Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Okay, We Seem to Be Lost

I originally offered these near-thoughts eight years ago. I don't know whether to applaud the consistency my life has or to be appalled by the unrelenting sameness of it.  Contrasting circumstances of then and now suggest the more things change the more they stay the same. Your mileage may vary but I suspect the challenges of life here on the ant farm will remain pretty steady (beepers sold separately).

You try to take a couple of days off from the noise of the news and you get so far behind they're piping in daylight to you. I thought I was closing my eyes for but a moment but when I opened them, the political topography nationally and (I suspect) locally had changed, again. 

We spent most of the summer simmering in fear of coming to a boil over health care coverage, for whom and how much. There was a lot of yelling not just in DC but in the pages and websites of local newspapers across the country as we loudly called one another the other "L" word until we discovered almost none of us have sore throat coverage in our own health care insurance. 

Aside from agreeing to disagree (and I'm not sure we even agreed on that, to be honest), it's just one of the fundamental disagreements we are having with one another right now on any number of issues, none of which (I'm pretty sure) have only one correct answer. In theory, no one is ever opposed to going to Grandma's house, but the route you've chosen, or the speed of the journey or the radio station we're listening to in the car are all points of contention. And we haven't even left the driveway yet.

I have the funny feeling we're still a good distance away from Grandma's house on healthcare, equal rights, immigration, climate change, and national defense to name just some hot button issues and when we pull up in front and try to sort out exactly whose Grandma's house we're at, oh boy, won't that be fun? (And all those cookies and milk going to waste.) 

We do this a lot around here, here being the United States on most days of the week. When you read our history in school, we seem so streamlined, so possessed, so driven. And then you dive beneath the surface, and the movie's a lot different.

We stumbled towards and into Independence--some of the Founders who traveled to Philadelphia in the summer of 1776 weren't firebrands yearning to be free. Some of them got hijacked on their way to the Jersey Shore--some were Steve Carlton fans waiting for the founding of the Phillies. KIDDING! (about the Carlton part), but you can guess where this is going, right? Accidental Excellence. When we get it right, we don't know how we did it and we can't seem to do it again. 

Doesn't mean we should give up or just settle for what we've got. If we used that mentality there'd be BILLIONS of people on the shores of Western Europe, and Africa as well as Eastern Asia (standing on one another's shoulders by now, I suppose), staring across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans trying to figure out what was going on 'over there.' (And a really, teeny-tiny group of indigenous peoples on the North and South American continents looking nervously over their shoulders.)

And it's the not-giving-up, the-how-does-this-part-go-on-to-that-part line of inquiry that's also part of who we are. We're a nation of loudmouths (I got a megaphone one year for my birthday; I use it to demand pony rides for my next one) who don't always listen to one each other's words but who, at the end of the day, somehow, can look into one another's eyes and see the heartbeat behind the polemic and understand that the person with whom we are disagreeing isn't evil or ignorant, but just different (and maybe a knucklehead, or is that just me?). 

And he/she is looking at us in exactly the same way. Walt Kelly's Pogo was on to something, and we could offer to buy him a beer, but there's a lot of resentment about those uneaten cookies and milk from Grandma's house....
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

You Never Can Tell

I stopped smoking almost twenty-one years ago and if I were honest, I'd admit I miss it every day. Perhaps, if I thought about it, I could concede I miss it every (waking) minute. It's why I should be a little easier on those with other substance abuse issues, because of the nicotine monkey I have on my back. But, I'm a world-class hypocrite and two-faced phony so I'm smugly righteous in my indignation and opprobrium. 

One of the nice things about smoking (there's a sentence you don't read all the time) is the chance to be outside and gather your thoughts before heading back to work, or in my case just stand outside until someone yells out the window to come in. It's like a short vacation with less to pack and to store in the car. 

Even though I no longer smoke, I still make it a point to take a break at some point in the morning, when I've reached a logical halt in whatever I'm working on, to get outside and walk around the block. Everywhere I walk has sidewalks and folks driving respect the rules of the road so it's not like they chase me across the street when they find me in a crosswalk while I scream 'catch and release!' at the top of my lungs (and boy, does that get old in a hurry). 

The other day I watched someone in one of those EXTREMELY large pickup trucks (its size reminded me of a house, with rubber wheels), seeking a parking place. We all do it the same way-where ever you're going, you aim at the building, drive around it to see if today is the day where that 'reserved for (your name here)' sign has finally been erected and when that fails to happen, we slowly work our way back from the building in ever-widening circles in search of a space.

Many of us are very attached to our vehicles and if only someone were willing to hold both doors open at the building entrance, we'd take them in with us. I'm never sure what we'd make of the stairs, but, I for one, have an all-wheel drive vehicle and no fear of angular computations or challenges. Turn the radio up, that's my motto for Happy Motoring.

