Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Seasons Change with the Scenery

Wasn't it last week we were looking forward to the Fourth of July holiday? This time next week, with Labor Day in the rear view mirror, summer 2010 is over?! Where's Teeny Tom (Tiny Tim's alter ego, the one who wants it to be Christmas all the year through), page him to whatever color courtesy phone is nearest the nice weather. I'm not a big foul weather fan--to be honest, the only place I like ice is in my sparkling adult beverage.

So another summer has come and gone-for those who've lived through the winter of our discontent, I'm hoping we have an Indian Summer and then a lovely fall that mysteriously and miraculously blends effortlessly into a beautiful New England spring. What's that you say? Winter. Sorry, I can't hear you and there's no point in speaking up or repeating yourself; I still can't hear you. I understand the restorative powers and the role each of the seasons play-I don't choose to enjoy winter. Ever since I didn't get that new sled for Nikolaus Tag a couple of years ago, I'm over it.

Truth to tell, considering the speed with which this summer passed and the number of us who had fervent hopes but few plans for what we were to do with it, perhaps what I should learn is to enjoy the days while they are here. Anticipation is great (and perfect on burgers) but savoring the flavor of the moment, while in the moment may be something us old people who think we're not should cultivate and not try so hard to avoid.

Monday, August 30, 2010

An Homage to The Happenings?

You better sit down for this part. There are no municipal meetings for the rest of August in the City of Norwich. Sorry, and you'd think in a month with thirty-one days we might spread the stuff out and offer you an all-you-can-eat buffet of democracy with a side order of representational advocacy in action, or fries, but nope, not happening.

Okay, I'm being a stickler for calendar logic-September begins Wednesday, so that there are no municipal meetings today or tomorrow isn't nearly as impressive as announcing 'there are no municipal meetings for the rest of August.' Pretty cool, eh? Got your attention, I suspect.

Wednesday afternoon at 5:30 in the basement conference room of the Norwich Public School's main office (a/k/a John Mason School) across from the Norwichtown Green is a regular meeting of the (Kelly Middle) School Building Committee. It's a timely meeting as the teachers at Kelly start their year this Thursday morning, and based on the minutes of the August meeting, there were some loose ends to tie up before classes get started again on Tuesday.

There are times we across this city play well with others, and a lot of those times seem to involve when we're talking about improvements that benefit our children. Hope we hold that thought as the Board of Education starts to work on designing the next generation of public schools for our children's children. A project that will require patience, vision and money, three items sometimes in notoriously short supply around The Rose City.

According to the city's website, a regular meeting of the Republican Town Committee is slated for Room 335 in City Hall at 7:30 though my recollection is this meeting just as often is held in a local downtown business so if you're interested in attending (and as I learned from very recent birthday person, Dennis B, you needn't be a Republican to attend), you might want to call the City Clerk's office and double check the location.

On Thursday afternoon it's a regular meeting (I guess; the posting of minutes on the city's website looks like the dog's breakfast and, probably, is in violation of any permutation of CT Public Act 08-3, even as modified) at 5:30 of the Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (Agency? Board? Commission? Committee? Perhaps) at the Marina at American Wharf. I don't need to spend a lot of time with a focus group to postulate that elevating public awareness of what the Downtown NRZ has done and hopes to do (and how) might be a very positive step in the right direction.

At seven that same evening in the conference room of the Planning Department at 23 Union Street is a regular meeting of the Inland Wetlands, Watercourses and Conservation Commission, whose August meeting minutes are nowhere to be found on the city's municipal website, again.

This time next week, we'll be celebrating Labor Day, hopefully by NOT working as oxymoronic as that sounds, and wondering what happened to the summer of 2010 as we watch the neighborhood kids brace for impact as the school buses roll up the following day, another school year begins, and the fall election campaigns get nasty as they heat up. We'll have time to talk about all of that, and more, in the weeks ahead instead of just watching the wheels go round and round.
bill kenny 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sugar Mountain

Over this weekend, I've had a larger than normal slice of life, and glad I was using a spoon since I needed it to get every morsel. Our hometown baseball team (we're in the NY-Penn League, you know, without having to be in either state) is battling for the top slot as their season dwindles down. I got to spend part of Saturday afternoon watching young children storm the local mall for back to school shoes and shirts and bookbags and backpacks, more in love with the allure of the unknown adventure than chastened by the return of the routine. 

Speaking of the unknown adventure I had an acquaintance (more of an ally of convenience) needing to attend the funeral of a friend's parent. I didn't know the person whose parent died nor do I know the cause, but the grief and the loss are something to which I can relate. And while I can hear the ringing of John Donne's bell, I don't listen to each individual note within the peal, as after a while they all blend together.

As one story ended, another continued, of sorts, as another and different acquaintance celebrated a birthday, marking a quarter of a century here on the Big Blue Marble. Our children, Patrick and Michelle, have been on this orb for about the same number (approximately, one a little more and one a little less) of sunrises and sunsets, admittedly seen for years from a different horizon so I smiled when reading about hitting the (first) quarter-century mark. 

