Monday, October 31, 2011

A Different Day

We had a taste of winter over this weekend, and many of us responded by lining up in the nearest grocery store and buying milk and toilet paper (perhaps as input and output?) to tide us over the near nor'easter we could have had, but didn't.

My favorite part is how so few of us can be bothered to clear off the roofs of our vehicles before driving off instead creating those darling little portholes in the windshield (rarely in the back). We then barrel off down the street with self-inflicted tunnel vision and when we stop suddenly, all the snow on the roof slides down across the front window. Thirty seconds to help drive safer or just prove how selfish and short-sighted we are.
The Lady or the Tiger? To be frank, it never grows old, never.

This is the week before election day in America (lower case 'e' because these elections are for mostly local and regional government offices and not for national office) and here in Norwich, it's quiet, almost too quiet (like the week between Christmas and New Year's).

We get all the way to Wednesday and All Souls' Day (this, and Holy Innocents Day, I think are the saddest days in the liturgical calendar) before the first municipal meeting of the week and I have very little information about it.

It's the Emancipation (Proclamation) Committee (meets at five in Room 319 of City Hall) though you'll learn nothing about it from either the municipal calendar or the listings and membership rosters of advisories, authorities, boards and committees. I think they should meet jointly with the Chelsea Gardens Foundation, another less-than-public public committee (and co-recipient of Sachem Fund Board money, now that I think about it), but that would look like I was piling on. Which is, of course, exactly what I'm doing.

At 5:30 in the Kelly Middle School Library is a regular meeting of the (Kelly Middle) School Building Committee, whose October meeting minutes aren't on the school's website. Don't confuse it with the Building and Space Committee which is a course of a different holler and has even less current meeting minutes.

And at seven, in City Hall's Room 335, it's a regular meeting of the Republican Town Committee which, this close to Election Day, might be an interesting place to visit.

Everything listed for Thursday has been cancelled. Not the day itself, just the meetings.

Leaving only the One City Forum on Saturday morning, starting at nine, in the East Great Plains Volunteer Fire Department (upstairs over the engines) as a meeting this week in Norwich.

There is also a focus group in the Otis Library at 10:30-don't know if it's open to the public but suspect it is- to help shape what the library should strive to be for those of us who use it (and more especially for those who don't (yet)). When I look at the amount of money some who insist on a community center are willing to throw at a moribund mausoleum like the YMCA while we are simultaneously screwing over the Otis Library on funding, I shake my head (makes a noise like a bee bee rolling around in a box car).

If you don't think you can stop the politics as usual manner in which we so often do business around here, just keep doing nothing (except hand-wringing and loud lamentations), stay home and away from municipal meetings or post comments on news articles about meetings you don't attend and you'll prove your own point.
No one can take advantage of you without your permission, tacit or implied.
-bill kenny

Sunday, October 30, 2011

And They're Only Going to Change this Place

Across and throughout New England and the Mid Atlantic today we're shaking our heads in dismay and disbelief about the snow and wind we're having in celebration of Halloween 2011, and being in the middle of it all, I gotta tell ya, it really sucks. They set a record yesterday in New York City for snowfall in October and they may break it by today's end. I will not hold my breath waiting for that to happen nor shall I be buying any of the tee-shirts or goofy hats that will be sold ("I survived the NYC Blizzard of October '11", indeed).

I hate crappy weather-I really do. And my definition of crappy weather is perhaps a little more tight ass than yours having been around the planet for close to six decades and having spent one of the years of one of those decades at Sondrestrom Air Base, Greenland where the weather is binary. It's daylight and not absolutely awful or it's dark and cold, snowy and windy (= awful). The grey area in the middle is known as Tuesday. I'm making some of that up, but you already know that.

But all of that whining and sulking and pouting have to be put on hold. There's a world in which each of us live, as the sun of our own solar system and some self-absorption is probably healthy-I have no idea if that's true but it sounds vaguely new age and that must mean it's acceptable, right? I'm asking because as many of us are kvetching about scraping snow off windshields today or how cold the seats in football stadiums are going to be (the beer will be about right though), in the world beyond our, half a world away, yesterday afternoon shit got stupid deadly.

The same hate-filled crazies who, by this time, have caused God (if He exists), to wonder what the hell is the matter with these people of faith, struck again and killed folks who weren't in Kabul as part of any Grey Line tour or (in some cases) even of their volition. Open-hearted and open-minded people who were doing a job and trying to rescue a nation state that has to be one of the saddest and most backward places to live on Earth in the history of this planet, before it was at war with itself, had their lives ended, suddenly, by another true believer who believes ultimately in nothing.

We spend every second of every minute of every hour of every day breathing the same air these malevolent miscreants do, trying to understand their motivations, something that cannot be done. If we cannot kill them all, and I'm not sanguine at our chances on doing that, we need to seal them in where they are and leave them to themselves. They are beyond being fundamentally flawed humans who have nothing to live for. They are rabid dogs who are nothing but danger, but not only to themselves.

People who have nothing to live for soon find something to die for. And then they want you to die for it, too. And when that all happens, it makes concerns like snow and rain even more petty than they are. "There has to be an invisible sun, it gives its heat to everyone. There has to be an invisible sun, that gives us hope when the whole day's done."
-bill kenny

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose

Words hurt and whether you shout or whisper them, apparently, the Universe does listen. For all of us in the Northeast who complained this summer on the rare day when we didn't have sun, I hope you're happy now. All across the region, it feels as frigid as Dudley Do-Right's inseam and some places are bracing in case they end up looking like something out of Currier and Ives. Meanwhile, there are people I've known more of life than not like Chris and Dave who are beyond cooked to a crisp.

