Friday, November 30, 2012

It's a Wonder We Can Even Feed Ourselves

There's often a strange sense of detachment you have, sitting someplace, Norwich, Connecticut, that's more or less a backwater, unless you're from Preston (there's hospital joke in there someplace and it's on the voters) viewing national events and realizing the turbulence and turmoil happening on the big stage is reflected here.

The large splash when the Greedies who ran the Wonder Bread/Hostess Snacks company (and ran it into the ground) has ripples in a little tiny pond like here because we have/had one or more of the thrift stores that sold the DODs (day old doughnuts). Make no mistake, I, too am a capitalist (just not a very good one), not to be confused with other people who are free-market whores (but who are very good at it, if that's of any solace).

Speaking of which, for all of his bow-tied snarkiness, George Will that clueless bozo, despite his acerbic assertions to the contrary, is a rich bastard-apologist by profession. I think I've been grudging for him since he decided he was a Bruce Springsteen fan and misread Springsteen about as badly as is possible to do without actually being Ronald Reagan. My theory at that time was Will's bow tie was so tight it cut off the blood flow to his brain. I know better now.

As I said, we have/had a Hostess shop locally-don't go there much anymore but we did. A penny saved is a penny earned and my last name rhymes with it so I spend a good deal of time figuring out ways to stretch them as far as they'll go. As the Twinkies Tsunami gained momentum, local reaction, as angry and less than informed as so much of it was/is nationally, made its way into our community discussion much like it did yours. 

And now of course, there's this which has reduced me to efforts at slow and even breathing and full exhalation so as to slow the rise of gorge in my veins. The same insouciant, inconsiderate 1% who looked askance at the vagrants and vagabonds of Occupy Wall Street sixteen months ago when the latter were coming for their Grey Poupon have offered all of  us another example of how to rob without a gun and why rules are for people who simply don't know better.

Which is odd because I dimly remember talk of a rule someplace, I believe it was Golden or perhaps that was just the calf. Now it has been replaced by one involving hooves and legs but we are all equal, though some more equal than others. Next up will be the Number of the Beast who will soon enough be howling like an idiot wind.
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Our Supplies of Surprise Are Running Low

We sort of had our first snowfall in New England the other day, at least the part I live in. I see myself as a 'Jersey Guy' though technically, arithmetically, I've lived longer in Southern New England than anywhere else on earth in my entire life, which is quite an expanse of days when added together. Strange Days indeed.

I tend to think of CT Guys (is there even such a thing?) as folks who drive Volvos, wear deck shoes instead of sneakers, have ball caps from yachting clubs and drink Michelob-though NOT all at the same time. Yep, my people-though they're probably not too thrilled about the use of that pronoun.

I wouldn't even mention the sort-of-snow not only because if you pay it attention it never goes away, but because we'll probably have far more of it by the end of this sentence, much less the end of the winter. Although, and I'm smiling as I write this, if we have last winter again, somehow my heart will carry on (I have never stopped).

Memory plays tricks on us geezers so maybe we had more snow all of last winter than we had the other day, but I think not, and I'm not upset about it. I made my wife and children promise years ago to NEVER get me a sled for Christmas so I don't care if there's ever snow and for most of last winter, it worked out great for me. If you're a penguin or a polar bear, get yourself an agent and a lawyer (insert Cold Case Files joke here).

And we needed that around here (here being Planet Earth). In New England we have all four seasons. Always have to my knowledge and always will, though after I shuffle off this mortal coil what you do is your business. And yet in recent years, the first snow becomes a cry to man battle-stations. Soon, our humble technology permitting, we'll broadcast live the descent of the first snowflake to the earth-perhaps if we can have one that Tweets, that can be live, too. And of course, we'll have an app for your smart phone as well.

Phones may as well be smart as we never are. Once the weather models on TV start talking about snow we flock to the stores to buy milk and toilet paper not always in proportionate amounts to one another or to anything resembling reality. And let's not forget this year, we have the Mayan End of the Calendar hanging over our heads-so any snowstorm could be our last one, if the end of time is actually next month. That every day's the End of Days for some goes unnoticed as we line up cheek to jowl in express lanes whose lines stretch to the horizon with our purchases.

I'm wondering if this is how the dinosaurs met their end. Were they staring up at the sky wondering what had happened to the sun when cavemen, wearing yachting caps and driving Volvos, descended on them like Plague and Pestilence. Suddenly Wilma and Betty weren't quite so giggly anymore and Darwin had his proof. Again.

-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Advice Isn't the Only Thing that Begins with "A"

Advice can often be like a summer rain shower during your vacation. While you appreciate the necessity of it, concede its importance and understand its benefits, you wonder about the timing and duration while hoping it's actually intended for someone else, somewhere else. It's easy to offer and sometimes hard to accept.

We listen to it with difficulty, with reluctance or with resentment. Sometimes we listen to it the way a dog hears: not paying attention as mumbling and murmuring goes on and then someone says our name and we look up. It's at that point when I wonder where the rubber squeak toy in my mouth came from, but your mileage may vary.

Last Monday evening, at a session before the City Council's regular (and first meeting since the election) the aldermen and women had an information meeting with the Norwich Community Development Corporation (NCDC), the City Council's designated development agency.

When you buy a ticket, you get the whole ride. As one of a handful of citizen-residents who attended the informational meeting, I'm glad I remained seated and kept my arms and head inside because the presentation by Bob Mills, NCDC's Executive Director, covered not just the topic du jour, an update on the economic development initiatives for downtown the voters funded two years ago, but a larger and longer view of possible paths ahead and suggestions on how the Council might decide on which route to choose.

From where I sit at Council meetings, and I attend a reasonable number of them, I see a City Council whose composition is very similar to its predecessor, populated by neighbors with the best of intentions but who continue to struggle at times to craft a system that will engage the greatest number of people and agencies whose time and talents can benefit the city as a whole and the Chelsea District especially.

I have a copy of the NCDC Strategic and Action Plan 2013-2015 and would encourage you to get one on line or stop into their offices at 77 Main Street and review a copy of your own to see what areas of concern and concentration the City Council's action agency sees as opportunities and challenges. Then consider a modest suggestion as if you were a member of the City Council.

Two City Councils and one mayor ago, the Administration, Planning and Economic Development (APED) Sub-Committee was dissolved (not without strenuous and eloquent objections). APED had been an effort  by an even earlier City Council to build consensus and facilitate collaboration (both short and long term) among the various volunteer committees in concert with the professional municipal departments.

It fell into disuse, suggested some, because everyone had a piece of the responsibility for development but no one had any authority or accountability to do any development. The Council now has an agency to execute a strategic plan and through APED or something like it, the accountable municipal partner to coordinate a more holistic and competent effort to transform Norwich. Talking about change is NOT change, it's just talk. We should be talked out by now. Money doesn't talk, it swears. Isn't it time we listened and started doing?
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ich möchte gerne bezahlen

Driving to work at half past five in the morning has its advantages, aside from an extra early start as part of the day shift at the fantasy factory (I called it that just in case someone from work stumbles across this). And it took less than twenty years of schoolin' so I'm almost ahead of the game.

It's pretty dark as merrily I roll along in the wee small hours and yesterday I had a chance to reflect upon one of those happenstances usually thought of as 'things you see when you haven't got a gun' which works out well at so many levels with me, it's terrifying.

