Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Paying the Piper

As delightful as Saturday's Winterfest Parade (capped with the lighting of City Hall) was, I did manage to find a (small) grey cloud surrounding the silver lining. There was more than enough holiday cheerfulness to go around, and who can complain about the weather, and we had all the music we need, in my opinion, with the performance of the Norwich Free Academy Wildcat Marching Band, but did you notice how small it was this year?

It's not a sudden occurrence-take it from a parent who had a child in the band not that long ago. When our daughter, Michelle, attended NFA and marched in the band, it was a logical place for her to be because she had been challenged, like so many of her classmates, by the programs offered in the Norwich Public Schools.

As I recall, she started violin in fourth grade at Buckingham School back when we had music and arts programs in our schools (and Buckingham, come to think of it). Both are long gone-when public money for schools started to get tight a few years back, music and arts became unaffordable luxuries.

To keep the bottom line near the bottom, we taxpayers insisted the Board of Education and its superintendent stick to the fundamentals and lose the frills. Because of that our kids lost a lot of the fun and more than a few of the thrills as we expected City Council members to choose between police and paving streets, emergency response personnel and infrastructure upgrades. In the end, there is no end as the battle of the budget starts a new in a few short weeks and unless we've hit oil under City Hall, dollars will be in short supply and high demand.

Which brings me back to the Wildcat Band and how well those who marched on Saturday played. I have trouble chewing gum and walking so I applaud the talent and skill it takes to master a complicated step routine in a line of march while performing flawlessly on a musical instrument. I wish (and hope you do, too), there were a way to encourage the children in our schools now to paint outside the lines and support those teachers and programs struggling to re-establish themselves after years of silence.

We can literally put our money where our ears (and hearts) are this Friday night at 6:30 for the Norwich Community Concert in the Jacqueline Owens Auditorium of the almost-ready-to-be-dedicated Kelly Middle School. A donation of five dollars per adult will get you you an evening of music from the Norwich Free Academy Concert Band, the Norwich Arts Center Concert Band, Kelly Middle School and Teachers Middle School students and the University of Connecticut Brass Ensemble.

Proceeds from the concert will help maintain and expand an initiative of the NPS Education Foundation, after-school middle school music lessons through next year and hopefully beyond. The Foundation was started late last spring and has already helped fund small projects in individual classrooms in every Norwich public school. You can learn more about them right here.

Public education doesn't only educate a public, it helps create one and support those enrolled in it and help make them productive and caring adults, like their parents, who, in turn, will share their time and talents with the city that nurtured them with a commitment to learning, laughter and life.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fair Weather Snow Day

I hate doing this because I'm shanty Irish. If I talk about something, I jinx it. I know that and though my rational brain screams that there's no scientific proof of cause and effect, my animal brain believes it to be the truth and that perception trumps any reality you can summon.

I'll tell you what-at this stage in the game, we're on borrowed time. I'm back at work after an extended Thanksgiving holiday weekend where I took Friday off and wound up with four free days. The Winterfest parade where I live in Southeastern Connecticut on Saturday saw temperatures in the middle Sixties (!) under a cloudless blue sky. Not bad for the last weekend in November, my little chickadee.

I know this weather cannot and will not last and has, point in fact, started to cool down and cloud up to become exactly what it's supposed to be: the last month of the calendar year. It doesn't keep me from enjoying what is, for New England, balmy conditions. But the third grader in me still remembers how happy he always was about snow days regardless of the consequences.

Yes, I knew, in theory (at least) we made up all the missed school at the 'other' end of the calender, but the joy of unlimited hours of sledding on packed snow that seemed to fall silently and endlessly when we were kids was never dampened by "extra" school days in the late spring. Perhaps it was 'a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush' or 'I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for some sunshine today' but when you tell me the story of the Ant and the Grasshopper, guess for whom I always root, without exception (I hate revionist history, btw).

This weather is causing me to rethink my 'we're going to pay for this later' mindset as I smile a lot in sheer enjoyment. Winter will get here soon enough, it doesn't need me to worry about it. And like way too many other things I've squandered my worry beads on, my concern will cause zero course deviation and alter the duration and intensity not a jot.

Will I feel this relaxed, this leben-und-leben-lassen frame of mind when we get to February and I have icicles hanging from my nose? We both know the answer to that one but if you'd like, ask me when we get to February. "For every life, forego the parable. Seek the light, my knees are cold." Can't blame the weather this time.
-bill kenny

Monday, November 28, 2011

Daze of the Calendar

Odd isn't it, how we get angry about standing in line at airports as part of a process we concede might well save our lives, but many of us willingly spent hours in the cold and dark to save twenty bucks on Pimp My Mario (I swear to you I thought I had made it up until I searched; so sad) or some such crap as part of Black Friday. What a humorous species we would be, if we could look at ourselves the way we look at so much else.

And we'll need some humor as we attempt to do Christmas shopping in a constrained economic environment and meanwhile a city of this size, and I mean Norwich, but insert your town here, doesn't run itself. That's why we are fortunate to have so many volunteers to help out. We can certainly use all the help we can get.

The Redevelopment Agency meets this afternoon at five in Room 210 of City Hall. Having spent two special meetings interviewing partners to help develop a plan for the road ahead I'd expect a decision on whom that selection will be to be at the heart of the meeting, but we are a city of surprises and not always happy ones, so brace for impact.

Tuesday afternoon at a quarter of four in Room 335 of City Hall it's a meeting of the Community Development Advisory Committee, to review requests for (I call it returned) funds from the current calendar year Community Development Block Grants (CDBG vice CBGB's).

At five, though you'd have to remember reading a note (and a wrong one at that) from last week to realize it, there's a special meeting of the Harbor Management Commission in the City Manager's Office, Room 219, in City Hall. Looks like the last time they met was in September, if the minutes posted online are any indicator.