Why does every commercial and all the packaging for every brand of toilet paper always invoke the notion of 'facial quality.' What are we pretending we use it to do? I don't know who WMG is (actually I do), but thank you for disabling the audio on what is a very scary spot. When I was a wee slip of a lad learning to shave, my father showed me the art of the TP Dot, that just-a-touch of toilet paper you placed on a nick from your morning effort to get a clean shave. There were weeks, montsh even, at a time when I had what looked like papier-mâché pimples.

But apropos of bassackwards which, to my reckoning, is a turn of the the screw not really necessary since its root already is, combined with the ignorance of the power of words, what am I supposed to make of Heath and Debbie, from Holland Township in New Jersey, a region of the state you don't think of when you do that abjectly asinine 'joke' about 'Jersey? What exit?' I really hate that joke but will take it over three seconds of Snooki in any form at anytime doing anything. Dear WMG, you couldn't have worked your magic with the video this time?

Anyway Heath and Deb are a little 'out there' as today's teens are wont to say, who gave their kids memorable names and all the excuse child services people needed to remove their three children from their home. I'm still wondering why Heath, obviously taken with the little paperhanger's name didn't just change his own and leave his son out of it. Check out the comments on this-proving again (to me) that just because we can do something doesn't mean we should.

There's a Chinese proverb, "(T)he beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names," which I'm hoping for Heath and Debbie doesn't become part of their permanent record.
-bill kenny

Friday, October 28, 2011

Servic with a Smil

I stopped by what's left of the Norwichtown Mall on my way home yesterday afternoon to get myself some lunch for today. I've been eating salads all week and when I started seeing pellets yesterday afternoon, I figured I should look at a sandwich or something for today. Besides the office is being repainted and the technicians had to take down the wheel and the water bottle. There's still plenty of wood shavings.

And there's plenty of old Norwichtown Mall to shake your head about as you speed through the parking lot. Point in fact, the all in Mall disappeared a long time ago with a dollar store about what's left at this point in a location that had such bright promise when it opened nearly a half century ago.

Except, if what we heard last night is true, better, if not happy, days could be coming back to a part of the city and a region of the state where positive events have been in short supply for quite some time. In these parts, you hate to get too happy, judging from the faces I've seen, because it just makes everything that much worse when it crashes, and too many of us expect everything to go wrong every time. How about a new approach-assume a miracle and settle for good news.

Abwarten und tee trinken as some German person I know is fond of saying. Gotta tell ya, there's only so much tea I can drink before I need to visit the little boy's room, but I smiled thinking about what promises to be a coordinated effort by a developer with a well-earned reputation for knowing what they're doing. The City Council chamber was full and you could feel an optimism emanating from the podium and slowly enveloping the room. Felt a little out of place at first, but we could get used to it.

Coming out of the side entrance of the now Old Mall, waiting at the light for the light to change I came back to earth as I stared at Benny's, the store that's faced the mall for all the years we've lived here (which is twenty), and realized the sign over the garage is missing the E on Service and I have no idea how long it's been like that, but I'll bet Old MacDonald has an alibi.
-bill kenny

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Last Welcome

Happy birthday to my forever young sister-in-law Margaret who, in addition to being a wonderful person in her own right, helps make my brother, Adam, smile (and she doesn't even know how to do the Yakky Doodle Duck voice!). These are the days of miracles and wonder and hopefully, this one in particular is filled with both.

My wife and I were having a discussion the other night that started with my discovery of an email from something called a 'Benefits center' purportedly from AOL about our email accounts. The doubly ticklish parts were I live in fear of phishing and hijacking attempts as if all the cyberworld were teeming with schemers trying to hack my email (because they need sleep, I guess), combined with the 'oh yeah, forgot about that' factor when I saw the address to which the note had been sent.

My wife, who has asked thirty-four years' worth of excellent questions in the course of our marriage (there were some perhaps questions she should've asked the morning we married, aber jetzt zu spat; she who hesitates is lunch), wondered aloud 'why do we still have aol?' which led to what are we paying to have accounts we've forgotten we have.

The answer to the latter was 'too much' and that we had no answer to the former except custom and habit meant it was time to pull the plug. Neil is right, com-a, com-a, down doobie-doo-down-down, breaking up is hard to do and it's a lot harder to do on the phone than it might have been on line.

Not sure where America On Line's customer assistance desk is, but it's not in America. The bright happy lady on the phone assured me it was the 'middle of the night' where she was when I wished her a pleasant evening at the end of the call-but it took forever to get to that part of the conversation and I wasn't always sure we would.

We have been with AOL since October 13, 1996-said so right on the screen, and the woman on the phone seemed to consider this leave-taking a little more personally upsetting than I would have thought possible. There are over seven billion of us here on the ant farm and until my call, we had no knowledge of one another's existence. Parting would be painless, or should be, particularly for strangers.

Long referred to derisively by some as the Internet on training wheels, all I can tell you about the AOL signature, 'You've Got Mail,' is that, in its day, it was then what Facebook is now. As a matter of fact, it was so hot a decade ago, AOL, 'new media' bought Warner-Electra-Asylum (and everything that came with it). We are talking serious Hee-wack when that happened and now, yawn.

Anyway, I tried the 'we should see other people' line of logic-no sale. I changed tack and explained 'it's not you, it's me' and all I got for my troubles was a plea to try another account offering with a different array of features, possibly ribbed for someone's pleasure.

Speaking of which, while waiting on the phone to speak to a living person, I had checked my aol account for maybe the first time in six months (or more). I had gigatons of spam and nothing else, and not just Nigerian 'dearly beloved' letters from people dying of diseases not yet invented, every possible sexual stimulant ranging from pharmaceuticals from Canada to penile implants and extensions (via the Net?).