The hugely large pickup trucks, large enough to have their own zip code, are an American invention, sort of like clogged arteries and poor medical health insurance. Yeah, maybe other nations have something similar, but  this is how we roll, like it or not. They all sound the same, like a Cris-Craft outboard engine idling in honey, and their owners will NEVER have careers as getaway car drivers because you can hear them coming three blocks away.

I watched the large pickup truck approach a parking space suitable for a Smart car, or one who had done really well on its SAT's, and go through the motions of attempting to work its way into a spot far too small for it. It filled up the time and made the morning go fast, but didn't do squat for the driver who now had to contend with what looked like a somewhat confused mailman attempting to deliver a package but who was unable to find the mailbox (on the truck). Eventually, the driver conceded the obvious and moved on, actually moved to the adjoining parking lot where with only a small amount of maneuvering, the truck was parked. 

As I walked by, the vehicle door opened and out and down (way down) dropped a woman of perhaps five feet in height, perhaps weighing ninety pounds. She was so incongruously tiny in comparison to her vehicle I at first thought she was a child, but I was mistaken. She made eye contact with me as she hit her key fob to electronically lock her behemoth and smiled. "I end up over here, every day," she sighed, "it's just too hard to find a big enough space any closer." 

I asked her why she didn't just head to the far lot in the first place and save herself the time. "Because you never know," she said, "you never can tell."
-bill kenny

Monday, August 21, 2017

Everything Under the Sun Is in Tune

We're in for a treat today (I guess) if you like celestial phenomena (when I type the word phenomena, I always think of this, but that's just me, I'm sure). Today's Total Solar Eclipse last happened in 1979, so if you have the opportunity to observe (choice of verbs deliberate) do so carefully, mindful of the risks but grateful for the moment.  

If you'd like a preview, check this out. 

And if you'd like confirmation that you and I aren't the only two people in the history of the planet who find this whole notion cool almost beyond words, click here


"There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact, it's all dark."
-bill kenny

Sunday, August 20, 2017

It's Not Just a Game

This is one of my favorite weekends of the summer and not just because I get to watch so many other people’s kids get dragged to stores for back to school clothes, though (of course) that is looming at least around here for next week.

Curmudgeon that I am, nothing warms my heart quite as well as watching a gangly young person who elevated barefoot to an art form since school let out in middle June having to get used to wearing shoes and socks again. As an adult with a list of required wear apparel (almost) longer than Trump’s reasons for why nothing is his fault, I say ‘welcome.’

The 2017 Little League World Series is in full swing (it started on Thursday) so make the time and find a chair to watch baseball as it should always be played, for the sheer love of the game and for all the other people on your team. Here's the schedule (and yeah, the kids from Fairfield, Connecticut, are in The Show but I would talk about little league even if they weren't).  

I love professional baseball beyond any beats and bounds and I am always loyal to where the wellspring of the game actually is, on the sandlots across this country and around the world. With all the hell and hurt going on just about anywhere you stick a pin on the globe, I am looking forward to being able to watch some of today's contests before my work week returns tomorrow and drags me away. (But I'll sneak a peek during the week, trust me)

There are always so many great 'aw, shucks' stories and magical moments in the course of every tournament. As much as I love the start, I hate to see it end, not only because I enjoy the energy, enthusiasm, and engagement these young people bring to my favorite sport but because someone, somewhere ultimately has to lose for someone else to win.

The dog pile that goes on at home plate when the last out is made (next Sunday afternoon) is balanced by a sadness from the other dugout whose team struggled through an entire season to come up just short at the final moment. There’s no shame in losing-only if you didn’t play every second of every game to win and when you get to Williamsport, there’s no danger of that.

Little League baseball, in my jaundiced opinion, is how life should be. People take turns and say please and thank you. They respect the rules and those who enforce them. They try their hardest and give their all. They say ‘way to go’ to team-mates and competitors alike and really mean it and when an umpire says ‘that’s a ball’ or ‘that’s a strike’ they say yes, sir, and nothing more.

Little leaguers are us before all that adult stupid stuff gets installed. Check it out, if you have the chance and remind yourself of the way we were when summer days went on forever and you played baseball until mom called us in for supper. Don’t let anyone say that it’s just a game. Batter-up!.
-bill kenny

Saturday, August 19, 2017

#BarcelonaStrong

Terrorism has paid another visit to Spain. Another version of the same, sad movie, playing over and over, never reaching the end because it lacks a conclusion. Fueled by fanaticism and a hatred of the other, people who have nothing to live for bury themselves deeply into a cause that gives them something to die for. And they are only happy when they make others die for it, too.


You will never win. Never
-bill kenny

Friday, August 18, 2017

Huh?

