Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Making the Rose City Blush

If the long-range weather forecast is close to accurate, those two new Welcome to Norwich signs, one where the exit from 395 North intersects with Route 82, and the other in front of the Backus Hospital near Washington and Lafayette Streets are going to get quite a workout this Friday evening and all day Saturday (and into the night).

Rose City Residents and friends from near and far we didn't know we had will be joining us for the return of Harbor Fireworks on Friday followed by the Rose Arts Festival at Chelsea Parade during the day on Saturday with the merry-making moving to the Harbor after six.

Both events and the Welcome signs for that matter are the latest indicators to me, often accused of being a Cheerleader for the City (which explains the saddle shoes and pom-poms in the hall closet), that the times they are a changing here in the Rose of New England, for the better and in a hurry. 

The expression goes "success has a thousand fathers while failure is an orphan," and in this case, it seems to me to be spot-on. It's not just one person or group responsible for adding pride in our stride as you walk around The Rose of New England but lots of different folks who stopped pointing fingers at why things don't get done and rolled up their sleeves to make their city better. 

Let's hear it for the efforts of "E Pluribus," on behalf of "unum," beginning with the City Council and Norwich Public Works who collaborated with Swaranjit Singh Khalsa on the Welcome signs, not forgetting the tireless fund-raising efforts of so many people in the same device who call themselves the Norwich Fireworks Committee, and Kelly August and a cast of what is becoming hundreds if not more for launching a comeback of the Rose Arts Festival.

Maybe it's the spring rains that are helping grow a greater sense of community here, though I will concede that many Norwich residents have been working quietly, perhaps a little too quietly at times, in recent months (and in some instances years) on projects ranging from neighborhood clean-ups, a Little Tardis Library (recommended by 4 out of 5 Doctors (Who)) through many community outreaches based in our houses of worship with many impacts and effects but, when viewed as a whole, are all saying "this is where I live and I want to make it better. Why not help?' 

That so many other of us have said 'yes,' through volunteering to be the difference, donating time, talent and treasure or just showing up at these events should tell those who are still wavering that now is the time to go all in.

Instead of waiting for someone to do something,' why not join with those who decided the best future for Norwich is the one we make for ourselves. Community is a contact sport and the more, the merrier. 

The fireworks start Friday night at nine and the Rose Arts Festival, complete with a 5 and 10 K road race, starts at Chelsea Parade Saturday morning at seven. We can sleep later in the summer. This weekend, we need to carpe the heck out of this diem. 
-bill kenny





Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Channeling Pudd'nhead Wilson

Mark Twain, the literary father of Huck and Tom, is credited for observing, "A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." But that didn't actually originate with him. Go figure! 

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a celebrated 19th Century English fundamentalist Baptist preacher, attributed it to an old proverb when he delivered a sermon on Sunday morning, April 1, 1855, and thundered "A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on."

Pudd'nhead Wilson and his feelings about lies should be enough to make Tom, the other half of "The Extraordinary Twins" seem like the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Though, in this age of instantaneous worldwide connectivity, Perhaps the Reverend Spurgeon's stopwatch is in need of repair. I can think of someplace else in need of replacement. 

What do lies, Puddn'head, pulling on boots and Donald Trump all have in common? Glad you asked.

The Commander in Chief is not only an idiot and an incompetent, he is an artless and detestable liar.

Something Tiny Hans should really have on tape someplace.
Pinocchio uber alles.
-bill Kenny

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Originality Is in the Sin

I came across this yesterday on Tumblr. I visit there every day and more often than not have absolutely nothing to show for the moments I spend there (in much the same manner as you have for the time you spend here). 

Except sometimes there's something exactly like this:  

from themaninthegreenshirt

“There is no place like it, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy. It lays its hand upon a man’s bowels; he grows drunk with ecstasy; he grows young and full of glory, he feels that he can never die.” Walt Whitman 

-bill kenny

Sunday, June 25, 2017

33.8121° N, 117.9190° W

I've heard the expression for my whole life and always figured its physical or metaphysical location varied from person to person. In moments of stress, anger or frustration we've all had someone who might encourage us to rise above by telling us to "go to your happy place."

Jeff Reitz has a particular destination in mind and has hit it every day for over five years. I am in awe of your single-mindedness of purpose, sir, and your unswerving dedication. 

Between you and me, I'd have been interested in some interview quotes from either Tonya or Karen if, for nothing else the reason why you've saved all the parking tickets from Mickey & Friends. His current park pass doesn't expire until January 2018 and I, for one, hope it does long before him.
-bill kenny

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Tales from the Naked City

It takes a village to raise a child, but no matter how large or small that village is, it takes only one person to raise a lot of hell.

