Thursday, February 28, 2013

Jack Smith Would Be Proud

I rarely if ever take vacations. I'll take a day or two off here and there but not usually a vacation because I am so vital and terribly important in what I do for a living that my place of work simply cannot get along without me for any prolonged period of time. I come in every morning, six days a week and Sunday afternoons and push the five-story brick building in which I work up the side of the hill on which it's situated. I am indomitable and indefatigable (and other words I spell less well than those two).

And if you don't think so, just ask me and I'll tell you. As a matter, as you just learned, you don't even have to ask, I'll tell you anyway. But if I went on vacation, and that's a capital B for a reason, pardner, I'm thinking I would go to Portland. Not the Portland of the IFC show that I DVR every week with the full intention of watching because I've heard so many great things about the series though I've yet to view a single episode, I'm talking about Portland, Maine.

My brother flagged this item the other day but then it showed up in one of the (actual) newspapers I read daily and all I could was shake my head. The sad thing about small towns and small cities is they are filled with small people. That's why we're always going to stay this way.  "And he would follow people who gave him a wrong look." Seriously?

Trish, if you're looking for sympathy check in the dictionary between syphilis and sh---just look in the darn dictionary. And learn to breathe. Does some of my animus and annoyance about this story stem from being an inveterate whistler in the hallways of the building in which I work more often than not to the withering looks of approbation and disapproval I receive from people whom I pass in the hall?

Yeah, probably. That and I wish I had a bat so I could go out to the parking lot and, while whistling even louder and more off-key, break all the glass, headlights, windows, mirrors, disco balls in their cars without being caught (much less punished). I'm already practicing my whistle of incredulous surprise for when someone comes back from lunch and reports in disbelief what happened to his car.

You go Bob and I'll support you...from a more than safe distance and decent interval. Think of me as your Dark Knight oder Dunkle Ritter. And I ain't whistling Dixie.
-bill kenny  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Turns Out No Shoes Ain't So Bad

It's only Wednesday and I can tell you without fear of contradiction that it's been a long time since I've had a week suck as much as this one does. And then, just when I'm about to get in even deeper and wallow in my self-pity (and DAMN! I'm good at it), someone shares something like this and I think to myself, what a wonderful world this is.

Take care of yourself, and one another.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I Wanted All Things to Make Sense

Coming out of my fitness center Sunday morning a little after nine, I discovered my mutterings and mumblings to myself made even less sense than they usually do. Point in fact, I couldn't understand me which in the universe in which I live is very frightening as it's usually just me and SMET (Skippy, My Evil Twin) against an ever enlarging confederacy of dunces.

By ten minutes after ten at the insistence of my wife, we (she, I and our daughter, Michelle) were in the emergency room of William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, Connecticut. I haven't been surrounded by so many caring and competent people since....well, since the last time I needed to visit their emergency room. The poking and prodding my arrival precipitated continued into the late afternoon.

Whether I had a(nother) Transient Ischemic Attack, TIA, or an extreme manifestation of a low blood sugar level combined with dehydration or (fingers crossed) an adverse reaction to resistance training equipment, I may find out in the weeks ahead, or not. Sometimes medicine is more magic than science and some times numbers add up to nothing.

I met John from Colchester, a veteran of an Air Force career that spanned the decades of the Vietnam War to the fall of the Berlin Wall and a dozen CONUS bases in between. His dad had been a B-24 tail-gunner in World War II and his children have served in our armed forces. He was racked by a dry hack that fits Springsteen's description of a graveyard cough and had spent a week in the hospital in January as the doctors and nurses battled to get it under control. When they did he went home and back to his life only to return last Thursday barking like a dog of war and the search for solutions continues.

The parade of passing people willing to help me is impossible to describe or to individually thank. I especially enjoyed the nurse lecturing me Sunday evening about taking better care of myself as 'you're still a young man, Sir' oblivious to the glorious oxymoronic connotations of the construct.   I fully intend to adopt her.

There was also the young man with those giant discs in each earlobe who brought me back on the gurney to my hospital room from a(nother) carotid scan and put me back in my hospital bed and as he exited, offered me a hearty, 'take it easy, dude.' I haven't been one of those in forty years and when I was, the term didn't even exist, so thanks six point two metric tons.

Yeah, I got scared over the last couple of days. Enough to change my ways? Not sure I would make or share that assumption. Be careful with that axe, Eugene-there are too many home fires burning and not enough trees. My first order of business today is to get an appointment with my cardiologist and I can already guess who will want to come along as sometimes she and I, like you and yours, hear different parts of the same sentence differently. Luckily, they, and we, all fit together in the same machine.
-bill kenny        

Monday, February 25, 2013

You Say Your Hair's On Fire

This entry nearly didn't happen so if you're unhappily surprised that it finally showed up, blame about three hundred incredibly talented medical professionals at William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, Connecticut.
I'd love to tell you all about it, but I'm a little tuckered out from scaring my family another couple of inches closer to their breaking point.

If it makes them feel better and it doesn't. I wasn't allowed to get out of bed from shortly after ten on Sunday morning through about noon today. That's bad news for anyone who was bidding on my red New Balance kicks as they have a skosh more tread on them than projected. Just sayin'.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I'm Wondering if the Ducks Will Be Back

A lot of us have had less than ideal weather so far this weekend and are sad and downhearted. I know three people who have put up with what we have and arent.

My brother, Adam, my sister, Kara, and her husband, Russ, are in the Central Park Marathon today in the World's Capital, New York City (along with about 1,500 other people). I do not know any of Those other people and that's a big reason why I'm not rooting for them. And quite frankly in a marathon as I understand it, you want people to finish, where is an academic consideration.

Both Adam and Kara are my younger siblings (technically speaking all of younger siblings are) but they are much younger as we were a large family Who Took our sweet time getting here. That's a major reason why I found it funny That they would choose to be runners (they're not the only ones, our sister, Jill, I have been told, is the most focused person on earth and very physically fit) and I can Their only hope That whatever weather, they can stay out of it long enough to finish with times That will please them and soothe Their competitive souls.

