Saturday, October 31, 2015

Not Quite a Hallowe'en Tale

Among the candy corn and the fun-sized Snickers today, here's a thought from a long time ago, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." Trick or Treat, indeed.

I'm haunted by a story years ago in the NY Times about a woman named Christina Copeman who was discovered dead in her apartment in Flatbush, New York. Based on eyewitness recollections of their last time seeing her and the apparel in which she was dressed when found, authorities estimate she may have been dead for the previous seventeen or more months.

In a metropolitan area such as NYC, regarded by people such as I as the Capital of the World, there are well over thirty million residents in a small geographic area. So many people in the same device as Indianapolis' Favorite Son, Kurt Vonnegut (he of "Slaughterhouse 5" fame and "Wear Sun Screen" infamy. Hi Ho) once wrote.

Each of us alone in the tiny vessel of our lives, somehow never quite seeing how we are all in the same ocean and that, despite the technology convergences, the email, the cell phone, social media platforms and all the instant messengers money can buy, we work to avoid hearing the sound of silence at the end of the day.

Copeman became invisible to her friends, her family and her neighbors. Her life was somehow outside of theirs, beyond and behind a veil of tears and quiet despair that no one thought or cared to penetrate. 

Twice in our lives we are alone; in the instant we are born and at the hour of our death. What we say and do (or don't) in all the space between is our song and it is all the song we shall ever have. We all need verses and choruses and an ongoing joy to live each word out loud.
-bill kenny

Friday, October 30, 2015

Perhaps Some Final Thoughts on America's Pastime

This is from a couple of years ago, and with very little alteration, it remains painfully accurate. Some days my awesomeness is exceeded only by my modesty. This is not one of those days. 

I was hoping this was the year the World Series lasted until Spring Training. Of course, I also hoped my Yankees would be the AL representatives...but what is it they say about wishing? 'Wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one fills up faster.' That's as may be, but my rule after watching somebody do that is to just wave instead of shaking hands.

Anyway, it's over for my Yankees, but perhaps not for Lee and Mark’s Mets, though it’s a hole to dig out of now that the World Series is at Citi-Field (still feels weird NOT typing Shea Stadium), and the Metropolitans know that to have any hope, they need to win four out of six while the Royals only need two of those same six games.

Then it's the Hot Stove League for everybody and about 110 days until pitchers and catchers report but before we start packing for Florida or Arizona, just a few words about the annual buzzing and murmuring about the Designated Hitter, DH, used only in American League Parks during the World Series and how maybe the National League should get in the modern era and have one as well. Actually I have just two words: Shut up.

I hate the DH and not just because I wonder where guys like Ruth, DiMaggio and Aaron might have ended up if they could have sat on the end of a dugout during the dog days of August and come out and batted three or four times a game and then sat down again.

Do what I do a couple of the times every summer: stop some place where kids are playing sandlot ball and ask how many want to play when they grow up. When you do, next ask them what position. Guess how many say Designated Hitter? Yeah. Game, set and match.

Apropos “game.” And I hate to be unctuous about this (no, I don’t): the purpose of baseball caps evolved as the game matured. They were intended to shade your eyes from the rays of the sun because The Lord intended baseball to be played outdoors and during the day (only) so S/He could watch from heaven. The purpose of the work week during the baseball season was, and remains, to get in the way of going to a ballgame.

I do not understand why other sports' teams have baseball caps. It's not part of their uniform, and for the No Fun Losers, how would your guys even wear them? Under the helmet or over it? Take it easy, NHL; I was also looking at you while typing that. And I would stop smiling, NBA; sports in shorts? Seriously? 

But here's the thing, because baseball is driven by dollars, day games have gone the way of the dodo, or just about. Remember when we were kids bringing transistor radios to school and asking permission to listen to them during recess after lunch? That's when Jim Hightower, Mama Bear Palin and Rush Limbaugh rule the airwaves, not the World Series.

So to go back to my sandlot full of kids playing baseball. Maybe now none of them want to grow up to be players because it all happens after their bedtimes. And let's face it, professional Designated Hitters need their beauty sleep too; by the looks of most of them 18-20 hours a day sure wouldn’t hurt.
-bill kenny 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

sdaeh rieht edih dna nur yeht semoc niar eht fI

We here in the Northeast have had a rain deficit for most of the year. Nothing like the years of drought across the Plains States or Southwest, but less average rainfall for months and months creates reservoir concerns and impacts everything from maple syrup production to strawberry harvests (as reflected in store shelves and prices at the register). 

We will probably be pretty well evened out on deficits by the end of the day if not sooner.  Hurricane Patricia which clobbered so many for days on end is pretty much spent though we’ve seen a lot of rain starting yesterday afternoon, which I’m told we need and I’m assured those rain clouds are receding even as I type so I’ll type faster.

I’m sorta SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, a guy who gets somewhat morose and melancholy as the skies first darken and then open. Between us, I’m not sure my mood isn’t because when the clouds open it’s rain or snow (if we had a shower of thousand dollar bills I suspect my ear to ear smile would be so wide, the entire top of my head might fall off) but when it pours, I’m darker than is my wont. 