I have an item that can only be found in a "community paper." In this case, one of those micro-news sites that sprang up when conventional newspapers struggled with their on-line content issues and making money from it even as sales of actual newspapers plummeted.

The profit margins for the micro-sites are a lot finer than, say those for the NY Times (but their scale of operation is a lot less grand than that of The Gray Lady, but the NY Times wouldn't touch a story like this with a ten-foot barge pole. I hope.

Timing in this instance as in so much else in life is critically important, especially when it's absent  As this incident reportedly happened a week before Father's Day but only saw the light of day earlier this week, I can't help but think somewhere, perhaps in a Derby suburb, is a dark never-to-be-revealed story about a tag-team Mother's Day ruckus that, too, went off the rails.


So many tales to tell, and so few tongues wagging to tell them.
-bill kenny

Friday, June 23, 2017

Addressed to the United States Senate

Circumstances have conspired to create a frame of mind that regards the following more as a prayer than a song, though not even I am foolish enough to think it's a healthcare plan.

Et Tu, Mitch?

Supposedly this was their original drug benefit but guard rails cost too much money.

"Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight


The sky was on fire
When I walked to the mill
To take up the slack in the line
I thought of my friends
And the troubles they've had
To keep me from thinking of mine


Na na na na

The moon has a face
And it smiles on the lake
And causes the ripples in time
And I'm lucky to be here
With someone I like
To maketh my spirit to shine


Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight


Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight
- bill kenny

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pleading the Fifth on the Georgia 6th

By now you've read/heard/sensed or smelled news reports on the outcome of the very publicized hotly-contested special election in Georgia's Sixth Congressional District that became the most expensive race in congressional election history. Here's some instant analysis of the aftermath that makes as much sense, or as little, as anything else either of us has found, and it still says nothing to me.

As a resident of southeastern Connecticut, it was pretty simple: I don't live in the Georgia 6th. As it just so happened neither did the Democrat seeking to represent the folks who do live there but I digress. Or do I? Come to think of it, maybe not such a coincidence?

You tell me. All I know is here it is the Thursday after the special election and neither I nor Jon without the h is going anywhere near Congress and, oh, by the way, neither of us live in the Georgia Sixth. Hmm, that could be compelling, were Breitbart or Alex Jones to make the argument.

I am not a fan of POTUS 45. If Donald Trump were on fire and I had a bucket of water, I would drink the water, and then later pee in the bucket rather than put out the flames. But while dislike (heck, out and out animus) may work at the personal relationship level, in terms of a political ideology, it's beyond stupid and that, as far as I'm concerned is what happened Tuesday in the Georgia 6th. But don't take my word for it.

The Democratic Party of which I am a nominal though more often notional member as a registered voter (only because Relentless Pragmatist is not yet a recognized party) needs to say a lot more than "Nope!" in the discussion at any level of government with the Republicans.

Stop running against Trump and instead run in support of someone. Stop telling voters you are a stick to whack Trump with; when the time comes, they will find one all by themselves. Give them a reason, an argument, a platform, hell a whole program of reasons, to support you rather than just oppose the other guy. And spare me the 'he sucks' campaign slogan and any and all variants.

Trump got elected by not being Hillary Clinton. By that same reasoning, I should be the President (see my argument in the second paragraph above on not being from the Georgia 6th). And yet here we are, me typing this stuff and you eating up with a spoon. At least my hands are big enough to reach the keys.

A reasoned political debate in this country used to be a lot more than an exchange of epithets and insults. What we do now is have arguments instead of discussions. Perhaps we could try civility in our civil discourse and see what could happen. We should know by now what does happen when all we do is yell until we're blue in the face. Or Orange, for the most part
-bill kenny      

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I Keep My Eye on the Sparrow

Talk about perfect timing. School's just about out for the summer for everybody and the sport that says summer like no other, Abner Doubleday's gift to the American people, baseball, is just getting started up the hill at Dodd Stadium.

Today, says the calendar, is the official start of summer, but if you’ve been following the goings-on at Dodd since early April’s high school games through the Northeast Conference Championships this time almost a month ago, then (of course) you know our Boys of Summer, the Connecticut Tigers opened their 2017 season at Dodd Stadium earlier this week. Weather permitting, the homestand continues tonight with the first of three games against the Aberdeen Ironbirds.

As a fan whose favorite team is the New York Yankees, and whose second favorite is whoever is beating the Red Sox, the CT Tigers are my home team and I'm as happy when they play well and win as any homer should be, mindful that what counts most of all is that the minor league farm teams grow tomorrow’s Major League Stars. Mighty oaks from tiny acorns, indeed.

