Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Finding the Balance

This time next week thanks to an election process too many of us take for granted while the rest of the world envies our nonchalance, our lives as we know them may be changed. Whether the election results bring good or bad news not only depends on your perspective as the beholder but also on the prism you employ to view the results.
I promised some time ago to not offer opinions on any of those seeking our votes and I will not renege on that promise though in a couple of races, I'm feeling pretty provoked. I'm grateful, despite appearances otherwise, to everyone who has offered to serve no matter the office; quite frankly more grateful for some rather than others, but it takes all kinds to make a world.

After we have assured one another that we have registered to vote, know what documentation to bring with us to the polling place and know where we need to go to cast our ballots, we should make sure we are informed on the issues and the candidates' positions and then vote based on your best judgment.
More than that can no one ask, and less than that should no one expect.

Opinion, goes the old saw, are like noses; everybody has one and they all smell. No matter what decisions we make next Tuesday in matters of leadership at the highest through more humble strata of our government, it's highly unlikely that either the dawning of the Age of Aquarius or the end of the world will follow as an outcome.

Our decisions and subsequent actions and the consequences of both will make us or break us. How well supporters and proponents of candidates and/or bonding questions have explained themselves to us, the people with the power at the voting booth, should be a critical factor.

Open and honest communications can help build bridges between the different segments of our communities just as deceitful and duplicitous efforts inevitably erect walls and create distrust both of those elected to govern and of one another who chose them.    

Your informed vote is critical to the success of who we are as a city, state and nation. Just as there are no insignificant votes there are unimportant offices in elected government. And here in Norwich, as in thousands of cities and towns across the country there are ballot initiatives for bonding requiring a decision that we'll make but perhaps only in the lives of our children, or theirs, will we learn if the investment was worth the risk.

That's why you can't have enough information before you cast your vote-though please don't allow yourself to be overwhelmed by your responsibility. Don’t choose to NOT choose. When the polls close next Tuesday evening, whether you see yourself as a victor or a victim is entirely up to you. The decision to be better or bitter is yours alone. Your vote is your voice so be as loud as you can.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Party

Here's the situation. I'm home because everyone along the path of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandra (we haven't been formally introduced so I feel foolish calling her 'Sandy') is home.

Whatever work we are supposed to have will keep which is more than you can say about a lot of other things, near at hand in my town, like Howard T. Brown Park at the confluence of the Shetucket, Thames and Yantic Rivers (Sofee Noblick shared this image which she borrowed by WFSB television).

Or how about someplace that's beyond iconic, albeit somewhat far away at least for me,  Times Square (and how oddly disconcerting when viewed without the usual complement of people running around everywhere).

If this were a snow day, I could battle my way to the garage and futz around until I got the snow blower started. It might take a few hours, but it would be something. As it is, I have had doctor's appointments canceled out from under me and calls from where I work encouraging me to stay where I am (classy in San Diego?) and even our Governor, Dannel Malloy has told folks to stay off the roads unless you have a hall pass (I may be making part of that up but I doubt it).

And you thought I might offer you Springsteen's Atlantic City? You're close, but not quite.

"The hurricane party's windin' down and we're all waitin' for the end
And I don't won't another drink, I only want that last one again
 He gave me such a fine glow, smokin' slow, now I should probably be homeward bound
 There's just no one to talk to when the lines go down

 I guess that in the morning I'll go lookin' for my gray-striped cat
 My old house can take the weather so I'm not too concerned about that
 It was built to take the wind back in nineteen-and-ten when this was one damned fine town
 But now there's no one to talk to when the lines go down

 Some insurance man-biker is yellin' out for one more beer
 But a part-time pirate just can't get much respect around here
 We got our problems too, man we'll get to you
 In just a minute, sit your drunk ass down
 Yeah, there's no one to talk to when the lines go down

 Now there's water up past the wheel wells of my  Ford and I don't guess that it'll run
 But I left a pack of Winston's on the dash, could you fetch 'em for me son?
 The morning's first cigarette, that's as good as it gets all day I should know by now
 But there's no one to talk to when the lines go down."

Hope floats but don't go wandering someplace where you don't need to to find out if you do, too. Okay?
-bill kenny

Monday, October 29, 2012

Channeling William Burroughs

Hunkering down like everyone else on the East Coast along the path of Hurricane Sandy (the name of the storm undercuts the menace, don't you think?) I have to admit for a guy who still gets flaky when he enters a dark room, atmospheric turbulence and destruction from above is definitely so much all of this you can keep the bag of chips.

I have found my copy of Naked Lunch -I was a fan of William S.Burroughs for a long time and then we just started seeing other people (okay, I did) and drifted apart. Someone mentioned Junkie the other day and that reminded me of yet another box in the basement from when we came from Germany and I dug around without making too much of a mess (that part is for my wife) until I found what I was looking for and it was before breakfast and I was fully clothed. Now I am ready, or as ready as I'll be.

Watching a storm rage, especially from someplace safe and dry is a simultaneously soothing and disconcerting experience. You are in all of it and yet you are not. You could be scared but you may not need to be. Your mileage may vary but the majesty of what you are living through never does.

Here's the best Burroughs I can do for you and if you don't like it blame my performance on the anxiety of the storm: Eat your school, stay in drugs and don't do vegetables. A copy of these remarks is available by sending a stamped self-addressed envelope to the address shown on your screen. Or not.
-bill kenny 

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Today we are departing from a hotel or motel (I never can tell which is which) from an undisclosed location in New Jersey where we've spent most of the weekend as part of a surprise organized by my brother, Adam. I'm always surprised I can find his house since I'm not especially discriminating in my dotage and I don't see him that often so after awhile all these forty-ish white lawyer guys look the same so it was nice to be on the side of the surprise equation.

Every time we go to Jersey I'm always disappointed that there's not more of  a sense of homecoming for me and then I remember it's been almost forty years since I lived in the state and aside from seeing my callow youth self somewhere in a dream sequence what do I hope to have happen?

There's a great bar perhaps in Point Pleasant Beach, or Point Pleasant, I forget which, called the North Pole with a guy out front dressed in a Santa Claus outfit everyday of the year (except Christmas, who says irony is lost on Jerseyites?). I wonder if for my last act, or close to it, if I'm supposed to end up there. Every once in awhile I'll have a dream I can remember after awakening and it always seems to have something to do with that bar.Gotta admit if that's really the finale, I'm setting the bar sort of low.Bar. Get it? I missed my calling as a stand-up comic.

Remember to tip your waitress. Anyway, we're racing Hurricane Sandy up the Eastern Seaboard and though the fireworks aren't hailing over Little Eden tonight I have the sinking feeling it will be dark enough soon enough when something wicked this way comes.
-bill kenny

Saturday, October 27, 2012

If Memory Serves

This is a Road Trip weekend for the Connecticut contingent of the Kenny clan. We may not know where we're going bit we're making great time. Ask Patrick and Michelle about the evening Ferdinand Daddy-o departed Orange for points Norwich and marvelled at the Manhattan skyline and would possibly still be doing so if not forcefully told he was driving in the wrong direction. True to my Irish Rover heritage and don't get me started on GPS.

Anyway. I have every intention on being someplace where I can watch the World Series later today-not because I have a dog in the hunt. My team, the NY Yankees are free to shave a few strokes off their golf scores with all the extra rounds here in early autumn, but that's okay. Would I frighten you by if I told you how many days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training? And you thought the return to Capistrano was miraculous. Think Florida, pilgrim-now that's a miracle.

Our Dad would be up to his transistor radio in this Giants-Tigers Series even though Alvin Dark did nothing but break his heart his whole life. No, point in fact, as a fan of baseball the most American of sports, I want the World Series to go to extra innings for every remaining game and, as much I love the Giants having rooted for half of their pitching staff when they played at Dodd Stadium where I live, I believe seven games, at least, is a terrific idea.