After I drove through downtown Norwich and over the Laurel Hill Bridge, turning right up the steep hill overlooking the harbor (except for all the crummy scrub trees that have been allowed to grow wild if not free), beyond the city limits I passed what I guess is a one size fits all holiday light display whose message of inclusiveness, if that's what it's supposed to be, has gotten a little muddled in the translation.

I appreciate outside holiday displays-I just have NO desire to ever erect one or to help build one-that last bit is for my wife who has a very organized approach to Christmas presentations. Of course she does, she's German. My father used to almost kill himself putting together Nativity scenes, the creche, the lights, all the figures, everything that grew more intricate and complex with every passing year, which in his case (and with his acute lack of mechanical abilities (a trait his oldest has inherited) was NOT a good thing.

My dislike of holiday displays can be directly attributed to the thousands of hours I stood in the cold, along with my brothers and sisters, holding strings of lights searching for the burned out bulb after other hours of separating all this crap from a tangle in bags in the basement into which it had all been dumped the previous year on the Feast of the Epiphany. To this day, I believe whoever invented the 'in series' electrical harness for Christmas lights should be crushed to death by fruit cake. Repeatedly.

The display I passed yesterday had all the figures of the Magi, the angels and their good news, and the shepherds and their flock, some or perhaps all of it with motorized and moving parts, because nothing says Jesus' Birthday like a large formed plastic sheep moving its head side to side surrounded by every other imaginable animal (and a couple unimaginable ones). Someone, somewhere is building up a  mess of brownie points with His Dad, let me tell you-though it's not doing a lot for me.

I seriously thought about grabbing a photo of it-why else do I have a cell phone? I never make calls and am not sure how to and I am too stumble-thumbed to be any good at texting-but I wouldn't want anyone anywhere to see a photo as a form of an endorsement so a word picture will have to suffice.

I don't think even God could imagine a more pious Nativity scene. Especially when right along side the manger (with a somewhat life-like plastic cow), and obviously part of the overall presentation is a six foot tall Santa Claus next to a palm tree, holding it steady (for his own balance, perhaps?) with his right hand while clutching a replica Bottle of the Pause that Refreshes with the other.

I was so hoping there might be a pack of Lucky Strikes in the breast pocket of his jacket, except he probably sent Donner and Blitzen to the package store for some brewskis to go with the smokes and since they're reindeer they have no clothes, thus no pockets to put the money in.

I flashed on a moment probably closer to fifty years ago where my sister Evan, perhaps in first grade, excitedly reported to Dad that 'Christmas is Jesus' Birthday' and his somewhat terse response, 'has anyone told Him who's paying for the party?'
-bill kenny        

Monday, November 26, 2012

Live Freeze or Fried

Drove behind a guy yesterday for awhile on the way into the market's parking lot who had a McCain sticker on his back bumper. Because if there's only one thing I'm worse at than being a good loser is being a good winner, I made it a point to pull in to the lot beside him and get out of my car as he did his.

Glancing at his sticker I offered, 'you must really like their french fries.' He looked at me with narrowing eyes and seemed to be scanning the sector to see if an attendant was hurrying towards us. There wasn't-I had already looked. "Of course," I added, "you can't beat Ore-Ida for tater tots."

He made a slight face and muttered something about 'everybody's a comedian' but my larger point, unmade because I went for the cheap laugh instead of the teachable moment is that the Senator from Arizona contested the 2008 Presidential election. McCain's candidacy was old news this time four years ago. Now it is just bad-mannered obstinacy.

Everyone is always running for something, I guess. With me in the room most of the rest of the occupants are heading for exits but in less than three weeks since this year's national contest, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has started making noise like he'd like the next GOP dance. I have no idea how good a person or Senator he is though I'm sure he does fine in at least one of those areas.

The Senator would obviously be not so good at one of those carny booths where they guess your weight and age, at least the latter. I say that based on this attempt by a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to answer Michael Hainey of GQ Magazine's 'how old do you think the earth is' question. And he seemed like such a nice young man, didn't he? I didn't say smart; I said nice.

The state of Florida was a national joke in 2000 because of hanging chads and a widespread belief in your citizens' perceived inabilities to make up their minds. I'm not sure what to make of your junior Senator's attempt to currying the favor of whackjobs and wingnuts in the belief they might be registered voters by pretending scientific fact is science fiction on something as elementary as the age of the planet we both share.

If this opportunist is the best that the party of Lincoln has to offer (and in fairness, it's a little early for the crop of 2016 to start showing up), you guys and gals, but mostly guys (white guys) better keep your day jobs since you're going nowhere in a hurry. I'm unhappily surprised with you, I really am, and your latest pretty, preening poster boy is just your most recent disappointment.

You rejected any effort to work together at the national level since capturing the House of Representatives in 2010, believing instead your intransigence would help you take back the White House in 2012 and had/have no plan B when that didn't happen. It might well be the end of this decade before some of those in your party concede Romney didn't win and possibly another decade before those bumper stickers get shredded. At the point at which the Mitt hits the fan, I'll be asking if you'd like fries with that. I'm positive you will.
-bill kenny

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Month from Now

I never thought I'd say I am looking forward to the start of my work week tomorrow but I actually am. I was off for the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday which my family and I spent in Manhattan at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, along with 5.2 million other close personal friends (of someone I suppose though not necessarily of me)

On Friday, I helped my son finish his move from Stonington Borough back to Mystic, a trip he made in the opposite direction not that long ago. When people ask me why I'm such a hard ass where I live (Norwich, Connecticut) with elected leadership that is barely the former and most certainly not the latter, I think of our two children and the absolute certainty I have our daughter, like her brother, will be living other than where her parents do because we who live here continue to fail to create a place to come home to for our children to live. If you're wondering  who I hold responsible, I'll give you seven guesses (and they all count).  

Saturday in these parts made me smile. It was Small Business/Shop Local Saturday but proving someone has a puckish sense of humor, we had some serious parking bans in effect in our downtown area because of our annual winterfest parade. The illumination of City Hall, by the way newspaper persons, was at FIVE. I was there, trust me on that one. And it was gorgeous!

Today would be a day I could vegetate in front of the television and watch American professional football except I don't follow the sport anymore. Perhaps because I enjoy the sport the rest of the world calls football too much I can't get really passionate about muscle-bound guys who play third down in running situations only while some cretin in a booth, who used to play this same sport, calls him a 'warrior.' He isn't-he's a show biz kid and you're a moronic imbecile for lying to me about the guy's prowess and ability.

Meanwhile halfway around the world dodging bullets and ducking Breedwell innuendo we have kids, yeah people who are eighteen, nineteen and twenty years old are kids, working on mysteries without a clue for a monthly salary half of what your football 'hero' tips room service when he checks out of the hotel after an away game. Such a manly man.

A month from now, it's Christmas, a time of peace on earth and goodwill towards mankind. And fruitcake that no one knows what to do with and is too afraid to just throw out. For many of us this is the most wonderful time of the year-I've yet to be convinced, but check back in a month and, together, we'll see what if anything has changed. These are, after all, days of miracle and wonder. And batteries not included.
-bill kenny

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Go Big or Go Home

As a Scarlet Knight, an alumnus of Rutgers University, the State University of the State of New Jersey (our official name, by the way), I guess I am pleased the days of the underclassmen on the Division One sports teams, scholar-athletes all I'm sure, who toil on the field of folly at High Point Solutions Stadium or the hardwood court of the RAC in Piscataway to the delight of corporate patrons and sponsors and perhaps an occasional fellow-student as members of the Big East conference are drawing to a close.