The Connecticut Tigers have been a fixture at Dodd Stadium since their inaugural 2010 season and the appeal of live professional baseball across the region seems to grow with every new June through September season.

The CT Tigers play NY-Penn League Single-A Short Season baseball (a little less than half a Major League schedule), which in light of New England weather conditions at Dodd to include the occasional April snowstorm and brisk temperatures in early spring makes a June start the perfect introduction of professional players, just beginning the travail and travel they hope will lead to The Show, the Major Leagues, for fans in the stands who, after a hard day, want to sit in the cool of the evening, perhaps with the family and doubly perhaps with an adult sparkling beverage, and watch the joyful boys of summer play a game that's so easy to play but so hard to play well.

There's value for your dollar with reasonably priced admission for games in a facility with almost perfect sight-lines (= not a bad place to watch a game), terrific fan giveaways all season long, attractive home game ticket packages, great prices and variety of food and refreshments, and between innings entertainment that's good fun in its own right all in a ballpark that's in our backyard.

By comparison, for the price of four to make a day of it at Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, I am told you can put one or more children through college (and complete their doctoral studies). Since I just made that up it’s hard to know how true it could be. Yet.

What is true is there are a plethora of ticket options best explained on their website, or by calling 860-887-7692, or stopping in at the box office to talk them any morning starting at ten. See you at the game? Make sure to bring your glove.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Too Much of One and Not Enough of the Other

For many years, I've fed the squirrels where I work. Once upon a time, long ago as a New England winter was approaching making life difficult for many (if not most) creatures great and small, I started feeding the birds as well. I had squares of suet with bird seed that I'd place in a cage that would hang with suction cups holding it to the window, a free-standing type of device. 

That worked fine for all the little birds until some of the larger birds took over the feeder, dive-bombing the suet cages and scaring off the smaller birds. The simplest (if not also the cruelest) solution was to stop putting suet out and removing the cages. After awhile, the raiders took the hint and moved on.

In the meantime, my wife had gotten me a small plasticine feeding shelf with a roof. It secures to the window with suction cups and the feeder itself is attached by the hooks. It's all clear so the birds can see the seed, and in this case, because it's on my outer office window, the biped in the dress shirt and tie on the inside, where we keep the carpeting and the fluorescent light, can look at them instead of my computer screen. 

On colder days during the winter I'd have waves of little birds, and some not so small ones, landing and gobbling seed (which we bought in those forty pound bags). My favorite birds were the male Cardinals--I'm not sure if birds see in color (Animal Planet is a premium channel on my cable system) but I suspect they can, and the Cardinal is one reason why. 
I got Lady Cardinals, too, and was impressed with how well both sexes seem to coexist with the other birds at the feeder. 

Not so the Blue Jays. They're more or less a special creature since, according to the pamphlet that came with the feeder, it was designed specifically to thwart their efforts and to discourage them from using the feeder. When I read that the first time after putting up the feeder, the pamphlet made me feel bad, except, the birds themselves are unable to read and will not sit still long enough for me to read the pamphlet aloud to them. Ignorance is bliss with feathers.

All day long, there was a coming and going at the feeder and a pattern of hustle and bustle on the suet cages as a waiting area would form there to get at the feeder and grab some seed. But as you may have noticed I'm writing in the past tense, because it's all over now. I came out one night to head home and the usual gaggle of little sparrows was in the area of the feeder and on the sidewalk flanking the parking lot in front of the building where I park and on the hood of my car were three or four (or more) piles of poop, starkly white against the clear coat paint job. 

As a card-carrying Auto-American, I turned to the little birds sitting on the sidewalk looking in my direction and warned them 'not MY car! I'm the biped who feeds you! Poop on the Armada or on the Ram truck (he eats chicken for lunch. Where's your sense of solidarity?) But leave my car alone." I don't know how many warnings the Audobon Society recommends, nor do I care. Let's just say they had plenty. My 
feathered former friends learned too late that my animus now extended to them and while they may continue to be free birds, their free lunch was history. 
-bill kenny

Monday, June 19, 2017

No Sense Makes Sense

I'm pretty sure you don't stop in here in search of higher truths, or higher thinking (even if at times the thinking on display here seems to be the result of being high) and that's actually pretty good because that makes this missive a little easier to skim over and run through.