Why? Because when the final out of the last game is made, there is no more baseball for the entire rest of 2012. What's the point of having the days on the calendar when you don't have to glance at it to calculate when your #2 starter is up or when the left-handed pitching rotation your team is heading into will mean the right-fielder is getting platooned.

I can play the games in my memory-but that's almost full, just like the count at some point today, I hope, in the bottom of a home inning that takes us to extra frames. Go somebody
-bill kenny

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dressed in a Scarf and a Sneeze

Ripped from the headlines is so much more fun and far easier to write than anything I could ever imagine with the added bonus of being true and today is no exception. Especially as in this case, the source of the story is the almost legendarily tabloid Big Apple newspaper, the Daily News.

The New York Times may be America's Newspaper of Record (take that Washington Post) but for the juice with some of the peel and a whole lot of the seeds, it's always been the Daily News (sorry New York Post).

I will concede in light of the sole on-line photo, I was disappointed. You know an enterprising staff photographer tried to file an expense voucher into five figures to encompass cover, copious libations and a little sumpin-sumpin for the artiste to keep warm in her little sumpin sumpin. Damn accountants!

And can the owner of the 'jiggle joint' (only the Daily News can do that) have a more perfect name? Yeah, I guess actually he can if his first name were Harry but it isn't, so good try.

And Attorney McCullough, when/if pole dancing is an Olympic sport (the Winter Games because of the salubrious effect cold weather has on certain body parts), may you be placed in charge of the criteria creation committee developing the rules and evaluation standards (and making sure the Soviet Judge has a permanent "2" stamped onto his scorecard).

I'm thinking a second Boston Tea Party to protest taxation could be a pay-per-view hit if we line up the right music. After all, who doesn't like to dance as part of our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness?
I shudder to think what might happen if we catch it.
-bill kenny 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Day Late and the Debit Card Covers the Shortage

Yesterday was United Nations Day-and you probably didn't send any of the Lower Manhattan double and triple parkers a birthday card did you? Don't feel bad, they wouldn't have read it once they checked the  inside of the envelope and didn't find cash or the next generation of fighter plane or armored vehicle. Perhaps a small umbrella to help with their balance up there. I'm sure we can both guess where they can store it when it's not raining.

Actually, and much more importantly, yesterday was my brother Kelly's birthday. It is a little known fact that he is 237 years old though his youthful appearance and childlike innocence and enthusiasm (plus a lot of plastic surgery) belies his age. Truth to tell, I have no exact idea as to his age having last seen him if memory serves sitting on the floor in my sister Evan's apartment in Jersey City as Sigrid and I were heading for the airport to fly back to (West) Germany when she and I were all we had at some point in the latter part of the previous century. I don't imagine he's aged a day but does own a thoroughly thumbed copy of an Oscar Wilde Novel.

In a large family of kids who all resemble one another  Kelly was the tall, blond kid who looked exactly like, well, exactly like Kelly. It was an interesting house growing up with a brother who locked himself in the little boy's room while simultaneously locking Mrs. Brennan, the teacher, out at Saint Peter's kindergarten in New Brunswick. I have a memory of her calling the house and our Mom speaking into the telephone in an attempt to coax Kelly out. I believe he eventually decided to exit of his own accord.

But years before that I recall sharing a bedroom with Kelly and by the dawn's earliest light he would awaken, stand up in the crib, clutch the rails, and shout exuberantly, 'Everybody up! Kelly's belly empy!' launching a frantic feed the child effort not seen again until Jon and Kate Need to Roller Skate Instead of Mate on TLC. His wife Linda tells me he's still got that pep in his step.

Kelly might have had a career as a physicist since at a very early age in a finished basement in the house on Bloomfield Avenue he managed to flip over a massive TV console (those barge-like furniture stylings that said 'muricah in the early 60's) trying to retrieve a toy car that had rolled underneath it despite the complete absence of leverage or a fulcrum. If only we hadn't lived in a universe with a yellow sun? Perhaps just as well; he has always hated tights.

As it is, Kelly in this universe is more than a terrific deal for his spouse, children and grandchildren not to mention the members only contingent composed of his brothers and sisters. If someone could have ended the NHL owners' lockout yesterday so that he has some idea when his beloved Rangers will retake the ice, it would have been the perfect ending to cap his birthday. As it is, I hope it was stellar and steadfast-like the celebrant.
-bill kenny  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Change is the Constant

My wife and I celebrated our 35th anniversary this past weekend-well, I celebrated. I think my wife might have put on a brave front and made the best of it all. We have shared twenty-one of our years together as residents of The Rose of New England, raising two children (she did most if not all of the heavy lifting), our son, Patrick, and daughter, Michelle, to adulthood. Both attended the now closed and gone Buckingham School, then it was on to Kelly Middle School and Norwich Free Academy.

I thought a lot about the years and the changes those years have brought that she and I have seen since arriving here while enjoying glorious autumn New England weekend weather (unless you were from Stamford). Don't get me wrong. When it comes to winter and snow I am not now nor have I been a fan since I spent thirteen months in Greenland back in the middle Seventies while wearing Air Force blue. Oddly enough, it doesn't keep you warm-trust me on that.

But this weekend was special. Autumn is a good time to pause and take stock of where we have been and where we are going as the days, already short, seem to grow more so as Daylight Savings Time ends (a week from this coming Sunday) and the calendar fills with holidays. I was thinking about who we were when we first arrived here and some, and most certainly not all, the people we have been in the ensuing years.

We've lived on the same street for all this time, surrounded by friends and neighbors who raised their families here as well. Our part of the street had all, or most, of the children back in the day and everybody went to school together and after school everyone played with everyone else to include a homegrown specialty, "Home Run Derby." It was, I believe, unique to our block and played almost all year round. It had more to do with being neighbors than it ever had to do with baseball. That was then and Home Run Derby is a memory .

All of our children are grown now and almost all of them are gone, some near and others far, many with families of their own. Our part of the street is quiet now as most of the school-age children live on the other end and their laughter and shouts carry to where we sit in our quiet houses waiting for what happens next.

We intellectually accept the notion of change without ever really accepting that change is like the ripple from a pebble in a pond and begins at the center, in the case of a community, with each of us and radiates outward. It's all well and good to talk about the importance of 'investing in education' but if you will not concede that such an investment could mean your taxes will rise, all the talk is worthless.

We can spend as many hours as you'd like talking about the way things were in Norwich and play Pin the Blame on the Passing Years while dreaming and scheming of better days, but unless and until each of us can let go of hurt and hard feelings from decades of decisions whose intentions may have been laudable but whose outcomes were less than optimal we'll keep circling for a landing without ever arriving. There is no standing still-if we will not move forward we shall fall behind and once that happens we end up very close to where we are right now.

Look around-Accept that the colorful leaves on the trees fall to the ground and turn brown but realize by so doing they permit the budding of the next spring and assure a new beginning.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stupid Bloody Tuesday

I am forever impressed by the ingenuity of spammers. Every time some one builds a better spam filter, the spammers sit around in that dank boiler room someplace in Nigeria or Nepal and craft a new and more clever approach to foil and fool the software.

I have collections of this stuff, lots of Dearly Beloved Get Rich Quick poems of a sort and probably just as much vaguely pornographic (and not so vaguely come to think of it) for every type of umm, chemical and mechanical aid to umm, well, y'know, yep, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout, Willis.

I have no idea how the anti-spam filter grabs all that it does but I am impressed with how well it works and enjoy every third or fourth day cleaning out those holding folders and vaporizing all of the salty and salacious detritus that has collected there.

But yesterday in a spam trawl and haul of a dozen or so messages in the net were these two gems, the first from a "john gaines" entitled "act sunup" with a simple, if cryptic, message "carryall for moonstruck What leads handbook sharecropper?" I know not what to say and that, as you well and truly know, is a rare occurrence.

