Monday, August 31, 2009

Norwich Meetings 31 August-4 September

This is a short week for a lot of us with Labor Day looming a week from now. And when you glance at the meeting calendar for the City of Norwich, you can see it's a bit light, or as some might like to think, the calm before the storm.

At 5:15 this afternoon in Gales Ferry, at the Gales Ferry Commons which is officially 1639 Route 12 (as you start up the hill towards Groton, after passing the go-kart place, it's on your left) is a regular meeting of the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority. After you go to their home page and scroll down on the left side you'll find the minutes of their August 10th meeting. Strictly speaking the SCWA is a neighbor and not a direct player for residents of Norwich, though all of us need to be concerned about challenges to include unmanaged growth and its impact on our watershed(s) and quality of life, so it's good to know there are others already engaged in this effort.

We hear a lot about 'politics at the retail level' and this may be some of that. At six tonight at 90 Main Street in Norwich (yes, it looks like a store because it is a store), the Norwich For Change party will endorse its candidates for Mayor and City Council. And 'porcfest' I have some Lemon Pledge, if that helps, though I suspect it won't, but keep those cards and letters.

Tomorrow night at 7 PM in Room 335 of City Hall is the first of the series of Mayoral candidates' debates with Mark Bettencourt, Peter Nystrom and Bob Zarnetske slated to take questions from one another and the audience on stimulating and managing economic development in order to grow the Grand List and lower personal property taxes, controlling the rate and pace of growth in the cost of personnel and delivery of goods and services by municipal government, and their positions on the creation of an Ethics Commission and a more transparent city government.

And--SORRY, this just in: the preceding was a result of my medications and is NOT real at all. Point in fact, there has reportedly been very little interest on the part of two of the mayoral candidates in any debates, especially if they were to include the third one, and will, I'm told, be avoided as much as possible for as long as possible. Maybe we should all Z what can be done about increasing interest in having more debates, starting in the 'real soon' until the day before election day. And don't get me started on the dearth of debate opportunities among the Democratic, Republican and Norwich for Change City Council candidates.

Meanwhile, back in our shared reality, though more specifically in Room 335 of City Hall next month, which is technically tomorrow (night at seven) is a forum, sponsored by State Representative Chris Coutu on Job Growth in Connecticut that (hopefully) more than just a few of us should and will attend. I'm not supposed to give away that there will be pony rides after the forum, because Connecticut still doesn't have a budget, and also because it's not true, so I'll come back later and take that part out of this sentence. Hi Ho (Lonesome No More!).

Wednesday afternoon at 5:30 in the "Administrative Building" of Norwich Public Schools (we used to call it the John Mason building, when did that change?) is a regular meeting of the Kelly Middle School Building Committee overseeing the forty million dollar bonding project to renovate and reinvigorate Kelly Middle School. The Administrative Building is the large building across from the Norwichtown Green. The parking is behind it, by the way.

Here's the minutes of their August 3 meeting. I'm curious as to why no one asked how a PLA (read the minutes for a definition) helps "prevent strikes, walkoffs and work stoppages" (but I'll bet I could guess) and what impact deciding to NOT use one will have on this project. There was a lot of talk in the early spring about the innovative energy conservation methods being explored for use in the building. Perhaps the project isn't yet at the stage where those ideas are ready to be discussed and implemented, but that should be interesting to follow, assuming their meeting minutes are in the future as easy to locate on the Norwich Board of Education's website as they were this time. Nice reformatting of the whole site and at first blush, it is much more user friendly than previously (because there was almost no way it could have been less so).

Wednesday night at seven in Room 210 at City Hall is a regular meeting of the Republican Town Committee at which Chief Pudge assures me (in answer to my uncertainty last time around) everyone is welcome, though I suspect my presence might sorely test the strength of that resolve.

And the look at the calendar concludes with a regular meeting at 23 Union Street at seven Thursday night of the Inlands, Wetlands, Water Courses, and Conservation Commission. Their August meeting was cancelled, so I'd expect, reading their July draft minutes to hear some follow-up to their deliberations and decision on the Byron Brook project (that's been around a while already, or is that just me?Seemingly, no.). So patience is also a virtue in development, or perhaps for development, I'm unsure of which.

This is the week we say goodbye to summer and put away all those white clothes as Labor Day is around the corner and who wants to be out of step with haute couture? Speaking of which, those Buster Browns could sure use a shine, John Alden, but I'm sure you can speak for yourself.
-bill kenny

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Room Enough for the Old Kit Bag

Today's the day we move our daughter, Michelle, back to Eastern (Connecticut State University) in Willimantic (CT) (where I grew up, being called a 'census-designated place and former city' was grounds for a beat down), as she starts the fall semester of her senior year. This will be an all-day (and all of the night) project, especially since she actually starts classes tomorrow.

Sigrid, my wife and Michelle's mother, has organized the move West (well, sort of west and a little North, come to think of it), because she has two cars to pack-my Forester and Michelle's Mitsubishi Mirage. Michelle and I will place the stuff in our respective vehicles, my wife will let out a Big Sigh, mutter some imprecation in German, and then put the items exactly where she wants them (if only she could be cloned, all of this would go much faster). In essence, Michelle and I are along to slow her down. We go through this every year, usually twice, once going to Eastern when a semester begins and once coming home at the end of it. I'd miss it if it didn't happen.

