Monday, January 31, 2011

Waiting for Something or Someone to Show You the Way

We're almost done with the first month of the year-and I'm a little surprised at how quickly it's gone by, especially since I can't claim to have had large amounts of fun (unless you count dealing with snow as fun, and I don't).

Remember all the things we swore we'd get done 'in the New Year'? How's that working out? Yeah, me, too, not so much-lots of handbags and gladrags and too little else to show so far. In these parts, between snow forecasts, it's a busy week of municipal meetings that can only benefit from your presence since, as my bartender once told me, absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.

This afternoon into this evening, there's a lot of DDD, discussions about downtown doings,with the first at five-thirty in the Planning Department's conference room as the Board of Review of Dangerous Buildings has a special meeting (I assume it's special since how often do you have five Mondays in a month?) though the agenda doesn't mention that. Considering the last meeting information on the website was a posting of an agenda from a year ago, maybe we can resolve in the eleven months left in this year to work harder to comply with state law.

At seven thirty, it's the first of the three public hearings on the Downtown Revitalization Programs so it's a chance to speak up and speak out and also to listen and learn (I do really well in two of the four, how about you?). In case you haven't yet read the project plan, here it is and it can only be improved if each of us who has something to add to it, does so. Bring a neighbor and an open mind. If we're ever gonna stop being a self-fulfilling bad dream, we need to wake up and get on the beam. Leave your excuses for why 'this will never work' at the coat check. The game's afoot, time to be in it.

The shortest month, February, gets started with a busy day tomorrow as the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC) has a presentation starting at 8:30 AM on "Emerging Foundations in Economic Development and Commercial Real Estate" in (I assume) Room 335 of City Hall.

At 5:30 in Room 335 of City Hall is a well-traveled meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee (Economic Development). I say well-traveled since earlier today (and over the weekend) it was listed on the municipal calendar for Wednesday which surprised me because I'm on it and was sure we'd agreed last Tuesday to meet this Tuesday. It's comforting, somehow, to be dumb but not crazy. Try it, you may like it.

At six, in their clubhouse on the New London Turnpike, it's a special meeting of the Golf Course Authority on replacing their dump truck. I'd have assumed the Golf Course arranged and paid for the use of a Public Works vehicle, since I can't imagine there being a full-time need for a dump truck (and driver? how about a mechanic and service bay?) at a golf course. Really puts the literal into driving range, I guess.

At seven thirty, though it's nowhere to be found on the municipal website calendar (pause for awkward silence), is a special meeting of the City Council to evaluate the performance of the City Manager, an annual requirement per the contract that brought him to Norwich three years ago this past December but that has yet to be accomplished once. This Council adroitly sidestepped primary responsibility earlier in January by opting to hire an outside consultant. I have to smile at the things we do sometimes, or I'd spend all day crying and in this weather that would mean red, cracked cheeks (on my face).

Just how close to 96 Tears (what can I say? I love the name of the band) we actually get may depend on the Wednesday meetings, which begin with the 7:30 AM Team Norwich Mayor's meeting in Room 335 of City Hall. It's hard to get a feel for how much, if any, progress is being made at these meetings since the Cone of Silence in terms of minutes of public meetings has descended and the fit is air-tight.

Also at 5:30 in the Norwich Public Schools' Central Office conference room, it's a regular meeting of the (Kelly Middle) School Building Committee. I can offer you an agenda, but it's from the January meeting and, no, there are no meeting minutes; I looked.

On Thursday at 5:30, somewhere (but not here), says the city's website meeting calendar, is a regular meeting of the Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone. You're probably best advised to call the City Clerk at 860.823.3790 on where this meeting will happen. I'd ask for meeting minutes while you're at it, from almost any one ever held, since close to none are posted on line. I'm assuming the members' appointments will be renewed shortly as the current ones expired a month ago. Appointments, not members (I think).

At seven, there's a regular meeting of the Inlands Wetlands Water Courses and Conservation Commission in the conference room of the Planning Department at 23 Union Street. There's no agenda or meeting minutes for anything in 2011 (so far) on the municipal website.

I'm not sure of the cause and effect of public apathy and/or antipathy on what goes in The Rose of New England when we don't do a very good job of sharing information with one another, as evinced by compliance (and lack thereof) with Connecticut public laws on public meetings. Maybe we'd be in about the same place we are now, but I have to wonder-and hope you wonder as well. When I fool you once, shame on me; when I fool you twice, shame on you.

We get a second bite of the apple for public comment on the Downtown Revitalization Programs with a Saturday morning session, beginning at nine in the Central Fire House at 10 North Thames Street. If you think someone should say something, maybe it's you and maybe the time to do it is now.

As we've seen from watching the pages drop from the 2011 calendar, all the time in the world to get things done is a rationed commodity. "And then one day you find, ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run (and) you missed the starting gun."
-bill kenny

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ich hab' heute nichts versaumt


The song got stuck in my head coming out of the market the other day and I've been unable to get it unstuck so I figured I'd share it. I'd say "you're welcome" but I guess if I'm consistent I should offer, rather, nichts zu danken.