I go from pressing my forehead against a cold, rain-splashed window to contemplating with some despair the Machiavellian machinations in Dodge City pausing to shake my head in disbelief at the unrest and strife in the Cradle of Civilization while remembering and reconsidering  the words and meaning of Sara Teasdale and their cold-hearted, Cold Warrior extended interpretation by Ray Bradbury.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Helping One Another or Just Helping Ourselves?

Maybe you’ve made your mind up about who to vote for, or in some cases, against, next Tuesday for Norwich City Council. If so, I envy you. We’ve had ample opportunities to hear from those seeking office. And I thank them for their service and selflessness. But I still have questions and maybe you do too.

Here’s some of what I would ask the candidates. 

Each of you tells voters you love Norwich; of course you do. You certainly didn't offer to run for city council for that monthly stipend of $100. But quite frankly, love of Norwich isn't a reason to vote for anyone ever. What knowledge, skills, and abilities do you bring to the next City Council, and once elected how do you integrate your talents with those of the other six members also selected for the Council?

There is a small city of volunteers spread across dozens of agencies, boards, commissions, and committees, working on a dazzling variety and number of projects for the betterment of the city, each pulling on an oar in the boat we see as the good ship Norwich all navigating in some choppy seas.

How do you as a member of the City Council more effectively coordinate and harness the time and talents of so many energetic and generous Norwich neighbors to get better results by defining and refining goals and objectives, establishing milestones and creating a measurement/evaluation system that feeds back to the City Council and Mayor on the progress of our pilgrims?

A scarcely noticed news headline from earlier this fall confirmed Norwich has returned to the "Top 25" of the State of Connecticut's List of Distressed Municipalities (moving from #31 to #18). I think we can all agree that the causes are myriad but more importantly underscore how complicated municipal governance is today.  

As a member of our next City Council, what do you see as your role and the Council's in enhancing our community's quality of life and spurring economic development?  And how do you/your fellow council members create the conditions that allow and encourage such growth to occur?

From what I’ve heard and read this campaign, the next 'silver bullet solution' for what ails Norwich could be 'developing Shipping Street and the Harbor.'  The downtown development bond passed by voters nearly a half decade ago to spur growth in Down City is still a work in progress and opinions differ on how much progress has actually been made. 

What lessons do you draw from previous development and stimulus efforts and how do you apply them to what you see as the next chapter of the Norwich story.

People prefer problems that are familiar to solutions which are not. How would you move us from continuously talking about our challenges and mobilize us to roll up our sleeves and develop solutions?

Albert Einstein said if you want different results do not keep doing the same things. Are you someone different? And, if so, how are you someone better?    

-bill kenny

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Testing, 1, 2, 3.....Testing

When our two were in grade school, I was disquieted and dismayed at how when they returned to classes after summer vacation, they and their classmates seemed to concentrate on reviewing and (re) learning the previous school year’s material. 

Invariably, the first teacher-parent conference of each school year was primarily devoted to discussing how far along each child was in preparing for Connecticut Mastery Tests, taken every other year for the ”even” grades,  something or other taken during the odd ones.  Shortly before Halloween the tests were administered (at least in my memory) and then new, actual learning began at least until the mid-year holidays.

My largest concern was because of the scale of testing and measurement, statewide, the results, such as they were, weren’t available to teachers and school districts until mid to late spring term just in time to NOT correct any systemic weaknesses in a school, a class or in the teaching or testing methodology but rather, to tag each child for the next school year when they became a different teacher’s challenge as the teach to the test cycle not only continued but often seemed to accelerate. 

I wasn’t alone as a parent, and as I discovered in discussions with teachers, in thinking we were chasing our tails on a carousel that had taken on a life of its own. I was pleased to read over the weekend that the Parent-in-Chief seems to think maybe we have more in-school testing of our children than is helpful or, dare I say, useful.

I fell over a quote one night recently watching the PBS News Hour, because I’m tired of clothing models with perfectly coiffed hair and veneered teeth reading me elsewhere, that caught me up short until I had digested it and I’ve decided I completely and absolutely agree with it, and I hope you will, too. Here it is: “I think the system looks at each child and says, how intelligent are you, and then tests, whereas the question we really...ought to be asking is, how are you intelligent; and then figure out a way to build on the strengths a kid has..." 

I’m thinking about a different quote, one often mistakenly attributed to Einstein, who was himself not the keenest of students, who worried about how our society measures achievement and performance in school in a manner that never, ever considers anything to do with learning. 

Had he lived, I think Al might have turned on and tuned in to carefully consider this quietly radical and frighteningly logical proposal on a way ahead for all of us as the 21st Century continues and hopes we are coming along.

-bill kenny    

Monday, October 26, 2015

When the Past is Only Prologue

As I age, I seem to be visited by the ghosts of previous dreams, though I'm never sure if they are really dreams I've had and half-forgotten or actually someone else's dreams that wandered the universe until they took up residence in my head. 

The patterns and threads of our lives, as individuals, neighbors, citizens of a nation or of the world lull us sometimes into thinking because of the reality in which we live this reality can only be the only reality. 

But.

What if the world were otherwise? What if we made us who we are? Don't smile or smirk. We have spent centuries if not millennia blaming time and tides, some form of a god versus someone else' Deity as we struggle to rule and usually create ruin along the way. But what if it is really us? 