Both of these meetings are short-term goals kinds of meetings-with "where will we be in a year?" type of questions. However at seven in the Rose City Senior Center on Mahan Drive, it's a public meeting and hearing on the Plan of Conservation and Development, a decennial exercise that we should take far more seriously (remember Byron Brook in Occum or the Commercial Overlay Zone on Washington Street?) than we tend to. Here's the one we're working from right now-show up with ideas to offer and make sure you bring your ears, to listen as well.

Wednesday at five in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a regular (I assume) meeting of the Emancipation Proclamation Commemorative Committee, whose members aren't listed on the city's website so I guess you'll just have to go and see for yourself. Also not listed are minutes of any of their previous meetings, so I guess we're talking a lower case "p" at the moment.

Thursday, the first day of the last month of this year (already!), at seven in the Planning Department conference room at 23 Union Street,, it's a regular meeting of the Inlands, Wetlands, Watercourses and Conservation Commission. Their most recent minutes, from September's meeting are here, leaving me to wonder about those from October and November.

And Saturday morning at nine in the Taftville Fire Department, it's a One City Forum, giving you the opportunity to join hands with those from across the city working on projects great and small to improve our community's quality of life. Or you can just stay home and sit on your hands while complaining about how nothing ever changes and by so doing prove yourself to be your own self-fulfilling prophecy.
It's only your chance to take back the city for yourself, so no pressure, okay? See you at something?
-bill kenny

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Same Stairs, Different Direction

At some point today, and I suspect sooner rather than later, my brother and his wife, Margaret, will bid Godspeed to the Remarkable Suz, as she begins her hegira to Houston, Texas, and starts the next chapter in her life, as they turn the page and begin the next chapter in theirs.

I don't throw 'remarkable' around lightly-I admit in this case, I am prejudiced as I know both Suz and her brother, Rob, who has become an expert on the lights of Cheyenne, and because my wife and I have the other pair in the set. My brother and I are bookends on a large family that ended up finding it easier to talk to strangers than to one another.

I don't know about Adam, or my other brother, Kelly, or my sisters, Evan, Kara or Jill, for that matter, but I ended up seeking out and marrying an ally in my war on the world. The love of my life looked past the beaten and broken parts and saw something, somewhere that made me more worthwhile to her than to myself. I have no idea, even after all these years, what the hell that could possibly be, but I hope it lasts whatever of our lives we still have together.

When Adam found Margaret, he learned to exhale. That may just be the root beer talking as I missed almost all of his growing up years but I don't think so. Suz and Rob were/are the most important part of Margaret's life and that she found a place in that space for Adam tells you how large her heart is. Right now and for some days to come, that heart will feel like it's breaking but it isn't really, but it's learning to beat differently.

On one of the afternoons I didn't skip classes at Parent University, I remember the lecture being about knowing the day a world changes as another story begins. Today is when that happens for Adam and Margaret and Suz, though of the three she is most hurried because it's her story that's of the greatest interests and she's so busy writing it it'll be a long time until she gets to read it.

For Margaret and Adam this is the day they realize they did all the things they needed to do for that young person in the room at the top of the stairs, reaching for the stars until she has them in her grasp and moves on to her next challenge. The pain of parting will be assuaged by the memories of the laughter and the love seasoned with the realization that those memories will continue to grow and when next they meet, for a holiday or just any day, it'll be like they never parted.

Having been where they are already with Rob, will not help them today-I speak from the experiences Sigrid and I have had and know that it's true. You realize you've done your best when your child is unafraid of the world we have made for them and eagerly embraces it and make it their own. They put away childish things, leaving us with tears of pride and joy.
-bill kenny

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Claus and Effect

Our minds create relationships where none may actually exist-which is one of the (few) downsides to being the most marvelous creature on the planet, I think. I've always felt a bit smug that no matter how dull I have been in the course of the day, unlike the smartest animal you can name I'm able to appreciate a sunset. Wish I could say the same for ABC's Lady Gaga Thanksgiving special (insert your turkey joke here), but you can't have everything.

I mention all of that because sometimes a rose is just a rose and other times, it could be something more, frighteningly more (if we let it). On Thanksgiving afternoon, our son, Patrick, came for dinner and in the course of the floor show leading up to dinner, started surfing through the television in the living room. Since last Thanksgiving, we've shifted from one monopoly to another as our provider of entertainment and telecommunications. With apologies to Buzz, we went from Infinity to U-verse, meaning we now have 187,329.6 television stations or something like it.

I would need a dozen more eyes to watch all the TV we now receive-though I have to wonder why I need to learn Spanish to enjoy most international football matches as domestic soccer channel coverage leaves a lot to be desired. In the course of hunting for a match, we settled on Leverkusen versus Chelsea, but on our way there, I think we stumbled across a High Definition Shopping Channel. I didn't grasp it at first, and since Patrick watches TV the way I do, click, two seconds to ascertain meaning, click again, we were already gone when the screen images actually made it to my cerebral cortex.

I started to say something but then wondered what would it be. What should it be? Hey, let's go back and see what I can use 'tootie' on? Is that even the right station or was that the other shop at home channel and how many are there (skip the why). I could have looked in the booklet that the technician left for us when we changed over in May-it's huge and everything in it, from cover to cover I'm able to watch even if I don't want to. The Consumer is King and the remote is my sceptre.

Maybe I could, or should, have started my Christmas shopping in the comfort of my own living room. Would've have saved me from this on the Other Coast. I can't wait until we get to the first Sunday of Advent and open the first door on the calendar. I, for one, didn't realize gas masks were a must have accessory this year.
-bill kenny

Friday, November 25, 2011

Give a Man....

If you got up this morning for Black Friday bargains, certainly hope you got one or more. The kid who worked part-time in Two Guys stores in East Brunswick and in Manalapan, New Jersey, hopes you're pleased with your purchase and remembers being angrier than all get out when we had to work "normal" hours on what was always considered by everyone not on the clock to be a holiday weekend. Didn't mind the paycheck, though....