It almost got me into trouble since I have a tendency when this sort of thing happens to make a small movie in my head, starring my inside voice, where I shout out 'C'mon everybody you know the words!' and a wonderful singalong ensues (though the complementary choreography is always beyond the production budget). This time I looked up and into an oil painting of very frowny and dour faces and realized I wasn't positive I'd actually used my inside voice. I hate when that happens.

The thing I did figure was the chances of a random crowd of folks in a grocery store in Norwich, Connecticut actually knowing the words to a tune that hit #2 in the Deutsche Top Twenty in 1982 were between 'slim' and 'none' (downhill, with a stiff breeze, on a really good day).

I was going to offer 99 Luftballons as a consolation prize (there was an English version; I don't particularly like it but it'll do I suppose) but concluded for this crowd, it was difference without distinction. Es ist irgendwie schade als gibts viel gute musik in anderen sprache als English aber davon weissen wir fast nichts.

We're not a nation that does a lot of embracing of other folks' songs in other than our own language (don't offer me The Singing Nun (this is spookiest version of this I could ever imagine) or Wayne Newton (pretty creepy in its own right) as demonstrations of cosmopolitan coolness).

Most of what's on the radio, terrestrial or satellite, when it's music, is English only. Okay, there's a huge Spanish language market but it also isn't interested in building bridges beyond its core audience. When you realize all the places we come from, it's a little sad we miss out on so much because we don't it music, art, dance or literature.

We all look the same from space-it's only as you make your final approach that our differences, at first just, ghostly turned--well, let's see how long that one remains stuck, eh?
-bill kenny

Saturday, January 29, 2011

R U Sure?

I didn't recognize the number in the cell phone display window and the app that announces my caller didn't know it either, so I was pretty sure I must have looked like someone else when I answered the phone yesterday and I was right. From what I could hear of the background, the caller was in a bus terminal or perhaps a cement mixer and was already NOT having a good day before dialing me.

I answered with my name as no one has ever accused me of originality. 'Is Matt there?' the caller asked. No, I said, just me, repeating my name. 'Where is he?' She wanted to know and then cutting to the chase, 'Are you sure?' she asked. That's the one that stops traffic, at least in my neighborhood. The question of questions. Quite frankly each of us may well ask that of ourselves and one another everyday of our lives for as long as we live and never be satisfied with whatever answer we receive.

Am I sure? Are you sure? How could we be? Why should we be? In a universe where the only constant is relentless change, how sure of anything can any of us be? Sing this all together and see what happens. Shouldn't that be hear what happens? Are you sure?

Turns out, it wasn't quite the existential question I had first believed. My caller had this number for her cousin's boyfriend, Matt, and now she was a little confused because when he'd called her earlier----waitaminit Miss Frisky, I thought. What in Sam Hill (or his uncle, Dan) is your cousin's boyfriend doing calling you and (more importantly) do I still have 1-800-TROLLOP on speed dial? Did I ever have it on speed dial?

I didn't actually ask those questions aloud (I hope) because she was still speaking, undaunted by my complete lack of reinforcement (that 'uh-unh' and 'umm' stuff we do because no one can see us nodding our heads so we have an audible but non-word harmonic sound repertoire for phone soliloquies) pausing every fifteen seconds (or half thought) to ask me again 'is Matt there?' and 'are you sure?' And still, that Mattstard wasn't there!

If I had a bouzouki, I might have admitted yes, indeed, I was Matt, just to see/what would happen next but I remembered Mom's admonition: never ask the question if you can't stand the answer. And since I wasn't sure if roaming charges applied I was more than happy to let the seeker ring off and search elsewhere for Matt.
-bill kenny

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Sweater the Better

I spend a lot of my life unhappy with the weather, but I am very pleased to live on a planet with an atmosphere even when the current meteorology isn't to my taste. Truth is, I've never lived anywhere that didn't have four seasons (okay, in Greenland, north of the arctic circle, some of the seasons were more notional than others; and no one I knew went swimming in Lake Ferguson in July in less than a full body rubber suit) but it doesn't mean I wouldn't like to try it out for myself, at least a little bit before deciding.

My mom, who has a life-long dislike of winter and, more especially, snow, headed South many years ago and it's always awkward finding a judge to issue the warrants and make her come back to visit (I'm kidding about the judge, I think). The only reason she doesn't live in Panama is because Cuba prevents the Florida peninsula from reaching there.

It's a hoot and half in my house when we call her on a holiday (Christmas comes to mind) and either we just miss her because she headed for the beach (across the street) or we do catch her because she's just returned. If anyone's earned the sun, it's mom and it warms my heart to know she's enjoying it.

And judging from the weather forecasts, that's all the warmth a lot of us in the Northeast, and parts elsewhere, too, are going to have in the coming days. We had a LOT of snow yesterday, along with a lot of other folks and there's a not inconsiderable amount still in the forecast.

I just had a memory of a daytimer AM station we listened to as kids when my parents had a vacation house in Pennsylvania, WARM, the Mighty 590. No matter how bitter the winter weather, you could always rely on the Ronnie Radio-Voice announcer to pass along the time and temperature in 'DEgrees' while demanding to know 'is it cold enough for you? It's only WARM for me!' Talk about the greatest little station in the nation, not.
-bill kenny

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Everyone's Shadow is the Same Color

I'm aware of SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and wonder in light of my current frame of mind if the National Institutes of Health has also designated CRANKED as part of the entire genre. Sure wish they would. If things keep going, my yet-to-be-named defense lawyer may really need to lean on it to keep me out of the Big House.