There's a difference between running to live and living to run, even Holden had difficulties with the concept, and they do not need an enfeebled oldest brother to offer them a blinding glimpse of the obvious .  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

No Corinthians Were Harmed in the Making of these Seat Covers

From the pages of "Lurleeen, come on in here and see to what this feller's on about" comes something so mindnumblingly gauche and utterly tacky I assumed it had been developed probably here in the Land of Unlimited Possibilities ('check!') and quite possibly in the state whose name starts with the same letter as crazy ('not so fast there, Colorado') California.

Yearn to keep your hand in the social media game even after you've shuffled off this mortal coil? Well, say no more! Just slip into this and be comfortable. Oh death, where is your sting, or tweet or personal message?
How many characters are in Road to Damascus anyway?
-bill kenny

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hornsby Had It Right

With all due respect to a split-squad pair of games the Red Sox played yesterday afternoon (out of force of habit Josh Beckett drank beer and ate chicken I am told), Spring Training gets absolutely real today as both the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues commence play.

Anyone who tells you the baseball games in Arizona and Florida don't count has never, ever lived in the Northeastern part of the United States. Those of us who (now) call New England home can face the news of a nasty-a$$ winter storm this weekend with grace and composure, assuming we have MLB Network, because our lives between snowflakes will be filled with images of grown, supposedly adult, men accomplishing sandlot heroics at Wall Street Raider salaries. And we eat it up with a spoon and ask for seconds, please.

For folks like me, surrounded by choices like SNY for the Mets, NESN for the Red Sox and YES for the Yankees, let it snow for a month. It'll be melted by the All-Star Game, at least it usually is. Old Man Winter, do your worst and we'll do our best. Baseball, the ageless pastime that makes old men young again has returned. and if the green of the grass looks just a little different maybe it's because of the dye we're using to make the field 'pop' because of the TV cameras with the artificial turf, but no worries, the crack of the bat isn't lip-synced.

People ask me what I do in the winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” Break out the Windex, Rog. We're ready-heck, we are completely past ready and approaching fully there.
-bill kenny 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Making Movies

Sometimes I can't see the forest for the gump or the trees. And sometimes it feels like I've always done things one way and then I'm brought up short by a memory of a different path. It happened Tuesday. I try to go to my gym/fitness center on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Haven't been really swell with the Saturdays yet, but it's coming.

I walked cautiously around some frightening looking pieces of twisted metal with pulleys and weights, resistance trainers, sort of spying on how other people use them and then sliding onto the seat of one when they moved on. And also decreasing the weights on the other end, but a lot. Nope, more than that.

I'm learning, as my friend, Walt, pointed out a couple of weeks ago that resistance is futile. I do enough on some of the ones that don't kill me to break into a decent sweat before capping my visit with a treadmill, a recumbent bicycle or the Precor AMT 885 Open-Stride Adaptive Motion Trainer. If you're short of breath, you'll smother trying to say its name and if you're short of cash, you'll never buy one-the price tag is higher than what I paid for my car.

It had not been the easiest of afternoons, but having endured all the shoulder press repetitions a boy can ever want (assuming the boy believes in reincarnation and frequently trans-migrates) I dug into my pocket for my audio player that doubles as my web browser, email sender and receiver and camera. It also makes telephone calls I'm told though I have no memory of ever using it to so do.

That was when I realized I'd left my headphones on my desk back at the house. I weighed the idea of leading the place in a singalong, not really sure what to choose. Perhaps Bicycle Race or Chariots of the Gods (which has NO words so any I might up would be terrific, or not) but since I'd also left my sense of pitch in a bucket beside the desk, I decided to call it a day, overcome by WPP.

On the drive home, I flashed back about 45 years to those endless summers at my parents' house on Harvey's Lake in Pennsylvania and how everyday I ran the perimeter of the lake (it felt like miles but I also always thought I was six feet tall (and I'm not)) and never had headphones or an mp3 player.

Okay, they hadn't been invented yet, but neither, too had the Walkman, Jayzik, or any other weapons of mass distraction so I, and all of us everywhere who ran all those years ago, had these distances where we were alone with our thoughts and nothing to divert or pervert us.

In those days, I worked at a joint on the lake, Sandy Beach, about halfway around from Hanson's which had a sort-of roller coaster. We had a great beach and they had squat.  On busy days I doubled as a life-guard as folks from across the Susquehanna Valley would camp out on the beach until well after the light and the heat of the day had passed before heading home. I had hot afternoons in a high wooden chair while girls taking summer classes at Misericordia in Dallas necked with their football-player boyfriends from Wilkes. Things would get a little too frisky and somebody (always a she) would get tossed into the lake (always by a he).

Then, dripping wet, giggling and jiggly, they'd make their way to the foot of my chair, look up and ask squeakily "Lifeguard, would you tell my boyfriend to stop throwing me in the lake?" (titter) The boyfriend, to me as a pale, white rail of sixteen or so, looked like the side of a house covered with hair and bad attitude. He could kill me just by yelling at me and we both knew it. That's why I always wore mirror shades.

Sunglasses with polished exterior lenses, mirrors. The Americal Division wore them in Vietnam and soon everyone, whacked-out warrior and panty-waist pacifist, had them. I loved them because I could sound really tough from on high while my eyes, wide with fright behind them, could no longer betray me as I barked. Strange days, indeed.

Running home after work, I got slapped in the back of my head by some Neanderthal in a convertible who'd crossed the double yellow to do just that. I always figured it for a beach boy buddy who wanted some payback for my making him look small in front of his girl. His car drove on as my shades went flying off but the weird thing was she didn't see the payback. She was taking a nap, I guess, with her head in his lap. I often wonder what that did to the MPG estimates. Perhaps she was why 'your mileage may vary.' I'll never tell.
-bill kenny        

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

In Living Color

Sometimes people are unable, or we unwilling to allow them, to stay where we put them. When they will not live up to our stereotypes, we wonder what's wrong-usually we wonder what's wrong with them.

