Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Jason Collins Is Perpetually Happy?

Washington Wizards' center Jason Collins announced he is a gay man. He didn't have to announce he was a black man, not because no one hadn't yet noticed, but because it matters not to anyone. Perhaps he should have mentioned he's left-handed, but only if he is.

Brittney Griner who redefined women's college basketball in the course of the last four years came out last week while being the #1 draft choice (of as many as two dozen different clubs in eleven different leagues on four different continents). I have no idea what if anything I should feel except relief that the UConn Lady Huskies won't ever play against her again.

We may be bracing for rapid-fire announcements from various and diverse sports figures about their sexuality. The right to tell me exceeds my right to care, to be honest. I can't hardly stand it. I should point out being a flaming heterosexual has never done anything for my baby hook and it certainly didn't make me any better at the diamond and one defense.

You already know my point. The farther out in space you go the more alike we look. Maybe we should take the hint and learn to build bridges from our similarities instead of walls with our differences. And celebrate who we are with one another, whoever we are.
-bill kenny

Monday, April 29, 2013

People Take Pictures of Each Other

I am rarely this pleasant on a Monday. Come to think of it, though I am reluctant to admit it, I am rarely this pleasant on any day. Perhaps it has something to do with the double birthday celebration we had in these parts yesterday featuring our daughter, Michelle, whose birthday is this Thursday and her codger of a father, who hit 61* last Friday.

My wife, Sigrid, who took the picture, and our son, Michelle's brother, Patrick, were with us on the opposite side of the table .While Sigrid is NOT happy about the back lighting in the restaurant in this shot, she concedes it's a pretty decent picture of half of the family, emphasis on the word  family.

We don't keep keep pictures in our wallets anymore, at least I don't. Instead we store them on line and in albums in 'the cloud' whatever/wherever that is and share humongous long strings of characters, numbers and letters, called universal resource locators, url's, to give to one another so everyone, everywhere, can see proof that we really existed. Just in case someone thought they had missed it.
I have a photograph, preserve your memories; they're all that's left you.
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Reminder of Why We Have Dominion over the Beasts of the Fields

It's been a rough couple of weeks around El Rancho Terra Firma. What with earth quakes in Asia, catastrophic fires on the Indian sub-continent, continuing snowfall (yes, it's late April but so what?) across the Mid-West of the USA and the approaching, encroaching police state response to the senselessness of the Boston post-Marathon bombing, we've given each other some hard lessons lately.

Our lives and times seem much harder than they once were, and I'd suggest, they are. But being the Crown of Creation is a full-time job and like it or not we are up to the task, despite occasional setbacks and slip-ups...

In case you think we're losing our touch, cast a look and give a listen to this video that NASA, yeah, that NASA, the one so many of us mumble and grumble about at budget time and wonder 'what do they bring to the table?' has created.

Lilies of the Field? Nice. Selected primates' use of primitive tools. Okay. The achievements of a criminally underfunded agency dedicated to our unceasing exploration of this universe and all the ones we can find? Check, please.
We may be lonely but we are not alone, except with our thoughts......  
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Good Will (Rogers) Hunting

Yesterday I celebrated a birthday-a new kind of birthday complete with my browser hovering over the Google Chrome logo and perhaps because I'm on Google plus (Michelle, our very smart daughter's, theory) there was a caption wishing "Happy Birthday William!" (I may have added the exclamation point; Google is very much a declamatory operating system).

More interesting and amazing, as a man who can count his friends on fewer than five fingers of one hand (and you've guessed which finger I am), I received the most cheerful of greetings and salutations in Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Farsi (I believe), German and English as well as Jersey (ha-ha! THUNK! Sound of me laughing my head off).

I call all Social Media Facebook, FB, and I've mentioned the dichotomy of flesh and blood friends (F&BF) and Facebook Friends (FBF). With my mad math skills I calculated of the birthday greetings I received, 99.79% were from people I have never met, not shall I ever (in all likelihood). We aren't familiar strangers-neither they nor I would know one another if we tripped over ourselves.

Are the contrivances and edifices of Social Media a form of cloaking of those of us who are members of the lonely crowd or are we creating variations of Erich Fromm's egoism a deux? Are we now more, or less, alone than we were a decade, a generation, a lifetime ago and for what end and to what purpose have we allowed these invisible airwaves to weave a tableaux, a Story of Us, we can tell to ourselves to keep the dark of night at bay?
-bill kenny

Friday, April 26, 2013

If You Can't Laugh then Smile

I am sixty-one years old today. At some point I will call my mother to thank her as she is infinitely more important in this process than was I. My father passed away many years ago but he's the denominator to the fractional transaction that is I.

I am more than the sum of my parents-I am the sum of everyone I've ever met, so if you are in that number, thank you and if not (yet) I hope you'll be a good sport should our paths cross.

"I was born in '67 (not really), the year of Sgt. Pepper and Are You Experienced.
Into a suburb of heaven, yeah it should've been forever. It all seemed to make so much sense. But after a while you realize time flies. And the best thing that you can do is take whatever comes to you. 'Cuz time flies.

She said luck is what you make it; you just reach out and take it. Now let's dance a while. She said nothing ever happens if you don't make it happen. And if you can't laugh, then smile. But after a while you realize time flies. And the best thing that you can do is take whatever comes to you. 'Cuz time flies.

And laughing in the summer showers that's still the way I see you now.

How does time break down with no marker, things slow down. A conference of the strange and your family is deranged. I could tell you what I'm thinking while we sit here drinking, but I'm not sure where to start. You see, there's something wrong here. I'm sorry if I'm not clear. Can you stop smoking your cigar?

And the coat you wore to Alton Towers is still the way I see you now."
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Emptying the Ocean with a Spoon

I have a reputation for enjoying the Grand Gesture. And truth to tell, there are two magistrates who are on record as telling me if I made those gestures in their jurisdiction, the next time I wouldn't get off with just a caution, so I consider myself chastened.

Looking out the window on to the world that near-universal connectivity affords those of us who can pay for it (remember when computers were turned on like it was a special occasion and not like an appliance? Nope, neither do I), I came across this short report from The Beeb (I like typing posh).