Actually Drama King that I am, in reality, my life is about the same as yours-I just whine a lot more plaintively. In my house in recent days we've had one of those sort-of-a-cold-but-you-can't-seem-to-kick it things that gives you a stuffed head as you get ready to go to bed after having been able to breathe clearly for most of the day.

Nothing my wife has in her apotheke will cure it and some patent medicines seem to actually annoy whatever it really is. Each of us has taken turns having it and just as you almost get rid of it, you catch it again. I'm predicting we'll each visit our primary health care provider who will carpet bomb with Zithromax or Mad Max, whichever one is available as generic with a happy ending to follow until the next time.

Probably the same at your house, if your house is located in that part of the USA which has been nature's punching bag for weird and unwelcome weather in recent weeks-we're already starting to look for signs of spring here in Norwich, Connecticut even though experience and the calendar tell us we have weeks and inches of unmelted snow to go. We wouldn't be human if we didn't see the upside to bad weather (and the upside is that it ends eventually).

I'm having an easier time of it since the other day I stumbled across an enterprising retailer setting up a (wait for it) patio furniture display just down the aisle from where he's been stacking up the Valentine's Day candy in recent weeks. All hail retail say the pundits but first get
Punxsutawney Phil on line two because I have the mother of all endorsement deals percolating and anticipating.

Of course, despite the temps and the weather, for merchandisers it's almost summer-we just finished the Christmas season. The stores have to sell something and if hope for better days to come looks a lot like glass topped furniture and wicker chairs, then I say make the most of it! The days rush by and for some of us they can't pass quickly enough. By the time we get to Memorial Day, we'll already have stopped wearing white after Labor Day. SOS texted from a cell phone, please tell me I'm not the only one that thinks
we're taking ourselves too seriously. As if that were even possible....
-bill kenny

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No More Stuck on "Ready"

Someone told me that if all the plans on economic revitalization of Norwich were laid end to end, they would stretch halfway across the equator but never reach a conclusion. With temperatures the way they've been this winter, there's a certain appeal to that whole idea.

But as of today, we need to be able to move on. We're all familiar with the three phases, 'ready,' 'set' and 'go.' For a lot of us, Norwich spends too much time at 'ready.' As of today, start your reading glasses. The "Downtown Norwich Revitalization Programs Project Plan is street legal, so to speak, this morning and will be available through the office of the city clerk as well as at the Otis Library and posted to both the city's website and the Norwich Community Development Corporation website.

The plan is twenty-five pages long and offers a detailed explanation of the scale and scope of the $3.38 million downtown economic development bond package approved in November. It also explains the details of the three key components that comprise the plan.

There's $1.84 million in Code Correction Assistance which offers matching grants of up to $100,000 to building owners of vacant space not meeting current occupancy codes. If that sounds to you like Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance or health and fire codes issues for floors above the first floor, you're off to a good start but as the infomercials always say, 'wait there's more.'

Part two of the plan is a half a million dollar Commercial Lease Rebate Program that offers rental subsidies of up to five dollars a square foot for a maximum of five years to attract and encourage businesses to downtown.

And the third part is a one million dollar revolving loan fund for businesses ranging from office, commercial and retail through recreation and water-dependent to include workspace improvements, property acquisition and working capital.

Details to include who administers the funds, who is on which committee to do what and who holds overall responsibility for the plan are all spelled out between the covers.
But don't take my word, or anyone else's, for what's in it. Read it for yourself because, even as we close in on the start of the next Norwich, adjustments and modifications may still be needed and your eyes, perspective and most importantly, your presence, are requested at any (or all) of three public hearings on plan.

The three hearings kick off next Monday night, January 31st, in City Hall at 7 PM, with a follow-up on Saturday morning, 5 February at nine in the Central Fire House (bring your own dalmatian) with the third slated for Monday morning, February 8th, at eight in City Hall.

Get out your red pens, open your notebooks and take and whatever notes you need as you review the proposal and then come to one of the hearings ready to speak and to listen to your neighbors who are doing the same thing because together we are smarter than each of us alone.

All the comments from the public hearings and from the emails, letters and phone calls (and weather permitting, sky-writing I suppose) to the City Council and Mayor will be reflected in the final version of the plan submitted for the City Council's approval on Tuesday evening, February 22nd, with an approval required of the Board of Directors of the Norwich Community Development Corporation on Thursday, 24 February.

After that, hold on tight, because when you buy a ticket, you get the whole ride. And when you do the math, a bird in the hand is worth a bird in a cage is worth a bird on a telephone wire.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Quod equus vos veho una

Tonight at nine, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, fulfills a Constitutional obligation of his office by addressing a joint session of the Congress of the United States of America to "recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient..."

In the last decade or so, fewer and fewer over the air and cable operators opted to air the State of the Union Address or its Loyal Opposition Response, for which there is NO Constitutional requirement (which could surprise one faction of the party delivering it since they read aloud the entire Constitution to mark the start of the 112th Congress). No word on what plans South Carolina's Joe Wilson has for tonight, but one lives in hope of civility and comity (but is sometimes disappointed).

