Sunday, May 31, 2009

You Can't Unclench Your Teeth

Time creeps up on you and once you're past a memory of an event, it just seems to disappear. I think in this case, some of the memory loss is due to the Monday holiday law and how it affected when we observed Memorial Day this year, because the memories are always tied to the Memorial Day that my father died.

Walking after dinner last night I realized, with a start, twenty-eight years ago I was still in the US Air Force (don't worry, NOT as a pilot or anything even close to important; you know how movies with crowd scenes have 'extras'? I was one of those) and was standing Staff Duty watch at my assignment, the American Forces Network HQ, in those days, before The Wall came tumbling down and peace, love and harmony ruled our planet in Frankfurt am Main in West Germany.

It had just turned three o'clock in the morning, I had the radio on and Jan Wood (who pulled the ridiculously early shift Milt Fullerton had once worked while stringing for ABC Radio) had just played the sounder and started his cast in the newstank, when the telephone rang at the switchboard. At three in the morning, not a lot of good was on the other end I feared and I was right.

It was an operator from the American Red Cross Family Notification Program in Mannheim and she asked for the newsroom as was the routine. Once connected, she would say the code of the day, verifying who she was, and then state the name, rank and unit of the service member who did not yet know that s/he had a family emergency/death in the family 'back home.' Everyone in Europe, it seemed, listened to us. We were so pervasive, I got mail from listeners in Scotland, Norway and in Iceland who would ask about a particular song I had played in the middle of a set of records. I seriously believed you could tune us in on a toaster. We were everyone's soundtrack.

I told the Red Cross lady the newscaster was on the air and offered to take the information myself. When she spelled the last name, I realized it was my last name and when the first names matched, I was able to tell her 'and he's asked to return home for a death in the family' and have her confirm that course of action. She asked me to read back the notification, to assure her I had it and would relay it as was standard operating procedure. I told her I was the serviceman who had just learned his father had died.

She apologized though I never figured out for what. I waited for Jan to finish his newscast and carried the Red Cross log book back to him. I stood there while he read the one page summary of conversation, signed the receipt on the bottom and looked up at me. When he did, I nodded slightly, and with my shift now over, I went back to my desk to pull together my thoughts for the trip home. When my boss, Bob Matthes, came in later he was as kind as he could be in helping me depart on emergency leave, get a lift to the Frankfurt Flughafen and flying into JFK in New York.

It's odd how I cannot remember who picked me up, if anyone did. I do remember a bus ride somewhere in Jersey to somewhere else in Jersey and eventually walking down a long and still-dark-in-the-early-morning-light-of-day-road on which my parents had built a sprawling house.
A house, if not actually at the end of the world, so close was it, you could see the end of the world from the backyard.

My dad and I did not get along, if by 'not get along' you mean loathed one another. For many years, before and after his death, I thought it was because we were so different but I've realized it's more because we're so much alike. I think from the time I could talk I said 'no' to everything he ever wanted of me and for me.

My parents' house was bedlam. Only the three youngest children were still living with my parents; the oldest, my sister Kara, a senior in high school (I think) was just weeks away from graduation, her younger sister, Jill, in one of the middle grades of high school and Adam, looking very solemn and all alone, I guess was in elementary school. I still feel bad about abandoning them for all those years, all those years ago. Sorry doesn't start to cover it and all I can offer is an apology and regret for my cowardice from then until now.

I had escaped and after me, a sister and a younger brother had both gone their own ways but, in candor, I had gone the farthest and fastest to another continent and another culture. I had met and married a person whose own family was as damaged in its way as I always thought mine was. Maybe that's why she and I have been at this for (closing in on) thirty-two years this October. But in my father's house, that night and the next day and the next night, I didn't know where the journey would take me.

The funeral director kept calling my mother, 'Mom', for (I'm sure) grief-management reasons. I remember nothing else about him except that he kept doing that until I felt compelled to tell him very quietly mine would the last face in this life he'd ever see if he did not stop. I'm not sure my mother even realized the man was there. I traveled in my uniform which were all the clothes I had brought with me. I don't why I packed only Air Force uniforms. It did make it easy to spot me at the funeral, at the graveside and at the wake where scores of people whom none of the rest of us had ever known, but who knew my father, stopped in to say how sorry they were and how, if there were ever anything they could do, to please call.

None of us ever did, but that's okay because none of you meant a word of it, so we're even except for where we got odd. The afternoon my father was buried, the day after I had returned to the States, a relative took me to the airport for the return flight. She spotted the security sensors, primitive in comparison to today of course, and told me I should go in alone as she 'thought' she was holding (drugs). The notion of NOT knowing if you knew you had narcotics on you struck me as funny and I laughed as I checked in for the flight back to where my heart and home was.

And I've kept all of those memories tucked away as if in a photo album or shoebox never to be opened until a brief walk around the block on what should have been the Memorial Day weekend. "So you curl your lips around/The taste, the tears, and the hollow sound/That no one owns but you/No one owns but you."
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Happiest When We're Unhappy

The last couple of days here in the Rose City haven't been the happiest of times for what, as I read the newspapers, pretty much self-inflicted wounds. I'm seriously thinking about blaming everything on the Norwich Business Park, NBP, mainly because the two of the three most current argy-bargys involve situations in the NBP.

The first one, the saga of the Connecticut Defenders, nee the Norwich Navigators (and actually, nee nee (?) the Albany-Colonie Yankees) is sort of a high school romance gone bad meets a poor case study from business school. I'm a grown man (some parts more so than others) and intellectually if not emotionally I can grasp that sports is a business, even minor league baseball.

Yes, generations of us have grown up trying to master Willie Mays' basket catch(or getting brained in the process of trying), drive the ball like the Splendid Splinter or run the base paths like Charlie Hustle, but very few of us ever get farther than dreaming about it. Good luck to the young guys who are living it and legging it out everyday as they work their way through the minor league system for a chance at the show.

But as I said, it's a business and times weren't all that great in terms of attendance for the CT Defenders when times were good. And while no one expects, I assume, to get rich from owning a Double A baseball team, no one should lose his shirt either. Not that I've seen the owner without a shirt, mind you. There's a marvelous expression that goes, 'he who abandons a sinking ship that doesn't sink, must be a very good swimmer.' In a perfect world the team would have been sold before the season started, but the deal, rather than the team, has gone south. Sometimes one percent (of something) is a better deal than one hundred percent (of nothing). The fans and sponsors have stayed away from the team, because 'they're leaving' and yet, here they are and the bigger question is where will they be this time tomorrow?

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the NBP, a good thing, in this case a building being added by a business to its operation becomes a bad thing because when you have as many different folks helping with 'economic development' as we have in Norwich (look for yourself, here's the municipal listing and bear in mind it's NOT complete), there will always someone who does not get the memo. Familiar with 'many hands make light work'? Sometimes around here it's more like 'many hands get balled into many fists and wise guys with blogs get pummelled.' The irony of all this is "delaycious", if I don't say so myself.

