Monday, December 31, 2007

Hello and Goodbye and Hello

I thought I'd try for something cunningly clever today, it being the last day of 2007 and all. Then I saw the 'precocity' warning light flashing on my forehead in the mirror and that was the end of that bright idea.

I hope 2007 was good, and if not good, then kind, to you and yours and I welcome the arrival of 2008 and the hope and promise of what it may bring for us all. I realize a year from now some of us will not be here to read the update to this entry (or write it, for that matter) but while the actors and actresses are changed and exchanged on a daily basis (in every aspect of our everyday lives), the play goes on. We change partners, but continue in the dance.

2007 was the best of years and the worst of years and 2008 will be the same. It's not really a matter of the number of days and hours in a year, or a lifetime, but what we do with the space between the beginning and the end. I hope you have all the space you need for that which you need to do and look forward to talking to you next year.
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Discounting everything we see.....

Didn't pay a lot of attention earlier this week when I went to a stand-alone Dunkin' Donuts (not a shop inside a grocery store) and used my gift card to buy breakfast. It seemed to me the prices for the item I bought were the same as in the grocery store shops but I got more change back. Hmmmm....

Watched a little closer this morning and discovered I'm receiving a 'senior citizens' discount. Wow. Would've thunk it? The Young Turk who railed at every injustice real, and or imagined, who embraced the vaguest of causes on the possibility there was a wrong to be righted, has reached the age, at least in appearance and chronology, if not emotionally, where we cut him a break on the price, put him on the sunny side of the patio and let him play checkers until he passes away.

All this time I thought I was part of the "My Generation" Townsend wrote of and Daltrey sang about. That two of the four guys from that band died more of self-inflicted stupidity than anything else, is only just now starting to sink in. I'm thinking back to the young fellow who gave me the senior discount (and you're reading in vain if you expect to read I rejected the discount and insisted on paying normal price. My mom raised crazy children, NOT stupid ones.) and to him, in his callow youth, I must've seemed like the oldest of men. Looking for one word to describe me, I would have opted for 'distinguished' rather than extinguished. I would have been wrong and over-charged.
'The tragedy of youth,' said a philosopher, 'is it is wasted on the young.' Suspect he was a very old philosopher, sipping a senior coffee, two creams and a Splenda.
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Practically Waterloo Sunset

Turns out I was right, but wasn't correct. It's amazing how often that happens these days.

Was at Waterford's Crystal Mall yesterday to get some of those ten thousand steps a day in (I haven't been especially good about it this holiday, and more disturbingly, I'm not concerned that I've been so lackadaisical about it) and the Mall was filled with people but not anywhere near over-flowing.

This makes it easy for me, with a vaguely formulated desire to get to a record shop (they're not called that anymore, are they? I'd have to drive practically to Boston and go to Newberry's to buy an actual piece of vinyl) to wander around the upper and lower levels of the mall, clicking off the strides and people watching.

I especially enjoy observing the contingents from Date Night at Piranha High-groups of high school age (or what I, as a man in my mid-fifties, suppose are high school age) men and women, always an odd number, as if the 'extra person' regardless of sex, is the wingman or ringmaster to keep the proceedings from going too far or too fast. I've picked up 'pda' and other extensions of the gearhead vernacular, like OMG or (my favorite) ROTFLMAO, and use them as if they are actual words ('woot' was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary this year. I am so impressed that I know this.).

Passing a contingent, I smiled to realize one of the group boasted of her allegiance to Laugh Out Loud High School. And my generation thinks irony is lost on our kids!
Two more steps down the mall promenade and it dawned on me, as one of the characters in Through the Looking Glass explains, 'a word means exactly what I say it means--no more, and no less.' In all likelihood, the high school being supported was, Lyme Old Lyme (I've never understood if this is a marketing ploy like Coke and New Coke; there is, I believe, an East Lyme, but I've never heard of a West Lyme).
I thought about apologizing for making fun of the student's school (Brian Wilson would have approved if he could but look up from his sandbox) and then remembered my mistakes are really the only thing I can truly call my own.
'Terry and Julie cross over the river where they feel safe and sound. And they don't need no friends as long as they gaze on Waterloo Sunset, they are in Paradise.'
-bill kenny

Friday, December 28, 2007

"I pick up phones to hear my history. I think of all the calls I've missed."

Growing up, one of the things that stuck with me was the later in the day a phone call came, the less likely it was to be good news. In my family growing up, we knew better than to phone home after 8 PM, no matter what, and no matter where we were.

At 55, I am, I suppose, all the adult I am ever going to be.
The growing old part worked far too well and the growing up part didn't seem to work at all. I still get nervous going into a darkened room and will search out the light switch even if I'm only passing through. And phone calls now? Even with, or perhaps especially because of, caller ID, when the phone rings in the evening, I am always startled (maybe wary is a better word). The phones we have take two rings to show me the number and name of the caller (and a voice chip somehow 'reads' this information and offers me an audio attempt at a name, sometimes to great comic effect), and I stand, transfixed, watching that little display.

Despite 'do not call' registrations, I get a lot of callers from folks who technically don't want to sell me anything, which is prohibited by the registry, but rather only want to take a few minutes of my time for a survey on a multitude of issues, services and products which, many times, always seem to end in what sounds suspiciously like a sales pitch. All of these morons I can handle and do, with a tad more relish and enjoyment than I really should have, truth be told.

When I see the name and number of my son or daughter in the display, however, my bravado evaporates and I start making horror movies in my head. I mutter 'please don't be anything bad' at least three hundred kajillion times between the second ring, which displays their name, and the third ring that never comes because I answer the phone. Both of them think it's cute their old man breaks out in cold sweats when they call him after dark--if my wife answers the phone, I pace and fret within eyesight and earshot, lest she forget to tell me of a cataclysmic catastrophe that has befallen one of them.

When we brought them home from the hospital, and they still had that 'new baby smell', I used to sit in a corner of their room and watch them sleep. I was fascinated by their breathing and with any and every movement they made while in their crib. I had no need of television-I had found my must-see and did so many times, for many hours, as they grew up.

As an adult, I can understand and internalize the realization that I cannot protect my children, who are in fact, adults, themselves now, from every evil and misfortune in the world, but when the day gets dark and the phone rings at night, my inner grown-up is nowhere to be found. And all the me that's left can do is stare at the ringing phone and hope the monster under the bed has gone away by the time I answer it.
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 27, 2007

a small step but a large stride

You missed a heckuva meeting last night. Really.
I know, you had other things to do-personal engagements, family obligations, business expectations. And, quite frankly, who holds a meeting on the day after Christmas anyway? People who only have until 17 March of this rapidly approaching new year to present to the City Council of Norwich a proposal for a Code of Ethics, that's who.

Cynicism is pretty much a part and parcel of governance in this country, as you've probably noticed (I know you are, rags; but what what am I?). We, the Salt of the Earth, forget about how often a prayer is said for us, 'the stay at home voter, dull-eyed though a strange beauty shows'--or how often we endure a 'passing parade of grey-suited grafters, a choice of cancer or polio.' And we forget: if not us, then who? If not now, then when?

Since May, eleven regular and three alternate members of the Norwich Ethics Review Committee, just plain folks (in my case, as an alternate, more homely than plain) have met once a month to try and define what we, the people, should insist upon as the behavior and public morality of those we elect and appoint to work, and those whom they hire, on our behalf.
This ain't like Sam Phillips at Sun Records offering his definition of rock and roll, "I know it when I hear it." And yet, in a way, it has to reflect that kind of aesthetic.

There's been a little too much, 'you get along by going along' across municipal governments, not just in SE Connecticut for a very long time. It's one thing to say 'we demand you stop.' It's another to define what is and what is NOT acceptable for public officials and employees (and to make sure everyone knows what the rules are). It's an all-out effort to make sure that those who have been winking at questionable behavior now realize it's being looked at with eyes wide-open.