This year, perhaps in light of November's election results, it'll be live on 'The Big Three' and Fox-though the CW is sticking with Hellcats and TDC is hanging tough with Dirty Jobs. I'm not sure what to make of MTV remaining with Teen Mom 2, considering some of what will be discussed might be of interest to Leah and Kailyn, among others. On the other hand, The Food Network is hunkering down with Cupcake Wars, so I shouldn't be too hard on MTV, I guess.

It's worth noting the nature and variety of outlets, other than conventional television that will provide the President's State of the Union Address. In light of the plethora of presentation avenues and the urgency of the times in which we live, I hope you find the time to watch it as most observers, irrespective of their politics, concede the President can be both eloquent and persuasive.

One of the buzzes making the round in the blogosphere is that 'the traditional seating' by parties in Congress for the address, which also has no Constitutional mandate but is a tradition (= habit), will be abandoned somewhat as a refutation of recent current events. Perhaps, in deference to the rehabilitative struggles Representative Gabrielle Giffords faces in learning to walk again, it might be a fine gesture if our elected leaders can demonstrate that "you can stand alone, or with somebody else, or stand with all of us together. If you can believe in something bigger than yourself, you can follow the flag forever." Starting tonight at nine would be no later than the right time, as far as I am concerned.
-bill kenny

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting Down on the Cellular Level

I think some of us have been here before, that place where "(A)ll at once the whole joint goes quiet and all the wavy lines go straight." In darker, distant days, I usually got here through synthetic means so drinking my life straight, out of a tall glass in a small city during a cold New England winter is quite an eye opener. But considering where each of us could be, I'm grateful so many think I'm where I should be, as I wonder about what could be and if we have the courage to become the people we hope we are.

This week in Norwich it's meetings and melon balls but, sadly, we're all out of melon balls.

This morning at 8:30 in the Planning Department conference room at 23 Union Street it's a special meeting of the Dangerous Buildings Board of Review who have two particular concerns on their plate. Speaking of the Reid and Hughes building, this afternoon at five in Room 210 of City Hall it's a regular meeting of the Redevelopment Agency, who, looking at their December meeting minutes draft are continuing to work on brownfields analysis, which, as economic development moves from talk to action, will become more and more important.

At seven thirty tonight in Council Chambers the City Council meets for a 'goal setting session and city manager evaluation process.' There's something, at least to me, slightly Samuel Beckettesque, about this whole process but we have to start somewhere and this will do, because it has to to.

Tomorrow at 3:30 in the conference room at the Central Office (across from the Norwichtown Green) it's a regular meeting of the Board of Education's Policy Committee whose most recent meeting minutes, posted on the school's website, are from October (file under 'langsam aber sicher') . Speaking of somewhat dated minutes meeting minutes, at five in the City Manager's office, it's a regular meeting of the Harbor Advisory Committee, whose most recent posted (draft) minutes are from August (the September link on the municipal website doesn't work).

If you like value in your municipal meetings, you'd be hard pressed to top the double header starting at six at 16 Golden Street in the Norwich Public Utilities conference room as the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners and then the Sewer Authority hold their regular meetings. The most current minutes of either board's meetings are from September which is a bit disquieting in light of all the activities in which the Department of Public Utilities is engaged.

There's another double header starting at six-thirty in the Planning Department conference room on 23 Union Street. First up, it's a special meeting (because the regular meeting last week was cancelled, then the agenda was enhanced and the meeting was rescheduled) of the Commission on the City Plan. For those following current events by only reading headlines, on the agenda tonight is a recommendation on the attempt to purchase the former YMCA. For those intending to attend, the agenda doesn't seem to have an opportunity for public comment. And, as I understand, the parameters of review for the CCP are very structured and defined by the City Plan itself, as opposed to any other considerations. Following that meeting there will be a 7 PM gathering of the Plan of Conservation and Development (PoCaD, say I) subcommittee to start that decennial project.

Wednesday at 3:30, in their Central Office conference room, all systems are go for a regular meeting of the Norwich Board of Education Building and Space Committee, none of whose meeting agenda or minutes you will find here. Interesting (to me) is a listing also on the city's website for this same committee to meet Thursday at four o'clock-sounding like if you want to go, maybe you should call the Central office, 860-823-4200, and get the real where and when. Good luck, Major Tom (I adore the idea of a 'space committee' even though I know no rockets were harmed in the formation of it; it's a fine line between aufgeloest and losgeloest), to infinity and beyond!

At five thirty, the Dangerous Buildings Board of Review, who had a special meeting at the crack of dawn this morning, will hold a regular meeting in the Planning Department conference room at 23 Union Street.

At six, there's a regular meeting of the Recreation Advisory Board in the Rec Department offices alongside of Dickenman Field. The December draft meeting minutes are here, and just a note: the City Charter recognizes two states of being for meetings: present and absent. One or zero. There is no such thing as 'excused.'

At six thirty in the basement conference room of the Planning Department at 23 Union Street, it's a regular meeting of the 751 North Main Street Committee whose most recent meeting minutes on the city's website are from 2009. And also at six-thirty in Room 210 of City Hall it's the rescheduled (from last week) meeting of the Sachem Fund Board. The May 2010 draft minutes are here and, not that anyone has asked, I think the ordinance language that created the fund serves as a pretty good mission statement; perhaps we need to read it again before we start knocking on the Board's meeting table and asking for money.