The third Norwich Newz Noise involves a fellow who is a future former police officer. As you'll read for yourself, there's so much so wrong in this story and this situation it's embarrassing to even read about it much less realize we've had a series of these incidents for nearly the last decade. I would imagine it's hard to be a law enforcement professional in the Rose City when the only stories that anyone knows are the nasty ones.

Personally, it serves to remind me I'll have to thank my orthopedic surgeon when I see him in (the middle of) June for a follow up on my knee replacement surgery from early March. The former police Lieutenant has been, the newspaper says, on sick leave from leg surgery since January 2007. I guess I better pack some wax lips since I guess I'll have to kiss my surgeon. Maybe I can offer him some Yankees tickets-I know a place where we can get 'em cheap.
-bill kenny

Friday, May 29, 2009

Attention, Shoppers!

Like many (if not all) married men, I do most of my clothes shopping with my wife. If I didn't, I'd own about eighteen sets of the same style, cut and color trousers, about a dozen shirts of standard color deviation with maybe twice as many again ties to go with the shirts. I'd have two pair of black shoes, one with laces and one without, and the same for brown shoes.

Don't laugh. Look in your closet and then get back to me, Mr. Hyena. It's not just the unrelenting nature of my clothes sense-it's the utter absence of taste. When I'm putting together 'stuff to wear', I shoot the moon. The rule (kind of ) is clean things get worn together and then, by degree not-so-clean things. Don't talk to me about colors and styles that clash or complement. No one speaks fashion at this address.

Because the shoes I've been wearing are bruising my feet, especially my soles and heels (diabetics are always told to check your feet for bruises, blisters, callouses and corns), Wednesday evening I and my wife went shopping at the department store I like to go to because she likes to go to it. I have small feet (I heard the snicker, by the way) which makes shoe-shopping even more fun but as luck would have it the shoe department had a pair of grey shoes, incredibly light, in my size. Technically, it wasn't a pair; it was a shoe, actually the display shoe. There were exactly three boxes with the same style shoe, all had two shoes in each box and none of them were my size.

It had been a long day and I could actually feel the sugar low flowing through me. After a fruitless search for the other shoe, a box with my size on it or any indication that such a pair of shoes even existed, we gave in, got the 'next best thing', gave up and went home. But it bugged me, it really did.

And so yesterday, after I was finished at work I went to the store the company has in Groton and searched their shelves, reasoning what they have in Lisbon (no, that one, the one in Connecticut), they should have here. Don't tell Columbus, but he was wrong about a lot of things and I was celebrating Columbus Day yesterday. But I wasn't prepared to give up.

I drove all the way to the store in Lisbon (actually that sounds a lot harder than it is; the car did all the driving, I was inside the car. The roads are paved and there was no rain so it was pretty uneventful) walked through the store directly to the shoe department and found the half a pair of shoe(s). Plucking it from the shelf, I strode to the registers where the sales associate was puzzled anyone with two legs and two feet, would be buying one shoe. I explained to her I didn't want to buy a shoe, but rather a pair of shoes and asked her to page someone for assistance.

She thought I meant to send someone to shoes and told me to 'head on back and they'll be right there.' No, I smiled, I think not. Instead I'll stand here at your register not allowing you to process any other customers until the shoes sales person joins us here and then together, I and s/he will saunter back to her/his area of specialization. Some of us were not very popular around register two for a couple of tense minutes, let me tell you, but eventually Edgar emerged, name tag askew, practically tripping over trousers so incredibly too long, I just assumed they were actually his dad's pants.

Edgar, I think, is destined for retail superstardom, perhaps some day they'll rename the chain of stores after him. Just not today, or technically, not yesterday. I explained to Edgar ('please, call me Ed' he offered-only if you'll call me 'sir', I replied with a smile but he didn't) my inability to understand where the mate from my new favorite shoe in the whole world might be, and his eyes lit up when he saw it. Turns out he had it in the back room in 'the box' and went to fetch it.

It was only after he returned with both my shoe's mate and the box that I asked him what kind of stock system would have you separate a pair of anything, and store half of it out of sight and cognizance of a customer who might wish to buy it. He explained he was working to cut back on pilfering as I'd be surprised how many shoes 'get stolen in a month'. He didn't actually tell me the number, so I practiced my surprised look for nothing, but did ask him as I walked back to the register to pay for my purchase if he'd worked elsewhere in men's furnishings, like perhaps dress trousers or dress shirts. He wondered why I was so interested and all I could ask was if he'd ever waited on anyone named Richard Kimble. I was going to wave goodbye but forgot which arm to use.
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Every Girl's Crazy 'Bout a Sharp-Dressed Man

You've seen it. I know I've seen it as well. The trend where people wear pajamas like regular clothes. I never really warmed to that bit some years back where people who were not medical professionals wore scrubs, and I've always been underwhelmed by the Pajama Game trend just because it's goofy.

Many years ago (before any of us were even born, come to think of it), as a rock and roller working in the vinyl jungle, I interviewed the Boomtown Rats who boasted not only the self-aggrandizing (and relentlessly brilliant) Bob Geldof (known now as Sir Bob by Her Majesty and Saint Bob by many of the yobes he used to hang out with) but a keyboardist named Johnny Fingers (some of his best known work is here) whose stage attire was pajamas. For reasons that may say more about all of us and the relations we had, or not, with a variety of controlled substances, no one seemed to notice or care.

Today, perhaps because all the world's a stage (whether we like it or not; sorry Will), pajamas show up everywhere. Additionally, but I suspect not so coincidentally, the number of celebartists (whose particular art is being famous for being famous) who wear their underclothes on the outside approaches legion. That injunction our Moms gave us all those years ago about wearing clean underwear is paying off big-time and I, for one, am very grateful since beauty is in the eye of beholder and there are certain things I don't really need to ever behold.

In the United Kingdom, yesterday, there was much ado about underthings--ironically, underthings that were under clothes. So unless you're Clark Kent, we all look pretty much the same, when viewed from space. A retail chain, Next, had a complaint about a cartoon print on men's underpants (no part of that sentence fragment makes any sense to me at all) by a customer and decided to literally, eat their own shorts and withdraw from sale all 5,200 pairs of underpants that may, or may not, have had a likeness of Hitler on them.

The chain is quoted in the story as having gone back to the designer who insists the image is actually that of V. I. Lenin. That explains everything, right? There are about forty questions left unanswered by the story, to include the 'why did you think putting a cartoon likeness of anyone on underpants was integral to the process in the first place?' but in addition to that tip about wearing clean ones, my mom once suggested to me 'don't ask the question if you can't stand the answer.' She was going to suggest 'don't sleep in the subway' but she had to go scrubs shopping with Lenin's Mom.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You Are What You Eat

Came across a feature yesterday afternoon offered through my Internet service provider (ISP), America On Line, that made me smile. It's a listing of foods that help you burn excess weight (usually through a process that requires your body to use up more calories processing the food than the food, itself, has in it). You've seen lists like this for years and about once a decade or so someone tricks up a new name for it and you have the Blah-Blah Diet with a book for only $29.95 (plus processing and handling) and an informercial where a lot of folks who look vaguely familiar sit on a couch and tell each other stories about their own amazing weight losses while taking turns staring in wide-eyed incredulity at somebody else's 'true story of weight loss'.