The very finest barbecue ribs I have ever eaten, and may ever eat (and no, I haven't tried Uncle D's Blazin' BBQ.Yet.) in my entire life I did so over thirty years ago in a restaurant nestled in that well-known hotbed of southern home cookin' known as Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. My hosts spoke of nothing else for the weeks before I traveled there and at dinner that night I met other guests from all across Europe and one couple from Japan. All were fans for a simple reason: the ribs were beyond delicious.

Make no mistake when we're talking southern Germany, y'all, we're talking Bavaria, or Bayern as the Germans call it. My memory gets fuzzy sometimes but I'm pretty sure the owner's name wasn't Tex or Slim but more likely Dieter or Gunther. He didn't wear cowboy boots, as I recall, but he didn't wear lederhosen either.

My notions of Bavaria included thatch-roofed houses and women in dirndls bringing guests mountains of sauerkraut and sausages with foam-filled bier steins. It was a remarkable movie that I'd made in my head and I spent all the time my wife and I were in Garmisch looking for a reality that came anywhere near matching my imagination. Never found it.

I thought of those barbecue ribs and my surprise at who had made them reading over the weekend about the front page brouhaha (I love that word and regret in an age of texting shorthand it's fallen into disuse) over the hiring practices and policies of the City of Norwich, at least in seeking candidates for an assistant human resources director.

All I could think of as I read the on-line interviews and comments was Daniel Patrick Moynihan's admonition "you are entitled to your opinion-but not your own facts" as people with even less understanding of the mechanics of our city government (I, too, was surprised with how many there are) offered well-intentioned (I'm sure) observations that might be true, though they had no facts to support them, just a strongly-held belief in their own statement.

Being a white, no-longer-middle-aged, man I have lived as the majority for all of my life. Almost everyone I know looks to some degree like me. Don't get annoyed-when you look at your life, you'll discover that's true for you as well. That doesn't make us good guys or bad guys, it's what we do after we know that, that counts.

I attended a meeting Saturday morning of about thirty residents and was quite aware we had very few people of color. I doubt attendance was deliberately designed that way and I'm not sure if it impacted the outcome of the meeting. I don't know how to 'solve for X' as my mathy friends used to say, Malcolm or  otherwise.

I will suggest (not state) that while diversity is both very important and absolutely essential (every aspect of our nation, from our armed forces to our municipal government needs to reflect the brilliance and strength of all of us), competence and ability are the minimum each of us should expect from anyone else and from everyone else in public service.

Based on the articles I read and the comments they precipitated I 've concluded the city's hiring process may not be as transparent to all of us, the customers on whose behalf this is accomplished, as it could be. I don't see sinister forces lurking in the shadows because I never attribute to malice that which can be explained by ignorance. In this case, perhaps a lot of that ignorance is more mine than yours.

I don't work for the city government (and there was great rejoicing) and have little familiarity with the procedures from determine a need for a new hire to the development of the qualifications through the recruiting, screening interviewing and hiring steps. I need to learn and our city leaders need to teach. And if after that we agree there are fixes needed, let's do it and get back to the job of making Norwich a place we can all come home to.

I don't know how many city employees we have or how long on average they've worked for us. I do know in the last two weeks I am grateful for the talent and efforts of those who cleared the snow, taught the school kids despite the weather, fought the fires, fixed the downed power lines, helped me process my permits, answered the emergency calls, and read the electric meter, among a hundred jobs I never even noticed.

I have no idea what color skin the people who do those jobs have. I was looking elsewhere, I guess, at the content of their character. They and we, together, for good and for better. It takes every kind of people.
-bill kenny             

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

And I Hope to Spit in Your Mess Kit

As of midnight this morning, in 43,200 minutes it will be spring. On Wednesday, 20 March at some absurdly early hour I suspect, at which time I'll already be awake I expect, the Vernal Equinox will occur and peace will guide the planet and love will steer the stars. Or not.

As friends of the Great White North know the months of the year are often little more than pages on the calendar so hopefully the early Spring the Groundhog promised will arrive in short order and our recent spate of snow and more snow (alternating with ice and windy weather) will be a distant memory that will grow fainter right up until the moment we tell a  total stranger about what we've 'endured' and then stand back because tall tales aren't just the purview of Paul Bunyon and what's its name.

Ouch. You deserve better than that, but good luck getting it, at least around here. Besides, as the days lengthen a little bit every day even the bad puns and jokes get a bit easier to take. All the way through the dog days of summer when we complain about the heat as if the snows of February were on Kilimanjaro and never even happened. And then someone offers to go to the store and buy a new rope with which to hang ourselves but we complain about how the new ones are always too scratchy. Couldn't live like that.
-bill kenny

Monday, February 18, 2013

All the Crazy in My Dreams

I'm not sure which one of us moved, me or country music. I've worked a lot of my life with very true and devoted fans of the idiom to include a fellow with a bumper sticker (On His tractor I used to say, but That was a lie) That read: "I like two kinds of music: country and western. "

I grew up not so much like that at all. With no older siblings (I auditioned for the job and got it as I learned way too late) to shape me, I thought The Beatles had invented rock and roll That was positive and George Harrison had created the electric guitar and on the G-Seventh Diminished Chord day he rested. I did not get that stuff right either as it turned out.

Getting up there in years now-just spoke to my mom living in Florida (risking terminal suntan I'm sure) on the phone yesterday afternoon as the winds whipped the snow into small dervishes around here. She's in her Eighties, leaving me to wonder how much longer I can still pretend to be a rock and roll kid (did I mention we have no mirrors in my house, right?).

We're in the Lenten season and I did not make it to church (again) yesterday morning so I was happy That Church came to me.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sweet Dreams Are Made of Anything to Get You to the Sea

Yesterday was our grocery shopping day. I'm along to drive and to walk near the cart while Sigrid pushes it. In fifty-five years I've graduated from being on my mom's hand to being where my wife can see me. I got lost on our last trip to this same store I'm reminded, so stick close. I decide I don't want to argue that I didn't get lost at all primarily because the drive home in icy silence is no fun for either of us.