Amidst all the noise this week of the most recent edition of American Nazis in the News, I thought (at first) I'd only imagined a story about the Governor of Arizona publicly stating his state's Confederate statues would NOT be removed (as the one of Robert E. Lee was slated to be in Charlottesville, Virginia, before all those brave Aryan warriors took to the street). Like so many (POTUS 45, I'm looking at you) public officials, he offered no explanation. And didn't need to.

As I said, I thought I'd imagined it because Arizona was hardly more than a territory much less a state at the time of the Civil War (I didn't think it was much of anything) but I hadn't. Seriously. So the state song has lyrics like "I wish I was in the land of cactus, where our cowboys don't need no practice. look away, look away, look away, et cet era?" Actually, nope, not at all.

I pictured Rhett telling Scarlett, "Frankly, I don't have any chaps, or spurs that jingle, jangle, jingle, as I go antebelluming along" but that's NOT how Arizona came by its Sons of the Confederacy club membership, sadly. Turns out, for an area west of the Mason-Dixon line, Arizona has a bunch of Confederate memorials and I can't claim to have a peaceful heart as to why.

I appreciate Curt Tipton's reaction, quoted in that story, to taking the memorials down since, without putting too fine a point on all of this, Arizona was on the wrong side of that history. I lived a long time in Germany and don't recall any parts of the autobahn being named for the Linz Lunatic from the more recent German past, but the list of US public spaces dedicated to the Confederacy is lengthy.

I certainly hope that assertive desire to preserve and remember "our past" means the Equal Justice Institute can count on the generosity of hearts as well as wallets as its project continues. After all, history never looks like history when you are living through it.
-bill kenny  

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Uncelebrated Holidays

Last Friday was the 3rd anniversary of the death of Robin Williams about whom never enough can be written or said. I want to expend a few words on someone else who died almost a decade ago earlier in the month of August. Indulge me as the two would be the first (I believe) to agree they complemented one another.

Actually, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died on 3 August 2008. He was a gaunt, humorless fiercely angry man who looked like someone out of the Old Testament. When I was going through college, in the early Seventies, as we were raising hedonism to an Olympic event, he was writing books that I found utterly fascinating and assumed had to be fiction as I had no context in which to place his writings.

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich wasn't just a grand and rambling story in the tradition of The Brothers Karamazov or Dr. Zhivago, it was a full frontal assault on what a glow in the dark white preppie from Central New Jersey knew about the world. It wasn't interested in discussing my experiences within its context--it reported the facts as it saw them and left me to rebuild my world view. 

The First Circle and The Cancer Ward were amazing and then came Gulag Archipelago, of such sweep and scope and overwhelming cynical horror that any notion, no matter how misguidedly romantic I might have had, about 'all power to the Soviets' disappeared as I turned the pages. How ironic a devoutly Russian Orthodox writer, practically from the century before mine, could have served as the incentive to persuade me, no longer a faithful son of Holy Mother Church, that Evil was palpable and real and not only deserving of a capital letter but of a vigilance that will drive me the rest of my life. 

So eloquent and beyond refutation were his indictments of Russian Communism, that the Soviet Union had no choice but to kill him or expel him. Realizing we in the West have short memories and shorter attention spans, they wisely chose to dump him rather than make him a martyr. One need look no further than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for proof of failing memories. 


In remarks accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970 that he dared not leave the country to accept from fear the Soviets would bar his return he wrote while an ordinary man was obliged “not to participate in lies,” artists had greater responsibilities. “It is within the power of writers and artists to do much more: to defeat the lie!” He spent nearly twenty years in Cavendish, Vermont, growing less happy with his port in a storm and remaining unhappy about his own country.

Nothing that went on in the Soviet Union, the Confederation of Independent States or any of various permutations that the USSR splintered into ever convinced him that those who chose personal gain over common good had been eliminated (I always loved Tank McNamara's imaginary nation of 'Carjackistan). The longer he lived, the more of a scold he became-and included us, the USA, in his growing circle of unhappy disappointments. We were spiritually weak and materialistic and vulgar, he said thirty years ago and if the shoe fits..... 

He had no use for either Gorbachev or Yeltsin and when he returned home in 1994, he seemed even angrier than when he had lived in exile. He was unwilling to bend and unable to break and so he came to be inconvenient in our lives, where we take a stand against terror and injustice by looking away ('look at all the schools armed faction X has built') and there he was, until the end of his days at 89 years, unblinking and unwavering. 