That the Big Ten, their intended new affiliation, which is actually twelve schools will then be the Big Fourteen without changing their name, apparently, and with no trace of irony is almost as remarkable to me as the importance all of this crap seemingly has taken on. That all we're doing is changing the East to ten, or maybe twelve, or evern fourteen, disquiets me; maybe we're putting too much emphasis on Big. And all these numbers makes me wish we'd adopted the binary vice base ten numbering system. Take that IKO IKO.

"The purpose of an education," said 'Fast' Eddie, actually Dr. Edward Bloustein, who became the University President in the spring of 1971 addressing us freshman, the class of '74, on the green at the Voorhees Mall of the New Brunswick campus as he introduced himself, "is to learn the rules of the game better than anyone else so you can change the rules."

I guess we can treat the introductions as read now and hope the lessons have been learned because the books have been burned. We're poised to move on and become the finest college campus for, by and of professional athletes in the Western Hemisphere. And if nobody on any of the teams can read a word of the professional contract we all hope they will land, well, that's why God invented community colleges, innit?

If you can't make everyone smarter, make everyone dumber. It's probably easier, definitely cheaper and and it'll all even out in the end, assuming we're here to see it. No need to raise the Route 27 Bridge, just lower the Raritan. And, no pressure, but if you don't take the Pitt Panthers apart today, you might want to investigate on-line college classes.
-bill kenny

Friday, November 23, 2012

Conspiracy of the Calendar

Lost in all the turkey and trimmings yesterday and in the stealing a march on Black Friday stealth store openings after dinner yesterday was the 49th anniversary of the murder in Dallas, Texas, of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

As I type that sentence I'm stunned to realize nearly half a century has passed since that day. For you, this is like reading about the first walk on the moon's surface or the Fall of Saigon. For me and my generation, this is a part of who we are because we remember all of these events, because and/or despite what followed them.

JFK wasn't a better person than those whom we have chosen since to occupy the White House nor was he worse-if events and circumstances make a person who will master them, then he was a man of a different time and all of us can't pretend to be able to compare and contrast then to now. We were and now we are. And those we lost along the way have only us to bear their witness. That some of then looks a lot like some of now is as much a function of perspective as it is of situations.

All my memories of the days of coverage in the aftermath of his assassination are black and white. They are not the misty water-colored memories, the song would have me believe, of the way we were but rather, grainy high contrast black and white moments stapled to special editions of newspapers and hurled at us by television stations engaged and engaging in their first national seance.

We gathered in our living rooms or those without a TV stood on sidewalks in front of appliance stores to watch over and over again the film clips as the Secret Service agent clambered up the back of the moving limo, Jackie struggled to cradle the dying man's head, and Walter Cronkite removed his glasses and gathered himself before reading the teletype news telling us the youngest man ever elected President was now dead.

Video on demand? I guess. What we had was when Dad turned the set on, you heard the vacuum tubes humming and warming up. Slowly the picture grew larger and clearer. When it didn't, he would smack the set on the top or the side, one short, sharp blow-that was your on demand back in the day.
A lot of people, perhaps one whole generation and portions of two others, did a decades worth of  growing up "in winter 1963 when it felt like the world would freeze."
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giddy and Gleeful

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from me and mine. Unless you got up even earlier than we have, we are ahead of you in terms of getting to the Island of Manhattan and the 349th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC brought to you by INSERT SPONSOR NAME HERE.

Seriously. I have no idea how much of that is still true. Talk about Love in Vain. We are driving from Norwich, where we live in Connecticut (hint: not the Gold Coast part of the state where we all have polo ponies and children named Derick and Buffy) to New Haven, where they keep the Yalies, and then riding the Metro North train into Grand Central Station. The organizers have promised us we'll be able to join up with them as they head towards The Nest, the Macy's store at Herald Square.

I haven't ridden a train in the USA in over four decades and when I last rode the rails, I was coming from Jersey via the Penn Central into Penn Station at 34th, beneath Madison Square Garden. I have been looking forward to this trip like an eight year old which intellectually is no stretch at all for me.

I think while the focus for me in pitching this trip to my wife and our children was the parade, I'm hoping we all see this as a larger expedition with New York as the greater goal and destination. I'm not sure I will be terribly upset if I don't get to see every float and hear all the bands et al, though I'm sure they are as lovely as they always look on TV. For me the parade is a bright, shiny object to aim at and for but the prize inside is the island on which it's staged.

I know you're tired of hearing me say New York is the Capital of the World. But, like the necessity of oxygen or the immutability of gravity, it's a fact and damit basta ende. As the kid from Jersey who rode the train with his dad every school morning for years to a prep school in the lower 60's, my NYC looks a lot different from yours and that's okay. I'm not hoping for My Private Idaho but if the weather is kind and the crowds are willing, or vice versa (I am a guest after all in the city and should levy no requirements) it will be quite the time and a marvelous memory.

You should watch the parade on TV as I always do. This year it'll feel different what with being on the inside of the box instead of in my living room but I'll finally get a chance to find out what happens in downtown when the TV guys go to a commercial. I'm hoping that's when the pony rides break out.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Progress as Process and not a Product

I had someone years ago share with me the secret to cooking a frog. Neither of us actually had a need for this skill or reason why we would do this, but we both worked for the government and it was more or less understood reasons weren't important. Only results mattered so that's where we concentrated our effort.

His real point was people get accustomed to situations and as they do, changes in those circumstances becomes the new normal from which the next changes are launched. Thus, dropping a frog into a pot of boiling water would result in him just hopping right back out. But if you placed him in a pot of still water and then slowly turned up the heat elevating the temperature from cold to luke-warm through warm to hot until you reached boiling, the frog would remain in the water even though in so doing, it would result in his death.

Quite often I suspect we are that frog, minus the web fingers (most of us). And as we progress in life our wants and appetite tend to increase geometrically as our abilities to satisfy them often only increase arithmetically until we are at a point captured on a sign I once saw that read, "I am now starving to death on the salary I once dreamed of making."

What were once vices are now habits, suggested the Brothers Doobie and while Jesus Is Just Alright, I think they more or less completely captured our conundrum. The problem with yearnings and burnings is they are rarely satisfied or sated and more becomes the new minimum.

Look around where you live-I have-and tell me most, if not all, of whatever your city or town's top three challenges aren't largely self-inflicted wounds. We've gone to the trouble to procure the bullets, acquire the gun and to even hold our foot steady while we shoot it ourselves. That's part of our independent American attitude, that holds self-reliance in higher regard than cooperation and collaboration. When you compare the results and destinations of those two paths, your mileage may vary but your resolve will never waver.

An irony is while I can clearly see when you do this and you can plainly see when I do it-we are incapable of seeing ourselves as others see us and thus keep stumbling over the same obstacles over and over growing more weary by the moment that 'someone doesn't do something about....'

We are willing to try anything to address our situation as long as whatever's proposed doesn't involve us changing any aspect of our lives or our lifestyles. We prefer problems that are familiar to solutions which are not, and endorse any form of change that results in none at all. When stasis is the goal, decay is the result-we're not a species that does the marking time for a millennium drill very well.

