Friday, October 31, 2008

All Hallow's Even and a little odd....

It's amazing how a religious devotion, a commemoration and remembrance really, evolved into an all-the-candy-you-can-eat-without-barfing exercise all the way to an adult party hearty event. Greetings and salutations nevertheless.

There was an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain that some sociologists theorize 19th century Irish immigrants brought with them that helped create our current observance/holiday/day on which to go gluttonous on chocolate. It certainly caught on in the United States, except in Sprague, CT (and don't forget to check out the reader feedback-somewhere a Literacy Volunteer weeps). And speaking of 'caught', if it weren't for bad luck, some of us would have no luck at all in terms of interaction with local authorities.

Halloween is celebrated in about a dozen countries around the world, gladdening the hearts, I'm sure, of candy manufacturers in the days leading up to it as well as the bottom lines of dentists in the days and weeks following it. Alas, poor Linus, I knew him well. We can always content ourselves that Strongbad doesn't do candy, I guess. Did you have Trick or Treat for UNICEF in your neighborhood? Sign of the times now, I fear, I haven't seen or heard about it in years and years

Remember how our Moms used to go through the goodies making sure that the apples didn't have unpleasant surprises and throwing all the unwrapped candy away 'just to be safe'. Would it have killed them to pretend the Mary Janes were unwrapped (talk about a dentist delight-it could take fillings out)--a candy that I don't think I even see at any other time of the year except now. And what about candy corn (and I loved it, btw)? If scientists are correct that cockroaches would survive an atomic war, I believe they would do it munching on candy corn, indestructible, indescribable, often imitated but never duplicated. One of the many things I surrendered once my doctors made me understand, as a an adult, I couldn't be a part-time diabetic. And I miss it more than I can say.

As a parent I can recall some of the worst weather of the season always seemed to start about two hours before the kids got organized to head out. So I'll keep my fingers crossed for all the goblins tonight. And every child, no matter how young, wanted to trick or treat with her/his friends. Only a baby goes out with a parent. So with a heavy heart and a quiet footstep the trick was to figure out how far back to trail them as they went from house to house and no matter how many times a child was told 'no running', what happened? Yep. Why was I always surprised when mine paid as much attention to me as I had to my parents? And every neighborhood had a trick or treater without a bag-usually one of the hyper active kids from down the street who ate the candy as quickly as he got it. Can you imagine how much magic it was in that house later that same evening? Me neither.

My own children long ago outgrew the doorbell ringing and candy-collecting aspects of the evening and we don't even even play anymore at my house. But the Dream Children and ghosts of ghouls past sometimes encounter one another on my porch when "Open, locks, Whoever knocks!"
-bill kenny

Thursday, October 30, 2008

TV is King

Say what you will about this Presidential election....the usual lack of meaningful definition and discussion of issues facing the nation, the extended softball interview questions masquerading as "Presidential debates" complete with the TV talking news heads with whom we are so comfortable (as opposed to the 'beat reporters' from health, finance, defense and foreign policy who could formulate real questions that might elicit actual answers) and let's not forget the enormous volumes of on-air, on line and in print advertising that never rises above the "my distinguished (but never named) opponent eats bugs." There's something comforting in how we shift the shape but never change the contents.

There were rumors of an appearance on Dancing With the Stars, (perhaps dipping Cloris Leachman was a bit too daunting after all) but instead last night, on CBS, Fox and NBC, Senator Obama offered us an opportunity to peer into his soul and heart. I haven't seen the totals for number of viewers, but something tells me it didn't approach American Idol (I am envisoning Simon Cowell presiding over the Senate even as I type this. Shiver.) I'm not a big fan of ABC's Pushing Daisies (for me, a shining example of 'too clever by half' but to each his own. And yes, I'm at least a third away from being that clever myself) but I almost succumbed to temptation last night. Not sure I would've gotten more (or less) from that place on the dial instead of where I was, "in case".

Yeah, I watched last night in much the way I used to tune into Evel Kneivel on Wide World of Sports and if you were following along on Fox, you're more appreciative of the sports remembrance than others elsewhere. Did I expect to learn anything new or different? Hand on my heart, not really. Of course, I'm bitter about how I've placed the bar of my expectations, based on previous election campaigns and how no one clears the new height. Did I find myself wondering for whom a thirty-minute infomercial was of value? Yeah and it made me nervous, especially since all I could think about was how I would've 'improved' the format and made it into 'must see TV'. And please don't misunderstand me-I know a thing a two or three about media message construction and as an act of persuasion, what I saw was top notch. I am less sure about the program as information. But I suspect we'll have to agree to disagree about that.

For starters, and maybe just me, Senator Obama needed a studio audience seated on those bleachers that the folks who cheer every sentence in Ron Popeil's Rotisserie TV spots use. Ideally, he should have hired that bug eyed woman whose permanent expression during Ron's infomercials shouts 'this is the most amazing thing I've ever heard/seen/smelled!' perhaps in a tag team with that guy who sells that medical book with the Thems in it, you know the one, "What 'they' Don't Want You to Know About" every aspect of health care. Come to think of it, that guy would have been a great Veep selection for some one's ticket. Heck, if we kept him in an undisclosed location, he'd have been a pearl beyond price, instead of the Price is Right.

As it was, we didn't even get a chance to see Billy Mays, enthusing beyond endurance about some aspect of "The Candidate's" Promise or Achievements. Of course, when you sell silly putty that seals leaks in garden hoses or wall hooks that can hoist a viewer by his own petard, just how much more enthusiasm can you muster or need? I wouldn't be surprised to see the Mays-ster show up in some one's next administration as Press Secretary. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, (Willis) unless brought to you by the fine folks in your town who bottle a beloved soft drink, and Billy's here to tell you all about it.