We are just about done-actually we are. We've finished the compulsory part of the program, the throwing stuff into the cart and are now getting set for the paying and leaving part. This is the worst portion of the event for me because I fidget and there's lots of stuff to distract me including gee-gaws, snacks of processed meats not found in real life and magazines with covers showing spaceships landing on the decks of aircraft carriers or Kanye telling one of the Kardashian Kousins (not my first choice of word) something about Beyonce's new album, or not.

Except yesterday while we're standing in line, one aisle over, were two young men-I would have guessed late teens early twenties but hold that thought-with a shopping cart with a half dozen or more cardboard takeout boxes with (I'll say) forty-pieces each of rotisserie chicken (the good stuff, because you can see the grease marks through the cardboard and the aroma is mouthwatering).

The two were wearing tuxedos and the taller of the two was taking pictures with a camera that cost more than my car. They were inching forward in the checkout line and one of them slid the left sleeve of his tuxedo jacket up so he could peer at his watch every ten seconds and wonder why the time was flying by.

Curiosity may have killed the cat but ich sterbe aus neugier. I walked over to them and opened with "I'm sure you're sick of being asked this, but I have to-why are you fellows so dressed up?" The one without the camera explained they were going to a wedding in twenty minutes and added almost as an after thought, "and I'm the one getting married."

Wow. Talk about moving at the speed of life. By the time you read this, he and his bride will be married nearly eighteen hours. And you thought your Saturday had been eventful. He smiled nervously and thanked me for wishing him well as I shook his hand and my head (one with good wishes and one in disbelief). They almost lost their place in line, but not quite. Innocence will teach you what life assumed you knew. And I wouldn't want to be there again but you go one ahead and enjoy.
-bill kenny                

Saturday, February 16, 2013

That Concludes God's Briefing

Somedays, the words just find the page all by themselves.

Like Today .

Can I get you anything while I'm up? An antacid? A pinebox? A doggie bag?

Guten Appetit.
- bill kenny

Friday, February 15, 2013

Jezebel (and her Sister)

Now that the torrent of words from the State of the Union have washed over us, what do we have to show for it, or despite it? More talking at one another rather than to each other, I fear. More 'your guy is a jerk' meets 'your guy drinks his own bathwater. We vow to never forget those who got us into this mess and we lie every time we make that vow.

I believe the reason why we are beset by a sea of troubles so large at this point in our country's history as to be boundless and beyond comprehension is because we do NOT remember the names of those whom we elect to work for us but who, instead, enrich themselves (from both sides of the aisle).

Earlier this week the political litmus test was the vote on Violence against Women; perhaps next we'll go to the mat over funding desperately needed infrastructure for cities or universal pre-school for our children. I'm not smart so I don't understand how anyone can oppose these things.

But we pick a side and fight a pitched battle over complex issues issues such as meaningful spending reductions or an extension of unemployment benefits ( or a hundred other issues of great import) that we attempt to 'handle' with shouted slogans and drive-by sound bytes because we don't wish to listen to anyone think, even ourselves.

The ad hominem attacks against one or the other political party that are now deep into the second decade might almost be funny if they were not so transparently pathetic and far too often true.Watching the Constitutionally mandated State of the Union delivered by the President of the United States and then whatever those yammerings were that followed him I just held my head in my hands.

In light of the generations of men and women (of every political persuasion) who sacrificed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for our nation the best we can do, and the least we should do, is be the best citizens we can be and prove ourselves worthy and deserving of their sincere selflessness and last ounce of devotion. Instead we sit in the dark and cry about whose to blame for the loss of the sun.
-bill kenny

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Be My Valentine

This will not thrill my wife at all. Until just now she doesn't know I kited this picture. I'm not sure how I'll explain how it wound up here, but the good news is that's not her only concern, not by a long shot.

Her husband hat kein ruhe im arsch. Her power of contemplation is matched only by her measured concentration. I am an unreconstructed child of rock and roll and a pillar of the First Church of Bruce Springsteen. To put it mildly, she is not a fan. Yet I fell in love with her the first time I saw her. I didn't know about the Springsteen Problem at that time. When I found out, it was too late, for both of us.

I smile as I type Springsteen's name because rocker that he is, he wrote a majestic and powerful song that captures the anxiety and the emptiness I feel when she and are parted that I would suggest is a universal yearning that can never be fully described but can only be experienced.

Being in love can be painful but is also (and always) rewarding. Today, of all days, I hope you have, or find, your someone who completes you and can steal the shadow of sorrow you carry in your heart as I have had done for me. "So hold me close, honey. Say you're forever mine and tell me you'll be my lonely valentine."
Fur immer und ewig.  
-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Inside the Snow Globe

We're far enough away from When Nemo met Charlottte, the meteorological equivalent of that Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal movie, to remember the unrelenting white and the swirling winds while not remembering (so much)  the bone-chilling cold from hours of struggling to remove over two feet of snow. Just in case we forgot where The Rose of New England was located, we received a timely reminder.

I'd imagine, based on years of hiking around the city during the spring and summer and listening to local people lament the lowered levels on creeks and streams feeding our three rivers and having walked last spring along bed of the Yantic River that should have been under six feet of water, this spring we are probably going to be just fine in terms of that annual rainfall statistic we read about in the news papers during the dry days of the late summer.

For those planning this year's Greeneville Cleanup, whenever that may be, that's really good news as it was disquieting last year to see so little Shetucket River coming over the dam (especially in comparison to how much was flowing there three weeks ago).

But I've wandered away from my starting point. For me the teachable moment of last weekend's storm was how well we came together and worked with one another to free cars from snow drifts, to help people get their French Toast supplies (bread, milk and eggs) to their cars, and to hold doors for those hurrying home with armfuls of everything from toilet paper to emergency generators. I helped as many neighbors who are Republicans and I did Democrats-not that anyone cared, at least not last weekend.

