Thursday, September 30, 2010

What's in a Word?

Decades ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and Orville and Wilbur (not the popcorn Wilbur, the other one) had figured out that airplane stuff, I was actually in the United States Air Force, sort of. I was a radio and television broadcast specialist, which is to the 'real' Air Force what Velveeta is to cheese. I've made a decent living as a drone of the military-industrial complex but have watched for years as America struggled with membership in the "I Wanna Serve My Country"club.

Last week's attempt to begin the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell was dispiriting because it seemed (from my kid in the weeds location in SE Connecticut) to have an awful lot to do with election season and not very much to do with anything else. Don't misunderstand me-Mom raised crazy children, not stupid ones and I've been on the orb for a little over fifty-eight revolutions (around the sun; far fewer in other areas) and concede there's more to this than meets the eye. I'm not going for funny today-I genuinely don't get why a vote 'might' happen, but only after election day, on this issue.

Despite all the years I was in uniform and/or worked with those who are/were, I have NO idea with how many homosexual people I've worked. It's also none of my business. We would (I hope) all agree prejudice based on race, creed, national origin, how many pony rides for your birthday you've received, isn't just wrong, it's dumb. I'm glad my long shirt covers my star belly, or maybe I don't have one; how about you? All of us live and work with every kind of people (I was channeling Robert Palmer for a moment) from very talented to, and through, not so talented.

For me, relentless pragmatist, it comes down to civil rights and the power of math. A compelling argument to cease racial discrimination in the Armed Forces in 1947 (decades before the country the military defends was close to comfortable with that idea) was the size of the talent pool you excluded by discriminating. Might I suggest the same calculations were done for the inclusion of women when compulsory service ended. You may feel very differently about living and working with homosexuals and your right to feel that way is protected by our Constitution, but so, too, are those whom some of us seek to exclude.

If, as a nation, we ever find ourselves in a major conflict requiring a draft to generate the armed forces needed to preserve the Republic, I doubt very much the selective service board will care a fried rat's hindquarters about the sexual preferences of anyone who's swimming around in the draft pool. Let's face it, priorities are priorities and getting elected to something is always important to somebody. "I been Ayn Randed, nearly branded a Communist cos I'm left-handed-but that's the hand to use.
Well, nevermind....."
-bill kenny

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wish you were here....

When you reduce society to its smallest component, it's just you and me, literally. That's all we are, just us and others who come along and join us, either philosophically, metaphysically or geographically. I always smile when people tell me I'm not from here as if I didn't know that-what they don't seem to get is I'm from here now.

Maybe like you in your local newspapers, I've been reading a lot of letters and comments on news stories where folks invoke 'them' as the source of unhappiness and problems. 'They' don't get 'us.' 'They' are out of touch, or set in their ways or need to go home in November. Great stuff except 'they' started out as 'we' as in 'we the people, in order to form a more perfect union...' (Lemme know when you've had enough, okay? I can quote this stuff all day-I'm that good).

Here's a newsflash, sunshine. No one can do anything to you that you do not give them the power to do. If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. Don't read the newspapers, listen to the radio or watch TV and WHATEVER YOU DO, don't go to public meetings of your local government because you might just find out what's going on and then what would happen?

You might have to do something. Maybe tell a neighbor, maybe bring a friend to the next meeting-maybe have to offer an informed observation on how you feel about a particular issue. Or you can keep your head down, get lost in the shuffle while shuffling along with the lost and never once risk being on the 'wrong side' of an issue by taking a stand.

Norwich has close to three dozen advisories, boards, commissions and committees and a lot of the volunteers on each and every one might be considered a 'them' by somebody, but started out as an 'us' long before that. I've worked with some pretty amazing people on the different panels I volunteered to serve on-people who were my neighbors, though we didn't know each other. We had far more in common, most especially a desire to make where we live a better place to live, than the opinions and beliefs that separated us and we worked to not only make a difference but to be the difference.

The neighbors who serve on the City Council and the Board of Education have had some rough days and maybe some second thoughts about ways to give back to their community. The same is true for the volunteers who work to keep alive their piece of the promise that all of us see in Norwich. For decades we've been plagued by a simple truth: when you don't know where you're going, any road will get your there. For all the years I've been a thorn in the The Rose of New England, all we've talked about is having a plan to enhance municipal revenue so that sexy stuff, like The Rose Garden, the Harbor District or the Otis Library along with the less exotic but as important infrastructure issues like pothole patching and sewer repair all have enough funding.

We watched those on the City Council work with the City Manager to create a budget where shared sacrifice became the watchword. Some people feared it was the end of our city-but it wasn't. However, it may prove to have been the beginning of the end. Economists say the recession technically ended in June of 2009-cold comfort and change for those whose homes continue to disappear under the wave of foreclosures and local businesses struggle to stay afloat as the sea of red ink grows deeper. None of this bodes well for the next City budget, or the one after that, or the one after that.