Rabbi Charles, Alderman Chris, ex-Alderman John, Dr. Bob, Joe, ex-Alderman Larry, Shiela, Michael, Sarah, Tamara, Jerry, not the Chuck and Lois (and me) waded through more words than wisdom (at times) as we tried on a variety of ideas and proposals to create a document we think (=hope) starts a road map of where we need to go, based on the souvenirs of where we've been.

We're not at Gramma's house yet. We're at the rest stop on the interstate before we get to her exit.(You know, where you comb your hair and straighten your shirt (and wonder how that pb&j stain got on the sleeve in the first place.)) We're at the 'neaten up and defuzzy' part where different folks take different sections and read them aloud to themselves and one another to see if what we wrote makes sense when exposed to daylight. There'll be some managing of the white space and realignment, because when you have 14 people drawing a picture blind-folded, and you must only have one canvas and one frame, you have to make allowances for where the different parts of the picture all have to be and where they currently are.

Should we feel good about what we've accomplished? You betcha-and so, too, should you.

Too often, too many expect venal behavior from those in government and are happy when human failings are disclosed, especially if they've been hidden and then disclosed. If "Gotcha!" is ever included in the Olympics, the medal podium will have to be huge. We didn't find a cure for an illness, unless you count pessimism as a malady of the human spirit and we haven't eliminated it but we've made it harder to have. We stopped waiting for 'somebody to fix the problem' and took a stab at the solution ourselves. We aren't heroes-but we are your neighbors.
And Norwich is a bit shinier today because of what we've done. Small victories add up.
"I am only one-but I am one. I cannot do anything, but I can do something."
Don't make a difference---be the difference.
If not now, then when? If not us, then who?
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Marky Maypo and the Infinity Brigade

I eat cold cereal in the mornings during the work week. I realize, especially during the colder months, there's a lot of positives to be said about oatmeal, or grits or Wheatena or Maypo, but I've never been able to eat any of them.

I can prepare hot cereals just fine and without hesitation. I focus on the tasks at hand--heat the water, pour it into the container and stir it around with the spoon until it has the consistency of wallpaper paste. So far, so good. Pause, dip in the spoon and slowly direct it towards my mouth. NO SALE.

I cannot be tricked into eating it, no matter how good it smells, no matter how much I 'know' after 30 days it'll lower my cholesterol, no matter how it'll warm me up from the inside and get my day off to a brighter and faster start. Nope. Here comes the airplane and you're the hanger......oh, it's yummy and delicious Maypo.... NOPE. Not happening. Not in this life and not in the next life.

As a matter of fact, to the bemusement of my children (actually mostly my daughter now when she comes from college and has breakfast with us), I eat cold cereal without milk and sugar, without bananas or strawberries or anything else. Just naked, the way it comes out of the box--the way General Mills and Kellogg's (Kay e double L oh double good) made it.
I had a boss years ago tell me when breakfast cereals were introduced into post-war (West) Germany, Germans had NO idea how to eat them and poured orange juice onto the cereal, instead of milk and sugar. I guess these days it'd be 2% and Splenda.

My favorite is and has always been Cheerios-just the way they are-NOT covered with yogurt or flavored with apple whatevers, just plain brown Cheerios, looking like doughnut seeds. I never allowed myself as a kid to get seduced by the prize inside. And that's one of the reasons I feared growing up: adults ate cereals with NO prizes! What kind of a deal was that? With all due respect to MJ and his marketing magic, what kind of a prize would you put in a Wheaties box, anyway? Sweatsocks? 'Collect the whole pair! One each inside of specially marked boxes!'

The least you can do, Marky, is put your cowboy hat back on, pull up your pants and take your Funky Bunch to lunch.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

"Happy Christmas"

In some places, it's already tomorrow. And that's okay as well because in some places tomorrow is Second Christmas where you visit with friends (Christmas Day is for your family).
Not to worry, here in the Land of the Round Door Knobs, time's a wastin' and we'd never devote two days to a holiday when one day will do.
So whichever day of Christmas it is where you are, Frohe Weinachten.
-bill kenny

Monday, December 24, 2007

It's A Wonderful Life

One of my favorite parts of Christmas, aside from amusing my wife and children with my ill-advised attempts to gift wrap presents, is watching "It's A Wonderful Life". I've watched it on television with commercial breaks built around celebrities recounting when they first saw it (one year I watched Garth Brooks talk about the first time he saw it and realized I had NO idea who he was, despite his success in selling records).

It's on tonight and I'll watch it, even though we have it on DVD and I could watch it at anytime, along with the original "Miracle on 34th Street". Truth be told, I have no idea on how to work the DVD, or the timer on the thermostat or the control for anything other than the popcorn setting on the microwave or most of the cell phone I own (it has a Blackberry in it and checks my commercial email accounts and vibrates to let me know I have e-mail. Scares the bejabbers out of me.).

I was surprised to read when the movie was first released it was NOT hailed as a classic or celebrated for its art, but was seen more as both a commercial and artistic failure. In the decades that have passed, as more of us have had an opportunity to look at its larger message and ponder the implications of the road not taken, the appeal of the movie has, I think, grown.

When you examine your own life and think of all the choices you've made that have, in sum, resulted in your being here to read this (or to shake your head in dismay and double-click on to something else), that total number is (or should be) overwhelming.

I arrived here because we won the Cold War and NATO cut the overhead. I had lived in Germany since 1976 and had a wife and two children. We had a gemutlich existence in the heart of a moderate sized German city. Our two children were old enough to realize Dad's German wasn't as good as theirs (actually it was about as good as my daughter, Michelle's, if you forgot that I was in my late thirties and she wasn't quite four). And then the Evil Empire held a Going Out of Business Sale and we thought the Age of Aquarius had dawned. Turns out it hadn't and it still hasn't, but that doesn't mean someday it won't get here-just not today.

There were hundreds and thousands of decisions that had to be made (or not made) in order for us to reside in The Rose of Norwich. I cannot imagine how my life has been enriched by the neighbors alongside of whom I've lived, by the people I've worked with on a school building and technology committee, the baseball stadium authority, a charter review commission and on the ethics review committee (not all at the same time, but close to it!). I'd hope I've added something to their lives but know better. I am humbled and grateful for what they have shared with me and realize I am who I am because of every person I have ever met on the way to where I am now.

For some, knowing me has been more of trial and error (emphasis on the latter) than either of us wish to admit. For others, a little contact goes a long way and absence makes the heart grow fonder (and so they are waiting for me to leave so they can like me). I lack the grace and style of Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey, though I've often attempted to lasso the moon for the love of my life. I'm not sure I could stand up to Potter the way George did and that whole 'angel gets his wings' thing gets me confused. The first Clarence I knew of growing up was a cross-eyed lion, so child of the video age that I am, the programs sometimes get edited together and the meanings get diffused.

As 2007 begins its final week--this time next week is New Year's Eve, I find myself looking forward to 2008 with hope because of what we have endured, persevered and triumphed over in 2007 and hope it allows you and yours a moment of pause in the next few days to look at where you are and how you got here and to perhaps concede, trials and tribulations to the contrary, indeed, "It's A Wonderful Life."
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 23, 2007

"...I just read the Daily News and swear by every word."

The Christmas 2007 purchasing season is winding down rapidly, and the surest sign I've seen yet, aside from the calendar, is the size of the Sunday newspaper I have delivered to the house (or near the house, depending on the carrier's aim). For weeks, I feared I was going to have to ask one of those MLB players about HGH or steroids to just lift the newspaper and then worry about how I'd ask Senator Mitchell for the syringes to inject the drugs. And then, in all likelihood, I'd read about my escapade in the newspaper or Curt Schilling's comments about it on his blog. Oh the ignominy.....