And just me? I think a live call-in, like one of the Shop at Home Network folks do for jewelry, would've helped the half hour reach out and touch us where we like to think we live. Besides, I've never had the chance to use 'tootie' in a national election and my fingers ached to touch tone telephone tag with viewers from across the nation. "When I look you in the eye/ Then it's everything I need. Let me look you in the eye, 'til the spell comes over me" Wake me when it's next Wednesday.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Step Right Up

I watched a TV commercial the other night for a set of tools that come, intoned the announcer in a dark brown voice, with a 'lifetime guarantee'. Tom Waits would be impressed. If I had any mechanical ability at all and was permitted by my wife to buy tools, those are the kind I would buy. In my house, my wife has the Home Depot card. She is on a first name basis with the manager of the local Ace Hardware store and has memorized the layout of the Lowes, because she's the only one of us who knows what she's doing with the hardware, tools, wrench box sets and ratchets and all the other stuff. I cannot tell one tool from the other at ten paces, or nearer or farther away.

I am the only person I know, or ever met, in a hospital emergency room, who cut himself with, of all things, an apple corer, so deeply and badly I needed medical attention. I know--'that's a kitchen implement, not a tool per se.' And you're right, but in my house, every opportunity is a two-edged blade and I have also cut myself with an electric razor and agree with my wife that we're both better off if I stay away from the stuff that I don't understand. In light of that statement, it's amazing I get out of bed in the morning, but I suspect as long as most of my collisions with reality happen outside our home, we'll be fine.

Many things come with guarantees for replacement and service even the appliances bought at the "big-box stores", and many of those guarantees are for a finite period of time. I remain intrigued by 'lifetime' and had on a previous car, a lifetime guarantee on the muffler or brakes, or maybe both (I've lost track). What was, and is, unclear to me is the definition of whose lifetime the guarantee is referencing.....

I'm 56 so, actuarially speaking, if it's my lifetime I'm looking at, it's another twenty or so years of having that set of Craftsman ratchets. Perhaps it's the lifetime of the people who made the tools (do we divide the number of the folks involved in the manufacture by their aggregate age? Math is not my favorite vegetable so make it fast, okay?) Or maybe it's the lifetime of the announcer in the television commercial? What happens if you believe in reincarnation? Should you save receipts?

How much of a guarantee should there be on anything and how seriously should we take promises, or threats, of a lifetime guarantee? Should we be reassured or daunted--intimidated or inspired? It's a poor artisan who blames his tools, an ER nurse once told me while removing a muffler from my big-box appliance. And a fine line between being a spanner in the spokes and a Spaniard in the Works.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pronounce every Pronoun

Last week I attended a Norwich City Council meeting where, during citizen comment, a woman addressed the alderpersons and used the second person pronoun "You", singular and plural, five times in less than two minutes. She wasn't saying 'you are doing a good job' or 'you are working as hard as you can', but trying to separate the folks in the front of the room who are neighbors to someone somewhere else in the room from the rest of the residents. She's not alone and we're not the only place on earth where this happens. We invent an inside so we can place people outside. I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. Or not. Coo, coo, cachoo.

We're seeing it at the largest scale possible, because it's a national forum, at the Presidential level, where a week from today we'll choose new leaders and a new philosophy for the next stretch of this road we're all building. By the middle of next Wednesday afternoon, all the rhetoric about calamities and catastrophes if Candidate A rather than B is elected will be past tense and forgotten because that's how we roll in this country, which is as it should be.

I sometimes wonder if here in the region that gave us The Scarlet Letter, we're so slow to forgive one another for anything other than most human of reasons--anger, jealousy, fear. Addressing the Council, she was angry that she was not aware the council had held informational workshops preceding the regular meeting and held each alderman responsible for this lapse. The room had been filled with those of us who read the local newspapers and had seen the articles earlier in the week and thus 'knew' the inside scoop. Someone should note a note to the Literacy Volunteers.

I try very hard to never hold myself responsible for the ignorance of other people but was surprised at how this person had decided on whom to pin the blame. The tenor and tone of her remarks did not improve in the course of her discourse as she grimly worked through all the pronouns, invariably ending up by lumping the aldermen into the dreaded 'them' category.

I've been thinking about the 'them' with whom she was so angry.
I've been part of the them in other aspects of Norwich as some of us have volunteered on behalf of all of us to improve, or try to, an aspect of where we all call home. This time last year I was an alternate member of the Ethics Review Commission with people whom I knew hardly (at best) at all and many of whome were extremely gracious when their luck ran out and we did meet.

Two were on the city council, another was to be elected to that body (where he was demoted from 'us' to 'you' last week, I guess). Two were/are very active throughout the community--one of whom was honored last Friday night. Two work quietly within the political structures of the city and create an environment where we can disagree and not be disagreeable. Another person is just starting a family now as I type (so I should type faster, perhaps), a very brave thing to do in what seems to be somewhat perilous economic times. Another person has been a lifelong patron of the local arts, and another works for the City of Norwich. Still another works with the less fortunate on mental health issues, while another is a man of the cloth who works to improve the material and spiritual worlds in which all of us live and still another organized an outreach to share with neighborhood youngsters the joys of his sport, fishing, at his own expense and with little fanfare. Ordinary us becoming extraordinary them.

And it's the same across our city, and your town, too. When pronouns are used, the only one that means anything in the end is the first person plural because in every them is an us. "Me, and you. God only knows it's not what we would choose to do. Black and Blue. And who knows which is which and who is who. Up and Down. And in the end it's only round and round and round."
-bill kenny

Monday, October 27, 2008

...and I've often felt forsaken and certainly misused (The Week Ahead in Norwich, CT, Municipal Meetings)

Shout out to begin:
Happy Birthday to my brother's bride and best wishes for many more to come! Suspect she has long ago discovered the true magic of being in the select soriority of women married to a Kenny. Yeah, I know someone else who shakes her head when I say stuff like that....;-)

There aren't too many, in terms of quantity, meetings this week in the Rose City, but for impact and importance, as well as diversity, you can dig in just about anywhere and attend something you would find of interest and value.

This afternoon at 5, the Redevelopment Agency whose last meeting doesn't yet have minutes posted to the city's web site, meets in Room 210 at City Hall. I know, and know of, some of the members on this volunteer panel and they, like so many who give of their time and talents, are very determined to improve where all of us live.