Will passage of the three bond issues on the November ballot end all of our worries? Far from it. But they are a first, halting, step to acknowledging that we are tired of talking and ready for doing. Action, like the decades of inaction we find ourselves in, is habit-forming. The more often you're willing to think beyond yourself and place your family and your neighborhood into a larger context, the easier the next time becomes. Many are upset about what's not in the proposals-fire away and suggest fixes. Don't sit there with your arms folded, your eyes closed and hearts hardened. We need every oar in the water and put your back into it. Aren't you truly tired of watching and waiting-or have you forgotten what you were waiting for?
-bill kenny

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Funny the Way It Is

The world is full of very smart people and I'm lucky to bump into some of them from time to time who help me keep my perspective on the world in close to working order. Because of what I do, I know a not inconsiderable number of folks in audio-visual and creative arts fields, ranging from contemporaries and former colleagues like Lee, the Other Bill, and Rik to Grosse Patrick (as my son used to call him) to frighteningly talented, much younger professionals who still get very excited about their craft and are more energetic than us discouraged experts.

One of them, Jhi, posted an item Monday on one of the social networking sites that stopped me in my tracks because it was simple but profound, and completely true: "Lindsay Lohan, 24, is all over the news AGAIN because she's a celebrity drug addict. While Justin Allen 23, Brett Linley 29, Matthew Weikert 29, Justus Bartett 27, Dave Santos 21, Chase Stanley 21, Jesse Reed 26, Matthew Johnson 21, Zachary Fisher 24, Brandon King 23, Christopher Goeke 23,and Sheldon Tate 27 are all Marines that gave their lives this week, no media mention."

One of the reasons I think it hit me so hard wasn't because Lindsay Lohan was mentioned. She's a surrogate for whatever flavor of the week has called shotgun in the media clown car OJ Simpson was sitting in over a decade and a half ago as the magical misery tour unfolded on a California highway. I can think of the the names of three dozen empty mouths you can plug into that sentence and it's still true. No, what got me was that only two of the Marines killed in action were older than our son, Patrick Michael, and three of them were barely able to legally drink in these United States.

I've mentioned I subscribe to a service from the Department of Defense that reports every US military casualty not because I'm gung ho about war and the price we pay as a culture when we engage in one, but, because after the marching bands have turned the corner and the balloons and patriotic words from political leaders my age have all disappeared into the air, someone has to bear witness to those who sacrifice their lives so that we can engage in endless hours of stupid human tricks by pretending back here on the home front all is well. When we work as hard as we do to make sure no one sees the bodies unloaded at Dover Air Force Base or watches as 'walking wounded' struggle through rehabilitation at VA hospitals and elsewhere, maybe we've gotten too good at playing pretend.

The United States has been at war for nearly a decade and that length of time tends to drain all the color from the red, the white and the blue, leaving us only grey and a sense of foreboding as unending and forever become interchangeable (and nearly meaningless). I think one of the points Jhi was making in his post was that we, the living, owe those Marines, and their counterparts in all the other services who have died, more than just a moment of remembrance. We need to make our lives worth something so that they who gave theirs to protect us did not die in vain. Celebrities make headlines-heroes make a difference.
-bill kenny

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Head is my only home, unless it rains

Not much on the calendar for Norwich municipal meetings-in theory allowing us to study the backgrounds and qualifications of all of those seeking our vote a little more than a month from now. Some have set the bar rather high: not sure how many candidates can deliver a crotch kick or misspeak about their time in the service. And let's not forget about others seeking to live in the Governor's mansion who are either corrupt and grasping capitalists or bumbling career politicians (C'mon, you know you know about whom I'm speaking). Meanwhile back here on earth we have to dance with the ones who brung us, so here we go twinkle-toes.

This afternoon at five, in Room 210 of City Hall it's a regular meeting of the Redevelopment Agency (no idea why the website notice speaks of "11/29/10"), whose agenda is right here. A suggestion on the minutes of the July and August meeting, called 'notes' for reasons I don't follow (speaking of which, I'm familiar with regular and special meetings-not sure why the July meeting is called 'informational ' since ALL meetings are informational unless we view them as entertainment). One of the local newspapers has this meeting happening again (I guess) at seven-not exactly. Maybe the second show is completely different from the first; maybe not.

That same newspaper has the Public Parking Commission, which normally meets on the third Tuesday of every other month, meeting at six tonight, except they had their meeting last Tuesday as they were scheduled to do.

Tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 in the conference room in the Central Office (over at the Norwichtown Green) it's a regular meeting of the Board of Education's Policy Committee. My appreciation to the city's note on the meeting since the Board of Education's website is uncontaminated by any mention of anything that has even happened this year with this committee. We worry so often about citizen apathy, not that you or I should care about that.

The Harbor Management Commission meets at five in room 219 of City Hall. Here's their meeting agenda and I'm hoping within #7b "City Pier/City Dock/Seawall" might be a hint as to the progress of reopening the Heritage Trail from Indian Leap Falls to the Norwich Harbor as a follow-up to item 9 of the 24 August meeting minutes.

And at six, in their conference room at 16 Golden Street it's a double-header (sort of) as the Board of Commissioners of the Norwich Public Utilities holds its regular meeting and a regular Sewer Authority meeting. FWIW, the August Sewer Authority meeting minutes are actually July's and the meeting itself lasted about two minutes. Flushed with success, the Commissioners returned to their regular August NPU meeting (oh, stop crying! You're just mad because I typed it faster than you could) without ever answering Mr. Ripley's questions, I guess.