This morning's paper was considerably lighter than it's been since Thanksgiving, and I, for one, am thankful for that. I guess many, like me, have gotten done all the holiday shipping we are going to do. I bought festive bags and colored tissue paper with stick-on bows to hold the presents so I can avoid the annual 'look! Another gift that Dad wrapped!' chorus of light-hearted derision. Grinches have feelings, too, y'know.
(I'm working on a new Christmas carol, to the tune of "Merry Christmas to You"...
'Guys in ski masks pushing shopping carts/
From all points West, North, South and East.
Folks stand in line for a very long time/
To see if they can spend the least.'
No one from Tin Pan Alley called to ask me about an option-imagine my surprise.
I did get a call from Crusader Rabbit asking about his buddy, rags. All I could tell him was that there's a little dreamer in all of us and, perhaps, even a little realist. I think he thought I said 'realtor' because now he's working on a zoning variance proposal. This time Busby Berkley is doing the PowerPoint slides. Come early for the best seats. No point in hiding; like The Big Guy, he knows who you are though his definition of naughty or nice is a bit obscure.)

I wish I had a large empty box to store some of the feelings of harmony and accommodation that are so prevalent this time of year for those times in the coming year when we could really use them and won't have them.
It will be a Presidential election year and from what I've read we are none too sure as to where we want to go and whom we wish to have get us there. It's amazing to look back to the days of the founding of the Republic and see all the people who were qualified to President and realize in less than 250 years we've moved from a free exchange of ideas and positions to a demolition derby and some variant of Lord (or Lady) of the Flies wherever whoever is last standing is the 'winner'.
"And no, you're not my enemy, I like things like they used to be and though you need some company, I'm standing by myself, go play with someone else. I can see by what you carry that you come from Barrytown."
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 22, 2007

At our age, we don't even buy green bananas

AP Story from Rhode Island about a couple, near retirement age, who've won a large lottery prize and decided to take the lump sum payment, as opposed to the annual annuity installment. Thus, instead of about one hundred and fifty million dollars, after taxes et al (and it's the 'et al' that adds up in the end) they'll receive about 51 million dollars (almost typed 'only' but then my fingers started laughing). The husband offered as his explanation for the decision "at our age we don't even buy green bananas."

Last shopping weekend before Christmas on Tuesday and the newspapers say it's been a grim season for retailers. I'm not sure if that's in comparison to other years, or as an absolute measurement. We have more people going to bed hungry and homeless this year than we did last year. We have more men and women in uniform risking their lives in faraway places than we had last year, and more killed and wounded in action than we had this time a year ago and that shows no signs of changing.

One of the local newspapers, sponsors of a holiday toy drive, allows potential recipients to sign up on line to receive presents for their children. I'm not sure if universal computer access is, indeed, so universal that having a computer is no longer a sign of some affluence (I know if Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had their ways, computers would be another household appliance and would be regarded as such). My computer is so old, it was on the airplane Wilbur and Orville flew at Kitty Hawk and runs on coal. Or not.

Many years ago I had a colleague, Barbara Gallant, who had a sign on her desk that captures today, and tomorrow, perfectly: "I am now starving to death on the salary I once dreamed of making."
-bill kenny

Friday, December 21, 2007

"A Steve Austen outfit..."

I almost forgot one of the more important traditions in my house at Christmas: Dad's badly wrapped gifts, under the tree resembling the dog's breakfast, especially in comparison to EVERYONE else's wrapping jobs. Even when they were small, really small, our two children could wrap a present better than I.

I am incapable of figuring out how to take a flat sheet of paper and shape it neatly and symmetrically around a gift. It doesn't make any difference what size the gift is or how large or small the sheet of wrapping paper is. It doesn't seem to be a problem with the scissors or the sealing tape. I am forced to conclude it's O,H S&T, Operator Head Space and Timing.

This year I was going to do all gift cards-they come neatly packaged in their own festive envelopes. They stack very nicely, don't take up a lot of space under or near the tree and don't involve me looking foolish with tape, scissors, et al.
Spread my gifts under the tree last night, as my daughter is home for the holidays from college, and looked at the display in the twinkling lights and 'underwhelmed' is the only word I can use.

My project today is to battle the throngs of shoppers I thought I had cleverly avoided and get stuff that I am guessing my children and spouse may want, or failing that, won't hate too much, ruin huge amounts of paper and tape wrapping them all up and place them, like bedraggled bits of road kill, under the tree so that everyone on Christmas Eve can look knowingly at one another and laughingly say as they pass the presents, 'here's one from Dad!'
Father Christmas, indeed.
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"Everything and More" not just a store, a philosophy

We went to IKEA in New Haven yesterday. I love IKEA. I hate driving there from the butt-end of CT as my choice of routes are 395 into 95 (the two lane variety) or 82 into 154 into 9 into 95 (for less than a mile). A choice of cancer or polio.
I fell in love with IKEA when we lived in (West) Germany and shopped at the one in Wallau, which is about halfway between Frankfurt am Main and Wiesbaden. At one point, most of our home was furnished by IKEA--there's a clean, uncluttered look about their living rooms and bedroom sets that I very much enjoy.
Anyway, as I said we took the road less traveled, Route 82 et al, and driving through or near the town of Hadlyme (which is, I think, a sister city of Gotmilk or Luvbeer) we passed a small single story quasi-quaint shop (looked like a long two car garage that had been converted) boasting it had "Everything And More" which, if you think about it, is a remarkably brave assertion. After all, if you already have everything, doesn't that (by definition) include more? How can there be a more if you've just announced you have everything? This isn't like getting your peanut butter into my chocolate. It's like having an inside and NO outside.

Driving back, I realized the morose foreboding I've had for the last couple of days wasn't just my anxiety growing as I continue to look for a new job (I have until August to find one) or my unhappiness at my ongoing aches and pains (no one talked about degenerative arthritis in your knees when I was at 'how to be a grown-up' school unless they did it on that day I cut class to go ride bikes) but that yesterday was my father's birthday. He would be eighty-four years old now, except for the technicality of having died twenty-six years ago.

When he died I recalled Springsteen's "Independence Day", because it so captured the relationship he and I never had. And as I've aged, and walked more miles in his footsteps than I had when he passed, I've realized he did the best he could and that I'm still coming to grips with never having told him that while he was alive. I couldn't forgive him then and I can't forgive myself now. I felt he was the reason I never wanted to father children since I had no faith in my ability to be anything other than what he had been to me. Luckily, I married a beautiful and intelligent woman (okay, momentary lapse in saying 'I do' to me) who shouldered all the heavy lifting in raising a son of twenty-five and a daughter of twenty into adults who take responsibility for their own actions (unlike other people I know) and who try to be a positive difference in the world. Maybe that's what "Everything and More" really means.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Real World

A week from today, Christmas will be past tense.
We'll be gathering up the wrapping paper and ribbon and sorting it out for the recycling bins.
Those of us NOT doing this will be heading to shops and malls to return what we got and didn't want or to gobble up a 'post-holiday' bargain. Or both. There'll be a raft of situations where 'you're not the only cuddly toy that was ever enjoyed by any boy' (Thanks, Harry N) and why not take advantage of it?

We can stop wishing one another 'happy holidays'.
I've always been troubled that people who for 50 weeks out of the year will cross the street to avoid me, will wish me 'all the best for the holidays', either unheeding or uncaring of the contradiction of the rest of the year.
For those who celebrate something other than Christmas, or who don't celebrate at all, what do they make of this synthetic snowglobe world we create (and then so casually, and callously, discard)? Are they impressed or discouraged by how quickly, like the passing of a fever, 'normal' returns with all its petty frustrations and intrigues. Should they, and we, spend more time and energy truly making the 'holiday season' fifty-two weeks long?
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The "Magic" of "The Ballad of a Thin Man"

Sitting in chambers last night for the first business meeting of the Norwich City Council we elected last month, two songs kept running through my head (the curse of being an old DJ is everything reminds you of a tune. Believe me, you don't ever want to know what prompts me to think about Frank Zappa's "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama". Heck, I don't even want to know).

In Magic, Bruce Springsteen sings, "Trust none of what you hear and less of what you see". Bob Dylan spoke 42 years ago (42!!!) in The Ballad of a Thin Man, "Because something is happening here, But you don't know what it is-do you, Mr. Jones."

Turns out Mr. Jones had company. Local newspapers reported this morning the City Council postponed expending over 600K on the animal shelter, pending a further review of alternatives. They also reported on the Council approving the Mayor's recommendations for members of an advisory board for the Sachem Fund (a joint municipal and Mohegan tribe venture). Had only this been all the City Council accomplished last night, it, in and of itself, would have been a good night's work.