Was that a somewhat rueful grin on my own face as I realized at that age then I didn't know anyone my age now? Yeah, a little-hand on my heart I'm not sure I was even aware there were people my current age still roaming the earth, fan of Pete T and Roger D that I am. And now it's your generation singing and living the song written about mine. I guess it underscores the triumph and transcendence of art-and I'd feel better if I knew what that meant or was worth (the latter, I fear, I can guess).

Youth, suggested George Bernard Shaw, is wasted on the young, but having once been that spendthrift, I respectfully disagree. When else but when one is young, should every moment be as vivid as it is, the universe of possibilities as vast as the sky overhead, the promise of tomorrows going on forever? The trouble with growing old is that you're old enough to know better but still don't and that won't do, ever. Ain't it funny how you feel, when you're finding out it's real?
-bill kenny

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Who Shall Overcome?

It's the last weekend of August and the next to last weekend of the summer. Our weather here in Southeastern Connecticut promises to be spectacular and if you're coming to visit Norwich and New London County, be it for the casinos, the Mystic Seaport or the CT Tigers at Dodd Stadium, I hope you'll have such a good time you'll come back often and soon.

But if you're in Washington D.C. today, you can enjoy (or try to) competing rallies. There's Glenn Back's "Restoring Honor" rally that sounds a little bit like having Crystal
Palin sponsor a Virginity until Marriage float or getting her mom to consider Intelligence Before Speaking, while elsewhere, the Reverend Al Sharpton, who makes the Reverend Jesse Jackson look like Dewayne Wickham, stages a "Reclaim the Dream" rally and march. Both events are tied to the 47th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King was a man whose oratory transcended race and which drew together people of all backgrounds and economic strata. He and a select few others of his generation gave voice to dreams that many of us, regardless of our assets, used to fuel our aspirations and to build and broaden our nation. That nearly half a century later we have two mental midgets, hitching their stars to someone
else's wagon is not surprising or shocking, it's just another day in 21st Century America where dreams are a dime a dozen. No one has enough change to use a pay phone to call someone who cares because it would be that long a long distance call.

I, too, have a dream-that no one, and I mean absolutely no one, shows up at either of these self-aggrandizing windbags' celebrations of self. That all the news crews can capture live, and don't think they won't turn out in force-they are the entire reason for these 'events', will be the raucous peals of laughter of law enforcement professionals assigned to keep the peace at both sites realizing they have nothing at all to do, and who go home to their friends and loved ones.

I'd ask one favor though, before they head home. Place both Glenn and Al in a sack and leave it at the Reflecting Pool, near the Lincoln Memorial (they should know all about Abe and his 'fool some of the people some of the time' speech-they've been making a living relying on it for years). I'll be along later with a bat-and I have a feeling it won't make a difference which one I hit, it'll be the right one.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Changing the Vowels changes the meaning

I've avoided writing about the discussions, debates and diatribes going on not just in New York City but across the country and in places around the world about Park51. I try and get in a half hour of treadmill or stationary bike or power walking on an elevated track every work day morning and the plasma screens in the fitness center are all on maxvol almost exclusively on Fox News. I'm not a fan, you may have gleaned that if you've been here before, but leben und leben lassen but sometimes....

One of the things I've noticed about America in our Post 9/11 incarnation is silence has been outlawed in all public places. I've spent a fair amount of time in recent years in doctor's offices, emergency rooms or in the hospital as a patient, places where for years a whisper was a scream, but no more. Now the news readers and cheerleaders, the Big Heads, on television are everywhere and always on even when they have nothing to say. If you're looking for a moment to yourself, the USA is no longer the country to have it. Around the dial, there's more  noise than news.

Surfing the dial at home, I almost snap the remote in half skipping over sanctimonious $
hitheads like Keith O and his ilk but in the mornings I find myself staring slack-jawed and dull eyed at what I assume are repeats of the previous evening's Bill O'Reilly broadcasts, complete with 'Pinheads or Patriots' a delightful couple of minutes where those with whom he disagrees are savaged and mocked while those he deigns to favor are elevated to Olympian heights. 

It wasn't that long ago that Billy O. and his shrew crew, along with (at one time) one of my favorite socially aware comedians, Dennis Miller, climbed into the Andrew Breitbart clown car about the racism of Shirley Sherrod undeterred by the absence of accuracy or veracity. And then, when shown to be incorrect, simply moved on to the next roadkill with hair in the news cycle (think anchor babies) without a word of correction or apology to Ms.Sherrod or anyone else harmed by their behavior. 

