Saturday, December 31, 2011

Take It Easy on the Syne

This is a day I always get wrong. Do I look back at everything I failed at this past year or failed to accomplish and attempt? That takes care of the sins of Commission and Omission that Father Costello used to warn us about in those uncomfortable lectures he did after Mass on First Fridays at St. Peter's Church. (And it's quite the revelation to see a liturgical equivalent of PayPal. Must be some of that 'moves in mysterious ways' stuff. )

My other choice is to look forward, but to what and how far? Should I be preparing to celebrate a cure for the heartbreak of psoriasis or having a fruit cup with thick syrup? Don't trivialize my choice of alternatives, okay? But feel free to see them as a cautionary tale for yourself if not tonight then at some time.

Do you make resolutions and what are their subjects? I stopped a long time ago, before I met my wife, before we had our children (technically, she had them) and before we came to the Land of Round Doorknobs. The only resolution I can recall ever making, and the one I encouraged our two children to also make, is to do my best everyday. I'd encourage you to do the same and I don't care what it is you do, or don't.

We spend too much time every day interacting with people who did us a favor showing up, be it for work or for whatever the life event is. If you have no passion or reason for doing or being what you are, where you are, spending any amount of time with you is too much. In the year that gets here on little cat's feet in less time than it takes to tell you about it, promise to never be that person, never.

Be an exclamation, and not an explanation. Live out loud and at the top of your voice as more than one person I know is fond of saying. Be happy that you're here, because you won't be here that long, and make sure the rest of us are thrilled about it as well. Leave nothing undone and even less unsaid. Some left us in the course of this year and I hope they were so marvelous that we shall always feel their absence and miss them. Make it a point to toast absent friends, knowing that all of that is part of all of this and the dance goes on even as the partners change because they must. The same procedure this year? The same procedure as every year.
-bill kenny    

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sarah Saturday is Getting Nervous

It may have something to do with math, but not much I suspect. It does make for a strange headline and an even stranger read. Today is tomorrow in Samoa. Why should this surprise you? We put men on the moon-you thought we couldn't disappear a whole day on a small island? There's an app for that, trust me (and we are so getting a different non-Muppet guy to dance in the background next time).

I would imagine children on the island might be wondering why this skipping of a day business couldn't have been arranged for when school is in session. If you were born on this date, you are going to be hard pressed to get a free burger at Red Robin, since it will still be your birthday but the day itself is gone. Sort of a Catch-22 on the next to last day of the year. Who'd have thunk it?

I suspect once the Bombastic Gas Bags seeking new digs in Dodge City get wind of this skulduggery they'll take to the airwaves and the Sunday talk shows blaming all manner of beast and winged thing. I don't expect Governor Perry will have an opinion as he probably doesn't know where Samoa is. Congresswoman Bachman is familiar with Samoa from her days as a Girl Scout  leader, running cookie sales. (You thought I was kidding about that app stuff, eh? And now?)

Professor Gingrich will have an amazingly erudite explanation, as soon as you hire him and Governor Romney will simultaneously endorse and denounce the elimination of today in Samoa while also claiming and denying he attempted it while Governor of Massachusetts. Congressman Paul will see it as another evil of Big Government and the other 47,853 people running (that seems about right) will make as much sense as the Lollipop Guild made a difference where Dorothy's house ended up in Munchkin Land.

Leaves us all with just Fred, his sweater, sneakers and the King. I'll bet one of them wishes Samoa had chosen to eliminate Bastille Day.
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Trying to Cheer Up Country Joe

I had an appointment with my primary care physician yesterday-it was a regular visit and not any form of an emergency. I mention that because we've had our share of those as well. I'm a little unnerved lately at how often he seems to be surprised when I show up for the appointment as if he has an arrangement with a bookie somewhere and I should be seeing some of his action. I should live so long-actually that's why I see him, so mission accomplished I guess.

I'm not fine and haven't been fine for a number of years but both of us are very polite and rarely mention that in the course of a visit. Aside from being older than I was when we last saw one another (as was he, now that I think about it) and not having whacked my head and knocked myself out earlier in the day as was the case on the previous visit, the appointment was entirely uneventful.

I take a large number of medications on a daily basis so for every jacket and tie prep school hockey puck at Browning who whispered all those years ago that I was on drugs, you're finally right. And fuck you, still.

As my doctor was preparing to end our session, he asked me if I had any questions, which I did. I have hypertension and he's treating it very successfully, according to him. I've read too many articles on what time after awakening someone with hypertension should measure his blood pressure, so I decided to ask. We had an informative exchange-my contribution being mostly head nods and mumbled 'uh-huhs.' If you're keeping track at home, his recommendation was mid morning. But here's one for you: could that mean at 6  AM since that is technically mid-morning or the middle of your morning? I have no idea.

When he asked if I had any other questions, I  inquired how long I should wait to go swimming after I've eaten. He looked at me evenly for a moment and then responded 'about an hour.' How long, I asked, if you've eaten fish? He told me he would try very hard to look forward to seeing me in four months but couldn't guarantee anything. I'll bet if Thom Yorke shows up he'll pretend he doesn't even know who that is.
-bill kenny  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Waking and Dreaming

John Lennon offered, "A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is a reality." When he gave voice to his dreams through his music only then did we discover how much of those dreams we each shared.

As we near the end of another year of tossing and turning, perhaps our resolution, if not revolution, for the New Year might be to decide if we intend to wake up and show up when it comes making a difference or if we intend to treat one another to another heaping helping of more of the same and hope no one says anything that might require someone to actually do something.

I don't intend to fan the flames of communal memory and review the year past through rose (city) colored glasses, though if you wanted to drink a cup of kindness, feel free and if there are grounds in that cup of dreams, they came as part of the set. If you're willing to agree we're farther along than we were this time last year, I'll agree we have a long way yet to go.

Somehow as we've struggled to reinvent our street, neighborhood, village or city, with equal parts economic development, community involvement and what seems at time to be alchemy, we've forgotten how we got here, separately, and how the only way we can move ahead is by doing so together.

Each of us has a specific reason, not merely emotional and/or physical inertia or exhaustion, that has brought us to Norwich, at this time and which keeps us here. It may be 'only one thing' for you or for me but added together each of our 'only one thing' adds up to many reasons. Just as no single drop of rain holds itself accountable for the flood that follows, while we may feel helpless because we cannot do everything, we should realize we can each still do something. And then do it.