I have and will always have difficulty seeing our children as adults. Her brother, Patrick is twenty-seven, and Michelle is in her early twenties (and can legally purchase sparkling beverages though her fossil of a father seems to blanch ever so slightly when he watches her take a sip), but in my heart (if not eyes) they're still carpet crawlers, which makes interaction a challenge at times.

The house all four of us moved into when Sigrid and the children joined me from Germany was just the right size back in the fall of 1991 but it seems emptier every day as in recent years it's just Sigrid and I, with 'the children' doing exactly what we were told back in Parents' University (PU) they were supposed to do, grow into adults and make their own way in the world.

And they have, though not without sidebars and false starts all of which is part of the process, and they seem to be, for the most part, happy which, again from the course at PU, I was told was the only important thing. This, as I said, is the start of Michelle's senior year and I'm not especially clear what majoring in performance arts (which is what I think she's doing) will lead to, but she has the rest of her life to find out and the intelligence and compassion to be good at doing whatever it takes to be great at it.

I just hope there's enough room to pack all the worry and concern for her safety, health and happiness (yes, John, I'm talking about you and the heartache you caused) that I know, as her Dad, I'm gonna want to put in there. I wish I had a box to store that quickening of the heart when the phone rings after ten o'clock at night on a Thursday along with the movies I always make as I reach to pick up the receiver.

I finally found the only thing harder than being a child, being a parent. Hopefully, all of our children can survive our upbringing and hear their own ringing phones someday. I know you prefer "ChellK" and make that face when I call you call you "Mike" so I'm glad I won't see whatever face you make when I say good luck this semester, Itty-bit. Love, Dad.
-bill kenny

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Random Axe of Kindness

A colleague of long standing stopped by to visit earlier this week. She retired some years ago and we'd lost sight of one another. It was fun to catch up and probably happened much like your reminiscence sessions go, where you skip ahead and jump back then race on and stay behind. Sometimes the hardest part is remembering where the shared reference ends, so then you have to add details. If you were to transcribe that conversation I doubt there were more than five complete sentences uttered in the half hour-lots of quick references and brief glimpses and then moving on.

I was thinking about her, her husband (it's easy because we have the same name, so why doesn't everybody) and the cruise they're going on next month as I mentally juggled a number of other topics, nothing important (like my name and important would ever be used in the same breath, right?). The only thread of commonality all of these share is I had them in my head, so perhaps a good airing before use is called for.

I saw a man yesterday with a Mohawk haircut, but the part that wasn't in the Mohawk, was shaved to the naked scalp. He was wearing a three piece suit that probably cost twice what my car is worth. I cannot imagine what he does for a living to be able to do what he does for a living. He wasn't a young guy, either. I'm not real good at guessing ages, or weight for that matter, so that career as a Carney is out.

Actually he was closer to being my age and he looked as goofy as the guys with whom I didn't go to Woodstock together all look-you see 'em, too. They have long hair, gray and frayed and wispy, in a pony tail. Nothing sticks it to the man like a Volvo station wagon, Teva sandals and the green 'we recycle' grocery bag while shopping for tofu and bean sprouts. Fight the Power!

Here's somebody I'd like the 'man' to stick it to. The auto-American cretin who compensates for his car's driver's side headlamp being burned out by driving with his high beams on and not dimming them as you and he approach one another. Yeah, I remember what Driver Ed said: don't retaliate and turn yours on-it makes two blinded drivers but still.... My son gave me a great idea-I turn off all my lights which makes it a lot easier for Hi (no Lois) to see me behind the wheel as I visually suggest that he's my #1 special friend, but not in that way.

I also don't know what to do about the driver who goes up a one way street the wrong way, slowly because he certainly doesn't want to cause an accident, for a short distance, to pull into somebody's driveway, rather than go around the block. I love when he comes nose to nose with a car coming down the street the correct way and they glare at each other like Mr Upstream Salmon has any comeback at all. Or that guy's cousin, the driver who backs up a one way street the wrong way with the car flashers on, so I guess it doesn't count as much.

How many crumbs from the toaster tray do you suppose it takes to assemble an entire piece of bread, and can you toast that slice when you're done? I've told you I have a Facebook thing (account/page/I don't know what to call it). When I go here, why does it say "you must log in to see this page"? Don't they mean "you must log in to see the NEXT page" since I can see the log-in page just fine?

And help me out on this one-the Presidential elections are over, right? So why not take the bumper stickers off-and I mean ALL of them, not just the party who lost but the party who won as well. We hate those talking heads on our TV screens officiously opining about the ills of the nation and cringe when our elected Representatives blame one another for everything from the recession to Bill Buckner booting that grounder (and the cancellation of Paris and Nicole's The Simple Twits), and yet here we are, not remembering that sometimes a razor blade can be your friend, and not in that way (either).

But judging from the number of three-day growths I've seen lately, every bumper in America will soon be gleaming from sea to shining, or whining, sea. I can only assume we're working our way to buzz cutting those chickens in every pot, unless your diet calls for it the other way round.
-bill kenny

Friday, August 28, 2009

Got Ethics?

Three years ago, two aldermen on the City Council (both now former aldermen) persuaded their colleagues that revising the City's Code of Ethics, which was about four paragraphs long, was a worthwhile endeavor. They offered to lead citizen volunteers in a review of the code, assess what could and should be rethought and recommend changes and improvements. The project was anticipated to take ten months.