Fox claims to be fair and balanced, a goal towards which every news organization should strive, but F-A-I-R can too easily become F-E-A-R and when viewers self-select one source of information constantly, often the sense of perspective, the balance of viewpoints, gets obscured by ideologues and others. If all you eat is vanilla ice cream, what's your reaction when strawberry happens? And believe me my brother and my sister, strawberry happens

All of which brings me to where I am now on Park51-and if you're not familiar with that name it's because you're calling it the Mosque at Ground Zero, a turn of phrase that summons memories which make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Except, and excuse me for pointing this out (product of a liberal education that I am (hiss!)), it's NOT a mosque, it's a prayer room in a community center, much like the pocket chapel in the hospital around the corner from my house and it's NOT at Ground Zero. 

And spare me the 'when Saudi Arabia lets construction on a cathedral begin in Riyadh, blah, blah, blah' argument because the pinko commie ba$tards who wrote our Bill of Rights just had to play the religion card right there in the First Amendment. And it's those first ten amendments that make us the greatest country on earth (and make me wonder what happened to all the smart people who used to be here instead of the muttonheads we've got now). 

There are a thousand nuances in all the words on sacred ground, religious freedom, do the terrorists win and millions of sets of feelings, attitudes and perceptions that all need to be acknowledged, listened to, sorted out and acted upon because that's how we roll in the land of the (still) free and we shouldn't need Russell Simmons to tell us that, but I'm glad he did and I cannot believe I'm typing something nice about him, but when he's right, we're all right, but only if we learn to listen to one another. Saying you're fair isn't enough, you have to be fair-we count on you to always remember that, because words are more than consonants and vowels, they're ideas and ideals.
-bill kenny   

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Feel Your Taste All the Time We're Apart

This is one of those days where I wish I still had a moustache, as I've been living large at dinner time for the past two evenings (what my doctors don't know can't hurt me, right?) and wouldn't mind revisiting the scene of the crime, so to speak. The break in the summer hot weather we've been having (and about which I haven't complained with Peep One) inspired my darling wife to tackle a culinary project usually reserved for cool fall days or when we need a morale boost in the dark nights of winter. She prepared Muskadingsbums noodles with onions, green peppers, hot sausage and tomato sauce. Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm

I should explain, because otherwise the folks who put the "Baked Mostaccioli with Sausage and Peppers" recipe on their pasta box will not know what I'm talking about, that dingsbums is a sorta deutsch word suggesting thingamajig, doohickey or a whatchamacallit (I enjoyed watching google translate having at it, well played, sir!). And now you're saying to yourself, or to someone else, 'mostaccioli isn't a German noodle' and you're right. Too bad the League of Nations isn't hiring, your job would probably come with free parking, also known as Manhattan

In my house we all say muskadingbums noodles because mostaccioli is too hard to pronounce. Anyway. While shopping Saturday, my wife started to gather the various elements for the dish and I was an unwitting accomplice to a deed of which I hope the Pasta Police never learn. Failing to find any mostaccioli noodles in the grocery store, she decided she could use penne rigate instead. And I said nothing. SPEAK UP, MAN! The jury can't hear you! I said, 'and  I said nothing.' 

As a matter of fact, with the way the melted cheese, the peppers and sausage all clung to the noodles, it was easier and more enjoyable to eat as you didn't have a fourteen point two pound piece of pasta on the end of your fork as so often happens with the mostaccioli. When I came through the door Tuesday afternoon the house was filled with the smell of bubbling sauce, browning meat, sizzling sausage and baking cheese. I do love that aroma. Dear Yankee Candle: if you can figure out a way to put a string on the big serving dish it all cooks up in, I'll hang that from the mirror in the car. Seriously. 

Of course we had some Tuesday evening for dinner and it was delicious, but wait there's more (I did not know that even existed)....there's so much, by design, there's enough for a second night and by last night, the noodles and all the other ingredients had gotten all rather chummy with one another, being in that dish for all those hours and the flavor was even sweller. I wish I had a second mouth so I could kiss my first one for being able to taste something this delicious. I'm becoming a bigger fan by the moment of The Weather Channel since another cool day culinary project that plays to boffo reviews in my house is applesauce (apfelmus), lentil soup and potato pancakes. You can probably guess the dessert.     
-bill kenny

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tomorrow Begins Today

We're not alone in Connecticut, or in New London County, in looking down a very long road on a rough ride whose end is not known to us. I suspect across the nation, more of us wake up every day in a less than pleasant reality than we care to admit. It's what we do after we wipe the sleep from our eyes, recognize we are awake and begin the day that matters. 

We in Norwich find ourselves in a precarious position, and the use of precarious may actually be close to the understatement of the year. Unless one or more of us wins the Power Ball during the early months of the new fiscal year and donates the money to the General Fund, and I'll let you go first with that (my mom raised crazy children but NOT stupid ones), the turmoil and tears of May and June's budget hearings will look like a picnic at Disney World when it's time for that drill again.

Straight up: fiscally, we cannot afford to stay where we are and do as we have done. We know we cannot go back and we are afraid of the unknown in going forward. We'd like to believe in ourselves, but we've been disappointed so often that we spend more time in searching for the guilty than in trying to fix the problems we face. 