Perhaps in answer or even in opposition, "moises bradshaw" penned this missive entitled, "sag lifesaver" offering, "upstream in eyeballs That underdog standby bedroom?"

Hell to the yeah! And no, I have no idea what either of them are talking about. Semolina Pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower can barely keep up with John and Moises. Three blind mice minus one, perhaps; more than you might ever know.

I think we can both be sure no matter what we guess the real products might be that both of these notes espouse we can never, ever, be one hundred percent sure but oh my, my, they are further proof the line between surreal and cereal grows finer by the minute and no matter what Little Nicole says, koo-koo-kaa-choo, indeed.
-bill kenny  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Back on the Chain Gang

Today is my first day back at work in a month (and two days). For someone as insecure as I am, who defines who he is by what he does (it's pathetic, I agree but an excellent coping device), it feels a lot longer.

I'm too smart to ask my wife, with whom I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary yesterday, how it felt to her lest she actually tell me. I realize she promised all those years ago in the Rathaus to love me for better and for worse but NOT so much for three meals a day, every day for a month.

Both of us are happy I am no longer underfoot around the house at least no more than I normally am. How happy the people for and with whom I work will be about my return may take some time to sort out. We needn't look up the parable of the prodigal son as a reference for their reaction.

Aside from it being (more) quiet on my part of the shared hallway, many may not have noticed I was gone though even fewer will realize I have returned. I should tell you I don't have a hard or difficult job and I compensate for that by not being very good at it. I used to get away with indifferent performance earlier in my career by being handsome, gambling people preferred decorative to functional. I was right at that time, but now I have to wait for dusk.

I was actually away from work longer, much longer, for the convalescence after each of the knee surgeries but this time around I have a few more miles on the odometer, a couple more dings in the paint, and more gray in the hair but less hair on the head than the last time I rode the painted pony on the carousel. Except that the alternative terrifies me, I'm positive growing old sucks.

Needless to say, I'm not sure how I feel about returning to work. The jury is still out on that whole 'labor and we'll pay you' model of remuneration. I'll let you know how many co-workers are as thrilled as I with my return at sharpening the cutting edge on the sword of freedom. You can probably already guess-if you're good with fractions.
-bill kenny 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

To Want What We Have

My wife and I married thirty-five years ago this morning at twenty after ten. I look at the photographs Sigrid's dad, Franz, took on that day (Franz passed a number of years ago) and smile because my wife and I look like children. Living with me for three and half decades cannot NOT leave a mark but Sigrid is as beautiful as the first time I saw her and always will be.

I am not an easy person to know, much less to marry. I am loud, obstinate, quick to anger and slow to forgive. I neither forgive nor forget any injury or slight (real or imagined) which makes getting on with our lives more problematic than it needs to be.

I have referred to by my (very) few acquaintances (I have no friends because I don't know how to be one) as an acquired taste who is 'somewhat concentrated' (that is, a little of me goes a long way). Most people who can tolerate me do only so because they are fond of my wife-I came with the frame. She is my human credential.

None of this is new or shocking to my bride. I suspect she likes challenges, which helps explain the original appeal and she may have felt she hit the jackpot when we married. If that's so, one of my lasting regrets is that she hasn't felt that way every day of our shared lives.

I hope you are fortunate enough to love someone as much as I love her. That, in return, she loves me completely for absolutely no reason and sometimes despite who I am,, makes our relationship that much more amazing. She is the most important person in every aspect of my life.

I can get up every morning and battle the trolls who populate my universe because she is the calm at the center and makes our life together the reason and the reward for always coming home. Before her, I could never imagine loving any one ever. Since her I cannot imagine loving any one else. I know it seems to her like a lot longer than thirty-five years. I blame it on the metric system; I wish she would, too.

And it's little romantic flourishes like this one ^ ^ that lets her know she fuels the passion of my gypsy soul.  

Happy anniversary, angel eyes.
-bill kenny

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Hollow Horn Plays Wasted Words

As part of my post-operative pause (coming to an end, FINALLY!) yesterday morning I walked to the convenience store that's not much bigger than a pair of phone booths joined together with two gasoline pumps out in front on Washington Street, heading towards Backus Hospital. I usually buy a paper (the other New London County daily newspaper) and it's a snug fit inside with merchandise stacked to the gunwales.

It was a pretty crummy Friday morning weather-wise, rain and wind a sort of typical mid-October New England day that never gets depicted on the calendars for some odd reason. Coming out of the shop there were a cluster of kids, elementary- the ones with backpacks bigger than they are- waiting for bus(es) as their school days start.

Kids in our schools have been hitting the books (actually the computer screens) for well over a month now and have finished up the Connecticut Mastery Tests (started before No Child Left Behind which is now blamed for all manner of evil, real and/or imagined, to include the often less than stellar performance in these tests) so between now and the holidays they can concentrate on the real purpose of education (to learn the rules of the game better than anyone else and then change the rules).

Their bus was slowing to a stop, yellow lights flashing (their sole purpose is to alert all and sundry that the red lights are about to flash and then no one should move until the children board) as its human cargo queued up in line still buzzing about whatever eleven year-olds chatter about (similar to what sixty year-olds natter on about, but they remember the details). I smiled admiring their enthusiasm and imagining just that one bus as a dynamo filled with enough energy to power the whole city.

At that moment, perhaps on its way to Maplewood, a long black hearse glided by, headlights on and leading a motorized procession of mourners to accompany someone on a last journey. I was slightly startled at the symmetry of visual bookends and awaited further enlightenment until I realized I had already had it. But it's alright, Ma; it's life and life only.
-bill kenny       

Friday, October 19, 2012

Eight to One is More Impressive

I guess at some point today I can uninstall the SportMobile App I have for my android cell phone. It's been a problem most of the baseball season but most especially in September and to be honest with you for nearly all of the American League Championship Series, ALCS, ("on TBS and Fox"), it didnt seem to be working at all.

I had adjusted mine for my favorite team, the NY Yankees and by now you know what happened. They were swept by the Detroit Tigers in four straight as the striped cats pushed them aside to return to the World Series (their most recent trip a few years back ended badly but hope springs eternal for Jim Leyland and his crew). I am hoping the SF Giants can turn it around against the Cardinals, who are, after all the defending World Series Champions but Detroit should be there and not my Yankees.

Yankees fans are spoiled-we expect to win everything every year. If the season doesn't end in a parade down the Canyon of Heroes, we will have rooted in vain. And nothing against the guys still in the chase, where in your respective cities do you think the victory parade would be half as cool as where we have it? Yeah, I rest my case.

Anyway, the problem with that unreasonable expectation is when your team fails (notice what I did there: 'we' win, but 'the team' loses; pretty suave, eh?) somebody gets blamed. Looks like it's Alex Rodriguez's fault (again) as he seems to have performance anxiety, though I guess not all the time (why are there bikini models? Men don't wear them and women know what they look like with them on.), though all this chatter about not coming back is goofy (as an economic proposition, Alex is a black matzoh-you can't get rid of him and you can't eat him). Other fans are blaming Nick Swisher and before we're done we'll have trashed the roster from top to bottom.

No need to be alarmed. We do this every time we don't win the Series (we've won it 27 times) so you should be used to it, I know I am. We'll throw a lot of money at free agents, mostly pitchers, maybe get a fielding tutor for Nunez and hope The Captain, Derek Jeter, and Mariano not only come back healthy next season but ten years younger. That's the plan-and thanking God we're not the Kansas City Royals.

We Yankees fans are lousy winners because  we're poor losers. It occurs to hardly any of us that the Tigers won because they were better. Except they were and their pitching was spectacular. Tip your cap, Yankee Junior, and break out the golf clubs. For a couple of weeks at least we should have the links to ourselves.