"Gee Buzz, your colon is so clean you can pass a car through it!" exclaims Mitzi, who looks like one of the people who used to be on Three's Company. Not one of the original members, of course (the survivors are out doing supermarket openings), but one of the replacements after the show started into its glide slope of ratings decline and burned up on reentry. And Buzz who may or may not have been in Encino Man with Pauly Shore (how'd you like to have that on your resume?) tells us all about it. I had a great idea for a drinking game one night watching these infomercials. The group makes up a list of pat phrases you know will be said and every time one of them is uttered, everyone has to quaff a beverage. And the winner is me, because I didn't come to your house and do this drinking game stuff.

Meanwhile, back at the list. They're basically all the same--just a slight variation of what your Mom told you to eat and not to eat. There's never a lot of chocolate eclairs on these lists of fat burning foods and I've often wondered, near-altar boy as I am, why is it that God, who moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform, didn't make the stuff that's good for us taste better. I know broccoli is a lot better than a hot sausage sandwich for me, but guess which one tastes better? Maybe He could hire the International Flavors and Fragrances (you thought I was goofing on you?) to work on short term solutions to that challenge. Of course, smiting would work just as well. I figure after a while we'd all get tired of attending funerals where the guest of honor had marinara sauce on his cheek (and you could still see where the lightning bolt hit him) .

Because, and this is as true of this most recent list as all the others I've ever seen, I don't care how good something is for me. If I don't like the taste, or sight, or smell or sometimes the sound (or the name-I almost ate calimari once. I will NEVER eat octopus), I'm not having anything to do with it. My favorite example is hot oatmeal. I've tried everything and I still can't bring myself to eat it. I know it's good for me (I don't know why, but nevermind) and I can read the side of the box and get the nutritional information (by the way, what is the point of nutritional information on bottled water? It's water for crying out! Spare me.), and I'm sure the flavors are marvelous. I almost get there-I boil the water and pour it into the bowl and stir it up without gagging and dip the spoon in and lift it out, next stop, lips and glottis and no deal. I will not open my mouth, no matter how good oatmeal is for me. And if you want to offer me a swig of a probiotic drink of something to wash it down, you'd better have a Maid of the Mist raincoat on, buddy boy, because you are so going home to put on new clothes. Could be quite a hike-better eat yer Wheaties.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Where's the glory in a star-spangled sky?

We had a marvelous Memorial Day 2009 here in Norwich, Connecticut, and I hope you did as well wherever you spent your day. I must confess, the day's weather got off to a not-so-good start but took a turn for the better at about mid-morning, making the ceremony at Taftville's Memorial Park a great opportunity to explore what was, for me, an undiscovered small gem of a park in one of the oldest and most tradition-bound villages of Norwich. Thanks, Chief Pudge, and all those from the VFW Frederick J. Sullivan Post 2212 as well as the American Legion Peter Gallan Post 104, for a memorable morning.

In the latter part of the afternoon, we proved we can still surprise one another as, in response to the Norwich Veterans Council invitation to observe Memorial Day at Chelsea Parade, hundreds and more hundreds of friends, family and neighbors of veterans and active duty service members turned out to nearly completely cover the carefully manicured grass of the Parade.

We even had a short parade, actually at times it seemed more like an organized meander from Saint Patrick's Cathedral up Broadway to Chelsea Parade. The Boy Scouts, always prepared, stepped up to offer a Color Guard even if some of the bearers were a tad smaller than their flags and the Kelly Middle School Orchestra proved itself as an impromptu marching band in the warm nearly-summer sun.

Our guest speakers helped us remember that freedom isn't free and how and why across the generations so many of our best and brightest have perished so that we, the living, could prosper. And at the ceremony's end, was a quiet man with an acoustic guitar and a loud question that sent us home to ponder, "where's the glory in star-spangled sky?"
-bill kenny

Monday, May 25, 2009

Norwich Meetings (Short Week)

With today being the Memorial Day holiday, consider this another reminder for those in and around Norwich: there's an observance this morning at ten in Taftville over at the Memorial Park and then this afternoon, stepping off at two, is a parade from St Pat's Cathedral to Chelsea Parade. The guest speaker this morning is State Representative Christopher Coutu, a Taftville native (it's one 'm' in homage, btw). Would hope to see you at one and/or the other and if you're not from here, no worries as there's plenty of room for friends we haven't yet met.

In terms of municipal meetings, the holiday shortens the week, or if you're a pessimist, concentrates the calendar (you decide). Either raise the river or lower the bridge as a well-known local real estate novelist is fond of saying.

Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 in the main offices at 90 Town Street, opposite the Norwichtown Green, is a meeting of the Norwich Public Schools' Board of Education Policy Committee. Good luck finding the meeting agenda and/or minutes of previous meetings. When my wife and I had children in the school system, I made it a point to attend many of the Board's meetings as well as its sub-committee meetings and was always dismayed at how few parents were in attendance.

This was in the Dark Ages in the early days of dial-up and I'm impressed with how parental participation can be controlled now by just not sharing information that, by law, must be shared. Thank goodness we no longer teach civics in our schools, Madame Superintendent or Mr. Board Chairman! We'd be hard-pressed to explain to the children what we were doing, eh?

Also Tuesday afternoon at five in Room 219 of City Hall is a regular meeting of the Harbor Management Commission. Here's the March meeting minutes (they had NO April meeting) and I was disappointed to read, or more precisely, to not read how near the Heritage Trail is to being reopened. It's been closed (that area near the Sweeney Bridge) pretty much since the mini-golf course caught on fire which was about two years ago(?). Never understood why it took so long for that to all get secured. Then it was closed as the rehab work on Howard Brown Park was going on but the March meeting minutes suggest the work's about over (and just in time for the semiseptcentennial), so I'm trying to understand why we wouldn't want visitors to enjoy the river walk (and the residents, too).

And Tuesday night at seven, there's a twofer (of sorts), at the Norwich Public Utilities Offices at 16 Golden Street with a regular meeting of the Board of Public Utilities and a public hearing on proposed new sewer rates by the Sewer Authority.

Wednesday afternoon at three o'clock in Room 210 of City Hall is a regular, I presume, meeting of the Community Development. Advisory Committee whose minutes of NONE of their previous meetings are posted on line, in violation of CT Public Law (and people wonder why so many of us mis/distrust our government. Gee, I wonder about that, too).

Speaking of violating public law, at 4:30 in their offices at 10 Westwood Park, is a (special) meeting of the Norwich Housing Authority. I assume it's special since they supposedly meet on the second Wednesday of each month and the 27th is certainly not the second Wednesday.

Later in the afternoon, at 5:30 in the basement conference room at 23 Union Street is a regular meeting of the Board of Review of Dangerous Buildings. Here's a copy of the April meeting minutes (read just the paragraph on the lack of cleanup at 219-231 Central Avenue (where that big fire was); it's an eye opener), and here's the meeting agenda for Wednesday night.