One of the bond proposals on the November ballot wants to invest our tax money in basic improvements, such as road resurfacing and sidewalk construction, in the Business Park. It's not inexpensive but it's the considered opinion of people who market business park campuses that it will improve the attractiveness of the park, help keep the businesses currently there in place and stimulate interest from outside businesses seeking to relocate, all of which will enhance tax payments and utility revenues for all of us. 

Another referendum question on downtown renewal bundles a variety of stimulus programs to improve both brick and mortar as well as increase and enhance the people and programs based in downtown Norwich. All of which will, in turn, stimulate growth and increase visitor and neighbor foot traffic to a district many of us regard with an emotional fondness that has little basis within the stark reality with which so much of the Chelsea District currently struggles. 

So many of us are so angry at all the 'dead ends' and 'false starts' and 'blind alleys' we've been down in our search for a silver bullet solution that will cure our ills, fill our General Fund, repopulate our downtown and make Norwich a leading city in Eastern Connecticut again. Unfortunately Professor Peabody has been having problems with the WABAC machine and not even Sherman can repair it. 

The only way for is to move forward. A lot of hard work and good thought went into each of the proposals, and their proponents would be the first ones to admit there's twice as much more hard work beyond each of them that still needs to be done. 

To attract new shops and residents to live above those stores in downtown without having a better plan for traffic flow and parking, without figuring out how to keep the streets and sidewalks clean, without including the harbor which is on the downtown's doorstep as part of the overall district improvement is not only foolish, but suicidal. No one will move to Chelsea because of a commercial rental assistance program that creates one island of improvement when what's needed is an archipelago of progress. 

Drawing new businesses to our enhanced business park when there's nowhere for their employees to live and nothing for them to do or where their neighborhood schools lack the resources to benefit their children will not work either. Piecemeal is not an option. Holistic, long term incremental improvement is our way forward. November's bonding referendum questions are a start not a goal-a beginning and not an end. Unless we have both the will and the wallet to believe and invest in ourselves, we will forfeit the opportunity to improve Norwich for ourselves, our children and their children. It's time to listen to the color of our dreams.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Get Horatio on the case

There are days when I'm at a loss for what I will write about in this space. The pressure of a deadline makes the writer's block that much more pronounced. Actually, it only happens Sunday through Saturday and except that it's not as good as when I fail to come up with something at all, you wouldn't notice the difference (do NOT try this at home. I am a professional, sort of) but you would a feel a sense of relief. 

We in Connecticut have an odd relationship with our state capital, Hartford. It's not our biggest city, it's not our best known city and it's not even a destination of choice for a lot of those who work there. If you visit Hartford, because you're a big fan of insurance (I guess), on a weekday evening as folks are heading out, you can be forgiven for believing that someone just pulled a fire alarm. I'll put it this way, you don't want to be between anyone heading home to Colchester and her/his exit on Route 2, if you know what's good for you.

What this leaves in our state's capital after hours is a colorful assortment of folks whose ability to survive in a less than cordial atmosphere is sometimes exceeded only by their genius at getting themselves into trouble. Here's a story you have to love, even if you're a fan (or a member for that matter) of law enforcement: Man Takes Off in Hartford Police Cruiser. I confess to not having spent a large amount of time handcuffed and in the backseat of a police car (see that aforementioned genius for trouble), so maybe I just lack the imagination to appreciate the mad skill of what this fellow was about. 

I feel for whomever is managing Hartford's efforts at promotion-the Capital City has marvelous arena and convention halls, hotels, restaurants, cozy little bistros and pubs and would love to attract visitors from across the country or at least from elsewhere in Hartford County. Instead, they get a story like Houdini making his getaway in a cop car  and it's the kind of item that gets picked up on a news site half way around the world. I suppose any publicity is good publicity though making it with this story on a website with the logos of all the first division cricket teams in India, Go Delhi Daredevils!, may cause the cats and kittens in marketing to scratch their heads and the Mayor to suggest a career change for you is in order.

That the news accounts all suggest the getaway in the police car may well have been followed by a further getaway in a boat is really asking a bit much, at least for me. When I next swing by Norwich Harbor on my way to work, I'll do a quick tally of the cigar boats and the cigarette boats (? or whatever all the other kinds are called) just to make sure no one vaguely resembling Frank Abagnale, Jr. is lurking around the gazebo in Howard T. Brown Park. I have enough trouble cleaning up the agricultural shots from the Daredevils off the steps without having to tangle with a desperado almost in handcuffs and, by then, probably in a terraplane. Jiminy Cricket!
-bill kenny

Monday, August 23, 2010

Like Cows at a Passing Train (Norwich Meetings 23-28 August 2010)

As families with children struggle through checklists to make sure "back to school" preparations are complete, or close to it, the grind of local government continues with neighbors and friends we've not yet met sitting on a variety of commissions and committees working as best they can to make a difference in where we live. We in Norwich still have way too many vacancies on far too many panels and advisories and so volunteers are always in demand, but it doesn't stop those on the various boards from doing what they can and what they have to. it's another week on the edge of the world.