It reminded me a little bit of a rounding up campaign the JC Penney folks were involved in last holiday season where your change on a purchase, let's say it came to $19.28, would be rounded to the next dollar and the difference, in this case 72 cents would be donated to a charity.

I like the idea very much and I hope it hops the Atlantic and goes global because someone, everywhere or everyone, some place, is in need of help. I like to think we each would help more, and more often, if we weren't so frequently daunted by the scale and scope of the perceived need.

We all know the expression "a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step" (after, of course, you have the perfect pair of socks, comfortable shoes and those orthotic inserts from Dr. Scholl's) and if that step is caffeinated or more a decaf moment, just getting started may prove to be the hardest part and the sweetest victory.

Perhaps today is the day when each of us starts to empty an ocean of misery, one spoonful at a time.
-bill kenny    

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ike's Kid

I was born the same year Dwight Eisenhower was elected President. I mention that not to impress you with how old I am ('and look, he can still dress himself! Well, sort of) but, rather, to help you understand what the dog-eared snapshot of America in my wallet looks like.

We lived in Suburbia. Dad, and all the other neighborhood fathers, got up early to get to the train station for important jobs in The City. Mom made Dad breakfast and drove him to the station and then came back and got all of us up, fed and dressed for school. She waited for the school bus with us and was there at the stop when we came home in the afternoon.

In Eisenhower's America you had air raid siren testing with under-your-desk and look-away-from-the-flash-at-the-window drills and no one found any of this odd or unusual because we had always done it and assumed we always would.

All the boys after school played war and all of us were brave soldiers with guns keeping the suburban sprawl backyards safe from all the enemies we saw on night-time TV shows.

Cold War kid that I was, I lived as a member, small and young, of one of the tribes of America, the middle class white American tribe. My circle of friends and playmates was so white we glowed in the dark. If I had any after-school playmates of another color, any color, I don't recall them.

I do remember Mrs. Henderson, my third grade teacher, a tall, black woman who was a dynamo in the classroom though I had no idea at the time why she worked so hard to prove herself. I figured it out many years later, long after being her student, proving (I guess) that not all learning happens in the classroom.

Growing up, I watched the civil rights movement on television newscasts and in the headlines of our daily newspapers (one in the morning and one that came out in the afternoon), on street corners in downtown and across our playgrounds.

As a teenager, grainy film footage brought The War (always capital letters) in Vietnam directly into our living rooms every night at dinner where it sat on our  trays along with dessert. The universe was getting more dangerous, the pace was getting faster and we were growing to assume our place in a world we were creating as we went along.

We were the children of the Greatest Generation and too often had the same sense of history a cat does. It's been decades since I thought about the "Huntley-Brinkley Report" or Wide-Wale bell-bottoms, just two artifacts of a long ago age of arrogant innocence (or ignorant arrogance if you want to be kind), when we took for granted everything we had, never wondering where it came from or how long it might last.

And now, as our children impatiently wait for us to relinquish the leadership roles we inherited from their grandparents, it's our turn, as did they, to wonder what it is we're leaving for them and what they will make and where they will go with whatever gifts we have given them.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Allegories 'R' Us

Very late in the day my life, a small revelation. 

No matter the age, no matter the status, blackberries nurture than nature, I guess.

Women's breasts are to men what laser pointers are to cats. As part of the phenomena myself, I would hope to have more to offer insight on why this is so and yet, I do not.

Subject to your questions, That concludes today's briefing .

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Been a Long, Cold, Lonely Winter

How about an Easy Money Monday? This time last week, the streets of Boston, Massachusetts, were filled with guests and friends of runners as well as the runners themselves all there for the marathon that would cap the annual Patriots' Day celebrations. Except, sometimes life is what happens to you when you're making other plans.

The town of West in Texas was still sleeping at this hour a week ago. It's been  dealing with death and devastation in the last few days and those two places aren't the only ones here, or in the world, where where terror, tragedy and trauma have taken giant strides to becoming the new normal.

I found this yesterday--that's actually a lie. Someone else on Google+ posted it and I found their posting. It was always my favorite "Beatle George" song and, as I realized again yesterday, it still is. Here Comes the Sun. It's all right.
-bill kenny  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

When You Buy a Ticket You Get the Whole Ride

I had to buy a new 16GB card for my cell phone yesterday. I wrote it like that because I'm not sure for what the GB is an abbreviation and don't want to look foolish when I get it wrong. Happy, now?

Anyway. At some point in my life, or in an earlier life (yes, I'm that good) I bought an 8GB card that cost me $109, sticker still on the blister pack that holds the little plastic box with the dock and the card (yeah, I'm that anal).

Yesterday, at a big box store that went from defining consumer electronics half a decade ago to holding on these days by the corporate skin of its teeth (what kind of a phrase is that anyway?) I paid $24.99.

Coming up with $85 to graduate with a degree in Moores' Law seems like a pretty good deal unless, after you wait, there really is more, or Moore as the case may be.

I learned by looking at the receipt that I have 41 Reward Zone (RZ) points. I have no idea what one of them is worth, or concomitantly, what all of them are worth. I do admit the only thing larger than my ignorance is my total indifference. Do they expire or, through the miracle of compound interest, do they grow? Clue none.

I was invited at the bottom of the receipt to fill out an on-line survey, enticed by the promise of a chance to win a gift certificate of $500 or $5000 (I don't actually remember which) which, in light of my 41 RZ (lifetime, so far) points is more than enough to last me forever.

It was a New Age survey. At one point I was asked to pick a number, with one as the most disagree and 10 as the most agree, by rating the statement, "I'm proud to be a customer of Name of Store." In the same section was a companion question, same rating scheme to this warm kitten with rainbow farts coming out of its butt: "Name of Store has my best interests at heart."

I much prefer the 'if you were a cloud what kind would you be' questions because I know even less about that stuff than this. Something else I learned was, to spare both them and me embarrassment, I attempted to NOT answer the questions at all and to just move on 'nothing to see here', but the survey will not allow that to happen. Ve haf vays auf magging u antszer.