We have a need to soar and unless or until we accept our wings and learn to use them, we'll continue to do and to be as we always have and always are. Accepting an unacceptable status quo is not a way ahead for anyone, as an individual or as a resident of our city any more than giving a mouse a cookie benefits anyone other than the mouse (or the people making the cookies we give to it).
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

To Those to Whom Much is Given

I've mentioned more than once (incessantly is a word that has been suggested) that I spent eight years in the US Air Force. Technically and truthfully, I spent all of the time in an Air Force uniform but am not sure how much of anything after basic training in Lackland AFB (the largest US base in the world without a landing strip; true) was actually in the Air Force.

A year's isolated remote at Sondrestrom Fjord, Greenland wasn't exactly like being at Headquarters and that was followed by a prolonged assignment to American Forces Network, Europe, which was a Department of the Army operation at its headquarters in the days of the two Germanys in Frankfurt am Main. I did serve with a Steve Canyon (actually Steve 'Canyon' Robinson) but again it wasn't the 'real' Air Force and intending no disrespect, we never claimed to be the real US military.

I've offered my curriculum vitae as bonafides for opening my yap about something I should know less than nothing about, David Petraeus' lost weekend. I've been very good at staying away from all of these shenanigans and minding my own beeswax. Everyone else should be following my good example (and I cannot remember ever suggesting that before in my entire life) but no one does so I'll follow theirs. 

This isn't anyone else's concern except Mr. and Mrs. Petraeus. My need to NOT know exceeds any media outlet's imperative to tell me. I'm not naive and I have baggage of my own but I'm offering nothing about that and want to know likewise about yours or Petraeus' or anyone else's. It's a family matter and I hope that for all of those in all of the families involved, some sort of ending will come swiftly and and a semblance of regularity and a veneer of normalcy can be applied. Healing is beyond reach or hope, I fear.

When a story like this makes it into print, words fail me. Yeah, in my years in service I encountered spouses who wore their husband's rank on their collars and maybe that's a part of this but I'm thinking that in so many relationships, there's more at work than some kind of a math problem or a recipe for making silver dollar pancakes. Taking one for the team should come with a limited warranty.

When the person you promised to love and cherish becomes a casualty of 'the fog of war' we are using the banality of venality to rationalize the erosion of our morality. The costumes of 'the warrior' that so many of these men purport to be is nothing more than a brilliant disguise and fools no one but themselves.
-bill kenny  

Monday, November 19, 2012

New York State of Mind

We are going to the City, ayup we are! All four of the Konnecticut Kennys are riding the train from New Haven on early Thursday morning (it will feel more like late Wednesday night for some of us) into Grand Central and then heading downtown to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

After twenty holiday seasons of saying 'we really should figure out a way to hit New York at Christmas' and NEVER doing it, this year my wife, Sigrid, her husband, me, and our two children (who are technically adults with whom we share biology), Patrick and Michelle are hitting the bright lights of the capital of the world (Sorry, London, Berlin, Paris, Rome etc....) and if we get to see any of the parade that's sort of a bonus.

In the last forty-three years, aside from the day last October when Patrick and I drove to Lower Manhattan for an Occupy Wall Street event (mostly me, I admit; way too many Stop the War and Civil Rights Now acid flashbacks), I've spent no time in Manhattan which is surprising at least to me growing up across the river in Jersey. When I say 'the city' I mean the island of Manhattan which colored my childhood, shaped my adolescence and helped define my early adulthood.

I may be looking forward more to this outing than the other three members of my family put together and that could mean I'm setting myself up for disappointment. I've told myself I will NOT find a seventeen year old version of me walking through Central Park, stopping at Strawberry Fields or staring up at the Dakota, or the GM building or 'The Garden', MSG. But I'm a pretty good liar, and I think I will look for him anyway.

I wanted to share this with you because it's a lovely video valentine (okay wrong season) from someone whom I don't know but suspect has the same kind of 'aw shucks' relationship that generations of auslanders who grew up with the downtown lights reflecting in their eyes have always had. And, I hope, always will.

They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway. They say there's magic in the air. We'll find out soon enough. I'll be wearing trousers with pockets so I have someplace to put all the fun and amazement.
-bill kenny  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The only Constant Companion

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I was at the annual arts and crafts festival held in the Otis Library in Norwich, our unofficial community center for a city of forty-two thousand, that is cleverly entitled "O'tis A Festival." But wait, there's more!

Actually, I'm teasing-there really isn't that much more as it was just a one day event but community turnout was terrific and it was a great reason to get some fresh air on a glorious late fall day in New England where the only thing bluer than Tea Party Republicans who ten days ago thought they'd be rearranging furniture in the White House were the skies over The Rose of New England.

As a kid, I hurried through the seasons. When our children were smaller, this time of year was magic and now that it's more often than not just me and the missus, I'm learning to enjoy every sandwich as Warren Zevon suggested and to not miss what I do not have. Trees have lost their leaves and nature is preparing itself for the next season.

Winter is approaching and it's a time of the year I dread, but not so much as I once did. Perhaps I'm finally growing up. More likely, I'm just growing old. But my journey of change continues as does yours. Perhaps we'll pass one another somewhere along the path.

-bill kenny

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sic Transit Kid Twinkie

One summer at Rutgers, my buddy John C had a great idea. We'd work for the IBC bakery in East Brunswick, across from the Modell's and just down on Route 18 from the Two Guys. The IBC, International Baking Corporation, made Hostess cupcakes and Twinkies and all manner of dessert matter. Yesterday's headlines made me remember it all, or close to all.

This was early 70's and all those jobs were union for real money even then. We weren't in the union but John had an angle. He figured by the time the accounting people and the union shop stewards caught up with us, the summer would be over and we'd be back on campus in college. Yep, we were gonna reap the rewards and avoid the risks-auditioning to be Young Republicans some might say.

Brilliant plan John had except for one flaw. He didn't get hired. Only I did. So instead of working nights and laughing at break time together over how goofy it was to be making Devil Dogs, I was working like a one armed paper hanger on the Twinkies line-the busiest in the factory and the absolute pits. My job was to load the twenty pound metal trays with the Twinkies form stamped into them onto the conveyor belt as it hurtled along all over the plant getting filled with Essence de' Twinkie, baked to a 'golden brown, drilled and filled with something white that looked like well, you can guess I bet, then jammed into plastic packaging and palletized for your safety.

Here was the thing-IBC was cheap even then, those b'tards. They staffed at minimum levels so when the 'baker' [seriously that was what the position was called and it paid two and half times what I got paid (and I was handsomely compensated)] went on break I caught hell. Here's how it worked: in an eight-hour shift there were two fifteen minute breaks, two hours after the shift started (almost left off the F)and two hours before it ended, plus thirty minutes for a meal.

When the baker was gone, no Twinkies could be made (boo!). Rather than shut down the conveyor, part of my job was to pull the metal trays that had ridden all around the plant OFF the line as they came out of the industrial washer that water-blasted the last morsels of synthetic goodness off the forms. Those trays were incredibly hot and it was impossible, at least for me, to keep from getting burned even with gloves and with long sleeves on to protect my arms.

I had to pull off every single tray and stack them seven feet high on pallets with wheels. Six across and six diagonally, always upward until they towered over my head. It took fourteen minutes, by my glancing at the clock over the 'oven' where the magic of Twinkies took form, to get all the trays off the belt. As the baker would come back, he'd tap me on the arm and yell 'Go ahead college!' to signal me to begin racking and stacking them again. Some nights at various times, whole columns of these damn trays would fall over, one time almost burying me and every time scaring the bejabbers out of me to the amusement of my colleagues.

