Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Floats Are Both Motorized and Root Beer

We still have a couple of days left to get ready for the big celebratory parade this weekend marking the recognition last week by the American Planning Association, who named downtown Norwich, the Chelsea District, as one of its Top 10 Great Neighborhoods of 2013 (and the year's not even over yet). Wow. Maybe even double-wow.

The Rose of New England is only the second site in all of Connecticut to receive such a designation since the awards program first started in 2007, joining the New Haven Green, which was selected in 2009.

Chelsea is in some pretty swell company this year, with the likes of Chinatown in San Francisco as well as Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I would hope they and the other selectees are as impressed to be included with us as I am to be included with them. And I really hope we practice at least once that synchronized hat toss into the air that Mary Tyler Moore does before the parade starts.

You hadn't heard about the parade? Where have you been? There are floats, at least two dirigibles and, according to the rumor I've gotten started, pony rides. Yep, so much for that old saw that the reward for doing a good job should be the knowledge you have done a good job. We should party like it's 1659, or at least we should try to have some indoor fireworks while we look forward to what's next.

In case you cannot tell, I am being (somewhat) facetious (that means there is no parade; sorry). My tongue is so far in my cheek as I write this, my eye teeth can't see what I'm typing. You should be so lucky.

But please do not mistake my attempt at humor for a diminution or diminishing of what went on last week in terms of national recognition. This is a big deal and the first rule with big deals, like fight club, is we don't talk about it like it's a big deal.

You may have encountered people in person or on line, discouraged experts I like to call them (when my mom is around; I have another name for them when she's not), who are and always have been less effusive in their praise perhaps because they are less confident in themselves.

Having lived here for twenty-two years I have come to realize that if they ever make dread, envy and self-loathing the new triathlon, you'll find residents of Norwich on the medals podium. The rest of us will be in the stands mumbling about how the medal sash makes some body's ears look big-and yes, ears wasn't my first choice of word-or how we would have been better and faster.

So many of us work very hard in many different ways to do what we can to make Norwich the place we are happy to come home to-for ourselves, our family, our friends and neighbors. Take a look at the scores of volunteers we have in our schools for everything from escorts for outings to organizing bake sales to raise money for class trips.

There isn't a weeknight, and often weekends as well, that doesn't have one or more meetings of an advisory, board or committee, composed entirely of people we see every day from our neighborhoods, wrestling with issues in developing answers we can all live with.  

It's okay to feel good about who we are and where we are. And that, I believe, is what's really behind the Top 10 Great Neighborhoods Award. Nobody is suggesting Chelsea is just like heaven (except for the 'we have to wear clothes' part) and when I hear/read mumbling and murmuring about what we don't have that someplace else does, it makes my hair hurt. Let's face it, we are why we do not have nice things-because we don't recognize them when we do have them.

I do not miss what I do not have and when I dream of what is to be, I dream as large as I can so that everyone, both those whom I know, and those I've yet to meet, can have as much of the joy of success as each of us wishes.

I choose to lean and to look forward. I wonder where we'd be if a few more of us tried that. And if feel unsteady, we can always grab that Great Neighborhoods Award to keep our balance. I've got a feeling that'll work out just fine.
-bill kenny

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