In the eat or be eaten world in which we live, all the retailers, or nearly all from my working class hero days, are memories or vapor. Now the world is our oyster, pearls sold separately. You name it, we can get it for you, 24/7/365-and if it's not legal or moral, we have a lawyer and a clergyman on call to handle your qualms. The only unforgivable sin is the one that's fattening and we have a staff dietician to handle the excess avoirdupois, so ride easy.

In light of the hair-pulling and finger-pointing going on in the nation's capital, I'm wondering how silent a Silent Night we might have this Christmas. The same kid who clerked at defunct retailers was in the middle of the mob scenes you've read about in the late sixties and early seventies but I was mostly oblivious to the peril and the danger.

Funny how growing old changes your perspective on your personal invulnerability (actually, it's hysterical but no one feels like laughing). I'm watching us edge closer to the abyss as a nation as we blithely surrender any ability for reasoned discussion and civilized debate and opt, instead, for name calling and invective.

Will the next American Revolution be between the Haves and the Have Nots and how do we think that will turn out and what do we suppose the rest of the world will do as devour one another in a rising tide of recrimination and retribution for all manner of sins, real and/or imagined, but mostly projected?

If those still-seasick settlers clinging to the coast of New England on that First Thanksgiving had behaved then the way we are now, what would be here for us to Black Friday ourselves into a trance about? We can wring our hands or we can join them together and rebuild what we have and make it better. There's only so long so many will be content to only talk about what happens next before acting on all the talk. And at that point there will be no one left to listen.

"The world around me's turning, I'm just standing still.
The time has come for changes. Do something, or I will."
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Long Strange Tryptophan

If you're looking for pithy, clever, cute or cuddly, just like every day, you are SOL, Pilgrim. Today's title is about the height of my reach for bright remarks and as we both realize my vertical leap can use some help.

Truth to tell, I have as close to nothing to do today as is humanly possible. I'm looking forward to our son and daughter both joining us for turkey and what seems to be all the fixings. Sigrid has been at the food preparation for a number of days and I have been told in no uncertain terms I can help best by staying out of the kitchen and resisting the temptation to offer to set the table, get the dinnerware, locate the utensils. I am one who helps best by not helping-I suspected this for many years before marriage. I was overjoyed to be proven correct (last time in this life).

I hope, too, you can have your family with you wherever you are. We both know lots of people who can't because they're working-folks at Forward Operating Bases in places neither of us have ever heard of, ships at sea and in foreign ports, in a thousand different directions all the way back to and through the cops on the corner, emergency response teams and all those who drew short straw on 'skeleton crew' duty or "Let's Beat Black Friday" staffing.

Unlike the original Thanksgiving celebrants, for us it's not the food nor the calendar that makes this a holiday. It's the people with whom we share it. Some of us will spend part of today counting our blessings, and pining over what we don't have. Some of that inventory and regret is what makes us who we are, as a species, I know, but perhaps in the 86,400 seconds that are today, we can spend one of them just being grateful for all that we have. Or perhaps two. Happy Thanksgiving.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Let Grateful Days Be Endless

Maybe where you live the preparations are already underway. We're borrowing chairs from neighbors who were planning on borrowing them from us. A search party to locate card tables has been formed, place has been cleared for the kids' tables and the aromas already emanating from the kitchen are causing mouths to water.

Thanksgiving may be the only holiday in America where many of us become, if just for the day, math majors as we try to compute how many hours how large a turkey needs to be in the oven at how many degrees so that it can feed a houseful of family and friends we've invited to join us for dinner. And let's not forget how many side dishes and who's bringing what--all important elements on our national Day of Thankfulness.

No matter how rough times have been leading up to this week, and for a lot of us they sure have been tough, we still make that extra effort as we put a smile on a care-worn face and enjoy the warmth of home and hearth.

Let's face it, the smiles have been in short supply in recent years as times turned bad and then stayed that way. Many of us have seen local businesses fade and then close and neighbors move on and away in search of something more than we have right here, right now. And in those households still here, a lot of us are doing a little more with a little less than we did last year.

Despite what you may think, we're the fortunate ones. When you talk to those who help out at food pantries and kitchens such as Saint Vincent de Paul Place, they'll tell you how the need is again greater this year than it was last year and we all remember how last year too many were in need of too much.

We already knew that. The army is stretched thin-in this case, I mean the Salvation Army, which has been deployed with its red kettle and ringing bell for more than a week now and who'll use anything you can spare and share. So thanks in advance for your generosity.

There's a Winter Coat Giveaway, sponsored by TVCCA, Goodwill and Easter Seals, this Saturday morning from ten until two next door to the CVS at 315 West Main Street. Whether it's a donated coat or a kind thought, whatever can warm another's heart and soul is needed and welcomed.

And while the big headlines on newspaper front pages this morning scream about the Super Committee and trillion dollar deficits, closer to home, many whisper and worry about the cost of heating oil and a winter that has yet to arrive.

There's light among the shadows, of course. Norwich Free Academy hosts New London High School tomorrow morning at ten as two old rivals renew their adversarial acquaintanceship and by game's end some one's Thanksgiving gets off on the right foot, even if it's wearing a turf shoe.

And Saturday at half past one is the Winterfest Parade followed by Light Up City Hall. The parade kicks off, where else, at Chelsea Parade, and concludes in what, for decades, was the heart of downtown Norwich, Franklin Square. From there, it's a short walk for all the activities planned around an afternoon near City Hall capped at six when Santa himself illuminates the building.