They thought it was hysterical-the college kid working like a  Ch--well, never mind what I was working like. Let's just say when I got home I slept soundly every night. And I would probably still be dinking and twinking if IBC didn't insist we had to eat a certain number of the Twinkies for quality control every shift. Even then and to this very day I hated Twinkies. Now it's possible Twinkie the Kid may have punched his last doggie. Not sure what to say, except....  
-bill kenny

Friday, November 16, 2012

So That's What It's All About?

I very much enjoyed my brother Adam's observations earlier this week on another cherished (by some, I guess) American evergreen after every Presidential election, the 'If you do not secede the first time, cry, cry again' exercise of poor sportsmanship that goes on largely unnoticed after every national election.

Adam, who has a life-time of experience in tolerating fools gladly growing up as he did in a target-rich environment, was, to my eyes, very restrained and reasoned. An example many of the sanctimonious sulkers might take as their own if they weren't obsessed with themselves, or as we used to suggest in the USAF, 'eaten up with the dumbass.'

I have never seen such a creature but my First Shirt assured me not only of its existence but that I was often perilously close to being consumed by it myself. As I spent eight years whetting the blade of the Sword of Freedom and never once encountered a single instance of prevarication or less than truth telling, I believe to this day in the authentic veracity of that man's beliefs.

I'll tell you who else I'm a big fan of, and especially of his hopefulness, David S. I'm less than enthralled with the official White House response, which leaves the proverbial 'something to be desired' usually expressed by all of today's hepcats and kittens as 'meh.'  Nevertheless, I am both encouraged by and optimistic for our Pilgrim's Progress as a nation.

When we can go from letter writing to King George beseeching him to remove his armed soldiers from homes to requesting of the most powerful man on earth that he begin the Hokey-Pokey on his right foot, we are closer to assuring Lincoln's dream that this nation shall not perish from the face of the earth. Because, "after all, that's what it's all about." (Sometimes that which is seen cannot be UNseen)
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 15, 2012

This Might Be a Good Day to Skip This

I sat through a physical examination yesterday to see if I can buy (more) life insurance. Nothing can harsh your buzz faster than being a sixty-year white guy trying to avoid not leaving his family money enough to afford more than kibbles and bits at the wake. And even that is starting to look like it may depend on how many RSVP. So today if you're looking for miles of smiles, perhaps someplace else is a good idea.

Quite frankly for much of my time here on the Big Blue Marble, what's going on inside my head is way more interesting to me than what's going on out here with you and all the rest of you. I'm not trying to be cute (too much effort and too little to work with). I find my life fascinating, chaotic, scary and delightful all at the same time. Your mileage may vary. Mine doesn't.

It looks like this year, large numbers of merchants are going to move Black Friday, those day after Thanksgiving Day too-good-to-be-true sales to Thanksgiving Day itself and open their stores. Lemming instinct is at play here since if Bill's Box o' Bricks Discount Barn opens, it's a stone cert Steve's Big A$$ Stack of Stuff will be doing likewise.

I've looked ahead to next month on the calendar and Jesus' birthday hasn't moved any closer. I grasp the economic imperative for the retailers but I'm not sure if they've tough this through. When you take six inches off the back of the blanket and sew it onto the front, you cannot claim the blanket is now  afoot longer. Actually, of course, you can claim it but we all know it's not true. So unless Corporate America is planning on all of us to become Greek Orthodox and use their calendar, Christmas is where Christmas is. Unless it turns out the Mayans were correct. Except that we'd all be dead, that would be quite a hoot, nichts wahr?

As I said, I don't get into the real world that often because I bruise easily and then I sulk. A lot. So when I read one of the retailers mining for money was the fine folks from Walton Mountain-I remembered that little item. Don't get me wrong-I shop in their stores, but I am aware of the hidden costs of letting them into our cities and towns. Walmart isn't evil but we shop in it don't care about its morality and when we don't care, they don't care. We fixate on the low price but the low price isn't the total cost to our communities.

I have a suggestion for how you can satisfy your need to shop on Thanksgiving and still be able to look yourself in the mirror. Go shop for necessities to give to Walmart employees who are blewed, screwed, and tattooed by their employer in the name of shareholder profit margins. As you can read, you can even do it online, just like it was E-Bay or Amazon. What!? Told you I was cranky and yet you stayed anyway. Make yourself useful here on the sphere. Help make a corner of the world you stand on a better place one square inch at a time. Save the Earth (for dessert).
-bill kenny  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Somewhere Old Heroes Shuffle Safely Down the Street

We had an amazing Veterans Day weekend here, or at least I did and I hope yours was marvelous as well. Our weather in light of the previous ten days was delightful and I enjoyed the opportunity on Sunday to attend two different public observances, one in Taftville in the morning and later in the early afternoon at Chelsea Parade to honor those who have served, and still do, in our armed forces.

It was an opportunity to renew acquaintances with the men who fought in both theaters of World War II-who don't look like the heroes we see in the movies but who are truly heroic as well as a chance to say welcome home again to those who fought and survived Vietnam, a conflict whose beginnings were half a century ago and whose echoes and impact are still evident today.

Both groups of veterans, joined by those from Korea and the Gulf War and those of us who served during the decades of the Cold War, are living testaments to the nobility of the human spirit in times of crisis and their grace under pressure should be an inspiration to us all and a reminder of what we can achieve when we place service over self. I discovered many people whom I have known for decades to have military pasts that helped shape our present, as a city and a nation. They weren't statues, but, rather, neighbors.

Not mentioned Sunday but present in many of our thoughts and hearts were the two young men, both students of Norwich Free Academy, Jacob Martir and Keith Heidtman who answered their nation's call during Operation Iraqi Freedom and who paid for their steadfastness and devotion with their lives.

Not far from where Sunday's ceremony at Chelsea Parade was conducted, another group of young men were playing football-their shouts of exultation at successfully completed passes and their pants of exertion as they relentlessly pursued a fleet of feet halfback helped punctuate the demarcation between who we once were and who we are now.

Someday not too distant from where we sat in the early afternoon sun the Norwich 9/11 Memorial Committee will erect and dedicate a memorial to all who died in uniform since the attacks of 9/11/01. Fund-raising for the project continues and donations can be arranged with Mr. Tony Madeira at Norwich City Hall.    

Sunday was a moment to think about how different our lives might be had there not been veterans to bear the burdens and to renew our promises to them, and one another, to do what we can and when we can to make sure those who return from America's wars, injured in body, mind or spirit can always receive the help to heal they deserve and need. As John Kennedy offered over half a century ago, "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Admiral Byrd and Other Bi-Polar Delights

Trolling the internet, fell across an article in the Christian Science Monitor on the death and dearth of print and paper newspapers that I hope you'll agree is worth a moment or two of your time. Tell Angry Birds to wait and if you're playing Words with Friends, tell them it's actually Scrabble and has been around in one form or another since Noah disembarked from the Ark.

I like the article and have no argument with its major premises except it doesn't go far and wide enough with too narrow a focus. When I was a wee slip of a lad and dinosaurs roamed the earth, all we had was over the air broadcasters, radio and television. Every night at six-thirty on the East Coast we had national seances as families gathered around the electric fire and watched The News, capitalization is deliberate.