I had a dream earlier in the week in which the current governor of the state of New Jersey, Chris Christie, never to be confused with Christopher Robin though for awhile earlier this year he seemed to be Donald (Pant Load) Trump's personal Winnie the Pooh, was searching angrily and quite loudly for a friend of mine from my years in the Air Force who died practically in my arms thirty-one years ago. I don't know what could have precipitated or provoked the dream or if it were part of a larger sequence that I've since forgotten. 

If you are waiting for something to be revealed, I hope you brought lunch (and enough for two would be quite nice, thank you) as I have no idea what, if anything it's supposed to mean, assuming "meaning" is even close to the word I'm looking for here. 
And you know what? You're right. What would I do with some if I found it?
-bill kenny

Sunday, June 18, 2017

When My Father Was a Hero and Not a Human

When I was in the US Air Force after I was married but before we had children (actually before Sigrid had children) back then shortly after Easter in 1980 I happened across a tremendous card that was pitch perfect for my dad for Father's Day.

I was in the Rhein-Main Base Exchange and the thing you have to know about US military overseas shopping opportunities, be they the exchanges (like department stores) or the commissaries (like groceries) when you see it on the shelf, buy it. There's no 'look in the back room for more' no 'we're expecting another order in a  week.' It really is a case of 'he who hesitates is lunch.'

When I saw the card, I knew it was ideal for two people who had long ago come to the realization they had nothing to say to one other but neither wanted to be the first to admit that because an admission such as that would be giving up and these two Thick Micks never gave up, ever.

Our relationship, and as I discovered, that of my brothers and sisters as well, to varying degrees, frequently had more turbulence than tranquility. I used to say my father was the angriest man I ever knew until I caught a glance of myself one morning in the mirror. I then stopped saying that.

The card captured all of that and when I got home I signed it, wrote a note whose every word I still remember, addressed the envelope, put a stamp on it and put it in the hand tooled leather carrying bag Sigrid had gotten me for our first wedding anniversary and into which I dropped any number and manner of objects as I went about my life.

I next saw the card some six months later when Sigrid, Frau Ordnung Muss Sein, was cleaning out my bag and held it out to me in soft and silent reproach as we sat in our living room. She pursed her lips and waited for her spaetzen-hirnn husband to grasp what the object in her hand was and then, realizing he did, slowly shook her head.

For my part, chagrined as I was, I insisted it wasn't that big a deal as I could save the card for next Father's Day and thought no more of it. Sadly, the universe did. My father was to die in his sleep of an attacking heart the following May. The words I'd always meant to say but needed thousands of miles of ocean to actually write were never shared.

I became an adult when I bought my first beer legally. I became a man when I took a wife (or more exactly, when she married me). I became a father with the birth of our son, Patrick, and of our daughter, Michelle. When I looked at my dad 'back in the day' I saw him differently than I do now, shaped and formed by a crucible of events controlled and beyond our control each of our lives has contained.

I've learned not very much in six-plus decades here on the ant farm except, tell the people you love that you love them when they and you are here so they know it and don't be surprised that they already did and that in their own way they love you too. 


To my brothers and my brothers-in-law, fathers all, and to you and yours as well and always, Happy Father's Day.
-bill kenny

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Good-Bye Is Too Final

I have accepted, with reluctance, that despite the awesomeness of all things Google, I will never, ever know everything on earth or the Internet (which are just about the same thing for all intents and purposes) and that wouldn't bother me as much if there weren't moments when instead of knowing everything I despair about knowing anything.

I'm thinking about Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy, III, and the amount of damage beyond the obvious and immediate destruction of I-have-no-idea how many people's lives from careless, callous and contemptuous conduct that defies description and calculation.

If you've done a couple of orbits around the sun, you've lost people. It's part of the process and a condition for our passage on this planet as I've often consoled others and have recently told that same story to myself, but despite the telling of the tale, it is still true, and always painful even when expected.

This time around, unless there's still-undisclosed damage in her life that explains, but certainly cannot ever excuse, Michelle Carter's actions and inactions (beyond what's been in and on every media platform about this case), I hope she rots in jail until she dies and then goes directly to Hell. Senorita, see you later.
-bill kenny

Friday, June 16, 2017

Glad the DeLorean Is Out of the Shop

I wrote this nine years ago and rediscovered it the other day. I am still a little numb at how little so much has changed (and vice versa) despite the screaming need and intensity at that time to affect change. Can't wait for the twenty-year anniversary to enjoy even more of the same.

John Donne, the long-distance drugstore truck driving man who handles the big rigs from Omaha to Oahu (keep the windows rolled up and the wipers on full), was telling me the other day about how the price of fuel and other ancillary costs was causing him to rethink his career options.