Ready or not, the holidays are here and as we gather family and friends closer to celebrate, and hopefully in the rush and crush of events we can remember strangers are friends we haven't yet met and light up a life the way we'll light up City Hall as we give one another hope when we celebrate Thanksgiving.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Family Snapshot

I arrived on the planet the same year Dwight Eisenhower was elected President. I mention this not merely to illustrate how old I am (I have other, far sadder, proofs, believe me) but to help place the distance we've traveled in a larger context. In our neighborhood everyone went to church on Sunday-I assumed they went to different Masses. Only after Neil from next door and I started riding the bus to New Brunswick to attend 'parochial school' did I learn about other religions. I had always stayed close to the tribe and was surprised to learn how wide and big was the new world.

We're a different country now-not better, not worse, just different. In 2010, we elected a man of African-American heritage to the Presidency and while I'm sure in some circles there was murmuring, that was about all there was. Fifty years ago, a Roman Catholic sought the Presidency. I can tell you as a kid in the weeds (literally), it was an issue very much talked about aloud and loudly. I was only eight and I could hear every meaning, and its subtext, very clearly.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, to a generation of children in developments flung across the country, hugging rail and bus lines so fathers could go to 'the city' for work, was like a being from another planet. If the term had existed, we'd have called him a "rock star." He didn't seem much older than our parents and he was a lot younger than any of the people we saw on TV from Washington. Ike, the man he succeeded in a very close election, was about the age of my grandfather and while I didn't know the phrase 'the changing of the guard', I knew something had happened.

Looking back, I can't really remember color, though, of course, our lives were lived in color. Televisions were the fireplaces of the suburbs and we gathered around them every night. There were no remotes but there was little need for them as, if you were lucky, you had ABC, CBS and NBC (We also had WNET, the educational channel) and most towns had a local daily newspaper, with a morning and an afternoon edition. And then it all stopped.

Today forty-eight years ago, John Kennedy was murdered. I was in a basement classroom in school and he still died despite all of the prayers Sister Immaculata, our principal, led us through as across the country everything moved very slowly and then much too quickly. You felt as if you were in a fever dream and when you finally awakened, it was hard to remember the life you had once had. While we in the basement that day were too young to grasp the scale and scope of the shift in the world, we knew from the first announcement of trouble in Dallas, Texas, that today is different, today is not the same.
-bill kenny

Monday, November 21, 2011

Holly Days

This is the week on the calander that really brings home the idea that time races by. It doesn't seem all that long ago we were making plans for summer vacation and now we're staring into the shopper's abyss that is Black Friday. Where has this year gone?

It's a reasonably full calendar of municipal meetings in The Rose of New England with the Senior Affairs Commission meeting at nine this morning in the Rose City Senior Center. If the city's website is up to date (deep breath), they haven't met since April and have only had two meetings since last November (they meet six times a year).

The final convening of the current City Council is tonight at 7:30 in Council Chambers in City Hall. The agenda makes me smile a bit as we had a lot of snow last winter, a lot of snow that never seemed to get removed from sidewalks as someone who does a lot of walking would notice. The solution, looking at the Council's agenda, is not to enforce the current ordinance but to quadruple the amount of time people have to (NOT) clear snow from their walkways.

I wouldn't be surprised if the police wrote zero tickets last year for failing to comply with either the removal or the parking ordinances. And now we'll positively reinforce and reward negative behavior but then wonder why sidewalks still don't get cleaned or streets cleared. I'd like to see us use NYC's alternate side of the street parking rule for snow removal where you park on the odd or even side of the street depending on the calendar date so the public works crews can clean the entire street. But not to worry, it'll never happen.

There are a lot of housekeeping resolutions on the agenda and since I don't know when otherwise I'll get the chance, thank you to Rabbi Charles Arian for your work on the Ethics Commission. We are a better city for your efforts and those of your colleagues. And speaking of a better city, very sad to read about Resolution 10 (which, I suspect, is why there's an Executive Session on the agenda) though item 4 may bring some closure.

Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 in the Central Office, still known by many as the John Mason School, is a regular meeting of the Board of Education Policy Committee, though it doesn't show up on the school's website (because they're held every other month). None of the minutes of any previously held meetings are posted because they are only added every other year (my guess is as good as yours, maybe better).

The Harbor Management Commission meeting is cancelled but I can offer you a double header, kind of, as the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners and Sewer Authority meet at six in the offices of the Norwich Public Utilities at 16 Golden Street. The postings of the most recent meeting minutes of both boards on the NPU website are not in compliance with public law as they are out of date, and I'm probably not making friends by pointing that out.

The Golf Course Authority meets at seven in their clubhouse on New London Turnpike. They held a special meeting last week, at which they got nothing done. I guess there's just not enough hours in the day....might want to update the expiration dates of the members' appointments on the city's website-though if they're accurate it would help explain the absence of a budget.

Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 in the Central Office conference room, it's a regular meeting of the Board of Education Building and Space Committee (we've gotten the word on the March 2010 convening, thanks). And there's no point in heading to the BOE website in search of meeting minutes as there are none, again.

Wednesday evening the Recreation Advisory Board meets at six in the Recreation Department at Dickenman Field. There no postings of meeting minutes or agenda for the entire calendar year of 2011-have to admire the consistency of effort to achieve that, because what else can you do.

Sort of as a second dessert after Thanksgiving and a kick-off to the holiday season, on Saturday afternoon, it's the Winterfest Parade, starting at 1:30 in Chelsea Parade and finishing in Franklin Square. From there, it's a short hike to City Hall for festivities that start at 2:30, capped by the Lighting of City Hall at 6:00. Always a great time for the young and for those who are young at heart, and the perfect time to recapture your own sense of childlike wonder and sing the changes. Speaking of which, if your mom lets you cross the street, see you at something? Happy Holidays!
-bill kenny

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'd Know that Smell Anywhere

Connectivity is a twin-edged sword. Anything shared between two people electronically these days can, and often is, part of a much larger conversation in circumstances neither can control.

Last Saturday evening, the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina played a basketball game on the US Navy aircraft carrier Carl Vinson to cap Veterans Day observances around the country. Whether converting the flight deck of the Vinson to a basketball arena was the highest possible use of a billion dollar weapons platform is a debatable topic, but one for another time.

