A Desultory Aside: Out walking yesterday afternoon at about five and around the corner came an ice cream truck--not those chunky ones you and I remember from our unshared youth, but, rather, a white (nearly) mini-van outfitted with a sliding window and painted polka dots of different colors and the words "Ice Cream" bravely painted above the front window. It was barely sixty degrees, and there was a blustery wind but to put you in the mood, the van was playing "Jingle Bells," "Silent Night" and other seasonal favorites. Nothing says 'quiescently frozen confection' to me quite like "Twelve Days of Christmas", well almost nothing (I could have used this version. You're welcome).
We are an odd species. We don't eat one another (at least not here in Norwich, CT (yet)) though we do chew on pieces of each other when we think we can get away with it. Other members of the animal kingdom finding an environment intolerable (too wet, too dry, too many predators, not enough food or water) will move to someplace else. We, not so much. We like to complain.
People, I've noticed during my time here on the Big Blue Marble, prefer problems that are familiar to solutions that are not. I'm always on the look out for situations that resemble Hamlet and his soliloquy about petty paces or was it about petty people at twenty paces? 'But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn, No traveller returns, puzzles the will. And makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of?'
I tend to donate widely, if not wisely, to the election campaigns of my neighbors because they are kind enough to offer themselves for offices and positions to do those things that must be done for all of us as a community even if many of us in that same community think the way they go about is wrong. I don't know how you vote or why and I don't care (and it's none of my business) but I try to choose (I'm not always successful at it) people who will use their best judgment to achieve a result that benefits the greatest number of those of us with whom they share the city.
With that in mind, I invested ninety minutes on yesterday morning at a forum that eventually included all (I think) of the Democratic candidates for City Council and Mayor (there's only one Democratic Town Committee endorsed candidate for Mayor so he was easy to track; counting the other folks became problematic) and all or nearly all those from the Board of Education. There was no pudding, which disappointed me as I worked very hard to get that rumor started (and no one had even heard it!).
I was unhappy to realize, and my math skills are terrible so it took me a while to get there, that aside from Linda S, Brian K, Katherine M, Robert F, Debbie K, and me, everyone else in the community meeting room of the Otis Library was a candidate or a family member related to a candidate. There are at least thirty-six thousand people living here. I guess I missed the memo about 'The more really important stuff to do in Norwich on Saturday morning' because the voter turnout at the forum was abysmal.
Perhaps some of us were 'as busy as beef' or pursuing the economic feasibility of opening a kite store. It was a pleasant enough morning but when all was said and done there wasn't a lot to show for it, except a newly opened storefront headquarters up the street, as opposed to updating a website that's not seen a revision in over four years. Like fighting with a pillow I explained to my wife when I came home (in describing the voter forum, not the website). No matter how you try all you're doing is changing the shape, but only ever so slightly.
I got to ask a question, not the one I wanted to ask of one of the candidates, which was what happened to the person I'd voted for in the last two elections and supported with a donation in his last three campaigns? Judging from the way he explained 'his side of the story' to members of his potential City Council as we waited for people to show up who weren't going to, I concluded I'd get no answer and so I skipped that one. I'd like to know where that person went, because he was a good man and we need all the good people we can get.
Instead, I asked those who would be alderpersons to tell me what they saw as the role and function of the City Council and to define what their individual contributions to that Council would and should be. In retrospect, it was a very simple question (I'm a very simple man, or so I'm told on a practically daily basis) that, to all the candidates' credit, everyone took a crack at answering, some more than once and not always consistently, and off we went on a great discussion much like the forum the Mayor sponsored two years ago on the Norwichtown Mall, that came up with so many swell ideas we stopped holding forums entirely shortly afterwards because otherwise there'd be no issues for our children and their children left to fix.
As I recall we did agree that someone should do something, and soon (I was tempted to put 'soon' in bold to give you a sense of the urgency that many felt as they said it), and someday some of us may. Or not. You can't rush into these things...these things being, I understood, to include 2,800 households with no utilities (said one person), and modified panic in Needle Park after a local festival in Howard Brown Park netted a bumper harvest of syringes, or the eighteen and nineteen year old babies, making babies, living under the trestles behind the library. Heaven holds a place for those who pray but I wonder what exactly they pray for and which way?