We are fortunate to live in an area that offers so much and so close-from shopping through dining, athletic to artistic and everything in between. Norwich is a wonderful place to raise a family. We've been doing that for over 350 years, each generation always mindful of 'each one, teach one.'  

We each have a story to tell, the story of us, the story of how we came to be here, and to be here together at this time.So many have waited for so long for "something good to happen in Norwich." Perhaps we are the something good we have been waiting for and if that is, indeed, the case, we have waited too long.

Let us begin today, at this moment, to become the people we believe we can be, living in the city we know we can have. This new year is perfect for a new beginning that this time has a plan, purpose and destination. It is high time we take ourselves along. Happy 2012! See you on the way.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It's Not a Question, but a Lesson Learned in Time

This time next week, it's Next Year. This one, which seemed so promising at its start, as they all do, raced by except when  it crawled, and proved not to be, despite the Bard's misgivings, '...a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage. And then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.'

One of my concerns living in Norwich for over two decades is that nothing is never 'heard no more.' I've encountered life-long residents who speak of failed undertakings, be they in downtown or in one of the villages  comprising Norwich, as if they had happened last week but they turn out to be almost half a century old.

When you end up as the owner of a zip code for living in the past, you should concede there's a problem and resolve to move and stop trying to get people to join the Office Block Persecution Affinity.

This is actually a good week to prepare to move to 2012 as there's not a lot of municipal meetings, though there's enough volunteers and neighbors getting together to please anyone who fears we're becoming a nation of loners (I fear the additional "o" far more and have the headlines to prove it).

Actually, I'm not sure about the this afternoon's meeting of the Board of Education's Policy Committee, which is listed on the city's municipal website for three thirty in the Central Office of the Norwich Public Schools, across from the Norwichtown Green, but doesn't show up in any form on the school's website (actually, nothing connected with it has any notes on the school's web page. Insert your expression of astonishment here <>)

At four in the basement conference room of the Planning Department at 23 Union Street it's a regular meeting of the Building Code Board of Appeals whose page on the city's website could use an update and extensive overhaul, speaking as we were of living in the past (Most recent meeting minutes are a draft from August 25, 2009. Seriously?).

And at five, in the City Manager's office (Room 219), it's a regular meeting of the Harbor Management Commission. I'm not able to locate what I'd regard as recent meeting minutes (Hint: Revised September meeting minutes aren't recent when it's the end of December) but if you haven't yet had the chance to read "A Waterfront Vision" you should do so before the next public meeting (sometime in January) on the Plan of Conservation and Development.

Tomorrow afternoon at 3:30, the city's website has a meeting of the Norwich Public School's Building and Space Committee but the Board's website has nothing about it (I'm betting there is no meeting.)

And at five, in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Emancipation Proclamation Commemorative Committee, though there's little else I can tell you about who they are, what they're doing and how well they are doing it. I guess we don't have to strike 'better and more effective communications' from our 2012 To Do List. (It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time.) See you at something? (That's a question).
-bill kenny      

Monday, December 26, 2011

Has Nothing to do with Ears

It takes forever to get here, Christmas I mean, and then in one swift night it's gone. Heute ist zweite Weihnachten, today is Second Christmas, unless you work in a mall anywhere in this great nation of ours in which case, you should wish you were in Great Britain or Canada where this is Boxing Day which could cause the MMA fan in your house to get excited except those who follow MMA get excited about everything. That , too, shall pass.

Speaking of which, nearly, one of the nice things about Christmas Passed, at least in my area, is newspapers return to regular size and heft. The Great Depression that isn't, but which we blame on either Bush or Obama (depending upon your politics), hasn't been kind to large amounts of everything that we take for granted and local newspapers are at, or close to, the top of that list. From shortly after Halloween through last Sunday our newspapers were crammed with all manner of fliers and advertising.

I've never appreciated all the filling. I'm willing (in theory), to pay more money for a newspaper, especially the Sunday paper, that doesn't have all of that hullaballo caneck caneck (sorry Rik) but I'm not sure if confronted with that actual proposition I'd be willing to dig a little deeper into my pocket.

And if we're doing Truth or Dare I should admit that aside for dinosaurs like me, the Sunday newspaper isn't especially relevant to anyone. Too bad. Not everything new is better and not everything old can be tossed aside (said the man nearing sixty). I can recall Sunday mornings on the way home from Mass with a stop at the bakery for fresh rolls and at the corner shop (that had all of the out of town newspapers decades before the connectivity of the Internet). Even then, I put all the advertising to one side.

And now, I have some peace from those full page ads from my 'fragrance destination' and from my 'sports headquarters' (I have prosthetic knees, you Dick, what do I play aside from checkers until I pass away?) as I spread the paper out on the kitchen table and work my way through every section (except real estate; I have no use for this part of the paper at all).

Every media outlet does year-end summaries-the biggest news stories, the most outrageous Hollywood Whatevers, the Year in photos, Greatest Pantomimes, Sports Achievements So Monumental They Eclipse Last Year's Achievements, complete with listings and notes on famous people who died (and there's two or more names where you go 'oh, I forgot about her/him'; and more than that for me where I go 'who?').

I suppose we could spend some time this week, learning songs to celebrate the arrival of the New Year, but that's not really who we are as we prefer complaining about the year as it ends. Besides, why would we want to be The Holiday Hipsters anyway?      
-bill kenny        

Sunday, December 25, 2011

And the Bells Were Ringing Out for Christmas Day

In a way, I suppose, it's fitting that some I know today are celebrating the Birth of God's Son someplace other than their own home and hearth. After all, according to Matthew and Luke in the New Testament, Joseph and Mary (great with child and then, afterwards, not so much) weren't from Bethlehem, but were required to go there as part of the Roman Empire's effort to enumerate the number of subjects it had.

Yeats' power and command of the language notwithstanding, there was far more stoicism than heroism involved in their original journey as there has been for just about everyone following in their path for the last two thousand years or so. Of course there would be travelers underway from somewhere to somewhere else as there are everyday but today please spare a thought for those scattered across our globe in the profession of arms, hoping (and helping) to keep us safe from an ever more hostile world.

