explain my animus. 

Coverage of the All-Star Game starts at eight, Daylight Savings, tonight on Fox and goes until somebody wins unless the two teams run out of pitchers. Then we play pinata with Bud Selig and he'll really regret having allowed designated hitters into the game. Spikes out! 
-bill kenny

Monday, July 15, 2013

Finger Pointing

By now we've all read the news today, oh boy. And like so much else in our lives, the vast majority of all of it, like an iceberg, is below the surface. And we have a well-known aversion for doing anything but scratching the surface. 

We are the MOST complex species on the planet, the Crown of Creation if you so choose. We have to stop settling for simple solutions to extremely complicated problems and accept that any true and lasting answer will involve hard work, good will and open hearts and minds. If we are unable, or unwilling, to make that effort, we need to cash in our belly buttons and drop out of the human race. 


There will come a time when we speak aloud all of our hopes and fears for ourselves and our loved ones. In the matter of Trayvon Martin, perhaps a social media outreach such as this can be a tool (not necessarily the tool) to build bridges of understanding between and among communities not yet comfortable with the realization there is a problem at all. 

I'm not in charge of absolute right and wrong. It was not my son shot to death nor was it my child charged with that crime. But in a world unfolding around us we need to see such events in a context that allows us to own the emotions and consequences for all the actions that led to it, and which will forever follow it.

That Trayvon Martin died is, and will always remain, a tragedy but if we do not learn and understand the reasons why, and how we must alter the mindset behind those reasons, then and only then will his death have been for nothing.
-bill kenny

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Day in the Life

I slept in yesterday like I haven't in well over a decade or longer. Usually I'm up with the chickens (actually most mornings I get them up) but yesterday morning I stayed in bed and slept until after nine. 

I blew off the elliptical and all the other early morning machinations I subject myself to and slept in. I was tired and, truth to tell, I got up tired even as I struggled to make myself a cup of coffee (insert bad 'old magician's joke' here). 

The better of our two local newspapers had all local news on its front page perhaps in the belief that anyone with a wider view of the world and a matching desire to know what the hell is going on in it has an Internet connection. 

That's as may be, said the man whose words you are at this moment reading via just such a connection, but I think the broader the canvas the easier it is for each of us to find and see her/his own context. But I digress.

It was on page A2, "Nation" that I learned of the denouement of that gripping hostage story in Colorado about the bear cubs. Right up there with the skateboarding dog and the water-skiing squirrel stories. And people toiling in mass media outlets wonder why we don't take them seriously. I'm thinking it's because we can't.

While I had slept Friday evening into nearly Saturday afternoon, someone decided a report on Malala Yousafzais' address to the United Nations was only worthy of page four, bottom, above the border advert and with a small, but color, photo. 

Don't snicker other newspaper that is allowed in my house, but only because my wife likes you--you had NOT one word about her. Malala Yousafzais is the sixteen year old Pakistani school girl whom the cowards in Allah's S.W.A.T team, the Taliban, attempted to murder by shooting her in the head because she committed the crime of going to school. 

She lived. Which should tell the wide-eyed weirdos just how their God feels about all the crimes they commit in His name but the religious holy moly rollers and whackjobs of all persuasions never do the math.

Her words should have been on the front page of every newspaper on earth and in the frontal lobe of every sentient human being. You be the judge.   
Now, I'm awake.
-bill kenny

Saturday, July 13, 2013

What They Lack in Experience, They Make Up for in Inexperience

I have been very patient, okay, patient for me. I have taped, even though there is NO tape and no recorder so I guess I should type I have DVR'ed, every episode of Alan Sorkin's The Newsroom from the moment it started on HBO in the weeks following the receding of the flood waters all those centuries ago. 

Had you all the way to the end, didn't I? Yeah, sure. Actually I do have all the episodes from the first (ONLY) season because so much else on TV is awful with a cheerful relentless consistency that makes me wonder if I've had a lobotomy or if everyone ELSE had one. 

And because of that I knew there would be times I'd end up watching the episodes over and over. To include The 2012 Presidental Debate Night, Three. Awkward

Actually, the awkwardness is all mine as my wife and my daughter badger me about "what's the deal with these 'The Newsroom' episodes? Are you gonna watch 'em or what? Oh, you did...and ...what? Still?" 

And then there follows silence. Long and painful silence. Eventually I get up and leave the room. I have no idea what the other other person does but so far no one has deleted my stockpile of episodes. And that's good because The Newsroom returns to HBO for its second season tomorrow night at ten. 

That means I have today (and, technically tomorrow as well) to have a film festival of ALL the episodes leading up to the new season so that I'm ready. 

Except, I was born ready and will always have this, from the very first moments of the first season when I realized as I held my breath that this was going to be quite a ride. And it has been. 