The Ethics Review Committee turned in its final report on 17 March 2008 (yes, eight) and after an ENORMOUS amount of hemming and hawing, the current City Council, nudged by Alderman Bob Zarnetske, adopted an ordinance on August 3rd 2009, creating an Ethics Commission. And Peace will guide the planet and love will fill the stars. Not so fast, Skippy.

A solicitation/application to volunteer as one of the five Ethics Commission members (with two alternates) was originally posted to the city's website on 5 August with a 'requested submission' date of last Friday, 21 August. Ira Misenheimer IV, Joseph Sastre and Gerald Wagner volunteered as did Charles Arian, Robert Davidson, Sarah Kannas, Mrs. Kenny's oldest son, and Gerald Martin. (Considering I'm an applicant, feel free to regard everything that follows as jaundiced and in no way even-handed. I know, 'and this is different from normal in what way?').

If I'm reading the tea leaves, and pulp paper products correctly, some seem to believe there can be such a thing as too much ethics. Tuesday's edition of one of the local newspapers had a story, "Only Eight Apply For Slots On New Ethics Committee For Norwich" (I hope you can still access it for free as it's quite a read) that suggests (to me) perhaps because he didn't like the results of the search for volunteers, the Mayor of Norwich wishes to try again to build a volunteer pool though he's not too specific about what his problem is with those already in the water.

There were four rules in applying. I'm trying to figure out which rule(s) the Mayor wants to change/ignore/improve as that wasn't in the news story. I'm wondering if the Mayor isn't more concerned, since the search didn't produce the results he wanted, in changing the rules and would like to take a mulligan, instead of getting a gilligan. Perhaps the Professor can make up a few more applicants out of coconuts?

I don't know if the City Council meeting Tuesday, 8 September at 7:30 (Labor Day is Monday, the 7th) will have an agenda item for an action other than creating the Ethics Commission from those who applied by the original deadline and who accepted the rules. I've never forgotten "rules are for people who don't know better", and after all these years, I really should have. I'd be a lot happier.

I'm disquieted that the application process for the Ethics Review Commission, as detailed on the municipal website, differs from what was there on Monday, before the article came out. I'm wondering by whose authority the application process was changed/ignored/improved.

I'm especially puzzled when I look at the City Council meeting minutes (albeit only a draft; pages 20 through 26) because I can't understand from reading them what the Council wanted to do in terms of an application process and deadline, an application itself (it's not in the ordinance so who created it and why?) and who is supposed to make the selection of the five members and two alternates. As a matter of fact, according to the draft minutes, "On a roll call vote, the (above) ordinance unanimously passed." Seemingly, without discussion or explanation of any kind, which is just the way we like our politics around here.

I sit in the corner in the back near the door on the right hand side facing the front of the room at Council meetings because someone needs to bear witness and keep accounts straight. I'm hoping at the next meeting I'm not back there by myself attempting my Ian Anderson impersonation "... it seems like "you're the only person sitting in the audience" (mainly because after knee replacement surgery, all that hopping up and down may not be possible and I've misplaced my flute). Break me off a piece of that ice of a new day to freshen up your beverage, because some times, I've been told, that's the best part of these meetings.
-bill kenny

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Days of Miracle and Wonder (Whip and Bread?)

I'm old and this type of story doesn't do a lot for me except age me even faster. Do I wince because it's one of my idols-of course. I return to Santayana's injunction and equation now that I'm on the receiving end of some higher math and read the news account of two twenty-somethings NOT knowing who Bob Dylan is/was.

And then I take a breath and remember our Patrick and Michelle are two twenty-somethings (I can be more precise than that as in this or this, but you get the idea) and realize that exhalation is a good thing (though not if you plan on seeking higher office, perhaps). In much the same way as I have little knowledge of and less appreciation for performers like Black Eyed Peas (I'm so unhip I thought there was a hyphen in the name; and now I'm trying to figure out if Will and Sam I Am are related) or No Doubt (the official state band of Missouri, by the way; I don't know if you knew that since I just made it up), there's been a generational changing of the guard, as is always the case, that has moved 'my' music to the back of the discount rack and shifted its broadcast location on the radio dial from "W-O-L-D" to that part of the frequency spectrum just above the police calls.

It's hard for me to remember that the kids in U2 are actually older than my daughter Michelle's cohort, who regard them as fossils. Huh? REM started touring at nearly the same time as my son Patrick started walking-but to me I can still hear the breezy nonchalant brilliance of songs like I Will Follow or It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine) in other people's music to this very day.

And of course, old coot that I am, I'd argue none of that could've ever existed without Dylan or Lennon and McCartney (why does he get short shrift? Because he's still alive? Please-as one survivor to another, bravo, Sir! And well played) all of whom, when they were so much younger than that now, not only always carried ID but were asked for it by many of those my parents' age. And as excited as my generation's performers got over the chords they, and we, thought they had discovered, they were only building on the work of those who came before them, the (GASP!) older musicians that we had never heard of. I mean, Tabitha's right, who is the loneliest monk?

Rock and roll is, by nature, political-it's the music your parents love to hate. And it doesn't make any difference how I define rock and roll or how you define it, because each of us carries a dictionary and jukebox in her/his head (are there still juke boxes or are they another victim of progress? I hope not. I don't recall seeing any in a very long time, but I lead a quiet life) and at a moment's notice any of us could have pushed B 52 and bombed 'em with the blues.

So this old white guy is wandering around when a neighbor, God Bless 'em, calls the cops and the Law and Order Brigade puts the world right. Home Sweet Ocean Place Resort and Spa, bet Woody Guthrie never stayed, or got delivered, there in the back seat of a black and white. This Brave New World is, indeed an amazing place. If you're hungry from your hike, we've got all the fixin's in the kitchen--enjoy every sandwich.