Without getting too mathy on you, if I availed myself of but one in every ten offers for just the dimensional extension, so to speak, I could stand in Pierre, South Dakota facing slightly southwest and impregnate women in Laramie, Wyoming, without moving (well, hardly). This might not endear me to Rob, Margaret's son, but would make quite a picture postcard, I think.

I offered the contents of the spam file to the lady on the phone as yet more proof that, regarding my fifteen year association with aol, as Dylan noted, it's time for my boot heels to be wandering.' She had no idea who he was. I liked her not nearly so much as when we'd started.

Long and short of it, after making me feel like a creep and an ingrate (She: 'After 15 years, now you want to stop?' Me: 'Yes.' She: 'But why and why now?' Me: 'Please. Okay?'), she reluctantly agreed to keep my money for basically another month before assigning wkenny9499 and its associated family addresses to the dustbin of history, digitally speaking of course.

So after the middle of next month, if you send me a note to 'my' aol address, I'm not ignoring you-I didn't get get it. Ever again. Just use one of the other addresses. And if you're trying to reach me, take that thing off, now! You'll put somebody's eye out, probably in Hardin, Montana.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Skip the Electric Fire

Around these parts, unless I've been tuned to the frequencies just above the police calls, it's been one of the more quiet election seasons in recent memory. If I didn't know better, I'd assume we have rivers of flowing honey and can't decide if we need more bowls or boats to best enjoy it.

Of course, all I have to do is look at the forest of "For Sale" signs across the city and often, more sobering, the number of private properties foreclosed or abandoned in place, especially where you don't expect to see them, to know otherwise. Walking to last Monday's City Council meeting, just from Chelsea Parade to Little Plains Park along the street where, they say, the neon lights are bright, I counted three darkened properties, reminding me no neighborhood is immune to the Hard Times in the Land of Plenty many of us face.

I haven't lived in Norwich my whole life (yet), but for the decades I have, we've been engaged just about non-stop in ever more frantic discussions about economic development usually centered on single-bullet conspiracies that will magically return us to the golden days of downtown Thursday nights where there were so many shoppers, the sidewalks overflowed and swarms of local merchants thanked their lucky stars for storefronts in Franklin Square and Main Street.

We're about a year into the first phase of the current Norwich Downtown Redevelopment effort whose history marked the first time I'd ever seen as many separate and different agencies and volunteer panels work towards and from a shared agenda. That effort began in a few months after the last Mayor and Council elections and when you turn the calendar page, what's staring us in the face on the first Tuesday after the first Monday, on November 8th? Elections for City Council as well as the Board of Education.

Like you, perhaps, I still have some homework to do to be ready to vote. And we get a chance to get up-close and personal with those seeking to be the next City Council tonight at seven in the Slater Museum on the campus of Norwich Free Academy.

Yeah, I know you're busy-we're all busy, to include the friends and neighbors who have offered to serve on the Council. Some are incumbents, others familiar faces (though they've been called other body parts) and some are new to politics. All would agree that weather is something to talk about-making Norwich a community in which our children can live and work in when they grow up requires planning and doing.

We owe Mark Bettencourt, Tucker Braddock, Richard Caron, Pete Desaulniers, Deb Hinchey, Charles Jackiewicz, John John, Susan Meisenheimer, Sofee Noblick, Laurie Popovich and Ron Ward our thanks for the generosity of their candidacies.

But much more than that, we owe them and ourselves, an opportunity to hear their vision of who we are, this Rose of New England. Not just their assessment of where we are now but where we should next go and how we should get there. It's said campaigns are poetry and governing is prose. Tonight we are lyrical and practical.

We should admire and applaud the eloquence and the elegance of those seeking our votes but listen critically as each explains the mechanics behind the ideas and the ideals. Pay attention as if your life here depends on tonight, because in large part, it does.

Meaning well and doing well are two different things and while everyone seeking your vote is, beyond a doubt, a good person, he or she may not be a good choice for City Council. It's up to you and me to make that determination.

For the last few weeks, you could send in your questions for candidates to tonight's debate moderator but if you haven't yet, bring them along because you'll probably have an opportunity before or afterwards to speak with the candidates and don't leave until you've gotten your questions answered.

It takes, on average, two months for a buyer to make a decision about choosing a car. You should be able take more than two hours to start to decide who to entrust with the responsibility for the next part of our journey as a city. We can make a difference or we can be the difference. I go forwards, you go backwards; somewhere we will meet. The choice is yours, the time is now.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


My fondness for Autumn is tempered by my knowledge of what happens next-not because of anything Autumn, itself, has ever done to or for me. In New England we pride ourselves on the 'leaf peeping' weekends where excursions travel throughout the region oohing and ahhing at the multiplicity of colors garbing the branches of the deciduous trees as their leaves die.

Sorry. That's what they do, hell, it's what we all do. I'm not planning on taking a dirt nap for awhile longer yet but I'll concede I don't have that color thing going on for me unless grey is the color you're talking about and the only part of me thinning is the hair covering my scalp. But yesterday morning, for just a moment-wow it was beautiful and then it was gone.

Industry left New England in the first decade after the end of World War II. We didn't know it at the time but the Age of Greed had triumphed over the Age of Need and those who owned factories that made things got tired of paying the folks who worked in them ein apfel und ei when they could shift everything South by 900 miles and only have to pay ein apfel.

Mills that had been in Massachusetts for generations were shuttered as their doppelgangers opened in one of the Carolinas (it all sounds like banjo music to me) and then a generation later, lather, rise, repeat as the new location is somewhere it takes you ten minutes to find on the map, all in the name of value to shareholders. The business of America is business; don't forget your receipt.

