Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Wings of Time in Flight

We're fond of history around here but we may not realize we're in danger of allowing who we once were to prevent us from becoming who we need to be. I've lived here in Norwich for a skosh more than eighteen years, which, for many people I meet, is no more than an eye blink, or so it seems.

I've heard a lot, though by no means all, of the 'back in the day' stories about Franklin Square, the sea captains who built houses on Laurel Hill, the Sears and Roebuck (whatever happened to Roebuck, anyway?) store that was downtown and Thursday nights so hectic in the center of The Rose City that small children clung tightly to a parent's hand lest they find themselves in the street and lost in the throng.

These stories, if you will, always have a sepia tinge to them, at least to me, and a soft focus in terms of detail. They make me smile because they always bring a smile to the face of the person telling me the tale. And then of course, we end up in present day and no one seems to know what happened, how or why. People woke up and downtown was a ghost town-the stores were all gone and so, too, were the people who shopped in them. Might I suggest the devolution involves progress and planning-one of which is relentless and inevitable and the other conspicuous by its absence.

My Norwich history starts (and stays) a little more black and white, with extreme contrast and hard shadows, coming over the Laurel Hill Bridge into a downtown with plywood for windows and not a soul on the sidewalks in the middle of October of 1991. That was the year of the petition drives at the local supermarkets to 'Keep the Boat Afloat' as Electric Boat was facing massive layoffs in the aftermath of the Seawolf submarine construction cutbacks. The same region that had no plan for the post World War II migration of the textile mills to the Deep South had no clue what to do with the Peace Dividend as these jobs are going, boys, and they ain't comin' back.

Almost two decades later, what are we still discussing? The same old same-old. We all realize Eisenhower isn't still the President and that your father's advice about never paying more than $15,000 for a house without a basement doesn't even get you a good used car but we're hobbled by our past, even when we weren't here to live it or remember it. Instead of it being a step on the ladder to tomorrow, it's a hurdle on the steeple chase we've made of our our lives.

Experience is what we get when we didn't get what we wanted-we should have, by now, all the experience anyone could ever need but we refuse to plan our work and then work our plan.

Like (too) many of our neighbors, Norwich doesn't suffer from Future Shock. We are smothered by Present Shock and the fear of taking action and having to own the consequences of that action. Maybe tomorrow will be better we sigh. Unless and until it's not, and then still we sit and wait because if we do nothing, we can't do anything wrong. Nothing ever happens, if you don't make it happen. Silence is NOT agreement and we've been too quiet for too long.
-bill kenny

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