"These are the days of miracle and wonder.
This is the long distance call.
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo/The way we look to us all.
The way we look to a distant constellation
That's dying in a corner of the sky.
These are the days of miracle and wonder, And don't cry, baby, don't cry, Don't cry."
-bill kenny

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You're the Chocolate at the End of My Cornetto

One of the ways I know the summer's over is I'm back to driving to work in the dark (again). That's my final clue to the seasonal changes and as I've gotten older, it bothers me more and more though I'm unsure why that is the rest of the year. I did give some thought to just coming in to work later (and, then to compensate, going home earlier) but I'm such a thorn and vexation for the people for whom I work when I actually work now that I figured elevating the annoyance and friction factor might not be the career-enhancer at this stage in my life for which I've been searching.

Coming in yesterday morning, a pick up truck driving with only parking lights on (hint: they're called parking lights for a reason. Not even in France, with their yellow headlights ("les phares jaunes") rather than white like everyone else, is it legal to drive with parking lights) blew by me on Route 12, near where the fire at the Thamesview Apartments were, as if I were standing still. Trust me on this one, and I'm treading carefully as I don't want to upset law-enforcement members, I was NOT standing still.

He roared past me in the dark (it's always a 'he', isn't it? Never a 'she.'Do guys do that because we'd find it too humiliating to imagine a woman zipping by? What about Danica Patrick? Just asking) leading me to speculate, somewhat unkindly, about his parentage and intelligence, among other things. We are, as a species, heavily determined by our behaviors and motivations. The latter drives the former, no pun intended but it gets tricky.

When all you have is the behavior, because we cannot see/know the motivation, we can come to a conclusion that is very logical based on our observations but, can be completely wrong. Thus, I occupied my thoughts for a few minutes speculating as is frequently the case, that Speed Racer, is/was a casino visitor who'd lost his way in the woods and wilds of Eastern Connecticut and was in a hurry to get to a friendly felt table where he could lose his wages even faster than he drove.

Despite all the years we've lived here and have been neighbors of both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, aside from an occasional shopping excursion (and bring BIG dollars and rock climbing gear as the prices are steeper than retail), or tickets to performances by people most of the rest of the world assumed were long gone (Barry, meet Billy. We're sitting shiva for '79, guys. Have a headband and pass me a lighter), I don't go to the casinos and I've never bet on anything they have on their wagering floors.

I just assumed I'd encountered another 'tourista!' as I refer to them derisively, and left it at that, until I reached the Hebrew Society Cemetery out by the Norwich Hospital Property where the flashing red and blue lights cast a disquieting pall across the roadway. And as I drew nearer, I could see a smaller car, nose down, both doors open and off the road for the most part, with a scattering of glass on the highway itself, surrounded by police, fire and rescue vehicles.

This car, in all likelihood, was an actual 'tourista' who, in this case, encountered, unluckily for both, a deer trying to cross the roadway. Not as many flashing lights as the big payout slot machine, perhaps, but bright enough to see the damage and to hope it looked worse than it was. I knew because this happens so often, this won't even make the newspaper.

And then I saw Speed Racer, parked on the side, reflective vest on, helping direct what passed for traffic by the dawn's early light. He was volunteer fireman or rescue. He wasn't speeding towards a hot slot machine but to help a fellow traveler on the Big Blue Marble. I felt so small it was a good job just seeing over the steering wheel as he waved me by. Nothing to see here, indeed.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bet his campaign DOESN'T use Robo-Calls...

Rising to speak it's the Senator from Connecticut, Alec Baldwin. This was probably a pretty funny story yesterday across forty-nine of these United States and probably some, if not all, of our territories and possessions. Around here in The Constitution State, not so much.

I didn't find the story especially humorous for a plethora of reasons: I live in Connecticut; I don't find Joe Lieberman effective; in comparison to the other Senator from The Nutmeg State, Joltin' Joe looks like a dynamo and we are, after all, talking about Alec Baldwin, for crying out loud.

His celebrity, I guess, qualifies him to opine aloud about his own qualifications for, and chances of, election to representative office, and he's certainly entitled to exercise his freedom of speech. Judging from his physical expansion in recent years, that's about all he's been exercising-but the good news on that front is it just means there's more of him to love. I'm sure his former spouse, Kim Basinger, is thrilled at that prospect.

Alec is, of course, the star of NBC's 30 Rock where he single-handed, okay-along with Tracy Morgan-continues to save Tina Fey's slight, little concept of a cute program and has propelled it to the heights of most-viewed, must-see television. And if you don't think so, ask their respective publicists, I'm sure. Fey is lucky to have them, especially Alec. Though between looking like the former Governor of Alaska and having to work with Mr. Baldwin, she could be forgiven for praying that her luck changes.

You know, the more I think about Monday's announcement, the more I'm warming to the idea of Mr. Baldwin Goes to Washington. I mean, it takes all kinds of people to make a world and some of them (I'm sure) have enough chromosomes to pass whatever tests are required to sit in the United States Senate. I mean, look who's there now. This is where Republicans could cringe, but there's something about fish in a barrel....maybe we're near a Long John Silver's? And did you hear the splash boring just made? As for their colleagues across the aisle, three words: William Jefferson Clinton.