"You, sorority girl. Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there's some things you should know, and one of them is, there's absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world. 

"We're 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number 4 in labor force, and number 4 in exports. 

"We lead the world in only 3 categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined. 25 of whom are allies. Now, none of this is the fault of a 20 year old college student. 

"But you, nonetheless, are without a doubt a member of the worst, period, generation, period, ever, period. So when you ask, "what makes us the greatest country in the world?' I don't know what the f*ck you're talking about. Yosemite? [Pause] 

"We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors. 

"We put our money where our mouths were. And we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy. 

"We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn't belittle it, it didn't make us feel inferior. We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in our last election. And we didn't...we didn't scare so easy

"We were able to be all these things, and to do all these things, because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore. "

[Pause] Enough?

Nope, not for me. Not by a long shot. You're thinking of James Tiberius Kirk. Tomorrow night at ten HBO. Bring it. 
-bill kenny 

Friday, July 12, 2013

I Can See the End of the World from Here

I have been accused of having a fevered and at times twisted imagination. Without offering a plea one way or the other, let me note that we can encounter real life situations so surreal, it's all you can do to remember The Bard of Stratford-on-Avon, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." And I was never even a fan of CSI: Miami

I also would never be confused with a philosophic man though I've discovered that from a distance jaded looks surprisingly similar to thoughtful especially to people who have no idea what they are looking at. Guess how far from the Madding Crowd I never wander. I never even knew Frank and Joe had a brother, much less a writer; he could've really helped himself out, career-wise. 

I should have a less snarky attitude and even lesser prurient interest in this possibly-precedent setting legal case except, it's just so tawdry (without the Hepburn). 

This is the kind of court case you know the bailiff just wants to power wash the entire chamber after a day of deliberations. And being a life long (so far) resident of the Northeast, you know I'm looking at the slugline on the story and going "Kentucky." Except that attitude is both elitist and in this case, fehl am platz. 

Sarah Jones makes me feel better about my life, no matter how bad it is and no matter who I am. She needs to be fitted for a bright orange blazer with lettering visible from space, "I Am A Cautionary Tale." From what I've read she gets it from her mother, though the account also makes it clear she gets it any way she can. 

Pardon my callousness and casual contempt but being raised by Cheryl Jones sounds like a childhood Romulus and Remus might better understand. No one we know wants to keep up with these Jones' and even though I've never met any of the framers of the Constitution, I'm pretty sure this was never envisioned by any of them to be a test of the First Amendment-not even among those who had a reputation for hitting the opium (yeah, TJ, takin' 'bout chew). 

Regardless of how the jurists decide, I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing the happy couple (or however many are in the relationship such as it is this week) all the best and hope I can be forgiven for looking forward to the day when Sarah's son or daughter provides us with as much mirth and merriment as Mommy Dearest. Because with a genetic inheritance like this, it absolutely has to happen. 
-bill kenny

Thursday, July 11, 2013

In a Quiet and Sociable Way......

We tend to speak of The Government in capital letters, but I spell my name at the bottom of this page with lower case. As someone in the employ of the federal government I've never really understood the often all consuming contempt for the rest of us who work for it. Something about hath not, organs, dimensions and eyes.....

I'll have a lot of time today to think about it as I'm off without pay and will be once a week, every week, at least through the end of September. If you thought the absence of agreement over immigration reform was bad, or are trying to understand what happened to farm price supports, welcome to Unintended Consequences, population: Us

And by us, I mean ALL of us. If you buy groceries subject to FDA health inspections, bank in a financial institution insured by the FDIC, take any form of medication approved by the NIH or the CDC (to name two) or have Social Security or Medicare, this is the same boat and we are all in it. 

And that short list is just the off the top of my head. With all the time I have on my hands today, just imagine how long it can grow to be.

Me and about two plus million other federal employees have discovered for our bosses (and yours) in elected office to lose ten pounds, we need to take up jogging. As you might understand, I've been scouting for all the really good places to collect bottles and cans that have a deposit because I can definitely afford to take a 20 percent pay cut, but not indefinitely. 

You should start looking, too, because all that stuff Federal employees buy-well we still will, just not so much...like by about 20%, leaving you and your business with a hole in your bottom line that will get passed along and passed along some more. 

You'll have to forgive me if I have blind animus right now directed at the Party of Lincoln (as if they'd actually let him join it), Republicans, who pledged allegiance to the Koch Brothers and the United States of Lipton

The results of the 2012 Election should have shown them their 'my way or the highway//All or Nothing at All' approach was less than a success at the ballot box. Turns out, they can't count. Never mind-they had a Plan B.