Everyone who knows me will tell you I strive to be the soul of helpfulness-they will also note in passing I am often delusional, but helpfulness and the state of my soul is a constant topic. So in that spirit of delusional helpfulness, I waited for the end of the survey where, instead of filling in circles, I was able to use my words to construct what I'm sure will be seen as soul of helpfulness suggestions to make them a better store.

However, since I admit to being acquired taste who is sometimes cruelly misunderstood by billion dollar combinations in restraint of trade and sane business practices, if you find yourself 41 RZ points short on that big screen TV or holodeck projector-give me a ring and I'll get mine over to you since I suspect I didn't win the gift certificate or even a decent chance of ever getting in the front door again.

Mom used to say don't ask the question if you can't stand the answer. Fair enough.
I much prefer it as 'When you buy a ticket, you get the whole ride.' Keep your hands and arms inside the car at all times while the ride is in motion. Whether it's a Tunnel of Love or a Tunnel of Lunch might have to do with whether you bring a sandwich to a banquet. Napkins optional.
-bill kenny 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

While Spring Is Making Promises Outside

This is a show not tell day for me. It's not that I don't have a plethora of thoughts and opinions on a cornucopia of situations (can you tell who got a Word-A-Day calendar as a present?), because I do and I could easily and eagerly articulate them except they'd end up part of the flood of words you struggle to get through every day, with some degree of success, or not.

It's the weekend, the next to last one in April and we're finally having nearly the spring weather I, for one, have been looking forward to since Valentine's Day. I'm lying; I've been looking forward to Spring since Labor Day. Sue me, stand in line and be prepared to take far less than you deserve. Welcome to Life on Earth.

Here's my situation. I really like this, I mean I, really, really, really, really like this (the toy piano shatters me). See (technically, hear)? A sonic revelation. Except.

There's this version as well. And it is beyond astonishing. Can you understand my problem? And how marvelous my life must be that this is what I worry about.

Yeah, I would bitch if hanged with a new rope unless I could watch something I fell across a couple of weeks back and keep coming back hoping somehow there will be more even though there's plenty and it's amazing. See for yourself.
-bill kenny

Friday, April 19, 2013

Trouble Coming Everyday

This has been a rough week for the United States. Murder of Innocents/Innocence at the 117th Annual Boston Marathon, Ricin-Laced Letters in Dodge City, Guns over God in the Senate Chambers and Carnage and Calamity Deep in the Heart of Texas.

I keep telling myself we'll sort all of this out. Somehow we'll bring around the hateful hurtfuls who would rather behave like Kaliayev with the Grand Duke and poison one another through the post office (and USPS thought their operating deficit was the big problem) even if I don't know how just yet. That our better angels will prevail and we will become again the beacon among nations that so many others around the world see us to be.

Maybe, but I'm not sure when but it's not going to be today. It was twenty years ago today, David Koresh and his Branch Davidians at their compound near Waco, Texas, drew their last breaths because anger and distrust moved from abstract discussion to tangible hostility.

It was eighteen years ago today, perhaps to perversely demonstrate every action has an equal but opposite reaction, Timothy McVie blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. One hundred and eighty years, we had Bleeding Kansas, because we chose violence as our voice, a decision we've made over and over since then.

Each of has a Don't Tread on Me tattoo on our heart and in our mind. More and more of us failed in first grade at "plays well with others." We spend all our time shouting and none of it listening. I fear I'll spend the rest of my life trying to slow the speed of the rush to summary judgement because there's no way to delay that trouble coming every day.         
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"V" for "Victory"

I had a drill sergeant in Air Force basic training (whom I shared with a couple of hundred close personal friends with closely-shaven pates) who had a math formula so egregiously simple even I, some thirty-eight years later, can remember it: 'One Aw $hit Wipes Out a Thousand Attaboys."

If it matters, the formula works just as well with Shucks instead. I thought about it the other day, reading a headline on MSNBC about Justin Bieber. I'm pretty sure I have heard some of his music-I am, after all, in this world and so is he; I just don't know what he sounds like. And the only thing so far larger than my ignorance is my absence of curiosity, but that could change.

My brother could be elected Pope (okay, not today) and I might decide in a feat of catholicity rivaling his election to expand my college of musical knowledge to include learning about and listening to another act that starts with B but comes after The Beatles. Well after The Beatles. It could happen.

Instead of applauding the young man's interest in a horribly sad moment in the history of our species (and from first hand experience I can bear witness to the plethora of alternative activity available in the city of Amsterdam  so mad props for his decision to visit) and hoping his example and lessons learned are emulated, we have a firestorm over what he wrote in the guest book. 

This total disclosure stuff makes me nervous. And not just for celebrities (and who makes those distinctions?) because I can recall a somewhat arch dedication I may have scribbled in some one's autograph book from an undisclosed Catholic school in New Brunswick some years ago to the effect that 'I write on this page of blue because it's the past tense of what you do.' I'd rather not have that reach a critical saturation point on a public consciousness cloud.

Who cares? He's nineteen. He's Canadian. He's (insert your own lame defense here). All I know is he's given me a perfect reason to reroast an old Neil Diamond chestnut and if you don't think I'm gonna grab that opportunity with both hands and run like my buttocks is on fire, you are have no clue whatsoever. Eh?
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Initial Success

According to survey I just made up children who are raised with books in their homes have 75% fewer misspellings on their visible tattoos (no results yet, on other kinds of tats). If you had difficulty reading that sentence, perhaps the problem isn't confined to tattoos, Mr. Roark. Of course, if you could read it, thank a teacher and a librarian.

I, my brothers and sisters were fortunate growing up to have a houseful of books and my wife and I did very much the same in the household in which we raised our two children. Literacy is not a lost art, but in the not too distant future when Carmen San Diego finds Waldo, he'll probably be reading a book, about striped shirts but holding it upside down (oh! the humanity!).

In the world today it's not just television, video games, computers or smart phones that are changing our relationship to the written word, it's the tendency to regard books as a rationed resource or a luxury we feel we can't afford.

Neither of those is the case, especially this weekend in Norwich. Starting this Friday, at 9 in the morning with an Early Bird preview hour (ten dollars gets you first crack at some delectables and collectibles), the Friends of Otis Library unlock the basement doors for their Annual Spring Sale.