Sort of as a follow-up to a meeting last week (and that got launched at the April meeting of the Board of Review of Dangerous Buildings) are the next meetings of the two sub-committees on what to do with 21 West Thames Street (at 6:15) and 751 North Main Street (at 6:30). Yeah, it does look like someone got a 'Writing Meeting Agenda for Dummies' Book, but if that's all the law requires, that's all the law requires.

At seven o'clock in their meeting room at the Golf Course is a regular monthly meeting of the Golf Course Authority. Here's a draft of their April minutes. Between you and me, I'm not sure what to make of the mention of deferring membership (under chairman's report) since as I read the charter, decisions as to who is and who isn't on advisories, boards, commissions and committees are made by the City Council and not the members of a committee.

Thursday morning at eight in their offices at 75 Main Street is a regular meeting of the Norwich Community Development Corporation, which still has no website to speak of but is edging closer, they say, to standing one up. If you were interested in either the agenda or the minutes, or both, Mr.Bob Mills, the Executive Director, told me to drop him a note and he'll send them out (which, until they can be posted in compliance with the law is as good as it gets). He's at And, remember: if you don't ask, you don't get.

Thursday night at seven, in Room 335 of City Hall, is a regular meeting of the Democratic Town Committee. I understand anyone can attend but you have to be a registered member of the Democratic Party to be able to speak (I heard a rumor Saturday there will be free Jell-O shooters after the meeting. Considering I got that rumor started two weeks ago, I wondered what took so long for it to get back to me).

The July meeting is when theoretically, if there's to be an endorsement for mayor and city council, it will happen. My feelings on the mayoral nominee are well-known and I won't bore you with that (okay, maybe a little), but I will say I'm (more than) a bit disappointed the DTC hasn't (so far) sponsored ANY opportunities for debate and discussion between the two candidates who've announced they are seeking the nomination. That there's a shortage of democratic choice (with a little d) in the Democratic (with a Big D) Town Committee is funny, except for the sad part.

Of course, I'm used to being a punch line and tend to dress for the part. Judging from most of the other people I see, we're buying our clothes in bulk, discounting everything we see and passing the savings directly on to you. Cash or charge (it to future generations)? See you at something this week?
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 24, 2009

More than the start of summer

There are things we never forget. Some are generational: where you were when you heard President John F. Kennedy had been shot; what you were doing when the World Trade Center was attacked or when Chris was selected as the American Idol (that one was for EB). Other experiences, and to each his own, are more personal: where I was the first time I saw the woman I was to marry or what I was doing when our first-born told he'd gotten hired for his first full-time job or our daughter told me she'd been accepted into college. Life is actually millions of interconnected moments, each one linking and leading to the next from the previous and each of our lives is really what we do within those moments, together and alone.

This is the Memorial Day weekend and the above was my feeble attempt to try to make sense of the sacrifice of those who died in uniform in the defense of their country, because it's my country, too (those numbers are eleven months old, by the way). Until it got rolled into the great Monday Holiday Law to make More Three-Day Weekends (or whatever its official name is), we wouldn't celebrate Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as our parents called it, until this coming Saturday. Good thing we got it moved, eh?

Those hot dogs and burgers aren't going to grill themselves. And those BOGO sales at the strip malls will not last forever and what about the Indy 500? Yeah, everyone's a winner when we make things into three day holiday weekends. Sure, we lose sight eventually of what the holiday is about (some of us get Memorial Day and Veterans Day mixed up), but that's got as much to do with the rate and pace of change in our lives and society as well as of our inability to maintain our focus long enough to complete a thought. (Prediction: in less than a year there will be a service, ala Twitter, but that allows only much shorter messages-we can call it Blrtr (=blurter).)

Previous generations used to observe, not celebrate, Memorial Day, by visiting the graves of relatives and friends who'd died in uniform and placing flowers and little American flags. I saw someone the other day at the "old" cemetery in Norwich, the one off of Lafayette Street behind Backus Hospital, driving his Audi on the walking path between the grave markers while talking on his cell phone. Classy, clownie, real classy. And the sports radio on? Nice touch.

Between now and eight o'clock tonight (DST), before tuning into the PBS Memorial Day Concert (and no, it doesn't have the Beach Boys, or Springsteen or Josh Grobin), try to check out as much of the website in support of the event that the PBS folks have created. Every time I go there, I learn at least one new 'something' and I visit there a lot. Here in Norwich, and near where you live as well, there will be observances-ours is Monday and spans the city, starting in Taftville at 10 AM at Memorial Park followed later in the day, at 2 PM, with a parade that starts near St. Patrick's and concludes at Chelsea Parade.

There's speeching by a lot of folks who never served a day in uniform (sorry. My eight years in the Air Force makes me cranky sometimes at people who think because they have are entitled to their opinion, I, too, should be entitled to it) with small children scampering between the rows of metal folding chairs that the organizers so meticulously arranged and then all get rearranged as friends (every year, a few less than the time before) sit together and share their own memories while young men trapped in old men's bodies recall their wild youth and the school chum who didn't return from one of our far-off wars, and then there is a wreath laying at the (quite lovely) memorial on the north end. And before we know it, we're living and reliving Gunners Dream.
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Musings on a Day Off that felt more like an off day

I was off on Friday. The people I work for were kind enough to let me take some of time I'd earned by working extra as compensatory time in conjunction with the holiday weekend. Between you and me, some of them still look surprised that I'm back at work after knee surgery, even though I've been back for five weeks now. (At least I hope that's a look of surprise and not disappointment.)

Happened earlier this week-someone I see only on rare occasions encountered me in the hallway. 'Hey!' he said, 'you're back?!' 'Yes I am,' I rejoined, fresh out of snappy counterpoint. All the people with whom I work are casual strangers at best. I have no illusions that we're all going to go shoe shopping one of these weekends or hit the barbecue together and we don't need to. I've been in jobs where folks have openly disliked each other so this is a delightful switch and I appreciate the day off almost as much, I suspect, as all the people who don't have to see (or deal with) me today (I am an acquired taste). Enjoy.

We live across the street, more or less, from Norwich Free Academy, which means especially in the Spring semester, many of the neighborhood streets around the school are student parking lots. Somewhere in the Constitution is a little-known provision that allows all Americans over the age of 16 to have a motor vehicle license and to drive to high school regardless of how may buses the taxpayers are subsidizing to go there and/or how near/far to the school you live. Look again, it's just below the part about the right to arm bears.

Our two children, when they were of that age, walked to NFA (their dad didn't have the money to get anybody else a car) and, based on the state of disarray in their rooms for all their growing up years, they also walked home in the afternoon (I assume). There were children on our street who drove to school. I kid you not-two minutes away by foot from the campus and they played minesweeper looking for parking spaces. Of course, more often than not, a fellow student pulled into the spot in front of their houses they had vacated when driving to school.

Friday afternoon as they were dismissed and headed for their cars and whatever the weekend holds, I felt that lecture from Dad School coming over me as I stood on the porch watching them swarm. You want to shout at them, all of them, to slow down and enjoy being just the age they are right now. You want to tell them there's no rush in getting to adulthood-you have to pay full price, jackets and ties are required and there's always day jobs involved in everything.