Breathe easy-I'm not going to go all Occupy Together on you. I'm intoxicated with the nerviness of all of it and the verve and panache with which it is being organized, or not organized as its leaders (no! they're not) claim is the case. But I'm not gonna preach because we'll get there eventually, with or without you.

My point is the offshoot in Norwich is there tracts of land, monuments to Mammon, sprawling factories in every corner of the city that have lain fallow for forty years and often longer, slowly disintegrating, releasing toxins into the air and poisons into the earth so that like the salt Rome plowed into Carthage to kill it, nothing will grow. No neighborhood is immune.

There's the Capehart, Ponemah Mills, the gun maker in the middle of downtown and small ruins that ring the approaches to the city-reminders of what once was, once upon a time. But this time of year, in the early morning, hours before dawn when, stepping outside, the stars seem so bright and so near you can touch them, you remember there's no ground light to dissipate their glow or make them seem as far away as they really are. It's nearly Halloween and colder than a witch's teat and you know which way the mercury is heading. Dress warmly and mind the shadows.
-bill kenny

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Lights Are Out in City Hall

I want to start by wishing my brother, Kelly, a happy 81st birthday today! He's not anywhere that old yet, but it's a nice goal to aim for, I think.

It's autumn in earnest around here-some, though no one at this address, aren't sorry to see the summer end. We're a little more than two weeks away from local elections across the country and if you think a Congressman is more important than a First Selectman you don't know anywhere near enough about how the world works. A volunteer commissioner can be Caesar if only in her/his own mind.

This is a fairly busy week in our Metropolis on the Thames (the contest to pick a new George Reeves is sometime next week; as soon as we get a new phone booth) starting at five this afternoon in Room 210 of City Hall with a regular meeting of the Redevelopment Agency. Here's their September minutes so you have some idea of what they're working on, should you decide to attend.

Also at five, up a flight and down the hall, in Room 319, it's special meeting of the Personnel and Pension Board-actually it's last week's meeting rescheduled. And at 5:15, in their offices at 1649 Route 12, the white-sided building with the statue of the W. C. Fields Water Fountain in front of it, it's a regular meeting of the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority whose website is starting to unravel and is already badly out of compliance with public law on the posting of minutes.

Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 in the basement conference room in the Central Office of the Norwich Public Schools, it's a regular meeting of the Board of Education Policy Committee whose newly redesigned website is very nice except none of the information on their page, agenda or meeting minutes, seems to work.

At four, perhaps, there's a meeting in the Planning Department conference room at 23 Union Street of the Building Code Board of Appeals (meetings are held on an as-needed basis). I think we can lose the note on the meetings from a year ago that will not be held-even I have figured that out. It looks like their last meeting was in August as those are the most recent minutes I can find on line.

The Harbor Management Commission meets at five in the City Manager's office in City Hall (that's Room 219). I found a September meeting agenda but no September meeting minutes so I am assuming they had no meeting which is odd since last Monday night they presented the City Council with their new Vision Plan which I had hoped would be here for all to read, but that's not the case on the city website.

And at six, it's a meeting double header at the Norwich Public Utilities offices at 16 Golden Street with the Board of Utilities Commission and the Sewer Authority in a cage match (not really but it would do wonders for attendance I bet). No longer favorably impressed with the agenda and meetings page on their website which is now four months out of date. Try that when paying your electrical bill and let me know what happens. Wow! It gets dark early, eh?

Wednesday starting at ten through two in the afternoon is (in all likelihood) one of the last if not the last, Norwich Downtown Farmers Markets for this year. After that you'll have to get your vegetables by going to Fox News (I just had a saucer of milk).

There's a meeting at five, though the city's meeting calendar doesn't have it or its location, of the Emancipation (Proclamation) Committee. It's a safe bet the City Historian is involved in that, not that his number is anywhere on the website.

At 5:30 it's a regular meeting of the Dangerous Buildings Board of Review (some wags call it the 'catalog of buildings the Historic District Commission wants the City to buy') in the Planning Department's conference room at 23 Union Street that morphs at 6:30 into the 751 North Main Street Committee (even though goggles are provided, do not look directly at any of the committee members at the moment of transformation). You can look here directly for meeting minutes but you won't find any. You can take the goggles off now. And I never said 'beer' goggles, okay?

At seven it's the third Golf Authority meeting of this month, but the first regular meeting, over in their facility on the New London Turnpike but that's not where I hope to find you.

Also at seven in the Slater Museum, on the campus of the Norwich Free Academy, it's a two hour City Council candidate debate (actually a question and answer session and how many of the latter remains to be seen) hosted by Ray Hackett of The (please don't call us Norwich) Bulletin. If you live here you should plan on voting Tuesday, November 8th, and you should vote only as an informed resident, unless your name is Dorfman. In a perfect world, I'd hope so many of us show up the Fire Marshall has to move the session to the football field and we all sit in the bleachers (and then the drugs wear off).

Thursday morning at 7:30 in their offices at 77 Water Street, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Community Development Board of Directors (sometimes they have themed meetings like 'Armadillos Are Our Friends' and every one wears costumes, but Thursday is a regular meeting).
Thanks to a tip from someone channeling Steve Jobs, or using one of his devices, for meeting agenda and minutes, go to the organizational documents page and fill out the form. You'll get a user name and password by return email and there you have it. Once I and their server get used to this, I'm thinking maybe the city should employ it once they start reworking the municipal website (and add live video streaming. And pony rides.).