There are life lessons from sports that have nothing to do with sports. One of the most amazing things about the Carrier Classic, for me, was watching the ninety (or so) second time lapse video that depicted the transformation of the ship which aired (seemingly) as part of every bump on ESPN for the days running up to the game. I didn't know it at first but learned--the clip was shot and edited by a US Navy Sailor, working as a videographer and producer, Lowell W..

I met Lowell when he and his colleague, Sally F, came north east almost two years ago for a project in which I was only tangentially involved but received a large amount of credit for when it was a smashing success. Who's your daddy? Turns out, I was. REMF rule! I spent eight years hating 'em all and in my dotage became one. Who says God has no sense of humor?

Each branch of the service has a very small number of active duty military who work in the audio visual arts and sciences (yeah, that sounds pompous, but it's true). They put in long hours for short money and no glory. You don't even realize they're there until they're not. All those Victory at Sea episodes and the aerials in Top Gun? All courtesy of military broadcasters, photographers and mopic maniacs. You know more of them than you think, and if you don't, Nat, Lee, Dave, Floyd, Rik, Roger, the other Bill, Chris, Sara J and MVT, can help you make a list.

Anyway, Lowell's clip blew up-I think that's what the kids call it when folks like something a lot. He didn't have Justin Bieber in it, no cameo by Katy Perry and everyone kept all their clothes on and still at some point by game time last Saturday night a quarter of million hits had been registered on You Tube. Not meaning to get all mathy on you, but that's about 250,000 more hits than you and me, together, have gotten even counting those Rick Rolled clicks.

Maybe Steve B. knows how we roll and then some. Who? This guy, and watch carefully and listen even more carefully at 1:23 into a feature on a Fox LA TV morning show. "That was my time lapse," says Steve. And that's the truth, except for the lie part, which is the entire statement. You'll notice when you watch Steve's upload to You Tube the imposition of his corporate logo on the original U. S. Navy Video credit. Well, that is awkward.

Yeah. Zero points for original effort and even less than zero for ham-handed theft, badly if brazenly executed. I'm not a cowboy, but I know that aroma and contrary to Duvall's contention, it's not victory. Don't stand down wind of Steve or you'll never get that smell out of your clothes.
-bill kenny

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fast Food Nation

Here's a little something to think about the next time you talk into the clown's head: if we are what we eat, what has all this fast food turned us into? And talk about a growth industry, make sure to factor in clothing and the purchase of new and larger apparel for those of us who graze at the neon signs of casual dining everywhere.

Imagine Jared knocking back a Happy Meal while wearing a BK crown, covered in the Colonel's Secret Recipe and sitting in a Wendy's. Sorry. Sometimes I get the portobello and psilocybin mushrooms confused but only on days of the week that end in y (because we like you). Anyway, we now live in such flamboyant times that if a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, who posts the fall on Facebook and sends out the tweet that alerts the google plus circles?

Hell with hypotheticals! I have one for you torn from the pages of real life but a question to preface it: what would your choice of locale be for a discussion on a topic as intensely personal as two people who love(d) one another could ever share. Don't say it aloud, just think about it. Then click here, read the story and tell me with a straight face, yep, "I'm Thinking Arby's!" Where is Greg Kihn when I really need him?

And if your fast food fervor becomes a fever, I've got your poster girl for Nucking Futs, right here. Talk about Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, baby girl is crazy in the heat of the deep dryer. If only Dan and John could have seen her as the roof rack, she'd have eaten at their joint for free forever, which came a little soon for one of them. I imagine her ardor cools slightly when she gets a gander at the back of one of those tray liners and checks out the caloric content. That stuff really puts the relaxed in relaxed fit jeans.
-bill kenny

Friday, November 18, 2011

Memories and Mobility

This time last week many of us were starting a three day weekend created by Veterans Day. The reasons for the day and the commemorations across many communities were more quietly handled, like Colonel Cathcart's demand of Chaplain A. T. Tappman in Heller's Catch-22 for a prayer that doesn't mention waters or heaven or God. In theory, many of us think military service is a fine idea-for other people, no one we know.

One of the nicer things in recent years, from my perspective as a Cold War Vet, has been the warming across the country to the notion of thanking those who serve in the armed forces, especially at this most fragile of moments. Many of us cannot imagine life in uniform and have no frame of reference for it while others have spent their lives, or given them, in the service of of country.

Thanks to news on demand and 24/7 video channels, we can watch world wide conflicts on our cellphones. Ain't technology grand? And we've done a fine job of reducing our dispatches from the front to a nearly sterile exercise in accounting. We've got the Action News Team giving us a body count and we mentally skip over the costs and carnage in lives and damage that's always just below the surface. But you can peek behind the curtain.

I've had the privilege of assisting an online acquaintance in a fundraiser he created for the Veterans Village of San Diego, and have been involved with hundreds and thousands of others I'll never meet in other forms of assistance that don't really require a lot of skill (ideal for me as I don't have any). We're heading towards the Season of Giving and if I can impose upon you long enough to get in a mention of the Wounded Warrior Project and all the good they do.

It hurts to see all of these agencies struggling to help those whom we've hurled into the maw of Endless War while forging our own 'please excuse my child' notes so our own lives remain undisturbed. They are bailing out the ocean with a teaspoon and we should be angry.

But, as happened Wednesday afternoon (thanks LR), I had the opportunity to meet Captain Gregory Galeazzi, USA, who observes Veterans Day everyday. And as you're about to find out no matter what kind of a day you're having today, click here, and be uplifted.
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Locating a Large Sieve

I've been looking since late mid afternoon yesterday and still haven't found it--an update on one of those grotesque 'where are they now?' stories that forty PLUS years ago had everyone talking.