How lucky he was to be able to spend all those years living here in the USA, where we never persecute tists, but just ignore them. There's a Russian saying, 'we believe in peace and flowers-in the grave' so I hope the flowers that were placed in his memory were lovely and that if there was peace to be found, perhaps Solzhenitsyn did. He deserved it.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Healing a Case of the Apolitical Blues

I do a large amount of walking. That I continue returning to my point of origin often creates some strain in my circle of acquaintances but you can't have everything. And that was actually what I was thinking about last Wednesday walking home from last week's Rock the Docks show at the harbor making my way towards Chelsea Parade up Broadway because, as I always joke, it's as close to Broadway as the likes of me are likely to ever get. 

I threatened mentioned last week that I would serve as a one-man reminder/countdown clock for our municipal elections and on my way home I encountered a fellow-passenger here on the spaceship who mentioned he'd seen my words and offered Mark Twain's alleged quote, "if voting made any difference, they wouldn't let us do it." 

I didn't argue his point (I know, 'how out of character') but only because I don't respect the perspective it purports to offer. I never can figure out who the 'they' in these situations is supposed to be, except it's always (supposedly) someone other than us. But if not us, then who? And if not now, then when?  

How about instead, a little something to think about while nodding in desultory agreement with a neighbor on something we both know requires vastly more than just a thirty-second quip or quote to rectify? And if any of this angers or annoys you just remember I was walking up hill towards home and your mileage may vary.

Does anyone vote for anyone any more or do we project our hopes, fears, desires, and anger on to those seeking office, forming alliances of convenience on what we choose to define as issues rather than on life principles and then exacting our vengeance on these same candidates when our interests diverge? 

I'm not a historian but many of my points get old in a hurry but I can't help believe that there's never been an easy time to serve on a City Council or a Board of Education, be it here or anywhere else across the state or the country. 

We tell one another these times are the toughest our city has ever known, and then realize we've been telling one another that for years and years. Maybe we need to focus more on the blessings than the blame of how we have come to be here, in this time and in this place.

I have no illusions that, by myself, I can save the world. I have trouble saving to buy a soda--but, humor aside (yeah, that was an attempted joke)--the best I can do, the best any of us can do, is to save the piece of the world upon which we and our loved ones stand. 

And if enough of us are doing that, those pieces knit together forming a whole greater than the sum of its parts and we raise up one another and cannot only reach for but also grasp, the stars because we are standing on one another's shoulders. 

How about this November we concede this time our vote does matter and spend half as much time looking at candidates as we do when we buy a car. Or studying the dessert menu. Does that sound fair enough? 

I'm willing to agree I owe you that much time and courtesy, candidates for office whoever you are because we need all the good ideas we can get. We are taking on water at an alarming rate and instead of navigators and visionaries we keep choosing to heed angry and fearful voices who do little more than rearrange the deck chairs. 

We are all we have so grab an oar and put your back into it. It's a long way to shore and we dare not let our arms tire in this dark and stormy sea.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Approximating Zero to No Good Purpose

I first offered these words seven years ago. I have the feeling the need to mark today will outlast my 'best buy' date by a wide margin. Not knowing something, in this case, history, isn't bad but it's not good (see American Nazis, in Virginia, over weekend). Being proud of your ignorance is arrogance and that is not good. Let's hope it remains a point of pride to not forget today, ever.

Today is the seventy-second anniversary of the ending of the war in the Pacific, often called VJ Day and that image is what many Americans, even the unborn at that time, think of when we speak about the end of World War II in the Pacific. If you're of Japanese ancestry your visual is more than a little different but the beginnings are of more consequence, if less visual than the endings. 

My mother and father raised six children in the aftermath of the Second World War (the first having been fought as the War to End All Wars fell a little short in that regard) and their children, my brothers and sisters, in turn, had children of their own, some of whom now also have children (I'm getting a little dizzy from the math of it all) as well.

In the years immediately following the end of World War II there was little reason for optimism to believe your children's children's children would be alive in a world with a mushroom cloud. But perhaps of more significance is despite some close calls (Korea 1949; Hungary, 1956; Cuba, 1962) there's not been a third use of atomic weapons.

Historians argue the seeds of the next war are always planted in the waging and conclusion of the previous war. Perhaps that means we learned something, maybe not much, from the calamity and destruction we unleashed upon one another during World War Two. It's certainly not a bright and shiny world in which we live in the ever-dwindling days of the summer of 2017, and sometimes it seems the LWH, Lunatics Who Hate, are multiplying like hobgoblins.

More and more of the world, despite our efforts to the contrary, born, live and die without a chance.  We must, as a civilization, apply the same ingenuity and steadfastness of purpose that created Little Boy and Fat Man to shift the shape of the society in which we all live if not for humanitarian then for the most pragmatic of, reasons--those who have nothing to live for soon find something to die for. And then they want everyone else to die for it, too. 