And if we hear someone shouting about jams and the fine art of kicking them out, it's probably just John Sinclair, grinning like a maniac smoking some herb, and I don't mean Alpert, out of a Tigers' licensed logo bong. Just playing through, John. And give that back to Phelps when you're done.
-bill kenny   

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The V is to Make the Lie less Strong

I don't own a bicycle (though I have a bell and a thumb) and despite a lot of time living in Western Europe and getting used to the devotion that cycling is shown there, especially in Belgium for reasons about which I can speculate but won't, I have never warmed to the sport at all.

I enjoyed Tour De France as an album by Kraftwerk and remember Ralf und Florian stopping by 'the station' to play a test pressing to me and a bunch of folks wandering the hallways of AFN months before the record's release. They were keen to see if 'Americans' liked it (seriously); we did. Such fond memories of the other TDF, the one with the yellow jersey, the video cameraman racing along on the back of the motorcycle and the pack struggling to climb the Alps or the Pyrenees or perhaps just Anna Nicole Smith, not so much.

I am, of course, aware of who Lance Armstrong is, though not of the precise moment he transcended the sport of cycling and was assumed bodily into Olympus. I know of his battle against cancer and how he and his family overcame it and how he experienced the joys of fatherhood and his first TDF title in what seemed like the same year. I was disquieted with how the woman who had stayed and prayed (and everything else) with him during his treatment was so quickly jettisoned and replaced by a rock chick.

If your family is like mine someone, somewhere within it has battled cancer. I hope for their and your sake, the struggle was successful. I don't pretend to know what that diagnosis means or what it does to a person as it's not a conversation I've had with anyone fighting the disease, much less with Lance Armstrong. And I'm also aware that unless/until you've walked a mile in someone else's shoes, or ridden a stage of the circuit in his spandex, one should reserve judgment. But .....

It wasn't too long after his first victory in France, and the back to back championships which followed that the whispers about cheating started to pick up in volume and stridency. Still how could you not admire Lance Armstrong and his efforts on behalf of Livestrong (this is the dot com and not the dot org) and all his other outreaches? He started turning up more often in the pages of Rolling Stone and People magazines than in Sports Illustrated but that says as much (if not more) about us as a culture than about him as a celebrity.

But, endless covers and feature stories later, even after retiring, then unretiring but not returning to the pinnacle of his sport and finally choosing to retire again, the chorus of murmured accusations continued unabated until it seemed the only one ignoring it was Lance Armstrong himself.

You've seen the TV news headlines and read the extended sports stories in recent days and now the last threads have started to unravel. Nike has decided to cut its ties to Armstrong as has Michelob Light though I can't understand why  a beer company would seek out a bicyclist as a spokesperson. A bowler, yes; a cyclist, huh?

Nike feels cheated and I guess they were. I'll skip a gratuitous observation about the going price per pound of selective moral outrage-it's hard to keep a straight face condemning Armstrong for doping/cheating when you're screwing every last one of your Third World employees. Or maybe I didn't skip it.

What becomes of those warehouses filled with yellow bracelets with the check mark Swoosh thing on them or did you think Nike did all of that from the kindness of their hearts? Me, neither. Suspect we'll see a lot of merchandise show up on woot so be ready to make your best deal. As for the soul of Lance Armstrong, perhaps not even Daniel Webster would want to get involved after he realized by covering up the V in Livestrong all was revealed.      
-bill kenny

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Develephant

There's a story that anyone who's ever attended third grade has heard about the three blind men who each touch an elephant at a different part of the animal's body. The first touches the trunk and announces the elephant is wiry and agile. The second touches its flank and concludes the elephant is massive and sturdy while the third one grabs the elephant by its tail and pronounces it to be skinny and weak.

All three are absolutely correct but all three are also completely wrong, both in equal measure. Good news, at least for them, as all three could have lucrative careers as economic development consultants. Because economic development relies on amortization rates, projections of rates of quarterly and annual growth, costs per square foot, return on investment and a dozen or so other definable variables and variants, it's tempting to see it as a science.

But a strong argument can be made that it's probably closer to being an art and sometimes, fairly or not, it's more luck than skill. One man's ceiling is literally another one's floor (especially in an urban environment) and very often what you see is (exactly) what you get, WYSIWYG, but just as often is dependent upon not only on where you stand but what you wanted to see when you chose to look.

In a sense economic development in Norwich is that aforementioned elephant (I'll leave you to make your own 'clown car' joke because my sense of humor is so pedestrian), and in The Rose of New England we spend almost as much time arguing over what is, and isn't, economic development as we do over whether we are actually experiencing any. And, as is the case with that pesky pachyderm, once you pick a perspective it colors and shapes everything you see.

Twenty-three and half months after 3.38 million dollars of bonding was approved for a three-pronged economic revitalization initiative throughout Chelsea to be managed by the Norwich Community Development Corporation, NCDC, at the direction of the City Council, we, the people who elected the members of that Council, are often less than pleased with what we see as fitful progress.

We don't have throngs of shoppers crowding the sidewalks in Franklin Square or small start-ups sprouting from Hamilton Street on the East Side all the way to where Church and Water Streets intersect with Chelsea Harbor Drive or a wave of small retailers lining both sides of Main Street and activity in professional offices and apartments above the ground floor. Yet.

But let's not forget we have watched a commercial marina just steps away from Down City successfully reinvent itself after some very lean years and, beyond the Sweeney Bridge and the Regional Transportation Center, RTC,  there's constant business development all the way down West Main Street and Salem Turnpike.

Instead of continuing to squabble over the placement and purpose of the RTC might we be better served by insisting local and state government address challenges of traffic and congestion along what most of us call Route 82, created by successful businesses without government promises and programs?

Speaking of the private sector, take a look at the investment of time, talent and money in the Norwichtown Commons and look forward to its completion of Phase One. Whether a resident of Laurel, Bean or Cherry Hill, we benefit from every increase in the grand list and be it Greeneville, Taftville or Thamesville, any enhancement in our community's quality of life is always an advantage.

Sometimes it depends on which part of the elephant you touch and how closely behind it you are walking. If you got some on your shoes, I may be able to help you. Step Right Up.
-bill kenny 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Same Shirt, Different Daze

Tonight at nine on I would hope just about any form of electronic media you or I can imagine is the Second Presidential debate of 2012, a 'town hall style' affair with questions from (perhaps) undecided voters for both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama live on the campus of Hofstra University in New York.

Candy Crowley of CNN will moderate, officiate and hopefully not pontificate. That reminds me, where does Sean Hannity, a second rate intellect in a pinhead's body, get off bitching about Martha Raddatz handling of the VEEP debate. For not punching out both of those guys out she deserved a medal, in my opinion.

And Crowley, unlike just about the entire crew at Fox News has actually been a reporter (not a newsreader my FOR, Friends Of O'Reilly). Besides, with what could Mitt hold her hostage? Threaten to deport Piers Morgan? That might get him a standing ovation, at least in my house.

Here's the thing: we are the most competitive people on earth, maybe in the history of the planet. We turn everything into a 'who can finish first?' contest-maybe that explains our high divorce rates, but NOT everything is a horse race. Instead of listening to the talking heads who pop up after the debate to tell us what we just heard or going on line to see what others, known and unknown to us, thought of the proceedings, just ask yourself  'how'd these guys do?' You'll know best, you watched and listened.

We'll hear any number of nebulous and somewhat cloudy things tonight especially since both economic policy and foreign affairs are topics. The cliché suggests figures lie and liars figure, and let's face it politicians have never met a number they didn't like, so pay attention and write stuff down so you can look it up later. Remember, eight of ten Americans cannot identify Asia Minor on a map of the world according to a survey I just made up. Gotcha (it's only seven).