Consider carefully when you look at history. We have always been at war with Eurasia or Oceania because we choose to accept that this has always been so. The names change-the struggle goes on. Breaking a chain, cutting a cord would reinvent the universe. 


I found this photo on-line from The Troubles in Northern Ireland, no date given (and quite frankly, no date really needed) and it stopped me in my scroll. As I mentioned, I know it's from The Troubles, but half-close your eyes and it can be anyone anywhere at any time. 

The child sees the past while the soldier sees the future. Conflict begets conflict. Learn to co-exist or cease to. A simple lesson so hard to learn
-bill kenny

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Snow Weather

This was a weekend where ambiguity was dismissed. We are no longer between seasons as the summer ends and autumn begins, we are in full fall. We had what locals here call unfriendly skies. They were closer to ill-tempered and irascible.

There was a dampness transformed into a meanness that makes your bones ache especially for those of us with surgical alterations that don't gracefully handle weather transitions well in the first place.

The skies were for the most part not just grey but slate grey and there was a bite to the winds that promised little good for those outside, raking or wandering admiring the now suddenly falling and fading faster fall foliage.

We had a long warm summer into autumn. Those days are well and truly behind us now. There's an air of urgency when you watch the squirrels scamper across Chelsea Parade carrying food to store for the winter or looking for a place to bury what they have for later. I still have trouble believing they remember all of the stash points, despite science to the contrary. I should train one to worry about my car keys.

I'm grateful to live where we have four seasons, sometimes on the same day. I could live on the West coast of Mexico and be praying that this, too, shall pass, realizing that it will (of course) but unable to calculate damages or duration until well after the storm has ended.

Disquiet aside, I guess I'll take my snow weather and curse the storm that takes you away.
Stolen from Humans of New York (a marvelous book you should own)
-bill kenny  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Tall Tales

Family business first: Happy Birthday to my brother Kelly whom you nearly knew as His Holiness Pope Kelly I. I’m not sure ‘better luck next time’ is appropriate unless I say it in Latin, more or less ‘iterum felicius!’ Yes, I’m one of the reasons why Holy Mother Church went to the English language mass. 

Meanwhile. Unless for some reason you were to receive correspondence from me while I was at work you would have no way of knowing how much taller I have become. At some point in the past when someone from our supply department asked me, I said “yes, please” to an offer of a Varidesk  ProPlus 36 thing. You can read about it here

Their website says it’s a standing desk (actually, in my opinion, all desks are standing desks; what they mean in this case is that I am standing) and that the ProPlus 36 is “Our Best-Selling Model.” Anyone who has a budget for that many capital letters in the middle of their web page must be telling the truth.

It was delivered at the start of the week. I have less than no mechanical aptitude.
I stand outside a room and watch the door open so I can know whether to push or pull, otherwise I’m screwed. I feared the assembly of such a contraption would be beyond my abilities and took solace in imagining how much fun I would have playing with the box while others accomplished the “some assembly required” part of  the process. 

But no assembly was required, which was just as well as the box is very skinny and impossible to make into any kind of serious fort at all, which is too bad because my office is on the fifth floor of a five-story with two windows giving me a spectacular tactical advantage.

It was a struggle (everything with me is) but I got it to sit on my previous ‘you have a chair to sit in behind your desk’ desk and got used to standing while working on my computer. 

It wasn’t until I had  watched their video that I realized the desk afforded multiple heights and an expanded universe of choices open to me as I now accomplish all of my work to a standing ovation, my own.

I’m told standing is good exercise, and I certainly hope so, for the sake of my shoes. As for me, when someone next plays the National Anthem, I’m already to face the flag and the music. Please join me by removing your hat and placing your right hand over your mouth.
-bill kenny

Friday, October 23, 2015

You Don't Need a Weatherman

We have memories like goldfish, without having enough of those little castles to put in each of our lives. To me, as I've aged, and aged badly and more rapidly in recent years, I am frightened by the volume of information roaring by us in a flood and how little of it we note in any way. 

We live in an age where news that doesn't fit our own personal beliefs we don't have to ever see. The wonder of technology? No, more the continuing frailties of humanity. We remember only what we want to remember and now we have the technology to insulate us from the world around us. 

Not today. This is an inconvenient reminder from some time ago that I wrote in a moment of white hot anger and in revisiting it now, I'm still pissed off at who we are and who we have become. If you think I'm talking about you, I probably am. Consider yourself warned.

Shortly before the dawn's early light of what was Sunday, October 23, 1983, the first American military casualties of The Next Nameless Unending War occurred.

At the time of the murderous bombing at the Beirut International Airport, the Evil we were facing seemed to have no shape or name, at least none that we knew or knew of. We now know that Evil to be Al Qaeda and to include the various crazies who've broken off from the Mothership to form themselves into even more virulent and violent sects but who share a common heritage of depravity and deprivation and a goal of the triumph of a Hate so unbearably bleak as to be beyond comprehension.

In other times and circumstances its adherents would be invisible and insignificant within a global context that marginalized them to the brink of extinction, doomed to lead lives of quiet desperation but the emergence and the convergence of technologies and the ubiquity with which lies make their way into fundamentalist belief systems, regardless of the beliefs, has inflated their importance and impact beyond all beats and bounds.