In the coming days, Alec will get roughed up and then we'll all move on to The Next Big Thing, whatever that will be. And that may actually be too bad, because underneath 30 Rock's Jack character, who can utter a line such as "If I wanted to lick a hippie, I'd just return Joan Baez's phone calls" could be a man who offered some quiet insights about Michael Vick that probably escaped your notice during all that hub-bub. My concern is that we here in The Land of Steady Habits could wind up with way more Jack than anyone bargained for.
-bill kenny

Monday, August 24, 2009

If There's a Bustle in Your Hedgerow

Lots to talk about this week in Norwich, in terms of public meetings and civic engagement and that's a good thing, because the more we talk to one another about taking control of "our city" the easier it becomes for each of us to realize all of us are in this together, wherever that happens to be--starting locally, turning regionally, becoming state-wide and finally nationally and internationally. I've lived here for over seventeen years and have finally realized that Donne's Bell tolls for more than just me or my neighborhood or my city. We have a Hollyhock Island in Norwich, but that's not really the one I am thinking about, and neither should you.

This week's review/preview of Norwich municipal meetings is brought to you by the letter "Z" and the numbers 1103, which just happens to be Election Day. (Those Sesame Street people were geniuses, I tell you!). And parody aside, it's NOT too early to start looking around, wherever, you live and becoming familiar with the men and women who are volunteering their time and talents as selectmen (persons?), burgesses (I'm not sure what that is and if it there's also a cheeseburgess with an order of fries), members of a board of education or planning and development (and a hundred or so others, depending on where you live). We fall in love with the glittering generality of 'them' so often when we speak of our national government and/or state leaders, but it's real easy in our local communities--the people in charge are our neighbors and they need our help to better help all of us. I'll leave the soapbox where it is, as I suspect I'll be returning to it in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, and I hate to start with a buzz-kill, but the Redevelopment Agency's regular meeting is cancelled this month. But if you'd like to get your fix of ideas and hopes for redevelopment you might wish to drop by Room 319 of City at 5:30 this afternoon for a special meeting of the (Norwich) State Hospital Site Development Committee.

The most recent minutes of their meetings aren't on the municipal website, but as I mentioned the last time, drop me a note and I'll send them and the agenda to you because I'm just a swell guy (such a lie) or more exactly because I got them from Robert Mills who will share them with you, as well ( I hope the city clerk's office starts to catch up soon on the back log of postings for the agencies, boards and committees across the city-it makes it easier to stay up on what's going on especially for the two members of the committee (who hold elected office), who've been absent from two meetings (so far there have only been four). Just reading the local newspapers' accounts may not be enough to stay current on trends and decisions.

Tuesday afternoon at four is a regular meeting of the Building Code Board of Appeals at 23 Union Street, whose absence of current meeting minutes and agenda as posted on the municipal website, unless you consider March to be current, underscores my point about managing public knowledge by rationing meeting information. Not a good idea, legally or morally, I think.

Later Tuesday afternoon, at five, is a regular meeting of the Harbor Management Commission. I can see the heavy equipment on the waterfront as I drive through downtown and it looks like the construction is getting done. I just wish it were far enough along so the fence blocking the Heritage Walkway could be removed. That's been a long time in coming.

At six Tuesday night, across town (at 16 Golden Street) in the Norwich Public Utilities building is/are (I think) a pair of meetings, the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners regular meeting followed by a regular meeting of the Sewer Authority.

Also at six on Tuesday evening is an Investment Meeting of the Personnel & Pension Board in Room 319 of City Hall. And if you've done nothing more than watch the machinations and gyrations of the world of international finance and stock market exchanges in recent weeks and months, it's easy to imagine the impact those shifts can have on the funds and lives of city employees, current and now retired, whose futures are tied to prudent and judicious investment and management of those invested funds.

You can spend all day Wednesday in meetings (unless you have my kind of luck) beginning with a one o'clock regular meeting of the executive committee of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region whom I tend to think of them as an uber-Chamber of Commerce and regional advocacy organization which would, in all honesty, please none of its individual members (though I would get a perverse amount of pleasure from their displeasure).

Wednesday afternoon at four, just off Route 2A in Preston, at what I always call the 'space age garage' (unless one of the buses cuts me off and then I have other words that turn the windshield of my car blue) is a regular meeting of the Southeast Area Transit District (SEAT) which has a great mission statement that its board of directors should read more often to one another, perhaps during the hours waiting for connecting buses to other points of interest in the SEAT service area.

The Dangerous Buildings Board of Review meets at 5:30 at 23 Union Street. Their regular meeting agenda has all the informative elegance of Esperanto haiku but they are deeply engaged in a variety of projects across the city-most easily appreciated by reviewing their meeting minutes, in this case, from July. Its members also comprise both the 21 West Thames Street Advisory Committee and the 751 North Main Street Advisory Committee which seem to be what we used to call in the Air Force 'tiger teams', though none of us looked like William Blake, or Robert, for that matter.

At seven at the Golf Course is a regular meeting of the Golf Course Authority. There aren't any minutes more recent than May posted to the municipal website, and the agenda is nowhere to be found either, but if it helps, according to the information posted, either the members themselves, or their appointments all expired back in January.