I'm just saying if you hear anything that makes your Spidey Senses tingle, find a website like after the debate and look it up and satisfy yourself that you now know what's correct. Do NOT yell at the TV. My wife insists that never helps-at least that's what I think she's saying. I can't always hear her over my own shouting.

And speaking of shouting , can we stop demonizing the other side? No matter how awful everything will be if your guys get elected and it will be (trust me on that), the sun will come up tomorrow whether Annie sings or not. So while the blackness of electoral despair is, indeed, fashionably slimming (do these swing votes make the Electoral College look fat?), historically, it's never eaten as hot as it's served. Doom and gloom is always on the menu, but it's always okay to have a salad instead.
-bill kenny


Monday, October 15, 2012

Unringing Donne's Bell

Today is Blog Action Day (and you didn't even bother to get a card, didja?) when bloggers from around the world write about one important global topic, this year expressed as "The Power of We."

I know about this thanks entirely to the efforts of John B, a fellow blogger and a talented and dedicated health care professional (just two of the many colors with which he paints his life) who demonstrated the power of the concept by sharing it.
Here's another example. And, because you asked so nicely, here's another.

You'll read a lot about the power of we today but I wanted to steal your eyes and mind for no more than a minute to suggest the choice of the first person plural pronoun was not accidental. Serious topics have been chosen in previous years: climate change, poverty, potable water and food. We share all of those things and as such have them in common as shared references and concerns.

Especially in an election year with national implications and impacts it's easy to see the world, our shared world, through the prism of political ideology and fractious factions of us and them. But don't, at least not today.

Instead, look at this and then tell me how it could have ever happened without a we to make it so. Look at how beautiful we are as a planet from Baumgartner's perspective. Personally when I watched it yesterday I wanted to kick myself because I had thought of shaving but figured it would make no difference, and it didn't, but it could have.        

My take-away from Baumgartner's effort: I saw no Republicans and no Democrats, no Protestants nor pagans, No Muslims nor Catholics, no brown nor yellow people, no rich and no poor, nor happy and sad, old and young or us and them. Just we, alone but together, separate yet united, always different and still somehow the same.

"“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
-bill kenny

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Welcome to the Renegade Chapter

By now you've read about the big, brave warriors of the Taliban who in an effort to take on someone they could best, attempted to murder a 14 year old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousufzai, for the crime of attending school and refusing to be cowed into NOT going.

Sitting in the safety of a nation whose high school truancy rate averages nearly thirty thousand students a day every day I am mute in amazement at more than just her courage and sickened and saddened by the people who would have had her forfeit her life for exercising a fundamental right.

It was only one lifetime ago and half a world away that murderous cretins, fueled by a dyspeptic nationalistic fervor bordering on religious zealotry, hunted down and killed another teenage girl. Her crime? Being alive. Nothing more and nothing less, just being alive.

It's a straight line from Anne Frank to Malala Yousufzai and if your religious philosophy allows you to look upon either dastardly deed as anything other than cold-blooded murder and attempted murder, please take your God and His Prophets and all His Signs and Wonders and Amazing Technicolor Dream Coats with you as you seek out a hungry whale and get the hell off this planet.

Somewhere Alfalfa and Spanky must be very proud but also terrified. Their He-Man Women Hater's Club was a joke and a work of cinematic fiction but you, who believe yourselves to be the truest examples of the Crown of Creation, would allow your inchoate rage and animus to destroy the only commodity any society can ever hope to possess, the enthusiasm and idealism of its own young people.

Your day of judgment, the same judgment you hoped to visit upon a courageous innocent, will come soon enough and the doom and gloom you offer as some sort of sick solace to so many will find its way, unbidden and unwelcome to your own door and the rest of us will rejoice and be glad. Chapter meeting adjourned.
-bill kenny

Saturday, October 13, 2012

So Where's the Mighty Oak?

Five years is a long time. It's 1,827 days (two leap years, '08 and '12) or 43,848 hours or 2,630,880 minutes  or (deep breath) 137,852,800 seconds. Luckily no one had to be awake for all of that. It was five years today I started running up that hill with this effort in this space on The Internet, or Interent as I too often write. Today is the most recent of all those days and this was the first one.

Yeah, I know, und wer sagt, "Übung macht den Meister"? Point in fact, perfect practice makes perfect. Any other kind makes what you now have before you, a variant of the dog's breakfast. Speaking of that, if you reading this are the somewhat self-consciously self-important person who took exception to my characterization of your volunteer effort as just such some years ago in this ether, remember how I said I was sorry to upset you? I lied. I wasn't and I'm still not. And your mom dresses you funny. Herr Ober! Ich möchte bitte zahlen.

If you were here for the take-off I hate to disappoint you when I tell you this is the landing, but I'd also be lying if I did that since I started out writing for myself and all those seconds later, self-centered ba$tard that I am, that's still why I do it. If you stop by on a regular or even irregular basis, I do thank you, but I don't necessarily notice. My inner world is so much more interesting than anything from anywhere and anyone else.

I was inspired by a continuing on-line commentator about local politics at one of our newspapers who, as I was to discover, was only fitful vice faithful in penning and posting. I may be bad (I know, may?) but I am consistent and will strive, though often fail, to remain so. I would encourage you to follow that example. The key to success is showing up; how else to explain the Baltimore Orioles, Kim Kardashian or the Tea Party.

I turned to the vastness of cyber-space five years ago to find my voice and attempt, admittedly with little hope of success, to make it heard. Probably the latter was a bridge too far, I knew, but I hoped you might realize I was waving and not drowning. And everyday ever since.

This time three years ago someone asked if I would pen, as 2010 dawned, a once-a-week newspaper column about the derring-do (and other kinds, too) in The Rose of New England, explaining he felt I had a  level headed and sane view of our local politics. I was tempted to suggest he should expand his circle of acquaintances and then realized he had, which is how we came to meet. The Wednesday space doubles as the newspaper column and is always about Norwich, Connecticut-at least that's what I tell the people at the paper. Sometimes it's true.  

I started out not knowing where any of this was going and I still don't but, let's face it, we're making great time. That's a guy joke, but you're probably not surprised at my attempted humor. Luckily it's still only a misdemeanor in this state.

More days than not when I sit down to write (I've tried it standing up, usually because someone is playing the National Anthem), I have no idea what it will be about and the suspense is painful as I race to the finish. Even more days than that when I'm done, I still don't know what it's about. So if you don't get this, you're not alone. Small solace, I imagine.

It takes more energy to be a light than to be a horn and no one has ever accused me of being bright. Loud is, however, a very different story. Some days I eat the bear and some days it eats me. As long as you hold the napkins, I'll keep using liverwurst  as an aftershave. Everybody dies of something. Stick close kiddo, cos it definitely ain't gonna be from boredom. See you tomorrow  
-bill kenny

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hurt Feelings

Was able to go outside yesterday by myself for the first time since my surgery in September. Talk about a birch beer moment (and that's all I shall do is talk about it but only just now and then not again as you do not want to know about my devotion to root beer's light weight brother). It wasn't a hike, by any means but a walk, 'the big walk' as I term it in my house, around the block.

I go down Lincoln Avenue to Oneco Street and, via Mill Lane, over to Lafayette near the Yantic Cemetaery, then on past Backus Hospital to the intersection with Washington Street. i make a right on Washington and walk past where it forks off and forms Broadway at Chelsea Parade South or North (whichever one the Council closed), and past Williams Street, the top of Lincoln to Sachem Street. That's where I make a right and go all the way back down to Oneco where I square the block, right, and walk home on Lincoln.

I'm tired just reading that and to be honest I was more than that by the time I got done. It was about 1100 steps-a month a go I was banging out twenty thousand a day and I have a feeling this is going to be a long, hard slog. I probably should have gathered those rosebuds (and sipped that birch beer) while I may even though it's nearly half past October. As Zevon used to say, "Enjoy a sandwich." But don't make it with  white bread, okay. Talk about empty carbs.