This afternoon at five in room 210 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Redevelopment Agency. Considering where we are on the calender and in the process of the printing of the November ballot which will include the three separate bond referendum questions, I have to wonder how much progress has been made on item V, subtopic b from the July informational meeting minutes. I'm trying to be polite-I already know the answer because it's always the same.

Tuesday afternoon at four thirty in their offices at 10 Westwood Park, there's a special meeting of the Housing Authority, about whose actions, not one word of meeting minutes has ever been posted on the city's website. I feared to be a member you had to take a vow of silence (= I could NEVER be on it), but I noticed Marcel Marceau isn't listed as a member so now I'm back to square one. 
Later, at five, the Harbor Management Commission meets in the City Manager's office. The minutes of their July meeting aren't posted on line so I have no way of knowing if they have already, or ever plan to, discuss their role in the downtown economic redevelopment envisioned by the Mayor, the City Council and members of the four primary agencies with a stake in downtown redevelopment. Might be nice if they think they have an oar in that water to perhaps put their backs into it (a somewhat oblique nautical reference as I'm a totally obtuse solitary Sail on Sailor!) and speak up. One interrupted Heritage Walkway is enough.

And at six, in their offices at 16 Golden Street, in the village of Greenville, as Ron W always says, it's a twofer as the Norwich Public Utilities Board of Commissioners and Sewer Authority hold consecutive meetings. How do they do it so low? Volume! They meet in bulk and pass the savings on to you, and you, and most especially, you. I would assume if you have a question on the proposed bond issuance for the NPU natural gas pipeline expansion, this is the forum in which to ask.

If you thought twofer Tuesday was incredible, brace for Wild Wednesday, dudes and dudettes! For the price of one chair cushion (because you'll be staying awhile) you will be treated to a threepeat, shockabra! Well, sort of. The Dangerous Buildings Board of Review meets at 5:30 in the Planning Department conference room at 23 Union Street (and nice job on currency of minutes on the municipal website, btw). This meeting rolls directly into the 21 West Thames Street Advisory Committee meeting whose convenings, I would assume, are growing closer to zero as a result of close to current events. That meeting, in turn will be followed by a regular (I assume, as neither of these two have had any meeting minutes posted online since February) meeting of the 751 North Main Street Advisory Committee. 

And at seven, in their club house on New London Turnpike, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Golf Course Authority. It take a lot to laugh; it takes a train to cry. The dry summer, according to the Authority's July minutes have enhanced revenue because the weather is nicer and people play more golf (maybe including cooling off in the water hazards), but, the dryness and heat also mean increased maintenance expenses to keep the course looking sharp and playing well. Take that Mark T

Thursday morning at seven thirty in their offices at 77 Main Street, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Community Development Corporation Board of Directors.

And Saturday morning at eight(ish) since some of us have a somewhat casual relationship with watches and telling time, it's a workshop in the training room at the Central Fire House (why doesn't the clock on the tower work anymore? Technically, it's correct twice a day but still...). The topic Saturday morning for the City Council, the various development agencies throughout the city and those of us who live here and attend these sorts of things (aside from Keith R, Karen N, Kathleen M, Robert F, Bonnie H and the lady I always see but whose name I don't know) is/are (?) developing fact sheets on each of the three bond issues for the November referendum. 

If you want to just say 'no' and not have any facts and further information, that's your prerogative and nearly a right guaranteed in the Constitution. I think it'll be harder to do after Saturday when we better define what each of the three bonds does (and doesn't do) as well as quantify the cost for taxpayers, and the projected returns, and detail the scope and purpose of each initiative. See you there, I'd hope, since the last time I checked your part of Norwich was in just as much trouble as mine is. But feel free to continue to believe otherwise, and let me know how that all works out. If dirt were dollars, I wouldn't worry anymore (as I have a big shovel and an even bigger wheelbarrow). 
-bill kenny      

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Check your left shoulder tab

I love baseball more than I like pony rides for my birthday, and I love the idea of pony rides for my birthday. As that kind of fan, this week has sucked for me, baseball fan. Roger Clemens faces multiple indictments for lying to Congress about whether he lied when he denied using human growth hormones and other performance enhancing drugs.

And yet, as that very same kind of fan, this weekend has been great because the Little League World Series has started as always in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The price is right-admission and parking are free-refreshments are between one and two dollars and, because of the demand, there's a lottery for tickets for the championship game.The young teams from around the globe who make it Williamsport are more than living the dream-they are The Dream. 

The number of former Little League players who have also played in the Major Leagues is pretty amazing and eleven former Little Leaguers have made it to the Major League Baseball's World Series which is another reason why I love baseball, the worship of statistics. Nothing is too insignificant to NOT be recorded and cataloged for all time. And you never know when you'll need it.