We didn't necessarily know but did sense that there were about twenty-two minutes of important stuff going on in the world and it took about a half hour to get through it every night. Both that news and the local cast on usually just before it were generalist in approach. You were as likely to see a story about a cat in a tree as were a report on the war in Vietnam. Reporters and editors struggled with what they knew and getting it to fit in ninety seconds-reducing every story to essentials and telling it in shorthand

For a newspaper, we had NO national brands-every major urban center had morning dailies and in many cases evening ones. Those were the first ones killed by evening TV news. But daily newspapers, too, took a generalist approach-an all you could eat buffet style offering information. It was published in sections because we love organization even as we hate the hassle of organizing but the first section was our world all the way down to goings-on on our street. Maybe you didn't get enough on the underwater armadillo wrestling competition in the Fiji Islands over the weekend-cheer up, pilgrim, someday we'll have the technology to deliver just that information to your house 24/7.
And that's where we are now-all of us, or nearly, watch/read our news ala carte. I get weather from one source, sports from another and additional proof that the President of the USA is Satan incarnate from a third. I'm almost kidding but not. Because we can refine and define our news sources to confirm our world views and its incumbent prejudices, we end up not knowing what we don't know, with little to no exposure to new ideas and new information. Instead of exploiting the technology to build bridges to the world we've constructed walls to shut it out.

So short-sighted canards like 'in this election you get free stuff or you get freedom' don't disappear in the noise of general news because that empty-headed prattler is narrow casting to a captive audience who regards generalist news channels as 'lame stream' in much the same manner as disciples (too much?) of Al Sharpton (nice weight loss, Rev, but why did you quit before you disappeared entirely?) see those with whom they disagree as crypto fascists. Instead the Your-Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame-Dress-up Doll from Wasilla, Alaska, echoes like like a bee-bee rolling around in a box car until she's all you can hear.

The CSM article suggests that rather than wondering if America is a different nation now than it was a generation ago, perhaps we should ask why it took us so long to notice we are different citizens engaged in a different manner in our communities and in our nation than our parents and their parents before them.There are no easy answers especially since the number of forums to have this conversation, daily newspapers across the country, continue to darken and disappear.

That all our Norman Rockwell moments are fated to become faded picture postcards of who we were until the last memory of those times is gone and some future generation stares into the shoe box of snapshots with no idea what all those pictures are supposed to be. Leaving us to conclude people take pictures of each other just to prove that they really existed. Living is an entirely different concept.
-bill kenny  

Monday, November 12, 2012

The First Monday AFTER the First Tuesday

I think a new American political tradition might be in order. And this, the first Monday AFTER the national elections on the first Tuesday in November and as an extension of the holiday observances connected with  Veterans Day is the PERFECT time to declare this to be the first (annual) STFU Day.

Sorry about the crudity, but let's face it-some of us did no more than pause on Election Night and reload. For all intents and purposes, Campaign 2016 has already started. Don't mistake my point: I know nothing about Governor Rubio and I don't live in Florida (not necessarily mutually exclusionary ideas from what I've seen in elections past in the Sunshine State) but we need to stop the constant campaigning that's actually nothing more than repackaging of the same old song and dance.

I'd love to see all of us declare a moratorium on cable news talking heads who are NOT journalists. In a generation of television, we went from Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. People such as Tim Russert, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings proved to be more the exception than the rule. As a former card-carrying member of the Marconi-mafia, I am embarrassed by much of what we have done in mass media in the last thirty years.

When I talk about TV blowhards, it's a target-rich environment. And yes, Chris Matthews, I mean you and while I love Rachel Maddow (not like the Mittster with Big Bird), you as well. Keith Olbermann can stay in permanent video exile (where is Elba in cable terms? Turns out, NOT in Fort Lee, New Jersey) and almost everyone on Fox News should go away most especially Tucker Carlson (being a twit on national TV should be a felony and I should get to pick your cell-mate), Charles Krauthammer, a giftzwerg of a previously incalcuable dimension and unimaginable magnitude and my bestie-beastie, Sean Hannity, who is (to my knowledge) the world's only living brain donor.

Here's a guy, William Saletan, I can relate to without agreeing with. We used to do that a lot in this country as I recall from when I was a child. We had a Republican Party with Charles Percy, John Chaffee, Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater, John Dulles, Henry Cabot Lodge. They shared the same political party affiliation with about the approximate amount of joy George Wallace and Lyndon Johnson had in their party.
(No, I didn't hyperlink ANY of them. You should know who they are already except our schools are to learning what Velveeta is to cheese.)

And still stuff got down. People who disagreed on everything else, agreed to the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Rights Amendment. Those who came down on every possible variant of immigration and naturalization questions could agree that this country was the #1 destination of free-thinking people from around the globe so it stood to reason we should help them help us become even more successful because to do so we needed every bit of help we could get.

It was an era where people rolled up sleeves instead of pointing fingers. It was a time when rational civil discourse hadn't yet been hijacked by stuffed shirt ideologues shouting slogans at one another while sponsors and patrons watched to see who made the needle move more. We didn't handicap every election like it was a horse race-all we're lacking now is for someone to take the loser out behind the barn and shoot him.

In other words, we can argue for the next four years over who won last Tuesday's election, but if we don't close our mouths and give our ears a chance it will be very obvious very quickly who lost. All of us. Again.
-bill kenny        

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bears Repeating

Today is Veterans Day, 2012. If what follows sounds familiar, it should. I wrote it last year and if anything, it's more true now. I'm not sure that's a good thing-but you have to make that decision for yourself.

Not everyone will make it to Taftville's Memorial Park this morning at eleven minutes after eleven o'clock for the Veterans Day observances sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2122. It may be just as well since it's a pocket park located at the intersection of South B and Norwich Avenues and a bit of a snug fit. We shall miss you as we pause to thank all those who wear and who have ever worn the uniform of any branch of our armed forces. Perhaps you might join us at our second observance, at one this afternoon at Chelsea Parade. Freedom of choice-one of those rights those in uniform protect and preserve.  

Some folks roll their eyes at some of the things I write or say and all I do is shake my head and suggest they attempt something anatomically difficult (though if successful, it would be the most productive endeavor some have been engaged in for years). I spent eight years in an Air Force uniform attempting to defend freedom of speech so forgive me if I choose to exercise some for myself as well.

This is not Memorial Day-we honor everyone in uniform, living and dead, past and present, today. When I was a kid, today was called Armistice Day, because it began as a commemoration of the end of The World War, which was later known as World War I for the sadly obvious reason that we had a World War Two. There was always a moment of silence to mark the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

We are a nation now at war for over a decade. Don't get confused when Kim, Lindsay, or the Housewives and the other useless mouths make daily headlines. Heroes and heroines in uniform are making a difference everyday and allow all of us to somnambulate with our eyes open as we don't see the lives we could have led because of the incessant assault we endure.

It's a new world and a new way of war but those making the sacrifice are the old souls who have always borne the burden--not just those at Forward Operating Bases marked with dots on the map of countries we cannot name but all those who whet the blade of the sword they wield in our name in defense of everything we are and will ever be.

We are more filled with self doubt and profound conflict as a nation than at anytime in the last four decades. There will always be light and dark, but we shall prevail because we must. For anyone, anywhere, now or then, in uniform who placed service over self, whenever and wherever that is and was, thank you.