The rest of us, three decades plus later, live at such a pace that even attempting to think of the 241 American Marines, Soldiers and Sailors who died in what we've come to call the Beirut Barracks Bombing, requires more time and thought than many of us are willing to spare and so we've reduced these First Innocents Murdered in the Global War on Terror to an intellectual abstraction because contemplating their individual humanity would reduce us to sorrow without surcease with our tears like unending rain.

And no single drop of rain feels itself responsible for the flood which follows.
-bill kenny

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Habits

I’ve changed my getting up and going to work routine in the course of the last two weeks. I’ve stopped going to work, practicing for retirement. Just kidding.  And just as suddenly as all the folks at work broke out into their happy dance two sentences ago they are now skulking and sulking their way back to their desks. There’s always tomorrow. They do have a point of course; I do keep showing up more out of habit than conviction in recent times.

Anyway. With my new routine, at least, in theory, I can actually take a short cut across the complex to get to the building in which I work, instead of driving the length of the perimeter to the “official” entrance. The secret squirrel passage is only open for three hours a day, all in the morning to ameliorate the incoming rush I guess.

At the end of the day, we all head out through the only way that’s open so I’m assuming it makes little difference to the people in charge how quickly we get home. And I get that: they pay me to show up; if they paid me to leave, they’d need a wheelbarrow full of money.

I say ‘at least in theory,’ because it wasn’t until Tuesday of this week that I realized I could use the back entrance-all of last week, I just zoned out and drive on as I always have. Yesterday I remembered about the short cut about two minutes after I drove by it and was about half way to the main gate, meaning I’d have gained nothing by turning around (also true in most instances in real life, come to think of it).

I’m off today, so I’m confident tomorrow morning, I’ll breeze right by the shortcut and never give it a second thought until at some point later in the day when I’m daydreaming instead of doing something I’m  supposed to be doing. It’s just as well, I think, as I’m a bit skeptical of saving all that time now instead of waiting until the end of my life to get it all back. Because that’s when I’ll wish I could have it.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

It Isn't Something You Find

If you also consume the Wednesday version of this stuff in the newspaper pages of the Bulletin of Norwich, you're in the wrong place or in the right place depending on how you feel about other than local election stuff. 

The newspaper and its online reflection of the paper product will have all of whatever it is I write about on Wednesdays, assuming I remembered to write it in the first place and then turned it into a long-suffering staff at the newspaper who must be wondering why the previous folks in charge brought me aboard. 

Today, here, is Wayback Wednesday most especially to this date in 1977 at 1020 in the morning  when Sigrid Schubert and I were married. Wow.


How lucky can one guy get, eh? I've never known what she saw or sees in me (aside from a great personality, rapier-like wit complementing a puckish sense of humor, a body like Adonis (Joey Adonis from West Orange near Prospect Plains), all hobbled by a nearly crippling sense of modesty that is my lifelong cross to bear; oh, and delusions, almost forgot those) but she is my entire world.  

She is everything I have wanted to be or to do and she makes me a better man by knowing that she loves me, often despite who I am. I can remember the most minute of details of that day and have driven her and both of our adult children almost to distraction by recounting them incessantly AND on an annual basis, so I'll skip them here, but they know what will happen, just not when.

I hope with all my heart wherever in this world you find yourself that you also have and keep someone who will hold your heart forever as she has mine. I don't remember enough to tell her I love her though I will today and vow to be better every day we have together for all the days that remain. Happy Anniversary, angel eyes. 
-bill kenny

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Best to You Each Morning

I don't do fast food anymore. A couple of years back I ran out of people to blame for why I was still in such terrible physical shape and was forced to harangue the bozo whose visage I saw in the mirror in the morning while trying to shave.

I can see why people don't like me; I was, and actually still am, very mean and caustic. Finally cornered into taking responsibility, I stopped hitting the Golden Arches and all the other joints on  the way to work shortly before it would have required a team of grown men with a crane to get me out of the driver's seat of the car.

I was unprepared for the fervor that greeted the advent of all-day breakfast at the McDonald's places across the country last week. It was almost Second Coming in tenor and tone and I wondered if anyone from corporate had approached Pope Francis on his waving a hashbrown while riding shotgun in that Fiat from the airplane to the terminal.  

Upset? Sorry. We have different definitions of humor. My first choice had been happy meals at a repurposing of The Last Supper, but even I had some trouble with that.


Just not enough trouble, I guess.
Actually, the funniest reaction of all about (EMUA) Egg McMuffins Uber Alles was from places like Denny's and IHOP who took to twitter to mention they have had 24/7 breakfast for decades and to welcome Mickey D's to the Breakfast Club.

I did read where the McDonald's all day breakfast menu may not include the McGriddle among other items about which there seemed to be some gnashing of teeth. All I can offer as solace is to always remember that blood is thicker than water, and maple syrup is thicker than blood so pancakes technically are actually more important than family. QED.
-bill kenny
  

Monday, October 19, 2015

Jack, Killing and Robert

For most of last week, we had pleasant if not cheerful skies and slowly cooling temperatures. We should. It's autumn and this is, after all, New England-actually Southern New England which I think is supposed to mean we say "y'all" after telling you to "pahk yah cah on Hahvard Yahd."