Very few of the professionals in our military would choose the places many are today to observe the birth of the Prince of Peace. Many of them are in an environment inimicable to anything even remotely connected to any form of peaceful pursuit, faced off against implacable enemies about whom we hear and read so little in our TMZ and daily gossip information streams.

Sometimes, I fear, we are in what might have been the final days of the Roman Empire because of the distractions we've invented to deflect us from the reality and gravity of the times in which we live.

Luckily, we have a holiday such as the one today that is something different for each of us, without ever being anything special not shared in some way by all of us, in and of itself nearly a Christmas miracle. I would hope somewhere you have a someone who waits for you and for whom you wait.

I've got a feeling this year's for me and you, so Happy Christmas, I love you baby. I can see a better time when all our dreams come true. And God bless us, everyone, at least until the New Year. 

-bill kenny

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas is all around

I have a quite lovely black and blue on my upper left arm where someone decided to pinch me not that we have a Christmas tradition like that in my house, but because some of us think we do. It's a perfectly logical consequence in a relationship that began thirty-five years ago on Christmas Day which was when I first spoke to the person I was to marry. I'd note I haven't had much gelegenheit to speak since then, or to get a word in edgewise, but that would probably earn me a matching black and blue on the other upper arm.

I had seen the woman on a number of previous occasions, but could not work up the courage to speak to her. Nevertheless I knew with absolute certainty I would marry her though if I didn't solve the 'haven't talked to her yet' obstacle, it could be tricky. Me and my friend Chris, thick as thieves then and now despite half a continent's distance, had gotten head's start on the Christmas Cheer and had been downing it by the glassful for hours as we made the rounds in the Frankfurt am Main party district, Sachsenhausen. We weren't the only lost and lonely people, swarming like flies, but I believe we were two of the better lubricated.

At some point we came to be in Old Smuggler's a bar near Eschenheimer Tor in mid-town am Main (great restaurants, terrific shopping, none of which we had any interest in). Chris and I were toasting NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as we'd concluded it was in support of the Alliance that he and I found ourselves on the cutting edge of the sword of freedom, not that either of us could actually utter that turn of phrase at that point in the evening. To show you how far we've come, NATO now has a Facebook page. Of course they do, who doesn't?

I got much drunker much faster than Chris, who did a very good job looking out for me which is always necessary since once I got my drunk on I was even more of an ass(et/hole) than when I'm sober. I stopped drinking not because I suffered from alcoholism (I enjoyed it a great deal) but because I got tired of getting the snot beaten out of me mostly by inanimate objects that snuck up and tackled me. To this day, the only chair I trust is the one I'm sitting on and only when I'm sitting on it.

Through a very crowded Christmas night bar came this women who wanted to share our table and whom, in my liquid state, I felt should sit on my lap to save space. When she agreed, I knew it was now or never. (I was successful at falling in love. I hadn't been successful at staying in love. So far). Chris assures me I was very suave when I said to her, 'now that you're sitting on my lap, don't you think you should tell me your name?' Okay, not how Shakespeare scripted it, but, remember, it was a long time ago.

As I munched on some mandelspekulatius today, my second-favorite Christmas memory of Germany, I tried to imagine how things had to happen in just the order they did for she and I to meet when we did as we did. My brain hurts, nearly as much as my arm and again I concede the limitations of a liberal arts education because I lack the mathematical wherewithal to pull off the arithmetic to do the figuring. I just accept some things on faith and how I met your mother is one of those things without question or quibble.

There is a reason for everything we do and everything we fail to do. And as much as I love the 'we're prisoners of an indifferent universe' state of mind, I don't buy it. Hold on and hold out. It worked for me and I would hope no less than the same for you. Love is always a gift, as it can never be earned and this is the season of love and gifts. Happy Christmas.

-bill kenny

Friday, December 23, 2011

Getting Better

There should be a little more spring in your step today than yesterday. And while it may be hard to measure, you know it instinctively because before we had Big Brains we had reptile brains and they had and have memories.

Yesterday morning in the wee small hours, we had winter solstice, the shortest day. From now through June, the days get a little more daylighty every time. That alone is a compelling reason to get up early so you don't burn daylight. I happen to have brothers whom I suspect have no idea what evening looks like as they always seem to be up and at 'em, at least in my experience.

Sorry about daylighty-but I get giddy once we are past the shortest day. All the oxygen in my blood rushes to my head and I am suddenly so inventive I almost scare myself. Almost, except I'm fearless. Or clueless. I often forget which, but I'll bet you don't. It seems to me the winter solstice, not New Year's Day, is the best moment to make resolutions, not that I make any (anymore).

They say the road to a very warm place is paved with the best of intentions and resolutions do look a little like cobblestones or can be made to. Instead of specific resolutions, such as 'I'll save money for a saddle', why not keep them more general and generic like 'a pony ride for a birthday is a fine thing.' I'm not saying set the bar lower so much as suggesting you open your arms a little wider. It guarantees you that there's more to hug, and this time of year, with the dark and all, some of us can use all the hugs in the world. We did the worst first, now it's getting better all the time.
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Somebody Holds the Key

For much of the world, this is a joyous and joyful time of the year-filled with promise and hope and, if not, love, something we believe feels a lot like love. I'm off from work, to the rejoicing of many who aren't and yesterday I popped in to check my mail, review messages I've received from the President, and make sure my hallucination medications were up to date (2 of the 3 items in the preceding phrase were correct) and encountered someone I see on a regular, if not especially frequent, basis.

He was struggling a little bit with where he was, geographically, and where his family is, at the moment. I'm always a bit awkward with him because I cannot remember his name. I knew it at one time and then we both went in our separate directions in concentrating on work and when we next were introduced, years later (and also years ago), I sort of remembered the face and had no luck on the name.

Perhaps he's the same way (that would actually be funny-an Abilene Paradox at the interpersonal level. Sometimes, I just crack myself up.) and if I weren't so hung up on my not being able to remember his name maybe I'd notice he doesn't remember mine either. Perhaps we'd both discover we're not work friends at all but no more than familiar strangers. I'm sure if I ran into him in the metro in Beijing I'd talk to him; but years of working in the same organization left us so blase about each other's existence we've come to this. Honey, come meet "what's-his-name-from-work."