Aside from that Early Bird business, the entire three days is free (even rhymes!) and whatever your heart, mind and eyes desire can be found. All winter long, the Friends have been sorting and organizing for this Bookanalia. Sports, history, biography, gardening (since Spring seems to finally be here), mystery, classics of traditional and modern literature and categories invented since I started writing this sentence are all sorted, stacked and shelved throughout the subterranean recesses at bargain basement prices.

And it's not just books. There are CD's, DVD's BVD's (I could be making this up, tread lightly) and prices are so low you'll buy twice as much as you planned at a fraction of the cost. On any of the days you stop by the library, and free admission is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday and from noon to 3 on Sunday, you'll learn there's all kinds of free parking in downtown, despite what people who never go there keep saying.

And after your book-buying binge, follow your nose and sate your ravenous hungere (they are selling dictionaries you know) and check out one of the restaurants as close to Otis Library as Dewey is to Decimal. You can work up quite an appetite book shopping, a lot of people don't know that; don't be one of them. Because you haven't been in downtown in awhile you may not have noticed, but we have terrific places for a quick bite or to savor a full meal.

And isn't it strange how many people you'll see on the sidewalks and crosswalks in a downtown that those no-parking experts insist aren't even there. And if the weather is even close to the spring we feel we are entitled to, it'll be a perfect time to break out one of those purchases and enjoy a sidewalk scene and a coffee. Perhaps you'll be inspired to write the next Great American Novel. I think I know a library where people will really enjoy it.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

One Day at a Time

The winners of yesterday's Boston Marathon, Lelisa Desisa and Rita Jeptoo, had long since passed through Copley Square when the violence about which we know so much and yet have so much more to learn overtook the 117th annual running of the most famous marathon in the world.

The space at the end of that last paragraph is where I was going to put all the facts and information I know, but I know as much and as little as you do. Speculation accomplishes nothing and the TV talking heads do it better than any of us ever will (as if that were something to be proud of).

Right now there's not much any of us, alone, can do but here's something we can share so that others with the skills and the tools can help. Because we hadn't been visited by The Undertoad never meant we wouldn't be and so we begin again to count noses and fingers and toes but don't forget to count your blessings.

We have our loved ones and those nearest and dearest to us and we each have one another. This is NOT the way the world will end, at least not today.

-bill kenny

Monday, April 15, 2013

Deep in the Heart of Taxes

"Taxes are the price we pay for civilization." This is a oft-quoted remark from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., cited with great frequency today as it is April 15th and the deadline across the USA to not only see the USA in your Chevrolet but to file your income taxes, unless you're GE or any other vertical or horizontal combination in restraint of trade and commerce, a/k/a one of  "Too big to fail" American Corporations that doesn't pay its fair share of taxes.

Hey! You see that ballerina dancing on the Wall Street Bull, to the right of this column? What did you think that meant-I was a victim of the rhythm? Sorry, no.
My heart, after all, does beat on the left side of my chest. And thank goodness, according to the Supreme Court corporations are now people. I wonder how Charlton Heston would feel about that?

But enough with the agit-prop. If you have yet to file your taxes, please do so today. We have a long way to shore and need every oar in the water so put your back into it.

Besides, today is Patriots' Day in Massachusetts, commemorating the firing of the shots the became the Battle of Lexington traditionally seen as the seminal event that got this crazy patchwork of people we call the "United States of America" started down the road to where ever it we are at this moment. And as people like my brother, Adam, and brother-in-law, Russ, can also tell you it's also the day of the running of the Boston Marathon.

This is what I really want to share today. As someone who knows people who served, and still serve, in Afcrapistan, I hope you'll spare a thought for every person in uniform everywhere around the world who places her/himself in harm's way so you and I can complain about paying taxes or marvel at those who run through the streets of Boston (today is the only day I root for the Red Sox, by the way) or any of the millions of other things we shall do today and everyday without a second thought. And then remember to say thank you.
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Home Team Crowd

The Major League Baseball 2013 regular season opened less than two weeks ago and aside from the Atlanta Braves, the season has progressed about the way you would assume a 162 game anything might work after the first ten games.

In hot 'Lanta, they're printing World Series tickets even though no one ever plays the Series in April or wins it then either. All we really know right now is all we ever know at this point in any of the seasons that the majors have ever had since its founding.

Good pitching will always triumph over good hitting. Most of the first month of the season is good pitching because good hitting takes more than just spring training to get right (too many variables beyond hand and eye coordination). After May Day, even as the Russian Army still dance-steps through Red Square, it always seems like the pitching gets worse-it doesn't, the hitters get better.

That's why in addition to NOT playing the Series in April, baseball doesn't name the Cy Young winners in May and holds off on the batting crowns for awhile and waits a skosh before distributing Gold Gloves.

Baseball is always played in the future. Wait until we get our guys back off the DL, wait until the phenom they brought up from Dubuque learns to hit the slider, and, of course, when all else fails, wait until next year.

Few sports that I can think of and none that I love, aside from baseball, are founded on such faith (and hope) in the future. and that's why, with (only) a hundred and fifty games left, you must remember, most especially if you are an Angels or Marlins fan, that green is the color of hope and also the color of the grass in the infield. Enjoy.
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Shock and Aaah

I visited the dentist earlier this week. I hadn't been to a dentist in close to three decades. When our children were younger and our finances more adventurous (I'll use that word), dental insurance was a burden gladly borne for their teeth and gums but quite frankly, that's about all of it we could afford unless two of us developed an appetite for stone soup.

At nearly sixty-two, I don't smile often. Flashing pearly whites aren't a motivator. Breaking a tooth, as I did around Thanksgiving, is. The wait for the new calendar year to begin when the insurance would become effective (more than can ever be said for me) was interminable and then we had to research and identify a dentist who took "our" flavor of coverage.

We found one literally a three minute walk from the house-a young man (at my age everyone else is young, or dead) who looked like he wanted to shout out loud in exasperation when I told him it had been a little longer than six months since my last visit but he kept his cool and was very nice.