I'm doing my Bruce Cockburn impersonation after I remembered encountering a sentence fragment on the Web that haunted me for weeks, 'there's no evidence the llama was acting maliciously.' I wasn't sure I hadn't invented the line and, quite frankly, was sort of to afraid to probe deeply just in case I had.

It hit me last night that the easiest way to find out what, if anything, it meant was to type it into Google and hit search (and no, I didn't think to use Bing went the strings of my heart). Here's what I found to place the line in a sad but true context. Leading me to conclude that when llamas are outlawed, only outlaws named Lorenzo will have llamas, malicious and otherwise.
-bill kenny  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I Appreciate the Best

Tonight at nine (DST) will be the first (and only?) debate between the two major parties' vice presidential candidates. I'm hoping in the interests of both good television and my sanity as a viewer, that one of them has more awareness of when the debate actually is in terms of preparation than did his boss and that the other is cognizant that because of his boss' Pinocchio-evoking behavior last week, many more of us are aware of a caustic observation by Sir Winston Churchill than previously believed.

I am familiar with the assessment by a former occupant on the importance of the office and defer to him but only in regards to his time in our history. In my lifetime, two Presidents have been shot (John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan), the former fatally and the latter seriously, so perhaps the preferred attire for any Vice President should be Kevlar. And while the tailors are fashioning the appropriate garments the rest of us can practice being less disagreeable while we disagree with one another.

The Founders envisioned the Vice President's primary job as being as being the President of the Senate. I've watched enough C-SPAN to know I'm not cut out for that gig and if you are, good on ya. I wonder if it wouldn't be more interesting and more educational for all of us as citizens if we had a second Vice President, Veep Squared I'd call the office, on a rotating basis to cover when the Veep One is otherwise off-line.

Let's face it we have a line of succession to the Presidency that, maybe just to me, resembles the Periodic Table of Elements (and why isn't surprise anywhere on that table, by the way?). Why not add a wild card or player to be named later.

Maybe the folks who finish as runner's up in the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes would get chosen-or we could do it alphabetically by height or perhaps stage a punt, pass & kick contest on the White House front lawn. That would be a good way to find those leftover Easter eggs, that's for sure. Or we could pick people whose names are similar to those of the President, in this case perhaps a Southie named O'Bama or an Okie named Ronmey. Thisclose to being the guy but still far enough away to be that very item we're still  looking for, the next best thing.
-bill kenny 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I Could Never Get the Knack of Ideology

This time a month from now we'll still be discussing and attempting to understand the meaning of the results of the November elections. I'll not waste my time nor insult your intelligence with an impassioned plea for any candidate of my choice for any of the offices being contested.

It's not because I haven't made my choices or that I lack passion for them. Like you, I feel strongly about all levels of my government to include those whom I'll rehire and those with fresh faces and, I hope, fresh ideas I'm planning on giving a chance.

Besides, it's none of your business for whom I vote and an egregious breach of manners for me to impose my opinions on you.

The only thing we'll know for certain a month from now is that we will have no option but to live with our choices or leave because of them. And while this is a national election, as Tip O'Neill offered 'all politics is local' and that's where we, as Connecticut and Norwich residents, should also focus our attention.

We are choosing a Senator, the entire Congressional delegation as well as both chambers of our state house, not to mention local issues and initiatives to include here in Norwich decisions on public bonding. It's always been my experience when we're talking money, every one listens.

I would suggest, and this isn't an endorsement so much as a set of three life rules, for your consideration as the election churn deepens and the volume of noise grows. You already know all three but may not realize you've been using them.

1. If you do not go after what you want, you'll never get it.

2. If you do not ask, the answer is always no.

3. If you do not move forward, the best you'll ever be is where you were instead of where you want.

On my block growing up, each of those was called a BGO-blinding glimpse of the obvious. And yet, looking at our nation, our state and our city, so obvious are they not.

My family and I have only lived here for two decades so if I'm out of line with this I'll pretend to apologize and you can pretend to forgive me when I suggest to long-time residents that your search for someone to blame for why Norwich 2012 isn't Norwich from (insert your favorite number of) years (here) ago doesn't do a thing for us in the here and now or help us get to tomorrow.

We will never experience the success of  a 'yes' if we always avoid asking questions out of a fear of a 'no.' We are a city of No-It-Alls, who expect everything and everyone to fail. We are surprised when efforts are recognized and rewarded but sometimes we're not very nice to those who deserve our applause.

And growth and change are both indications, and celebrations, of life. Stasis is not progress, but rather, decay. It's actually pretty binary: one or zero. One = life and Zero = well, that's for another time.

Between now and the first Tuesday of next month, you will hear from every candidate on every aspect of every issue. Feel free to use, or not, the above rules. I don't pretend your life will be easier or less bumpy if you do-that's not the point. The point of life is to be an exclamation and not an explanation.
-bill kenny               

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

They Say It's Your Birthday

Today is the seventy-second anniversary of the birth of John Lennon. He only lived to be a skosh older than forty, but the ripples in the pond of this world from the solitary pebble of his life will continue far beyond the years of mine and, I would hope, yours as well.

If you have an even casual relationship with popular music then you know who the Beatles were, and the power of the music they created, directly and indirectly. If all John Lennon had ever done was The Beatles, he would still be a pre-eminent presence in the pantheon of pop, but his work as a solo musician and as a public figure helped redefine the way we look at and think about public personalities.

I am not alone in describing the music he made and helped make as the soundtrack to my life. If you think I'm being dogmatic in my devotion to his music because I am old, perhaps you are correct and I should apologize, not for belief but for your stupidity. And, believe me, you are; and I'm not sorry to say that about you.

Even as a small child I have always had difficulty imagining this world without my being in it-when I try to imagine this life without without the music of John Lennon, I'm very sure I wouldn't want to be here. The purpose of art is to conceal art, while also celebrating it. Almost nothing else matters but the celebration of who we are, and the forms such a celebration can, and often does, take.

“When I was 5 years old, my mother told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
Happy Birthday, John Lennon.
-bill kenny

Monday, October 8, 2012

More Rhyme than Reason

When we were kids, Columbus Day was a big deal. In New York City the Department of Public (almost dropped the L off that; awkward) Works used to paint the white line on Fifth Avenue purple for the annual parade that was always held on the real date of the holiday, October 12. In light of so much I as a man of sixty now know that as a boy of twelve I didn't about the Rape of Paradise which ensued after Columbus' arrival, perhaps blood red might have been a better choice of colors.

When I was a kid, all I ever cared about was the day off, just like kids across the country. We all recited the rhyme because that's how we knew what we did know about Columbus and since there wasn't a snappy couplet about genocide we didn't hear anything about that aspect of discovering the New World (I also don't remember the Arakawa natives part but some of the little gray cells have had some rough days).

Looking at the world as it is and how all settlement and civilization has developed, I'm not sure it's just Old Chris we should be putting in the defendant's docket and charging. I'm thinking a look in the mirror as well as a glance out a window might increase our catch significantly.

And to compound the cacophony of facts clashing with opinions is the realization that not only did Columbus not discover the New  World, he wasn't the first. We've spent hundreds of years observing an historical event that is neither historic nor an actual event. Sort of like being the second skinniest at fat kid summer camp.

And now, as it's the dot on the "i" in Monday holiday, we have another excuse (and sale opportunity) to buy bedding or is that just me in the last couple of days? Sandwiched between the 'My candidate is on the special advisory committee to Gawd while yours eats bugs" commercials have been a steady stream of ads selling mattresses. I'm not sure there's any more of a connection of one to the other than there was to India from Bermuda back in the day.