At six Tuesday evening (according to the city's website these are as necessary) there's a special meeting of the Building Code Board of Appeals. Here's a draft of their August special meeting minutes and you get a flavor of the important quality of life issues the Board deals with on a regular basis.

There's a newspaper listing for a five PM Wednesday meeting of the Board of Dangerous Buildings, except they regularly meet on the fourth Wednesday of the month which would have been the 22nd. The last mention on the city website about anything connected to the Board is their meeting agenda from 27 January 2010.

In closing, my attempt to underscore that the farther out in space you go the more alike we look, wanted to mention that today is National Gay Men's HIV Awareness Day. As John Donne eloquently suggested, the tolling of the bell, be it on Water Street in Norwich's Chelsea District or on the streets of Philadelphia is both a warning and a call for action for all of us as the 30th anniversary of the Center for Disease Control, CDC, concluding that Karposi's Sarcoma and other fatal opportunistic infections were Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, AIDS, approaches. We are all infected and affected.
-bill kenny

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Difference between a Rut and a Grave

Would probably be better off typing this while standing. Finished driving 510.8 miles from Hampton Roads Virginia to my garage in Norwich, Connecticut not that many hours ago and while the event that precipitated the trip was happy/sad, the driving required a mind like a steel trap, a heart of stone and a butt of steel. Two out of three ain't bad.

You see odd things (other drivers do) when you're behind the wheel-and I think a lot of it has to do with the difference between motivations and behaviors. When you ask me if I'm a bad driver as I swirl and twirl between lanes on 64E headed towards Richmond, I will assure you I am most certainly not(!) I am aggressive and assertive but another word beginning with A and ending with hole, am I not. Meanwhile, up behind and, next, alongside until, finally, in front of me, another motorist executes the same double salto I just did and I'll swear he's certifiable. The difference? I know why I did what I did, but I can only see his behavior and NOT the reasons for it.

Coming back yesterday on CT 15 (a/k/a The Merritt Parkway) I was struck by the construction signs around the overpass rebuilds that are being accomplished (for a state with no money, We Nutmeggers have found a box o' bucks to repair the ornate latticework on the highway overpasses, let me tell you) that explain the maximum clearance under the trestles is ten feet and six inches (plus minus three inches from the time we got on it at its start near Greenwich to the exit at Orange/New Haven).

I appreciate the advisories at every construction site except, as I recall, not only are commercial vehicles banned from the Merritt for its entire length (which is two lanes in each direction, no breakdown lane, no stopping at any time-what a relic of the 1950's! Where's Ozzie Nelson with the Nash?) any vehicle taller than eight feet high is also not allowed. So what does any of us suppose would be travelling the Merritt Parkway that's taller than ten and a half feet? Yeah, I'm drawing a blank as well. Friendly reminder: stay right except to pass (explains the recent elections, doesn't it?).
-bill kenny

Saturday, September 25, 2010

There's a Part that's Not Screwed On

Went to a local sight while we're motoring in the Mid Atlantic states and have encountered a surprising number of places, to include business establishments that are off one of the weekend days and then a day during the week, though not a Monday or a Friday. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure I get it but it takes me back to when I was a kid (and dinosaurs roamed the earth), and I'm not sure I like that sensation either.

When I was little barber shops were closed on Sunday and on Wednesday (supposedly to make up for being open on Saturday when most of their customers boy-kids were dragged by their moms to get haircuts). My dad always insisted on crew cuts. I hated crew cuts-correction on the tense of the verb, still hate crew cuts. I sort of understood the Wednesday closing and from my own experience can appreciate how relaxing have a day off in the middle of the week can be.

It was the Sundays off I never understood. It must have been habit or tradition, it wasn't reciprocity, that's for sure. Every picture I've ever seen of Jesus has him with long hair and a beard so it's not like he had his own barber back in the day. That actually increased my regard for barbers as a kid-they were nice when The Lord may not have been their biggest customer.

But back to this weekend that isn't a weekend business. I think if you're going to work one of more of the days of the weekend, you should seriously consider consecutive weekdays off as compensation. The locked place we stood in front of that sparked this whole train of thought (if a handcar can be considered a train and in a previous presidential administration, catsup was thought of as a vegetable, so why not) was closed because 'he's open on Sundays' the fellow sitting on the bench told me. I wondered why he wasn't closed on Sunday and open today (too) and the fellow patiently explained that there was little business traffic on Saturdays. Of course not-the guy is closed.

Who would go to a store that's closed? I suspect people who have no money to spend. And these days, the foot traffic alone could fill a shoe store. The only business that never seems to close is watching the man who squats behind the man who works the soft machine. So remember who you say you are and keep your noses, the baby's dead, my lady said. You gentlemen, you all work for me.
-bill kenny

Friday, September 24, 2010

Involve Me and I learn

In a few hours, they'll be finishing up stacking the chairs atop one another, disassembling the small stage and podiums they used for the ceremony and all of us will go back to our lives. A very kind friend, not for anything he ever said in over a decade of knowing him, but because of everything he ever did, is calling it a career today. He's a kid, in dog years in comparison to me. Actually he's four years my junior--not that I have ever pointed that out to him.