At seven in their conference room at the Course on the New London Turnpike, there's a regular meeting of the Golf Course Authority. Someone was telling me the other day there are courses in Alaska where folks play golf all year round, thinking about the snow we have here, and because of visibility the golfers have yellow balls. In light of the temperature here in recent days, I'm thinking more like blue and how uncomfortable winter golf might be.

Thursday morning at 7:30 in their offices at 77 Main Street, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Community Development Corporation Board of Directors. And while I can't find the agenda or previous meeting minutes on either the city's website or the NCDC site, I suspect you can complain bitterly about the Confluence of the Forces of Evil and how you are but a hapless, hopeless and helpless victim or you can drop a note to Shelley and she will send you whatever you request.

There's talk of a Saturday meeting, perhaps at the Central fire house maybe at nine though there's nothing yet on the city calendar so I guess we'll have to wait and see or see and wait. Or fish and whistle if you're so inclined. This past Saturday I met a life-long resident of Norwich (despite her luck finally ending, she was a very good sport about meeting me) who was quite eloquent when speaking about the importance of everyone's involvement in our city-and that's as true for where you live as it is for us here in The Rose of New England. All it takes is a cup of Joe and a Vicks inhaler; now you're ready for the big boy game.
-bill kenny

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Don't Mind at All

Orson Welles made a name for himself and the Mercury Radio Theatre of the Air with his adaptation for radio of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds in the days before most of our parents walked the earth. The end of days has been a rich source of inspiration for poets and pundits for as long as there has been sentient, restless thought about what lies beyond the edge of the fire.

All this time gone on The Big Blue Marble, and the song remains the same at least from the perspective of a recovering Cold War Kid. I, and a generation like me, can remember practicing how to tuck our heads under our desks in Mrs. Hilge's Grade 3-B classroom and turn our faces away from the window in the event of an atomic bomb. I remember going with my Dad to the Vo-Ag show at Rutgers' Fieldhouse (not the barn, the goofy Quonset hut on the far side of the quadrangle hopefully torn down decades ago) to talk to a salesman about a fall-out shelter in the backyard when we lived on Bloomfield Avenue.

Sounds quaint, I know, unless you've got stories of your own like that and then it sounds all too real, because it was. For those who survived the Fall of the Wall, it seemed that the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius was finally here, though it passed quickly as the next wave of unhappiness and unrest, possessing access to somebody's nuclear codes and discount biochemical weapons started the ticking of the Doomsday Clock even more loudly.

Here we are in the Twenty First Century and about the only thing futurists can agree on is that we're not likely to pass from the planet because of boredom. We are closer than we think to the Lightning Round where the scores can really change in a hurry.

As a semi-senior citizen I enjoy discovering that while 'the kids' still worry about the end of the world, they've got a sense of humor of humor about it we never possessed. Wandering the Web the other day, I came across an interview with cartoonist brothers, though there's got to be a more elegant way of phrasing that. I can easily envision my brothers, Adam and Kelly being these guys, which is intended as a compliment all the way around.

Near the conclusion of the interview, the pair are asked 'how is the world going to end?' and the older of the two defers to his sibling who, in nineteen words, trumps T. S. Eliot, with "(r)eality becomes amalgamated with World of Warcraft. Then, the servers go down for maintenance and never come back up." All that's missing is the whisper of a whimper and the glimpse of a goodbye.
-bill kenny

Saturday, January 22, 2011

And then You Die

Some things I take on faith alone (no ice or chaser). I've heard about them and have chosen to accept their existence without empirical proof:

- Hank Steinbrenner talks to God and He listens (more than Hank does when Cashman speaks).

- Touching a hot burner on the stove will hurt your hand.

- If you don't stop making that face it will stay like that.

- A kid'll eat the middle of an Oreo first and throw the chocolate cookie outsides away.

- Your worst day alive is still better than your best day dead.

All but the last one, I suppose, you can actually devise your own proof of concept, if so inclined or go along with the conventional wisdom. Since I have NO basis of comparison for that final item, and don't want to, I accept it at face value, acknowledging your mileage may vary and that dealer preparation, taxes and delivery charges are not included.

Speaking of which (nearly), from the 'you can't make this s(k)it up' File, with a dateline of Marion County, Florida, and what I'm assuming is not a prank: Robbery Crew Steals, Snorts Cremated Ashes". You almost have to watch it twice, doncha, and admire the clarity of Chuck Darwin's vision.

I'm old enough to remember watching Walter Cronkite deliver the evening news on television and I can't imagine him ever reading such a story and I tried hard (believe me). I'm sure that we have always had extremely stupid people in large numbers in this country (not just in Congress but everywhere) but it seems it's only been in recent decades that either there's so damn many of 'em or that we've celebrated them on so many channels.

Ignoring, or trying to, the profound rudeness of robbing someone's house--robbery of a person is bad enough but we're talking about the safest place you can presume to ever be, your own home, we have these five Up from the Ooze Pond Scum 'three teens and two juveniles' and I somehow doubt any of their parents met at a local chapter meeting of Mensa International.