Before Perez Hilton, TMZ, and ten tons of tattle-tale twitter titters and two bit nitwits, the American public was fascinated by Hollywood stars and starlets-truth to tell, in much the same way as we are now. There was more effort and artifice at the time--we had the benefit (I use that word loosely) of star-maker apparatus that worked to promote careers both on behalf of actors/actresses as well as the film studios for whom they toiled. The machinery was more apart of the scenery, but it was all there.

Now, in the age of cellphone cameras and the ubiquity of connectivity, anyone, anywhere at anytime, can become Billy Joel's definition of a 'star'-a ball of gas surrounded by flame. I'd offer a few examples but it's a target-rich environment, and like Lay's, it's impossible to stop at just one. Besides, you have your list and I have mine.

If you're a pop culture historian, his name, "Tex" Watson, will sound familiar as one of those knee deep in gore as a follower of Charles Manson. Manson was a malevolent maniac who heard Helter Skelter as an incantation and exhortation for every LSD-laced looner and peyote button basket case to kill as many people as they could put their hands to. Tex and his tribe were very good at answering the call.

Long before Meredith Hunter and Altamont put the exclamation point on the end of both the era and error of The Summer of Love, the Manson Family murdered on a scale and scope rarely seen up until that time in our country's history. But in a culture where yesterday is only vaguely and fuzzily recalled, forty-two years ago is a look back few of us can make (and fewer, still, who would want to).

Thirteen hasn't been a lucky number for Tex. That's the number of times his requests for parole have been denied and I'm assuming (presuming is probably the more accurate word) that we've now passed the threshold of the baker's dozen. We're all familiar with Portia's assessment and assertion, and can appreciate, at least in theory, the notion that people change.

But truth to tell, it's that fear of change and more especially the fear of the consequences that causes us to waver at the lintel before crossing the threshold. Somewhere, we can hear Merry Clayton, the menace behind the Mickster, "Ooh, see the fire is sweepin' our very street today. Burns like a red coal carpet (a) mad bull (who) lost its way." It's that lost part that frightens us the most.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Overcoming Triskaidekaphobia

New Englanders are made of hardy stock, I'm told-both those who arrived on the Mayflower as well as those whose goods and furnishings came in one of their moving vans. There's a long tradition in these parts of independent thinking and action that predates even the ready for anything state of mind the Minute Men came to embody in the War of Independence.

Generations of selfless sacrifice seemed to run into a stone wall Tuesday a week ago on Election Day at least here in The Rose of New England. There's nothing more local in the body politic than municipal elections and that's what we had here. Or at least that's what I thought was going on.

As you should know by now, the voter turnout left a lot to be desired. My initial reaction when seeing the actual turnout percentage,13.5%, was to assume many of us had succumbed to our fear of the number 13, triskaidekaphobia. I leapt, more like lurched, into action and attempted to reach Hugh Laurie, TV's Dr. Gregory House, and persuade him to facilitate the return of everyone's favorite 13, Olivia Wilde, to the show.

But like Saul on the road to Damascus, I had an epiphany. William Vaughn, a columnist for the Kansas City Star, once observed "a citizen will cross the ocean to fight for democracy but won't cross the street to vote in an election." I'm not sure he was joking, but I do think I caught a glimpse of his larger point.

When people have the right to vote, it follows as night the day, they also have the right to NOT vote if they so choose. As George Jean Nathan, who gave cynicism a good name once observed, "Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote." When the top vote-getter in this year's City Council election was named on less than 10% of all registered voters' ballots and still won handily, that's a reflection of systemic, not individual, failure on a scale and scope beyond a drive-by observation in a blog. Or should be.

In years past, we had candidate forums from shortly after Labor Day through Halloween at least once a week. This year we had less than half a dozen total and they were spottily attended (I'm being charitable). Despite my belief that my neighbors weren't happy about the rate, pace and direction of changes in Norwich, the turnout suggests they were and perhaps decided they had better things to do than vote for what many may have seen as more, or less, of the same flavor.

We've all heard "Success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan." We can spend the next two years running paternity tests on every registered voter we can put our hands to, or we can join our hands together and continue (as halting sometimes as our progress has been) to attempt to design and build the city we want to live in tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Decades and not of the Rosary

Twenty years ago this morning my wife and children first awakened here in the New World. They had flown from Frankfurt am Main to Philadelphia where they were slated to remain overnight and then fly to Groton-New London Not Quite International Airport but I decided my fun meter was pegged out and went to PHL to welcome them to their new country.

Things had already changed before they had touched down. I had gone from driving a BMW 518 to something called an Isuzu I-Mark (I was to have another name for it in very short order. but I digress) that labored for every mile of the 11.2 million miles it seemed to be from where I had set up our new home and the City of Brotherly Love.

Sigrid, my wife, had been in the USA on two occasions-a bit more than a year after we'd been married, sort of one of those victory lap visit things I do so poorly, and did this time as well, and a visit the summer after my Dad died. She was always proud she got on so well with my father-and rarely appreciated it when I told her she was only related to him by marriage not blood and that made all the difference.

Patrick and Michelle had never been to their father's country. Both Sigrid and I had discovered the year previously, when my mom, "Oma America" as Michelle, barely three at the time, kept calling her, came to visit that Patrick spoke English. It served him well as well as Michelle even more in the first few months on this side of the pond as he was Michelle's translator for our neighborhood and beyond.

Patrick was nine when my job disappeared in Germany and grasped far more of what was happening and its impact on his life than I would've liked. Michelle, however, was much younger and stepped off the plane clutching a clockwork pig, the only toy the packers who descended on our apartment in Germany hadn't managed to seal up in a giant shipping crate.

As toys went, the pink pig would have won no prizes--it would take three steps forward, offer a pair of oinks, and then take a quick step back. She had had it for a few months prior to the Westward Migration and that night in Philadelphia, she held on to it as if it were life itself. I'm pretty sure she still has it and would not be surprised if she keeps it forever.