I was a project he undertook when he arrived at my workplace to be 'the guy in charge.' His predecessor had decided the internal politics of arguing with people with more resources and more power over someone/something as insignificant as me just didn't add up and I was pretty much left for dead in a job and an office where my contribution to what my organization was all about was ignored when it wasn't denigrated.

My friend, my boss (or the other way round; both are accurate and true) was a collector of thrown-away people. He didn't change us but, rather, allowed us to change ourselves, recapture our interest and enthusiasm while justifying our actions and intentions to our harshest critics, ourselves. He enjoyed watching us become successful nearly as much as we did-and that was all the reward he asked for in the course of the reclamation.

He's one of the few people, blood excepted, for whom I would do anything. If he called this afternoon and told me we were needed in Hell by dinner, I'd ask no more than if formal attire were requested or was required. In a perfect world, his retirement ceremony will need to be in a huge amphitheater because his impact on people and their lives (and on the lives of those whom those people know) has been so profound that if they all were to show up, there would be no place for them.

As he closes this chapter in the book of his life and begins the next, I think he'd appreciate more than most a thought by another New England native, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who chose uniformed service, actually the same service, and was always bullish in his support of those who chose to train and to lead. "Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength of the nation." Fair winds and following seas, sir.
-bill kenny

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Riding Head First into a Hurricane

My wife and are auto-Americans of sorts for the next couple of days, me more so than she as I'm the one driving and she's the one who's not an American. We, with our children, Patrick (with Jamie) and Michelle, trekked yesterday to The Big E, the closest thing to a state fair for a region that you can imagine. I have a very active imagination and it always exceeds even mine.

Hokey? Yeah. Sprawling? Ayup. Exhausting, exhilarating, excruciatingly crowded? Youbetcha. And some of the most fun you can have with your clothes on (not that there's anything wrong with that...). Michelle and I went for the first time the year Sigrid went home to see her family in Offenbach am Main and I, fearing if I cooked (or tried to) long enough, would succeed in poisoning our daughter (and what kind of an airport return scene would that make? Please!), latched on to the notion of hitting Springfield (I don't know where Marge and Homer live and, yes, I've looked) and having a day of food prepared by professionals. It was wonderful stuff.

The following year Mike and I brought Sigrid and she discovered creampuffs. I don't get them but she, and what seems to be most of New England, sure do, along with baked potatoes at The Maine House (every New England state has a permanent house). This year we went on what's called Connecticut Day, though for us, I guess, every day is Connecticut Day. Yay, us! I liked last year as it was the first time I could walk without feeling every step, since I'd traded in my knees for some new ones but this year was special, too, as our son, Patrick, and his person, were able to join us. Truly a more the merrier situation.

Later this morning, Sigrid and I will be trekking to Hampton Roads, Virginia, to attend (tomorrow) a retirement for a patron, an ally, a mentor and friend of mine from back in the day when I couldn't buy a friendly face. When no one was interested in what I thought of as my talents, he did and was willing to work with an insecure over-achiever who's never learned to say 'please,' 'thank you,' or most importantly, 'sorry.' I was honored to be invited to his retirement and he was delighted when we accepted his invitation-clearly someone from whom I could have learned more had I spent less time hearing and more time listening.

The first day of his next life will be Saturday, but there's still tomorrow with its speeches, light-hearted jokes, farewells and probably a few tears. Closing a chapter and starting another in the book of life. Sometimes you have to hold on fast to people and events that are real, or you risk being lost in the flood.

-bill kenny

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A real after school After-School Special

It's forty-one days until Election Day--plenty of time for robo-calls as we sit down to dinner to ask if we knew that Candidate X drinks his bathwater and for half the rain forest to be turned into pulp for glossy unsolicited mailing materials for every political position under the sun. By the time we go to vote, we won't be able to hear ourselves think, which may be the point of all the hoopla in the long run.

Maybe we need a time out and some place with a level playing field managed by enthusiastic beginners instead of so many discouraged experts. The expression goes 'we have not inherited this world from our parents-we have borrowed it from our children.' If you don't mind a suggestion, tonight after dinner might be a good time to check up on how that process is actually working out.

Tonight, starting at seven at Teachers Middle School, are back to back candidate forums for the 19th District State Senatorial race as well as for Norwich Probate Judge. Both are sponsored by the Bully Busters who've been working within (and without) our school system for the last few years to teach our children, and, in some instances, our grand-children, how to resolve their differences through intelligent, and compassionate, conflict management, often behaving more like adults than adults.

For those youngsters working on projects like voter registration and candidate forums, it's really all about the democratic process. They're just getting started in it and are very excited to be taking part. For them, the opportunity to ask candidates for office questions about what they'll do and what they believe and how they see the way ahead is, what it should be for all of us, incredibly important.

The Bully Busters hosted the only forum last year for the special election to fill a vacancy on the Norwich City Council and as one of the geezers who sat in the back, I was impressed by how amazing our world can be when you're fifteen, sixteen or seventeen and the possibilities are endless. I don't remember any single question but I do vividly recall an overall impression that not everyone saw Norwich in drab colors or thought there were limits to what we who lived here could, or should, do.