Probably a bad example since yesterday in a very brief conversation he made it clear he was having a tough time emotionally this Christmas. He's going through a divorce and I've never met his spouse (didn't even recall he had one), or any other members of his family, so it's hard to know what to say to him since, as I mentioned, I can't even say his name because I don't remember it.

We hear and read a lot about the holiday blues or blahs especially at Christmas, but from what I've come across that's mostly horse pucky on the scale of all the viral factoids on domestic violence and Super Bowl Sunday which is also not true. But, still, it's another traveler on the Big Blue Marble and I'd hate for anything to happen to someone for no other reason than I felt awkward about getting involved. There are times, I suspect, all of us feel alone facing a horizon that stretches forever under a heaven as empty of stars as our soul is of hope.

We have to make of what we are, all we can ever hope to be; and if that's lost and lonely, that's what it is.  No matter how often we try to be like Dorothy, there are no ruby slippers and when we open our eyes, it still ain't Kansas and the realization dawns the door isn't merely closed, but it's also locked
-bill kenny            

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Talking in a Language I Don't Speak

The great thing about unsolicited advice is there's no obligation to take it. I promise to not lose sight of that, if you won't, either as I offer an unsolicited observation on a situation I read about it on the front page of a newspaper this past weekend.  I'm a registered voter in the same party that's in the story though that's more accidental than anything else (I hope). Let's both pretend that's relevant, okay?

When I tell you sometimes I've voted for candidates for public office who are from the same party I'm in, are you surprised or do you shrug your shoulders? And if I then tell you other times I've voted for people who are not of my party, may I assume the reaction is about the same?

Like you, unless you're lactose intolerant, I enjoy a variety of different flavors of ice cream-I think having the same one all the time would get old and I'm doing a good job of that all by myself. I see political parties as houses, with many rooms and in each, to varying degrees, are people who share, and/or don't, similar values and beliefs. Feel free to add additional rooms or floors (there's an unfinished basement if that helps) and create your own metaphor to describe what you've built.

Ideally, the houses are large enough politically to accommodate all who seek to enter and if we end up with some participants with whom we'd rather not go shoe shopping, what can I say? For a lot of people I am that guy, which explains why I'm often mistaken for Shoeless Joe when I'm really Klueless Kenny.

The adage says variety is the spice of life (I can never find it in the store so I usually get paprika). I think of it  as helping put the Pluribus in E Pluribus Unum. A cynic might argue when looking at the 'other' national party, sometimes called "The Party of Lincoln," Abe, himself, might have had difficulty passing muster with many of those who are members today. A less vintage example might be Connecticut's own Lowell Weicker or even Joseph Lieberman, both of whom chose different paths in pursuit of their respective elected offices.

It's not always the singer, so much as it's the song and while many of us can't carry a tune in a bucket, we can always admire the lyrics even if we don't always know all the verses (unless it's Henry the Eighth). And when some of us don't think any of the words have a meaning for us and that no one is listening to the words we choose to use, the question becomes do we keep silent or start our own dictionary.

In this particular instance, I don't pretend to know the whole story but I'm pretty sure what I've read didn't belong in a newspaper. Words, like stones, can be used to build bridges or, instead, erect walls. Which we choose speaks volumes about who we are.    
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

So Where's this Healing Time Brings?

Yesterday was my Dad's 88th birthday. He didn't live to see it-he didn't even get close, passing away in 1981. I often thought we didn't get along because we were so different, and I blamed him for that, but in the decades since his death I've come to realize it's because we are very much alike and I've decided all this finding fault junk is foolish, especially since I'd have to be the one to blame.

My dad had a very quick mind and a mouth to match. The laws of probability suggest he wasn't always the smartest guy in the room but I don't ever recall being in a room when he wasn't probably the smartest guy, no matter the subject and no matter the size of the room. He was a natural wonder of the world and while, in hindsight, I realize he was often wrong-he was never in doubt.

I recognized the exact moment I had become my dad, ironically not in any form of interaction with our children (who hadn't even been born yet), but in a work situation many years ago in radio broadcasting with someone who could have been far better than she was, had she made the effort. She explained through tears after an especially caustic critique session that "I can't work as hard as you can!" And though it was my voice, it was my father's words which coldly countered "I don't want you to work as hard as I can; I want you to work as hard as you can."

Where my father and I differed is in our circumstances-I suspect he was far more of a humanist than he was ever comfortable admitting. He was very much a man of his time, born in the years before the first Great Depression of parents who'd migrated to the Land of Opportunity. They had a family of all boys who were strivers, all of them as near as I can remember. In the years since his passing I've thought of them only rarely and lost any means of contacting any of them. I never cared to speak with them since I don't think they knew much more about my dad than I did.

We were six children, two groups of three-two boys and girl in the middle in the first cohort and then two girls and, finally, another boy in the second cohort. We three oldest knew him as a two-fisted force of nature who got up before anyone else in the neighborhood, perhaps even in the whole world, and rode the train to "The City" where he taught the sons of the rich (to little effect as I had opportunity first hand, repeatedly, to discover) and came home when everything was dark. We wanted for nothing and, speaking for myself, I  never once considered what it cost him for us to live that way.

Our second cohort had different lives as he died before my middle sister, the oldest of the three, had graduated from high school. By that time, I had gone as far as you can in this world from him, distance wise, only to learn no matter how fast you are you can never outrun your own shadow or your own conscience. When the American Red Cross operator notified me of 'an emergency, a death in the family' I wasn't surprised it was my dad-but my sense of guilt at hearing the news did surprise me. For just a moment I was  again that little-too-small and little-too-loud boy who often felt over matched by a father, a Captain of the Universe no less, who never knew what to say to his own children that would sound like the love and encouragement he was trying to offer.

About a year after we married, my wife and I came to the United States. It was very important for me that my father like the woman I loved, even as I told myself it mattered not at all. She wasn't Irish, she wasn't Catholic and he loved her anyway-I had worried for nothing. It was an a delightful relief and a wonderful visit. He and I almost talked but there would be time for real conversation on other visits. When we said good bye at the airport, he was misty-eyed and I thought of my sister Jill and her 'it's very warm, my eyes are sweating' but I didn't say it aloud.