The snow itself fell so quickly, abundantly and for such a prolonged period of time that when it finally stopped mid-day on Saturday it was as if geography across the city had been reinvented. How many of us started out with shovel or snow thrower to clear sidewalks in front of our house and reclaim the driveways to  our garages only to discover we were standing on our own lawns or on the sidings near  the driveways, quite a distance from our original intent.      

I walked the Heritage Trail, not one of my brightest decisions as the snow was piled high but it was like seeing the Harbor again, but for the first time. The fallen snow and the cold temperatures in the water made  the meeting of the fresh water from upstream in the Yantic with the salty Sound water brought inland by the Thames more distinct and I dare say dramatic. Looking out across the Marina and Howard T. Brown Park from the top of the parking garage a block behind the courthouse was a revelation in white.

And walking through the intersection of Union where the Wauregan Hotel  looks across the street to the Shannon Building and the bare branches of the trees in front of the courthouse were adorned in ice and snow, I was struck with how much beauty I pass everyday though a downtown so many of us dismiss as a relic of another era and whose solutions seem to include giving up and going home.

Except, as I finally and fully grasped last Saturday, I can't do that because I am home. This is where my children went to school, where my wife and I built a home and a life. I have accepted that I cannot save the whole world, but, with some work, I can save the piece I'm standing on, even if it's covered in snow and right next to the piece you're standing on..

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Once I Got Past the Weird Visual....

I don't sit up to watch the Grammys anymore. Not only does it run on after my bedtime, it's a true statement before the phrase that begins with 'after...' but music is a young person's game.

Someone, probably a different young person, forgot to tell that to Sir Paul McCartney who collected, I have been told, his 1,287the Grammy Award Sunday night for an album of songs your mother should know, though that's not on the record, Kisses on the Bottom.

This is my favorite song from that album (an album, completist that I am I bought and listened to twice. My fault, Sir Paul, not yours) and it has a lot to do with how I feel about Natalie Portman and my ability to forgive the strain in His Lordship's voice because while I, too, believe in Yesterday, it's been a long time since then and the wear is evident.

A lot of rock and roll people who made the music I grew up listening to have made albums like Kisses on the Bottom. I concede I cannot imagine Springsteen ever doing one of these, or Kings of Leon or Porcelain Raft but that's because I think some of us remember better than others that rock and roll started out as the music your parents love to hate. And now we're grandparents.

Rod Stewart makes these records all the time-I buy none of them as there's just so many American Songbook albums I need to own and somehow, none of the material he's done since walking away from Mercury has excited me in anyway. And we both know of whom I think when someone says Excitable Boy.

I would submit the best of these albums was a done a lifetime ago by Harry Nilsson at the peak of his pop music career, to the abject bewilderment of his audience, the consternation of his record company and the despair of his management. The artist didn't care. He recruited Gordon Jenkins, then in his 80's I think, to arrange all the music and devoted hundreds of hours to recording it.

The album, A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night went plywood in Indiana, as they say. I suspect Harry did it so the good citizens would have enough light to watch the return to glory of their college basketball team. It's been a hard day's knight.
-bill kenny            

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Little Something Just to Soothe My Soul

Probably like you I spent hours over the weekend snow shoveling and snow blowing. Trust me when I say I hate snow. Always have, and always will though the length of time left on that aspect of the imprecation grows shorter everyday and goes from menacing and foreboding to inept and pathetic in rapid order.

It was fine and good to help neighbors clean up snow, there certainly was enough of it. I think I helped them as much for my sake as I did for their sake but I'll tell you by Sunday afternoon my butt was dragging from all the helpfulness and I certainly needed that nap on the couch in the living room where I had announced I was watching TV.

I wasn't, of course, but I was smiling thinking of what I'll be watching soon enough and had gotten me through the snow drifts of this past weekend just as surely as it got me through the insipid stupidity of the Super Bowl buildup of the previous two weeks...we're down to single digits for the start of Spring Training.

Dear Mother Nature, do your worst, because I'll do my best to keep my eye on the prize. The smell of neet foot oil being rubbed into a glove, the scuffing of a brand-new baseball and the crisp crack as the wood meets  the ball. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce Spring Training 2013 and Major League Baseball. All the reason to live I need for the next six months. Play Ball!  
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Old Snow Shoe

This is short and not especially sweet and for everyone I encountered yesterday on a walk around the Harbor District, Chelsea as we like to call it, in Norwich. Here's what yesterday afternoon looked like, except deeper, a lot deeper.

Except. This is not for the ass with ears in the white GMC sport utility vehicle, still covered in snow, little more than a porthole in the windshield  to see out of, with a ton of snow on the hood and about two feet of it on the roof, toodling down Washington Street despite the Governor's injunction to stay off the roads (I guess you didn't think it applied to someone special like you), and talking on the cell phone.

I loved how I could see you coming as I slowly walked home out in the street because the sidewalks were a catastrophe, and looking farther along the street I watched three different folks working to open their driveways with snow shovels never intended to move this amount of snow, and each one stopped shoveling as you drove by and, holding their shovels with one hand, each offered you a membership in the single Rigid Digit Club.

As you neared me,  I realized I had no shovel so to compensate I doubled the pleasure and smiled to myself as I watched that quizzical look spread across your face. I can guess the question you were voicing to your oh-so-important partner on your cellphone. We did it because we couldn't shoot your car in the radiator until it bled to death all over Washington Street. And if you recognize yourself when you stumble across this screed, know, too, I have your plate number and look forward to the next time I see your vehicle and you're not in it. And yeah, you read it here first. Snow fooling around, ass hat.
-bill kenny  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Other Car

It started Nemoing or Charlotteing a little bit after eight o'clock yesterday morning. You knew something was coming from the air-there were semi-frozen crystals you felt more than touched as the light broke and by nine o-clock very soft snow with tiny flakes was falling.