Yeah, because of the economics of scale they now play with aluminum bats which is not how The Lord intended baseball to be played, and I'm not happy about that kerplink of the aluminum fake. And speaking of fakes, and the sanctity of records and the wonders of statistics, are all the * besides the names of all the the players involvedHester Prynne had an easier overcoming the Scarlet Letter than those guys will and their number, as we're discovering, continues to grow

We've feared for years we would know the ugly truth about cheaters like Barry Bonds and while Mark Mcqwire, would like to think confession is good for the soul, it would appear Roger Clemens will agree to disagree. All you have to do Rocket, since you care so much about the game, is check out the left shoulder tab on the uniform of each player on the field and in the dugout at Williamsport and then ask yourself why you couldn't make that same promise. I know I've wondered.
-bill kenny

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hard Times Make for Hard People

I have a former colleague, reunited via the Internet some years back, with whom I worked when we were both a lot younger. He still keeps a hand in the news business and passes along with a discouraging frequency more and more stridently fantastic statements from his circle of friends and acquaintances engaged in America's new #1 blood sport, Stomp the Leaders. I'm not sure when the game started, but I don't remember it being as vicious when I first came back the the USA in 1991, but then again I wasn't as callous myself as I am now. 

I confess to not paying much attention as the tone heated up through the years-especially when so many public figures, whom it was fashionable to mock, proved to be so filled with frailities and foibles. Maybe just coincidence that as the Good Ship Lollipop started taking on water (that looked an awful lot like red ink) as the sub-prime meltdown got its swerve on and the dominoes started toppling. When the dust had momentarily cleared, we had a black person as the President and a lot of (other) angry middle-aged white guys unelected to anything other than the big chair in a TV studio. 

Not really surprising that the news cycles all head in the same direction as water down the plynth. It's physics, really: for there to be an inside there has to be an outside, and if there isn’t, we make one up. We no longer have to make any effort in news broadcasting to avoid being partisan. As a matter of fact, our corporate masters insist that we be even more so. Dittoheads bring dollars (as do whatever the Olbermann (Oxy) morons  are called). I think I once was the most cynical man on earth. I've since gotten schooled so often by the real wizards I should be buying lunches for the pompous stuffed shirts on the Big Screen, Failed and Malice.  

There’s safety in numbers when we learn to divide—we are, as a nation, very uncomfortable in our skins these days and we should be. Many of us weren’t getting an especially heaping helping of the Promised Land  when times were good-but all of us got something. When the bottom dropped out and the well-to-do were reduced to hands-to-mouths, those already at the bottom discovered, gravity be damned there is farther to fall. 

We naturally assume someone has to be to blame for what happened to our country in these last twenty years. When what really happened was we sold the red, the white and the blue for green, a little bit at a time every day-not even consciously or deliberately all the time, it just worked out that way. We’re sure as hell not gonna ever cowboy up and admit that we did this to ourselves and to one another. 

Earlier this week there was a story of a Pew Research Survey that 18% of Americans surveyed believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim. And, at least for them (and maybe more) believing it to be so is the same thing as it being so, of course he is! I’m surprised more of us don’t believe the President is a relative of Osama bin Laden (I mean look at that first name). America has long been the frat boy in the club of nations—certainly charming, reasonably athletic (when sober) and generous to a fault-but not a big thinker, more of a brawn-than-brains nation. We're not big on critical thinking, we like to get along and that means we go along, sometimes farther than we should, or even can. 

Might I suggest to all the haters and all the lovers, shut up (well, that too, but that's not my point) Barack Obama, not Al Gore, would have been the perfect person to succeed Bill Clinton. Neither he nor we were ready then. Instead we chose him because both he and we were different at a time when we’d convinced ourselves that different must mean better (There are probably Yankees fans who blame GWB when the Pinstripers didn't win the World Series in the aftermath of 9/11.)

Sadly, we more and more of us now "hate" (a word that has lost its meaning much like 'warrior' when uttered  during football season) President Obama for the same reason we voted for him: he is different. He may look like we do (metaphorically; see Merchant of Venice for historic antecedent), and talk like we do, but you know what it is? He’s not one of us. And being different is now a crime. 

We are on a dark ride, and it’s going to get a lot darker before, if ever, it gets light again. We have all these noisemakers shrieking but never proving facts that they make up at the top of their lungs and they never give up and they never run out of steam. Perpetual hot air balloons, some one fetch Phileas Fogg. And those of us trying to hold out and hold on to what we are as a nation are tired and battered. It takes so much more energy and strength to be a light instead of a horn. Ne ingrediens bastardnis, do NOT let the bastards grind you down.
-bill kenny

Friday, August 20, 2010

Acquiring the Coconut

Now that I'm old(er) I am perceived more often as mellow and mature rather than exhausted and out of shape which is usually the case. I'm better off because of this (mis) perception as otherwise today I might be typing from a jail cell where my evil twin, Skippy, could have landed the both of us. As it is, I'm adding a bit of fresh-squeezed lime to my Pepsi One, and smiling a tight, little grin since all of us really care about the same thing, ourselves. But I digress.