That moment at the departure lounge proved to be the last time I would have an opportunity face to face to ever not tell him something I could, and perhaps, should, have. I spent many years struggling with the  burden of that moment and the memories not so much of all the things said but, rather of all the things left unsaid that now will stay that way for all time until memory ends. Happy Birthday, Dad.         
-bill kenny        

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Pretty Patter of a Seaboard Town

This time next week, we'll be talking about Zweite Weinachten which, considering we speak English will be a neat trick auf deutsch and is a concept we really don't have. The Second Christmas is usually reserved for friends and acquaintances with family celebrations held on Christmas day itself.

Second Christmas would be a good day to celebrate with friends, perhaps at a local restaurant as the business of government will be off for the day but in between now and then, there's a lot going on as well there should be because there's a lot that needs to be done.

You'll need to lace up your track shoes starting today because it's a busy week. Before the first 'real' business meeting of the new City Council (which we elected over a month ago already) there will be a public hearing at seven in Council Chambers (Room 319) by the Community Advisory Board on how to repurpose Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) unexpended moneys. Two words: pony rides; three more: for my birthday. Fear I already know the final four:  snowball's chance in hell.

At 7:30, it's a City Council meeting whose agenda suggests a full plate that includes formally hiring a new City Clerk through a lot of housekeeping and committee appointments work (and a really excellent summary on the various requests for use of the reclaimed CDBG money as it's the City Council that re-authorizes the re-use).

Tuesday evening at six, you have choices. There's a regular meeting of the Personnel and Pension Board in Room 319 of City Hall. You'll find their most recent meeting minutes, from October, here. Across town, specifically at 16 Golden Street at six in their training room (I always think wrestling mats, speed bags and the smell of rubbing liniment) it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Public Utilities Board of  Commissioners, with a Sewer Board Authority meeting immediately afterwards. I had so much trouble getting their website to open to look for minutes from their November meetings, I thought the site was being powered by Connecticut Light & Power (a little 'crappy response' joke there).

At seven there's another meeting doubleheader, or meeting within a meeting if you prefer, at 23 Union Street as the Commission on the City Plan holds its regular meeting; here are their November meeting minutes. In the course of that meeting will be a meeting by those on the Plan of Conservation and Development Sub-Committee. You may find it helpful to have a copy of the current Plan, and that's right here. I can't get the link on the city's website to work but I just washed my hands and can't do a thing with my fingers.

Wednesday morning at nine in The Dime Bank Community Room on Salem Turnpike it's a regular meeting of the Norwich School Readiness Council (Children First) whose meeting minutes continue to take the hindmost. I so admire consistency.

At five, in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Emancipation Proclamation Commemorative Committee, whose minutes would be here, linked to the alphabetical listings of all the volunteer panels that help make the city run and that listing would include who is on it and when it was created and what it does. Dream on.

At five thirty, in the Norwich Arts Coop Gallery, it's a regular meeting of the Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, though not the meeting noticed on the website (that meeting was a while ago) and the most recent meeting minutes are from July.

Thursday morning at 8:30 and lasting until ten at Three Rivers Community College is a workshop sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development with Commissioner Catherine Smith. If you're a small business, or would like to be a larger one, and you're searching for avenues of  funding, this meeting is for you (and all the rest of us, too).

There's a special meeting of the Board of Education at four in the conference room of the Central Office of the Norwich Public Schools, 90 Town Street, and be grateful you don't have to attend as it's an expulsion hearing, which means it's an executive session.

And Friday morning at ten, in their offices in the Norwich Business Park, it's a regular meeting of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments Route 11 Greenway Authority Commission. There are NO minutes posted for any commission meetings that may have been held in 2011 or to put it another way, there are as many words about the 2011 meetings as there are additional feet of Route 11 constructed in the last two decades. There is no truth that the logo for the committee is a self-licking ice cream cone. But thanks for playing.

By this time next week all the pretty paper and packaging is in the recycling bin and the magic is through. Back to business as usual. meh. Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. See you at something? 

-bill kenny

Sunday, December 18, 2011

There Was a Time when Bacon Sandwiches Were Everyone's Favourite Snack.

It seems funny in this age of instant proof thanks to Internet connectivity that I'd offer you a tale for which I can furnish no bonafides at all and have never attempted to, though I have been tempted to...

Feel free to think of it as a parable but more bread than fishes and don't cast it on the water though I did steal today's title from a tune by Robert Wyatt, former member of Soft MachineIt's sort of about history, so if you're old or if you're young, it's about you; nearly.

It's set in Princeton, New Jersey, in the time of the Revolutionary War. The Hessians in the service of King George along with the Redcoats, surprised by Washington's advance across the Delaware River, are fleeing for their lives in a disorderly and disorganized rout before the advancing ragged Yankees who are in the hottest of pursuits.

As one of the cannon the Redcoats are withdrawing traverses the field in front of Nassau Hall, the ground beneath it gives way and despite struggles that cost men and horses their lives, the Redcoats cannot dislodge the field piece and abandon it, mired practically to its barrel in the front yard of what is to become in time the first building of Princeton University, at one time time called the College of New Jersey.

The cannon remained a mute testimonial to the bravery and sacrifice of our forefathers (and foremothers) for centuries. Until the morning, the story I've heard says, in the 1960's when, as people passed Nassau Hall, they noticed a very deep hole and a very large pile of dirt. They also noticed the cannon was nowhere to be found.

A search of the entire city ensued, with no success. The search  soon spread across all of Mercer County and then adjoining areas throughout the state of New Jersey. Measurements were made of the width and depth of the hole and calculations on the tonnages of dirt that had been removed were developed. Law enforcement tracked every whisper of a clue, trying to understand the degree of organization and discipline it would have taken to remove such a large object from public view in one night without leaving a clue.

Speculation ran riot as to what had become of  the cannon and what and where a private collector (since no one could reasonably expect to sell or melt down such a famous artifact) might have placed the purloined object. Days became weeks, became months (in the story as I've heard it) and no trace of the cannon was found.