On Saturday, while Thelma and Louise were heading to Target in Lisbon (look at any map; we are much close to Portugal than mainstream media has ever been willing to admit- Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck are right!) and ended up at Ikea in New Haven, not Stockholm, it was nice enough I headed to a local point of interest, Lowthorpe Meadows.


It's a piece of wild across the street from the Norwichtown Commons where we all shop and, judging from the comments I hear, dislike all the stores that are there and wish there were unspecified other shops, different but somehow selling the same things. You shouldn't pay us too much mind, as we would bitch if you hanged us with a new rope.


It was a brisk walk as temperatures probably only got to about 60 Fahrenheit, downhill, though by the time we got to yesterday morning, I (for one) looked back at Saturday's temperatures rather fondly.

I slept in until nearly eight and I have a service that tells my cell-phone every morning at oh bright early what the temperature is. Yesterday it was thirty, technically speaking below freezing though I didn't see any polar bears on Washington Street (a couple of empty Coke bottles but the penguins collected those to redeem for the deposit).

And there was a breeze more like a wind, so despite the sunny skies, it was a nippy day. Felt like it might snow; if you live someplace where it does snow, you know what I mean; if you don't, no amount of explanation would make 'feels like snow' meaningful (and yes, I hate you)

Ideal for going to our library's book sale, which I always think should be better attended, but this way there's more books for me and I had plenty, thank you. From what I understand the TV folks to say, it should warm up in the course of this week back into the lower sixties which is more than fine by me but who are we kidding, summer's gone and we are in New England. Stay frosty.
-bill kenny

Sunday, October 18, 2015

More Vintage Wandering and Wondering

From another time, but not another place.

We are if nothing else very organized. Our social systems are fitted, one into the other, ever-expanding and ever-enlarging as we build a block, a neighborhood, a city, a state and, ultimately, a nation. We cannot begin until we have announced a beginning and sometimes we get into trouble for having a very poorly thought-out sense of what the ending is/should be/has become.

When I watched The Wall separating the two Germanys come down in what now feels like another life, the slaughter that was to follow in the Balkans was unimagined except by those most consumed with their cowardly hatred of “others.” That same thing was true for Islamic extremism in all the flavors that it comes in to include the current crop of malevolent matervickers, ISIL, killing, or attempting to, everyone who doesn’t worship as they do in exactly the same manner as they do.

I’ve watched news reports of ‘coalition air strikes’ trying to understand how fixed wing aircraft can ever hope to seize and hold territory since that hasn’t happened in the history of warfare (but today could be the day I suppose) and how those Iraqis betrayed by the cowardice of their own armed forces are being helped  as Kurds and other citizens of Kobane try to slow the murderous onslaught aimed like a dagger at their homes and hearths.And now Vlad the Impaler on another front in support of a different flavor of murdering despot (one we, too, used to support) has roared in.

I’ve been calling this Last World War by a series of names that would cause my mom to cry were she to hear them, unless, as I suspect, she has similar ones that she’s spared my ears from learning. I think many of us here in the West have similar stories.

Remembering Old Testament (I think) and Jonah in the belly of a whale, I cannot recall if there is somewhere in another Biblical passage anything about the futility of  negotiating with a shark, which is what I think this all comes down to now and for the foreseeable future.

It was Churchill, confronting Nazis across the English Channel, who offered “a fanatic is someone who cannot change his mind and who will not change the subject.” I believe had he met Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, he’d have amended his aphorism to include a recommendation to change the direction of the rotary blades and to replow (and then salt) the area in its entirety. What’s good enough for Hannibal (Lector or otherwise)….

Make no mistake; what’s to come will require more than Inherent Resolve. The world may not actually come to an end in The Levant, but I have no doubt you’ll be able to see it from there
-bill kenny

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Banquo's Ghost

I wrote this a little more than five years ago so some of its references to elections are less than correct or, I fear, prescient, but I've been thinking again about a lot of the stuff it touches on since the other night and the Democratic Candidate for President Car Wash, Cook-Out, Swap Meet and Debate. Or whatever it was called.

So that you know where I am politically oriented, I gave money to Bernie Sanders the first day he started soliciting donations because for years he was the only person speaking truth to power. You may disagree; that's why we have a democracy. Or used to.

These days I'm so angry at what passes for governance in our nation's capital, I'd like to punch Washington D. C. right in the nose. And I feel strangely better for having just written that.

This fall four years ago, I traveled to New York City to look at up close all that Occupy Wall Street razzamatazz and discovered a lot of people who looked very much like you and looked like me. I think some of them even looked a lot like Dave who is/was the subject of this ancient epistle.

Anyway, here's how that all went back when it did:

Picture Postcards from Near Prosperity

Coming out of the local market the other afternoon after buying my next day salad, as I headed to my car, was a fellow standing alongside and leaning on a Toyota Corolla, not the newest model but well-cared for. 

In front of the car, in a display mode of sorts was a table with a hand-written sign that said "$40." It was a coffee table, a white wooden table that came nearly to my knees and was about three feet or so long. 