Also Monday, at 6 PM, in room 335 is the Charter Review Committee whose membership has yet to make the City's website for what I am assuming may be close to their final meeting before reporting back to the City Council. There have been enough headlines in recent weeks on what the recommendations of these five local lawyers may be in terms of language changes and larger revisions to last some of us a lifetime. Suspect soon we'll learn again the difference between public policy and politics and others will become reacquainted with the notion of groundswell.

Tuesday morning at 8 in room 335 is a meeting of the Norwich Semiseptennial Committee which has been busy and buzzing for months in anticipation of next year's observances. I was a little crestfallen that they've yet to make an appearance on the city's web listing of agencies, boards and commissions, but that has a great deal to do with how they were chartered, I'm told, in terms of constraints, liabilities and responsibilities--and why their website is a dot com and not, like the city's, a dot org. In much the spirit of Bruce Cockburn, I'm Wondering Where the Lions Are, assuming you substitute dollars for the king of the jungle.

At five Tuesday afternoon in Room 219 is the regular meeting of the Harbor Management Commission. They held a special meeting on 15 September whose minutes are here.

The Board of Education meets at 6 Tuesday night in Kelly Middle School, but be advised if you were interested in reading the agenda for Tuesday's meeting or minutes of their previous meetings, you're close to SOL, Public Law or no Public Law requirements. Considering the amount of the city budget dedicated to support the BOE (and by extension our children, though sometimes we lose sight of that) more transparency on the Board's part isn't only appreciated but should also be required.

Also at six, crosstown at 173 North Main Street (the NPU Customer Service Center) is a meeting of the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners (includes Sewer Authority) (sic) whose agenda and meeting minutes haven't yet made it to the city's website. Norwich owns its own utilities company and in comparison to our neighbors (and I've asked because I'm nosy and noisy) our rates for water, gas, electricity, etc (Etcetera is code for the opposite of shinola), we do well in terms of costs and service.

There's a special meeting Wednesday morning at 11 of the Housing Authority. The purpose of the special meeting is contained in the agenda, which seems to me to be about information technology support contracting.

Thursday afternoon at four in City Council Chambers at City Hall, and it should be a HUGE deal but we're all too busy and it will pass by in an instant, is a New Citizen Graduation ceremony sponsored by Norwich Adult Education. In light of who we are and where we are, and most especially in light of how we've far yet to go, welcome--we need all the help we can get.

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower.
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age's most uncertain hours
And sing an American tune.
-bill kenny

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Michigan J and all the peeps on the lilypad

In Joseph Heller's Catch-22 there's an exchange between the old man who reminds LT Nately of his own father because he is nothing like his father. They are arguing fiercely at who is winning and losing "the war" and why.

The old man, cackling uncontrollably with laughter, demands to learn from Nately if America, fighting on two fronts, will, for all of its weapons, young men, lofty ideals, glorious democracy and earnestness last as long as a …… frog.

Whenever the old man asks this, Nately becomes even more incoherent and inchoate in the defense of his nation and his service to it. He notes triumphantly to the old man, he's always been taught that it's more noble to die on one's feet than to live on one's knees and is sorely vexed and perplexed when the old man suggests he has it wrong- it is better to live on one's knees than to die on one's feet, concluding with the challenge 'it makes more sense my way.'

It's this assertion that confuses and confounds Nately and I think I know why. I wish Nately, real and in fiction, were right, but suspect (as a lookalike in the Old Man doppelganger contest), I, too, have realized that's a funeral in your mirror and it's stopping at your face. Nearly twenty years in Europe could have been like twenty minutes in terms of learning and knowing.

I was always struck as to how naive we, Americans, were perceived by world-weary and terminally cynical Europeans. Germans, French, Dutch and Brits (though the last with some sense of rueful apology) always assumed things would end horribly and thus, could only be surprised when they didn't. NATO has had such a difficult time in the two plus decades since we won the Cold War, because those mostly in charge of it, "old Europe" as Secretary Donald Rumsfeld injudiciously called it, never believed it would happen.

Heck, for all the political parties in (then) West Germany, it was an article of faith and an integral part of each party's election platform to 'work tirelessly for reunification'. No one ever thought it would come to pass, so no realistic plan to implement reunification was ever developed which is why Germany went into a political and economic tailspin for a decade AFTER it did.

Now we read headlines about Poland hosting critical components of a US missile shield that's pointed not at Lappland but a little farther South and East (the Russians, still washing their hands of Georgian blood, are angered at the actions of the Poles but powerless to prevent it, for now). And the rest of us (and the West of us) just let this wash over us as hundreds of billions of dollars of virtual money, investments, college funds, retirement nest eggs, all incinerate on Wall Street. Talk about the Abilene Paradox, ;-) (Yes, I know that link is a huge pdf; download and read it when you can. I'll say 'You are welcome' now because you'll want to thank me after you do.)

As recently as this summer, it seemed "the war" and all of its unintended consequences would be The Issue (in caps, no less!) for this November's Presidential Election. However, as Gomer Pyle, USMC, might say, "surprise, surprise, surprise!" Cecil B. Demille couldn't have done a better job of bringing plagues to the streets of America if he'd he'd shot Exodus in Cleveland and changed the title of his masterpiece to The Ten Suggestions, sponsored on PBS by AIG.

Of course, our chances are much better at this moment of finding a frog-free house, as suddenly it's a buyer's market. Too bad no one has any money.
-bill kenny

Saturday, October 25, 2008

(Not Just) Diamonds Are Forever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 24, 2008

"...Things Fall Apart; the Centre cannot hold...."

It was a small box earlier in the week in the local newspapers here and probably in yours as well, “Newburyport Bans junk food in schools”. Hand on my heart, I’ve lived here in Southeastern Connecticut/New England for seventeen autumns and I had to look up, along with Carmen San Diego, where in the world (or, specifically, in Massachusetts) Newburyport is.

My children are now adults so I don’t have a dog in this hunt, as my Texan friend Dave Malone might say, but I can only shake my head when I read this type of news report. We have so overburdened teachers and school systems with roles and responsibilities that we, as children, and our parents, never had to encounter and now we wonder
why Johnny (Jenny) Can’t Read, and instead of fixing that problem we recruit specialists to ask them “and how does that make you feel?”