Speaking of which, you have to cross an ocean from a basement warehouse at Bertramstrasse 6 in Frankfurt am Main to get to a certain city in Ohio. All I know for sure is such a journey can take decades and cost you more than you ever believed you could pay when you first started. But it's worth every penny, for your thoughts and otherwise.       
-bill kenny

Sunday, October 7, 2012

If You Thirst, Wave an Empty Cup at the Clouds

Newspaper headlines throughout the state in which I live (Connecticut, not Blissful Ignorance from whom I still have a driver's license), yesterday morning had a reasonably large story albeit on an inside page about what seems to be a labor disagreement between the members of the state's community college governing board and their employees, the presidents of Connecticut's various community colleges within the state higher education system.

Except, after you read the story you realize there's a larger issue, to a much larger issue, and I suspect it's not just a Nutmeg State concern. Nutmeg State, that's what we call ourselves here in The Land of Steady Habits, Nutmeggers. I have no idea why and haven't been here long enough to have learned (or been shown) the secret handshake or to get the briefing on the nickname. So consider yourself warned.

I do get the idea of community colleges. And they are such a part of our national landscape we sometimes forget that they are a product primarily of the Post World War II baby boom, the Pig in a Python Generation (of whom I am an aging, and rapidly, member). There were so many men (returning GI's after the war) who wanted to use those GI Bill of Rights to pursue educations and lead better lives that we had NO place to put them, and their children who followed them.

We couldn't realistically expect Harvard or Cal Poly or Princeton to start holding classes in their football stadia, which they'd have had to do to accommodate all the applicants. Besides, we had folks of every educational shape, size and program applying and who knew what anybody knew in terms of shared knowledge and a common base of  learning.

California which is/was the innovator and early adapter for so much of what the rest of us in the USA see as 'who we are' really made community colleges work as a concept and as a practical element of  education. But in the course of the last seventy years, we've drifted and as that has happened familiar forms and shapes have remained but the functions have changed.

And that's what is actually at the root of the news story that first surfaced about a week ago about shortened evaluation cycles and expedited exits from contracts. When you read the story, pay attention to the closing graphs, much like Yossarian struggling with Snowden in the bomber over Avignon. And its aftermath.

What the story is really about is how 70% of all those enrolled at community colleges in pursuit of whatever they are in pursuit of, need remedial courses because they lack the fundamental skills to accomplish their higher order class educational objectives. That instead of achieving an associate's degree in two years, those in that path are taking over four years.

Community colleges aren't failing their students here in Connecticut and/or I suspect and fear everywhere and elsewhere. Every single educational institution, private or public, teaching those who are eventually to attend community colleges is. And failing them and us miserably, very possibly by design.

Too much time and talent are devoted to negotiations on salary and benefits and parking spaces and percentage of health care the employee will pay and how much tax-deferred annuity the taxpayer will provide and nowhere near enough attention is being paid to the point of the exercise: our collective tomorrows.

If you think education is expensive now, just wait until we start paying the price for ignorance and greed. That bill should show up in the real near future so get your wallet out, big spender. We'll pay now or we'll pay later, but pay we shall because pay we must.
-bill kenny

Saturday, October 6, 2012

(More of) My Back Pages

It wouldn't have meant anything to me at the time-I wasn't even 10 and a half  yet. The fractions are always important to you as a kid but less so as you grow older. When you get to my age now you blur the numbers together and hope nobody hears you but back in the day those halves were important.

Yesterday, fifty years ago, The Beatles' Love Me Do arrived in record stores all across the United Kingdom, from NEMS to HMV and all shops in between. One of the things I find beyond coincidental (and I don't think much of coincidence either) is this Tuesday, the 9th, is John and Sean Lennon's birthday. I agree with Einstein that God doesn't play dice with the universe and for much of the last three decades, I've thought about Sean and his older half-brother Julian, this time of year as a way of keeping their father in my heart.

If you think pop music began with the Gangnam Whatchamacallits, you don't come close to having my sympathy and you might think yourself lucky you don't have my contempt. But then I remember our Dad and his face the first time The Beatles came on the car radio. There was NO FM (okay, there was but no one had an FM radio in the car). AM radio was king and that three inch speaker in the dashboard above the radio and below the front windshield glass was a portal to heaven.

I had NO idea what Beatles were when I first heard them, but that was really their appeal (I think) for all of us who heard them when we, and they, were so much younger. Our parents didn't get them at all-sort of like me with countless varieties of music since-and that enhanced their attractiveness.

What we didn't know, and wouldn't for decades, was that all around the world rock and roll music was becoming its own international language. Oh, don't worry-we still preferred better dead than red and no doubt the Young Pioneers hated Wall Street but at every other level imaginable the game had changed and there would be no going back, ever.

There is no one on earth my age anywhere who didn't, and who still doesn't, get a reference inside any lyric from The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Beach Boys, and/or a dozen more names. We can finish one another's sentences with the shared musical references and see the same things one another have dreamed, things that never happened before in the history of the planet.

I keep waiting for us to build a better world from our new and improved frame of shared reference and I should concede that just because we haven't yet done so doesn't mean we won't ever, but so far it's a hard slog and there's no sleep 'til Hammersmith.

It was a very simple world when Love Me Do was released-never sure it was easier, and not sure it was a better one, but it was very different. Or it certainly seems so to me now across half a century and yet, as that old chestnut suggests, the fundamental things apply as time goes by and classic harmonica hooks live on and on and on.
-bill kenny     

Friday, October 5, 2012

Second Hand Troubles in a First World

Today was supposed to be my first day back at work. Actually, to properly phrase that proposition I need to rearrange the preposition and other parts of the sentence to read today I hoped would be my first day back at work.

I fractured my ankle in the middle of May-though from my lamentations you'd have assumed I had gotten my foot caught in a bear trap and the trap has remained attached to the limb. I am a whiner and a damn good if I say so myself (because no one else will).

For a lot of different reasons to include that God hates me (not a scientific notion but a personal favorite), it never healed and actually got worse. I bore you as you're read this all before. Two Fridays ago I went in for same day surgery to clip the end of a bone that hadn't reattached and repair damaged tendons (of which there were, I found out yesterday, quite a few). It was not pretty as you well know.

I was supposed to be immobile until I saw the doctor yesterday morning. In the meantime, I got as close as I ever get to doing what I'm told. I was almost immobile-in that I went from walking close to 20,000 steps a day to walking on some days less than 200. A medal would have been nice. I'd have also not been opposed to a small parade but that would have involved marching and here I was struggling to be good.

In my mind and heart, yesterday morning we'd remove all of the packing materials above, exclaim in unison 'oh what a perfectly healed ankle surgery!' and released me back into the wild. Nope. Didn't happen and harshed my buzz tenfold (at least)

Bearing in mind all the horrible things in the world that they are, my unhappiness at my health catastrophe is very much a First World Problem. I think that's one of the reasons I'm so annoyed at myself for not shaking it off and moving on. I had to call my boss and tell him I'd be out an additional two weeks (I thought I heard the sounds of revelry in the background and then later in the evening saw fireworks in the sky above my job) and then, because I'm a one-man health care boom, I had to call three other doctors and reschedule appointments because I was slated to see them in the next two weeks and I'm not allowed to drive much less move.

And as you can see in the picture, it's not like I can cheat and work around the prosthesis.

As it is I'm glad we got extra tissues the last time my wife had gone to the market because I'm going through them a handful at a time as I weep over my enormous misfortune.I know better than to hope for sympathy as I'm aware of where within the dictionary I might find it. I've taken to wearing swim trunks because I'm crying so profusely I may well drown in this river of tears I'm creating.
-bill kenny

Thursday, October 4, 2012

When Is a Door Not a Door?

Give up? When it's ajar.

I stole that joke from a Reader's Digest "Toward More Picturesque Speech" I came across many years ago in my grandparents' house. I had to look up the word in order to appreciate the droll dryness of the humor. I was thirsty for a week. And quite frankly today I'm a bit parched for insight after watching last night's Presidential "debate."