What was relegated to the smallest (and last two) paragraphs in one of the reports was the Council agreeing among themselves as to how they will conduct their business for the next two years, their rules of procedure. The expression 'what were once vices are now habits' is as true of government as it is for each of us as individuals. In the course of years, we develop a shorthand for saying things and a shortcut way of getting things done; perhaps it's not the fairest or the best way, but by golly (by gum) it's how we've always done it. No mystery, it's our history.
And if you always do what you've always do, you'll always get what you've always gotten. And that's the rub, Sweet Prince of Denmark, what have we gotten ?

According to a representative who spoke at the bond and debt workshop before the Council meeting (he was from William Blair and Co in Chicago), Norwich has a lower than average General Fund balance but also a lower than average per capita income level (as I understood it, parts if not all of A Perfect Storm, with only higher than average levels of debt service to city revenues coupled with high interest rates for borrowing, missing from the equation).
Actually, as we've struggled to search for the guilty to blame for how we got here (as opposed to finding a safe passage through treacherous waters), I've found myself humming (okay, not really-it's a hard song to hum) another Dylan tune:

"Praise be to Nero's Neptune/The Titanic sails at dawn.
And everybody shouting/'Which side are you on?'
And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot/Fighting in the captain's tower
While calypso singers laugh at them/And fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea/Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much/About Desolation Row."

Being a human Wurlitzer has its downside, like when someone wants to play Why Can't We Be Friends?, and I'm wondering if Todd Rundgren ever lived here.
-bill kenny

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Death of Sensible Shoes

I was amazed many years ago to learn there were actual marijuana seeds in Hartz Mountain Bird seed. I was of an age where this factoid more than passed the 'oh really?' test. Stop looking at my album collection and wondering why anyone would need either The Electric Prunes' "Mass in F Minor" or the debut of Lothar and the Hand People. File my interest and those records under 'indiscretions of youth' and leave it alone, okay?

Anyway. Because of how the various seeds that made up the bird food were collected, marijuana seeds were part of the mix, literally and figuratively. You didn't have to be enrolled in the local chapter of Junior Achievement to imagine what some of the more enterprising of us figured out out you might do. However, it turns out Uncle Sam was one step ahead of us on that. There were people in the bird seed factory whose job was to sterilize the marijuana seeds. I spent a lot of time trying to imagine what kind of a person would have a job like that and how you go about recruiting for it.

I mention this because over the weekend I read a story on birth control for elephants in South Africa where a not insignificant number of males have had vasectomies. There are actually people who not only specialise in performing these, but others who 'quality-control' the process, a year and more afterwards. I'll spare you the details in case after you've bought a box of bird seed, you develop a keen interest in learning more about the process for yourself. However, my aforementioned curiosity about the Hartz Mountain employee MORE than applies to these careers as well, especially the latter position.
I have read Horton Hears a Who at least a thousand times so I'm hoping, if they're recruiting for team members, education may be substituted for actual experience. I always marvelled at the plumage of the Norwegian Blue and invariably have had a bad case of the munchies afterwards.
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Stopping By the Norwichtown Mall on a Snowy Sunday

Yes, I know. Lawyers for the estate of Robert Frost are on line two and want to talk about infringement-tell them they can talk to the hand.

Driving through Norwich this morning, the light on Washington and the intersection of Broadway is a flashing signal, with Washington having yellow and Broadway having red-just in case the clown in the Volvo station wagon is wondering if I mention this because of you, I do.

Continuing down the street, where Lafayette intersects with Washington (the ironies for historians of both nations must be almost too much to bear) at the Backus Hospital corner, that light is also a flashing light with those coming from Lafayette having to stop and the third light, where Washington intersects with Harland Road and Route 2 is all flashing red in all directions.

Having noted all of this, it's a puzzlement to me (thanks Yul! Your lawyers are probably on line one even as I'm typing) why the light on Washington and the intersection with the entrance to what's left of the Norwichtown Mall is working as a regular streetlight.
As you can imagine, though I really can't, there was a crush of cars and trucks this morning at the entrance. It's a good thing we had a working traffic signal or we may have well had chaos, chaos! I tell you, and that would mean the terrorists would win. (I've been advised by the Department of Homeland Security that I have a 'or the terrorists will win' deficit on this blog that has caused some eyebrows to be raised by those not currently being waterboarded. Hope this double dose keeps me from getting fitted for an orange jumpsuit.)

And what exactly are those who are so troubled by the means of interrogation used by those whom we have charged and chartered to defend us supposed to be about? Perhaps more tickling and less waterboarding? Maybe a few more 'c'mon, you can tell me' and a few less sleep-deprivation confessionals? I'm not sure we all even agree on the nature of the calamity that is befalling us in terms of those against whom we struggle. These are not reasonable people with whom one can reach an accommodation. We need to take them at their word when they vow to destroy us, our children and our children's children as well as everything we stand for. This isn't a situation 'where lawyers clean up all details.'
Tell Frost and Brynner, I have history on line three, for ALL of us.
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Second Sitting for the Last Supper

Out and about before the threatened Nor'easter this evening and fell into conversation with someone while waiting to check out about, of all things, tomorrow's professional football game between the New England Patriots and the NY Jets. He had little doubt, regardless of the weather between now and then (Sunday afternoon) the game would be played in Foxboro, Massachusetts. His feeling was it might be a little chilly to be playing football and he was surprised when I told him the guys he worried about were paid MILLIONS to suit up and go out there, regardless of the weather, and that my concern was for the morons (the word I used, I think) who would troop into the open-air stadium, consume beer by the kegful and sit for four or more hours in the cold and in the dark while these guys 'played.' My ability to say the right thing at the right time has always been a faithful ally and a resource I've called upon time and time again.

Smiled reading a front page story in one the two dailies this morning (it'll be in the other paper, probably by Wednesday or as quickly as the rewrite desk gets to it) on the enforcement locally of the snow-shovelling/sidewalk clearing ordinance across the area. Great quote from a Norwich police LT who's obviously left his pen in his other uniform as I drove across the city this morning, I passed dozens of homes whose sidewalks were piled high with snow that stopped falling Thursday night. He talks about how police officers in uniform continue to write citations. I doubt if, in the last five years, the police in the City of Norwich have written more than ten tickets, TOTAL. And quite frankly, why should they have to do it all?
The ordinance in Norwich was written on behalf of all of us and, theoretically at least, with our knowledge and consent. If we don't care enough about our own, and one another's, safety to clear our sidewalks of snow and ice than we should have to live with whatever happens to us.

Cannot wait to see what the sidewalks of Norwich will look like by tomorrow night, after the next storm blows through the area. Maybe we can get some of those Patriots and Jets football players to grab a shovel and lend a hand? Or perhaps, they can just hire somebody else to do it? And if they don't do a good job, we can call the cops because that's what they're for. That and to make little kids eat all their vegetables.
-bill kenny

PS: Speaking of knowledge and consent, the first real meeting of the new Norwich City Council is Monday night in City Hall. If you hadn't already figured out that the election in November was only a START, then Monday's a good time to stop in and see how well all of us are playing six weeks into "the change".
The Mayor and the City Council wasted a moment on the 4th of December when all that agenda called for was swearing in of new alderpersons and thanking former members. Looks like everyone wants to roll up their sleeves and have a second chance to make a good first impression come Monday night at seven. We have a long way to go and a short while on this earth to get it done. Now is the time. We are the people. Go Us!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Here at Detox Mansion

We had enough snow yesterday in Norwich, yeah it's still Fall as both daily newspapers pointed out on their front pages (so what?), that I was finally able to move the snow blower we got last spring (at somebody's close-out) and had stored in the garage under a tarpaulin out under the rear stairs and fire that mutha up.