Some of this was precipitated, a bit (maybe) by my having heard via Facebook (just about the only useful application I've had for that thing so far) from someone with whom I last spoke the week of our graduation from Rutgers College at Rutgers University, thirty-five years ago. Everything came rushing back to me, JB, and it felt like yesterday until I looked in the mirror and couldn't place that geezer. When did we become our parents? When did all of this get so serious? And where the heqq did we park?
-bill kenny

Friday, May 22, 2009

All Hat

Driving in the middle of the day on Wednesday, I passed a fellow in an electric blue Miata convertible with the top down, wearing a large hat. The fellow, not the car. Actually I knew the driver, not that I waved or gave any sign of recognition, though the 'You're #1 with me' gesture did come to mind.

I'd worked with the man a really long time, and I suspect neither of us recall that period with any warmth or fondness. He had the Miata then, when it was a new and cute little car that sort of reminded fossils like me of a classic Lotus without all kinds of pieces falling off every time you drove it someplace. (For over a century the sun never set on the British Empire and for many years the same was true of British Leyland Motors. The same nation that built Lancasters and Spitfires to thwart Hitler and his Horde for the ages cranked out Austin Metros and Triumph TR7's with little thought of tomorrow). From the two seconds I saw it, the years haven't been kind to either of them-and between us, he had far less to lose to start with.

Anyway. What had caught my eye was, on a beautiful day (and it was and we deserve as many in a row as we can get for as long as we can have them), he had the top down, to catch the rays (I'll assume). Except, he had a large hat on in the car, behind the wheel. To me, that defeats the whole purpose of having the top down. If you wear a hat in a car with the top down, it should be the law you must also shower while wearing a raincoat. I'm sorry, some rules are needed here. What is the point, otherwise, of having a car with a convertible top?

If you have a sensitivity to the sun, put the top down only at night or when the car is in a garage; leave the top up when you're driving outdoors (and when you're driving indoors and the indoors is a car wash) or just sell the car and buy one with a permanent roof (We have a name for a car whose roof can be lowered or removed, a 'convertible.' What should we call a car whose roof does NO tricks at all and why doesn't that car deserve a name?). Or in this guy's case, lose the hat that covers your scalp and get one big enough to cover your head. Keep America Beautiful, bozo (and if it's of any solace, that's NOT what I started to type).
-bill kenny

Thursday, May 21, 2009

(Y)our Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash

Have you been looking at the numbers on your credit card statement in recent weeks -all that daily annual percentage rate, and annual amortized percentage rate and other words that I'm reasonably sure someone, somewhere, is making up as they go along? It's kinda of weird until you get to the bottom line and realize, usually with a jolt, that 'hey, they raised the interest rate on my balance!'

Yeah, about case you hadn't noticed, it's hard times in the land of plenty though the Lord and the Secretary of the Treasury (who may well be one and same Person; I've never seen a photo of Tim and Him together at the same time, so you have to wonder) are doing what they can to make sure that some time is harder than others for different folks.

Remember back when the Treasury was having a sale on money? Ask for a billion, and get ten billion more. Do you remember the line at the checkout? Nothing succeeds like failure and lucky us, from car companies to banks, we've got financial operations that are too big to fail. I have a whole new appreciation for Tom Hanks now. Heck, where could we be if only we, too, were large?

Anyway, Treasury gave US Banks, and banks that looked like US banks, wheelbarrows of money to keep 'em solvent. Heck! Wheelbarrows doesn't even come close-more like fleets of dump trucks filled with moolah. I'm sort of surprised the auto industry didn't recover from all the really big trucks they should have had to build so the banks could get their share of our money, and not fail.

Yep, the important part, the news reports said, was that the banks NOT fail. Poppycock-the important part was that our government, starting with the last guy and continuing with the new guy, gave the capitalists running the financial institutions a healthy dose of socialism by using our money to bail them out from their own greed and stupidity. When then-candidate Barack Obama promised 'change we can believe in' I hadn't realized he meant change back from my dollar, which, now that I think about it, I haven't actually seen lately. Where the heck is Timmy and what's he got in his pockets?

Anyway, the same banks, back from the brink of disaster, awash with all of our money made business decisions that, surprisingly have nothing to do with cutting loose the bad risks and unloading the poor loan choices that helped trigger this whatever-it-is-we're-in. Instead, the same banks with our bailout money are raising fees and charging us more to get at our own money and tacking on as much as they can as fast as they can on those pieces of plastic before the House and Senate can "reform" credit cards. There's only so far you can go on thirty four or more billion dollars and you've got to have a plan for a rainy day, especially if you're the Bank of America (I guess the "D" in Ken Lewis' name stands for 'dreamer'. That wasn't my first guess, funnily enough.).

Not to worry, though. Not only will our government lock the barn door after the horse is out, the horse will have gamboled its way across the field, jumped a fence, gone into the next county, been hit by a mysterious black dump truck filled with Treasury notes, killed and then used to feed the dogs of war, by the time our legislators 'save' us (probably for dessert). Yeah, I love that it's called a bill of rights with a straight face. That, I suspect, means it's due on the fifteenth of the month and you don't even wanna talk about a grace period. Oh yeah, and thank you for shopping the American Way, where what's mine is mine, but what's yours is negotiable.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Further Adventures of "Not My Job"

I attended part of Monday's City Council meeting, after having sat through an interesting if not somewhat disquieting informational session offered by a firm who investigated the Norwich part of the Norwich Hospital property and offered an environmental impact review of approximate costs for hazardous material remediation.

Here's one of the local paper's reports and here's the other one (but it won't be around very long before you have to buy it, so be quick!) but here's what neither reporter felt needed to be in the story: the files at the State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and/or Department of Health have/had holes where various parties, the mention Monday night was 'recently' (in the last few months), had reviewed the surveys and inventories and removed information from the files.

I sat in the back of the Council chambers and let that tidbit wash over me. Instead of a departmental employee making a copy of some aspect of the file that an interested party desired, the original was allowed to walk out the door, never to be seen again. Considering my tax money in some form, and yours too, was expended to gather the information from I don't know how many reports in the course of the years, as far as I'm concerned, what happened is, pure and simple, theft. I was crestfallen at the nonchalance with which the two folks from VHB, the firm offering Monday night's overview, shared this glaring gap. But what could they do?

I waited to see if one or the other might offer what I still call 'an Air Force salute' (both shoulders shrug), but there was no need as no one on the City Council, who had the written report in advance for their review, seemed to feel it was worthwhile asking about the missing or partially missing files on previous surveys of on-site hazardous materials. Soon enough, they'll make a decision to purchase, or not purchase, this property and why worry about facts not in evidence? I nearly get it.

Monday night was a busy Council agenda-as if there have been any meetings of this City Council that haven't been full of action and decision (yes JJ, I mean you). This overview was, after all, an informational session, and the aldermen do have the written report to refer to later on if a decision to go ahead gets hobbled by the discovery of previously unknown (and very expensive to remove) environmental hazards that could have been reported previously in inventories that evaporated into thin air.