Some, if not most, of the Bully Busters may not be able to vote (yet) but I can guarantee you that they can think and I can promise you now their questions tonight will make you think, too.
This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about everyone seeking your vote in two very important elections this November-so important that all of the candidates seeking office will be there. I hope they all bring their "A" game because the kids are alright and have been very patient waiting for their elders to relinquish the reins so they can get started on making this city, this state and this nation their own. Tonight's the night it starts.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

They Are All in Love

I was, as each of our two children made their way through high school, absolutely clueless about so much for so long. I left it to my wife, a product of the (West) German educational system, a system extremely different from ours, to attempt to manage life in rock and roll high school first with Patrick, and then, as he was returning his cap and gown after graduation, with Michelle who started her freshman year at the end of Pat's first school's over summer. They both attended Norwich Free Academy, a three minute walk fr0m our house and highly regarded by many across the region and the state.

I worried about the academics and classroom activities. My late father was a teacher for almost all of my life and I grew up watching how it was done, when it was done well. I was never a good parent to have come for parent-teacher conferences because I not only felt I was entitled to my opinion but, so, too (and most especially), was the person sitting across from me. As for the important stuff when you're in high school: the cool clothes, the hot car, the coveted cell phone, the weekend with 'my folks aren't home' our children never had to deal with any of that with their dear old daddy-oh, so it fell to their mother to help them through the real life of high school.

I mention this because I came across a story yesterday on the front page above the fold in our local daily paper (circulation is somewhere in the twenty thousand plus) about a proposal a neighboring community may implement, a breathalyser, at high school social functions-with proper and appropriate advance notice-not to 'catch' the students at the prom, the homecoming rally, the football play-off game, the renewal of the library cards (checking to see if you were still reading; your lips had stopped moving) or whatever. You can read the story for yourself here.

Discussing all of it with my wife, I was taken aback when she explained to me that she was just short of shocked that I could be shocked by such a story. Say what? It's not that I thought or knew our kids knew better but rather had to to realize how pervasively permissive my generation raised their own children. We were rebels without a cause who became--waitaminit, I know this one. And now, without fully recognizing when it happened I've become my own father, shaking his head at kids these days.

Obsolescence approaches at the speed of light. And each day's light makes me more aware of how much in the world, but not of the world, I've lived alongside of others but rarely with them. Where do you walk on sunny time, when the rivers gleam and the buildings shine. How do you feel goin' up hallowed halls, and the summer clothes brighten gloomy halls. And they're all in love.
-bill kenny

Monday, September 20, 2010

Target Rich Environment

If you'd promised yourself that this was the fall you were gonna get involved locally in what is happening in The Rose City, the good news is you've picked a good week to start.

Head for City Hall this afternoon, with a pillow and a lunch and you'll probably be well served. The Volunteer Firefighter's Relief Fund Committee has a special meeting at five in Room 209 followed at six in Council Chambers by an informational meeting on the parking kiosk that at least two of us thought was supposed to be held a couple of weeks ago. Parking downtown is a lot like the weather in terms of the amount of talk in relation to the actual impact but is a topic that needs to be better incorporated into any and all discussions about redevelopment.

The City Council meeting at 7:30 always has items on its agenda worth your further consideration and I see at least two tonight. There's a public hearing (#5) and a report by the Commission on the City Plan (#4 in reports) on a tax abatement (extension) for the developers of the Ponemah Mills project. I'm trying (and failing) to understand how this City Council would unanimously send to referendum three separate proposals for public-private partnerships aimed at providing economic stimulus to spur redevelopment across the city and then consider passage of a package such as this, where, in my opinion, we go back to doing business the way we did in the 'bad old days.'

Under new business, I think you should listen to the presentation and discussion on the proposal before the City Council from the Norwich Public Schools for funding of a systemic review and reconfiguration of the city's public schools. The future, says the commercial, will be here in a moment-whether we plan on it or not-but it would be prudent to plan our work and work our plan. And we may also see the creation of a(nother) Charter Revision Commission, leading me to wonder, as someone who served on the previous one and had the same question, why not just create a standing commission to collect and collate questions, concerns and suggestions with a written report twice a year to the City Council? All in all, a full evening.

Tuesday afternoon at 5:30 across town from one another are a (regular) meeting of the Norwich Free Academy Board of Trustees (see Wednesday's note as well) in the Latham Science Center on campus while at the Buckingham Memorial (near the Otis Library in downtown-you do remember downtown, right?) is a regular meeting of the Public Parking Commission.

At six, in Room 319 of City Hall is a regular meeting of the Personnel and Pension Board and at seven in the basement conference room of the Planning Department at 23 Union Street it's a regular meeting of the Commission on the City Plan. I thought about the CCP not only when reviewing the City Council's meeting agenda but while reading the Sunday Norwich Bulletin, page D2. It's amazing how often you run into the same people in different devices. I've concluded Sartre has more experience in local politics than he's given credit for.