Show of hands. How many of us went to high school where there was day-care for students who had gotten in the family way? How many of us went to a grammar school where breakfast was served? Now, here’s the trick question: how many of us had/have children where either of those situations, above, exist?

The young people in the schools didn’t cause any of this to happen (okay, the teenage pregnancy part, not so much; at least they’ve mastered rudimentary biology, right?)-we did this as their parents, through omission and commission. No wonder so many of us don’t understand the schools we support with our tax dollars. They have different missions and roles from what we had, and we created those requirements. Now, as I read the news stories on this sideshow, we have parents in Massachusetts angry at what they call the ‘nanny state.’

Let’s pause for a moment, Bay State Brothers and Sisters (and others), with the finger-pointing and remember three of those fingers point back to ourselves. How many fat kids did you go to school with? I used an insensitive term because we all were back then (and incredibly cruel) and, pardon me for being old, we hadn’t yet learned to use language to obfuscate and conceal meaning the way we do now.

We’re all too polite today to look at our children, or yours, and see what is
obvious to others. Obesity puts incredible additional stress on our bodies, stress than can shorten the quality and quantity of our lives. How many dead children do we have to have to realize we have a problem? I apologize. I meant to say “living impaired” children, how politically incorrect of me.

Into all of this we have Newburyport School educators trying their hand at parenting. Again, cynic that I am, in light of so many of our school systems’ successes in teaching basic skills like reading, writing and arithmetic, why do any of us think making teachers Cupcake Cops is either a good idea, or that it will work?

My father was a teacher—I never pretended he was the Dad of the Decade or close (and he wasn't), but he was an excellent teacher. I had an opportunity (even if it was on the receiving end far more often than it should’ve been) to get a close-up look at what teaching looks like when it’s done right. Maybe, of everything he gave to, or withheld from, me, that was his greatest gift. I don’t see how we could get farther away from doing it right than we are now, but we still have the rest of this week, all of next and whatever parts of November and December are left in this part of the school year, so we may not yet have reached bottom.

And in an era where we walk around comfortable numbed by pharmaceuticals like Zanax and parroting mealy-mouthed empty platitudes to one another like “it takes a village to raise a child” (when we really should demand two parents to do the heavy-lifting), we’ve reinvented our schools to do for our children, and badly, what we no longer want to do, or know how to do at all, be parents. And then
Slouching towards Bethlehem, we wonder what’s gone wrong, never thinking to wonder why.

“Blessed are the poor/For they shall inherit the earth. One is better to be poor/Than a fat man in the eye of a needle. As these words were spoken/I swear
I hear the old man laughing. What good is a used up world, And how could it be worth having?”
-bill kenny

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Talking Heads and Dancing Bears

Came across a quote that made me smile and shudder simultaneously about this presidential campaign last week in the New York Times, attributed to Chris Lehane, described as a Democratic political consultant, "At the end of the day, campaigns are campaigns. In the last five days, it always comes down to a knife fight in a telephone booth."

We have a few more days left than five, and I’m not sure how sad or happy I should feel that we’re not in single digits of this countdown as the promise in the brave days of summer as to what this national campaign could and should have been about faded in the heat of partisan posturing and we’ve all sat through another edition of "Business as Usual Theater.”

With so much in so many places going or gone wrong, I’m chagrined to look at the world I inherited from my parents and compare it to the one 'we' are giving to our children. And in keeping with the tenor and tone of public announcements and pronouncements of recent years, the most distressing part may well be there’s no one (else) to blame, but ourselves.

I’m showing my age but that’s not a surprise. There was a giddy moment of exuberance when the
Berlin Wall fell. I don’t know how it was felt here on this side of the pond, because I was living and working in (West) Germany but for a lot of different reasons, the symbolism of opening the Brandenburg Gate on December 22, 1989 (doesn’t it feel like a lifetime ago?) was a moment both electric and forever. We had, I thought, trumped the Gods of War and had won without firing a shot (P. J. O’Rourke has some great observations on this)-I wasn't sappy enough to hear the Fifth Dimension singing "Age of Aquarius" but close......

And here we are in the near-fall of 2008--more of the same only even more mean-spirited if not dispirited than before. As Dylan sang, '
everything's broken', and we did it, through sins of omission and commission (Sister Mary Jean would be proud that I remembered the two types).

We've become a nation of public figures who apologize only when caught, and 'take full responsibility' (what EXACTLY does that mean?) but who believe (I fear) that 'rules are for people who DON'T know better.' That, my friend, would be us.

There’s was a comic (4 October), "
Shoe", where Skyler, seated in a classroom, is asked "Who won the Lincoln-Douglas Debate?" and responds "Do you know anyone who drives a Douglas?" May as well laugh, I guess. I've been afraid for many years we might well end up with the government we truly deserve and it looks like we're slouching closer towards that instead of Bethlehem (sorry W.B. and I don’t mean Mason) everyday. Pretty soon the bartender will announce Closing Time. Drink up. I'll do the driving, at least until we run out of gas or road.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Don't Ask, Don't Tell meets Don't Know and Don't Care

A little more than week ago, the State of Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that people who love one another and who are not already married to someone may now marry one another. Doesn't seem like news when I type it because that's the important human part-the politics (at least and Passion Play morality at most) is, of course, two people of the same sex may now legally marry in the Land of Steady Habits. Talk about Pilgrim's Progress.

Nature abhors a vacuum and the Connecticut Supreme Court's action has provoked a reaction, of sorts, from people who two months ago couldn't quote a sentence from the state's constitution but now want voters (as has happened every twenty years, by law) to consider calling a state Constitutional Convention so the document can be changed to do who knows what to who knows who (or whom).

The Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal and the State Comptroller, Nancy Wyman have both urged voters to just say no to a constitutional convention. Those on that side of the issue claim it'll be a festival of favorites as special interest groups and lobbyists ply delegates with shiny objects, trinkets and glass beads. If you've ever attended a session of either upper or lower chamber of the CT state legislature you already know that the number of registered lobbyists is many times larger than the total number of state representatives and state senators. By legislators' own admissions (not mine, or yours, of course; they're good folks. It's the other ones I'm talking about.), many lobbyists not only propose a particular bill for a purpose, they also write the legislation and then find sponsors who sign on for it.

I don't know about you but it's this very type of democracy those fine folks in Baghdad and Kabul are just waiting for a chance to have for themselves. Don't you love having friends with influence in positions of power? Don't you wish everyone did? The public trust as a public trough-get your snout in there and get your fill.

I'd be interested to see a return of county-based governance in Connecticut, which ceased having it many years ago (I was in Germany. My passport is stamped; I have an alibi). Right now we have 168 municipalities forming alliances of convenience to wheedle programs and funds from the increasingly cash-strapped state government in Hartford. Seems to me to be not all that effective or efficient, but short of insurrection, there's nothing to be done within the current limits of the state constitution.

Thus, with all due respect to those who normally want government out of their lives, but think it should be in the bedroom, I'll consider voting for a Constitutional Convention because it expands horizons and enlarges the discussion. If you think you can stop people who are homosexual from marrying one another by voting one way or the other on November 4th on the question of convening a constitutional convention, do the rest of us a favor, please, and stay home.

I have the sinking suspicion most of us don't care what consenting adults do, or don't do, in the privacy of their own homes and with the liberty of their own lives. It's not a reality show where some one phones a friend or gets voted off an island. We don't have to watch or join in, so I don't think we care. We owe one another a reasonable amount of clarity and honesty in our public conduct so don't adopt a cause or lead a crusade for systemic and systematic change to how we make government work if you're not prepared to accept every one's issues and not just advocate for your own.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Maybe I'm Amazed

Depending on when you read this, I may have already been married for more than 31 years today. I married at 1020 on 21 October 1977 in the Rathaus on Berliner Strasse, Offenbach am Main, in the Federal Republic of Germany (we called it "West" and the Soviet sector "East" Germany).

I'm sitting here trying to calculate the difference in time between here on the East Coast of the US and Central European Time, struggling to remember if they ever or still do that fall back thing with the clocks we do and when, so I'm not sure specifically where I was in time thirty-one years ago, but I am enjoying the moment of now because it's all I have.

I told you how I met my wife but for the last couple of days I've spent some time reconstructing the day we married. My best man was Chris, who was in the Army in the same unit I was assigned to while I was in the Air Force. Chris was from California and about my age (I've never asked him, come to think of it) whose cynicism made me look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by comparison. He had been married and divorced before he and I met and both of us were, on Christmas Eve night, drinking ourselves senseless (okay, for me that would have been two sips of 3.2 beer, but the Germans had beer like that only to wash their cars, the undercarriages of their cars) when I first saw/spoke to the woman I was to marry.

Chris was my witness at the civil ceremony and he brought Monika whom he had met through my (about to be) wife and me, though mostly through Sigrid who has all the people skills. Moni as we all called her, and Chris were to eventually marry as well. They would have two children, Rebbecca and David, and then one day as part of a routine visit, Moni's physician detected something and by the time the tests were conclusive, the something was cancer and inoperable and they sent Moni home to die in the house she and Chris shared with their children.

Chris, who had stayed in Germany as a civilian because, among other reasons, he realized it was his wife who made where he lived a home and so he remained with her, was to return to his hometown, Whittier, California, with his two small children (and a hole in his heart about which he never spoke) where he remains to this day. I called him once many years ago when there was a huge earthquake in what I thought was his area and woke him up because it was early morning here and I'd forgotten how much earlier it would then be on the Other Coast. Typical Chris-asked me if I owned a watch and then told me he appreciated my call. We exchange cards at the holidays which will be here before I know it and be gone again before I fully appreciate it, like so much else in life.

Sigrid's witness was her childhood friend, Evelyn Fitzsimmons, nee Berz, who was married to Richard "Rick" Fitzsimmons, a tank mechanic stationed in Hanau (Pioneer Kaserne I think) and through them, Rick and I became friendly. As the years went on, Rick remained in the Army and his career took him elsewhere to include Ft Leonard Wood, which is the mothership for Army tank guys, I think. All four of us lost one another and out of sight became out of mind and all that. Rick and Evelyn had a son, Kevin, and they lived in the same apartment house we did (actually they were there first and we moved in downstairs) in a building owned by her parents.

In the last months, Sigrid, through a German variation of Facebook (I say that like I know what that is and I don't. I put the link here, in case you don't know, either.) has reconnected with Evelyn who divorced Rick long ago, remarried and is now back in Germany. I think Sigrid's also chatted on line with Rick of whose whereabouts I'm unclear but all of which proves you cannot trust people to stay in your memory where you put them.

Because I had so little proficiency in German at the time of our marriage I was required by law to hire a translator for the ceremony. Perhaps so I couldn't claim later I was asking 'wo ist die Bahnhof?' oblivious to the five months of paperwork and huge sums of money (as an E-2 in the USAF, it looked like a fortune) it had taken for me to get permission to get married.

And I still almost blew that. As the last step in the approval sequence, the USAF required a written permission from my Detachment Commander, Captain Ted. As Capt Ted reviewed the paperwork (like he would know what he was looking at) he offered somewhat disapprovingly, 'so, you're marrying a foreigner?' To which I responded, perhaps a beat too quickly and more than a tone too sharply, 'no, sir, she is. This is her country; we're the foreigners.'

Luckily (for me) Dewey Weaver, the Detachment admin support guy, who was a TSGT and later MSGT and called everyone, to include Capt Ted, "Junior" (and who was the size of a small building but with a heart to match) hurried me out of the office and suggested I sit quietly in my work space, though his language was much more emphatic than that. After an hour he came back with the Captain's signature and earned the unending gratitude of my soon-to-be bride who baked for him and his family though I often suspected none of the goodies I brought to Dewey ever saw the inside of his house.