Then one day a note, addressed to the Princeton Chief of Police, arrived directing that all backs bend and all shovels dig into the pile of dirt beside the hole at Nassau Hall. There, all was revealed and the mysterious disappearance of the cannon became the work of pranksters not thieves, who, realizing the weight was so great the piece could never be extracted in the course of one quiet night, chose to hide it in plain sight knowing those used to seeing it everyday would forget the exact placement of its location. They were correct.

With the benefit of decades of hindsight, many think there's a great lesson to be learned about appreciating what you have, when you have it and perhaps you are of that persuasion. However, as a Scarlet Knight of Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey, I can only shake my head and wonder how Princeton underclassmen can even find the campus without a compass.
-bill kenny      

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Other People's Rooms

I have a meeting I'm attending today, actually this morning, and during the week the organizer thought it would be nice to make it slightly more festive than our usual efforts and asked each of us intending to come to bring a holiday treat of some sort.

I'm hoping no one brings eggnog because even though I've never had it, I already know I don't like it. And don't get me started about the kind "fortified" with alcohol. Not that big of a fan, truth to tell; you can have mine.

I decided to shop local and get some exercise and hike over to a bake shop I've boosted constantly without actually ever buying anything in there. It opened up not that many months ago and now that I'm in my full 'support small business' mode, I figured the time was right to put my money where my mouth is and to expend some show leather to help tone the avoirdupois. Mission accomplished on both counts.

Off, I set, for the Chocolate Rose Bake Shop which is a goodly piece from my house on Lincoln Avenue and isn't improved as walks go by the dearth of sidewalks for about half the distance (I also did a lot more Rockwell to Boswell (without Samuel Johnson)and came back via Mohegan Park Road, Wilderness Road (which is the first place I saw a trail in the park, btw) and then down Mohegan Road to Washington Street  and home again. I'd estimate about five miles round trip and I have to estimate because along the way I lost my way cool super whammadyne Omron pedometer, not to be confused with L. Ron Hubbard. (unless you want Travolta or Cruise coming to your house. And staying.)

This is the second one of these things that I've lost or broken. But please believe when I tell you that I like them a great deal. I just don't know how to take care of them. The first one I drowned one morning because I forgot to take it off before showering (don't ask; move on to beyond the parenthesis) and this one I lost somewhere along the way, possibly in Mohegan Park. I'm trying to imagine a chipmunk hauling it around. Too much Disney and not enough Natgeo.

It's of small solace that the goodies I bought look delicious and I hope I get to have one by the time the meeting is over (I'm thinking the best way to guarantee that is to NOT go to the meeting but rather sit in the car and eat them all, but then I have to explain my Christmas cookie breath). I'll get over the loss of the pedometer but the most frustrating part is having no one else to blame but myself. I really hate that part.

When you walk the streets of a city, literally because, as I said, there's not a lot of sidewalks along the way (I guess we had a concrete shortage for much of the last 352 years) you see the city slower and from a different perspective than speeding by in a car. I saw far more abandoned houses than I realized were on the route because I was out during the workday and in daylight. It made me sad to see properties that people had invested so much of themselves into just left to sit unwanted and alone. Despite the still warm for this time of year temperatures, I felt cold as I hurried past them.

You can get a better appreciation of the time and skill devoted to decorating with Christmas lights when you walk past houses whose owners and tenants have felt the spirit. By the light of day, a pedestrian can see the machinery of inventive illumination without being blinded by the lights themselves as darkness falls.

During the day people have shutters open and blinds drawn back and you get a brief glimpse of the lives of the not so rich and famous with whom you share the city. I smiled at some of the placement of furnishings I could see in living rooms as I walked on by-realizing with a start that where we have shelves and couches in our house might well cause the same kind of furrowed brow I had while looking at someone else's living arrangements. 

It's called pedestrian because it's a slower pace affording those moving at it an opportunity to share, if only for a moment, other people's lives lived in other people's rooms.

-bill kenny

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Kid Makes a Comeback

I came to the Dad party kinda late-I wasn't the fastest person on earth to get married and was certainly in no hurry to to have children. I didn't mind practicing, but the whole 'small human being entirely dependent on me for everything' aspect didn't excite me at all. Then my wife pointed out she'd been putting up with it since she and I got married. Et tu, Sigrid?

I love being a father. I'm not much better at it than being a husband but our son, Patrick, and daughter, Michelle, are some of my favorite people and I can't be accused of favoritism since I was hardly involved in their growing up, except in my dreams.

I figured I'd spend the next couple of weeks off from work just Dixie Driftin' which I do well. I'm off because of illness, as I may have mentioned a few times. The people I work for are sick of me (and I of them for the most part), but as it happened it was a good thing yesterday I was off and home.

Our son wound up in the ER on one of those, 'the cure is worse than the disease' situations. He broke a wisdom tooth at some point Wednesday evening and took ibuprofen for the pain. He was in a lot of pain. You can do the math.

By the time he called us shortly after seven in the morning he'd taken a not inconsiderable amount of the stuff and knew he needed help. I, along with this sister as navigator, set off to Mystic to retrieve him and get him to the hospital.

This being Connecticut, and Eastern Connecticut at that, nothing is in a straight line so an on-paper twenty minute drive takes a lot more like 45 minutes to happen. I still think if I had a red flashing light and a siren I could shave a couple of minutes off the trip, and may wind up purchasing the necessary accoutrements  but let's see what Santa brings....

We wound up in line at the ER behind someone named Patricia Kerry but she disappeared as if we had invented her and the staff of Backus Hospital worked on Patrick. Meanwhile, I had more ambulance deliveries in store as Michelle had to see her orthopedic surgeon for an ongoing foot situation that the doctors will now need to do an MRI to help make a determination. She was a little chagrined the blood tests didn't seem to have answers, but as I pointed out, they helped the physicians understand what the condition isn't.

From there, it was back to Backus (another great name for a rock band, even if not from Seattle) where Patrick was just about ready to be released with a combination of infection fighters and painkillers that should have him starry eyed and laughing through the weekend. I smiled thinking about a time, before we had Michelle, where he and I spent very nearly a whole day hanging with the Arbitersamariterbund,  EMT's, but that was a long time ago, the day was anstrengend and the hour is late. -bill kenny      

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Never Been Much Good at Keepin' a Secret

It's a good thing I've taken off from work in the Blue Smoke and Mirrors Factory GmbH through next year because sitting up late last night, on a school night, to watch the woman who inflicted The View on all of us to get her annual prime time swerve on with "Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2011."