I've mentioned more than once that I assemble at the local grocery a salad for lunch the previous afternoon on my way home from work (thanks to Michelle's gardening prowess, I can skip the tomato offerings in the store and enjoy her homegrown one). Not sure why but Wednesday the grocer was  crowded with people and all of the you-scan-it-yourself-and-go registers were jammed. I have often idly speculated about a 'one item or less' line and was having that very thought while standing behind a person in the 'Twelve Items or Less' lane that had, by my count forty-two items.

Poe called him Imp of the Perverse. Since I'm neither an Orioles fan nor deceased, I'm a bit less grand-I call that other me, the one who longs to say what he means 24/7 and let the chips (and other detritus) fall where they may, "Skippy" my evil twin. My friend Evert calls his alter ego Jif (I'm surprised after this, he didn't call him 'Levi'. KIDDING). We're both children of the Cold War and TV dinners era, can you tell?

The longer I stood in line, the more restive Skippy became. At no time would I have ever suggested to the patron before me that while Hooked on Phonics is important, learning to count is also a nice skill  to have, though Skippy might have. I, of course, realized this shopper knew exactly just how much stuff she had-she chose to not care. Six feet away from the self check-out register was the young summer hire, fresh stick of gum in her mouth. She was there to help, said so right on the sign over her head, but both I and the dyscalculaic in front of me were beyond that.

When everything had been scanned and the check filled out and processed, rather than leave, the Countess (as I now thought of her) chose to gather up all the coupons generated by her purchases and spat out of a dispenser one money-saver at a time and read each one while standing at the register. I could feel the gorge rise in my veins as she either added them to the chaos in her purse or discarded them on the conveyer belt perhaps in the belief  the unwanted-coupon-fairy would be along shortly.

After twice hailing and failing to get her attention (to take her own trash away) I realized as a startled someone outside the store looked back at me through the window, her ears worked as well as her math abilities and were just as selective. Undaunted, I scanned my salad, paid for it and started to load it into a bag to make my getaway. At that moment my nominee for employee of the month observed that 'you didn't put your limes in the bag.' Technically, she was half-right.

Sitting on the belt beside my salad were two limes. I told her they probably belonged to the Countess ahead of me but the humor was lost on her. Her concern were the two limes and making sure I took them and nothing I could say made a jot of difference. Welcome Skippy. Turn and face the strange.

After her four or more insistences that the loose citrus fruit were mine, I watched Skippy grab one and hurl it as hard as he could into a shopping cart behind the help deskette. Splatttt! Eeewww. I think Skippy's evil twin is Nolan Ryan. The young person was taken aback by both the violence and suddenness of my action and scolded 'you can't do that!' I heard Skippy emphatically assure her he 'certainly could', though he used a shorter word than 'certainly', since it was she who told him the limes were his. All of us had suddenly reached the city limits of ugly moment. I had a Steely Dan insight and acted quickly since jail grub upsets my stomach.

I grabbed the other lime, plopped  it in the bag and hurried from the store. I'm fully intending to drop Una a line to ask if Harry ever shared just how large a coconut you're supposed to use since I simply can't get used to the taste of this soda and I'll be damned if I'm throwing out this lime.
-bill kenny    

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Enough to Make a Sandwich

I try to be a half-full glass kind of guy. When I was attempting to embalm myself with alcohol that's how I had the bartender fix my drinks-that way I had room for ice. But on a day, as was the case Tuesday, where a headline, "Suicide Bomber Kills 51 at Army Recruitment Center in Baghdad" disappears under the churn from "Tila Tequila Assaulted with Sex Toys by Clowns..." I'm really tempted to skip the ice and have him leave the bottle. 

Talk about bread and circuses, especially since the Insane Clown Posse is already here (how'd you like hundreds of their followers, Juggalos, to get out of the little car in front of your house). I don't put a lot of stock in this 'Apocalypyse Is Now' philosophy, but when I read crap such as this and realize for many, these are the good times, I start to worry about End Times. Am I the only one who's ever thought about holding  the next Gathering of the Juggalos in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, so they could square dance and boogaloo with the Taliban who are, by all accounts, the original "I wanna party with you, cowboy' folks?

There is a silver lining (of sorts) in the news reports and I've already called the Pulitzer Prize Posse, a/ka/ the Puggalos, and alerted them to this exquisitely constructed sentence within Chris Parry's Vancouver Sun account, "(A)ccording to witnesses, as soon as Tequila hit the stage, shooting silly string into the crowd, a large banner featuring a four letter word to describe a piece of female anatomy was unfurled." Take that, every other language on earth! I dare you to be that elegant about something so despicably tawdry. (And how much does God hate "Alan" that He makes him Tila's lawyer? Who's his other client, Lyle Menendez?)

That the newshounds at TMZ (Thirty Minute Zone) would have the exclusive video of all of this hullabaloo (and Juggalo, too), is almost parenthetical, nicht wahr? I couldn't figure out why Tila Tequila was (ever) famous and after she took her top off, I had even less of an idea. I'm not sure the Roman Empire had performers of her caliber as those shows at the Colosseum were packing in the plebeians, but from the looks of the video, she'd have lasted all of thirty seconds with one of the lions (to include the entire Detroit front line).