At the conclusion of the marriage ceremony the presiding official told our two witnesses where to sign (ordnung muss sein; this is Germany, after all) on the marriage contract and Chris asked the translator, again, specifically where he should sign. She looked at him with absolutely no comprehension and that's when I realized I'd just spent 200 Deutschmarks on a parrot who had memorized the English parts of the ceremony without understanding a word. As a former altar-boy who had done the same thing with the Latin Mass (what exactly does 'intro ibo alatera Dei' mean?). Funny how that switcheroo still annoys me thirty-one years on.

I don't remember often enough to tell Sigrid I love her everyday and there's no guarantee I'll have a chance to ever make that up to her even though do I love her everyday and know I will always love her. "Maybe I'm amazed at the way you pulled me out of time and hung me on a line. Maybe I'm amazed at the way I really need you." Happy anniversary, angel-eyes.
-bill kenny

Monday, October 20, 2008

Norwich Municipal Meetings Meriting Attention

This is good week in Norwich, if you're not yet a registered voter or have questions about how the ballot scanning devices we'll be using in two weeks work to increase your college of knowledge. I'm not going to give you that Diddy-inspired "Vote or Die" line because that's just stupid polemics.

I will point out many of us have friends, family, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, cousins and neighbors in the Armed Forces defending our freedoms, to include choice through casting a ballot, and the least you can do is be eligible to do so. So, in terms of opportunities this week, pick a day and be the difference. This one is so easy, here goes: Monday through Friday, everyday, at 9 AM in Room 210 of City Hall. Let's not ever need to have that discussion again, ever, okay? (How can you NOT vote?)

There is a lot of interest going on for residents and registered voters (I never said I was subtle) this week, as there is every week. I'm not sure about where you live, but suspect it's true, too. Here in Norwich, we've rolled up our sleeves this week and here's what we have:

Monday Senior Affairs Commission at 9 a.m. in the Rose City Senior Center on Mahan Drive (you can check out the progress on the Norwich Tech/Three Rivers CC campus reconstruction and site swap that's going on while you're at it. It's very impressive).

Also Monday, at four in the afternoon, is a meeting of the Design Review Board, at 23 Union St., that's next door to City Hall (have you ever driven past that concrete hulk of a public parking garage that mars the sight lines around Brown Park and wondered what the heck happened? Folks not paying attention, my friend and that's why the citizen volunteers on the DRB always appreciate your interest. Mine, maybe not so much).

And since you're that close to City Hall, and it is a Monday come early for the informational meetings and stay for the City Council meeting. Before the City Council meeting are three informational meetings--the first at 5:45 is by NPU on the East-West sewer project (there's a reason why so many in Norwich are concerned about sewers but it's too Freudian to get into); there's a School Readiness Council/Children First initiative presentation at six and if children or sewers don't set your pulse racing, at six thirty is an overview and explanation on the nearly-completed property reevaluation in Norwich. The bad news, if stock market fluctuations have negatively impacted your lifestyle, may be that you fear you could soon be living out of your car--the good news may be that the taxable value of your car has gone up.

If you're sticking around for the Council meeting at 7 PM, here's the minutes of the 6 October meeting to read up beforehand. As for tonight's Council meeting, speaking of finances, is a resolution proposing a workshop with the Council and the City Manager in the more immediate here and now to talk about next year's budget in light of the changes (and not many for the better) in every one's finances in the last weeks and months. Bravo to the City Council and City Manager (what is the emoticon for clapping? No idea.) for seeking to define the path early this year as many of us are concerned about our municipal finances.

Tuesday night at 7 at 23 Union Street, the Commission of the City Plan meets, and here is their agenda. You decide how important the issues within the public hearing are, and whether you should be part of the public. (And thanks to Ms. B and Mr. P for their efforts to keep the City's website up to date and in compliance with the changes in public law on meeting minutes and agenda posting. You can click here to see what the CCP did at their Special meeting on 25 September, and at their Regular meeting on the 16th, as two examples).

Wednesday has a meeting of the Housing Authority at 4:30 in the afternoon at their office at 10 Westwood Park. According to the City's web page, there's a meeting of the Board of Review of Dangerous Buildings at 5:30 in the afternoon at 23 Union Street except, according to their own page, the meeting is on a different day and, the minutes of their September meeting don't state when the October meeting is.

Thursday has a meeting at eight in the morning of the Norwich Community Development Corporation at their office at 75 Main Street. Their website, if you just clicked on the link, like Christmas, is coming soon, again. In light of the amount of public money NCDC receives it might be nice to provide a vehicle to allow residents and taxpayers an insight into what happens with that money. Bob Mills, the recently-hired director, seems very personable and affable but I don't expect he'd want to start dropping in on every household for a coffee and conversation.

The Historic District Commission meets at 5 p.m. in Room 319 of City Hall. Checking the website, their most recent meeting may have been in June. "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift--that's why we call it The Present."
-bill kenny

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Running Up That Hill

I was watching a very small baby bird, I’m not in the Audubon Society so I don’t what kind it is-to me, ‘small and brown’ is more than enough description-the other day sitting on the ground below my office window. I heard it, through the glass, before I saw it, peeping/chirping or whatever the technical term for kvetching is with birds, as the momma bird (?) kept feeding it.

The baby bird wasn’t that much smaller than the parent which I found amusing as it continued to cry for food. It just seemed to me the baby bird could have flown away at any time and gotten its own food. After all, it had gotten from a nest, someplace, to the ground beneath my office window—and in about twenty minutes, sure enough it followed the parent and flew away.

I started to wonder if the parent were feeding the baby because the baby wanted food or because the parent needed to feed it. Maybe it’s NOT just
Holden Caulfield who wants to be the Catcher in the Rye. I then wondered why I had assumed the parent had been the momma and not a daddy bird. I’ve read about the male Emperor Penguins in the Antarctic who hatch their mate’s eggs by carrying them on their feet, under their belly flap, keeping them warm through the darkening winter cold. I suspect it’s a slightly different form of bonding than reading to the embryo from Joyce’s Ullysses.