All three were the last ones to clear customs and immigration because of some truly stupid advice I had been given in Germany by the lawyers who worked for my bosses. Two decades later, I'm not quite so angry about all of that. (Though I do still hope all of them are as dead as I wished them very intensely that evening.)

I stood in the arrival terminal as streams of passengers brushed and rushed by me, willing my family to appear. Sigrid, drawn and gaunt, holding Michelle, with Patrick venturing ahead by a few steps, came into view and I had one of the most amazing moments in my life in the most unlikely of locales, holding all three in an embrace whose memory I wanted to last a lifetime. So far, so good.

We collected suitcases and headed to the car with Michelle rubber necking in every direction and repeating that "Amerika ist sehr dunkel." When she's right, she's right; besides I saw no point in telling her it was eleven PM. The trek north on I-95 included a Roy Rogers restaurant at a rest stop somewhere on the Jersey Turnpike to refuel our son, whose appetite had survived his Atlantic Crossing intact.

It was very late, or early, you decide, when we arrived/returned home/back to Norwich to sleep on mattresses loaned by co-workers as all of our furniture and furnishings were bobbing around in the North Atlantic in a container ship, not to arrive for another few weeks. Patiently and with skill and love, Sigrid, a stranger in a strange land, worked to turn a curiosity of a house into the heart of our home. Two decades ago this morning we awakened to begin to dream again.
-bill kenny

Monday, November 14, 2011

We Could All Together Go Out on the Ocean

This is the time of year when there's a hum of heightened activities coming from most of our homes. We all love the holidays, but some of us (me) aren't big fans of the extra work-luckily we usually have a someone to not only watch over us, but to make all the decisions that help make this time of the year special for our families and friends.

There's more than enough going on around here at the municipal level as a glance at the city's website calendar shows, and, as we demonstrated conclusively last Tuesday, there's always room for increased resident involvement.

This afternoon at five there are two different meetings in City Hall (the website suggests they are in the same room but they are not) with the Ethics Commission holding a regular meeting in Room 319 with another request to hear a complaint on the agenda while a floor below, in Room 210, it's a special meeting of the Redevelopment Agency (first of two with another on the morrow) to review Requests for Quotations on services as the agency continues to marshal resources for their enhanced role in downtown.
Tuesday we have almost as many meetings as there hours in the day starting with the second (or other) special meeting at five this time in Room 210 with the second wave of responders to Agency's request for quotations.

At 5:30, in the Buckingham Memorial, it's a regular meeting of the Public Parking Commission and perhaps their first meeting since June, assuming there's a quorum.

Also at 5:30, across town in the Latham Science Center on the campus of the Norwich Free Academy, it's a regular meeting of the Board of Trustees. A review of their October meeting minutes offers a better insight into the scale and scope of activities within and without NFA.

And since all good things come in threes, why not a third meeting at 5:30, of the Norwich Board of Education in the Kelly Middle School Library, says the City's website, or in the Jacqueline Owens Auditorium as it says on the Board's website. I can't offer you their October meeting minutes to review though there's a link to their September meeting minutes, except there isn't really a link at all. "If you feel there is an error, please contact your <>." I'll get right on that, as soon as I figure out what a <> is.

At six in City Hall, Room 319, it's a regular meeting of the Personnel & Pension Board, whose most recent meeting minutes, from September, are here.

Also at six, a bit of a drive from City Hall, possibly a four iron, it's a meeting of the Norwich Golf Course's Budget Subcommittee in their Mark Twain conference room.

At seven, in the Planning Department's Conference room in the basement of 23 Union Street is a regular meeting of the Commission on the City Plan and within that meeting is also a special meeting of the Commission on the City Plan Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) Subcommittee. Last month had a presentation from Jason Vincent of Planimetrics who helped create the previous Plan and who have been hired to work on the new one, that offered a very informative (= even I understood it) handout, "Planning Primer."

Wednesday morning at eight thirty in their offices in the Norwich Business Park it's a regular meeting of the Southeastern Council of Governments. They had a special meeting on November 2nd-those meeting minute are here.

At nine in the Dime Bank Community Room at 290 Salem Turnpike it's a regular meeting of the Norwich School Readiness (Council Children First) whose work may be very important, critical perhaps, but whose ability to tell the rest of us about any of it by posting meeting minutes on their own website remains absolutely execrable.

There's a note on the city's calendar for a meeting at three in Room 319 of City Hall of the Emancipation Proclamation Committee, though I can't find anywhere an index telling me the Council resolution that created it, a listing of its members or its statement of purpose. Reminds of at least one other 'volunteer panel' that seems to be both invincible and invisible

At 5:30 in the Norwich Arts Council Cooperative at 66 Broadway it's a regular meeting of the Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, whose most recent meeting, based on the published minutes, was in July. Every one's term seems to have expired ten months ago so holding meetings may be a bit problematic.

Also at 5:30 in the Planning Department's conference room at 23 Union Street, it's a special meeting of the Dangerous Buildings Board of Review whose posting of meeting minutes is beyond pathetic.

Thursday afternoon at five in Room 319 of City Hall, it's a regular meeting of the Historic District Commission (I think we can lose the note on the prompt start of the March meeting). If you're intending to go, go here first and review all the notes for the meeting.

At six, in their facility on the New London Turnpike, it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Ice Skating Authority whose most recent meeting, in reviewing the city's website, seems to have been in September.

And Friday morning at nine in Room 319, it's a (perhaps) regular meeting of the Chelsea Gardens Foundation about which not one word can be found on the city's website. Having watched one member of this foundation up close in a funding venue of a different kind last May, I am impressed at how so little shared information has so far carried.

If you can't find the time to attend a meeting about something you're interested in (and I can't complain in light of how few of us could be bothered to vote), try visiting here on the city's website and completing the survey monkey on improving the city's website. You can definitely suggest 'pony rides for birthday', but NOT indefinitely. Don't ask me how I know this.
See you at something?
-bill kenny

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This is Jeff's Fault

I am a reasonably political animal, though describing my politics is difficult, even for me. I call myself a relentless pragmatist and find myself more often leeward than windward in my orientation as we sail the ocean of political science (as oxymoronic as that term tends to be).