Of course, no one has or will ever have any idea who cherry-picked any of the files that were developed, as I understood this, in the last two decades. It's not important, really, as no one is especially keen to sanction anybody for theft and/or lack of diligence in safeguarding state property. That's the great thing about vague and nebulous chains of custody. No one is accountable and when things go bump, or just go away, in the night, no one is responsible.

Same philosophy applied during the 'real' meeting when the Council approved the Sachem Fund Board recommendations even when a number of speakers, during citizen comment, expressed disquiet at the review and decision process and/or disregard for submission deadlines. I worked for someone once who offered 'rules are for people who don't know better.'

He'd have fit right in around here. With eyes to the sun and your mouth to the soda. Saying 'tell me the truth, you've got nothing to fear'. Except one another and, of course, ourselves. Where's that report on the dangers? What do you mean, gone?
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Through the Looking Glass

I had a doctor's appointment Friday with a dermatologist as a follow-up to my diagnosis awhile back of Sjogren's Syndrome which, and you'll find this amusing I suspect (I know I do), affects women far more often than men (nine out of ten incidences). I assumed, based on the original diagnosis, I'd developed a fondness for Ingmar Bergman films, and I wasn't sure how many times I could sit through Scenes from a Marriage or Cries and Whispers. Turns out I worried for nothing.

I've not yet gone to see a specialist for my dry eyes--I originally got glasses when my eyes were sore, I thought, from trying to see other peoples' points of view, but it turns out that wasn't the cause. So I have thyroid conditions, maybe, that are part of Sjogren's--but definitely skin care concerns.

The dermatologist is very cool and a really nice person. At some level, he has to look at me and know, no amount of topical solutions or prescription medications, even from and for the inside out, are going to do me any good. Beauty may be skin deep but ugly goes all the way to the bone and I am big-boned. The doctor, as is typical on a first visit when you (as the patient) are not actually on fire, is starting slow and staying low (I'm channeling the Reverend Jackson; perhaps a symptom?) and gave me a handful of skin care products to try out along with a follow-up appointment in a couple of months (to see how much more like a Wreck on the Highway I can actually resemble, I suspect). He even gave me a prescription for a tube of what looks like caulk, but isn't (I hope).

I brought my product samples home in this kissing to be clever bag (another aspect to that nine of ten cases incidence rate...) and was surprised at how much interest in this stuff my Thelma and Louise had. Actually, surprised wasn't the word--disquieted comes closer to capturing the feeling. I felt like the Avon lady at feeding time. I did decide that if I had a questions about how to use any of the goop I'd gotten, I had all the expertise I'd ever need already in the house.

Logistics is proving to be a bit of a challenge. With our daughter home for the summer from college, I get to share the bathroom vanity and storage space with TWO women and since the sharing with one woman for the last thirty-one years has gone so well, don't even ask how I'm faring. I'd grok around the clock if I could, but fear Bill Haley's estate would have a lawsuit on me faster than I could apply this SPF 70 sunscreen. I get so nervous, I break out out in a rash. Luckily, I've got that covered, literally as well as figuratively.
-bill kenny

Monday, May 18, 2009

Preview of Norwich Meetings (18-22 May)

As the calendar counts us down to Memorial Day, a week from today (thank you, 'Monday Holiday Law' approach) many people's thoughts turn to summertime and the livin' is easy, but the heavy lifting of local government continues, and here in the Rose of New England Gym, there's lots going on.

This afternoon at four in the basement conference room at 23 Union Street is a regular meeting of the Design Review Board and if you clicked on that link to find out more than the membership, you're now disappointed but not surprised as there is no further information available on line though, by law, there's supposed to be. How awkward, eh?

There's an informational meeting (= no written record of participants or what was said) before the City Council meeting, beginning at 6:30 with a report by the firm hired to assess how much remediation will be needed for the Norwich portion of the Norwich Hospital Property.
You and I might want any report to be part of a permanent record when/if the City Council decides to buy the hospital property, even though there are no approved plans for development in place or visible, but then again, you and I aren't on the Norwich City Council (and aren't likely to ever be).

The City Council meeting at 7 has a little bit of everything for everyone, especially if you already have "some" but hunger for more (see Sachem Fund recommendations, and/or more significantly, the listing of those who will receive no money; the shift in funding Capital Improvements, also known to some as 'magic book keeping' and who gets to sell beer and wine beyond the ballpark when the team isn't playing); it's quite the eye-opening agenda, let me tell you.

Tuesday afternoon at 5:15, in the Buckingham Memorial Building (that's the building on the same side of the street as the Otis Library, on the corner beyond the light as you walk toward the YMCA, though why would you, I suppose) there's a regular meeting of the Norwich Public Parking Commission. They meet every other month and here's the minutes of their March meeting.

At 5:30 Tuesday afternoon is a regular meeting of the Norwich Free Academy, NFA, Board of Trustees in the Latham Science Center (you can download the agenda here). Considering how frequently NFA gets mentioned at budget time in Norwich (the Board of Education is Fay Wray to the NFA trustees' King Kong, it seems), if you've never attended a Trustees' meeting, it's worth your while. Its members are our neighbors, literally-not automatons, and like so many who volunteer their time and talents to help, they try their hardest and do their best often in total obscurity and in moments of tight budgets and high anxiety are blamed for all manner of transgressions, real and imagined.

Tuesday night at 7 at 23 Union Street (next door to City Hall) is a regular meeting of the Commission on the City Plan, whose memberships' appointments, without exception, have expired. The City Council appoints the citizens for advisories, boards, commissions and committees and then, it seems, forgets all about them. You'd think with all the talk in Council chambers on economic development, more attention would be paid to something that serves as the blueprint to build the Next Norwich, but as some cynics have suggested, all the City Council is good for is talking. (An aside to the CCP parliamentarian: your April minutes speak of two members who are 'absent with notification.' That's a difference without distinction. The City Charter recognizes two states of meeting attendance: present or absent (one or zero). Alles oder nichts. Sekt oder Selters. There is no third way.)

On Wednesday afternoon at three in room 210 of City Hall is a regular meeting of the Community Development Advisory Committee, who almost had a critical role in the "Save the Y" campaign near the end of last month but whose minutes of all previous meetings and meeting agenda are, apparently, lost at sea, as they're not on the municipal web site.

There are two Public Hearings on Use, in the basement conference room of 23 Union Street, starting at six. The first is on what to do with 751 N. Main Street (it used to be, well, never mind what it used to be) with the other hearing to start at seven on the future use of 21 West Thames Street.

Thursday afternoon at five in room 319 of City Hall is a regular meeting of the Historic District Commission. The motto of the Shenandoah University History and Tourism Center is "History Speaks and Sings. All You Need Do is Listen" and at the risk of annoying you, I'd point out exactly one of the (three so far) people seeking to be the next Mayor has some strong (and strongly articulated) ideas on historic tourism (see section twelve) and its role in economic development, Alderman Bob Zarnetske. Don't roll your eyes-if your guy has some ideas, any ideas, feel free to tell me what they are and when do the rest of us get to hear about them. Yeah, that's what I figured.....