I have two children who are actually adults in their own right even if I don’t see them that way in mind’s eye. My son, Patrick Michael, is 26 and his sister, my daughter, Michelle Alison, is 21 and they both squirm when I start to get misty-eyed about them as children. There is, I suspect, an excellent reason why we do not remember our earliest moments on this planet: because we don’t want to. And that’s what we have parents for: to remind us at weddings and christenings, at graduations and sometimes at funerals, that
we share the same biology, regardless of ideology and that there is nothing more natural than for parents to love their children.

I think my two children (excuse me, our two children. Sigrid has done all the heavy lifting while I’ve perfected the motionless glide that, from a distance, looks like parental involvement but isn’t) haven’t had it easy with me as their dad. I grew up positive I didn’t want to get married, and thanks to physical and emotional limitations, was dangerously close to making sure that didn’t happen. And then, after marriage, knowing I would be the sum of all of my life experiences, I never embraced the idea of parenthood until the physician in the ER at the Offenbach Stadtkrankenhaus told us Sigrid was pregnant. My grin at that moment was so wide, so from ear-to-ear, it was possible the top two/thirds of my head could have fallen off. That might have been an improvement.

Months later, I ran into that doctor again at the hospital, as Sigrid was being prepped for the geburstsaal (delivery room). He asked me where I was going. When I told him ‘to be with my wife’ he seemed puzzled (I guess German men at that time didn’t do those things, but I never got that memo) and asked why, so I had to explain since I had placed the order I should help with the delivery. The look in his eyes told me that despite the differences in language, he had gotten my point but hadn’t gotten it all, at the same time.

Sometimes when one of the two is visiting (and I always appreciate the visits as I can only imagine how much fun our house is when you don’t live in it anymore-sort of like Hudson and Landry’s
The Prospectors (I, too, couldn’t live like that)) I’m always tempted to stop in at the local grocery store that has a sign designating some spaces as “parking for customers with children” just to see their eyes roll.

No matter how far we travel from one another we’re always joined by the same sky overhead and the thread of memories. I give my time to total strangers but it’s the home team to whom I always return at the end of the day. That is, I believe, the way it is supposed to be.
-bill kenny

Saturday, October 18, 2008

After the Savoy Truffle....

Meaning well yesterday a colleague offered to bring me back one of those ready made in a plastic bowl salads while they were out doing errands. I have to assume my long ears and pronounced teeth, coupled with my fluffy tail led him him to conclude I am a rabbit. Perhaps all those unopened boxes of Trix gave it away.

I appreciated the offer and when he returned with my lunch I was surprised to see one packager's idea of a salad included pieces of a cold, hard-boiled egg. I guess the idea is to just mix it into the lettuce along with the three grape tomatoes and the cubes of turkey breast, cover with cheese and black olives. I think not.

I like hard-boiled eggs, hot, for breakfast. I've yet to sort out if they're still bad for me or if the pendulum has gone the other way, again, for the third or fourth time and now they're good for me again. I wasn't paying attention. I understand many people like to make hard-boiled eggs the night before they go on a picnic, and peel off the shell and eat them with a dash of black pepper. No more for me, thanks, I'm driving, but you can put them alongside of the black olives as another foodstuff I'm not ever eating.

I know it's unfair and unkind to dislike a person you've never met or a food you've never tried. I regard my attitude on black olives, pumpkin pie and most seafood not so much as an unfounded, ignorant prejudice but as a time saver. I know, in the very depths of my being, I will not like any of those foods, so I just skip them. And if you're making a list, add rice pudding to it-that stuff is ghastly, though I've never actually eaten it. Ditto for hot oatmeal, instant or the kind that comes in the canister with the Quaker fellow on the front. Yeah, I know it's good for me-I've seen the TV commercials-but I can't get the spoon past my chin on the way to my mouth.
Thank you, fingers and hands.

Why couldn't God, or nature if you're not an Intelligent Design kind of person, make the stuff that's good for you taste good instead making brussels sprouts (which aren't on my list only because I'd feel bad about it) taste like I'm not sure what. Why can't we develop a hybrid artichoke that tastes like Godiva chocolate and to whom whould I address that suggestion? Ironically, considering how I've lived for many years, you'd think, based on the number of times I've had to eat crow, I'd have grown fond of the taste.
And, you'd be wrong......
-bill kenny

Friday, October 17, 2008

Will Versus Wallet

Have had an interesting exchange in the last couple of days with a well-meaning, active and engaged fellow- resident of Norwich who is, bless him, an optimist, making him a bookend to my nearly terminal pessimism. I've come by my world view honestly-the most wonderful thing about being a pessimist, I've told him, is I can only be surprised and never disappointed.

He, on the other hand, tends to see issues and people from a 'where they should be' perspective and cheers small steps as opposed to my 'where are they right now and what are they doing?" frame of reference. We're at different philosophic points on a meeting held last night about health care accountability. I mentioned it Monday and (between us) wasn't all that surprised when it turned out to be exactly the meeting I feared it was going to be.

My neighbor, on the other hand, was pleased to reaffirm the stances and dedication to a process that almost produced a state wide health care program last session until the legislators blinked when going eyeball to eyeball with Governor M. Jodi Rell. That those days, regarded as 'tough economic times' at that time, now appear in the rear view mirror of memory as halcyon means (to me) less chance of success in creating universal, accessible and affordable health care. All I came away with from last night's meeting, because I'm a half-full glass kind of a guy, was that this year we can't afford glass and the chances of a new paper cup aren't too good either.

I admire his positivism but I wish there were more reasons to be cheerful. We used to say for some social initiatives and programs that 'we have more will than wallet.' That might be true but it shouldn't have meant we hardened our hearts to those in need of help (sort of why government exists, or should be the reason) but, instead we've had a hardening of other arteries. Our moral and political health is in about the same shape as health care for far too many men, women and children in what is supposed to be the wealthiest state in these Fifty United.

When we have a system of publicly financed governance that demands we choose between firefighters and teachers, when some of us eat cat food to pay heating bills or cut medications in half because we cannot afford to live otherwise, it's hard (for me) to see anything but the grey cloud, but good on you if you can find the silver lining. As we muddle along in the third century of our democracy, it sounds preposterous to suggest we are living in a critical time, especially in comparison to our beginnings, the War Between the States and two World Wars that sandwiched a world-wide economic depression, so maybe, by nature, democracies are always fragile and those who live in them are always in danger. That may be more accurate and truthful.

