It's always been one of my favorite Dylan songs. It rollicks more than it rocks and rolls and makes me smile every time I hear it. And I hear it at the oddest moments like the other day at Lower Yantic Falls around the corner from our house as winter settles into Southeastern New England.
Through all the means of mass distraction in the 21st Century we have long been aware of the seemingly ceaseless stream of random violence and calculated carnage in every corner of our country but with Newtown, I realized and maybe you did, too, I had never thought such a horror could happen here in our state, home.
Even those who question the existence of God can have no doubt that evil is real and in the world, because it came to a place that offered safety and security, an elementary school filled with adults who gave the last and fullest measure of devotion to save those least able to save themselves, the children.
Six years after the inconceivable tragedy at Sandy Hook I don’t pretend to have insights into why what happened in Newtown happened at all. All I can offer is to hold the parents, siblings, and friends of those who were murdered in my thoughts as the survivors hold them in their hearts. I'd pray for better days for them and for us but hope for better days may have been among the casualties at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Newtown should remind us to examine our lives and decide what is truly important. But for any number of reasons we don't seem to like the idea of a reminder. Instead, we see every incident of inchoate violence since the murder of innocents this day six years ago as an isolated singular event, rather than as larger and unending episodes of anger and rage so profound we still dare not speak of causes and solutions because our emotions are still too raw or as we tell ourselves, ‘it’s too soon.’
Except, it's not soon; it's too late, much too late for six young teachers and twenty even younger children and grieving relatives who put very small coffins into the cold, cold earth, during the holiday season six years ago and who will carry until their dying day a hole in their hearts that time cannot and will not ever heal.
We’ll have (every) other day of this year and all the years that remain to argue about 'what's important.' And that's fine by me as long as we can finally and fully agree: today is a day to pause and hold our loved ones closer and see in their eyes a reflection of who we must become to make and to be the difference in the world,today and every day.
I fell across this in my archives (sounds much more spiffy than it really is) yesterday and it made me smile so I wanted to reshare it undeterred by the realization that at my age almost everything makes me smile, or seems to. At this time I called it:
And One to Grow On
We were a loud and large family when I was a child. My parents had heeded the Biblical injunction at least in part-my dad always had a garden though how fruitful it was, it's hard to say now-but we were many so they were good at math, well at least at multiplication. Our birthdays usually involved grandparents, Mom's, who were much closer to us at least geographically, living in Elechester out in Flushing, Queens, than were those of Dad, someplace out in Illinois (I learned years later, Taylorsville (maybe without the 's')). Our sightings of Grandma Kenny were rarer than Elvis, the live Elvis, who's still not nearly as successful as the dead one, so we always called Grandma Kelly, Grandma. It was of her I thought yesterday morning when reading the saga of Nicholas Trabakoulos versus Sue Handy, actually Judge Susan B. Handy, in a courtroom in New London, Connecticut, on Thursday.
Grandma had, when her children were our ages, she told us, started a birthday tradition of gently smacking the birthday child on the bottom once for every natal anniversary topped at the conclusion by a pinch, 'to grow an inch' by your next birthday.
In the ensuing decades, the notion gentle was lost. Reading that now helps explain why, usually for our tenth birthday, most of us received a set of Esso road maps as a gift so we wouldn't get lost when we ran away from home. Anyway, Nicholas wasn't ever at those gatherings which is just as well as Nicholas comes across as a bad man when you read the news report. I couldn't help but wonder if he'd built up his stamina if Lance Armstrong couldn't have used him on his Tour de France Astana team.
But that was not to be. Nicholas had other ideas and when a boy and his bike (and his sawed-off shotgun hidden under a pink blanket) have their mind set on something, that's all there is to it. Nicholas, says the news story, was in Groton visiting from New York when he robbed someone of $140, making his getaway by bicycle. The idea of a bike race where you also commit armed robbery probably hasn't yet been broached to anyone in the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourismbut brace yourself.
I can envision swarms of competitors bike shorts and ski masks, stretching to the horizon with satellite TV uplink vans and bloggers, twitters, and facebookers as far as the eye can see. Tourist Ka-Ching!). I just hope when they go with it (not if) that we don't owe Nicholas royalties on the intellectual property rights.
Back to Grandma.
Nicholas the Biker had not been Mr. Congeniality during his incarceration says the story, from the time of his arrest, through his trial to his sentencing Thursday, where he was awarded fourteen years for both robbery and weapons possession (I wonder what became of the bike?).
As they say in the infomercials, but wait, there's more. Apparently not appreciating the right to remain silent might be for his own good, Nicolas "unleashed a stream of obscenities... when Handy asked Trabakoulos if he had anything to say. His responses are unprintable." Johnny, why don't you tell us what Mr. Trabakoulos has won? The judge ordered Nicholas removed from the courtroom, gave him two hours to mull over his actions and then brought him back to ask if he wished to apologize. Nicholas had a number of wishes, but apologizing didn't make the list.
Judge Handy, like Grandma, then gave him six additional months on top of the fourteen years, for contempt of court. It would have been too much, I suppose, had Nicholas also been sentenced to be transported to the pokey on the handlebars of a bicycle pedaled by a corrections officer, though I'm unsure if the officer could have reached the bell. -bill kenny
I wrote this a couple of years ago and have returned to it on an annual basis since then because the sentiment, like the event itself, is an evergreen and a calendar fixture. And at this time of year with the rush for relentless cheerfulness ever escalating, taking a moment to reflect and respect is certainly not out of place. So, thank you for the kindness of your indulgence again.