It was nice to see the Lohan-Hilton stunt doubles, the Kardashian Kun-s, Kids, make Bab's list which I suspect always starts and ends with her. I must be getting hip in my dotage (tell me that's not a great name for a band!) as I sort of knew everyone on her list. I was disappointed since I had the impression #1 would be announced live and had an extra chair in the living room and made sure there was room at the curb for the Ku-van uplink truck. Y'know, just in case.

Turns out, of course, I didn't make the cut-I never do but if you're like me you look at who else doesn't make the list, like This Guy, or any of this bunch, and you wonder if the most fascinating thing about those so honored might be how they got chosen in the first place.

In the future, prophesied Andy Warhol, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes (though his fame lasted a lot longer than that) so maybe maybe it's just as well we get the fame game out of the way sooner rather than later. Though if you're Pippa Middleton, you can probably speed the clock up a bit and she won't mind all that much. Especially with this crap. The home of Chaucer, Drake and Shakespeare (and David Beckham) is reduced to this?

Maybe next year's list can be done alphabetically. By height. I'm looking forward to it (especially if I get those stilts for Christmas). Can't wait for the Three Wise Men to follow The Star and get here. I ordered cheesy bread-it should be just a couple of minutes more and worth the wait.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Leave All Your Love and Your Longing Behind

The distance between who we are and who we hope to become can vary from very great to very small depending on our plans, abilities, aptitudes and perhaps, most importantly, our desire and will to improve. You have to risk something of yourself to close the gap and the fear of making a mistake is, itself, a mistake. Just because we haven't yet succeeded, doesn't mean we won't.

No one ever says 'ready, set, stay!' at least no one who wants to be successful. Everything on Planet Earth must adapt in order to survive and succeed or it becomes history. Cheap gas and affordable automobiles helped change the landscape of post World War II America, with families moving out of cities as vast tracts were converted to housing developments and shops and merchants followed the population and exited downtowns across the country.

Half a century later, the tide of urban exodus has ebbed and escalating costs for services and infrastructure combined with less ready cash and diminished credit have helped spur a second look at cities whose best days were thought to be behind them. Turns out those who'd written off our urban centers may have another think coming. If you abandon a sinking ship that does not sink, you must be an excellent swimmer.

Having lived in Norwich for twenty years, I've been comfortable, if not benumbed, with the idea that as unfulfilled as the promise of this city may seem to many, we have spared ourselves the finality of despair and disappointment by never actually planning and then committing and executing our plan. If we never really try, we can never really fail-at least that's what we'd like to believe.

But in recent years, we've edged, albeit uneasily towards learning to work together towards goals larger than the next election cycle and beyond the next budget year. We've finally conceded when you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. I don't think we've agreed on the destination, but it's starting to take shape and the timeline is looking a lot more like sooner rather than later.

There's a "Vibrant Communities" public meeting at four this afternoon in the Artspace community room at 35 Chestnut Street to develop ideas and insights on how to use a $50,000 community development grant awarded by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation earlier this fall to target one building and create a strategic plan for rehabilitation and reuse. Not a 'build it and they might come' but more of a pick a point of leverage to move a neighborhood forward.

It's okay to be skeptical that we can create a consensus and critical mass but check your attitude and then your watch because at 6:30 tonight, the formal dedication of the newly renovated Kelly Middle School, under budget and ahead of schedule, could cause you to rethink that 'no, we can't make this work' mindset, because it seems, yes we can.

Speaking of making things work, Saturday morning's One City Forum, starting at nine (I had the wrong time earlier and in a local newspaper today; just getting old, I guess) in the Occum Volunteer Fire Department reviews a year-old outline, the "Norwich Community-wide Economic Plan and Process." The intention is to extract as much manner and method from that proposal and include it in the Plan of Conservation and Development other city residents have volunteered to improve with the understanding that our political leaders have to fully and finally implement.

We can stop looking for lone developers on a grassy knoll. It's not about buildings anymore-it's about building long-term relationships that reflect everyone's interest in our community. I'm not going to pretend Norwich's dark days are over but I believe it's time that together we step closer towards the light on the horizon.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Walking on the Moon

As I pad about in the early morning hours readying myself for work (that fragment would bewilder my colleagues who truly believe I just stumble in), I have extended conversations with myself-sort of like pep talks, except I know the true nature of the knucklehead with whom I'm conversing. And, let's face it, it's pretty early and I'm not the sharpest spoon in the drawer even in the middle of the day so looking for intellectual sparks in the wee, small hours is a fool's errand. Probably why I'm up.

I've never really figured out what I did to my hands but on mornings when I shave, they've tried to kill me on more occasions than I can count (and not just because I don't want to get all mathy on you but really because it's been a lot of times). It happened yesterday again-I cut myself under my moustache on the left side. Technically my hands cut me, aided and abetted by my fingers while my eyes watched in the mirror and did nothing.

If you own stock in the Acme Stypic Pencil Company, you should be seeing big, fat bonus checks because I go through their product by the boxcar. My father used little dollops of toilet paper-looking like he had papier-mâché measles on some mornings. I'm a 21st Century Man. I always think I may have cut myself usually just under the Fu part of the Fu Manchu (I like to think it's more Sergeant Pepper but what do I know? I have hands trying to cut my own throat) and I'll start reaching for the styptic pencil. I've graduated to the liquid kind mainly because that's what's been in the stores the last two times I've bought it and it works fine. It staunches the flow and I don't surprise my wife by having drowned in a pool of my own blood in the bathroom (ask her about the apple corer).

Yesterday, the cap on the container was so tight I couldn't get it off. I struggled with the damn thing all the while watching in the mirror as the Red River trickled down my chin and headed south. I recited the 'lefty lucy, rightie tighty' mantra repeatedly (and with a growing sense of urgency) while wrapping the wash flannel around the cap to get traction. Only after I did the 'tap, tap' thing you do with jar lids on a kitchen counter to 'loosen 'em up' did I get the cap, to my utter amazement and bemusement.