And falling. And falling. And falling.
Lather, rinse, repeat. You get the idea. When I was in Greenland this time thirty-seven years ago, what has fallen in the last sixteen hours wouldn't be a reason to put your drink down and look out the window. And believe me, we did a lot of drinking.

The snow got heavier as it got dark last night but before it got too dark, the wind picked up considerably and the weight of the snow shifted-basically, it got warmer so there was considerably more water in it, meaning that it weighed more, a lot more.

Taken Friday mid-afternoon, about three inches into the adventure
Across New England this morning anyone with a bad roof on a garage or a shed is waking up to some expensive trouble and I hope those whose houses had a roof repair that was put off until times are better can still afford to wait until then. I used to shovel all the snow by hand when the kids were smaller. They would take turns coming out to hep until they got too cold and went back inside where Sigrid would warm them up by wrapping them in blankets and pumping them full of cocoa. Then they'd come back outside to give their dad a hand. Okay and maybe, but just maybe, also throw a few snowballs.

Four years ago, I got a terrific deal on a snow blower and gave up drinking cocoa forever. I have the funny feeling later today I'm going to be doing ridiculous amounts of both activities. If you are someplace warm and dry and are out of the weather, stay there. I don't care what you think you need, the roads suck and will not be improved by your being on them. Enjoy winter.
-bill kenny

Friday, February 8, 2013

Talk about Change We Can Believe In

With apologies to Chuck Dickens (no relation to Chuck Darwin who, in turn, is no relation to Chuck Norris) and with more of a literary learner's permit htna license, I fear these, my friend, may be the worst of times and not so much the best of times.

We are not exactly taking up arms against a sea of troubles, but rather taking turns pointing figers at people, political parties and perspectives on global events we have decided are to 'blame' for where we are and how we got here. How any of that will, or can, help get us to where we want to go as a nation or as a community (sometimes it's best to start local as in anaesthetic) is beyond my poor powers of comprehension.

And the simpler the solution the greater its seductive power. Yes, Virginia, there is a separate currency and you're about to spend a penny to prove it. Actually, I'm being dramamtic-all that's almost (because nothing is decided) goin gto happen in the Commonwealth is that their state legislature is going to 'study' the idea of Virginia coining its own money. 

There are barriers to states printing money but with Utah leading the way on state coins used as love me legal tender (Elvis' estate called and said 'not the best idea you've ever had'), just like they did on the Chisholm Trail a hundred and forty years ago, it's hard to know where this trend could go and when it will stop.

Because everything does stop, especially thinking especially in American ploticis, we can be guarnateed that stop it will at some point. And whn it fails to be the panacea some of s so desprately wanted it to be, the rest of us will blame a variety of people and institutions. Which, in case you forgot, is exactly where we came in. Sure feels good to have a familiar problem, doesn't it?
-bill kenny

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Live from the Straight-Face News Agency

My brother, Adam is soaking up the sun this week in Florida which will make his transition over the weekend back to the land of ice and snow (insert your imitation Led Zeppelin wail here) a little bit harder than if he had been in New Foundland, which  I'm told is quite lovely this time of year. Or lonely, I'm not sure which, come to think of it.  

I mention Adam because he makes his living as an attorney and while I'm pretty sure he doesn't do too much work in criminal law, I suspect (whether he would agree with me or not) some of his clients are probably thought of as criminal by other people. When he warms up after his return I may ask him what he makes of this guy and his defense.

The ghost of Dan White? That's as may be. In any event it seems we've gone from Starsky and Hutch to Stearns & Foster. I'll switch the siren to lullaby so we don't wake anyone up during the chase.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fish and Whistle

I'm a netizen, an Internet habitué, with more Facebook friends than Flesh and Blood. Thanks to the world wide web and the ubiquity of connectivity, I visit regularly with people I'll never meet in Australia, South Africa, Europe and all points across the United States. Imagine my amazement, they have the Internet, too.

But I don't just get smart about people and places far away. I get to know and learn more about Norwich than I would ever otherwise even if  I were to walk every step of our 28 point something miles. And I do a lot of walking. (Based on reactions and comments I may soon have to take up running and hiding, too.) At about 2000 steps per mile, we're talking a bunch of steps and bear in mind that's not the perimeter around the city but, rather, just the area. Sort of like, 'yeah, it's hot, but it's a dry heat.'

For instance, did you know on Facebook there's a group called Thames River Fishing, dedicated to, well, you can probably guess what they're dedicated to. That shouldn’t be all that earth shaking when you think about it. Each of knows someone who fishes. Fishing is a very popular sport with tens of millions of fishermen and more than one fisherman’s friend. We’ve all seen the bumper snicker that reads ‘a bad day of fishing beats a good day of work.’  Luckily fish can’t read.

You can stop down almost anywhere along the Norwich Harbor day or night and watch people with nets or rods and reels (not to mention a few optimists with a bag of bread and a bat), on shore and in boats. And even though my idea of fish is mostly fish sticks, I am amazed and impressed at the variety and size of what many of them catch in the Norwich Harbor and the rivers that flow into it.

Even if you did know of Thames River Fishing (they're easy enough to find on Facebook) did you know they're sponsoring a harbor clean-up this Saturday from nine until three? I just assumed there were a lot of dirty fish, but Gerry the Serious Fisherman makes a terribly sad face when I say that out loud, so I won’t.
I'm bringing work gloves and some plastic trash bags. If you have an hour or more to spare, I would encourage you to do the same, because, as you may have noticed, we have a pretty good sized harbor, and I imagine the fishermen-turned-clean-up committee would welcome all the help we can give them.