We are only slightly more than waist deep in that most wonderful time of the year where far more than just the halls end up decked with boughs of holly and tinsel, eight different kinds of lights (all energy-saving LEDs of course), ornaments of all shapes, sizes, and colors (with price tags to match) and most of us struggling to swim upstream in a sea of customers wherever we do our holiday shopping, buying gifts and presents instead of enjoying the presence of the gift of family and friends.
Because of the hectic head noise that seems to be a part of our Yuletide preparations and celebrations, we end up staring at the (Christmas) trees too often without seeing the forest. I hesitated while typing ‘trees’ in case it serves as a reminder or trigger because you have yet to get yours, adding another chore to your to-do list.
Between all the hurried holiday greetings and in the midst of the manufactured merriment, you may wish for a moment you could use to catch your emotional breath rather than another big box store bargain and to collect your thoughts and count your blessings instead of gathering your purchases and pocketing your change. Something, anything.
If you seek respite from the holiday if only for a few minutes, I have a suggestion courtesy of the Norwich Area Veterans Council for an event that’s really more of a moment. It’s this Saturday at noon in Taftville’s Sacred Heart Cemetery; but it's not a unique-to-Norwich event, not by any means.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Wreaths Across America whose three-fold mission is to Remember, Honor, and Teach. Every year this national outreach coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies on veterans’ graves on a Saturday in December (this one coming up) at Arlington in Virginia as well as veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in each of our 50 states, at sea, and in over two dozen cemeteries in other countries where US military members have been buried.
I’ve attended previous ceremonies at Sacred Heart while I admire the power of words, I concede I don’t know enough or the right ones to adequately describe an event that is a heartfelt and homegrown acknowledgment of the lives of our departed veterans (of all services and from every conflict and era of our history). You should experience it for yourself.
It is both a gathering and a reflection of our community in remembering the fallen, honoring those still in service and teaching one another that freedom is free only with sacrifice.
By the time you read this, I should be out of Twitter purgatory. Maybe, or maybe not. At some point around mid-day on Monday, I stumbled across one of those mealy-mouthed pious platitudinal pontifications that Tucker Carlson (I usually refer to him as Fucker Carload) likes to offer when, like Marco Rubio, he wants to pretend to have a softer and more sensitive side. The one yesterday, as I recall, was bemoaning the increasing coarseness deployed in our civic discourse (and parenthetically bemoaning the loss of the green pleasant fields of Jerusalem among other things). I steer a wide bow around all of Faux Gnus and just about all of MSNBC for the same reason: too much stridency, too little accuracy involving facts. To read one of the main arsonists burning down the structure of civil debate in my country lament its passing without any acknowledgment of his (and Hannity, Dobbs, Pirro and whatever other bozos fall out of the Ailes' Clown car) role was too much and my evil twin Skippy seized my keyboard to respond. Skippy chided Hambone, as I called him, for his soliloquy and suggested it would be more sincere if he weren't still holding the lit Zippo lighter as he was rushing from the burning building. Some gentle, peaceful soul took offense, I assume and reported me. Twitter, which has yet to ever direct the removal of a single offensive or derogatory tweet from the Mango Mussolini occupying the White House moved swiftly in my case.I was directed to remove the offending tweet and serve a twelve-hour timeout which I have done, or am doing, or did. Sure beats pounding rocks in the hot sun. -bill kenny
I skipped our holiday lighting of the Norwich City Hall this past Friday evening because I knew there would a lot for folks crammed into the Sangeuedolce Square for the downtown First Friday exhibits and any photos I took would mostly be the backs of other people's heads all of whom would be trying to do what I was trying: to take a picture of City Hall with its holiday lights blazing. And the photo that made The Day's front page on Saturday was lovely enough for all of us to enjoy.
Instead, I walked up Lincoln and across Washington (the streets are named for two former Presidents, Mr. Trump, in case you wondered) to Chelsea Parade to grab this shot of the annual Christmas Rose erected between the GAR soldier statue and the flagpole.
I think it helps me get and stay in the holiday mood. -bill kenny
In twenty-two days, 2018 comes to an end. I'm not sure I'm fully grasping that realization even as I type that line. This has been another year I've been forced to concede the face in the mirror has aged and that the man behind the face hasn't nearly as many springs left as he thought he had and more on point, has squandered, rather than saved, those moments of meaning he thought would come along again as easily as they did the first time.
I've actually felt the dullness of the ache in the pit of my stomach and shocked realization of regret that the next time can be the last time always brings with it as a constant companion. Like so many over these past twelve months, I've blinked at critical moments and lost sight of the important ones in the rush of the real as the latter became surreal and unreal before disappearing by the dawn's early light.
This was the year I made a lot of changes and had vowed to sort myself out. And here it is, having nearly run its course and my still-to-do list looks a lot like what it was when I started on it as the year was beginning.
I'm finding no solace or consolation in that the next year will be over even faster than this one, with, I fear, even less to show for it as the distance already traveled never equals the distance yet to go. I'm exhausted, physically and emotionally and feel like I'm running through soup and sand, my feet never quite lifting from and clearing the ground, as each stride is a broken parody of what it once was with my arms pushing through chilling air I can taste rather than feel.
The harder I try the farther behind I seem to fall. I started out the year, if I'm lucky, beside you but have spent the year watching you slowly disappear ahead of me, your long and resolute strides taking you over the horizon and when I get to where you were, you're gone with no trace, no track, and no regret. Sic transit humanitas.
This was to be the year we were to do, we were to talk, we were to live large, and to just be. And what happened? We allowed so many others, maybe too many others (who've already given up on their dreams) to creep in as poor players and poison what wells of hope we'd held for ourselves.
Our sense of adventure and excited curiosity has been replaced by dread as the days draw down and this year nears its end. The toast we'll make for much success in the new year assumes both will exist but accepts the implication that neither is promised. But it's what's next that will keep me awake.