Between the desire and the spasm; between the potency and the existence; between the
essence and the descent falls the shadow. This is the way the world ends, not with a bang
but a whimper.
-bill kenny

Monday, August 14, 2017

Aus Aktuellen Anlass

I'll get to what today's title means in a second unless all the persecuted little, white boys both at and NOT at Charlottesville Virginia this weekend already looked it up. Okay, you win, here you go. These are the same folks, the exact same folks, whose calendar assures them every morning that Tomorrow Belongs to Me and have 20 April and 11 May circled and are always angry that the Hallmark stores don't have cards. Blut und Boden, mein arsch.  

Remember when we all used to live together in a shared country? (Together being the operative word) We didn’t always get our own way (some of us spent a long time trying to figure out exactly who voted for McGovern, and then, later, for Dukakis; then, even later, for the SECOND Bush), and there was that birther kerfuffle over Obama and then the car crash of the 2016 Pick Your Poison, Krebs oder Cholera Election.

It was awkward, NEVER close to okay that as the years have accelerated in this decade and the reach, though not the depth of Social Media has created bubbles and cocoons that no longer overlap in any way, but we're waaaaay beyond that now. This was the chum in the water that brought the scum to the pond. Admit it: We no longer disagree with one another in the abstract, we kill each other in the physical universe. 

Heather Heyer was flesh and blood; NOT an abstraction
We have clenched jaws and hard eyes and hardened hearts, but that shouldn't mean we can't talk-it just means we won't, I fear. Somewhere we decided two diatribes now equals one dialogue and I GET TO GO FIRST! (sorry). If we yell AT one another long enough, from a distance somewhere in space it will look like we are talking to one another. 

Respectful disagreement has gone the way of the dodo bird. If you don't agree with me you are the most awful person in the history of the planet, as are everyone else related to you, everyone else related to them and everyone any of you know. Wait a minute-when I do that much finger pointing some of the fingers on that hand point back at me. Hmmm.

Labels such as 'liberal' and 'conservative' are now pejoratives hurled like discount store invective at opposing viewpoints, appropriate or not, and the reaction to such labeling obscures quite nicely any opportunity to see the person we've just tagged. 

Now all we are is disagreeable when we disagree. And we engage in preemptive shouting matches with one another in forums supposedly designed to let us exchange ideas and views. The longer the meeting, the louder the yelling and don't even get me started on the understanding.

We once talked things out and arrived at consensus through reasoned discussion and debate. Now the line between gee-willikers and jihad makes it almost impossible to discuss anything. And when you have a President of some of the people not sure how to lead all of us in moments of crisis, like this one, so he doesn't lead at all and forfeits not just the moral high ground but all ground, we're heading jaw-jacked and head lowered directly into a catastrophic calamity.
-bill kenny

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Feels Like a Prayer

Not all prayers involve kneelers, church pews, organ music, and stained glass windows. At least I hope not.




I'm told, of all the words of a prayer, the most powerful is the first one.
-bill kenny

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hallelujah, You're Home

My mother was a part of my life for every single day I lived until her recent passing. Today, I and my family drive to the Jersey Shore and with her children, my brothers and sisters, and as many of our (and their) kith and kin as could come will say goodbye, for one final time.

Mom died in early June, less than two weeks short of her 89th birthday. She lived life on her terms and she left life on her terms, and there isn't a day that's gone by since her death that I haven't missed her. I tell myself I've gotten used to that ache of absence but I am lying because I don't know how you get used to that and I'm trying to steel myself because I fully expect to feel it a lot more as today unfolds.
Mom's high school graduation photo (mooched from Adam)
"Oh, I'm in pieces. 
It's tearing me up but I know a heart that's broke is a heart that has loved. 
Hallelujah.
You were an angel in the shape of my mum.
You got to see the person I have become.
Spread your wings and I know that when God took you back
He said, "Hallelujah you're home."
-bill kenny

Friday, August 11, 2017

If It Wasn't Who It Is

A blast from my more recent past....I have the good fortune of rarely remembering my dreams which would be a disappointment to oneirologists everywhere if I were a public figure of any import whose existence mattered to anyone at anytime anywhere. 

I say 'good fortune' because I'm wrestling with one I had recently that I can remember all too well and that disquieted me a great deal. My wife and I were home in her country, though I don't know where and actually don't know how I know that as in the dream we never left an apartment in which we lived with a third person whom I never managed to identify.

In the dream, we had no children-just one another though I have no memory of whether we were young(er) or old(er) than we are now. And everything in the dream was in shades of brown.

I'm not sure in the dream if I realized it was a dream which, I'm assured, in itself means something though what or why I do not know. That I could have a dream guide on my cell phone 24/7, iPhone or Android, is curiously of little solace to me but does speak volumes about the entrepreneurial spirit and greed of code writers here in the early part of what I fear is becoming the last century.