At six, in the City Council chambers will be a presentation on the renovations and reconstruction of the Norwichtown Mall. I have no idea why that meeting isn't on the city's website calendar.

And at seven in Room 335 of City Hall is a regular meeting of the Norwich Democratic Town Committee that I am hard-pressed to believe this close to elections they would actually choose to have instead of campaigning. To each his own, I suppose.

Plenty to do this week in Norwich in terms of helping hands. Dress warmly, since more than just a very warm place has been known to freeze solid this time of year. "There's frost on the graves and the monuments, but the taverns are warm in town. People curse the government and shovel hot food down. The lights are out in city hall, the castle and the keep. The moon shines down upon it all, the legless and asleep." Sweet dreams.
-bill kenny

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Actually Neither

While Thelma and Louise were out yesterday afternoon stalking more Keurig K-Cups because we now have a new shiny red machine that kicked the one I got us last Christmas to the curb. As a reward for NOT whining (too much) about buying yet another one of these ridiculously pricey vonbrewinkgootundhots, I got to take the old one to work where I use the adapter you buy for about $20 (Me: "American dollars?!?" Clerk: 'Si.')) so I can put whatever kind of god damn coffee in the machine I want.

That left me with an afternoon to fill, if not kill. We had goofy weather around here yesterday. When I got up at six the skies were clear and when the sun finally came up, the sky was beautifully blue but by late morning clouds had started to arrive and for awhile in the afternoon, right around the time I got wanderlust, it looked like it might rain.

As I moonlight as a witch, I needed to avoid precipitation at all costs and even though I suspect we have an annual rain deficit to make up (nothing like Dave M or Chris H in Texas, but still), I wasn't all that upset when the skies lightened. But caution is the better part of valor so I chose to stay home and hiked through the Yantic Cemetery, a very historical cemetery less than a five minute walk from my house.

Some buy houses for their location to schools, shopping or mass transit but, I, the relentless pragmatist, was keen on the walking distance to a cemetery. The disquieting part about the Yantic Cemetery is it's located next door to the hospital-where I'm on a first name basis with the ER staff. Gotta tell ya, it's weird looking out one of the 4th floor windows and seeing a person at a grave site who looks like your primary care physician and then realizing you haven't seen your roommate since he went to the OR for tennis elbow surgery yesterday morning. A chill goes up your spine that has nothing to do with naughty nurses or those half-assed (literally) gowns.

I love reading the headstones and sorting through the relationships--a century and a half ago husbands often outlived their wives because so many of the latter died in childbirth. There are many headstones in the Yantic Cemetery from all the volunteer units formed to help preserve the Union in the fight we call, inaccurately, "The Civil War."

Someone, I know not who, always places small US flags on each of the sites-it's very lovely in a slightly macabre way. And a group of the headstones, I once counted twenty-eight, formed as some kind of squad around a cannon that should look out of place in a a cemetery but doesn't at all. I'm hoping the men, to include the three who died in Andersonville, were buried at parade rest.

While I was there, I encountered someone walking a faux canine (one of those pocket puppies that even when full grown is worthless; if you own one I'm sorry (you're so stupid)) across the plots. He didn't have a bag or a scooper and we both knew he had a pooper. When I asked him about it, he offered me a wan smile that, truth to tell, pissed me off. I started to get revved up-now that I'm old it takes me a while to go from zero to asshole, a whole two seconds or so-when, on cue, the dog took a dump.

He assured me he'd clean it up and started to head for the main entrance/exit gate at the mouth of Williams and Lafayette. I tagged along back to his house, just around the corner, to make sure like MacArthur, he returned. As we were walking back through the gates, sans Rover (the guy's mom raised thoughtless children but not stupid ones), he realized "you're in the newspaper on Wednesdays!" (just to the left of 'Encouragement for End Times Endurance' and not just on the website).

His big concern, as I understood it, was "you're not gonna write about this in the paper, are you?" I had walked back to his house because I knew in my piss he wouldn't have come back to clean up after his dog despite his assurances to the contrary. Absolutely not, I promised him sealed with my finest sincere smile. Hey azzhole! You lied and I lied too. But it's okay, 'because we're all young and naive still.'
-bill kenny

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Our National Passed Time

Don't look now, and judging from the TV ratings not many of us are, the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals are having themselves a heckuva World Series. They split two one-run games in St. Louis and renew the best of seven contest tonight in Arlington, Texas. I hate as a Yankees fan to be outside looking in on the Series this time of year, which, in light of my absence of baseball-like skills of any kind is a special blend of ignorance and arrogance not seen in too many other places.

I'd almost forgotten last year's Series champs, the San Francisco Giants, not only didn't get to defend their championship, they didn't even make the play-offs. I think, with all respect to the scribes of Bean Town that might be a bigger story than The Olde Town Team's starting rotation washing down Popeye's Chicken with some suds (Yawn). Of course, if you live in Philadelphia, when you're not booing a cure for cancer, you're still upset about the Fightin' Phils (I think 'utter' is a little bit of piling on, but I know one Mets fan who loved that headline.)

And as Seinfeld noted, all professional sports fans are really cheering for the clothes as the contents of the uniforms change zip codes every off season, and sometimes during it, leaving all of us who cheer as the sole constants in our own universe.

Back in the day I used to frequent a joint where, at the far end near the 19" TV on the arm over the bar, were folks who wagered on every pitch and on what happened after every pitch. Most nights they had no idea what the score was-their game inside the game had nothing to do with The Game. Was it illegal? I guess maybe not on an afternoon when the beat cop picked up $20 on a double play ball, but still....