I measure the heights of many things in terms of my knees. I've had three operations to replace one and a half kneecaps making me nearly bionic but still moronic (and you'd think Lindsay Wagner would friend me on FB at the very least? HA!) and while I have motor skills challenges, I watch the knees, please, with ease. He wasn't interested in assaulting me with the table, but in selling it.

Last week as both political parties in our nation's capital maneuvered to stake out the best positions for the November Election on extending unemployment benefits to those whose current benefits have been exhausted, Dave (I didn't ask if that were his real name. Situation reversed, I wouldn't have given me mine either) was doing what he had to do to keep his family from sleeping in that Corolla.

Dave has a job, okay HAD a job, working for a car dealership in the auto body shop. He was especially good, he told me, in frame straightening and cold steel reconfiguration (all I know about cars, for the most part, is where the gas goes. Almost everything he said was an English I don't speak). 

You'd think as people held on to their cars longer because they can't afford to buy new ones, the Daves across the country would be in decent shape unless their dealers get squeezed by the banks whose money they use to buy the cars they try to sell us. When that happens, they lower their overhead and the Daves all hit the bricks.

It's odd how all those hundreds of billions upon billions we gave to too-big-to-fail businesses and banks didn't do $hit for Dave, Janice, Bob, Ezekial, Jebediah and who the hell knows exactly who else among the many millions of folks across the country trying to make it as the flood waters of hard times just keep rising. 

He started coming to the parking lot about eight months ago he said, looking to chat up people after they'd bought groceries to see if they needed their sidewalks shoveled free of snow, or pathways cleared to their garages.

We had a reasonable amount of snow during the winter, though I didn't get the impression he'd made enough money to get the front tires on the Corolla replaced, as they were looking a little like the top of my head, if you follow my drift and he probably doesn't have the 'discretionary' cash to pay to get them rotated to the rear (I didn't think to look if he had perhaps done that. Maybe he did already).

He looked like a very sincere and decent person, just confused as to how he wound up at the place where the road and the sky collide on risky home mortgage loans, which, I've been told, was the gasoline on the bonfire of vanities that has become a recession some say rivals The Great Depression. 

The folks in D. C., after they'd milked all the political capital out of whose fault all of this is (we never tire of Search for the Guilty, do we? I've yet to once experience how it helps us fix the problem, but I'm right there, fighting for a window seat in the clown car when we're loading up to do some searchin'), finally extended the unemployment benefits. 

If they just do something about the people receiving them who'd prefer to be working, that'd be something that could take all of us past this November.

Dave's already sold off most of his living room. And when he shows up out here every couple of weeks or so, someone calls the local police to report him. He doesn't have a license to sell furniture in the parking lot and it's just easier to move along, working the circuit and eventually coming back. He's got two kids, almost ready for middle school and no illusions they'll be going anywhere near a college or any other post-secondary educational institution unless they win the lottery.

It's the kind of scene my mom's father, Grampy, used to tell me about when I was a small kid-grow men selling apples in front of skyscrapers in Manhattan and families, like his, learning to not want so they weren't disappointed when they didn't get

Every generation of American since we started has done better than our parents before us so that our children will have it better than we did. In a way, it's the promise of that dream that joins us as a nation, no matter our color, gender, religion or politics. That seems to be all over, possibly forever.

I walked back to my car. I didn't need a coffee table and I couldn't persuade Dave to take ten bucks 'just in case' he ran into somebody who only had thirty. 

I drove off while my constant companion (I almost always have a Springsteen CD in the player of the car) posed the question I know that if we can't figure out how to answer around here in the next couple of years, we may not be around to do any more figuring at all.
-bill kenny 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Pictures of Lily

Another lifetime ago a gaggle of us worked together, more or less, in a shared office. Roger, Robin, Bob, David and I were (I have always believed) called Radio Oops behind our backs. I deserved the title, but everyone else was truly the Radio Operations staff, keeping long hours trying to move the needle of high fidelity in broadcast entertainment forward sometimes in increments only we could hear. 

In a moment of slap-happiness brought on by fatigue from too many hours of grinding away, Bob, after listening to a travel feature on Belgian agriculture which offered ‘the potato is a Belgian staple,’ tried to fasten together some papers  and asked one of us to pass him the Belgian Potato. From that moment on, we howled like hyenas every time someone even touched a stapler.

I was thinking of staplers today, and how hard it always was to remove the staples from magazines with articles and other items of interest you wished to save as I read of a seismic shift at Playboy magazine.  

Growing up in the Age of Ike and during JFK’s New Frontier, we pre-pubescent boys had heard rumors of something called Playboy, and those with older brothers may have done more than hear, while the rest of us began our sojourn to manhood sneaking peeks at uncovered peaks (ahem) in the pages of National Geographic  Magazine.  Hey! It was better than learning about it out on the playground, at least the one near my house.

And now, fructifying fantasies will be another casualty of repurposing and (ack!) growing up. Perhaps in the next Playboy magazine  Brooklyn Decker will moderate a print soiree on triumphs and tragedies the English Romantics Movement of the Nineteenth Century (yes, I’m looking at you Thomas Herrick). That alone should be worth the price of the subscription, plus the pages won’t stick together anymore.

