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

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