I'm told baseball is not a 21st Century American sport. Neither am I. A whole lot of shit has gone south around here in recent decades and I'm not sure what's in this bag but I'm the one holding it and I'm not happy about it. But did I cheer in my living room like a crazed loon when Jeter picked up hit #3000 or feel bad for the kid from Detroit whose perfect game was goobered up by the ump? Youbetcha.

Of course all those kinds of feelings went out with high button shoes and hoop skirts here in Air Age America, home of the WTF? and OMG! text message. I still remember the guy a row down to my left the afternoon my son took me to Yankees Stadium, who spent the whole frickin' game texting on his Crackbery. Seriously. You paid how much for these seats? You cannot fix stupid-but you can whack it a few times to loosen it up.

So find the time if not today then in the close to here and now to check out the Boys of Summer's Last Hurrah of 2011. They may not be any boys I know but they're all the guys we got and I've already put my mitt, double wrapped with rubber bands and a baseball in the pocket, under the back mousetrap of the bike trying to get a head start on Spring training. Mandatory report date is Friday, 2 March, but who's counting. I meant, aside from me?
-bill kenny

Friday, October 21, 2011


This is one of my favorite days of the year, up there with the birthdays of our two children and that of my wife. All three are way cooler than the traditional holidays we all know to include some of the newer ones like 'Let's Get Dad a Pony Ride' which is thisclose to sweeping the nation.

Today is our 34th anniversary. I used to say 'my' instead of 'our' because I saw marriage as a 'you and me, kid' against the world dynamic, a notion about which Erich Fromm had far too few kind words. I was wrong and Erich is an ass.

My best man, Chris H, sometimes drops by this space and if this is one of those sometimes, thank you. It was Chris and I in "Old Smugglers" the night I met my wife, come to think of it; he was present for both take-off and landing. Sigrid may have a few words for you (along the lines of 'why didn't you stop me?')

Sigrid's maid of honor was Evelyn of RickandEvelyn who is now a part of a different double play combination but is still a good sport, I'm sure. And I think back to all those with whom I worked to include my boss who asked forlornly the day before the ceremony in the Rathaus 'do you really need the whole day to get married?' He contended for years afterwards he was joking. I assured him my response at the time was not intended as humorous, just anatomically challenging.

Sigrid remains married to me (I suspect) because she enjoys a challenge. And I am all of that, everyday and in every way. If I have any talent at all, and I think it's the most important one and you possess it by accident, I make her laugh. I am not handsome, tall, fast, smart, athletic, polybendable (wanted to see if you were still reading), I just am (at least most days). Sometimes good is good enough.

I was a junior enlisted man when we met, requiring approval by my Detachment Commander to wed. I still recall him reviewing the paperwork and offering 'so you're marrying a foreigner?' "No, sir," I responded with alacrity. "This is her country, she's marrying a foreigner."

Dewey W, wherever in this or the next world you may be, thank you for using your influence as the Captain's personnel clerk to distract him long enough to sign the permission, despite my being a wise-ass (but he started it). And that's why Dewey received a homemade cake from my wife once a month for all the months he had left in Germany.

Thank you to Sara, now Sara J on the Other Coast, and Rik D, then in Frankfurt and still in Berlin, and Roger W, now in Virginia with Dar, and Marge L, out of sight but not my mind, for enfolding the newly weds in the embrace of your friendship when all one of them knew was that she was going have her hands full with this knucklehead she found. And the knucklehead didn't know what he didn't know-and after all this time still hasn't found out.

Except...she's my first thought when I awaken and the last before I close my eyes. I know love must be a gift freely-given because I have all of hers and could have never possibly earned it myself. I had resigned myself to going through this life alone and she saved me from being someone not even I would have ever liked. She has made a lot out of very little so often during our lives together that she can consistently make something out of nothing as a matter of course.

I would wish for you, if I had such power, to find and keep your special someone to better appreciate my sentiments and circumstances today when I wish the love of my life Happy Anniversary and so many more to come.
-bill kenny

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Untimely End of Jimmy the Saint

For many years because of my ability to get lost at anytime while driving (to include backing out of the garage), I thought road rallies were a sport tailor-made for me. For the purists, I have no idea if it's really sport (and don't care). I love the idea that bowling is a sport, not because I like to drink beer, but because I adore the rainbow brite footwear collection (and who cares what color your socks are!). I just realized the Red Sox must be all bowlers (never heard of Rally Beer, probably a micro-brew). I always thought baseball players were golfers.

I mention racing cars because of the death Sunday of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon. There are some suggesting it will impact his sport the way Dale Earnhardt's death affected NASCAR. I don't pretend to know because neither is a sport I follow. Ditto for all the variations and permutations, to include sprint karts, motorcycles and pickup trucks (there's just something a little too stereotypical about pickup races in my mind. I'm the very bigot I mock.).

Wheldon was very successful and was well-liked by his peers, friends and competitors alike. By all accounts he loved what he did for a living-how many of us can say that-and he was a bright enough man to both understand and accept the risks and dangers his employment could produce. It's reasonable, to my way of thinking, to believe his family never fully reconciled themselves to every aspect of his profession and now, of course, never will.

As I said, I don't follow the sport(s) and have watched in my life of nearly six decades probably less than 90 seconds of footage on any of these. We have Speed on our cable TV line-up because, like the photos in the high end furnishings store, it came with the frame-I don't know its channel, though I imagine clicking on the TV program guide and reading "7-11. Racing from Hooterville. Four hours of left turns interrupted by pit stops. 12-4 PM. Marseilles Grand Prix. Hooterville with French sub-titles." I'm being very unkind (and you are not surprised). I recognize there's more to this than that; there are tire changes, lots and lots of tire changes.