I had some intention, though not very much or for very long, to watch those (or some of those) seeking the Republican Party nomination for President next year as they debated foreign policy. The longer I thought about that idea as my Saturday night, the funnier it actually became. In light of the luminaries on the stage seeking the nomination and their cumulative experience in the real world, much less the globe beyond our borders, I couldn't imagine what they'd do to fill up the first two minutes of the program.

Harvesting dental floss sounded like a much better investment of my time though it's hard to get a van loaded and on the road to Montana on such short notice. And then Jeff, my boon companion a little more than two years ago on a star-crossed crusade we both knew was doomed from the get go, but still we slogged on, and into the Valley rode the Six Hundred (minus 598), shared a clip with me and I knew my viewing would never include the Seven Dwarfs. Not last night or any night.

I've spent a great deal of time contemplating how, at the time of the Founding of the Republic we had so many people more than qualified to be President when only one could be, and how, 235 years later, we could have such a gaggle of idiots clamoring for our votes. Did they lose their way or have we? All you can do sometimes is give a woodchuck a tuna melt. At least one of us can.

These are complex and complicated times and we need more than simple (and simple-minded) solutions or drive-by, voice byte insights. There's a lot of hard work ahead of us and we need serious thinkers to create opportunities for all of us to contribute to the Renaissance of this country. Yeah, it takes all kinds of people to include less than sane, I guess. Speaking of which, waiter, check please.

And how precarious a state must we be in to find Mike Tyson, of all people, to be the best Herman Cain since, well, since Herman himself. Chocolate might be the flavor of the week, my friends, Romans and Countrymen, but crazy is the taste Republicans never tire of.
-bill kenny

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Nittany Lyin'

Veterans Day yesterday confused me as the afternoon turned into the early evening (and not because I have a tendency to sundown) because it felt a little like a Saturday. It was brisk in these parts yesterday, and all of my parts were cold as a result, and I stretched out on my Lennon love seat, as I call it (about the size and style of John Lennon's favorite couch), so that my feet hang over as I watch TV.

Shortly after four when I turned it on and Ellen DeGeneres was dancing up the center aisle of the studio bleachers with her audience (I think that's what the kids call it) and that's when I realized I wasn't going to watch any college football in the afternoon because it was Friday, vice the day before Sunday.

Speaking of football and vice (you saw that coming, didn't you; I guess I'm slowing down), unless you've been stuck in an elevator with Kris Humphries, you're familiar with Jerry Sandusky, Penn State University, the firing of Joe Paterno and the Million Moron March at State College that ensued in light of the synergy among the first three items.

My alma mater regularly got the snot stomped out it by JoPa's charges. The Nittany Lions humiliated the Scarlet Knights for what felt like forever, but that has nothing to do with my anger at puerile football fooligans who think an eighty four year old man who chose deliberately and with calculation to not know information that was his responsibility to know, was somehow the (not a) victim, which meant the pedophile on his staff and on his program's payroll, destroying dozens of lives in a decade and a half was no more than part of the overhead of so-called big-time college football.

Don't even think of scrolling down to the bottom of this page to 'tell this a-hole off'. I will have none of that. Instead read this, especially, "Victim 2" starting on page 6. You will be physically sickened by what a graduate student watched a grown man do to a child, I guarantee it. And then when you drop me a line to counsel mercy and forgiveness, make sure to explain to me why the football game today against Nebraska should have never been played, but rather forfeited. Very much like any opportunity for happiness that every one of Sandusky's victims had happen to them. And then we'll talk about the campus riot, but not for very long, I suspect.

Am I calling for collective responsibility and accountability by everyone who wears the Blue and White and screams "We Are Penn State" on autumn Saturday afternoons? You bet your ass I am and speaking of ass, if you don't agree with me, you are one.
-bill kenny

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Sky Full of Holes on Remembrance Day

Today is Veterans Day-we once called it Armistice Day because that's what the day on which World War I ended was called, back before we had to put a roman numeral after World War (we are the smartest species on the planet, the crown of creation, but we still had to have two worldwide conflagrations to realize how horrible they were).

"Elizabeth, that thundercloud is creeping up the Empire Hill. There's shadows on the overpass and puddles in the old dirt path. Peoria lay silent still in the belly of the overgrown; all quiet on the open plain. Footprints to the family plot where evermore will restless sorrow sleep in a broken heap."

Many nations across the globe, to include our neighbor to the north, call today Remembrance Day and I like that title. We have a day to recall those in uniform who gave their lives for our country, Memorial Day, and I have always appreciated the idea of a separate day set aside to honor everyone's service.

"Elizabeth, our fathers came and settled where the ground was flat; drew water from the Indian wells, cut timber from the rolling fells. Grandaddy-o, bled hearth and home for oiling the company gears. No rest for the errant ones. Godspeed their reckless sons who evermore play their forefathers' hands On the foreign sands."

We had people serving in the military before we even had a country. After all, this is where the American Revolution started with farmers and shopkeepers grabbing muskets and forcing the world's most powerful nation at that time, the British Crown, after a profuse flow of blood, to concede to the inevitable and allow all those up and down the Eastern Seaboard to become the United States of America (not that we've always been or even are to this day).

"Cemetery Guns go bang, bang, bang, shooting all the sky full of holes."

And while it's hard sometimes to see the line from the Battle of Lexington to Lexington Avenue and from low rent districts everywhere to the streets of the District of Columbia, it's all a part of what every veteran made possible by her and his service. The best way to say 'thank you' is to safeguard and use wisely the freedoms that service and sacrifice made possible and make them a part of your legacy for those who will follow you.
-bill kenny