Sometimes we forget the very words we meant to say-but as long as we don't forget those who earned that gratitude, we will always be worthy of their sacrifice.
-bill kenny

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Not Exactly the Piper

It's better to be lucky than good. I should know as most of my adult life has been shaped and shaded by a moment of eye contact a very long while ago with a person I was to marry. Her feelings on luck and goodness may differ greatly from mine but your mileage, too, may vary.

We've had some crisp and brisk mornings in Connecticut this past week, to include a day in the middle of the week which ended in snow, disappointing all the kids who haven't yet gotten those sleds from Santa they've asked for. If I have my way they'll get plenty of opportunities to learn how keen disappointment builds character, if not downhill Olympic champions.

Yesterday morning's temperatures were close to freezing with some light winds, more like breezes and less like gusts. Let me quickly add it was a skosh warmer than Thursday had been, and Thursday had been a monstrously cold day.

Coming across a parking lot near where I work, hurrying from the gym in sweaty work out gear towards the office and, I hoped, a warm shower (I have that instead of a paper shredder; you should see if your work will let you have the same deal) I looked up and saw this, begging for my attention and willing to linger only until I had fumbled for the camera/phone and attempted to capture it.

I think I did. Cross fade to bright smile.
-bill kenny

Friday, November 9, 2012

Knot Gnus

The other morning, working myself back into old routines after a really long break from the gym rat jive, I decided to use one of the many other services of the Slacker subscription I bought for my smartphone (though how much more as I am the owner is debatable I suppose). I decided to tune into ABC News and discovered I had a choice of seven-okay, actually six, since one of them was labeled 'myABC News' and I had never listened to it so it must have been someone else's.

Back when they had Frank Reynolds, ABC was a force in news. They might not have ever been in first place in the TV wars, but they gave a  good as good as they got. But in the brave new world of every single thing imaginable on demand, that's not gonna make the suits on the 47th through 51st floors in accounting smile and that's the name of that tune. I skipped over ABC Mens' News since I couldn't imagine what that would be and suffered an same imagination shortage when offered my chance to listen to the distaff counterpart.

There was an ABC channel for just health-no desire to find out what that would be like on a 24/7 clock so I went with plain old ABC news which has stories from around the world and around the block plus a decent mix of well-written and produced financial and political news stories. I happily pedalled my heart out on the exercise bike while finding out again, that Android is the operating system in 75 percent of all smartphones (I love  a winner and I think I, too, have an android unless they're taking people who have them out to be shot and then not so much). Life was good.

Not quite the audio equivalent of posting endless pictures of kittens on Facebook-my favorite part of that always being trying to see the difference in a half dozen pictures and giving up while all kinds of comments below them lead me to believe I'm an oaf-but the programming was reasonably interesting and there were genuine items of information. In a universe with a yellow sun, it was news in a broad sense of the word.

Then came the DWTS Update-complete with its own sounder. DWTS is a TV show with people who dance, but not for a living. In their minds they are famous and that's good as a healthy self-image can be important to the growth of someone totally lacking in any skills, just ask Paris Hilton or one (or all, come to think of it) of the Kardashians. The show's producers want me to believe these folks are famous as well. I will have none of it. When I spend fifteen minutes watching a show, asking everyone around me 'where do I know that person from?' it means you are not famous, dancing boy or girl.

The 'update' went on for about four minutes! We're talking about 30 calories at 18 mph of pedaling my friend, and was complete with a shocking reveal that one of the semi-famous ones had been dropped on her face by her partner the day before the show (GASP!). Another had to learn to dance with someone other than her first partner because (WAITFORIT!) he had hurt his neck 'but the pair used his choreography'. What a trooper! I could feel tears welling up but it turned out that was because of the bicycle seat which is very uncomfortable.

I kept thinking about the hundreds of thousands of people living near ABC radio stations in the Northeast with little or no electricity, no potable water and food. Bet they didn't get to dance or watch these pathetic never-wases and has-beens do so, either. And then there are the ten thousand other stories to include our continuing alptraum in Afghanistan and this crap/pap app is what the ABC News folks package for slacker subscribers? WPP like drinking domestic bottled water. Get Peter Jennings out on the set and remember just because we're hypnotised that don't mean we can't dance.
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Nothing to See Hear

The convergence of technologies  to me means a world-wide water cooler where, if you hang out long enough, you see again everyone you've ever known. In the years since connectivity and a computer brought the farthest reaches of the globe to my desktop and now to my phone I've reconnected with people from every chapter, or nearly, of my life. At sixty, I concede my book has a few more pages than most, some badly thumbed and, because of its age, a short Dewey Decimal call number.

I receive a steady stream of unsolicited mail the Alumni Office at one of the prep schools I attended though it's not the one from which I graduated. I've heard from the sole (surviving) classmate I wanted to stay in contact with, George B, like me a Manhattan auslander, in his case from Brooklyn. George and I played varsity basketball when we weren't chasing the girls of Spence and Chapin. Luckily, for both of us, the cotillions were catch and release because we were close to clueless.

I was thinking about that aching awkwardness the other day when yet another familiar stranger reappeared in my virtual life, Carolyn Mas. I met her in a foreign chapter of my story and hers, too,  mostly auf deutsch, when she was shiny and sharp and a dynamo with a Beatle-bopper cap on (or sometimes a beret) with a headful of terrific songs and a great band to help her get them across.

We met in Mannheim at the Rosengarten (means what you think it does) organized by her European record label who desperately wanted her to be their Springsteen and told everyone, except her, that she was. Her manager, hopelessly dedicated to her career, asked my wife, Sigrid, what her name was as we all walked down a hotel corridor and misunderstood her to say 'it's a secret' and was slightly frosted about truculence that wasn't. When he realized the mondegreen, he cracked a smile bigger than his head and we all shared a laugh that echoed throughout the floor.

The early Eighties became the Nineties and the accelerated turning of the century along with another decade gone have taken their toll on everyone at least everyone in my memory. And until not that long ago, I hadn't thought of or about Carolyn until the afternoon she crossed my browser as her very own youtube channel. Another sign and wonder of this Air Age, right?

Which brings me to this in the hear and now-from her involvement years ago in a version of Is There Life After High School? Not a polished studio performance by any means but equal parts steely resolve and vulnerability-just like everyone from back in the day. I'm thinking maybe the next time the Alumni Office contacts me I'll ask them to set a place for lunch at the cool kids' table. Just for a lark.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Room with Many Views

The good news first: if you're still abed as you read this, dire predictions about yesterday's election results to the contrary, today is here with sunrise at 6:31 and sunset at 4:38. Everything else that happens, or doesn't, is pretty much in our control. As is always the case during elections, we had various visions offered of who we are and where we're going, both as a nation and here in Norwich as a city. This is when visions should turn to action.

While many of our neighbors went door to door this weekend for a particular candidate or position on a ballot initiative, Saturday morning I set off with purpose (I used to use a porpoise but the Mystic Aquarium demanded I stop) for the Otis Library, a bright spot in an often cloudy downtown Norwich. With its variety of programs and activities, the Otis Library is actually the community center Norwich residents always say they want. If we could just convince people the card catalog is really a swimming pool, we'd have it made. If they could just hire one lifeguard instead of another librarian....