Thursday morning at eight is a meeting of the Norwich Community Development Board of Directors-you can have copies of their previous meeting minutes and their meeting agenda by dropping Bob Mills a note at Don't look for either the agenda or minutes on the City of Norwich website, where one of them is required by public law to be, because there's no listing at all of NCDC and when you go to the NCDC website well, they're trying. Yes, I know, 'Rome wasn't built in a day', but I get confused if we're talking about Tony or Jim. Humor aside (so that's what was!) I'd anticipate hearing more, and a lot more, about the Regional Intermodal Transportation Center coming to a Hollyhock Island (I've waited FOR YEARS to do this) nearest you.

Later Thursday morning, at 9:30 in the Industrial Park, is a regular meeting of the CT Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative-you pass them on the right hand side when you head to Dodd Stadium for a Defenders' game. Their website doesn't really help me understand a lot about what they do and how (nice photo of the building surrounded by snow, by the way; very cooling thought this time of year), and is probably worth more than another visit to try to get smarter.

Speaking of morning, if the city's website is to be believed (perhaps my brother, Adam, could serve as their legal counsel), the Southeastern Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority Executive Committee will meet at two in the morning. (says two out of three mentions on the website; the miracle of democracy!) They may be part of the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority who prefer to sleep-in, I'm not sure and it's still too dark to sort that out.

At seven o'clock Thursday night somewhere inside of Norwich City Hall is a regular meeting of the Democratic Town Committee, whose website, last updated some forty-nine months ago, suggests a good bet might be Room 335. Anyone can attend, but you have to be a registered member of the Democratic Party to vote on anything, perhaps on a motion to update their website (Overdue for anyone lacking a WABAC machine, which appears to be a political philosophy very much in vogue and not just around here.)

It's a full week here in The Rose City, so you have an opportunity to help, make us bloom by being a part of what goes on around you. And if you don't live here, you're not off the hook because you have volunteers and helping hands where you are who'll always appreciate some more help, so roll up a sleeve and pull on an oar. The sea is so great and my boat is so small.
-bill kenny

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Kids Are Alright

As school-age children across the USA start to reconcile themselves to the inevitability that the next academic year is beginning (for some) in a matter of days and/or hours, I feel compelled to note, in the interests of good sportsmanship and fair play, the boys of summer (subject to the rules and interpretations of the respective national governing boards) have started the process to crown the next Little League World Series Champion.

On any given day during the two weeks or so, I have NO idea who is playing and (obviously enough) no knowledge about any of the players. Here's today's schedule, and after you've looked at it, tell me if your interest and/or expectations about any of the contests was altered or changed in anyway. I didn't think so.

In a world where we pay grown men (and some women) wages that approximate the gross national product of some Third-World nations to participate professionally in a sport our children play for free, there is something about the joy and exhilaration of the competition in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, that I find a tonic for the soul.

The enthusiasm and engagement of the television announcers, some of whom as youngsters, played on these same fields in pursuit of a championship, is contagious and inspiring. If you can listen to the Little League Pledge, almost as old as I am, or even just read it, and not get goosebumps, don't bother checking your pulse, call your coroner as you're no longer among the living.

As a New York Yankees fan, this weekend is HUGE as Major League Baseball heads inexorably towards the playoffs and they and their arch-rivals, the Boston Red Sox, complete a three game series tonight in Fenway Park that will be as passionate and exhausting as any competitive sporting event in the world, but still, if you can, find the time today, or tonight or tomorrow to catch a Little League game on ESPN.

All you can be is reminded and refreshed about why you choose to follow baseball. Why, in an era of a dozen other sports all grabbing more headlines and world-wide attention, the simple beauty of a contest that, at its most basic, involves striking a small leather-bound and round spheroid with a stick, be it wood, metal or some kind of composite and doing it better than a like number of others attempting to do the same on the other team.

For a few days, eleven-year olds can serve as role models for grown men and an entire team of players, who've just been white-washed and whose run to the Series has ended prematurely and with a drubbing no one would wish on anyone else stand one behind the other along the first and third base lines after the final out and shake the hands of the team sending them home prematurely and tell them 'good game' and really mean it, because the Little League World Series isn't just about baseball, it's about life, as it should be lived.

"... I will play fair.
And strive to win.
But win or lose,
I will always do my best."
The Kids Are Alright.
-bill kenny

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Papering over our differences of opinion

I keep a wallet filled with foolscap, absolutely crammed. It works out well, unless you were to rob me, as there's rarely any money in it, though not necessarily because of all the foolscap.

Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away I was a little too tightly wound (that gasp of incredulity you may have just heard from people who've known for three decades is legit. The me of Back Then makes the me of Now look comatose; I may have actually slept with my jaw ratcheted closed. I cannot imagine in hindsight why I didn't have a stroke, unless, perhaps, it's because I'm a carrier).

I couldn't let go of my anger. The Air Force, to my relief as their employee, rather than dump me amongst the flora and fauna, decided to send me to the head of the Psychiatric Services Wing at the Rhein Main (Air Base) Clinic, Colonel Doctor Robert Gurtin. He was terrific-and very funny (because he thought I was, if I'm being honest) and very willing to try to rescue a wild-eyed junior enlisted Sammy Glick impersonator who kept wading out into the deep end.

He came up with the foolscap. Every time something angered me, I was to write it down on a piece of paper and put the paper in my wallet. But every time I'd write something down, his rule was that it had to be on its own, separate, piece of paper. No doubling up, no lists. By the end of the day, I could, and did, have hundreds of slips of paper in my wallet. No worries-I had to review ALL these slips each night and put on a different sheet of paper, all those items I was still ANGRY about (I could put those on a single piece of paper) and then I'd put put that list on my nightstand. The night before I would go to see him at the hospital, I had to review the (six) pieces of paper, and transfer anything I was still angry about, to yet another piece of paper and bring that one piece out to our weekly conversation.