I have no mechanical ability (I accidentally learned last week my car has an alarm after arming it while in the vehicle, sitting in the parking lot at the grocery. Still have no idea how I did whatever I did but am happy I didn't do it again. Doesn't that sound just like Norwich?) and so just finding where you put the oil in and where the gas goes took forever.
Dear people who make stuff like snow blowers: Yes, I know they are for manly men and, as such, laugh in the face of common sense but let's face it, lots of the engine parts are made out of plastic like the crankcase where the oil goes and the gas tank. Why must this always be made of the darkest, blackest plastic you can find? Why can't they be clear, so a talentless goober like me can see, with a glance, was is los in the lubrication and fuel departments? Is this too much to ask? If it is, sorry. And maybe it is fortunate that I didn't pursue chainsaw juggling as a career.

After hardly any time at all, I got the machine started and moving (forward. It has five forward speeds and two reverse which is one more of each than my car has) and, honestly, within thirty seconds I could actually feel myself changing into some other guy. I no longer just walked behind the snow blower, I sauntered. I didn't sniffle from the cold--I wiped my nose with the back of my right glove and it felt good. Within a minute, I could already see how NOT getting the model with chains and the two headlights was a HUGE mistake and within two minutes had decided that now that I had the technology, why not go ahead and try to snow blow the ENTIRE backyard. Afraid of nature and the environment? HA! I have my technology to protect me. Thank goodness I ran out of gas.
Maybe there's a patch, like for smoking?
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I could never get the hang of ideology

When did saying 'no problem' replace 'you're welcome'? I missed the memo on that. Aware I am in danger of being labelled a curmudgeon, I must point out it happens more and more often, usually when I encounter someone of my children's generation. Everything from passing the ketchup at the diner counter to holding a door open for someone approaching it. "Thank you" followed by "no problem". Gotta tell ya, home pie, I don't care if it's a problem. Here in Civilization, we have this thing called manners, so hold the door and return my expression of appreciation with a "you're welcome". Or you'll have heartaches by the dozen and problems by the score.

Later today, The Mitchell Report on use (and abuse) of drugs, chemicals, whatever, in Major League Baseball will be released and we'll learn how many of our heroes and role models in America's Favorite (Past it) Past Time have been chemically enhanced. I'm not sure what I should feel, no matter what the report says. We are so hedonist as a culture and society now, encountering anyone NOT operating a drug store in her/his own home is more the exception that at any time in our history.

I'm making a movie in my head where the Founding Fathers are snorting cocaine as well as snuff upstairs in Independence Hall in Philly while TJ is banging out the Declaration of Independence. You scoff? Submitted for your consideration, '...endowed by their Creator with unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'
Reads to me like the US of A is founded on the idea of fun.
What other nation can say that? Certainly not Great Britain; what with that 'stiff upper lip' and all. France? Sacre Bleu (or if it's near dinner time, cordon bleu), I think not, Lafayette. Germany? Unless your idea of fun includes spilling out over your borders twice in the same century and overrunning your neighbors, nope. The nations of the Pacific Rim and beyond? Not likely-life is still hard in too many places for fun to be a founding principle.

But not here-not in the Land of the Round Door-Knobs as we called it when I lived elsewhere. We have fun, fun, fun even after Ford stopped making the T-Bird your daddy is taking away. It's okay-we've out-sourced it and improved the cash flow position of the company. Didn't do a whole lot for the guys and gals punching out Chryslers in the factory (thanks, WZ) but while fun is a founding principle, it isn't all-encompassing.

So what changes in Major League Baseball after the release this afternoon on The Mitchell Report. You mean, aside from how much more circumspection athletes will have when they buy drugs? No Problem.
I could never whack a ball with such velocity.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Same Sweater, Different Kashmir

At fifty-five, I missed the era when real dinosaurs roamed the earth (which bitterly disappointed my two children when they were younger) but was around when the musical equivalent, 'the greatest rock and roll bands in the world', be they The Rolling Stones, The Who or (now arriving) Led Zeppelin, all toured the globe and trashed hotels.

All three bands have overcome members departing (either through replacement or as casualties of one or more vices upon whose backs they climbed only to discover they couldn't tame). The Who are reduced to a duo after both Moon the Loon and Entwhistle the Ox left the planet (and based on repeated attempts to listen to "The Wire" very much missed).
Da Stones, as long as they have Mick, Keef and Charlie will go on forever.
Led Zep faded after John Bonham died, except for one-offs like Live Aid (don't look for 'em on the DVD; they were so unhappy at their performance they wouldn't allow its use) until 48 hours ago. I've spent much of the last two days reading reviews of the UK tribute performance (which is more than a little bit like singing about football, but what can a poor boy do? Sorry, wrong band.).

I appreciate how rock and roll took over the world and created a musical shared frame of reference. When we were our children's ages, we had little idea and even less appreciation of the lives our parents led. We didn't watch their TV, go to their movies or listen to their music.
We were the first generation to invent the soundtrack to our own lives. Rock and roll was/is the music your parents love to hate and we revelled in that.

It's beyond weird today to read a great review of the Zep UK performance in, welcome to my bias, the Wall Street Journal. I enjoyed a review I came across yesterday on line at the Bloomberg Report.
Huh? Told ya, beyond weird.
Rolling Stone magazine, which my generation elevated to the "NY Times of the counter-culture" (according to the NY Times itself) and then abandoned as both they and we zigged when we should have zagged (how did that happen anyway? Most of us had the rolling papers with the sketch of Johnny Damon from his days with the Red Sox on the front), might be expected to wax nostalgic on the reunion/tribute, except, aside from Jan Wenner, would RS have anyone who knew anything about Zep? You can't trust people to stay where you pigeon-holed them, no matter how hard you try. And if RS 2007 were the same magazine they were when I was a subscriber in 1969 would I praise them for being a constant companion or castigate them for being stuck in the past?

As for Led Zep and the possibilities of, like The Police, a tour (for 'the fans all around the world') instead of a one-off tribute concert (for Ahmet Eretgun, founder of Atlantic Records), what kind of money can the three original members and Bonzo's son, Jason, now on drums, expect to make? Wow. More than enough for four lifetimes, I'm sure. Would you go (assuming we could afford tickets)? I couldn't because I wouldn't want to bump into the wide-eyed, wild-haired looner I was the first time I heard "Communication Breakdown."
What would we have to say to one another? "If it's too loud, you're too old."
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Me of little faith meets Thee of little faith

I'm fascinated by polls--a collection of opinions on anything and everything ranging from "Who should be the next President?" through "What's your favorite dessert topping?" (and I'm often surprised how often those two answers are identical).

Here's the thing: not only have I never been a part of one of these surveys, I've never known anyone else who was, either. And neither have they. How about you?
(And does this count as a survey, if I'm asking you about surveys? Hmmmm...)

And after you've read about a survey, or seen a report on TV, does it change how you feel about whatever the issue is? Last week, there was a story on the decline in consumer confidence and, gotta tell ya, there was definitely a lack of spring in my step for a couple of hours. Never mind that the survey was based on how people were feeling about purchasing 'big ticket items' in the course of the next quarter (houses, furniture, automobiles) and I am preoccupied with affording groceries in the here and now, I could feel 'their' pain even if I were a little foggy on exactly who the 'they' is.

I smile when I read letters to the editor where the authors talk about where "Wall Street" stock prices are since So and So was elected to Such and Such. Some of it reminds me of W. Edwards Deming and his red bead experiment. Sometimes I think of King Canute watching the tide roll in despite his insistence to the contrary.
There's a joke to the effect of 'Cheer up, things could get worse. So I did, and they did!' Where is Dr. Norman Vincent Peale when we could really use him? Not here, not anymore and I'm positive about that.

Have we confused cause and effect? Do events take a specific course because of how we feel about them or are our feelings on a specific course shaped by the events? And this is just the challenge with faith! Don't even get me started on hope, charity or whatever the other Spice Girls are called.
-bill kenny

Monday, December 10, 2007

'But you picked the ugliest sheep'

What should I conclude from watching any of the televised Presidential candidate debates? I've tried to be open-minded about these collaborations the CNN is having with Youtube to capture questions. I'm struck by the similarities to a game show, hosted by Monty Hall, called "Let's Make a Deal", where the people called upon to try and guess the number of beans in a can of baked beans (or some such derring-do) were those in the most outlandish outfits (good TV).