Actually what Otis does have which opened last week and runs through the end of the year, upstairs in the community room is an exhibit entitled "An Instant in Our Time: Norwich through the Eyes of Young Photographers.” Saturday morning Otis was buzzing with a half-dozen different projects to include, I think, a Native American story hour downstairs that drew a nice crowd, leaving me alone to visit with a few dozen images.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, it is more than fitting this display is in the library because words are not enough to convey the magic and majesty of the richness of the slices of Norwich life that very young, and terribly talented visual artists have created and crafted.

Inspired by documentary photography first practiced in the Great Depression, the four contributing photographers worked with volunteer mentors and helping hands, to cover the walls with familiar sights and scenes of our city but taken from less than familiar perspectives and with clear and unblinking eyes that are better able to not only see the objects depicted but their deeper and more subtle meanings.

To be clear: this is NOT the Norwich we speak of as we struggle to work together on a variety of projects we consider to be 'for the good of the city' or insist 'will move Norwich forward.' A full array of superlative and thoughtful visuals awaits you at the Otis Library offering an instant in your time that may well excite and incite you as a resident of a city that too often is convinced its best days have already been.

There are pictures on every wall and every picture tells a story. And the story the pictures all tell is the story of us, young and old, rich and poor, life-long resident or a recent arrival. Their photographs bring us face to face with ourselves.

What these talented, young photographers have to say is not only visually stimulating, it is quite often stunning and emotionally arresting. They are, in many respects the very people to whom we should dedicate our efforts to revive this city as they are not only our hope for better days, but proof of them. 

The purpose of art is to conceal art and their artful expressions of everyday life as they find it here in The Rose of New England will cause you to stop and think about where we  come from and how we live. And to realize no matter how far apart we grow from one another and no matter what paths the separate journeys of our lives have been, this depiction of that same small town in each of us bears witness to how we became who we are.

Sometimes those of us who purport to be adults in the work-a-day world lose sight of our city. It takes younger eyes, sometimes, more sensitive to nuance and shades of subtle change to help us see the whole and different picture. The young people who shared their time and talents for this exhibit did so for their own reasons, creating a mirror reflecting our city and also a window to see what we can be, to enjoy and experience at our own rate and pace.

It serves as another reminder that home is where your heart is and as New England's own Robert Frost offered 'where when you have to go there, they have to take you in.' Welcome to our hometown.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It's NOT Prince Spaghetti Day

 Every four years we have a revolution in this country-but many of us wouldn't know because it's velvet and not granite. Armed men do not seize power, though in recent years corporations have gotten close, and the armies of our nation stay in their barracks as we go to the polls to validate the direction in which we are headed or to change course. 

The decision to do one or the other, even when sometimes we strive to do one AND the other, is in your hands, as a registered voter in the most powerful democracy in the history of this planet. And we are not powerful because of our military or because of our technology or our natural materials but because of the resilience and ingenuity of  all of us who live here.

Across this country in the moments as this day began, people began casting ballots. In many states because of voter initiatives, millions of ballots were cast even before today. Such is the strength of our democracy that it is supple enough to bend without breaking to accommodate the e pluribus to accomplish the unum.

Now is as good a time as any to stop reading this and go, if you haven't already voted, to your designated polling place and vote as if our country and your life depended on it, because it may well be the case. Nothing else you do today will be half as important as taking the time and deciding to vote.

Every registered voter is the next link in the chain of free people who began in the dark of a day a long time ago with men such as Crispus Attucks and the patriots who did not run at Breed's (Bunker) Hill. In a half dozen nations around the globe right now, our fellow citizens, husbands and wives, sons and daughters are vouchsafing with their lives and sacred honor our right to cast a free ballot for a candidate of our choosing. So choose. Because if you don't choose, we all lose.

And if you don't like the choices you make today or feel as we move on that maybe we haven't made the right decision or in the right measure, we'll have this chance again and after that yet again. Our democracy never tires and never grows weary. It is forever new and forever there for all of us who are here now and those who will follow in our footsteps. Set an example and vote today.
-bill kenny 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Creeps in this petty pace

By now, perhaps like me, you've almost discovered all the clocks and assorted timepieces you didn't set back an hour on Saturday night/Sunday morning when Daylight Savings Time ended. You glanced at the dashboard display in the vehicle and your pulse raced for a moment this morning as you feared you were late for work or perhaps an assignation only to catch yourself and remember, perhaps smiling sheepishly in your rear-view mirror.

Look at the beasts of the earth and name me another who has created the artificial divisions of time we have. I'm hard pressed to think of another species wearing a wristwatch and who among them has an opposable thumb to hit the display button on the cell phone and learn the time? Just us-the only species with the ways and means to destroy ourselves and the entire planet. Would seem to be a built-in incentive to invest this 'extra' hour in some manner of self-improvement or benefit to the planet.

Between now and March 11, 2013, when we 'spring forward' again we will have lived through 3,000 hours, 180,000 minutes or (gulp!) 10,800,000 seconds. Do you have plans for even one percent of all this time? Would you share those plans with me because all I have is what I'm doing right now, fretting at a keyboard.

"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing."  Perhaps nothing more than the time to awaken from the dream of life and live.
-bill kenny

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Another Calendar Ambush

Over the weekend while many of my relatives, to include our son, were struggling in the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy's visit to the East Coast, half a world away some of my favorite morons were getting together to paint and don really large 'kick me' signs, as they celebrated a "Day of Fighting the Global Arrogance" with a display of planned spontaneity that would  make a Young Republican's heart beat faster if a YR had a heart in the first place.

But to enjoy yesterday here's the context: on this date in 1979, angry Islamic students outraged at medical treatment their recently deposed  Shah was to receive in the United States of America seized our embassy in Tehran creating a hostage crisis that resulted in 444 days of captivity for fifty-two members of the staff.  

Take a good look at those 'celebrating' earlier in the week. Iran's public face is quite challenging to manage these days as the economic sanctions its political leadership have provoked through pointless international posturing and pouting, not to mention photoshopping (Adobe couldn't buy this kind of product placement) have turned a vibrant, prosperous nation into a lower-tier third world country. I suspect the Prophet would insist that their Supreme Leader has some 'splain' to do.  

Since every life form on this planet to include nation-states operates always from self-interest, I'm not sure what the Iranians think they've discovered about global arrogance and the USA. We didn't invent it, my friends, though we've gone a far piece in perfecting it. You should be very grateful we're so pre-occupied with ourselves because if we so chose, you'd be in worse shape than you are.

That we allowed the Iranian leader, Mahmoud  Ahmedinajad, to address the United Nations with yet another curious assortment of delusions and bad acid trip impressions masquerading as a world view instead of simply clapping his Holocaust denying ass in jail is NOT because we are great guys and gals.

Okay, some of us are, but not all that many, but we behave ourselves because unlike the Iranians (see embassy example cited above), we understand and abide by international agreements we have signed and in this case until the UN is situated on a garbage barge in the East River instead of on prime real estate beside it, Mahmoud can travel anywhere in these United States unimpeded and unmolested he desires as the Iranian head of state.In light of his domestic troubles, can't blame him for not spending a lot of time lounging around in downtown Tehran. Perhaps he should get a hobby to help pass the time.

I'm thinking he might try at his hand at movie criticism, as I can't imagine Argo will be hitting the big screens in his homeland anytime soon. Which is too bad, since unlike much of the Middle East both presently and historically, it has its lighter moments and close to a happy ending. Unlike Camus' The Stranger, which may be a more cautionary tale than anyone, including Albert, could ever believe.
-bill kenny