This is well beyond Stupid Human Tricks (gratituous knuckle bump at no extra charge) and falls into the 'insult to humanity' category, I think. Even those raised by wolves have better manners than this (okay, maybe not table manners especially when it's a leg of lamb, but still...) and you just know that when a parent or adult stunt-double stopped by the police station to claim a youngun, wherever he was, Ned Beatty's flesh crawled.

I'm glad the other species don't have cable (no thumbs to work the clickers)-because when, not if, they get a whiff of just how vicious and venal we are (opposable thumbs be damned) we'll be so over. And since we can't outrun most of them, Air Force Ones or not, we'll have to settle for outrunning each other and hoping by the time they catch up, they're sated since one of us is all out of napkins.
-bill kenny

Friday, January 21, 2011

Caught in Other Nets

I was helping my wife impose ordnung (look it up) on our basement the other day (mostly by staying out of her way). Not surprisingly, she and I have slightly different perspectives on how things are filed, stored and saved. My views on all three are easy to catalog: wrong. All you need do is ask my wife. There's an eye roll and a medium size sigh (I used to only rate a small one) and now, as an added bonus from this sentence onward, will be a vehement denial of the previous two, but don't be deceived.

We've lived in our house for over nineteen years-George Carlin is right, it's a place for your stuff. Our container is very attractive and spacious though the basement where she and I were working is, I imagine, a little like limbo but without all the unbaptized babies' souls (just as well as the dust bunnies are everywhere and there's always something you taste on the end of your tongues that you can't quite place or name).

We've been putting things in the basement from the day we moved in. Obvious items that we weren't yet willing to let go of-appliances that operated on 220 volts and fifty cycles and for which, to use here, you'd need a step up transformer (I have one, make me an offer). There were less obvious items as well, more saved by the heart than the head. Neatly packed with contents listed on the outside of the carton were many of the toys and bric a brac from when our children, now adults, were much smaller.

Makes sense-you never know when a five year old 'Nur Patrick!' or a two year old 'Icky May' will swing by for an impromptu play date (though if my children learn I'm using their pet names, I'll search out my skates since a warm place will have to be frozen over before they'll visit and maybe not even then.)

Some of the items looked like they were in the same boxes we used when we moved from Kasernenstrasse across town to Ahornstrasse in Offenbach (much closer to Stadion am Bieberer Berg by the way; and good luck with construction for the new Kickers stadium. OFC!). Without exchanging a word, I knew we wouldn't be placing any of those on the discard pile (I still have in the garage the chalk board each child wrote on when they they had their erste shultag).

It is amazing what you collect over the years and how much of it you can remember when you see it again (and how much you have NO clue about when reunited). I concede the disquieting part may be how much you become possessed by your possessions. Sigrid had boxes of singles (little records with big holes as I used to call them while she labeled my album collection, big records with little holes) and each dust cover came with a memory and a moment to match.

I think we both knew, and always did, 'putting things in the basement' is code for pretending to remember who you once were even when you're less than comfortable with who you became. Not having to confront that person is a luxury I can afford though I probably enjoy it too much. For a moment we were as we see ourselves instead of as others do and who we really are. I'd chance again without regret, because the moment (however fleeting) seems to linger and abides awhile before disappearing.
-bill kenny

Thursday, January 20, 2011

You Say the Sky is Green....

I'm not especially intuitive or empathetic. For someone who has made a living for most of his waking life (I'm pretty sure the one in my dreams is taxed or prohibited in some states) interacting with others, I'm a terrible people person. I'm not proud of this-it is what it is.

I was brought up that men don't cry, though some of us haven't gotten the memo. If you started, there was always a promise 'I'll give you something to cry about' to stifle that urge. My wife has managed to live with an emotional cripple for over a third of a century and has passions enough for both of us and a spontaneity to how she expresses herself I find breathtaking, even when (for whatever reason) I'm on the receiving end of it (immer auf die kleinen).

Our two children have spent their lives with one engaged, involved parent and one who seems to have the emotional vitality of a cigar store Indian (you are surprised by the link? I am surprised by your surprise). I have Sjogren's, among my medical maladies, so tears for fears is far more conceptual than actual which is how I tend to rationalize my stunted emotional growth. Emo is a no-go in my neighborhood, Mr. Rogers.

Moving to Boston, living in Nutmeg while going to university. As proud as I've been of 'our kids' for doing these things, I've never adequately conveyed that pride or the sadness that I've felt when a visit comes to an end and they stay while we go. Not helping matters recently were circumstances that required conceding one or more of us had come to the place where the road and the sky collide. Despite being a Master of the Obvious, I didn't see the signs until they were in the rear view mirror.

My wife has been busy, rescuing and reclaiming that which can be either and removing that which can never be again in any form. For my part, I sit immobilized by the sadness of what has happened, but knowing that it, too, is part of the human condition and happens innumerable times everyday. Repetition doesn't reduce the heartache, I know, just marginalizes it.