Within a month, I had no lists, simply because I'd review all the slips of paper of all the things that made me angry and realized I had no idea what the heck was written on most of them or what the words I could read actually meant or concluded (after reviewing the note and thinking about it, which Gurtin told me later was the key point) whatever had happened to spin me up wasn't that important after all.

How about this week or real soon (and I mean real soon) we all decide to use the Gurtin Solution. Watch the news, read a newspaper, check out a column on line--we are REALLY CRANKED about a lot of stuff. It's a miracle that sales of boxing gloves haven't pulled us out of this recession all by themselves. We all know, or know of, someone who wants to "fix" things by looking to punch someone in the nose.

I know people who tune in to certain TV programs just to yell at the talking head in the vapor box who is making a fortune by yelling at them. I guess they watch because it feels so good when the show is over (explains the uptick in cigarette sales I guess). There are others who insist on reading columnists' words out loud and follow every line of the writer's argument with a scowl, or a gesture or a deprecation. And we just keep getting louder and angrier about more things, and more people everyday. we don't know how to get off the escalator-and most of us don't even know we're on one.

Passion is fine and necessary. If our ancestors back in the ooze didn't care if they evolved to have legs that carried them from the pond and helped us grow lungs, everyday would be Friday, if you follow my drift. It's the grinding though, that is wearing out us out, the pitched battles we are waging to benefit who knows who or for what purpose. You wanna feel silly about how we now get along with one another, but you don't want to use the foolscap?

Okay--tell me five things this country was PO'ed about at eight AM on September 11th, 2001. Go ahead, I'll wait. Too hard? Gimme three things, then-how hard could that be? No? You want to take a break from all this head noise and hate to concentrate on the real and important tasks at hand instead? Go ahead, I'll make a note of where we were and we can get back to it sometime real soon.
-bill kenny

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Wolf Who Cried Favre

By now, unless you've been in a coma for most of the week, or in the NY Jets' front office, you know Brett "The Human Boomerang" Favre is taking it to the turf for the Vikings of Minnesota this season (and maybe next season as well if his telenovella "Dime cuánto me quieres con el dinero" is renewed). I know, color me surprised. My brother Adam, who is amazingly even-tempered and slow to anger (considering both the gene pool and examples of all of his older siblings) had some wonderfully caustic observations on the Mississippi Barn Boy you should check out, here. Go ahead, it's not like I have anything important I'm doing, I can wait.

I grew up a NY Jets fan-no amount of medication or surgery can do anything about that, it seems. Four out of five doctors recommend changing out the fifth doctor and learning to live with the quiet greyness of despair that the green and white carry with them all season long, every season. For those who've had trouble believing it's been forty years since we walked on the moon or danced, covered in mud, on a farm in upstate New York (or was that vice versa?), it's also been forty years since the Jets won their only Super Bowl appearance (I believe of all the NFL teams who've been to the Super Bowl, only the Jets have a PERFECT winning percentage).

Last season when the Jets' press folks rolled out a new red carpet (because they'd worn out all the old ones for the battalions of can't-miss guys they were bringing to play in the Meadowlands) and Brett stepped off on it, I didn't even blink. When he, and with him, the team's playoff chances, went south as the fall winds circled and grew colder, it was just more business as usual. He retired at the end of the season but I don't think anyone believed it and I don't think he expected anyone to.

Perhaps he's working his way through every team in the NFL--I'll bet Al Davis is pinching himself at that thought-finally a player older than he is--though I think Brett's got a little Sally Field in him. He's certainly got a little something in him. I was impressed the other day at the latest return press conference at how he has moist eyes on command with an oh-so-slight catch in his voice. The only thing missing was a "It's not you, it's me" speech as part of the make up to break-up patter, but that will come with time, I'm sure.

I'm thinking maybe Deanna, his wife, puts up with him puttering around the barn for a certain amount of time after football season and, when he doesn't make 'honey, I'm packing for camp' noises, she has a word, or two, with him. And then he does that Bobby Vee impersonation he's elevated to an art form. My moment of Zen at Tuesday's press conference came, realizing that with digital video production as it is these days, there's no need for any more real press conferences. Let's face it, the questions never change and neither do the answers. Just the backdrop, team logo and the kind of doughnuts served to the press corps who wait for the always-late guest. The Vikings' press conference looked like the Jets' press conference which looked like the "Farewell Forever (or the better part of an hour, whichever comes first) Lambeau Field" press conference, and we already know how much news NONE of them contained.

With apologies to Monty Python, 'we'll take the foreplay as read' and leave it at that. The boys and girls from our "Brett's Back 'N' Better!" merchandising division will hit the streets, starting tomorrow, in the twenty-nine other NFL cities where he has yet to play to make sure we get those jersey colors, number and name spelled correctly (Remember: home and away jerseys, ka-ching!). Get the Gillette razor folks on the horn-Tiger is so last week! That three day stubble ain't gonna shave itself now, is it? And tell Wrangler Jeans to get ready to cowboy up. Hall of Famer endorsements cost money, and lots of it.
-bill kenny

Thursday, August 20, 2009

We're Lost BUT We're Making Great Time!

You try to take a day off from the noise of the news and you get so far behind they're piping in daylight to you. I thought I was closing my eyes for but a moment but when I opened them, the political topography nationally and (I suspect) locally had changed, again.