We have folks 'from across this great land of ours' popping up in outfits so garish I forget not only whatever response a candidate has to the question, but the question itself. Welcome to 'it's the singer, not the song.' I never really 'got' the concept in 1992 behind the MTV sponsored 'boxers or briefs' query to the-then Democratic candidate for the Presidency (and realize x number of Monica's later, any answer is probably suspect) and here we are a decade and a half later elevating 'goofy' to an art form.

Would I feel better if a candidate for 'The Leader of the Free World' were to say to one of the inquisitors, "I'm sorry, but you look ridiculous and cheapen the tenor of this discussion. Come back when you look less like someone who called the shotgun seat in the clown car." Yeah, I would, but they won't, because then they're off screen and out of sight is out of mind. Especially because everyone (else) seems willing to do this as 'part of the process'.
Yes, we did all put on the hip boots and wander out into the fields....
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I usually get them for the funnies, but now the funnies are also on the front and editorial pages

In one of the Sunday newspapers this morning is an extended look at how The Rose of New England manages change, or as we call it around here, 'economic development'. I was struck by the absence of comments from at least three persons who pop up on the pages of this same newspaper at regular intervals offering their insights on how and why development in Norwich should be handled. Maybe everyone goes out of town as the holidays approach.

The problem with not knowing where you're going, is not knowing when you've gotten there. I, like everyone on this anthill, don't know what I don't know. And many times what I don't know is what's important and critical.

What I don't know about economic development, 'smart growth' in Norwich: how many agencies, advisories, commissions and panels we have here in The Rose City who see it as their mission to 'help speed the plow.' I know some of the big ones: Norwich Community Development Corporation, the City Council, the office of the Mayor, the Planning Department, APEDC (though I'm not sure of the exact acronym or what it means), Downtown Renaissance Something or Other, Commission on the City Plan and, as I said, these are the ones I know about.

How many more are there? Dozens, perhaps; hundreds, probably not, but then again....I applaud their enthusiasm and their engagement. But now I'd like them all to stop.

A theft from Bob Dylan: "money doesn't talk, it swears.'
Of all those in Norwich with a piece of the smart growth encouragement process, who has money and who can get more money? To my understanding there's only one agency and, good news for all of us, it's already ours: Norwich Public Utilities. It's a municipally-owned utility provider--not a multi-billion dollar corporate behemoth beholden to stock-holders. It's in NPU's best interest to continually grow the size of its user-community-they have the most to gain by increasing the number of customers. And, because they turn over 10% of the gross receipts to the City's General Fund, the rest of us can, and should, support their efforts. Right now, I think NPU funds at least in part (at least) two of the city-wide efforts to stimulate growth, and works with probably all the others currently involved in the process.

Why not allow NPU to lead the way ahead on smart growth with all the rest of us supporting it as best as we can? After all, NPU is the beneficiary of any and all development. Instead of, most recently, a City Council creating a panel of citizens to solicit proposals for the former state mental hospital property (a lengthy process when done, as in this case, with due diligence and attention to detail) that netted two proposals neither of which, say published reports, are embraced by the Mayor (or likely to be pursued), let NPU decide how to market this parcel.
If NPU needs to import expertise from a development consultant, so be it. Together, or in tandem (or in any other configuration), a better match may be found and, hopefully, be made with a development idea that benefits those risking their capital and those in whose city this risk is being invested. (Kind of like the Washington Street proposal before the Council election, except without the coffee shop, the bank and the drug store, and, oh yeah, the inflicting change on people who didn't want it parts.)

NPU, working with the Commission on the City Plan and our Planning Department (each doing what they should be doing in terms of review, compliance and adherence) could then present our City Council, and all of us, a Way Ahead, and not just for the 'Norwich Hospital' property.
We would have One Voice, One Vision, One Norwich.
But that's just one guy's thinking.
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 8, 2007

English Lit

I went for a walk this morning as part of my feeble regimen to maintain some control on my diabetes. Yes, I know running would be a better idea but with degenerative arthritis in both knees (actually, a little less than both knees: I've had arthroscopic surgeries performed on both of them and have a partial kneecap replacement in my right knee), walking is the new running.

During the winter, I choose indoor tracks over treadmills because on the latter, the view never changes. I do admire those who can read a book or a magazine while treadmilling (treading? milling? What gerund should we use for what we're doing?) and not long ago I watched a woman concentrate on her PDA for the half hour she was on the treadmill (Is it only coincidental that 'Personal Digital Assistant' and 'Public Display of Affection' both have the same acronym?)

Idle thoughts on a crisp, though not too cold December Saturday morning in the Rose of New England. We had snow last night, with last week's cold temperatures, that actually stuck for a slight, if not light, dusting and accumulation. Good news for me as I'm keen to get a new sled from Santa because while I may be too fragile for running, hurtling down a hillside could be just what my diabetic and arthritic knees really need.

We have an ordinance in Norwich that directs property owners to clear the snow from their sidewalks. It is as well-followed and enforced as the CT prohibition on using a cell phone while driving. Actually, as I realized this morning, the same Obliviots who did not clear November's fallen leaves from their walkways did not clear the snow off the leaves on top of their sidewalks.

I have to admire that dour insistence that only you matter and the rest of us can take the hindmost. Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of New England's Literary treasures, would be as proud of us as we would be of him, if we ever thought of him at all anymore. I recall too many hours struggling with The Scarlet Letter to ever appreciate it as art and must admit that I never saw Hester Prynne as Demi Moore. Perhaps, if he had.....
-bill kenny

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sixty-Six Years On

I've never, yet, had the opportunity to visit the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. I've spoken with the no-longer-young men who were on Arizona before it was part of the remembrance of December 7, 1941. There are so many memorials to those who sacrificed so much in so many wars, I sometimes forget that consciously, and perhaps unconsciously as well, those who fought and died (on all sides) helped shape who we are now, and how it is I am free to sit here and type semi-vacantly into the ether.

I'm told men and women will fight for their country, but will only die for one another, which is an act of such remarkable, selfless, love that it should require of all of us whose lives are made possible (and maybe a little too comfortable) by this act of sacrifice to live lives that truly matter.

As a kid, reading the accounts, I was struck by the ferocity of the attacks at Pearl Harbor. It was years later as a young adult that I first read of those who survived the attacks but who were hopelessly and helplessly trapped in the hulls of destroyed or partially-sunken vessels. I've read reports of survivors lost in twisted masses of metal who tapped, persistently and steadily in absolute and total darkness and probable terror, for days, hoping those 'outside' would find and free them.

I cannot imagine having that kind of courage. Instead, I've allowed my petty concerns and problems to absorb my attention. I've learned to flinch, as Warren Zevon used to sing, and to spend my waking hours fearing footfalls that never come from those whom I'll never know. Instead of living life out loud, I've elevated 'playing it safe' to an art form without ever considering how those who made the hard choices that brought me here might feel about what I've made of the gift they've given me. Unless and until we start to repay the debt of unselfish sacrifice that is the foundation of our world, we'll never be able to build anything of our own to give to our children and their children. Six decades or sixty decades will be as the blink of an eye for those who refuse to see.
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Merle Would Be Proud.....

I don't think of myself as intolerant of others' beliefs or jingoist in terms of politics. Live and let live. You scratch my back and I'll use my hands for something better (or however that cliche goes). I'm a great example of that fine line between laid back and comatose. For the most part.
Only, however, for the most part.

This morning, one of our local papers (the story is in yours, too) has an AP story on "Court Hears Arguments on Guantanamo Case" on the Supreme Court's involvement in detainees' rights and protections. It came with an AP photo, by Lawrence Jackson, of a protester standing outside the Supreme Court, wearing a black hood and an orange jump suit, described as 'prison-like' in the photo caption, as the court was hearing opening arguments.