One of the concerns he has, and it's shared by more and more opinion leaders across the Nutmeg State, is the reintroduction of tolls on the major highways that cross the state. A lot of folks see a lot of dollar signs and know there's a lot of good that can be done with that money, especially if it started out in someone else's pocket.

Here's why I'm disquieted about toll roads, despite having grown up in New Jersey where we have the 'Pike, the NJ Turnpike (and, before you ask, Exit 9) and my favorite private highway, the Garden State Parkway (now partnered with the 'Pike-sell my clothes, I'm going to heaven) both of which collected tolls for a million or so years, to pay for their own construction and now continue to collect tolls to pay for their maintenance: what are once vices become habits in the blink of an eye.

My family and I arrived here just as Connecticut was starting on the State Income Tax back in 1991, explained, as was its Federal counterpart almost a century earlier (unless you count the Revenue Act of 1861 to pay for the Civil War) as a temporary solution to an extraordinary situation---there's no other way.

Between you and me, it looked in 1991 like the extraordinary situation was the state had no money and too many bills. We called a tourniquet a band aid and decided an amputated leg was a scratch and hobbled on down the road. And we haven't stopped since.

What happened here, and it's happened everywhere, to include in our own homes and households, as our incomes have increased arithmetically, our appetites have exploded exponentially. I'm making I have no idea how much more money than my dad, but I'm worth it (and I don't even get paid for my modesty!) but I'm in a bigger and deeper hole than he ever was. Seems no matter how much I bring in, it goes out even faster. That's the case across the nation and, most, definitely, here in the Land of Steady Habits where you'd think we'd frown on profligacy.

And frown we do, but spend we must and that we do hand over fist. You know how when you exercise, the next day you ache from muscles you didn't know you had? That's how it is with money. It's amazing how many things migrate from the 'nice to do' column right to the top of the 'must do' column when the dollars start rolling in.

And in Connecticut, let's not forget there were no gaming compacts, (I am bemused that we drop the "B" and the "L" out of the real word we all know when a state agency is in charge of it) pumping previously unimagined amounts of money into state coffers via casinos. Think of them as two money trees in New London County, Connecticut. And if you take a state highway or an interstate, you can drive on by and give 'em a shake.

So the problem is what it has always been--we want what we want and should you figure out a way to give us the moon we'll still cry for the stars. If only we weren't so much like Milo! Then the only tolls we'd be collecting would be from The Phantom Tollbooth.
-bill kenny

Thursday, June 15, 2017

You Can Stand Alone

I was puzzled at the number of people in the last couple of days who popped into my office, looked at the pictures of our children I have (together with their mother/my wife) on the wall to the right of desk and who'd then tell me, "you've got a special day coming up!" 

When you live every day, as I do, like it's your last, they're all special (of course, some days when I come home I have to deal with somewhat disappointed if not angry people and my neighbors have trouble meeting my gaze). 

I got it. I knew this Sunday is Father's Day but yesterday was also very important, it was Flag Day. Not a lot of action in the greeting cards section of the grocery store, I admit. It would seem as far as the Hallmark folks are concerned it wasn't a commercially viable holiday.

In their defense, I think we tend to think "flag" when we speak of the Fourth of July, mere weeks away, and we mentally (if not physically) fold the flag back up probably no later than noon on the fifth. In the aftermath of 09/11/01, people have had flags everywhere perhaps to the point of the flag not really being seen by many. 

So a day late, but less than a dollar short let me restate the obvious and if this offends you, move on (I'll never know you were here if that helps): We think of our military when we think (at all) about Flag Day because the military is our first line of defense from 'all enemies, foreign and domestic.' (I still remember the entire oath).

But the men and women in uniform are not defending the flag, which is a piece of fabric in a particular design, shape, dimension, and color. Rather, they are defending the nation the flag represents, our purple mountain majesties, fruited plains, traffic jams, amber waves of grain, the whole kit and kaboodle, warts and all. But the flag stands for each and every one of us but, looking at our politics, it seems sometimes we fall for anything.


Yantic Cemetery,  Norwich, Connecticut, Flag Day 2017
You can stand alone 
Or with somebody else 
Or stand with all of us, together.

If you can believe
In something bigger than yourself
You can follow the flag forever.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Beauty Of Grey

This Saturday the Norwich NAACP holds its 29th Annual Observance of Juneteenth Day in Howard T. Brown Park.

As a kid, I thought when you turned 11, your age was eleventeen in keeping with all the other 'teen' years, so a word like Juneteenth is right up my alley.

For the fishermen who enjoy the Marina at Norwich Harbor, Saturday may be a little more stressful, with (I hope) a heckuva lot more people around and about, but it’s all to celebrate a very good cause.