Is Playboy, as USA Today speculates, about to be another souvenir of an American Past we have passed out of or are the young American (and other) males sated by a surfeit of unrestricted visuals on other platforms and coming around to a better appreciation of the virtues of concealment?

From Pinot to pin-ups, the world continues to turn. I guess we’ll always have scotch tape, push comes to shove, while girls that don’t exist are haunting me.
-bill kenny  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Be Ready to Get Confused

David Letterman used to have a frighteningly popular segment on his late evening programs called Stupid Human Tricks. Luke Gatti would not have made the shows because Programming and Practices Division of the TV Network would have never allowed a title like Stupid Arsehole Punk Tricks to be used on the air, and yet nothing else quite captures Luke’s egregious behavior. 

And make no mistake, short of finding out Luke’s family was being held hostage and he was forced to misbehave, there’s no excuse or explanation for his puerile antics, though the little boy certainly does try, hard.  

I get it. He said he was sorry so that should count, right? Let’s remember he is only nineteen and a freshman at the University of Connecticut; except let’s also a year or so ago he was eighteen and a freshman at a college in Massachusetts and seems to have been jammed up in a similar fashion.  So maybe, despite his protestations, being a drunken lout is what he is all about. Do what you do and do it well, taken to its extreme? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

Luke’s behavior appears to be as sober as a judge in comparison to Whitney Beall who seemed to believe she was in an intoxicated submarine. She was using Periscope while weaving home after a few hearty Yo-Ho-Hos and some bottles of rum and other adult beverages. 

Sometimes there are no words to capture the depths we plumb as a species in finding the most destructive (and often self-destructive) behavior.  I’m thinking as a reward for NOT having hurt anyone else with her bone-headedness we should allow further applications of liquid lubricant applied on a deserted highway until she finds a bridge trestle.

That may be too harsh. Realizing this pair of miscreants has been subjected to massive amounts of public derision and other forms of “Owie! You hurt my feelings!” humiliation, I’m not sure what punishment fits the crime. For me, the takeaway in this edition of Stupid Is as Stupid Does is that dumb is pretty evenly spread, like cool whip or dog poop, up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

Between us, in less than five minutes I’ll bet we could find two dozen more examples from all the corners of this great nation. Perhaps we could have a contest? First prize, lunch at the UConn cafeteria with Luke, assuming he still gets a student discount, with travel to and from, courtesy of Whitney. Bring your own bib, and maybe a sippy cup
-bill kenny

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Same Movie, Different Cast

Welcome to (with apologies to Bob Dylan) My Back Pages. Eight years ago, to this very day, to the dismay of all those around me who could not believe I would refuse to shut up, I posted my first blog on my own site, Tilting at Windmills. Ah, such memories, but also vaguely familiar. 

The hot button issue in the run-up to that City Council election was choosing a side over the Commercial Overlay Zone. If you lived here then, that was probably a grimace rather than a smile of recollection you just flashed. And if you are of more recent vintage, it’s reassuring to realize how little things change. With apologies to my haberdasher, often it’s the same shirt, just a different day.

I number myself in that wardrobe as eight years of daily on-line rants (to include two leap years!) can make one really cranky. I can’t even imagine how it is for you having to read them every Wednesday right here for the last almost six years. But onward and upward if not backward (sometimes seems to be a popular direction around here).

Let’s have an adventure without leaving the city limits but takes in the whole world, courtesy of the Friends of the Otis Library.

We can enjoy the world of books by the bagful or the bushel as their Semi-annual Book Sale kicks off this Friday morning at ten through Sunday afternoon. There’s an Early Bird preview that starts at nine; ten dollars gets you first crack at some delectables and collectibles; it’s always mobbed by the way.

Whenever I visit the Otis Library website I check out their events calendar not only because I am afraid the Book Sale will sneak up on me (it won’t) but because I enjoy a reminder of the scale and scope of community activities Otis hosts year-round. Otis is a terrific resource and destination to have practically in the exact center of a downtown still working hard to regain and retain relevance and vibrancy. And every little bit helps.

Aside from the Early Bird opening on Friday, the entire three days is free and you name it, it’s probably in the Otis basement (what a great name, no?). What’s your fancy? Sports, history, biography, gardening, the arts, mystery, classics of traditional and modern literature with everything sorted and stacked at bargain basement prices.

And it's not just books; there are CD's, DVD's, vinyl record collections with prices so low you'll buy twice as much as you planned on for next to nothing. On any of the days you stop by, and free admission is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday and from noon to 3 on Sunday, you'll find there's free parking nearby and great places to grab a bite and do a little people watching after you buy a book. 

If you’re waiting for a reason to visit downtown Norwich, you have it this weekend: Friends of Otis Library Book Sale.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Paging Willie Dixon

Came across a feature in my news feed that made me smile. It's a listing of "best diets" almost all of them focused on foods that help you burn excess weight (usually through a process that requires your body to use up more calories processing the food than the food, itself, has in it). 

You've seen lists like this for years and about once a decade or so someone tricks up a new name for one or more them and you have the Blah-Blah Diet with a book for only $29.95 (plus processing and handling) and an informercial where a lot of folks who look vaguely familiar sit on a couch and tell each other stories about their own amazing weight losses while taking turns staring in wide-eyed incredulity at somebody else's 'true story of weight loss.' 