Thursday at six is a regular meeting of the Ice Arena Authority, in their conference room over on the New London Turnpike (I wonder if they have penalty boxes or if a motion carries does a red light go on over a net and people throw octopuses on the conference table. I notice they have NO minutes or agenda on the municipal website, but I may be one of the few who does notice).

And Friday morning at nine, there's a regular meeting at nine of the Norwich Housing Authority, whose minutes and agenda are, I guess, being handled by the same folks taking care of the Ice Arena Authority (and so many other municipal boards of volunteers).

That's it. You can find the time to attend something, if you really want to but you can't pretend to NOT know about it. Sorry. Being a citizen of the world starts a lot closer to home, my friend, and requires homework. "While digesting Reader’s Digest in the back of a dirty book store, a plastic flag with gum on the back fell out on the floor. Well,I picked it up and ran outside , and slapped it on my windowshield. And If I could see ol’ Betsy Ross, I’d tell her how good I feel."
-bill kenny

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Redemption on other than a Sunday

It's been an early season of our discontent for fans of the New York Yankees. I've rooted for them for most of my fifty-seven years on this planet and that I do so in a region (southeastern Connecticut) where Yankees fans and Red Sox fans are about equal in number makes this a much more interesting place.

Not that, as a kid growing up in Jersey, you didn't know people who rooted for the Mets OR the Phillies but as intense as that rivalry was and is, it's not Yankees/Red Sox. I'm thinking maybe, because even I have no first-hand memories of it, early Fifties New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers were comparable. Yeah, I know both teams played in the shadow of the Yankees, whose presence was so big it drove the other two across the country, but I just don't think there's anything like Yankees-Red Sox in terms of intensity (and, let's face it, hatred).

In a way, it's silly that it gets so serious. We, the fans, don't play baseball-the players do, and as Jerry Seinfeld noted years ago, with free agency the way it is, we're really doing nothing more than rooting for clothes. Johnny Damon looking like either the Lord's Son or the Zig-Zag Rolling Papers guy, breaks Yankees' fans' hearts and a playoff game wide open in helping the Red Sox snap the Curse of the Bambino, and a season later, he's clean shaven and wearing pinstripes. Meanwhile, the rivalries mean nothing to the guys on the field, they just got here as hired guns.

In recent years, Yankees fans have fallen on hard times, rooting for the team to capture a wild card to get into the playoffs which extends their season, on average no more than four games and then the roster gets to go golfing until pitchers and catchers report the following February. The Red Sox have been great and in the American League East (also known as the best division in baseball, if you live in, or near, one of its host cities, admittedly) it's been wide open for the last few years and to start this season.

Yankees' fans had to be pleased that Manny Ramirez had topped himself with drug issues (and odd, even for Manny, drug issues), because it helped us forget our Third Baseman for the Next Decade, Alex Rodriguez, and his troubles. And there was some schadenfreude in the Bronx to watching Big Papi NOT get it done if nothing else, to take the edge off of the bust we all feared the signing of Mark Teixeira was proving to be.

Alex comes back from hip surgery as a new tell-all-or-only-the-juicy-parts book hits the stands and he responds by hitting a home run in his first at bat of the season on the first pitch he sees. He bats behind Mark Teixeira who has been struggling to find his batting gloves as he's hardly needed them because he's just terrible. And then yesterday afternoon, both guys who do a lot of that sign of the cross stuff before they step into the on-deck circle (like maybe God follows baseball or (where's Jason Kidd when I need him?) foul shots in the NBA. Perhaps one of these guys went to seminary school with Jim Morrison, but I don't think so), have days that may signal the start of a turnaround Yankees fans have been wanting to see for weeks (ever since Cleveland went for the two point conversion after the third touchdown in the 22-4 loss) and their teammates love them and we love them, too. We are so fickle and feckless.

The weather has started to get warmer in the last two days with blue skies and soft breezes. We're all starting to look forward to Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer. And the big payroll muscle in The Bronx is starting to flex like it knows what it's doing. If Yankee Stadium is the Cathedral of Major League Baseball, maybe yesterday afternoon was early Mass.
-bill kenny

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Photographs as Memories

The photographer who captured a moment in long ago war in a faraway land before most people currently on Earth were born but part of the collective memory of a lot of us who came of age in The Sixties, Hubert van Es, died in Hong Kong yesterday. He was 67.

He was a Dutchman who found himself in Southeast Asia as a photojournalist as the War in Vietnam ground to an end and produced a very famous image of came to be known as "The Fall of Saigon" (in April 1975) — a group of people scaling a ladder to a CIA helicopter on a rooftop in an attempt to escape Saigon as the North Vietnamese Army entered the city.

For two generations of Americans, Vietnam was not an especially shining moment, either in history or in memory and there are not a few who believe to this day much of our national sense of self and our place as a nation in the world was adversely impacted by an intervention that began as a well-intentioned limited involvement and ended for too many as a nightmarish quagmire.

van Es was part of a worldwide coalition of creative persons, both visual and reportorial, who witnessed a world larger than themselves and recorded moments within it and shared them with the rest of us, both in the then and now and in all the days that were to come. They recorded history but offered no judgements on it--allowing us to have the information and perspective to evaluate for ourselves.

In the decades since The Fall of Saigon, we've talked among ourselves about the meaning of our engagement, how it ended and what it all meant. In many ways, the resolve and resourcefulness we show now as we move in the world are a result of the expectations (dashed) and experiences (rescued) that we formed in the days when celluloid was the notepad of the ages. Few paid so much attention, and so well, as Hugh van Es.
-bill kenny

Friday, May 15, 2009

Auditioning for Grossinger's

I haven't done this before--stand-up. Well, type-up.
Courtesy of a friend from another life in another hemisphere a long time ago.....

Two 'hot mommas' meet in Heaven as they've both had untimely ends.
Hot Momma1: So, what happened to you?
Hot Momma2: I froze to death.

HM1: Oh dear, that's horrible!
HM2: You know, it sounds worse than it is. Yeah, it was freezing cold, of course, but then you get sleepy and after that, you nod off and you don't feel a thing.
How did you get here?

HM1: I always suspected my husband was cheating on me, so one day I came back to the house hours early just to see if I could catch him in the act, that rat!
I looked in every room--in the garage--in the basement--and in the attic. I looked everywhere and I couldn't find that girlfriend anywhere! I looked even harder and faster and got so frantic and angry that I ended up having a stroke and dropping dead in the living room! Can you believe it?!?
HM2: Too bad you didn't look in the walk-in freezer. We'd both still be alive.

Thank you! Thank you!
I'll be here all week and remember, the nine o'clock show is completely different from the seven!
-bill 'channeling henny youngman' kenny

Thursday, May 14, 2009

If Money Talks, Who's Listening?

All across Connecticut, towns and municipalities are practicing their ability to walk on eggs while holding their breath, knocking on wood and keeping their fingers crossed (mine already are-you can tell by my typing). In Connecticut, despite the calendar which starts in January and ends in December, the fiscal year starts 1 July--meanwhile the Federal government starts its fiscal year on 1 October. You can't tell the budgets without a calendar.....get yer red hot calendars....