And we're helping them to help us, if you think about it. There's been a lot of buzz about 'leveraging the Norwich Harbor for economic development' which deserves serious discussion, analysis, planning and implementation but when you get to where the road and the sky collide and understand what sport fishermen who regularly visit the local rivers are interested in, you develop a whole new appreciation for our harbor as a community asset, recreational outlet and tourist destination.
So if you get the chance Saturday, roll up your sleeves and join in the pre-spring clean-up. And, I‘ve been told, leave the tartar sauce and lemon at home.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fifteen is NOT enough

Everybody but Mike in New Mexico should take off your thirsty boots and make yourself comfortable. Mike doesn't get a pass so much as he gets a mulligan since he and I went through a lot of this the other day and I got considerably more out of our exchange at that time than he did because he brought so much more to the discussion. I think if he wants to roll his eyes and walk away when he realizes the topic today that's fine with me.

Here in Connecticut we're still tiptoeing around responsibility and constitutional guarantees in the wake of the catastrophe at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. We have only paid passing attention to the additional carnage that has followed in seven weeks since then in a variety of locations across the country.

I'm not a doctor or a law enforcement specialist but I suspect (just spitballin' here) many of us seem to think if you are shot and killed with a gun (we always say it that way, 'with a gun', as if bow and arrow murderers are running amok or people are being speared like skin-covered shishkabobs) but it didn't make the evening news in the 100 block or hit the front page of the paper above the fold, the person is, somehow, not really dead.

That's not true, of course. And we need to own that knowledge and stop waiting for some magic number on the body count meter before we agree to stop shouting and start talking about controlling the war we are waging on one another in this country. It's too late for Hadiya Pendleton.  

Whatever you do, don't think a serious discussion on this vicious, little war involves exchanging polemic positions and posturing. There is no single solution and any attempt on my part or anyone else's to insist or suggest "if we just do this ONE thing" is dishonest. The problem, the murder of our children, will continue unless and until we agree the cost is too high and take  steps to resolve it.

This familial tragedy is a blip on the radar of the craziness that's been chasing us around maybe since the Pilgrims (or maybe not) but definitely in the last couple of years. The story speculates Hadiya was accidentally murdered. She was collateral damage? What are her family supposed to do with that piece of solace?

Hadiya's life is over before it's begun and we were so distracted by Hour 290 of the wall to wall coverage of  Sunday's Super Bowl With More Roman Numerals than We Know What to Do With (47, okay? the one with no lights for awhile in it) we're continuing to miss the Big Flick. Fifteen (XV, okay?) is NOT enough years to live and each of us must make enough difference in each other's lives so that we never have to bury fifteen year old murder victims again.

As Newtown, San Diego, Phoenix on Thursday and this sadness in Chicago and probably another thirty to forty times more today (and everyday) when people will die of violence should underscore to all of us how vulnerable each of us truly is.

Nothing is as easy as it seems nor is it as impossible as it appears. Unless and until we see each and every person behind every death and accept that each death is a preventable loss and human catastrophe not just  a very sad television, this will keep happening. There are no words for the sorrow we should feel and the resolve we must now possess.

The tolling of John Donne's bell summons us to prayer and we certainly need it but it also demands we take action, together, us and them.
-bill kenny

Monday, February 4, 2013

Shakespeare's Horticultural Glimpse of the Obvious

It wasn't that many years ago I had a Blackberry Pearl. Then I had a chunky body one and then, jonesing for the next smart phone thrill, I shot the shark and went to Android because I couldn't afford an Apple IPhone. It wasn't too long after I had the 'droid that I realized through the genius and proliferation of applications that my Blackberry would always be part of my its box  on the right side of my sock drawer, silent and stoic. 

When you have tools you want toys. And when you have no toys, or far too few especially in comparison to other well-endowed products, you look for an exit and go through it. I and many others gave Blackberry the raspberry and moved on with no sorrow and no second thoughts. So it was hard to explain exactly what I felt the other day, because it was neither, when I read press accounts of the launch of the Blackberry 10

It's the device Research In Motion, RIM, the people who make Blackberry believe/insist will revive their holstered hopes for smart phone dominance or at least allow them to take their products and company off life support and get back in the game. The years since Apple and Android showed up have not been kind to RIM. But when you look at the story again, the new phone isn't the whole story. 

RIM is now the company formerly known as RIM as they are changing their name to Blackberry because, well, because when you get right down to it since they can't make it better they'll make it different and pretend it's the same thing. 

RIM, sorry, Blackberry, figured out what caused their market erosion. While I don't pretend to understand the deductive reasoning they used to arrive at their conclusion, the result is impressive and breathtaking in its simplicity.

There is/was a lack of agility and the continued inability to respond to a changing market place combined with a persistent insistence bordering on suicidal obstinacy. Combine that with an upswing in sales and market share by competitors that was rationalized as being cyclic in nature rather than the competitors' ability to adapt and overcome that had less to do with their continual innovation and more to do with your desire to wait for your turn to come around again. Let cool for five years, serves a hungry family.

Those facts it now seems had nothing to do with the virtual disappearance of both your entire product line and your market share (under 5%). All this time it's been the NAME of the company....Brilliant. Here's a free suggestion: why not change your name again, but this time change it to Oral Sex- wait for it because it's going to be your new slogan- because "Who doesn't like Oral Sex?" Capistrano here we come, gulp.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Palindromic Pal

I have always believed Mark Twain once wrote, "every day children are born who will change the world; but we don't know who they are." I had the good fortune to grow up in a house crammed to the rafters with children like that and today is the anniversary of the birth of the completion of the set, "The Joan and Bill Kenny Senior Collection."

My brother Adam arrived at just about the exact middle of my teenage years. And while he has often heard this story, I heard it as it St Joseph's Church in East Millstone, New Jersey with Father Stan who, so far in my life, has been the closest thing to a human being a Roman Catholic priest has ever been, for  our youngest brother's baptism.

Father Stan once, some parishoners claimed, suggested during a sermon, 'if you pick a lemon in the garden of love' you could be allowed a do-over. At least that's what the Bishop in Trenton was told he had said-I was there, I didn't hear anything like that but I was at an age where if it wasn't a teenage girl asking to give me her number, I didn't hear anything (I spent my teen years nearly deaf now that I recall. WHAT?). Not even having a lemon-sucking assistant assigned to him as a shadow and probably a snitch back to the big house ever dampened his spirits and enthusiasm..