Now in the House of Representatives a handful of gerrymandered jihadists have declared a fiscal fatwa and are throwing a hissy fit while holding their breath until someone else turns red, white and, finally, blue. 

Consider me your sneak preview of coming distractions. If you liked the way we chose to help Wall Street but not Main Street, you'll love what's next.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hot Fun in the Summertime

As much fun as last weekend was, between the CT Tigers' home stand, the Harbor Fireworks on the Fifth and the street-corner get-togethers in many of the Norwich neighborhoods, we are actually only now getting into the thick of the summer season. 

With some luck, we'll have had a bit of a break from the summer heat but weather does what weather does and enjoy ourselves sometimes in spite and other times because of it. Starting today, Wednesday's isn't just for a certain spaghetti in South Boston anymore. 

Norwich will be jammed and slammed with things to do starting today and every Wednesday until almost Labor Day. And in terms of goings on, why not look at this summer's calendar as a road map of where we should be heading as a city year round rather than as souvenir book of where we were when summer is done.  


But first two riddles. What has eyes but can't see? A potato. What has ears but can't listen? An ear of corn. I was a comedic sensation in second grade with that material but jokes are my way of reminding you that the first of the weekly Norwich Downtown Farmer's Markets at Howard T. Brown Park starts this morning at ten with fresh to you vegetables and fruit as well as artisan handicrafts.

We've had the 'there's no place to park in downtown' discussion before and it's not true. There's free parking at both the Intermodal Transportation Center or the Main Street Garage and they're each less than a five minute walk from the market in Brown Park, so if you're not intending to walk into downtown, please park your excuse for why you're not here with the car when you do get here. 


At the Farmer's Market you can buy lunch from the vendors (some assembly required), and grab a bench seat facing the Harbor or you can bag your fresh produce to take home later and stop at one of the restaurants dotting downtown. That's especially attractive if it's very hot or if the skies are threatening. 

While you're downtown, you can stop in at the Otis Library and check out their growing inventory of e-books and even an e-book reader if you're so inclined-and yes, they have 'real' books and magazines for check out as well. 

Actually, the books at Otis come with a discussion group later in the afternoon back at Brown Park at five, followed by the kick-off of the 2013 Rock the Docks season, starring Eight to the Bar. There are places to get refreshments, both adult sparkling beverages and softer fare for us kids as well as hot and cold eats. And even more of the Chelsea District eateries will have full kitchen menus if you decide to make an evening of it. 


This kind of activity in downtown and across the city should be our new standard and not a special occasion. The only folks I ever hear complain about 'there's nothing to do in Norwich' are the people I never see at any of the events we do have in Norwich. Yeah, we are the reason why we can't have nice things in Norwich-because we are unable to see them when we do. 

If you attended any of last summer's Rock the Docks show or nibbled on even one carrot from a local farmer, you know we had a great mix of local folks as well as guests from across the area. We all had great times and the only complaint was there wasn't enough time. I can fix that: leave your watch at home and enjoy yourself. 
-bill kenny 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Calculating the Price of Ignorance

I just realized, this is the 2,100th of these I’ve penned. If you’ve read them all, or at all for that matter, you have my gratitude (otherwise I’m back to the sound of one hand clapping and other activities for which only one hand is used) and, in no small part, my sympathy.

That you are able to read them at all (willing is another matter entirely) is due to the efforts of someone, somewhere at some time teaching you how to read, and hopefully to think. I’m not sure we’ve traded those skills in for feathers and beads, not just in New Orleans at Mardi Gras, but year round across our culture and society.

I really wanted this to be a joke, preferably something that was delightfully tongue in cheek, brilliant, refined, wickedly acerbic, inspired, terrific tomfoolery, and whatever other superlatives you care to supply. 

Instead it is, as near as I can determine, a collection of actual responses and answers developed as part of the pedagogical exchange between teachers and students. I get nauseous when confronted by the totality of ignorance on display.

Our children were born and raised in another country on another continent so I don’t really have a good guess (which is why I welcome yours) on where a moron who thought the following was taught….“foreign countries ejaculate emissions and pollutions to China in order to keep only themselves clean.” I cannot even parse that much less grasp it.

In case we haven’t noticed, The American Century was the previous and not our current one. Not sure how many of us you think are going to be able to make a living as a Solid Gold Dancer, or as a PED’d professional athlete, but my money is on the Dave Thomas Retail Associate career path because when we regard education in these United States, from pre-school to post-doctoral, as little more than warehousing, we need to start to practice making the Big Fries (shakes pretty much make themselves).

As Patrick Henry (nearly) so famously said, per one of these best and brightest, “Get me library or dead.” Let me help you with that queue at the window ledge. Wouldn’t want anyone breaking your fall

-bill kenny