Cities and towns whose sole power to tax is restricted to property are busy measuring three (or more times) and cutting once all across the state as many, like Norwich, have requirements to have an approved budget for the next fiscal year by a date rapidly approaching in the upcoming month.

They should be nervous-a great deal of their budget depends on allocations from the state of Connecticut and the hard times that you and I are having, living wherever we live where that town is ALSO having a hard time, is only compounded at the state level. And, let's face it, no matter the state and no matter the town, if the choice comes down to a program or position in the Capital or one someplace in the 'boondocks', guess who's going to win? Color me surprised only as long as we can afford crayons.

But, as is so often the case in The Land of Steady Habits, the Governor, a Republican, and the Legislature, almost overwhelmingly Democratic, haven't agreed on the next budget (and really aren't within shouting distance of one another) and until/unless that happens, the 168 municipalities at the lowest level of participatory democracy, our hometowns, are in limbo. Any guess they make on State dollars can, and the laws of probability suggest, will, be wrong.

We go through this around here, to varying degrees, every year. And every year we all get a case of the heebie-jeebies and vow to 'fix' this 'broken system' and then suffer amnesia when the crisis passes. As a matter of fact, since it's so familiar and recurs so often, I'm not sure if 'crisis' is even an appropriate word to describe it.

It's not must-see TV by any means, but for a few weeks, all of us Nutmeggers watch the evening news a bit closer, open our local daily newspapers to the "Capital Doings" section before we hit the sports page, but after the comics (there has to be a constant in the universe), and generally muddle through with a stoic smile as if we were under siege.

Better a horrible end, than horrors without end, I suppose, but this annual dance could end with very little effort, if we could all sit together and work it out.
After all, money talks. And some days you can't get a word in edgewise.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Words are pouring out

The marvelous thing about the Wired World in which we live, some of us more reluctantly than others admittedly, is how conjoined we are. We learn things whether we wish to or not. The future will NOT be here in a moment, cliched advertising copy to the contrary, it is already and always here and it unfolds in untold variations and iterations no matter how we feel about it.

The Global Language Monitor (no word if there's a Merrimac as well) has determined the English language is nearing its one millionth word (including the seven you can't say on radio and television I assume) and the word, by their estimation, is "n00b", sort of a variant of newb, which is short for newbie.

These may be hard economic times, but for lovers of the English language, it's Fat City (ok, maybe not that one). When when you read the report about n00b you may be struck by the number of words purportedly in the "average person's vocabulary" of about 14,000. The linguistically gifted, it goes on to report, have about 70,000 words. I have NO idea how we determine 'gifted'-perhaps there are teams of evaluators who travel around, measuring the circumference lips or length of tongues ('Gene Simmons to the n00b courtesy phone?') or the degree of vibrato in a larynx. Perhaps the linguistically gifted get an amendment identifying them as such to keep in their wallet together with their driver's license and organ donor card. (I guess I should do better than 'amendment'; perhaps addendum or codicil?)

There are other candidates for that One Millionth Word says the news report, to include a personal favorite for oh-so-cynical reasons, "chiconomics". There's something intoxicatingly Monty Pythonish about all the wordplay and I'm tempted to go on, but I'd better cut down a bit then.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fly paper for crazies?

We'll all seen people with sweat shirts or tee-shirts that say 'ask me about my grandchildren.' I at some point in the past unknown to me have been fitted with one that says 'tell me about anything-I don't mind.'

I was in the local grocery yesterday afternoon after James (the Really Mean Guy in charge) had done his usual magic with physical therapy for my knee (he has me attempt things with a surgically repaired knee I suspect I was unable to ever do and then is disappointed when I come up short. I'm thrilled I don't come up lame), grabbing some sports drinks, as if what I attempt now could ever be confused with physical exertion.

Humor me, okay? If I want to think it's a workout, what's the harm in letting me have this little fantasy. It isn't, and if cornered I'd admit it, but I do get winded and a bit sweaty and parts of me hurt until the Tylenol kicks in. Plus I look cool with a multi-pack sports drink in my hand as I stand in line. I get almost as much of a work out carrying that to the register as I did during the physical therapy.

Today I wound up behind a fellow carrying a lot of stuff in his bare hands, without benefit or a shopping cart or a basket. I've had that happen, where I get ambushed in the baked goods by freshly made oatmeal and raisin cookies while I sort of have my hands already full (A reach exceeds grasp kind of moment). Have there been times I've parked the item I originally came into the store to get and bought a lot of other stuff, taken it all out to the car and then returned for the original item? Yes, guilty as charged.

Not sure what happened with this guy. He was pushing a bag of charcoal briquettes in front of him, but did not seem to have any meat you would normally associate with grilling in his hands (and I don't care to imagine where else he might have put it). I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I've never been hijacked by briquettes when I'm Lost in the Supermarket, so I didn't have the highest regard for this fellow traveler on the Big Blue Marble.

When he started mumbling, from where I was behind him (I scrupulously enforce that ATM space rule when I'm in line. It will be never be my hot breath you feel on your neck, and vice versa) I thought he was talking to the scandal magazines alongside the gum and candy. One of the most sobering aspects of growing old, is how, as I've aged, less and less of the headlines or pictured celebrities mean anything to me at all.

One of magazine covers had someone who is so famous she only has a first name, and a CW TV show, but I have no idea who she is or the name of the show and no matter how often my daughter (and even my wife) tells me, I never learn it. There's nothing sadder than an aging hipster.

Anyway, Marty Mumbles seemed to be talking to the magazine with what looked like Mel Gibson and (maybe) his girlfriend as a thumbnail sized photo on the cover. I think Elizabeth Edwards was also on the cover, telling me she was staying married to her husband though I hadn't asked and from what I've read elsewhere, it's all pretty tawdry. Sometimes I think the USA is now The Truman Show, and not Harry S, except the batteries have been removed from the remote and we can't change the channel.

The fellow in front of me wasn't talking to Mel, as it happened. I looked up to realize, as he stacked his stuff (and '12 Items or less' became a suggestion, exactly when? I missed that memo) as high as he could on the smallest possible amount of space on the conveyor belt, he was actually talking at me. There was a reasonable amount of frantic head nodding and eye-blinking, not a lot of contact, which was of no help at all in understanding a single word of whatever he was, or wasn't, saying.

All the while the cashier was scanning his stuff, he had his back to her, addressing me. I always get these guys so I just bided my time. When she announced the total, I had to point him, using the smile and nod technique (and NO sudden movements) in her general direction so that he realized the ride was just about done. Of course, he wasn't prepared to pay and went through his pockets looking for cash, paper and coins, before defaulting to a credit card, shuffling off with enough plastic bags to choke a landfill all the while jabbering away to anyone (else) who made eye contact.
When I handed the cashier my sole item, she remarked that she hadn't seen me 'in here with that guy before' as if I made it a practice to collect strangers in the night. I thought about telling her just that and then decided silence, in my case, was golden. Besides, if I dawdled, I'd be late for the cookout, and that would never do.
-bill kenny