Nothing looked familiar to me causing me to wonder if I'd become Pirate Prentice as I kept looking to the skies for Gravity's Rainbow, somehow feeling better than if I had seen it but never heard the roaring across the skies, I was safe until Tyrone Slothrop returned from an outing. And even then it could be a stairway to the stars.
-bill kenny

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Picture Book

The older I grow the more like my dad I become. Neither of us would be thrilled about that, but it is what it is. He used to take slides of every place we ever went but he didn't have a carousel slide projector because "they are such a gimmick." (He was right as he always was; they most certainly were. And they remained so for forty or more years until the Kodak company went bankrupt).


I'm still enjoying the unwind from some days away at Adam and Margaret's house practically in the Atlantic, near Belmar, New Jersey. I hope you enjoy my slides (and some videos as it turns out; thanks, Google!); I know I shall
-bill kenny
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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

(Lawn) Signs and Wonders

As of midnight this morning, we had exactly ninety-one days. You just paused, not really questioning my mad math skills so much as trying to figure out what I could be talking about. Tick, Tock.

We both know the calendar well enough to know it's too far away for that number to be Christmas, but how about the Great Pumpkin rising from a homey pumpkin patch at Halloween? You've never seen that Charlie Brown special? Actually, neither have I but that's not what I'm counting down to. Tick, Tock.

Ninety-one days from today is Election Day. There are a lot of people, friends, and neighbors (with and without loaner ears) from across Norwich offering to invest their time and talents for elected positions ranging from Mayor through City Council and Board of Education to city treasurer. A lot has been accomplished in recent years and there's a lot more yet to be done so we can use all the helping hands we can get.

I know, you're still hoping to get away for a few days for the summer, the kids will be going back to school in three weeks (!), Labor Day will be here and gone before you know it so who even wants to think about municipal elections that don't happen until November right now?

The correct answer to that question should be all of us. Driving back and forth to work every day, I've been watching lawn signs of support sprout and spread slowly for weeks. Always makes me wish I owned stock in the wire frame company the signs fit over. Kidding aside (which is what that was), it's always interesting to me to keep track of whose signs are where and how many.

Right now, using that admittedly very informal and less-than-scientific method, my rough count suggests the popular choice seems to be that ice cream place over by the golf course with one or more of those driveway sealing companies making a challenge.

Still trying to be funny; emphasis on the trying.
I've been registered to vote here when we had multiple candidates running unopposed so I'm grateful for the choices offered and the voices each of them represent for aspirations and inspiration here in The Rose of New England.

I don't want to hear any sighs and mutterings about this election season. We have who knows how many candidate forums and opportunities to sit together with those who are volunteering to do their best for all of us and the city we share. We have the hard part: we have to choose.

I don't care who you vote for as long as you're registered and vote. Actually, I'm lying. I care deeply about for whom you cast your ballot, but it's just as much my business as how I vote is yours. In other words, freedom of choice rules, however each of us chooses because we each get to choose.

And don't think I won't mention the elections between now and November, at what will seem like every opportunity. Voting is how we help ourselves improve and there’s plenty of room for that around here. Now’s the time for us to study and decide. Tick, tock.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sands Continue to Rush Through

Welcome to yet another installment of "you saved all of this stuff?? Why on earth would you ever do that!" For times like this when I am on holiday and now you wish you were as well, right? With any luck I still have my hind quarters in the sand and not in the driver's seat of our car heading North. I could be describing that drive, live a mile at a time, so you're welcome.


Heading out this morning I grabbed a piece of scrap paper from the kitchen table and threw it in the rubbish container, and there on the top, obviously from last night and whatever project my wife was working on, were her orange-handled scissors. She has had them a long time. They weren't left-handed scissors but she was fond of them. I had no idea how many products are made that NEVER take into account that not everyone is right-handed. Sinistro, from which we in English derive 'sinister' actually means left in Latin. See, this blog is a public service!

My wife has been complaining in recent months at how the orange-handled scissors were growing more dull by the day. I was thrilled there was finally something in the kitchen duller than I am, but now it's over. When she called me earlier to talk about something else entirely different, I asked her about the scissors and she told she had run out of patience and had discarded them.

I can remember as a child, not a toddler, a grade-schooler, maybe once every fortnight or so, all the Moms in the neighborhood would gather up their knives, scissors and even their pinking shears (those things scare the bejabbers out of me) and when the fellow driving the oldest car/truck I had ever seen, a black ford that looked like Henry himself might have built, showed up and pulled over and opened the back of the truck up to get at his workshop, all the moms would spend the afternoon visiting with one another while the sharpening man (I'm sure he had a title and I'm sure I'd never guess it) whetted the blades, and turned the sharpening stones and everything old became new again.