The photo beautifully underscores a critical point about the protections our Constitution guarantees to all citizens (and to those not citizens as well) and delineates if you're willing to see it, why despite our flaws and warts, we are in many respects the Last Great Hope of the World.
Freedom of speech, to include exhorting and/or encouraging those who would, given the opportunity to destroy our Constitution, do so, is protected by the very same Constitution.
As a comic once noted, "Is this a great country, or what?"

I think what wound me up about the image is my recollection of more than one video with a guy wearing a hood but brandishing a BIG knife slitting the throat of another human, an American, trussed up, helpless and clad in this selfsame orange jumpsuit.

What I DON'T remember are any photos or video of anyone, anywhere, in whose name and faith these cowardly murders were committed saying or doing anything to protest these actions. Meanwhile, I've got this well-meaning maniac mannequin posed on the front page. Does he (or she) think if the situation were reversed, the true believers would tolerate his presence much less allow a photograph or a protest?

As Three Dog Night sang "Well, I've Never Been to Spain, but I've been to Oklahoma." I'm thinking there's plenty of room for that country club, condos and detention center just down the street from The Fightin' Side of Me. Be advised: Alternate side of the street parking rules are in effect.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

from Walden Pond to Flatbush

"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." Henry David Thoreau.

The NY Times reported (on an inside page) that Christina Copeman was discovered dead yesterday in her apartment in Flatbush, New York. Based on eyewitness recollections of their last time seeing her and the apparel in which she was dressed when found, authorities estimate she may have been dead for the last seventeen or more months.

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

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

Copeman became invisible to her friends, her family and her neighbors. Her life was somehow outside of theirs, beyond and behind a veil of tears and quiet despair that no one thought or cared to penetrate. Twice in our lives we are alone-in the instant we are born and at the hour of our death. What we say and do in all the moments in between is our song.
We all need verses and choruses and an ongoing joy to live each word out loud.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"This is the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius..."

....or not. I guess it depends on what your expectations are for the Norwich City Council to be sworn in this evening at 7:30 in Council Chambers at City Hall. In the November election, did you vote for people and their ideas or against other people and their behaviors? How you answer probably has a lot to do with how you'll look at tonight's events.

I am especially looking forward to the reception after the Council meeting. Possibly there may be pie and pudding. I was hoping for pony rides, but City Hall is an old building and getting the ponies up the three flights of stairs might be problematic with its small landings (and since they lack fingers to push the buttons, the ponies will not be able to use the elevator) and somehow that might involve PETA and that means less pie for the rest of us.

If you're planning on having us start tonight's ceremonies with 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desire', you'll want to bring lyric sheets or plan on being a soloist. And stand away from me as I have a medical condition that prevents me from enjoying amateur vocalists (called ears).

My point is, if we burden our new alderpersons with the weight of all our hopes and desires, they may decide tonight that they don't want to serve for two minutes, much less two years. If we can lower both our voices and our expectations and keep them in the more reasonable volume range, all of us can be successful and together everyone achieves more. Which also spells T-E-A-M.

I have always wanted to be a motivational poster-another wish fulfilled.
Maybe I could turn my attention to those pony rides.......
-bill kenny

Monday, December 3, 2007

What were once vices are now habits

Southeastern CT, where I live, has been evolving in terms of how livelihoods are made and who makes those livelihoods for close to two decades. Since the end of the Cold War, this area, the home of the US Navy's submarine force, and all the ancillary industries (and math and science) that support it, has shifted. Electric Boat, one of the two shipyards in the USA that builds nuclear submarines has gone from the employer of tens of thousands, producing two submarines a year, to an employer of thousands and is now on its way back up in workforce size. I imagine in light of folks like EB, like Pfizer and United Nuclear, the region was considered as tech-driven industrial.

And then the Cold War ended and a lot of things changed to include the employment situation. The Eighties, with the gospel of Greed is Good, ended with a large bang (actually, more like a thud) rather than a whimper, and when I and my family got here in the late fall of 1991 from Germany, it was already the winter of many peoples' discontent. Not that long afterwards, it had seemingly gotten very dark, in terms of housing starts, bank failures, home foreclosures, unemployment claims, etc, but it got brighter as one of the Native American tribes opened a casino that became an economic engine beyond even its founders' wildest imaginations. That was about a decade and half (and maybe a skoosh more) or so ago.

It's been interesting in recent months to watch as those running this casino operation engage in a battle for the hearts and minds (and wallets) of those whom they have hired, by the thousands, to be the minimum-wage, but there's always tips and great benefits, work force as the employees fought to either hold on to what they have or to regain what they feel they once had.
The threat of unionization moved a step closer last week, when some category of dealers (I don't know which ones and don't understand enough about casinos to grasp their importance) voted to authorize a local of the United Auto Workers, UAW, to represent them in future negotiations.

The casino operators argued and will now (probably) argue perhaps all the way to the US Supreme Court that they are a sovereign nation and the authorization of such a vote by the National Labor Relations Board is/was meddling in their internal affairs and a violation of their sovereignty. I knew an Army Colonel years ago who counseled me that 'you only have those rights you are prepared and willing to defend. No more and no less.' Thus, I'm not sure how a sovereign nation inside one of the Fifty States intends to press its claim and succeed, but I imagine it'll be interesting to watch and, hopefully. to learn from.

What was intriguing was a letter in a local newspaper yesterday from someone who wrote that he grew up in Detroit in the Seventies, and intimating that all, or nearly all, of Detroit's Fall from Urban Grace, was the responsibility of the UAW. Corporate greed, shareholder avarice, a fundamental shift in how the USA (and the world) built and bought automobiles did not, according to his letter, have anything to do with where Detroit is at this moment. I flashed immediately on a Bob Dylan lyric, "It's sundown for the union and what's made in the USA. Sure was a good idea 'til greed got in the way."
We stab it with our steely knives-but we just can't kill the beast.
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Be the Change you want to see in the world

Popping in and out of stores this morning, kind of like island-hopping in the WWII Pacific Theater, for a variety of projects and with varying degrees of urgency. I was struck by one constant: the sound of a lone bell ringing. Yeah, the kettle collector, so ubiquitous we don't always see him (or often realize it's more frequently a 'her' and NOT a 'him'), ringing that solitary bell outside of many of the stores we frequent.

"Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed."
And serving as a (not especially silent) reminder that while for many, "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades", for too many others it's a hand to mouth existence and the arms are getting shorter and more tired by the moment. It's not that there aren't hard times in the land of plenty (thanks, Omar and the Howlers) the rest of the year, it's just for about six weeks (around Thanksgiving to the end of the year) we celebrate success with excess.
And for for those whose boats have yet to be lifted by the rising tide of economic prosperity, they are more visible this time of year.

That's why it's always a mitzvah to give something to the bell ringer. Be it a penny (I guess, technically a one-cent piece. The English have pennies, we don't in the USA. Guy Fawkes would have been hard-pressed around here.) or a dollar or more. What you can spare, please share. As unhappy with your life as you may be, as unfortunate a turn of events as you may be struggling to survive at this moment, someone, somewhere has it worse.
And we should give with a glad heart and with a prayer for someone who needs all the thoughts and prayers they can get.

John Donne was right:
Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.
-bill kenny

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Dangers of "I'm Lovin' It"

I enjoy going to Mickey D's on a Saturday for a little bit of 'off the graph' breakfast. Since being diagnosed a diabetic five plus years ago, I've been more often that not (and way more often than I'd first thought I would be) good about what I eat, how much of it I eat and when I have it.
I do the whole grain, big fiber, low sugar, routine during the week (I think I'd like eating the boxes of cereal more than the cereal itself some days). But I like to get a little footloose on the weekends (and not being a dancer, what should I do? Play Kenny Loggins' Greatest Hits at maximum volume while driving?) and Mickey D's is my idea of getting jiggy with it (I blame my parents, so you should, too.).