We need to agree that, yes, making an effort is important but so, too, are measurable results. It does no one any good to create healthcare delvery, or smart development or socal services networks if none of us can afford to pay for them. We can neither allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the challenges we face, nor believe that someone, somewhere, will save us from ourselves.

This is the world we created-we need to embrace it and work to improve it everyday. Talking or typing about making things better is fine-the trick is in the doing, and doing it everyday.
-bill kenny

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Your call is (almost) important to us

I had to call a business the other day and run the gauntlet of their voice mail. In a galaxy long ago and far away, businesses had people who answered telephones, made on the fly decisions as to whom to route each call and transferred the caller to someone, somewhere else, within the corporation and the wheels of commerce rolled forward triumphantly.

Then we came up with toll-free numbers and Corporate America was inundated with a deluge of phone chatter. Everyone had a number--I can recall to this day a jingle exhorting me to call "Eight Oh Oh, three two five, three five three five" though for what purpose I cannot remember. No matter, were I to call it now I'd be asked in what language I wished to proceed and then advised the voice menu had changed and to eyes glaze over.

If whatever it is I'm calling about were so simple I could resolve it by leaving a message for an unknown person who is never going to call me back, I'd have saved myself the trouble of calling and resolved the issue myself. And while I appreciate the reminder by The Voice (and how much money do you suppose the persons who do the voice work for the voice mail systems in this country make? Is it a flat rate, a piece rate or do they get royalties? How'd you like to be Allie AOL, 'You've got mail!") that 'this call may be recorded for training purposes' whose training?

Certainly not mine as I've never learned to NOT try again and continue to attempt to speak to a human being long after the last light has been turned off in the last USA based call center. And we certainly cannot be training the folks hired to finally respond to a phone call after the caller has mashed the "O" on the touch tone phone at least a hundred times and you discover the person on the other end and you did not go to Bangalore High School in East Punjab together as you had so fervently hoped, as that was the only way you could ever hope to get that charge for a cigarette boat the spa valet ran up on your charge plate while he was parking your car removed or to excise the purchase of that platinum CD set of Slim Whitman and Frankie Laine duets that person you used to date nailed you with as a 'now you'll never forget me, you fink!' going-away present.

Like we don't already feel like we're lost in the shuffle now we have to have faceless bureaucracies, private and public, dutifully assure us our calls are important while simultaneously denigrating us by having us audition like seals with a horn in the circus and if we're lucky, we don't get a fish for our troubles but a human being who is so impressed by our perseverance and the immediacy of our plight they put us on hold because our calls will be answered in the order in which they are received and, oh no!, the hold music playing is a Slim Whitman and Frankie Laine duet, recorded aboard Crockett's cigar boat.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Leaf Blowers as true Americana

Many of us refer to the World Series as the Fall Classic, while, for others, autumn is a time to watch professional football on televisions every Sunday, and Monday, and occasional Thursday (come to think about it) while high school football happens under the lights on Friday nights and college football is reserved for Saturday afternoons, and evenings and, seemingly random Tuesdays evenings.

None of those are what Autumn in New England is all about. What defines the season here is gassing up the old leaf blower, slapping on the mickey mouse earphones so the roar of the engine doesn't deafen you like those Iron Maiden shows of the early Eighties used to do (still have the tee-shirt, do you? Run for the Hills indeed!) and then you set to work gathering up the falling and fallen leaves, getting them together in large piles and placing them into your compostor (I have two of them in the corner of the backyard along with the active biologicals that I combine with the cut grass and moisture to produce the enriched matter I work into my tomato patch the following spring) and there you have it----

Or not.
Most people with leaf blowers have the gasoline powered versions, because they're just a lot louder than the electric ones and you can go anywhere with those bad boys, and they can blow any and all leaves they find on their property out into the street or onto a neighbor's property, because somewhere in an obscure codicil of the Bill of Rights or an addedum to the Articles of Confederation grandfathered into the Constitution is a provision about your right to arm bears and to be obnoxiously loud, befoul the air with gasoline fumes and poison your relationships with your neighbors.

We just had a beautiful Columbus Day weekend here in Southeastern Connecticut. I'd say it was like like a second Indian Summer, but I suspect the operators of one of the two huge Native American owned casinos within fifteen minutes of my house would take exception so I'll skip it. What I wish the rest of us would have skipped was the Saturday and Sunday battle of the blowers. With the Red Sox and Tampa Bay on Saturday evening and the Patriots playing in the late afternoon of Sunday, many of us could have ourselves a time reminiscent of The Cat in the Hat Comes Back as neighbor A blew the leaves over to Neighbor B's yard and two hours late Mr. B avenged himself on Family A. And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street.

Leaf blowers are uniquely American-no one else has them and most people in whose countries I've lived or visited cannot comprehend having a device as pointless and wasteful as a leaf blower. In many ways, it's more perfectly symbolic of the United States than the bald eagle and is the closest thing an appliance could ever come to representing the entire Presidential election campaign.

Except that it wouldn't work, because all successful sports in the USA have television contracts, I can see a new national sports craze where people in golf carts drive around (blindfolded? why not?), talking on a cell phone while a partner in the shotgun seat operates a leaf blower trying to coerce a small animal, perhaps a ferret dipped in iridescent paint (Fox Sports' experiment with the blue glowing puck some years back has made an indelible impression upon me) into a shoebox that closes down with a satisfying snap on the little furry fugitive and points are awarded for the number of passes it takes to herd the ferret into the box.

Of course, everyone would be so busy competing for a place on a local team that leaves might fall unnoticed for decades, renewing the earth and returning to it some of the nutrients and minerals we have thoughtlessly plundered from it in our evolution from the ooze to the cheeseheads and foam fingers we have that differentiate us from the lower primates and others on this orb. And like snowflakes, and leaves, no two of us are alike.
-bill kenny