I've struggled for the right words in recent days because of a situation I didn't create, don't understand and cannot repair--none of those abilities are in my skill set to begin with and we're all better off if I don't try. All I could offer were 'other fish in the sea' and 'more ducks on the pond' and worry that Animal Planet might become a premium channel because of my unauthorized use. I've reached a point where I'd have settled for any words at all to ease the pain and dull the sting. Instead, I found these and recognize they are too few and too far in between, except they are all I have.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The End of the Innocence

Now that the funerals are over in Tucson, and the heated national rhetoric on both sides of the aisle has cooled, if only for a moment, I wonder if the quiet is merely a short pause or perhaps a new start in how we speak to one another and work together.

If we learned nothing else (finally?) it could be that NOT just sticks and stones can break our bones-words can always hurt us. And the wounds those words can inflict leave damage beyond description and often repair.

We don't have any time to waste in this country parceling out responsibility for who caused what and why--nothing we say can change what happened. Only what we are willing to do next can better assure that Tucson remains an aberration and not a reference for future events.

We have watched the coarsening of our political dialogue as it descends to diatribe where opinions loudly voiced became missiles of vilification and vituperation to be hurled at those who dared to disagree with us. Instead of our elections being a marketplace of ideas from which we choose, they are circuses with barkers and balloons with candidates who, too often, arrive in clown cars.

In a 24/7 news cycle on designer cable channels targeted to deliver specific demographics in support of specialized agenda, it's no mercy and no quarter, maximum volume all the time, even when there's nothing to say. Too often the talking head, rarely a reporter and more often a partisan pundit, through innuendo and aspersion reduces 'the opponent' to someone less than a person.

At that moment, it's a very short journey from denigration to destruction. All of us know enough history to realize it has happened and until we can learn to always regard one another's viewpoints and values as valid, even when we disagree with them, we'll always be only one violent coincidence away from the next Tucson, even in Norwich.

Making everything and everyone personal, may be contributing to our loss of respect for one another as well as to the erosion of our humanity. In the immediate days after Tucson there was a giddy gleefulness as each side of the aisle sought to pin the blame on one another. The responsibility for what happened is in our hands in much the way as blood on that market floor, more than enough to go around and as Lady Macbeth learned, far too much to ever clean.

We need to remember 'we share the same biology, regardless of ideology.' We live in a frightening world fraught with dangers and challenges that are beyond the strength of each of us to master which is why we need all of us, and we need us right now. Don Henley once wondered, "Who knows how long this will last? Now we've come so far, so fast. But somewhere back there in the dust, that same small town in each of us."

The fault, my dear Brutus lies not in the small town, but in ourselves. We need to learn (again) to disagree without becoming disagreeable and return civility to our civic discourse, to speak to one another and stop shouting.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Your Former Glories and All the Stories

This is a holiday-shortened week for the municipal meeting calendar here in Norwich but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot going on or that you should sit on the sidelines and watch the world go by. That it will, without or without you, goes without saying-but if you're tired of living in a Catch-22 world where those in charge can do anything to you that you choose to not have the power to keep them from doing, be informed and then get engaged.

This afternoon at 5:30 in the Latham Science Center on the campus of the Norwich Free Academy it's a regular (but rescheduled from last Tuesday) meeting of the Board of Trustees. If you have children in NFA or your taxes go to paying your community's tuition bill for students enrolled in the school, you might want to pay close attention to the first presentation of the proposed 2011-2012 budget.

You have a choice at seven PM. There's a regular meeting of the Commission on the City Plan in the basement conference room of the Planning Department at 23 Union Street (and there's still a vacancy for an alternate member, if you're so inclined).

Also at seven in City Hall, on the third floor in Council chamber is a presentation to the aldermen and alderwomen on the Norwich Education EXcellence for Today and Tomorrow's Schools (NEXTT). I attended one of these community meetings in early December (?) at Teachers Middle School and it lasted about ninety minutes. The City Council meeting is slated to start at 7:30, so good luck with the (abbreviated) presentation. My evil twin, Skippy, is thinking it could become six pounds of a substance he chooses to NOT name in a two pound sack. Awkward, very awkward.

Speaking of which, the Council's 7:30 regular meeting should be quite the session, at least if the agenda is any indication and not just for fans of the NFA Wildcat football team or for those who can't hear enough about Norwich history (as long as they don't have to do anything).

I'm a lot more interested in item two under public hearings, since I didn't fully understand, much less agree with, the decision made at the Council's first meeting of the year about changes in the pensions of volunteer firefighters. (My dictionary's definition of 'volunteer' offers a 'made without consideration' aspect we don't seem to have.) I don't know how many firefighters, paid and volunteer we have in Norwich, where they call home or even who might be able to tell me how many we need. After I know that maybe I can understand the idea behind the resolution on the agenda tonight and how it's of benefit to Norwich, but not now.

And speaking of not now John, wait until we get to item ten under 'new business.' It seems some of the Council got an earful and more this past Saturday, but I suspect the entire discussion hasn't yet played itself out. However, please remember you cannot complain about decisions at City Hall if you absent yourself from the Council meetings. Choosing not to decide is still a choice.

Probably just my sense of humor, but in light of goings on at Tuesday's City Council meeting about acquiring more failed real estate in downtown, I'm sorry I have to work Wednesday morning and can't attend the 7:30 Mayor's Meeting on Economic Development Strategy in Room 335 of City Hall. It would be very nice if the city's website had minutes from all of these weekly meetings but I'm not surprised there aren't any, though we could now translate them into a large number of languages.