When you count newspaper headlines and television news reports we are having what seems to be a continuing uptick in the frequency of hateful and hurtful speech as well as harmful and often fatal interactions in almost every corner of our nation. But Norwich, Connecticut, isn’t California, Maryland, Mississippi, South Carolina, Oregon or a dozen other cities and states. Yet. And that’s probably not an accident.

Let’s not kid ourselves. There's still unresolved sorrow, resentment, fear, anguish and anger all associated with the origins and causes of a system of oppression, slavery, whose end in the United States was first celebrated on June 19, 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned the War Between the States had ended months earlier on 9 April and they were now free. 


That was the first Juneteenth Day and one hundred and fifty-two years later, or close to it, will find us together for reasons large and small this Saturday morning starting at about ten and going until we run out of fun at some point later in the day.

There will be a parade, as well as speeches, and lots of other outdoor activities (fingers crossed for great weather), but underlying all the arts and crafts, music and dancing (don't worry, I am supplying none of that), exotic and down-home foods is a serious cultural observance, despite how we often and hard we shout at one another in public debates in every facet of our collective interactions, that helps underscore the actual health and vibrancy of our shared history and heritage.

The farther out in space you go the more alike we look-leading me to wonder if we're not somehow better off maintaining that perspective even when we have all returned to Earth. Look around the globe right now at the unrest in every corner that seems to come down in some way to "my flavor of different is better than yours" whether the fight is about religion, politics or pony rides (checking to see if you were still reading).

Too often the things we do speak so loudly I can't hear what we're trying to say. We are not yet the nation we always strive to be. But we're farther along on that path than we were yesterday and will be even better tomorrow, because of our ability to recognize, and also celebrate our differences while using our diversity as a thread to weave the fabric of our nation and society even more closely together.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Mom and Other Three Letter Words

My mom died earlier this month, shortly before her 66th wedding anniversary and about ten days shy of her birthday which is today. A gentleman never tells a lady's age. I am not a gentleman but my youngest brother is and feels very strongly there's much to be said about saying nothing about age. I wrote these words anticipating the anniversary of her birthday, and am now reduced to celebrating the life of the woman who gave me life. I think she'd find that kinda funny.

Both my wife and I were raised in two-parent families with fathers who filled up the room when they entered and who, when they departed, left vacuums. With both Moms, I think, at least for me, I never fully appreciated how marvelous they were and are, as people, until they weren't sharing a spotlight of attention. My wife's Dad passed a couple of years back after a number of years of declining health, and the distance from here to Germany, compounded and exacerbated the heartache of that moment, I know.

My mom awoke to find her husband of over thirty years dead in their bed from the final in a series of heart attacks he never acknowledged even having, with three children younger than eighteen still under roof and in need of a home. She and my father had, as was so often the case for people of their generation, two families. 

I am 65 and my youngest brother is fifty. The 'gremlins', as the oldest children called the youngest with whom we didn't share the house, were in a precarious predicament but we, those who had flown the nest, never fully appreciated the severity of the dilemma Mom found herself in.



But, she worked without complaint or surcease, to make sure those still at home never wanted for any of their basic needs. Whatever any child needed, they would receive and she did without until she had saved enough. And if another child wanted something, then that's where her savings went and she started yet again. 

She and the gremlins had a very different relationship with one another than her oldest children had with her or with one another, and some/part/all of that dynamic was shaped by those moments and the decisions made in them all those years ago.

I could always call her for advice about our children, She never volunteered an opinion, but was there when I asked. She always seemed reluctant to do so, as if somehow her offering an insight to someone to whom she gave life could be overstepping her bounds. 

As the Amish say, 'the older I get, the smarter my parents are.' I am reduced to hoping the wisdom is hereditary and stored for safe keeping in a box someplace on a low shelf in the basement--because I sure don't have any on or near me, especially right now. 


photo by Adam Kenny
Happy birthday, Mom!
-bill kenny

Monday, June 12, 2017

Collateral Damage in the Age of Style

There's been so much killing and carnage since it happened I'd almost forgotten. It was one year ago that an impotent, life-long loser murdered forty-nine people in the Pulse Club in Orlando, Florida.

Murder in the Name of the Lord has practically become a daily occurrence and was so even before Pulse but no matter how often it happens, and how great the death and damage, it never, ever starts to feel "normal" or a part of any kind of 'just another day at the End of the World.'