It was in that state of mind that he brightly asked mom, as we all slowly circled round the baptismal font in the rear alcove to the right as you faced the altar, what her child's name was to be. Adam, she replied, evenly, perhaps a bit too evenly I realize now with three plus decades of hindsight. Father Stan asked about a middle name and learned Adam was to have none. Just Adam, he asked somewhat hesitantly, shooting glances at our father who was silent and stoic throughout all of this, eyes fixed on a point on the horizon somewhere just over the priest's left shoulder and about ten feet from the ceiling.

"Adam," said Mom. "He was God's first and he's my last. You can the pour the water or we can leave." Eventually everyone did both. As one of the children who has changed the world, Happy Birthday, Adam!
Enjoy a sandwich, your vacation!

-bill kenny

Saturday, February 2, 2013

You Could Have Assumed there Would Be a Bill Murray Joke in Here Somewhere

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that more Americans believe in Punxsutawney Phil than believe in climate change. For my part, I believe Al Gore, former inventor of the Internet, former Vice-President of the United States, former founder of Current TV (whose ownership just changed nothing more than last names, really, from Gore to Jazeera), and former husband of Tipper, is starting to look more and more like the rodent himself. How Amazing is that?

Seriously. Who did you expect on this day, Bill's Phil or Phil's Bill? Y'know, you were close on this one. Really, really close.
-bill kenny

Friday, February 1, 2013

Les Français ont un mot différent pour chaque chose ....

When we lived in Europe one of the things I found fascinating was the rest of the continent's relationship to the nation and people of France. Americans have this persecution complex when it comes to the French people that's entirely unjustified.

Contrary to popular (American) belief the French do not dislike us because we are American. They dislike us because we are not them. And that's how they manage relationships with all of their neighbors as well (okay maybe not the Germans; from a distance it looks like they're doing the wave). I've always suspected the French word for foreigner is barbarian but, alas, I don't speak enough of the language to be able to find out.

As it's turning out, that whole use of words to build bridges not walls mentality may not be getting much altitude in French airspace in the future as the government (again) launches an English word and phrase replacement initiative to repurify their native language. This is a project that's been ongoing since the Normans conquered Brittany (not Spears, the other one) in 1066 and the Normans found themselves saying 'Pardon my Anglo-Saxon.'

French automobiles are easy to spot on European roadways, especially at night since they have yellow headlights, supposedly for safety except no one else on the land mass they so graciously share buys that argument or uses those lenses. But undaunted, the French press on.

Too many years ago to accurately recount, I and a videographer, Bob G, were in Normandy, France, with about 200 US Army helicopter pilots (it was pledge week at Sigma Delta Chinook). Every bar in Normandy is called 6 Juni-I am not making that up. That's not a tip often found in your Michelin Guide and I'm not making that up, either.

We stayed in a hotel (pension, something with a room and a kitchen with a dining room), across the street from Sainte-Mère-Église, made famous by John Steele and infamous by The Longest Day. The spot-lit recreation of the WWII incident I have to assume harshes a not inconsiderable number of buzzes developed at the bar called, what else?, 6 Juni, on the ground floor of the hotel.

Helicopters run on kerosene and/or aviation fuel. Most of the Army chopper pilots seemed to prefer beer, in massive amounts. I arrived at that conclusion from a week-long 24/7 experience as we rolled around like legless tap dancers on the beaches of Normandy to return for supper every night, ravenous with hunger and had NO idea what we were eating as none of us spoke or read French and no one in the hotel spoke English. One night I ended up with what appeared to be a plate of escargot offal and it was beyond horrible. I was basically paying people to poison me (I never know how much to tip in those circumstances); they were earnig their money.

The last night we stayed at the hotel before a 20 hour bus ride back home to Deutschland (German, by the way, being the only language less spoken in Normandy than English) every chopper pilot attempted to drown himself in adult beverages, mostly malt and some grape. Coming down the stairs with our luggage and production gear in tow, I noticed fellow travellers in various states of undress, sound asleep hanging from stairwell handrails, some face-down and blissfully snoring on the carpet in the lobby and two others hugging columns outside, sound asleep under the canopy, having purchased Buicks earlier in the evening judging from the dried splatter surrounding them.

We loaded quickly knowing there was no point in working up an appetite since we wouldn't be able to understand what we were ordering for breakfast and whatever roadkill we were served would be so off putting it's amazing Jenny Craig doesn't use it as part of a meal plan. We were just about done when the hotel's concierge, in heavily accented English, pleaded for help in relocating the chopper pilots to somewhere NOT his hotel. "Monsieur telly-vizion man!" he repeated over and over again gesturing to the mounds and mountains of men piled everywhere, "pleeze, you must help me!"

My eyes narrowed as I realized this was the same man who, every single day as I'd start as best I could a sentence in baby talk French out of the guide book or monosyllabic English, would purse his thin lips together tightly while shaking his head almost imperceptibly and explain softly but firmly, 'no English, sorry!' leaving me to do pointy-talky menu stuff  in the dining room which always ended badly.

I took his full measure as the revelation slowly sank in. "So you do speak English," I asked. "Yes" (not 'Oui') he replied and repeated his plea for aviator relocation assistance, not that I cared. There's just so many plates of snails, so many runny near-raw eggs, so many unidentifiable bits on your dinner plate that seem to be eating other bits on your dinner plate, you can countenance before you strike back.

The hour had arrived, retribution was mine. In rapid fire from the depths of Jersey near-English, I shreiked my indictment of indignities for which I held him responsible because he failed to speak my language in his own country, ending at the top of my lungs in full roar with "Parlez vous 'Fuc- off?'"

Actually it's 'Va te faire foutre!' Another little traveler's tip the good folks at the Michelin Guide gloss over. Good luck with that English word replacement thing, btw. Bonjour.
-bill kenny