Wednesday there's a regular meeting of the Norwich Board of Education Building and Space Committee at 3:30 in the afternoon in the basement conference room of the Central office in Norwichtown. I learned of the meeting from the city's website (I'm assuming the March meeting is now OBE) and not the board's. As usual. Again.

At five thirty in the Latham Science Center it's a special meeting, actually an executive session, of the Norwich Free Academy Board of Trustees on the search for the new Head of School. Also at five thirty, it's a regular meeting of the Board of Review of Dangerous Buildings in the basement conference room at 23 Union Street followed at six up in the Norwich Recreation Department offices of the Recreation Advisory Board, whose last meeting was in May.

The Norwich Golf Course Authority meets at seven at the course; their last meeting was in August. Here's a riddle: Why does Mr. Caulfield, the NGCA Chairperson, always wear two pair of pants to their regular meetings? (WAIT FOR IT) In case he gets a hole in one. Thank you, ladies and germs....

Humor aside (and, yes, that's what that was) perhaps I can interest you in going back to school, at least for the evening? Starting at seven at Teacher's Memorial Middle School will be a two candidate forums for the November elections to include the 19th Senatorial District, starting at seven followed by the Norwich Probate Judge Forum at eight. Both should be very informative and cheers to the Bully-Busters and their friends for sponsoring the event.

Thursday morning at seven thirty in the Norwich Community Development Offices at 77 Main Street, it's a regular meeting of the Community Development Corporation. There's a lot to know about the bond initiatives between now and November and no time like the present to start replacing fiction with fact. Sometimes we don't know what we don't know--and there's a lot to learn about this effort to revitalize where we live.

You can stand around with your hands in your pockets waiting for things to go wrong or you can roll up your sleeves and lend a hand. Work you a deal, once we get ourselves out of this ditch and back up on the road and moving forward, you can tell all of us all about everybody you think is to blame for everything awful that happened. Just bear in mind, no single raindrop ever feels itself responsible for the flood.
-bill kenny

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Longing My Life Away

In Southeastern New England we're at that point on the seasonal roller-coaster ride approaching the weightlessness of being. That is, the moment after the moment when you've peaked and are nearly starting down the incline-in a roller coaster I've often suspected if we could actually float in air, that would be the moment we would, but only for a moment.

It's the same with weather. The summer here is gone-we ended it officially two weekends ago, but the warmth of the sun and the mild days are still here, but they take longer to start and end sooner. When I leave in the mornings now for work I have a light jacket on for the first time in months, and the walk around the neighborhood our daughter, Michelle, and I make in the evenings at half past eight is now a lot closer to seven. I think it's the dying of the light that most disheartens me.

Saturday morning walking around the Spaulding Pond in the Mohegan Park we have in Norwich, with wonderful hiking trails, wide sidewalks and well-paved roads I could see far more autumn in the tree canopies overhead than when I was here last Saturday. In a couple of more weeks lots more of the sky will peek through as the leaves turn and then fall off and the bare limbs will eventually win out. That's when I'll stop coming up here.

Between Nature and the calendar, I'm being set up for the part of the year I hate the most-real fall, not the Indian summer part which doesn't fool, or mollify, me anymore but the slate gray sky and the chill in the air that makes it very clear winter is approaching. Winter (and you may find this funny) I can deal with-because I know spring and summer follow it. Fall is the hopeless and helpless season in my book. The inevitable decline and deepening dark.

I've been in a hurry most of my life-always rushing to somewhere or away from someone. The pace is less frenetic now, the strides more measured and labored. I passed a couple yesterday morning pushing a small child in a stroller and saw my wife and I with Patrick at the duck pond where Frankfurt am Main ended and Offenbach started. They/we looked so happy and the horizon was wide open. For us that would have been twenty-five or more years ago.

The high school girl who jogged past me, in the opposite direction, earbuds (we would have called them headphones) in place and a solemn face like a mask could have been our daughter Michelle, the picture of concentration as she practiced for her audition for her high school's musical honor society (and blew the judges away). That was a half-dozen years ago. The memories fade but the scars from the passing of time remain.

I was there for those moments and tens of thousands more but, like now (I imagine), I was thinking about other places and times. Just as we all do, I'm sure. "Now I sit by my window and I watch the cars. I fear I'll do some damage one fine day. But I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers-still crazy after all these years."
-bill kenny

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rhymes with Cheater

I've mentioned casually, I believe, a couple of hundred (million) times that I'm a baseball fan(atic). I acknowledge there are many other sports but aside from (DFB especially) European football (= soccer), it's really baseball. Actually, get ready to boo since that happens a lot, it's Yankees baseball. Yeah, I know other teams play in the Major Leagues. S.o? W.h.a.t?

That's sort of my disclaimer for those whose cries of anguish and
existential angst over the goings on, or technically, the NOT goings-on, at Tropicana Field the other night have been echoing across the hills and valleys of this great nation. Jerry Seinfeld once offered for fans of professional sports, you're actually rooting for laundry, not the contents so I'm not sure how seriously the concerns about Fair Play, ethical behavior and (my personal favorite) being a role Model should be considered.