I'm thinking that's because he knew Keri would be the hygienist who would clean my teeth and brother did she ever. I feared for a moment she was going to locate the Lindbergh baby in my mouth so frantically was she digging and scraping. She went at with such fervor and unbridled enthusiasm I sort of lifted myself more than half way out of the chair repeatedly, though to no avail in an attempt to, if not escape the room, find refuge from hook.

The ride, such as it was was over when she said she it was and concluded with the traditional rinse and spit, and a brand new toothbrush. I felt like I was seven again but was happy I had decided to wear my big boy long pants even though the weather was mild. Those chairs get mighty cold the longer you sit in them and I was there for most of the Coolidge Administration I believe. Jack Frost nips at more than just your nose when you tilt your head back and someone is excavating with a backhoe.
-bill kenny

Friday, April 12, 2013

We Are a Cautionary Tale

Words are real only in an intellectual sense. They are not material of any kind and as such have no shape, size, mass or structure. As kids we were told 'sticks and bones may break my bones but words will never hurt me' which is true, but only so far.

If you're a child in any school anywhere across the United States and don't quite fit in...too nerdy, too jocky, too prissy (one of my all time favorite words), too bookish, too plain, too and-the-list goes on, we've tagged you with a sobriquet that didn't break any bones when we go to the x-rays but did amazing damage to your psyche.

As a culture, we are quick to anger and slow to forgive. We nurse injuries, real and/or imagined, until we've raised them to grievances and causes and then there's no negotiating with us. When the phrase 'we the people' is uttered I'm not sure about whom we're speaking but am absolutely positive that my definition and yours differ greatly from one another. Sadly, each of us not only sees the other's definition as wrong but we also have unkind thoughts about the person with that definition and very likely the horse s/he rode in on.

Instead of a civil dialogue, at the national, and other, level we have competing monologues. I am  not so much listening to you as I am waiting for your lips to stop moving so I can speak my piece. And how dare you then to treat me the same way. We don't know how to disagree without being disagreeable. At one time we used to work on this-now we exult about it.

This entire week, from last Sunday, April 7th, through this one, the 14th, is National Holocaust Remembrance Week and if you have assumed it's to mark the catastrophe that overtook European Jewry (and countless other peoples) from 1933 through 1945, you're not getting the whole flick.

When we insist on 'never again' we mean each of us cannot and will not allow the dismissive dehumanization of those with whom we disagree, by word, thought or deed, to ever occur. If I can reduce in my mind those with whom I disagree to vermin or a minor form of pestilence, it's just a short step to accepting the conceit of destroying them and that step of that journey can never, ever happen again.

This week the legislature in the state in which I live (not Blissful Ignorance, but rather, Connecticut), driven in no small part by the spectre of the Newtown tragedy, passed, and Governor Dannel Malloy, signed what some have suggested are some of the toughest gun registration requirements in these United States.

Some see the legislation as one means of protecting those in our society who are most in need of protection. Others see black UN helicopters attempting to land on the lawn and are counting the rotors while speed loading the guns God gave them under the Second Amendment-unless it wasn't exactly the Lord's work (says this group of solons). And here we are, you and me (and very probably the truth of the matter), out here in the middle.

Reasonable people can agree to disagree while working to expand common ground to reach a common goal. Except that's not happening here, especially this week, of all weeks. Someone, or a group of someones, egregiously ignorant of our history on this planet offered this graphic to summarize their unhappiness over events in Hartford, Connecticut's capital.

So we are clear, no state of these United States, to include Connecticut, is the Third Reich and no one in American political life, not Barack Obama, not Dannel Malloy, no one-no matter how much you detest her or his politics- is Hitler. If you think otherwise, think again. And do it somewhere else.

You needn't be a Survivor or a Child of a Survivor to recognize this posturing transcends intelligent discussion and acceptable social mores. My visceral reaction is that this is abject crap (hate to use technical terms on Fridays) and to shut down any and all efforts to listen to the views of anyone who comports in such trappings.

The suggested comparison infuriates me and I very much hope I am not alone. It deliberately (I suspect) provokes people struggling to be the bridges over our chasm like differences of opinion, often unpleasantly expressed, to STOP all of their efforts to help move us as a society to a more respectful of one another place and space and just drop the gloves and wail on someone who is obviously both arrogant and ignorant.

That angry response and the animus it requires and produces puts a lie to that well-meant and heavily advertised desire/goal of 'never again' condemning each of us to remain chained to a mandala of hate, hurt and mutual recrimination over our insistence on the right to yell theater in a crowded fire while all around us burn the fires of a Hell of our own creation.
-bill kenny  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Prozac Uber Alles

Couldn't let the 25th anniversary week go by without at least a passing reference to one of the legion of Mother's Little Helpers (that everyone uses, not just Mom) whose introduction not only added to our pharmacopoeia but also to our language, Prozac.

As we continue to refine and define a society that chews people up and spits them out faster than they are being born, Pharmacy Phantasy is the band-aid we use on those with broken wings and broken minds. If Lewis G. Carroll's Alice were real, and could see us now, I think we'd rate more than a shake of head and a somewhat dismissive 'curiouser and curiouser.'

Though, truth to tell, looking at the body count in the past quarter of a century, the challenge of managing mood and emotion through carpet bombings with pharmaceuticals seems to be a triumph of our own line of least resistance. We could work through most of life's problems or talk many of them out...but that would take too long and I ain't here on business, baby, I'm only here for fun.

Pick a shape and a size and a color. We have pills for all our ills. Always have and always will.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Mouth-Watering Proposal

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Mrs. Gorton must be so proud. I’m not sure how much of that expression applies to cheese steaks but I suspect Shem Adams of Phillys had it in mind when he created an apprenticeship program that didn’t require a bad comb-over but will take two Norwich Free Academy students and give them a taste, pardon the pun, of the hospitality business and perhaps a leg-up on a career choice.

Adams begins at the beginning which doesn’t always happen in Norwich, “We wanted to give our future generation the opportunity to use Phillys to their advantage and prepare for their “real life” lives with a ‘learn by doing’ apprenticeship.

“We started the school year looking for candidates with at least a 2.7 grade point average, strong character references, actively engaged in community outreach beyond the NFA campus and who were heavily involved in extracurricular activities.