Unlike football where injuries resulting in grievous and permanent damage are (far) less than common, auto racing, while it feeding our need for speed (no matter our age), owes some of its appeal to the nerven-kitzel of 'I wonder what might happen?' Do I think its fans tune in for the collissions and crashes? No, but they are part of the sport and are included in any and every strategy of all successful racers.

For those affected by the ripples in the pond that was Dan Wheldon's life, nothing will ever be the same and nothing can ever be put right. And for a while, those on the periphery who tune in to watch auto racing or who follow the results in their local newspaper will pause when his name is mentioned. But as time goes by, the pauses will grow shorter-it's the nature of our life and times as we resume normal speed until only those who loved him at the beginning will remember him beyond the end.

'Well the blaze and noise boy, he's gunnin' that bitch loaded to blastin' point. He rides head first into a hurricane and disappears into a point. And there's nothin' left but some blood where the body fell and nothing' left that you could sell. Just junk all across the horizon. A real highway man's farewell. And he said, 'hey kid, you think that's oil? Man, that ain't oil, that's blood.'"
-bill kenny

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hard Times on Main Street

From the first time I saw their graphic, a ballerina dancing on the iconic trademark of the largest brokerage house on Wall Street, I knew there would be a day I'd look at Occupy Wall Street, OWS, without using media filters, editorial analysis and or fatuous fat-headed TV talking heads as surrogates. Saturday was that day.

OWS is a bit like the three blind men holding different parts of an elephant who attempt to describe it based on what they have in their hands, never realizing they lack a larger context. OWS is also equal parts window into the soul of many Americans and also a mirror whose reflections and meanings vary from person to person.

I'm a Child of the Sixties and have the Uriah Heep and Hot Tuna albums to prove it. I've grown old, if not up, with a wife for nearly thirty-four years (our anniversary is this Friday) and two (now adult) children who finds himself at times hanging on by his fingertips to what he, like neighbors and acquaintances, worked so hard to build as large amounts of it disappear into a vapor of derivatives-based investments Gone South for a winter (recession) that's lasted nearly half a decade.

We think of ourselves as Middle Class and often feel our times and lives are hard. For those who had less than we did to start, they have even less now and their lives and times are harder. The hand to mouth existence has gotten much shorter and much faster. Everyday is a struggle to keep from biting your own fingers. Since the Founding of the Republic every generation presumed to assume it would get at least as far as the one before it. That uninterrupted tide of rising prosperity crested and no one can say when the ebb will stop.

As we here in Norwich rebuild our city from the downtown outwards to both increase our Grand List and enhance our community quality of life, we have to realize what we are doing is but a drop in the ocean when placed it in the context of national economics. Those with jobs work longer hours for fewer dollars-benefits are now often rumors, and rates of unemployment and foreclosures climb as quickly as a growing sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

These aren't abstractions or debate points and counter-points. We are at the place where the road and the sky collide, where families must choose between food or health care, quality education or essential public safety as they struggle to hold on to their homes in pursuit of the lives we think of as the American Dream.

The men and women I saw and met Saturday in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park were business as unusual for these United States. They are every kind of people of all ages and have in common their lack of shared commonality. Like those who call themselves Tea Party Patriots, they believe in their country but have despaired of their government and traditional non-government entities, like financial institutions, working for and towards a greater communal good.

To see the Occupy Wall Street movement as a flash in the pan or one brief, angry gesture because it has yet to formally develop and advance a platform of grievances is to do it, and those who see it as perhaps our last great opportunity for a Second American Revolution, a grave disservice.

It has us taken as a country a very long time to get here, to this most dangerous of places in this most perilous of times. Slogans and drive-by populism will not rescue us this time-only we can save ourselves by talking with, not at, one another and learning to listen if we ever to ever build the Next American Dream.

I was less than five minutes away from the World Trade Center, where construction continues 24/7 to rebuild the heart of the economic center of the United States and the world. The designs are awe-inspiring and their flawless execution and transformation into glass and steel sculptures is more than a celebration of what we so casually and carelessly call the American Spirit.

They are the quiet and confident response to a fear that disquiets so many, that we cannot fix all the other ills that ail us as a nation. Teary-eyed by their beauty and majesty I am overwhelmed by the energy, focus and resolve it has taken to build them and know like little else that because we can do this, we can do anything.

In the swarms of people who are at the heart of the OWS movement at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan on Saturday, I saw a young man, no more, perhaps, than in his middle thirties, who could have been my son, or yours, holding a hand-made sign that read, "I have no idea where this will lead us. But I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange."
-bill kenny

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Since Moses and his tablets

I refilled a prescription last Thursday which is not even close to a news item. I take seven prescriptions on a regular (daily) basis and another one for pain (from keeping track of the others) so a week where I don't fill a script is actually more noteworthy. Another argument in favor of Forever Young. This growing old and trading acid for antacid has been trying at times.

The prescription was actually an old drug I take for Sjogren's that we stopped using ("we" = the doctor who prescribes it + the pharmacist who filled it; I have a walk-on role in this) to see if it was aggravating the rheumatoid arthritis in my spine. It wasn't (I think that was the good news, but am not sure) and I had it filled at my neighborhood druggist.

This is the first time they've filled this script which was good since they genned up all the warnings and protocols I first saw when I previously took it, but to which I have never paid attention (maybe there's a pill for that?). The drug was originally developed for malaria, which I did know but it's also prescribed for auto-immune diseases, it said in the booklet though, and I would've remembered this part 'though exactly how h------ interacts is not known.'

Oh? I read and re-read that sentence for quite some time. Let me make sure I'm getting this said my evil twin, Skippy. This is a FiIK moment, he asked. To which I had no other answer but a shrug. The arthritis hasn't gotten to my shoulders, yet. If you've got it, move it, says my rheumatologist.