Let me dwell on that last point for more than moment because I'm ill listening to the sanctimonious mewling and puking of pseudo outrage about the conduct of Derek
Jeter, a/k/a the Designated Patron Saint of The Bronx (so make sure you have his bobble-head on your dashboard where PJ used to be). Little known fact: it was Abner Doubleday who coined the phrase, 'by any means necessary' and he was thinking about a pennant race which is what the AL East is, boys and girls.

In addition to being to being uniform models, some of us have forgotten these folks are grown-ups, playing games for obscenely large sums of money, games that most of us attempted as children for free. Barkley, not Gnarls, the other one, is right. In a world with a Mother Theresa, a Sully, a person serving in an American uniform thousands of miles from home in a hostile fire zone (times hundreds of thousands of persons), you want a professional athlete as a role model? Spoiled for choice, are we?

"I'm getting nothing and expecting oblivion. The past ain't even worth livin' in. It's just a nail that keeps being driven in. So get them, get him, but don't get me to fill up your empty lives."Got World Series Rings? Then STFU and Play Ball.
-bill kenny

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rooty Tooty Fresh 'N' Fruity Meets End Times

Sometimes Ruth is Stranger than Bridget. In a headline ripped from today's recycling bin, submitted for your inspection: "IHOP (the pancake-maker) sues IHOP (the prayer center) over trademark". If only P. T. Barnum could have lived to read the story. Am I more sensitive to this item than the average pancake connoisseur because we used to have an IHOP (flapjack palace) that has since shuffled off its mortal coil and french toast ? Yeah, guilty as charged.

It was about a decade or so ago that the World Wildlife Fund and the World Wrestling Federation, both of whom really liked WWF seemed bound and down for a courtroom date on who was the real Slim Shady. And then someone stood up and the other pulled up and both went their merry ways and peace now guides the planets (for the most part).

If you follow international headlines closely enough, you already know that there's a great deal of employment in the copyright protection field and I guess this is a similar situation with an all-American flavor (no restaurant reference intended). I'm sure reasonable people can arrive at an accommodation-and leave it to your discretion to decide who needs to be reasonable and when we should start talking turns.

"I saw a handsome parish lady make her entrance like a queen. Why she was totally chenille, and her old man was a Marine. As she abused a sausage pattie and said
why don't you treat me mean?" It seems we're all out of reasonable around here, Starbuck.
-bill kenny

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Russell Crowe has a lot to answer for

Coming out of the shop yesterday on my home to our family's show of solidarity by visiting my son's business' grand opening in Mystic, I encountered two folks heavily into conversation with one another on their parallel planet to Earth on which only they reside.

Lot of loose ends already.
The business in Mystic isn't my son's, but I call it that because it's easier for me. He came aboard in May as 'an agent of change' as he was introduced to the compact (=tiny) staff and he's now the general manager. Must have his talent and his ambition from his mom since his other parent is always so pleased when he gets his work shirt buttoned in the morning and all the buttons and holes line up.

The two folks practically mind-melding at the store were standing three inches (maybe) from the arc of the exit door as it swings outward, hardly impeding anyone except those of us trying to leave the store. A perfect example of 'it's the least I can do' because it really is. Obliviots-they have no interest in the rest of us or attempting to accommodate us. What's theirs is theirs and yours is negotiable. One of them had a small child in one of the sacks/carriers designed for either your back or your front, in this case, her front, with the child face first into her chest. I'm wondering if the baby will have a Paisley phobia when older from such an intense and prolonged encounter but then I looked at the other half of the Dynamic Duo.

Dressed all in black in what (when I was a wee slip of a lad) were called clam diggers, was a rail thin woman with a jogging stroller. You've seen them, a tricycle sort of frame with a tiny passenger compartment shaped like a bullet (says the ad copy; I always think suppository but that's because I'm an a--- never mind me) with a long handle so the stroller doesn't get in way of your stride as you're toning your core (not sure if that's what the kids are calling it these days).

Oh yeah, the infant/baby/small child inside the stroller wasn't any such, but rather, a small dog who looked a little bit like Petey from the Little Rascals. Seriously. Perhaps she thinks the four legs are accessories. Thank goodness they match the rest of the fur. All in all, one of those "And to Think that I saw it on Mulberry Street" moments except we don't have one by that name and I'm not quite done.

Driving home, I'm behind one of those toy trucks (the small ones that hold your breath and little else as near as I can tell) with a giant muffler and the lowered frame so the driver can feel (and hear) every uneven piece of the road. A true street machine, at one with the pavement, Om. And the license plate from out of state, GLADE8OR. Another graduate of Hooked on Phoenix (it was a lot cheaper). At my signal, unleash hell.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rich on What We've Got

Hiked down Saturday afternoon from near Chelsea Parade, where we live, to Howard Brown Park for the Taste of Italy. Thanks to the organizers, sponsors, volunteers, vendors, and everyone else who worked so hard to make it all happen. It was large fun, a gorgeous day and a delicious experience and it success helps underscore a fundamental point: offer people a reason to come to downtown Norwich and they will, because they did on Saturday in droves.