"Our apprentices had to have good interpersonal communication skills, possess working papers and have written permission from their folks or guardian. We had a lot of applicants, and because we wanted to make sure they and we would succeed in this apprenticeship, the screening process was intense, so intense we actually selected a Tremendous Trio.”

The first two NFA students chosen, Brett Cox and Ramel Williams, started March 23th and will be joined by Marcus Outlow on April 20th. All three have long hours and hard work ahead of them, since Adams and Phillys weren’t honored by The Travel Channel for just sitting around and watching the grass grow. Speaking of growing grass, the patch of green stuff they use for baseball inside of Dodd Stadium will have Phillys on the menu and the stadium concourse when the Connecticut Tigers’ season starts in June.

This will be intense by design, Adams explains. “The apprenticeship program is 8 weeks long at 10 hours a week for 80 hours. During the first 3/4 of the training, we’ll focus on personal and professional growth, hospitality, individual responsibility, accountability, as well as the marketing operations of the restaurant, to include stocking and ordering of merchandise.

“During the last quarter we’ll have them serve as restaurant managers (doing payroll, cash deposits, etc.) to get a taste at what it is like to run a restaurant (this is going to be fun).” After putting the fun in fundamentals Adams doesn’t intend to forget his young apprentices.

“When the apprenticeship concludes we think we’ll have given the kids a leg up in applying for their first job because as well know it’s hard to land a first job when you have no experience and we’ll also place them on our list of potential hires.

"As we grow within the community and the surrounding communities our apprentices will get first preference as we bring people on, pending positions and their availability. The goal is to run the program six months out of the year giving six young people an opportunity. And we’ll offer cash bonds as grade-based incentives to apprenticeship graduates for their school work that same corresponding year, to help them remain focused.”

For Adams, the program made sense, for him and for a community who’s embraced his business with open arms (and a stack of napkins). “It seemed like a perfect way to give back since I have been given so much. NFA and its students have done nothing but support the little hole in the wall down the street (Phillys). And, I’m a firm believer in not forgetting where you are and where you came from. I admit I get goose bumps thinking other businesses could follow suit and if they did, could you imagine the future of Norwich?!?!
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Now It's Time to Say Goodbye to All Our Company

One of the earliest memories I have (and no, Sigrid, it's NOT 'when is Adam's birthday?') is as a child being so small everything I can remember is huge. I am sitting on a blond wooden coffee table in an apartment (I have no idea what floor, this is a memory not a dream) and the daylight is streaming through the casement windows in the living room.

I sat on the coffee table every afternoon to watch a TV with a small screen built into a massive wooden cabinet that weighed (I believed) more than anything on earth until my younger brother Kelly flipped it while trying to retrieve something which had rolled under it. That was many years later in the basement of the house on Bloomfield Avenue, three houses (I think) after that apartment in Elechester I think I was the only child in that apartment.

I watched the Dinah Shore Show, and she sang 'See the USA in your Chevrolet' everyday as did I. I have owned one Chevy in my life, a 1963 Corvair Monza, I bought used in 1970. Ralph was right about them. It was only after I stopped driving it that I took up smoking cigarettes. I loved Dinah Shore decades before Burt did, and blew her a kiss every afternoon.

But I was saving myself for Annette. Annette, Bobby, Cheryl, Darlene, Doreen Cubby, Karen, Sharon, Tommy and Obama along with Jimmy Dodd (and it wasn't really Obama; it was John Boehner) were all part of the Original Mickey Mouse club. Meeska Mooska Mouseketeer. Mouse Cartoon Time now is here! The show was in black and white, of course; we had a cold war to win and no time for frilly silly things like color.

Bobby and (maybe Darlene) danced-Cubby O'Brien played drums. They were all incredibly talented, but couldn't hold a candle to Annette. She was a star and so magical, I just assumed I would marry her even before I had any idea as to what marriage was or how crazy that whole idea would have been.

It was a long time ago-I am old now, but she was then-all of twelve or so and I wasn't even half of that. I remember so clearly how she looked and how she talked and sang. Ours was a love that would never die. Rust and forgetfulness were something else entirely.

I forgave her all those beach blanket movies that she made years later as The Beatles and everyone else charged over the musical bridge they'd built from England. The Mickey Mouse Club was long gone by then. At some point, I read in a glossy gossip magazine she had multiple sclerosis and paused to reflect on her, us, really, and then went back to my incredibly busy and important life, already in progress.

And then yesterday, hours after the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher had died, it was announced Annette Funicello, 70 years young, too, had passed. If it feels like a death in the family, perhaps it should because for Cold War Kids, it is. Mouseketeer ears everywhere are at half-mast today and Jimmy Dodd has another new member to show around the clubhouse. M. O. U. S. E.
-bill kenny     

Monday, April 8, 2013

Words Are Flowing Out

Welcome to the forest, gump. I am the mayor here as it turns out-though I'm unclear when the election was held. Perhaps late last week which was also when I went over having sat in this chair and typed in this space on 2000 separate occasions.

That's a lot of keystrokes, especially for someone who doesn't type well or fast and who, upon reflection, doesn't have a lot to show for all of that. Actually, I'm being optimistic as I think I've earned far less than even Chuckles' epitaph but that's okay in a way.

I took to writing this specifically to reflect in that arch, snarky way I pretend is humor, on events and circumstances , the incidents and accidents in and about where I live in Southeastern Connecticut, Norwich.

"And fearing not I'd become my enemy in the instance that I preached." I've long ago discarded and discounted the #1 rule of finger pointing: three of the fingers on the hand doing the pointing point back to yourself, primarily because it keeps me from balling that same hand into a fist and attempting to smash people who make my hair hurt sometimes with how they are and how they are with one another.

And then I look in the mirror and see The Greater Fool and realize, try as I might, and I do thank you for the use of your eyes (and your comments that help me find my way back) I set out on this road for me and at the end of everyday when I decide if I wish to inflict myself upon an unwitting world on the morrow, I never ask that question weil ich f├╝rchte, ich kann die antwort nicht ertragen. Bis morgen.
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Yom HaShoah

One day last week I ran into someone I've known for awhile who in offering a less than flattering comment on President Obama's trip to the Middle East took a swipe at the nation of Israel as only a snarky wiseass who knows nothing could ever do. (Yeah, sorry, Dave, it did tick me off more than I let on. Surprised? Why would I give you the satisfaction of letting you see you got my goat.)