I've seen a commercial for a prescription med whose name had 47 letters and a number for 'anxiety' which, I suspect can be quite the challenge in terms of diagnosis, and so the little letters on the bottom of the screen explain how this stuff actually works is 'not fully understood.' Well I feel better, don't you?

Listen up medical people! This is science stuff here. Binary logic, one or zero, yes or no, inside or outside, eat-in or take-out, black or white, sekt oder selters. We're not talking English Lit essay questions here. What do I think Samuel Coleridge meant by 'meandering with a mazy motion'? Who am I, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations? And how much can I save in fifteen minutes?

I think what I find disquieting is how much of medicine is trial and error and which part of this am I. "Hmm, the blue ones the size of horse pills made him run around the outside of the clinic screaming in Urdu like a ring-tailed bandicoot. Then he dropped trou on the highway overpass and mooned truck drivers heading North on 395 for the better part of an hour." "Yes, indeed! I think we should note 'exactly how h---- interacts is unknown.' Just to be sure. We did collect his deductible, right?"
-bill kenny

Monday, October 17, 2011

It Bears Its Teeth like a Light

There's a difference between a city and a community-sometimes one is the other and sometimes not so much. I would suggest the latter makes the former more than vice versa but we may not agree on that as much as I'd like. This week in The Rose of New England is another opportunity to prove, and/or disprove, my theory when we look at municipal meetings.

This morning at nine in the Rose City Senior Center, it's a regular meeting of the Senior Affairs Commission, whose last approved minutes are from their April meeting leading me to some less than kind conclusions, all of which I'll spare you.

At seven thirty this evening, the City Council meets for what I imagine may be their last meeting before the November elections (yeah, there's a November meeting scheduled but it traditionally is scrapped so alderpersons can engage in last minute community outreach to voters) with a very full agenda, with a lot of (to me) intriguing reports.

Actually two of the five are interesting only if they include a means of funding which seems to be a sticking point for a LOT of items that come before the City Council. Otherwise they're more of the same, which is way too much 'wish sandwich.'

Another sticking point, for me, is the fourth report, especially paragraph 5. Two and a half years after consulting with the state DEP on a site plan, it's still "premature to discuss the plan?" Pull my other leg-I've always wanted to be six feet tall.

Tuesday is a very busy day. Pack a dinner and your track shoes. There's a special meeting of the Redevelopment Agency at five in Room 210 of City Hall. There's a vacancy on that committee as of the first, so if you're so inclined, you might want to check out this link to volunteer. The September regular meeting minutes reflect deep engagement in brownfields which will be an area of concentration for quite some time.

At five thirty in the Latham Science Center on the Norwich Free Academy campus is a regular meeting of the NFA Board of Trustees whose meeting agenda and minutes I am unable to find on the newly redesigned NFA website. I'm pretty sure satisfying the requirements of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act has something to do with the direct or indirect receipt of public money, as the New London Development Corporation discovered about a decade ago.
Just sayin'.

At six, in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Personnel and Pension Board, whose members' reappointments, among other topics, are on their meeting agenda.

At six-thirty, in the United Congregational Church Hall at 87 Broadway, it's the Norwich Youth and Democracy Challenge Board of Education Candidates Forum slated to last until eight P. M..

And at seven in the basement conference room of the Planning Department at 23 Union Street, it's a regular meeting of the Commission on the City Plan, and within it there's a presentation on the agenda by Planimetrics (authors of the current City of Norwich Plan of Conservation and Development) who are working with the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) Sub-Committee .

My only criticism of any plans for anything in this neck of the woods in the two decades I've lived here is the continuing absence of shoes so we can take the next steps after any plan has been finished. We're real good at staying stuck at the start.

Wednesday morning at eight thirty in their offices in the Norwich Business Park, it's a regular meeting of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Government whose website continues to suffer from a lack of current (and mandated by public law) minutes of previously held meetings.

At nine, in the community meeting room of The Dime Bank on Route 82, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich School Readiness Council (Children First) And Minutes Take the Hindmost (I suspect, as they're not on their website).

At 5:30 in the Norwich Arts Council Coop Gallery, it's a meeting of the Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone. I did find a posted copy of their September meeting agenda-the city's web page listing is in dire need of updating in terms of currency and accuracy. This would be a good place to begin.

At six-thirty, again in the United Congregational Church Hall at 87 Broadway, it's another Norwich Youth and Democracy Challenge Candidates Forum this time for those seeking a seat on the City Council, again slated to run until eight P. M..

And at seven in their clubhouse on New London Turnpike , it's the Golf Course Authority in their second special meeting of the month. They'll hold their regular meeting next week and I cannot imagine what they'll have left to do.

Thursday afternoon at five in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Historic District Commission whose last meeting seems to have been in August (here are their draft minutes). You don't want to not attend as you may be nominated to buy properties (I love the headline vice the content of the news article as to who is paying and who is not; and people say we have no sense of humor around here.).

At six, in their meeting room at The Rink, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Ice Authority, whose last meeting, judging from the city's website, was in July.

Friday morning at in Room 319, probably to accommodate the crowd of interested citizens, it's a regular meeting of the Chelsea Garden Foundation who are listed NOWHERE aside from the meeting calendar on the city's website. Here's a recent story about it though when I say recent I mean not so much and when I say story I mean the reader comments from when it was first published a year ago. Time marches on.

Norwich, like so many places we call home, remains a work in progress and can only be better when you get involved. "Pick a side, pick a fight-but get your epitaph right. You can sing 'til you drop, 'cos the fun just never stops."
-bill kenny