Shoes were made of leather, and mostly in Ohio and not of plastic all from someplace I cannot pronounce and when the heel or sole wore out, Mom took them to the cobbler who wrote out a ticket and gave her a stub and she came back in a week or so and your school shoes were as good as new, if not better. We had milkmen who delivered milk, real milk not that percentage off stuff that always reminds me of milk of magnesia, at least in color, and don't get me started on the taste. I don't care if 'whole milk clogs your arteries'. I've never seen a calf have a stroke, ever. Come to think of it, the #1 killer of cows is people.

My Mom had an eggman, koo-koo-cachoo, Mr. Ruben, who brought us brown eggs so big I thought, as a kid, they were ostrich eggs, not that I had ever seen an ostrich or one of its eggs. When Mr. Ruben had a heart attack, all the Moms in the neighborhood struggled to get by on supermarket eggs--those little white pullet pellets that looked like pigeon eggs (I had never seen pigeon eggs either. There was no National Geographic TV Channel back then.)

And slowly we grew up and gave away reusing things and fixing things that were broken. Pitch it--we'll get it another one when we're out. Wrong size, wrong color, imperfection in the hemline, or missing a stitch in the inseam? Throw it away. My wife has a sewing machine and I don't think anyone else she knows has any idea of how to use it. In the spirit of total disclosure I admit that my sewing skills consists of leaving the button and the shirt from which it came on my wife's sewing table with a note that says 'please' and the next day, the shirt is fine. I move in mysterious ways my wonders to perform.

These days, which will someday be the good old days for our children and their children, it's all replaceable so don't get too attached to any of it. That red stapler, in the dustbin it goes. The line between John Milton and Milton Waddams just disappears. We've traded a chance for Paradise Lost for an in basket of those TPS reports.
-bill Kenny

Monday, August 7, 2017

Vacation As Far As the Eye Can See

If the weather and the dispositions of Adam and Margaret are holding up well, we (my wife, our daughter and I) are still their guests along the Jersey Shore. When we went last year I forgot everything I'd learned as a child at the shore and burned myself to a crisp so this year, I have stock in Coppertone and oceans of lotions but I'm still hoping for some sun as are both my wife and daughter. The thought of the latter is what leads me to this memory flogger from way back as my daughter and I shared, almost, a very touching moment. 


It was last Saturday afternoon. Michelle, my daughter, and my wife were preparing for Part One of their Thelma and Louise Impersonation Escapade. That it was Part One was a surprise to me as I knew Michelle was home from college for the weekend and my wife had shared that she and Mike were hitting the Mohegan Sun later that evening to enjoy “America” who had a huge pop-rock career in the middle Seventies to early Eighties that stopped being such a huge career with a sudden finality I suspect the remaining two (of the original three) members found ferocious.

I always liked the band (and am inordinately fond of the nation as well, despite ourselves), though I never forgave their assault on my native language (and theirs, too, come to think of it) of their monstrous first hit, “Horse with No Name”. I mean, let’s face it, lines like “In the desert you can remember your name, 'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain.” What is that supposed to mean? As every person who has sought, or will ever seek, election to the Presidency of these United States says, “God Bless America” (even if no one has sneezed).

Anyway, that was Saturday evening’s itinerary and here I was at half past afternoon, minding my own business. Michelle, who had been readying herself to do something with her mother, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door, came down the hall and peering into my face, as if I were in a cave, announced loudly she’d "had it" with the hiding and "here!" with a flourish that would make Brandi Chastain jealous, showed off her two new tattoos, all the while doing that impersonation of her mother, my wife, that cracks all of us up.

I don’t understand tattoos-on men. I’m not sure what to say about them on a woman even less so when the woman happens to be my daughter. I knew that at some point earlier in her life (she has a lot less earlier than I do, but that’s only because I have decades on her) she had musical notes tattooed on her ankle. These new tattoos seemed to continue the musical motif and I decided to NOT ask when or where (or why) she’d gotten them, though I did appreciate learning that one of them, on her back, ‘isn’t finished yet.’

Since we are a species who has figured out a way to walk on the moon and touch the floor of the ocean, but still cannot see the back of our own head or body unassisted, I’m not sure how she knows it’s unfinished. As for why she had to tell me about the tattoos at all much less on Saturday afternoon, I am clueless as well. Perhaps it was National Tell the Grey-Haired and Doddering Fool Parent in Your House Something Disconcerting Day and I just didn’t get the note.

I sat there on the couch while she waited and looked at me while I looked at her and waited while she waited. We were silent, both of us, for a long period of time. I wasn’t, and am still not, sure what I was supposed to say or do. I decided, if I had to choose between her bringing home two tattoos or two newborns, I’d opt for the ink. Ever her father’s daughter, she demanded to know how I’d feel if she came home with one baby and one tattoo. "Welcome to my life, tattoo. We've a long time together, me and you."