In my suave and urbane prep school days, I'd have referred to him as a Holocaust Denier and been done with it. Such people are pathetic but for decades their numbers continue to grow. I've never been able to figure out how in the face of all the proof that the catastrophe existed, the deniers persist and insist otherwise. Today is as good a day as any to NOT give up and not give it to that.

Today is is Vom HaShoah Ve-Hagevurah, Day of (Remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Heroism, this year marking the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Thanks to the Cold War that divided Europe when I lived there, I have  never been to Warsaw or Auschwitz or Theresienstadt. Next year in Jerusalem.

I did visit Bergen-Belsen and Dachau, both in what was then West Germany, so for the Daves and all the other luckless, lunchless losers everywhere who sigh when 'something historical' is mentioned and who tell me 'that was so long ago' when discussing crimes against humanity during World War II, it wasn't and it isn't and it never will be.

Genocide never goes out of style. The Nazis wed 'good old fashioned' traditional anti-semitism, around in Europe since the Middle Ages with the mechanized efficiency of the assembly line to give all of us mass murder on a scale and scope unimaginable. And yet it happened.

Jews, mentally and physically disabled, homosexuals, gypsies, socialists eventually any one and everyone those in power came to hate, all went up the chimney. And it keeps happening, to this day, in a dozen different places across the globe and more even as I type this and as you read it. The cast of victims changes, but the movie stays the same.

We have the power to reinvent our world or to trudge on unthinking and unblinking  to the grave, looking neither to the left or right. We can live out our lives with a lie as an explanation or choose to be an exclamation. We will, in either instance, pass from this world but one choice will free us and those around us to be better and to be better always.

That exercise of free will, to choose to be and to do good will mark our place in time for ever. The earth, and this world, will be changed because we were in it.
And that is how we should define heroes.
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Foreign Body in a Foreign Mind

I very much believe the farther out in space you go, the more alike we all look down here on the big, blue marble. As a prep school dweeb, I remember admiring immensely the celebration of shared humanity that William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice represented with Shylock's soliloquy.

When I learned King Edward I, centuries before Shakespeare, had banned the practice of  Judaism and expelled all Jews from Great Britain, I was struck by how universal feelings truly are that The Bard could capture so eloquently emotions he could only imagine.

We are a species, to my taste, who too often argues over our differences instead of celebrating together our similarities. We, or at least I, often recoil and withdraw from the unfamiliar and less than known, as a means of coping and surviving even when there's no reason or need for that behavior.

I subscribe for the most part to 'get along by going along' and if that means saying or writing something in public and only in private taking a behavior or a decision, I'm usually that guy. I'm aware that 'some people have to be shamed into doing the right thing' and on occasion even practice it but only as a last resort. A hardening of the heart when this approach is used often does more harm than good.

And if that smelled a bit like a disclaimer, you're right, because it is. Here's why.

Now that you've read it, tell me what you think we (all of us) should do and I'll help because I see no other course in light of the totality of the approach and imposition of what can only be seen as torture in a case of state-sponsored revenge instead of justice. How can you be anything other than beyond numb. I know it's only water, but a river of tears will not wash away the sin of our own unthinking and unbending inhumanity towards one another.
-bill kenny

Friday, April 5, 2013

Voted Off the Peninsula

I rarely, if ever, wish I were President of the United States of America. As a child, I figured out how I could be a cowboy, an astronaut and a baseball player with enough time left over to also be the President (admittedly there weren't a month's worth of play-offs when I was a kid and only eight teams (kidding!)). But for the last couple of days, maybe because I'm physically tired and I'm also more than tired of their unending theater, the North Koreans have prompted me to return to my old dream.

Heqq, I still have the saddle and a birthday coming up so the cowboy gig isn't as far out there as it might seem. If I have enough money, someone will put me on a shuttle to the International Space Station (I still think IHOP missed the endorsement deal of the millenium) and one more injury to one more player and the Yankees will let me play any of the infield positions I can name on a quiz (I see Hank Steinbrenner looking at the answer sheet and saying to Brian Cashman, 'yeah, shortfielder-sure, why not?').

That leaves us with the saddest people on earth and Kim Jong-un, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. How'd you like to own the gift shop at Panmunjeom? They have souvenir tee shirts made out of barb wire, I assume and how many picture postcards of the Worker's Paradise can there be (turns out I was joking, it's a lovely place like the Hotel California in practically every respect)?

Through the ubiquitous social media I know (a few) people who live in South Korea and they are very unsettled over whatever shenanigans these guys up North are involved in. And I can't say I blame them. Talk about sucking for a bruise (not sure how the official UN translation of that would sound) but my current favorite line is "The U.S. had better ponder over the prevailing grave situation."

Or what?
If they were to succeed in provoking me to give them my undivided attention, I'd ask everyone in South Korea to 'look away' and in two minutes this is done. Quite frankly, there's no point in being the most powerful nation not only in the world but in the history of the world if you don't intend to use it. And I know just enough about nuclear weapons to know there's an 'all in' setting on them and not much else.

There's no 'nuke attack lite,' for when you just don't have enough time for an all-out tactical exchange. One or Zero. I learned that in Poli-Sci 101. School's out, Supreme Leader. Rodman says grab those erasers and prepare to become one with the chalk dust.
-bill kenny 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Troubled Times on the Banks of the Old Raritan

Turns out bigger isn't better. Who'd have thunk it? All the Rutgers University alumni who wanted the basketball program to win in the worst way possible should be very happy.

Talk about losing sight of the original purpose- and I speak as an RU Alum of '74 (and not 1874)- of college athletics. Mission Accomplished. We destroyed the village claiming to save it and then failed to even do that.

It's Thursday and the Scarlet Knights' Post-Mike Rice Hiring Error has entered its second day. Let's see how long we can prolong the agony and the embarrassment. The only people not laughing at us are the ones who haven't heard the story. Yet. They should be coming up out of the bunker anytime now.