Reaching work, I had an opportunity to experience moon gravity as I grabbed the massive glass door at my place of work's main entrance and opened it. Whoa! I practically pulled it off the frame! What I didn't know was the little hydraulic doohickey on the top of the door had broken and the door was hanging on by the three hinges. My first reaction was that my half hour regimen every morning at the gym had finally transformed me into Lou Ferrigno or his ancestor, Charles Atlas.

No such luck-I had a better chance of a sudden diminishing of gravity no matter how much spinach I ate or anchor tattoos I got on my biceps. I did get second chance with the door, however, as the facilities repairmen asked me to hold the 'Don't Use' sign as he searched for tape. I was going to ask if styptic sticks adhere to glass but he may have responded with Shylock's monologue, an exercise both of us would have regretted, but mostly me.
-bill kenny

Monday, December 12, 2011

When Winter's Shadowy Fingers First Pursue You Down the Street

The days dwindle down, not helped by how early it seems to get dark. We're all a little distracted right now with Christmas and such and perhaps in these parts we've not yet fully realized we're not really having winter though it is the season for it. Not to worry-it'll get here soon enough, it always does. And all we can do despite and because of it is the best we can.

And the best we can do doesn't take a break for holiday shopping or working to get home for holidays, so spare a thought for the friends and neighbors where you live who work on committees and advisories, great and small, on a hundred different projects that make our cities and towns places we want to come home to.

Making things better gets off to a pretty early start in Norwich this morning at 8:30 in the Norwich Business Park with a regular meeting of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments (SCCOG) Executive Committee. Here's their November meeting minutes and I find it interesting that it looks like an action item may be the creation of a regional Ethics Committee because at five this afternoon, in Room 210 of City Hall, our Ethics Commission holds a regular meeting. Judging from their November minutes, they have had a lot on their plates.

Also at five, next door in City Hall, in Room 209, it's a regular meeting of the Volunteer Firefighters' Relief Fund Committee. Judging from the city's website, there haven't been any meetings since May.

And what goes with fire better than water? I'm thinking grilled cheese and cream of tomato soup but pay me no mind. At 5:15 in their offices at 1649 Route 12 in Gales Ferry, it's a regular meeting of the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority whose meeting minutes dried up seemingly after their session in August.

Tuesday afternoon at five in the offices of the Public Works Director at 50 Clinton Street, it's a regular meeting of the Public Works and Capital Improvements Committee. Their most recent meeting minutes (with their 'old' committee make-up) are from September, demonstrating again we know how to put the time in timely.

At five thirty in the Kelly Middle School, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Public School's Board of Education. If you look here, you'll almost but not quite find the minutes of their November meeting which is where they are required to be, but sort of like that hands-free cell phone thing, it's often more of a suggestion than anything else.

And at six in their clubhouse on the New London Turnpike, the Norwich Golf Course Authority is having a special meeting to pursue hiring a new Head Professional/Manager.

Wednesday is a busy day starting at oh bright early, a quarter of nine in the morning as the Rehabilitation Review Committee meets in the Planning Department Conference Room at 23 Union Street. Their last meeting seems to have been in July so they have some catching up to do, I'm sure.

At four, in a community room at Artspace which is at 35 Chestnut Street it's a two hour investment of your time in the future, a project called Vibrant Communities and you should make every effort to be there. Here's part of the puzzle and a news report in September sparked a good discussion online that I'd hope to have carried further Wednesday afternoon.

At 4:30 the Housing Authority meets in its offices at 10 Westwood Park. Their most recent meeting minutes are from September and may be found here. One quibble (I know, 'only one?), members are present or absent; the charter doesn't care if you're 'excused,' kidnapped or serving under an assumed identity. Be there or be square.

At 5:00 in Room 335 in City Hall it's another meeting of the Emancipation Proclamation Committee who meet every Wednesday, but without the spaghetti that's so central to the North End of Boston and Anthony. Someday the municipal website will tell visitors who is on this committee and will have meeting minutes from all their other Wednesday meetings, but probably not by this Wednesday. Again.

Elsewhere in City Hall at six, the Baseball Stadium Authority meets in Room 210. The members' appointments look like they could do with a once-over and it seems their most recent meeting was in October as those are the most recent minutes posted on line.

Across town in the Wonder Bar, it's a regular meeting of the Greeneville Neighborhood Revitalization Committee. Reading their September meeting minutes, the key topic tonight may well be 'What would make Greeneville a desirable place to live in?' Reading those same minutes I was (sort of) surprised by who wasn't in attendance since the aims of the Greeneville NRC would appear to complement any and all other aspirations and dreams. It's not the singer, it's the song-an ongoing problem here in Norwich.

And at six thirty in ceremonies in the Jacqueline Owens Auditorium, the completed renovations of the Kelly Middle School will be formally, and, hopefully, very loudly, celebrated.

Thursday evening at six, at The Rink, it's a regular meeting of the Ice Arena Authority, whose members' appointment expired over four years ago and none of whose meeting minutes seem to be anywhere near the city's website.

Friday morning at nine, in Room 319 of City Hall, it's another regular meeting of the Chelsea Gardens Foundation. Feel free to search the city's website for any information on members, mission, purpose, creation date, achievements so far.... Talk about YGIAGAM, Your Guess Is As Good As Mine, the difference being neither of our guesses has gotten six figures in grant money from the Sachem Fund Board though when/if they meet again, I want to hear how the proposal outlined on the top of page three of the minutes gets answered.

Saturday morning at 9:30 in the Occum Volunteer Fire Department (if you need a map, let me know) is the next installment of the One City Forum with a review of the draft dated 11-22-10 on the Norwich Community-Wide Economic Development Process (and/or lack of same). You really need to start to come to these meetings, especially this one as we're having holiday treats which, while not pony rides for your birthday, are about as close as You Know Who is going to get to them, I suspect.

And Sunday afternoon starting at one, it's A Joyful Gathering at the Leffingwell House Museum at 348 Washington Street. Not sure how much joy is allowed in Norwich but Sunday's as good a day to find out as any other.

"When the wind is singing strangely, blowing music through your head and your rain-splattered windows make you decide to stay in bed. Do you spare a thought for the homeless tramp who wishes he was dead. Or do you pull your bed-clothes higher, dream of Summertime instead,
When Winter.... comes howling in." See you at something?
-bill kenny