I mention that for anyone still sorting hope from fear, and fact from fiction, about the three bond initiatives on the November ballot, in this case, the one for downtown revitalization. I don't think the proposal is perfect, or close to it, but it's a lot better than the 'single building, now we're on the move' well-meaning rhetoric that's masqueraded as a plan for (too) many years. I think the bonding initiatives are worth your consideration and your yes vote, because I believe where I live matters and that where I live matters to more than just me.

But let's put all the money aside and talk about what each of us can do in our part of Norwich that doesn't cost money, but can mean the world. Returning to Saturday and walking from Chelsea Parade down Washington Street towards Brown Park, the litter along the curb runs almost the length of the street. As a matter of fact, almost anywhere you look in Norwich there's trash at the curb, on the sidewalks and front lawns or in the streets. Some of it happens because when the trash and recycling boxes are emptied and detritus falls on the ground, no one picks it up. We don't need a three million dollar bond issue to put trash in its place but if each of us picked up one piece of junk every day, we'd soon have a handle on the litter.

And lest I forget, you still can't walk along the Heritage Trail to Brown Park because the passage under the Sweeney Bridge remains closed from after the fire at the miniature golf course. There was some talk this time last year of opening all of that, after the seawall reconstruction was accomplished, for the 350th anniversary, but that was just talk I guess. Besides, there's always 2059 to look forward to.

And good luck walking on the sidewalks across from the former Buckingham School all the way to the Sweeney Bridge because they are a nightmare and a safety hazard. All the broken concrete allows weeds and other flora and fauna to grow wild, adding that 'untamed' flavor that urban planners say is so important in modern downtowns these days. Actually, there are portions of sidewalk on both sides of Washington that are practically impassable. Berserk bushes, overgrown shrubbery, household garbage, broken glass, discarded fast food containers, dirty diapers, the flotsam and jetsam of life in the 21st Century, strewn like so much junk all across the horizon.

And we don't even see it anymore. We've become inured to the thousands of discarded cigarette butts near the pedestrian islands across from the Flat Iron building. The next time you're out walking downtown, check them out for yourself. I'm sure they will still be there. Squaring away our sidewalks and side streets would take thirty minutes, probably less, out of our week, but we've decided it's not our job to make where we live a better and nicer place to be. We'd rather complain about what we don't have rather than conserve and preserve what we do. And perhaps, in the end that's why there's so much unease about the bonding initiatives-maybe we're afraid, we're just not worth the money. And maybe we're right.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The End of the Innocence

When our son, Patrick, was still a toddler, we lived in a two-room flat, You entered though a small hall, with the bathroom door on the left and an entrance into the living room on the right. Walking straight ahead took you into the kitchen and a pocket door on the right slid open to reveal a bedroom. It was an apartment originally for Sigrid and me that became 'and Patrick made three'.

Within minutes of his learning to walk, he was running and it seems through the mists of memory he has been taking life at a gallop ever since. Der hat kein ruhe im arsch, says my wife's people. We might agree he was an Excitable Boy. It comes to the same thing. There was a day, for whatever reason, as he came across the kitchen floor headed towards the bedroom that his feet went out from under him and his forehead hit the metal frame underpinning the box spring mattress of our bed.

There's very little extra skin at your forehead so any cut there will bleed and he did, profusely. Sigrid called the Arbiter Samariter Bund ambulanz and I held our son in my arms as he became more frantic at the sight of his own blood. By the time the ambulance had arrived the first EMT through the door thought I needed the help, that's how much of our son's blood was on me. We all piled into the ambulance and headed for the Offenbach Krankenhaus, where he had been born and where, for about an hour, the ER staff tried gamely to make sure he really was okay by running a battery of tests and attempting x-rays of his skull.

The only way they could do the x-rays was if I held him while the scan happened, so they covered me in protective jackets and vests and stood back in their cabin reading the results. I can still remember Patrick looking up at me while one of the scans was in progress (it was the noise that frightened him. I lacked the language skills to make that understood to the doctors) and staring into my eyes he asked me 'was machts Du den hier?' (what are you doing here). All I could say say, in English, was "I'm your father, it's my job."

Patrick has long since relinquished the memory of any of that. For many years, he had a crease, of sorts, on his forehead. I think nowadays only his mother and I can see it. I thought about that strange hospital ride so long ago this past Saturday when our son, an adult of twenty-eight who isn't happy we will always see him as our child (nor is his sister, Michelle, but both are accepting of the failings and foibles of their elders) called to tell me his car had been burglarized in the parking lot of his apartment house in New London, a town twenty-five minutes away from where we live.
He was heading out to work and his car was in the parking lot up on cinder blocks with the four tires on the rims, stolen. I'm the kind of guy who goes for the throat, especially when it's my child who is hurt. I wanted to know where the building security cameras were (there are four in the lobby of this landmark in The Whaling City, but none for outside) or when the local police had last patrolled (the answer involves a calendar rather than a clock). I eventually drew a deep breath wrestling with my anger as my son, the victim in all of this, calmed me down and made sure I understood he was okay and that his insurance company was already engaged and things would work out fine.

He'd picked up on the tightness in my voice and asked if I were okay. For just a moment, we were in an x-ray lab in a hospital basement half a lifetime ago, and though I thought I knew the answer, I knew what I could not say.
-bill kenny