And while I may be mistaken (the video was a little grainy in places other than Tila's tatas), I think I saw Edward Gibbons, in a three piece Paliachi outfit, at the foot of the stage frantically scribbling an update to his classic. Sadly, from what I'm starting to discover about what most of us think is news, it's possible by the time he finishes, there will be no one left who knows how to read. 
-bill kenny 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Everything Works if You Let It

I had someone I've known for sometime stop me over the weekend while I was in the grocer's to tell me he didn't realize I was such a 'big fan of City Hall Knows Best.' I told him I didn't know what he meant and he suggested some of my more recent Wednesday Whines have been, as he phrased it, 'just commercials for even more government and taxpayer-funded projects that won't work.' Well, shiver me timbers, matey; I think one of us is reading somebody else.

I don't have a particular politics, especially when we're talking my local zip code. When cornered, I will admit to being a Relentless Pragmatist. I think if you look at the correspondence between the The Founders, the documents they used to create this nation to and through The Federalist Papers, they weren't too keen on ivory tower concepts preferring down-to-earth as they built this Republic. I don't think I'm alone in NOT seeing government, at any level, as either the solution to every problem or the obstacle to finding solutions.

I don't pretend to know if it's us or the times in which we live, but we (and I mean all of us across the country and not just here in The Rose City) suffer from selective memory while also lacking the capacity to forgive. Not even a year ago, we elected a substantially different City Council than we had previously. One of the promises each of those elected had made while a candidate was to do what he/she felt best to advance Norwich economically, politically, emotionally and socially. That promise is the critical component in making our government work.

I leave to your judgment what has happened, or not happened beyond our City limits-I have just the right size brain to think locally, and so that's what I do. All of us have to believe those whom we elect to the City Council or the Board of Education will do the best they can for all of us, to the best of their ability, always (or at least more of the time than they won't). Many of us voted for the very people whom, in recent months we've had less than kind thoughts and words about for their attempt to master economic challenges none of us could have possibly imagined. 

Too often we've become so partisan, even in much of what goes on in our State Capital, that I wonder what's gotten into us. We're spectators, actually consumers, of political campaigns where a candidate decides 'for me to look good, my opponent needs to look bad' and no issues of substance are ever debated or even mentioned. As awful as that is, in terms of tone and tenor of a campaign, it's even worse for us, those who must decide for whom to vote and choose a direction when everyone is leading us in circles.

This election we are choosing a Governor, Senator, Congressional representative and populating a whole new statehouse, upper and lower chamber, as well as literally dozens of other offices and deciding local ballot initiatives. To my grocery buddy, with his not-so veiled reference to the referendum questions to stimulate private sector investment in Norwich by using public money to strengthen infrastructure, I, too am tired of throwing tax money behind ideas that couldn't (and didn't) work. 

Having watched all the hard work (to include a bit of shouting and some storming about) accomplished since last winter to create the strategy that became the bond questions discussed at Monday's public hearing, for me the choice is simple, especially since I already know what happens when we do nothing. 
-bill kenny          

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Rope, Same Lament

Some of us (= me) can get so spoiled so fast, it's shameful. When I opened our kitchen door yesterday morning on the way to the garage to drive to work, I was taken aback to realize it was raining. By the time I got to work, a twenty minute drive, it rained really hard and then tapered off, but there wasn't a torrential downpour going on when I stepped outside to start my day. Not that you'd have known it by my reaction. 

I just mentioned the other day we've had a more than dry summer. Point in fact, the meteorologists tell me we hadn't had rain since aught three; eighteen aught three (those guys really need to watch their drinking). Welcome to Hyperbole, population: me. Seriously, we hadn't had very much rain at all and I'm sure we have a precipitation deficit probably not on the scale of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, but for a lot of people engaged in farming, as well as all the ducks, it was good news.

And there I am, kind of pouting about the rain, both boo and boo-hoo. If someone routed a note on Sunday about it, I never got the memo and there I was almost about to get soaked except for the umbrella and the overhang. Considering at any given moment there are probably a billion (with a "B") people eking out an existence in an arid environment who barely have the moisture to wet their lips, I should have been embarrassed to be me. 

We're all a little like this, I think (and sort of hope, otherwise I really am a sad creature). We talk a lot about 'adapt and overcome' but all things being equal, we'd much prefer it if you did all the former while we take care of the latter. You can get comfortable with just about any situation-it's only when it changes that there's a problem

I've read where Newton's first law of motion offered that a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Each of us continues to plod down the trail we've carved out for ourselves here on the ant farm unless or until something causes us to change, and very often we're not happy about having to change even when we know we had no other choice.

Sometimes the difference between comfortable and comfortably numb is hard to spot and harder to appreciate. That's why the difference between a rut and grave is often only the depth of the habit and the amount of rainfall that gathers in each.
-bill kenny