"Gee Buzz, your colon is so clean you can pass a car through it!" exclaims Mitzi, who looks like one of the people who used to be on Three's Company. Not one of the original members, of course (the survivors are out doing supermarket openings), but one of the replacements after the show started into its glide slope of ratings decline and burned up on reentry. 

And Buzz who may or may not have been in Encino Man with Pauly Shore (how'd you like to have that on your resume?) tells us all about it. I had a great idea for a drinking game one night watching these infomercials.The group makes up a list of pat phrases you know will be said and every time one of them is uttered, everyone has to quaff a beverage. And the winner turns out to be me because I didn't come to your house and do this drinking game stuff. 

Meanwhile, back at the list. They're basically all the same--just a slight variation of what your Mom told you to eat and not to eat. There's never a lot of chocolate eclairs on these lists of fat burning foods and I've often wondered, near-altar boy as I am, why is it that God, who moves in mysterious ways /Her/His wonders to perform, didn't make the stuff that's good for us taste better. I know broccoli is a lot better than a hot sausage sandwich for me, but guess which one tastes better? 

Maybe S/He could hire the International Flavors and Fragrances (you thought I was goofing on you?) to work on short-term solutions to that challenge. Of course, smiting would work just as well.I figure after a while we'd all get tired of attending funerals where the guest of honor had marinara sauce on his cheek (and you could still see where the lightning bolt hit him) and change our ways. 

Because, and this is as true of this most recent list as all the others I've ever seen, I don't care how good something is for me. If I don't like the taste, or sight, or smell or sometimes the sound (or the name-I almost ate calamari once. I will NEVER eat octopus), I'm not having anything to do with it. 

My favorite example is hot oatmeal. I've tried everything and I still can't bring myself to eat it. I know it's good for me (I don't know why, but nevermind) and I can read the side of the box and get the nutritional information (by the way, what is the point of nutritional information on bottled water? It's water for crying out loud! Spare me.), and I'm sure the flavors are marvelous. 

I almost get there-I boil the water and pour it into the bowl and stir it up without gagging and dip the spoon in and lift it out, next stop, lips and glottis and no deal. I will not open my mouth, no matter how good oatmeal is for me. And if you want to offer me a swig of a probiotic drink of something to wash it down, you'd better have a Maid of the Mist raincoat on, buddy boy, because you are so going home to put on new clothes. Could be quite a hike. Better eat yer Wheaties.
-bill kenny

Monday, October 12, 2015

More Rhyme than Reason

When we were kids, Columbus Day was a big deal. In New York City the Department of Public (almost dropped the L off that; awkward) Works used to paint the white line on Fifth Avenue purple for the annual parade that was always held on the real date of the holiday, October 12. In light of so much I as a man of sixty plus now know that as a boy of twelve I didn't about the Rape of Paradise which ensued after Columbus' arrival, perhaps blood red might have been a better choice of colors. 

When I was a kid, all I ever cared about was the day off, just like kids across the country. We all recited the rhyme because that's how we knew what we did know about Columbus and since there wasn't a snappy couplet about genocide we didn't hear anything about that aspect of discovering the New World (I also don't remember the Arakawa natives part, but some of the little gray cells have had some rough days). 

Looking at the world as it is and how all settlement and civilization has developed, I'm not sure it's just Old Chris we should be putting in the defendant's docket and charging. I'm thinking a look in the mirror as well as a glance out a window might increase our catch significantly.

And to compound the cacophony of facts clashing with opinions is the realization that not only did Columbus not discover the New  World, he wasn't the first. We've spent hundreds of years observing a historical event that is neither historic nor an actual event. Sort of like being the second skinniest Kardashian at a family reunion.

And now, as it's the dot on the "i" in Monday holiday, we have another excuse (and sale opportunity) to buy bedding or is that just me in the last couple of days? I'm not sure there's any more of a connection of one to the other than there was to India from Bermuda back in the day. 

Speaking of which, you have to cross an ocean from a basement warehouse at Bertramstrasse 6 in Frankfurt am Main to get to a certain city in Ohio. All I know for sure is such a journey can take decades and cost you more than you ever believed you could pay when you first started. But it's worth every penny, for your thoughts and otherwise.        
-bill kenny

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Breeze Blows Leaves of a Musty Colored Yellow

I am as you probably know based on the number of times I've whined about it in this space, NOT a fan of Autumn, not for anything about Autumn but because of what follows it.

Using that same logic, you could make the argument that I should be a HUGE fan of Winter because it precedes Spring. Sorry, no and you get no credit for a good try.

All of that said, yesterday was spectacular weather and we are promised more of the same or very close to it for the next two days. Perhaps in some far corner of the universe, the Universal Consciousness has a soft spot for Christopher Columbus. Or not.

Anyway. I put yesterday's weather to good use and went for my just about most favorite walk in Norwich. Thanks to technology, you're coming along, too.

Not a train song, a train bridge.
Uncas Leap Falls
A new view from a spot I never realized existed on the Yantic River.
A riot of colors on School and Cedar Streets.
Just realized our City Hall is flanked by two churches.
Little Plains Park.
No one I think is in my tree....
Yes, yes, yes, it's my autumn almanac.
-bill kenny