Terror in Orlando
As a card-carrying First Worlder (you didn't get a card? Buddy, you get gypped! We get bargains all over the place and discount everything we see and hear), without ever knowing it or knowing of it, I helped create the world order that has tens of millions, if not more likely hundreds of millions, living in squalor and penury so profound and institutionalized they will never escape it. The world, as they know it, has conspired to leave them with nothing.

The institutions I have created and support have, in turn, constructed protections and insulation for me so that I have as much, or as little (preferably) interaction with or even knowledge of their existence. I'm not indifferent to their struggle and plight; I am oblivious to it. And they have no personal contact of any kind of me and mine. We are on parallel but separate planets.

Except, of course, we share this one. And because we are our own closed system, one with the other, we guarantee that this dance of death and doom will go on until no one is left standing. When you have nothing to live for it makes death as deliverance attractive. And with nothing to live for, it's easier to find something to die for which is only partial solace unless and until you can make someone else die for it, too.

I'm never sure if God created man in His image and likeness (some things you must take or leave on faith alone), but I'm very sure we created God in ours, leaving me to wonder who will forgive us.
-bill kenny   

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Despite Popular Demand

If like me you' were surprised the NBA Finals are still going on, and I am mainly because I forgot what year the most recent season started in but it was a long time ago, there's almost more good news if you can wait for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games (and who among us can't do that?).

Can you say three-on-three Olympic basketball? Can you say it with enthusiasm? Can you at least try to say it with enthusiasm? Well, in the words of the tallest person to ever be the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Lordy!

I don't know what happened to the proposal to make Jungle Rules Spelling Bees an exhibition sport, but it didn't seem to make the cut so I fear the bright future I once saw for Touch Football is growing dimmer by the decade. 

Quite frankly, three-on-three basketball is a gateway drug I think for Olympic H-O-R-S-E or う-ま as they might say in downtown Tokyo. Actually if we spelled it in Japanese we'd be through the open rounds and directly to the medal finals in about forty-five minutes. 

Suddenly things are looking up at NBC who has the USA rights to televise the games, so I'm not gonna mention that idea I had for three-legged teams for three-on-three basketball. Probably too much of a good thing.
-bill kenny

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Why I'm Hooked on Phonics

It's estimated there are over thirty-two million adult Americans who cannot read. If you had to have someone read you that first sentence, congratulations, I'm talking about you. Not to you, mind you, or you, too (a play on words wasted if you can't read, I guess), just about you.

I mention that not because there are an almost unending number of adult literacy outreach programs wherever you live in this country, though there are, but because for reasons having to do with serendipity and the Universe's sense of humor, I rediscovered a smile nugget, truly a gem of a story that causes me to grin every time I read it, that would mean absolutely nothing to me if I weren't able to read. Let's see if that's also true for you.

I believe, literate or not the marten in the news account would still be dead, whether Mary or John, regardless of spelling and that punched nose would still be very much so
-bill kenny

Friday, June 9, 2017

Knot Now John

I make a conscious effort to walk a lot, at my job, around the neighborhood, and in my life. Having struggled for years with bad knees and having them replaced separately (but equally) over the last decade, since I can now walk relatively pain-free, I do so a lot (about 15,000 steps a day or more).

A couple of Sundays ago, I rode the Yankee Clipper from New Haven, Connecticut, to Yankee Stadium for an early afternoon game against the A's over the Memorial Day weekend (and got to watch Aaron Judge hit his first-ever career grand slam home run (but suspect, not his last)) and we had a terrific time once I overcame the fault out of the gate, literally, as we were entering Yankee Stadium.

I set off every alarm at the entrance, and it wasn't because I'd forgotten my car keys were in my pocket, but rather because of the metal in my replacement kneecaps. I have cards, from the surgeons who did the operations, that I can give to people whose alarms go off, but I was non-plussed that it happened at Yankee Stadium where, obviously because of the size of the crowds they have, the sensitivities of their sensors are turned up to eleven.

Anyway. I go to work in my work clothes (hence the name, I guess) and in the course of the day, to give my feet a break, I swap my oxford shoes, not comma, for sneakers and continue striding purposefully, or porpoisely if near a marina or aquarium, through my day. I have my sneakers laced in such a way that I can lock knot them; that is, I use those two close-together top holes to form the loop with the lace that, after tying helps prevent the knot from loosening.

I'm not able to do that with my shoes whose laces would probably be better if they were thirty instead of thirty-six inches long. No matter how well I tie my right lace and often even double-tie the right one, it works its way open. But it may not all be my fault or failure nor some kind of sinister force.

I first picked up on that story via ABC Radio on my slacker app on my smart phone and smiled in learning that a large variety of news services covered it and spread the word. Everyone I've encountered in recent days has picked up on the story and, unlike climate change (and POTUS 44's place of birth) has no problem believing in the science behind the conclusion.