The commercials for McDonald's and just about every other good and service we purchase are all filmed on sound stages somewhere in Oz as NONE of the places I ever visit in the real world even vaguely resemble the joint on the TV commercial.
Moment of Zen this morning as the 'team member' (we no longer have employees; we have 'team members' and 'associates') at the counter, who did us all a favor just showing up (based on her attitude and her body language) but was unwilling to do at least me a favor and go home (and stay there) dragged out every order for what felt like hours. The line of customers snaked from the register down the open area near the soda and ice dispensers and then hung a left past some of the tables. Child of the Sixties that I am, I kept listening for the chopper blades overhead signalling the US helicopters had landed on the embassy roof in Saigon as we bid farewell to the domino theory. Luckily, for all of us, that didn't happen this morning (the drive thru would have been unable to accommodate a hovering chopper I suspect).

How often everyday does the gap between the promise and the performance become so obvious? Keep track for yourself and then try to remember if the sound of things falling apart was as loud when you were a kid.

It seems to me we expect things to get goofy and for programs and people to "Go South." No matter what it is, personal, business or government , and no matter how enthused the initial reaction to something is, part of us waits for the other shoe to drop. With my apologies to Winnie the Pooh, we're most comfortable when we can all be Eeyore. We look forward to things not working out and feel reassured when the calamity we projected happening finally comes to pass.
Oh bother. Care for a smackeral of honey on that hash brown?
-bill kenny

Friday, November 30, 2007

"They'll find no tracks of ours..."

I stopped listening to over-the-air radio in my car about eighteen months ago. Someone stole it out of my car. Brrrrmmp (just kidding. Perhaps the only blog that has its own drummer).

Radio here in SE Connecticut isn't that difficult to stop listening to--it's uniformly terrible. The chatter on the police and fire radio frequencies (trouble calls, et al), is better than most of the programming on the stations in this region. Not sure why, exactly and not completely comfortable with it being 'the radio guys' fault' only. No one steps into the same river twice, because both he and the river have changed (and take off that banana hammock, dude. Chiquita just called and threatened to sue).

Purchased a satellite radio receiver and, combined with the CD and cassette player and (of course) the AM/FM (and weather) car radio, I'm well served in terms of tunes. Someday, I'll actually drive the car out of the garage (that'll probably improve the sat radio reception) and maybe take it for a spin, but right now I'm still panelling the backseat and putting in a whirlpool. One step at a time.
BTW, who listens to weather radio and for how long at one sitting? I have NO life and I find it boring nearly beyond words so what do real people make of it? And how the heck does it make money for whoever puts it on?

The other day on Sat radio I stumbled across the 'punk channel' ("Anarchy! It's nothing but vintage and new punk rock music.") and all I can say to mom and dad is "I'm sorry for making fun." I always thought the folks you grew up listening to, Perry Como, Jerry Vale and that lot were awful (actually I still think they are) but I don't think I want my kids finding my collection of CDs from The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones, or The Dead Kennedys (though 'Holiday in Cambodia' isn't without its moments) or humming along to Jim Carroll's "People Who Died".
When they were smaller, I feared one of them might bring a Uriah Heep elpee (The Magician's Birthday, as an example) to school for show and tell on a day when the DARE police officer, Bill Nash, was in the classroom and then I'd have had some real explaining to do. Talk about the changing river. Earlier this month we elected the now-retired-from-the-police-force Bill Nash to the Norwich City Council. Hey! I told you to get rid of the swim trunks! You're leaving a puddle on the kitchen floor.

Anyway. This punk channel stuff is amazing and awful, often simultaneously. Tons of stuff I remember from my young and innocent days: Black Flag, Sex Pistols, Ramones, Buzzcocks, Motorhead (never thought of them as punk-more the predecessors of thrash rock) and more recent acts like NOFX and Social Distortion (well, they're more recent to me) and The Dropkick Murphys who, I've read, are a Celtic punk band from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Imagine that must be, at times, a little like being a Rastafarian country and western band in the South Bronx.

Lots of anger, tons of outrage, continents of contempt. My kingdom for a melody.
Was it always this strident? And in the mixes (and why, for crying out loud, did so much of it sound like it had been mixed through a wet sweat sock anyway?) where you can understand the vocals, how come the lyrics sound so lame now but sounded so vital and vibrant then?
How did it happen that all the things that made you clench your fist and thrust it in the air in syncopation with some glue-sniffing minimalistic drummer, are now so quaint and so of another time? This station is my new guilty pleasure, but I make sure I switch to a CD when one of the kids or my wife gets into the car. After all, I have an image to maintain.
Besides, "Starry-eyed and laughing as I recall when we were caught."
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"An Army of Lovers Cannot Be Beaten"

At least, in theory, that was Rosa Luxemburg's belief as she and Karl Liebknecht led their Spartacist League comrades into the streets of Berlin as World War I was ending, both for Kaiser Wilhelm and Imperial Germany. Despite their sincerity and well-meaning, they lost a lot more than just the discussion to the overwhelming logic, eloquence and (most especially) arms of the Freikorps, as Germany began a descent into madness that drove all of Europe and nearly all of the world into a darkness that lasted until May of 1945.

Being a nice person who means well, goes only so far. I visit an endocrinologist who is probably a very nice man with many, if not all, of his other patients. Being the persnickety and prickly person that I am (a/k/a 'a pain in the' well-known body part), I can't really afford the luxury of having a pal as my physician.
I actually need someone who scares me into doing the right thing to avoid punishment/conflict, because while the reward for doing the right thing should be, indeed, the knowledge that you have done the right thing, that idea doesn't seem to ring the bell for me.
Not sure why and suspect my doctor doesn't know why either.

Neither of us actually care-we're not going shoe-shopping or picking out drapes for the waiting room (though, sitting out there yesterday, I couldn't help but feel some new ones might be in order; but I digress).

Life is choices and maybe one of the bigger ones is:
do you surround yourself with people who mean well, but don't necessarily do well? (I call them stumblebunnies. I used to have another name for them, but my wife made me stop using it in front of the kids)
Or do you embrace those who can get done that which you, and they, feel needs to be done?

The right thing isn't always the popular thing. Last week's crowd at the parade in your honor are now an angry mob howling for your head. Feel free to review the New Testament for an illustration of that concept. What can you do except be true to the vision you have of what "right" is.

As Rosa less famously, but more presciently, noted, "Freedom is always, and exclusively, for the one who thinks differently."
Be an exclamation, not an explanation.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What a wonderful, wonderful world

"Don't know much about real estate.
Got the brains of a paper plate.
Got no use for a party dress
Cos all I like to do is second-guess."
-"Wonderful World" by Sam (Too Many) Cook(es Spoil the Harbor)

Not exactly a happy story in one of today's local papers about yet another casualty of the downturn in real estate right here in the Rose of New England. Turns out a mondo condo project on the waterfront, promoted with the promise of helping turn the area into a beautiful swan has shown itself to bit more of an ugly duckling than anyone would have imagined.

Article in the newspaper has two of the self-styled movers and shakers of redeveloping the Norwich Harbor tsk-tsking about the project and pointing out that they NEVER thought it was a good idea for where it was when it was proposed.
One of the pair has quite a few holdings in the harbor area, to include a miniature golf course with a volcanic eruption every fifteen minutes, that has been closed for quite some time because of a fire that caused a LOT of damage. Et tu, Tiger Woods?

The other harbor booster owns a junkyard right on the water's edge, on the opposite shore from the condo project. Both pointed out in great detail in today's paper how they testified before various development agencies, repeatedly, how this project would be a bust. Nostradamus must be very proud. I, on the other hand, am a little puzzled because I attended two of the meetings at which these misgivings were voiced, and I have no recollection of hearing their concerns at the time.
As a matter of fact, I can't even recall seeing either of them (I am a compulsive note taker and they appear nowhere in my Chronicle of Riddick). Must have been the lighting in the rooms.

There are six phases to every project, private or public:
1: Enthusiasm
2: Disillusionment
3: Fear
4: Search for the Guilty
5: Punishment of the Innocent and
6: Rewards and Honors for the Non-Participants

I am always impressed at how quickly we get to Phase Four.
If they ever make hindsight an Olympic Event, we'd see most of Norwich stampeding to the medals podium.
-bill kenny