Speaking of 'still no land' (and no minutes of past meetings), the Norwich School Readiness Council (Children First) has its regular meeting starting at nine in the community room of The Dime Bank on Route 82. The only thing I've heard about local budgets as preparations continue, is that economic times will be even more grim than they were last year. Could Children First be an asset and/or an ally for our families? Maybe-if only we all had a better idea of what they do and what is needed to be done. Another lost opportunity.

I admire how the Housing Authority continues to pay no attention to requirements to have anything posted on the city's website, much less the approved minutes of their meetings. They have a regular meeting at 4:30 this afternoon in their offices at 10 Westwood Park, but you'll only know what's going on or has gone on if you attend. Public Act 08-3 be damned, or ignored.

A meeting of the Sachem Fund Board (I have NO idea how often it meets-and good luck figuring it out) is tonight at 6:30 in Room 335. Yeah, I know, the most recent item on the city's website is the draft minutes of the May meeting. I always thought the role of the Fund was to stimulate economic development as outlined in the ordinance that created it. Maybe the Board members should start there before deciding if a new mission statement is needed.

Thursday evening at six, in their meeting room at The Rink on New London Turnpike, it's a regular meeting of the Ice Arena Authority whose meeting minutes, at least as posted on the city's website, seem to have started to melt. And no, I have no idea why the August 2010 minutes are posted where they are on the website. Perhaps we might have a contest for most creative explanation? First prize is a free year's membership at the Norwich YMCA. Second prize is two memberships...I suspect we can't afford any more free giveaways, especially since we've pretty much given everything away already.

If you'd like to help take it back, pick a meeting and find your passion before the dust covers everything and everyone.
-bill kenny

Monday, January 17, 2011

Some Days I Look Down

We observe his birthday today, as a federal holiday, but Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's actual birthday was Saturday. We (or at least, me) have a tendency in our fast-food society to reduce Dr. King's life and his death, to a black and white, 'race relations' issue seeing it as part of the struggle for equal rights which is true as far as it goes.

But speaking of distance, in locations from Lakewood Township, New Jersey (thanks, Adam!) to Tucson, Arizona in the last week or so what I'm thinking is that on this day, and then extending to all the others on the calendar, we should see the words and deeds of Dr. King as a call for each of us to find her and his better angels and to become the change in the world we wish to see for ourselves and our children.

Such a vision would not only further forge the link in the philosophic chain from Gandhi to King but would, I hope, better enable each of us to reach and teach those like us as well as those unlike us. As we should have realized by now, it's this fear of 'the other' (be it race, creed, color or political ideology) that creates the greatest barrier to equality, freedom and justice for all.

There are many public events being held today in observance of the life of Dr. King. I don't pretend to know your schedule or your inclinations, but if you feel a need to attend and participate, know that you will be among friends. And if your day takes you in a different direction, know, too, that those who do participate will do so in your name as well as his.

"Sometimes I feel like I've never been nothing but tired. And I'll be walking till the day I expire. Sometimes I lay down, no more can I do. But then I go on again because you ask me to." It's difficult to accept that while the fear of failure often paralyzes us, it's the fear of trying that will prove to be our undoing.
-bill kenny

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Got the Feel for the Wheel

We live in the almost-Rhode Island part of Connecticut as opposed to the Gold Coast piece of the state which has tried repeatedly to elbow Staten Island out of its position as one of the five boroughs of New York City. Our downstate brethren have Stew Leonard's, gluten-free polo ponies, the private cell phones of vegan Beemer mechanics on their speed dial and dozens of rapid rail connections into Manhattan every day of the week. We country mice have a vacant storefront where Kresge's used to be, huntin' dogs as big as horses, a buddy who works at Tractor Supply Company and Southeast Area Transit, SEAT.

I'm not jealous; okay, maybe a little. If there really is reincarnation, I'm aiming for jodhpurs and a home in Belle Haven. I've already cased the Metro North platforms for a cool place to stand while reading the WSJ on my Kindle until my backgammon partner arrives for the ride into The City. Around these parts, I'm styling if I own my bowling shoes. Not that I'd wear them on a SEAT bus, at least not on the schedules they're got now.

If you rely on mass transit this side of the Connecticut River, especially if you live beyond the Thames (pronounced like 'thame thit, different day') make like John Alden, call Mayflower and move, pilgrim. I really do miss real bus and rail lines, no more than when I watch a SEAT bus pass me with next to no one in it, or am riding one because my car is being repaired and I need to allow for three hours to make connections in both directions for a ten mile ride. It's almost faster to walk until cash-starved Connecticut comes up with pay sidewalks and then you'll need an EZ pass for your Uggs.

If we in Southeastern Connecticut were to push mass transit to its limit, what might we have? Bullet Trains named Desire? The energy-efficient locomotive that opted not to? Where does it end, Watty? Maybe in Detroit on Tim Carpenter's lap. You cannot make this stuff up. Tell me you don't love "There's probably not a transportation worker in this country that hasn't made a judgement call that might not have been right at that particular time." Talk about putting the ride in ridership. Is that a shifter in your hand or are you just really happy to see me? Remember, wait until we reach your stop to get off.
-bill kenny