For my part, I budget an extra moment or two in the course of my day to retie a shoelace as I add to my step-total by jumping to conclusions or running around in circles. It fills up the time and makes the day go past, but it's hell on the shoe leather.
-bill kenny       

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Don't Pay No Attention to What the Experts Say

So everywhere today will be "must-see TV" as James Comey, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation testifies before the Senate Intelligence (pause for effect) Committee into Russia's interference (or lack of same) in the 2016 Presidential election. Kiss your infomercials, daytime dramas, and third-rate hosted talk shows bye-bye because everyone with a transmitter wants in on this, bigly. 

Speaking of bigly, Tiny Hans (you didn't know Trump was Dutch, didja? Why do you think he's orange?) may be tweeting his own commentary live to counter the testimony of the "nut job" (as Trump described Comey to a pair of visiting Russians). All I can say to that idea is YES! PLEASE! We'll know more (or less) starting at ten EDT when Mr. Comey is supposed to raise his right hand even as Tiny Hands is warming up his fingers.

I've had a Twitter account for years and if I used it more than once a day, it was because of a war breaking out or something like that. Donny brought Twitter back. They really should give him a (miniature) golden keyboard or something. And if you don't think everyone on earth, plus all those fake voters for Hillary, won't be on their accounts throughout today's hearings, we'll be building a wall around you soon enough (Wer soll das bezahlen? Wer hat bestellt?).


Of course, as an unreconstructed Bernie Brother, my attitude is all we had to do in November was to elect Senator Sanders and we'd not be here right now. But I have no way of proving that (probably because it may not be true, like 'truth' is a real thing anymore, right?) so if you argue with me I'll yell 'fake news' until the emergency response guys hose me off the tarmac.

My larger point, the one under my hat, has nothing to do with Senator Sanders, President Trump, Clinton (Hil or Bill) or even the Russians. It has to do with the seething, inchoate rage so many of us feel towards the government we were taught in school was established to help us. Too many of us think that's a crock and want to smash, grab, and break whatever anyone else holds near and dear so they, too, can feel what total loss of control is actually all about.

Meanwhile our roads, bridges, healthcare, equal and civil rights, children's lives and all of our dreams sink ever deeper into a dystopian morass of chaos and carelessness as we continue to search for the guilty who got us to where we are now, live on every device and across every dial right here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. If only we still really believed that
-bill kenny

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Figuring Out the Tab

I have a framed quote in my office that purports to be from Mark Twain.
"Every day a child is born who will change the world,” it reads, “but we don’t know who that child is." My old neighborhood had a pretty good idea which kid wouldn't be growing up to change the world and yet look at me now, right here struggling to change the subject. 

As someone who has spent his adult life mostly on the sidelines with his hands in his pockets, I intend no disrespect nor am I throwing shade at anyone who serves on our Board of Education and/or City Council. You have to have a lot of love for where you live to volunteer for those positions and if you've ever attended presentations and public hearings when budgets get created, you also know that having a thick skin doesn't hurt either. Thank you again for your efforts.

As has been the case for all the years I've followed the process, this was “the toughest budget year we’ve ever had.” Those who have (or have had) children in Norwich Public Schools know the value and understand the cost of public education but everyone with and without children pays those costs. That’s how the world turns. 

But the world we are giving our children is very different from the one we had. I was a Cold War Kid who drilled to duck under his desk and turned away from windows. Now we have Windows on computers in every classroom and more computers in our schools than NASA had for the Space Race. But, we also have more metal detectors and a need for them greater than we should ever have. Each day our schools and teachers struggle to find a balance that’s being constantly defined and redefined.  

Every day our schools are, for many, surrogate parents, offering breakfast and lunch for hungry minds with stomachs to match. And many times, our schools are the venue for before and after school services desperately needed by stressed and distressed families across Norwich many of whom bear little resemblance to the Waltons or Cleavers. No one chose to have any of this happen, but it’s part of the lives we all lead now.

The Industrial Revolution has yielded to the Age of Knowledge where skills and abilities must always be enhanced and expanded or we fall behind as citizens and as a society. And once that happens, you never catch up. The goal of education today is to learn the rules of the game better than anyone else to be able to change the rules.

If we hope to remain the nation that’s the envy of the rest of the world we have to accept that education is not an expense so much as it is an investment. We have to choose better than we have in recent years to maximize the advantages for everyone. If you think education is expensive, wait until you calculate the cost of ignorance.
-bill kenny