I wasn't sure if we were waxing philosophic or negotiating and wasn't sure I could tell the difference (sort of like between finished and unfinished tattoos). I reminded her that we have a fixed menu and no substitutions are allowed, or desired. I suppose this was a parent-child bonding moment though it sure felt a lot more like the Spanish Inquisition. I can't wait for it to become a fond memory, assuming, of course, I can recall it at all in my sunset years. I already have the shades on-let the glow on the horizon begin.
-bill Kenny

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Only the Dead Have Seen the End of War

Today's title as I noted when I first kited it a number of years to commemorate this day in world history is a quote from Plato. Since my last original thought died of loneliness a very long time ago, I also offered a thought from Margaret Atwood that's an accurate, concise and brutally candid definition explaining ‘war is what happens when language fails.’

Someone (else) once said war doesn't determine who is right, only who is left.

Seventy-two years ago, today, the United States bombed Hiroshima, Japan, with a weapon so horrible in its power of destruction, that for a long time we, as a species, lacked the words in any language to fully convey the depth of destruction and tragedy it, and its twin, dropped on Nagasaki just days later, had created.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but I suspect no one knows how many lives it costs. A thought worth holding, perhaps, as we consider these two images.

"In some sort of crude sense...the physicists have known sin..."


"...and this is a knowledge they cannot lose." Robert Oppenheimer 


The scale and scope of the damages provided humanity a glimpse into an atomic abyss from which we knew there could be no escape, and we’ve managed for over seven decades to not unsheathe the sword of nuclear annihilation again against one another.

These two images of “modern” Hiroshima should offer us hope that we can, indeed, learn to speak with one another, but more importantly than speak, should compel us to listen.

65th Anniversary Remembrances of Hiroshima Bombing

City of Hiroshima, circa 2015

“We got your message on the radio…It’s never going to fade away.”
-bill kenny   

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Where Do They Keep Their Beepers?

I'm on holiday for the next few days, putting a lie to 'no rest for the wicked (or at least the incompetent).' These are thoughts I have had at some point in my life that I've mentioned and perhaps you didn't read, or chose to forget. You might need to work on that.  


Went for a walk yesterday to clear my head (I know, 'in his case, what are we talking about here? Ten to fifteen steps at most? Hardly worthwhile putting shoes on.' You're right, not to mention the trousers as well) and in the course of the aimless wander (I never get lost, even when I don't know where I am, because so many folks tell me where to go; but I'm never dressed coolly enough for the suggestion), I looked down on the sidewalk and there was a HUGE swarm of ants.

I was never one of these kids who used to set them on fire with a magnifying glass (if you thought my math skills were marginal, you should see the rest of the Mr. Science Guy repertoire) mainly because I didn't have a magnifying glass and I think it would have bothered me. And, just to prove I am nearly a Renaissance Man, I don't eat them dipped in chocolate, either (and hope they would return the courtesy if circumstances warranted.).

I have a dim memory (at my age, most memories are, I suppose) of Art Baker on the original "You Asked for It!" TV show with a story on an ant war. The show was, with all respect to Real World, generally thought of as the original 'unscripted' real-life show, the genuine article and Real Deal. I don't remember how old I was when the episode aired or who wrote in and asked for it, but I was still in short pants (which isn't especially helpful as I'm often still in short pants to this day--mostly at the request of the neighbors and as a condition of release by the court) and more than amazed at how the TV guys built this very elaborate ant farm with a glass wall so we at home could see everything that went on below ground.

It must've taken weeks to construct and to let the ants wander around in this biosphere, terrarium or whatever it was called, getting acclimated to their new home and then came the day the TV folks put down a drinking straw (I think it was) that stretched from this stand-alone ant colony to another colony they had built and stocked with ants, really big ants (I now know the camera adds ten pounds-back then, all we had was black and white so I don't know how much was added at the time) and the cameras waited until an ant from one colony wandered through his drinking straw and found a Whiter Shade of Pale, more or less.

It was total war as I remember it--and it was fascinating to watch. Bear in mind, I was born less than a decade AFTER the end of World War II and the Korean War was still a hot war in my infancy, but it was the Ant War that most impressed me, even to this day. The carnage and the chaos over the decades and through the mists of the years are as vivid now as they were then. The realization that they, the ants, so much resemble us, the bipeds with the big brains, only came in the latter years.

Back at the sidewalk, practically beneath my feet, I watched them roil and writhe as if they were a single living thing and not tens of thousands of tiny creatures, all of whom (I assume) were oblivious to my existence and interest.


I confess to shooting a glance upwards every once in awhile just to reassure myself no one was staring down on me. Although, come to think of it, the sun did seem to feel a lot warmer than weather conditions should have permitted. And I still don't know what to make of those giant chocolate chips I saw starting to soften just around the far corner.
-bill kenny