I'll practice my look of surprise-you feign dismay and together we'll fool no one. When we tacitly decided that winning at any cost was the goal, who is to blame when we realized we could not pay the price? We could ask Willie the Silent except he, too, is too mortified to speak.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Macht die Augen Zu

When we were kids growing up our mother had to referee a lot of niggling fights that invariably had one or the other of us squirts saying 'that's mine!' as if a statement of possession settled everything or anything. Mom would always half-smile and tell us, 'close your eyes. Everything you see right now is yours.'

I was reminded about the magic of ownership this past Monday night as the City Manager offered his 2013-2014 City Budget.  If you judge his budget by how many people are left mumbling and grumbling about it, I'd suggest the City Manager has quite a hit on his hands with very few others trying to claim credit for any of his proposals. And maybe that's as it should be.

Let's face it. It has been no fun in recent years to put together a municipal budget anywhere across this country and most especially here in Norwich. When a decade or so ago times were good across the United States they were 'not so much' right here in The Rose City. And when times got hard, they got hard-er here. And stayed there. And as any property owner will tell you, it's been no day at the beach as a resident whose taxes pay for budgets that provide us with the goods and services we require as citizens.

I'm the first one to concede it's never eaten as hot as it's served (unless you were planning on taking a tour of the White House, in which case bring your own napkin). As a city we are at the very start of the public portion of the budget process. What began Monday night as 'the City Manager's budget' after members of the City Council receive public input (and, perhaps some criticism) along with department head briefings on funding requests, the budget then becomes 'the City Council's budget.'
Of course, all along it's been, and remains, our budget -- one we pay for and one we have to live with (or leave because of). 

You'll have your own opinion on where expenditures need to be expanded or where additional economies need to be imposed-it's the nature of our democracy that there be give and take and informed discussion. Informed being the critical word. Everyone is entitled to her/his own opinion, but NOT to their own facts.

But starting tomorrow night, you can acquire and expand your own facts as the first installment of departmental hearings takes place, in Room 335 of City Hall and (I'm sure) on public access television. If you pay for or use a municipal service, you owe it to yourself and we owe it to one another to have a copy of the City Manager's proposal, available in City Hall and on line, as well as  open ears and a mind to match, for the most important discussion and decision made every year by the men and women we elect to the City Council.

The seven people in the front of Council Chambers deserve to be voted on by far more than 13% of all registered voters and they need to hear from each of us on what we want next year's budget to look like. You can see a golden opportunity or a bureaucratic morass, but close your eyes because what you see then is your chance to change things if you decide to stay home and stay silent.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Prisons on the Road

I wanted to call this 111-YG_ because that was the plate number on the metallic blue Equinox sports utility vehicle last Tuesday afternoon coming over the Mohegan-Pequot as one-half of a motorized azzhole sandwich with mayo. Yeah, you know who you are with that goobersnot in the Mazda alongside of you as neither one would yield to allow the other to merge into the single lane of traffic going over the bridge towards the Mohegan Sun.

So where there are two lanes of traffic, one in each direction over a ludicrously overburdened bridge from before the era where two of the largest casinos in the world set up shop eight minutes apart from one another, we had three cars, two heading in one direction and oncoming traffic going nuts. I kept waiting for carnage to fill my mirror and was happy to be disappointed.

Then after ALL of us crossed the bridge, I watched the Equinox pass on the left shoulder four of five of us in front of her to include that pesky Mazda from the bridge all while chatting away on her cellphone and then hitting on two wheels the cut-ff to exit for Route 32 heading into Norwich. Does my heart good to think this bozoette could be driving in my neighborhood, probably on the sidewalk with the stereo pumping. Some people are too stupid to be allowed to breed and Madame, you are on my short list of nominees.

We are the only nation on earth who uses automobiles for population control so since I live in fear of getting inadvertently harvested by one of these obliviots,and so too should you. I think preemptive contraception should be applied like Brylcreem, a little dab'll do you. And Happy Motoring!
-bill kenny

Monday, April 1, 2013

Well Played, Sir!

Someone needs to buy the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball a wall calendar so we avoid having this happen ever again on an April Fool's Day. Today, the greatest game in the world, baseball, begins play for the 2013 season in earnest.

As of today we get to watch grown men on the most brilliantly manicured surfaces (sorry, Augusta!) in the history of turf management participate in a sport for obscene amounts of money that children of all pages play for the sheer joy and joyousness of it for free in open fields and schoolyards everywhere. You're welcome.

Baseball is played in Japan, Taiwan, in enclaves all across Europe where the King of Sport, Football (which we call soccer), watches uneasily at it makes inroads among its youthful minions and everywhere across South and Central America.

I love football, and will watch bad European football, which I define as French (to include Monaco) over every other sport on television except American Major League Baseball. Even between teams about whom I know nothing. I root (in order)for  American League East, National League East and National League West. And then anyone else, to include short-season minor league teams.

Yeah, I know the major league season goes on too long; quite frankly, playing the World Series into the first week of November is stupid. There should be day-night  double-headers, and they should be played every Sunday, with day games on Saturdays. There should be baseball games so kids can watch the whole games and be able to get up for school in the morning as long as it's in session.

But none of that will ever happen because money, BIG money, now rules the game. Going to see a Yankees game can, with food and adult beverages, parking and tickets set you back four hundred bucks for two people. Or more. But at least it's a Yankees game. You can pay similar amounts of money and have to put up with the Oriole or somebody else (kidding!)

It's been all about big money since we started paying the equivalent of the gross national product of Surinam to journeymen middle fielders who are career .220 hitters and wouldn't be Gold Glovers if they won the Krylon "Spray for Life" sweepstakes. You don't want to know what good players cost because if you have to ask you can't afford it. Yankee Stadium cost over 1.6 billion (with a B) to build. Seriously.

But as of today, I refuse to wax wroth over any of that. It's Opening Day, sport, and it should be a national holiday. We could call it Bring your Glove to Work Day. Put bowls of mandatory sunflower seeds at every lunch table, just for today. And let's not forget my personal favorite after work relaxer and near-mantra, Slide with Your Spikes Up. Play Ball!!
-bill kenny