This time last week at town meetings across the country we were yelling at each other at the top of our lungs about national health care concerns and coverage, calling one another the (other) "L" Word and 'unfeeling capitalist' until we discovered almost none of us have sore throat coverage in our own health care insurance. And then, just as it looked the US of A was coming to a boil on this, the President suggested he could live with another variation and refinement of what has wound up being called "Obamacare" (for reasons that make no sense at all to me, except it had to be called something I guess).

That seemed to mollify some people who had been unhappy while causing some who had been supportive to become unhappy. I have the funny feeling we're still a good distance away from Grandma's house and when we pull up in front and try to sort out exactly whose Grandma's house we're at, oh boy, won't that be fun? (And all those cookies and milk going to waste.) We do this a lot around here, here being the United States on most days of the week. When you read our history in school, we seem so streamlined, so possessed, so driven. And then you dive beneath the surface, and the movie's a lot different.

We stumbled towards and into Independence--some of the Founders who traveled to Philadelphia in the summer of 1776 weren't firebrands yearning to be free. Some of them got hijacked on their way to the Jersey Shore--some were Steve Carlton fans waiting for the founding of the Phillies. KIDDING! (about the Carlton part), but you can guess where this is going, right? Accidental Excellence. When we get it right, we don't know how we did it and we can't seem to do it again.

Doesn't mean we should give up or just settle for what we've got. If we used that mentality there'd be BILLIONS of people on the shores of Western Europe, and Africa as well as Eastern Asia (standing on one another's shoulders by now, I suppose), staring across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans trying to figure out what was going on 'over there.' (And a really, teeny-tiny group of indigenous peoples on the North and South American continents looking nervously over their shoulders.)

And it's the not-giving-up, the-how-does-this-part-go-on-to-that-part line of inquiry that's also part of who we are. We're a nation of loudmouths (I got a megaphone one year for my birthday; I use it to demand pony rides for my next one) who don't always listen to one each other's words but who, at the end of the day, somehow, can look into one another's eyes and see the heartbeat behind the polemic and understand that the person with whom we are disagreeing isn't evil or ignorant, but just different (and maybe a knucklehead, or is that just me?). And he/she is looking at us in exactly the same way. Walt Kelly's Pogo was on to something, and we could offer to buy him a beer, but there's a lot of resentment about those uneaten cookies and milk from Grandma's house....
-bill kenny

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

C'est Le Vie Say the Old Folks

I stopped smoking almost thirteen years ago and I miss it every day and perhaps, if I thought about it, I could be honest and concede I miss it every (waking) minute. It's why I should be a little easier on those with other substance abuse issues, because of the nicotine monkey I have on my back. But, I'm a world-class hypocrite and two-faced phony so I'm smugly righteous in my indignation and opprobrium.

One of the nice things about smoking (there's a sentence you don't read all the time) is the chance to be outside and gather your thoughts before heading back into work, or in my case just stand outside until someone yells out the window to come in. It's like a short vacation with less to pack and to store in the car.

Even though I no longer smoke, I still make it a point to take a break at some point in the morning, when I've reached a logical halt in whatever I'm working on, to get outside and walk around the block. Everywhere I walk has sidewalks and folks driving respect the rules of the road so it's not like they chase me across the street when whey find me in a crosswalk while I scream 'catch and release!' at the top of my lungs (and boy, does that get old in a hurry).

The other day I watched someone in one of those EXTREMELY large pick-up trucks (its size reminded me of a house, with rubber wheels), seeking a parking place. We all do it the same way-where ever you're going, you aim at the building, drive around it to see if today is the day where that 'reserved for (your name here)' sign has finally been erected and when that fails to happen, we slowly work our way back from the building in ever widening circles in search of a space.

Many of us are very attached to our vehicles and if only someone were willing to hold both doors open at the building entrance, we'd take them in with us. I'm never sure what we'd make of the stairs, but, I for one, have an all-wheel drive vehicle and no fear of angular computations or challenges. Turn the radio up, that's my motto for Happy Motoring.

The hugely large pick-up trucks, large enough to have their own zip code, are an American invention, sort of like clogged arteries and poor medical health insurance. Yeah, maybe other nations have something similar, but we got here fustest with the mostest (if a tree falls on a different Forrest, does it make a Gump?) and this is how we roll, like it or not. They all sound the same, like a Cris-Craft outboard engine idling in honey, and their owners will NEVER have careers as getaway car drivers because you can hear them coming three blocks away.

I watched the large pick-up truck approach a parking space suitable for a Smart car, or one who had done really well on its SAT's, and go through the motions of attempting to work its way into a spot far too small for it. It filled up the time and made the morning go fast, but didn't do squat for the driver who now had to contend with what looked like a somewhat confused mailman attempting to deliver a package but who was unable to find the mailbox (on the truck). Eventually the driver conceded the obvious and moved on, actually moved to the adjoining parking lot where with only a small amount of maneuvering, the truck was parked.

As I walked by, the vehicle door opened and out and down (way down) dropped a woman of perhaps five feet in height, perhaps weighing ninety pounds. She was so incongruously tiny in comparison to her vehicle I at first thought she was a child, but I was mistaken. She made eye contact with me as she hit her key fob to electronically lock her behemoth and smiled. "I end up over here, every day," she sighed, "it's just too hard to find a big enough space any closer." I asked her why she didn't just head to the far lot in the first place and save herself the time. "Because you never know," she said, "you just never know."
-bill kenny