I put debate in quotes since I'm a believer in Humpty's explanation of words and their meanings to Alice during his visit to Wonderland. I can't find Wonderland on a map but I did locate a dictionary whose definition of debate is at a variance, and quite some philosophic distance from what went on (and has gone on for decades). What I saw were two long-form interviews conducted in parallel.

Don't mean to poison your well (but you did stop by here, right? No one made you click on this site), but I was neither informed nor entertained if by the use of either word we agree 'learned something new' or 'found something of amusement.' Nope, no takers. I did have a fantasy that one might come out on stage, walk around behind the podium, we'd hear the sound of a fly being unzipped and then see a shower as territory was marked. As it was, by evening's end, I felt a little soggy and smelled slightly like asparagus.

I tried to remember when in my lifetime, circular conversations like the one I just sat through, had ever been of any value. I also tried to muster enthusiasm for the next one of these hair-pulling contests (I've already lost count of how many remain), though perhaps a change of format to a cage match might attract a larger audience and give (at least) the Spandex manufacturers something to cheer about.

Otherwise, I remain convinced after last night's performance that I should have gone one more door down to abuse, because as a voter I've been getting that for years.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

No Means of Visible Support

Today I'll be demonstrating my mad skills in history, logic and math. If their use or even existence, either disquiets or disturbs you, and from what I know of my hometown of the previous twenty years it may, now might be a good time to seek out other reading material elsewhere.

It wasn't even a front-page story in last Friday's hometown newspaper, The Bulletin (appearing above the fold on page three), "City Helping Dance Studio Pay Rent to Tune of $7000." And come to think of it, why wasn't it?

In recent weeks we've had rabbits make the newspaper's front page but not the first-time disbursement of money by the Norwich Community Development Corporation (NCDC) under their Commercial Lease Rebate Program (approved by Norwich residents as part of the bond package in November of 2010)?

Too bad NCDC didn't make a deal with Jimmy Stewart's Harvey. Perhaps then the story might have rated a front page. And if my Mom had married a Kennedy, I'd be living in the White House. Instead, Diane Elder's 3D Dance Studio, at 282 Franklin Street, will receive a (small) rent subsidy to help ease the start-up costs for a business on the outer fringe of the very downtown we all pretend to be so concerned about. Perhaps someday the City Council will close a street in honor of that concern, but until then my heart will carry on.    

And for those of us who search the skies for any portent of progress in the revitalization of Chelsea, as Lao-Tzu offered some 2,600 years ago, "(A) journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." And if the foot taking that step is wearing a tap shoe, then so much the better as it will be easier to hear progress when the patter of tapped feet grows to be thunder.

Looking at disbursement and investment vice applications on the NCDC on-line summary I'd argue that there's still not enough demand for financing for any of the three programs. Our tax dollars are in place to do for others what they are doing for 3D Dance and Mediterranean Express but private-sector qualified applicants are still lacking.

So, too, is approval or understanding. That same day of the story, the newspaper's online site asked readers "Should NCDC temporarily pay a portion of a qualifying new business’ rent in order to encourage downtown development?" And by a nearly three to one margin, the answer was "no." No. WTF H?.

NCDC gets blamed for all manner of shortcomings, real and or imagined. I've offered them my fair share of valentines and vitriol through the years but it's rarely eaten as hot as it's served. I don’t think they would claim to be doing The Lord's Work, but this time they are most certainly doing exactly what we, the residents, hired them to do. And it would be nice to remember that instead of long-ago and innumerable slights and injuries. Yet another instance of our yesterday getting in the way of our tomorrow.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Least I Can Do

Remember all those years ago when we misunderstood that pop song and tied yellow ribbons around trees and things that looked like trees to show solidarity with Americans being held hostage by Iranian students after they had stormed our embassy?

It gave us something to do and helped us feel a part of something much bigger than ourselves (and did wonders for the bank accounts Irving Levine and Larry Brown). No one to my knowledge contends or pretends it had anything to do with the hostages' eventual release.

Today in the era of convergence and everyone's your neighbor here in the Global Village, we have streams and reams of  "Click 'Like' if you think puppies should be allowed to hire hookers and purchase wine coolers and cigarettes on school nights even if they are driving" or some such hoohah.  And every one of these exhortations is capped with that ubiquitous thumbs up signifying 'I'm in!'.

I'll bet Mike Utley wishes he'd had a better agent and Mark Zuckerberg is glad he didn't. Frank Capra is probably happy Zuzu was fictional but would be sad the same cannot be said of the baseball team that plays in Anaheim. I'm trying to envision him or George Bailey affixing a "We Support Our Troops" ribbon magnet to his car-not that there wouldn't have been a lot of choices. I just suspect, like me, they might wonder how doing the former accomplishes the latter. Still scratching my head over that one.

In a national election year, anywhere on social media, it's a car crash in terms of pop-ups, inserts, adverts, banners and what I call, 'pull my finger' which turns out to be bait and switch ads suggesting one thing 'when you click here' and delivering another. I don't mind wishing the President and First Lady a happy anniversary, but it turns out that's not what 'clicking on the Facebook ad' only does. Same for Get Seamus Spayed button the Romney folks dream they had thought of and that Rick Sanctorum's people wanted to resurrect but on behalf of Bill Wasik.

Offering people an extended middle finger went from a gesture of abject contempt to, more recently, being practically an affectionate greeting, upsetting terminally cynical people such as I who now have to seek out a new physical manifestation to effectively capture the essence of 'it's the least I could do.' Especially since I'm all out of ribbon. I wonder if that's some kind of sign?
-bill kenny

Monday, October 1, 2012

Don't Read This!

Instead, today no matter how busy your life is, make it a point to get thee to a library.

For those who filter  everything through a computer monitor or smart phone screen, the library is a brick and mortar space in the not-virtual world. In a school, it should be at the hub of the building or campus and in a town, about the size of mine, the city should look to it as the fingers on the hand look to the thumb. And why? Because this is Banned Books Week.

Banned Books sounds so McCarthy era somehow, doesn't it? Yeah, I know. You're thinking the intellectual totalitarianism of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot and the kind of strictures and structures or suppression and repression that precipitated so much of the Arab Spring. And you'd be right but you'd also be wrong. But you wouldn't be alone in being concerned about it.

Right here in River Cities big and small all across these States United and not-so-much-so, we have Pool which starts with P and that rhymes with B and that stands for Banned Books Week, this annual observance going on thirty years now, though the practice of banning books more probably started about an hour after Gutenberg used his movable type press to bang out a Bible.

Actually we've been banning books for only a fraction of the time we've been killing people for thinking out loud differently than we do and while I share the hope of many high-minded idealists for a day when that stops, it will happen when the last two people left on earth end one another's lives probably while every other life form applauds.

Don't have a library card? Bring a piece of mail with your address on it as well as a picture ID. A library card is in all likelihood free and if we're going to stay that way, despite dire predictions to the contrary by knuckleheads on both sides of the political aisle on the consequences of the November election, you need to exercise. While hitting the gym is great and I love your six-pack, the library will help give that big muscle in your skull a workout.

Not sure what to read after you get that shiny new card? Start with this list of challenged books. Scroll down and get a real eyeful of what is in one form or another "banned" and don't waste your breath on wondering why. No sense makes sense.

The Diary of Anne Frank. Seriously? Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. At least a fascist somewhere has a sense of irony, but Chaucer's Canterbury Tales? You can find many of the works on the list on-line so if you suffer from bibliophobia (you could look that up in the reference section or not), no worries.

When we start selecting what one another can read, we start to corral those vistas of thoughtful exploration that help define our presence on this planet. The freedom to read what you choose is a vital component to critical thinking, a constant in our continuous and continuing evolution as a species. And little should be more offensive to every sentient human being than limiting what you can think and be.  
 -bill kenny